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James William Blackett

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Charles William Blackett (1855-1905)

1906 Obituary [1]

JAMES WILLIAM BLACKETT, second son of John Blackett, formerly Engineer-in-Chief to the Colony of New Zealand and Consulting Engineer in London to the New Zealand Government, was born at New Plymouth, K.Z., in October, 1855, and educated at Nelson College.

Entering the service of the New Zealand Government at the age of 18 as an engineering cadet, he commenced a career, devoted chiefly to the railway branch of the profession, in the course of which he saw service in various quarters of the globe. In New Zealand, he was engaged on the survey and construction of sections of the trunk lines in North and South Islands, doing much valuable exploratory work and acquiring considerable skill in surveying rough and difficult country.

In 1889 he went to Argentina to take part in the construction of the Cordoba North-Western Railway, on the completion of which he undertook the development and management of a large silver mine in the Andes, where, isolated from his fellow-countrymen, he encountered and successfully surmounted many serious difficulties in regard to labour and supplies, remaining in charge until he had placed the whole undertaking in efficient working order.

He then came to England, and in 1896, having obtained an appointment on the staff of the Uganda Railway, he went to Uganda as Divisional Engineer on the section between Mombasa and Victoria Nyanza, including some of the most difficult country traversed by the railway. He remained in Uganda some five years, and was specially commended for the able manner in which he had carried out his work.

On completion of the railway, Mr. Blackett paid a short visit to New Zealand, and in 1903 went to the Transvaal as Divisional Engineer on the Central South African Railways, where he was placed in charge of the survey and construction of the Springs- Ermelo line. It was whilst engaged on this work that he succumbed to an attack of pneumonia.

His death took place at Springs on the 4th August, 1905, in his fiftieth year. Possessing undoubted ability, his modest and unassuming nature endeared him to all with whom he came into contact.

Mr. Blackett was elected an Associate Member of the Institution on the 6th December, 1881.

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