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Robert Lewis Harris

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Robert Lewis Harris (1834-1896)

1897 Obituary [1]

ROBERT LEWIS HARRIS, who was born at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S.A., on the 18th May, 1834, commenced his engineering career at the age of fifteen, when he became a pupil of Mr. Ezra Lincoln, of Boston, Mass.

His first engagement was that of leveller and draughtsman on the Cleveland and St. Louis Air-Line Railway, on which he remained from 1853 to 1854.

He then acted for a year as an Assistant Engineer on the survey and construction of the Delaware Railroad, and was afterwards similarly engaged for a like period on the Racine and Mississippi Railroad and on the Madison and Portage City Railroad.

In 1857 Mr. Harris was appointed Resident Engineer on the Milwaukee and Beloit Railroad, and in the latter part of that year he went to Honduras as Divisional Engineer on the Interoceanic Railway.

On his return from Honduras in 1858 he was engaged as Resident Engineer on the survey and construction of the Minnesota and Pacific Railroad.

In 1859 Mr. Harris commenced to practise on his own account, taking an office in Boston. He carried out several surveys, notably one of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

In 1860 he removed to San Francisco, where he remained for eleven years. During that time, in addition to general work, he acted as engineer on the construction of several railways, including the San Francisco and Oakland Railroad, now part of the Southern and Central Pacific system, the California Pacific, the San Francisco and North Pacific, the California Central and the Alameda Valley.

In 1866 he made the first location of the Central Pacific Railroad, for 45 miles in an eastward direction from the summit of the Sierra Nevada. As engineer to the North-Western Construction Company he superintended in 1871-72 the laying down of 225 miles of the Northern Pacific Railroad across Minnesota, and was subsequently in charge of the Chicago and Canada Southern and the West River lines.

In 1875-76 Mr. Harris was engaged on the extension of the Canada Central Railway, now part of the Canadian Pacific system, and on the South-Eastern Railway of Canada. He was responsible, in 1879, for the Boston, Hoosac Tunnel and Western Railway, and in 1880-82 he constructed 234 miles of the International and Great Northern Railway in Texas, from Austin to Laredo on the Mexican boundary.

From 1883 to 1891 Mr. Harris practised in New York City as a Consulting Engineer.

In 1893 he acted as engineer to the Wilkes-Barre and Hudson River Improvement Company. Mr, Harris was spending the summer of 1896 at Hearsarge Village in New Hampshire when he was attacked by apoplexy, which proved fatal on the 29th September.

He had a long and extensive experience of railway work in the United States and was a man of ability and of the highest personal character. He was a Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, to which he contributed Papers on "The Railroad Ferry Steamer 'Solano'" and "A Coffer Dam or Caisson without Timber or Iron in its construction."

To this Institution, of which he was elected a Member on the 3rd March, 1891, he presented an account of the foundations of the Panther Creek Viaduct on the Wilkes-Barre and Eastern Railroad.

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