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John Lean

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John Lean (1818-1877)

1878 Obituary [1]

MR. JOHN LEAN, the fifth son of Captain Francis Harris Lean, was born at Crowan in Cornwall, on the 22nd of March, 1818.

At the age of fourteen he was engaged to a mechanical engineer, and assisted in the erection of a Cornish engine, an occupation followed for several years, during which he made himself acquainted with the general method of conducting Cornish mines.

In 1842 he received an appointment on the Bristol and Gloucester railway under the late Mr. I. E. Brunel, V.-P. Inst. C.E., as Inspector of Works, and had charge of the Staple Hill tunnel.

Removing to the South Devon railway in 1844, he was placed in charge of the sea wall on that line under Mr. J. T. Harrison, M. Inst. C.E.

In 1847 he was advanced to the position of Assistant Engineer under Mr. W. G. Owen, M. Inst. C.E., at Newport, on the South Wales railway.

He had now become acquainted with the general nature of railway works, and displayed considerable ability and perseverance in carrying out their construction.

About the year 1858 he was appointed Resident Engineer of the Vale of Neath railway, and in 1862 was Chief Engineer for the construction of the Swansea and Neath railway, afterwards amalgamated with the Vale of Neath railway. When the Vale of Neath was amalgamated with the Great Western railway, Mr. Lean was made District Engineer under Mr. W. G. Owen, then Chief Engineer of the Great Western railway, and in the year 1876 was promoted to the post of Divisional Engineer, thus having, by ability and perseverance raised himself rapidly in the profession. During his connection with the Great Western railway, he, in connection with the other engineers of the Company, received, through Mr. W. G. Owen, the thanks of the Directors for the care and general supervision used in the conversion of the gauge from broad to narrow in the year 1872.

He was a member of the South Wales Institute of Engineers, and on the 6th of March, 1866, he was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He published a small work on ‘Railway Curves,’ with formula and useful tables for setting out switches and crossings; also the ‘Practical Platelayer’s Guide.’ Although he was a thorough practical man, he excelled most as an engineer of permanent way.

He died rather suddenly at Neath on the 17th of December, 1877, in the sixtieth year of his age, from disease of the heart.

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