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Thomas Bartlett

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Thomas Bartlett (1818-1864)

1858 of the firm Brassey and Co, contractors for the Bilbao and Tudela Railway[1]



1865 Obituary [2]

MR. THOMAS BARTLETT was born on the 7th of July, 1818.

His professional career commenced under Mr. John Wright (M. Inst. C.E.), to whose kindness he always acknowledged himself indebted, and under him he was engaged during the execution of a portion of the South Eastern Railway, where he took an active part in the proceedings for blowing down the face of the Round-Down Cliff, near Dover, and he there attracted the notice of Mr. (afterwards Sir) W. Cubitt, Past-President, the Engineering chief of the line.

He then had charge of the construction of the portion of the Great Northern Railway from London to the tunnel at South Mimms, and the cutting beyond towards Welling, for Mr. Brassey (Assoc. Inst. C.E.), the contractor for the works, under Mr. Joseph Cubitt, V. P. Inst. C.E. On the completion of the Great Northern line, Mr. Bartlett became permanently attached to Mr. Brassey's undertakings, and was intrusted with the construction of the Victor Emmanuel Railway, the highway between France and Italy, where he executed some extensive works with great skill and success.

He was afterwards engaged in the execution of the works on the Bilboa Railway, Spain, designed by Mr. Vignoles (M. Inst. C.E.), having an interest in the contract with Mr. Brassey and the late Sir Joseph Paxton, M.P. (Assoc. Inst. C.E.). These works - which are remarkable for the natural difficulties presented by the mountainous country through which the line passes - were executed with great skill and perseverance, under the depressing influence of inevitable loss, and in the prosecution of them the pecuniary means of Mr. Bartlett suffered severely.

Nothing daunted, however, by his ill fortune, he energetically set to work again to retrieve, if possible, his position, and he returned to Portugal, where he was seized with rheumatic fever, brought on by undue exposure, and he expired at Lisbon in the 46th year of his age, on the 23rd of July, 1864, only a few hours after receiving the news of the decease of his wife, whose death preceded his own by less than a week, leaving a young family of seven children unprovided for.

This melancholy termination of the career of a highly-respected Member of the profession, painful as it was, has had a tacit but powerful influence in the formation of 'The Benevolent Fund of the Institution of Civil Engineers,' which, under good management, is destined to be of great benefit to the unfortunate members of a profession peculiarly exposed to vicissitude.

Mr. Bartlett was well grounded in the theory and practice of his profession ; had considerable experience, and possessed the power of managing large bodies of workmen - a peculiar and very valuable talent - due in a great measure to his cheerful and genial disposition, inspiring confidence in all those with whom he came in contact. He was fertile in resources, and in foreign countries he always knew how to engraft upon the ordinary proceedings of the indigenous labourer, only as much of the English system as would facilitate the execution of the work, without interfering with the prejudices of the people. He was an ingenious mechanic, and among other inventions, he was the original projector of an automatic- tunnel boring machine, analogous in principle to, but preceding in date, that which is now so extensively employed in the Mont Cenis Tunnel, under the intelligent direction of Monsieur Sommeillier, one of the patentees of the condensed air-boring machine.

Mr. Bartlett joined the Institution of Civil Engineers as an Associate, June 24, 1845, and was transferred to the class of Members November 16, 1852. He was precluded, by his prolonged residence abroad, from being a frequent attendant at the Meetings ; but whenever he was in London he made a point of taking part in the proceedings, which he did with good effect, from the practical knowledge he displayed respecting all the subjects upon which he spoke.

The melancholy circumstances of his decease, and his own intrinsic merit, will cause him to be long remembered and regretted among the members of the profession.


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