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Previously he had been locomotive superintendent of the Dundee, Perth and Aberdeen Junction Railway(1859–63) and assistant to Alexander Allan on the Scottish Central Railway (1863–65). He was outdoor superintendent, Caledonian Railway (1865–76) and assistant/deputy to the incumbent and ailing Conner.
In common with many of his professional contemporaries he described himself as a civil engineer in 1861 and 1871 but as a mechanical engineer (locomotive superintendent) in 1881.
Seen more as a running man than a designer and innovator, and with failing health and support from the board of directors that had appointed him, he was sidelined in a reoganisation of his department and appointed consultant, before resigning his £850/annum post in April 1882. He died shortly afterwards.
He married Margaret Grant, a Scot, by whom he had at least five children, all born in Carlisle, Cumberland. His eldest daughter, Louisa Mary Brittain, married Andrew T. Scott on the 7th June 1897 at St. John's Episcopal Church, Perth