Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 149,755 pages of information and 235,473 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Charles Edward Austin

From Graces Guide

Charles Edward Austin (1819-1893)

1893 Obituary [1]

CHARLES EDWARD AUSTIN, eldest son of the late Mr. Anthony Austin, of Wootten-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, was born there on the 22nd of June, 1819, and was educated at Bruce Castle School, near London, and also under Dr. Fennell at Brighton.

In 1837 he became a pupil of George E. Frere, F.R.S., chief assistant to Mr. I. K. Brunel on the Great Western Railway, and on the expiration of his articles remained as an assistant to J. G. Thomson, the resident engineer on the Middle Hill Tunnel and contracts immediately west of Box. In this district an extensive landslip in the Ashley Hill cutting had to be dealt with, an account of which was given in a Paper by Mr. Thomson. Mr. Austin held this position until the completion and opening throughout of the Great Western Railway from Paddington to Bristol in 1841. He then occupied himself with a scheme for improvements in switches and apparatus for changing the lines on railways, to be worked automatically, for which he prepared models and took out a patent in December, 1841.

Subsequently he took up his residence in St. Petersburgh and spent much time in travelling over various parts of the country.

He devoted attention to the navigation of the River Volga and to projects for its improvement by steam, and published a treatise containing valuable information as to the then state of the river traffic and its management. He extended his travels and explorations on two occasions over a wide tract of Siberia. On the first tour he crossed the Altai mountains to the frontier of China and during a subsequent tour, on which he was accompanied by his wife, he visited some of the exile stations of Siberia, the mines of Nertchinsk, and the Sayamen mountains to the Chinese frontier, and resided for some time at Irkoutsk. In 1862 he presented to the Geological Society, of which he was a Fellow, some notes of these explorations.

In 1854 Mr. Austin was appointed to survey and lay out the Dom Pedro Segundo Railway from Rio de Janeiro to the foot of the Sierra Sta. Anna, a distance of 40 miles. His plans being approved by the Brazilian Minister, a contract was entered into with the late Mr. Edward Price for the construction of the line, which was carried out under Mr. Austin’s charge. In 1857 he conducted for Prince Worontzoff the survey of an extensive line of railway projected in the Crimea, in which work he was assisted by his old colleague, Mr. J. G. Thomson, who unhappily took fever and in spite of Mr. Austin’s devoted nursing died during the survey. In 1859 and 1860 he was engaged in negotiating and preparing estimates for the construction of the Moscow and Troitsk Railway, and in 1862 was commissioned to go to Portugal on business for the South Eastern of Portugal Railway. He spent some time in that country on negotiations and in the settlement of accounts and disputes, and was then employed by Mr. Edward Price to superintend the completion of the line and the supply of the rolling-stock.

From 1864 to 1873 Mr. Austin was engaged in preparing surveys and drawings for, and in carrying out the construction of the Smyrna and Cassaba Railway and its extension to Bournabat ; on various projects for the further development of the country and its resources; and in making extensive explorations in and through Asia Minor and other parts of the Turkish empire. In 1873 he was sent to Constantinople as the accredited agent of the Danube and Black Sea Railway and Kustendji Harbour Company, to negotiate the settlement of certain claims between the company and the Turkish Government. The late Midhat Pasha,on his appointment to the Governorship of Syria, engaged Mr. Austin to explore and examine that country, especially with reference to the development of its resources and to the proposed overland railway to India. Attention was then directed to the ancient Port of Tripoli, as possessing advantages in connection with the project, and a short railway, the first in Syria, was laid out from that port by Mr. Austin and completed under his charge. For this the native merchants provided the capital and obtained a very profitable return. In 1878 he published an essay “On the Undeveloped Resources of Turkey in Asia, with Notes on the Railway to India.” A system of Syrian railways was then projected under an association having the advocacy of Midhat Pasha; but political and other influences effectually checked progress in all such projects.

In 1881 and 1882 Mr. Austin spent much time and money in promoting and working a mining concession at the Souback and Catiralan mines in Asia Minor, where he erected a quantity of machinery under great disadvantages. The abandonment of the works and mines involved him in further personal loss, as he would not allow the skilled workmen and others from England, who had gone out under his company’s engagement, to suffer by this failure. He also devoted time and money to schemes for dealing with the sewerage of towns and published treatises on “The Utilization of Sewage by Filtration and Irrigation,” “ On the Cleansing of Rivers,” and other pamphlets.

In 1888 Mr. Austin was engaged by Messrs. Hawkshaw, Son and Hayter, to go to Turkey for the purpose of establishing the terms of a concession for certain railways in Asia Minor now being carried out by German capitalists, details of which were given by Mr. Hayter in his Presidential Address to the Institution.

Mr. Austin had considerable scientific and artistic attainments, was a good linguist and was ever ready to devote - often without profitable result to himself - time and attention to the promotion of the numerous schemes submitted to him by the many foreigners with whom he frequently came into contact. The chief occupation of his later days consisted of work in connection with patents for several inventions, including a new form of propeller. His death, which took place on the 8th of April, 1893, was due to an attack of congestion of the lungs. Mr. Austin was elected a Member of the Institution on the 12th of January, 1858.

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