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Leathom Earle Ross

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Leathom Earle Ross (1827-1886)


1887 Obituary [1]

LEATHOM EARLE ROSS was born and educated at Inverness, and after serving a regular period of pupilage in the shops of the Great Western Railway at Wolverhampton, during the years 1854 to 1857, was articled to Mr. G. B. Bruce, President Inst. C.E., from 1857 to 1860.

In 1861 he was employed at Malta by Mr. Gabrielli, the contractor for the harbour extension, and then for the five years 1862 to 1866 was one of the executive engineers in charge of the construction of the Mauritius Railway, by Messrs. Brassey, Wythes, and Longridge.

From 1867 to 1870, Mr. Ross was a first-class executive engineer in the service of the Madras Irrigation and Canal Company, and superintended the construction of the Nundial and Khoondair divisions of the Company's canal. These sections included some heavy earthworks, and a considerable amount of masonry in locks, anicuts, weirs, retaining walls, &c.

In 1871 he was appointed by the Public Works Construction Company, Limited, to accompany the promoter of the Madeira and Mamore Railway, Colonel George Earl Church, to the site of the projected line in the extreme west of the province of Matto Grosso, in Brazil, with the object of reporting upon the feasibility of its construction. In order to reach the region in which the railway was located, Mr. Ross, in company with Colonel Church, had to journey via Panama to Arica, in Peru, and from thence via Tacna and La Paz, crossing the Andes at a height of about 15,800 feet, descending from thence into the Plains of Bolivia, and by the River Mamore and its rapids to San Antonio, where the railway was to commence, and from whence steamers ply to Pari, at the mouth of the River Amazon.

From the early part of 1872 to the end of 1873 he was in charge of the preliminary works of this railway, a survey of the right bank of the Madeira river for a length of about 250 miles being the principal work carried out. The object of the line was to overcome the difficulties offered to the navigation of the Mamore River by the seventeen rapids obstructing the free passage of vessels between the navigable waters of Bolivia and those of Brazil. Owing to the course adopted by the Bolivian Government with reference to the loan raised by it on the London market, the enterprise became the object of a well-known chancery suit, which was carried up to the House of Lords, where a decision against the promoters was recorded. The project was therefore abandoned.

From 1874 to 1876, Mr. Ross practised as a civil engineer on his own account, and undertook a journey to Peru to report on certain mines, and the means of communication therewith ; and in 1877 he proceeded to Barbados to obtain certain alterations in the Legislative Acts connected with the then projected narrow-gauge railway.

From 1876 to the time of his death, on the 9th of December, 1886, he was engaged in partnership with Mr. Edward D. Mathews, Assoc.M.Inst.C.E., as a civil engineer and contractor for public works. The principal undertaking carried out during this period was the construction of the railway in the island of Barbados. Mr. Robert Francis Fairlie was Consulting Engineer to the Railway Company, and Mr. A. G. Fowler, M.Inst.C.E., acted as Resident Engineer. Mr. Ross represented the firm during the whole period of its construction, and carried out the works with energy and dispatch. This line was about 25 miles in length, built to a gauge of 3 feet 6 inches, and did not present any peculiar difficulties of construction except in one section, where, owing to the treacherous nature of the hill slope, great cost in securing a foundation for the line was incurred.

In 1883 the firm undertook the survey of a line projected in the centre of Brazil, called the Minas Central Railway, and Mr. Ross proceeded to join the corps of engineers. The survey extended over miles of almost unexplored country, commencing near Queluz, where a junction with the Dom Pedro Segundo Railway was formed and being carried on via the valley of the River San Francisco to Pitanguy, a mining centre of the province of Ninas Geraes.

During his later years, Mr. Ross was a great sufferer from repeated attacks of gout and neuralgia, and it is believed that the strain on his constitution, caused by the incessant repetition of his sufferings, brought about his death, which occurred on the 9th of December, 1886, at the early age of forty-nine. Mr. Ross was much liked by those who served under him, having a practical grasp of the profession which commanded the respect of his juniors, and a genial nature that endeared him to all. He always had something good to say of those with whom he came in contact, even if he differed materially from them, the only exception being that he detected sanctimonious hypocrisy. He was especially popular with his assistants on the Madras Irrigation Canal works, who, while receiving great help from his experience and delicate way of putting them right, get had as much as possible left to their own judgment in all branches of the work where he saw they were capable of working by themselves.

He was elected an Associate Member of the Institution on the 1st of December, 1885.


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