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British Industrial History

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Charles William Hawkins

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Charles William Hawkins (1839-1875)

1876 Obituary [1]

CHARLES WILLIAM HAWKINS, son of the Rev. H. A. Hawkins, Vicar of Topcliffe, Thirsk, was born on 8th July 1839.

He served his apprenticeship in the locomotive works of Messrs. R. Stephenson and Co., Newcastle-on-Tyne, in whose employment he afterwards continued as draughtsman until 1861; and then went to Doncaster under Mr. Archibald Sturrock, locomotive superintendent of the Great Northern Railway, serving as a fitter in the running shed and also as fireman on goods and passenger trains.

In 1865 he became District Locomotive Superintendent at Leeds, where he remained until 1869, when he was appointed Locomotive and Carriage Superintendent of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, embracing 1275 miles of opened line.

He was characterised by great energy and ability, and held this position till his death, which occurred suddenly from heart disease on 3rd August 1875, at the age of 36.

He became a Member of the Institution in 1873.

1875 Obituary [2]

MR. CHARLES WILLIAM HAWKINS, son of the Rev. H. A. Hawkins, Vicar of Topcliffe, Thirsk, was born on the 8th of July, 1830.

He received his education first at a private tutor’s at Sharow, near Ripon, and subsequently at Ripon Grammar School; and commenced his engineering career in the locomotive works of Messrs. Robert Stephenson and Co., Newcastle-on-Tyne, being apprenticed for seven years from the 8th of July, 1853.

On the completion of his articles, he continued in the employment of the firm as a draughtsman until August 1861, and soon afterwards entered the service of the Great Northern Railway Company, under Mr. Archibald Sturrock, the then Locomotive Superintendent.

As there was not at the time any suitable position vacant, Mr. Hawkins went into the running-shed as a fitter, in order to obtain a knowledge of a description of work not to be Seen at a manufacturer’s. He was then sent out as fireman, and served as a regular stoker on goods and passenger engines; in the latter case on a fast train between Doncaster and Peterborough.

After being thus employed for about a year, an injury to one of his legs obliged him to return to the fitter’s shop, whence he was promoted, in June 1865, to be District Locomotive Superintendent at Leeds. In this capacity Mr. Hawkins earned the good opinion of all with whom he came in contact.

Mr. Sturrock’s successor, Mr. Patrick Stirling, wrote of him, when asked to nominate a suitable person for the position of Locomotive Superintendent of the Great Indian Peninsula railway: “Mr. Hawkins is one of my best assistants . . . .. I consider him a superior young man both in education and knowledge of his business, and he is endowed with untiring energy. He is always at his post, and gives evidence of his heart being in his work . . . . He has not disappointed me in any one instance ; and if I had a post of greater responsibility to give to-morrow I would unhesitatingly give it to him.”

This resulted in Mr. Hawkins receiving the appointment, and on the 30th of April, 1869, he left the Great Northern Company to become Locomotive and Carriage Superintendent of the Great Indian Peninsula railway, in which capacity he had the control of the repairs and working of the engines, carriages, and wagons, as well as the fixed mechanical plant for the whole system, embracing 1,275 miles of opened line.

In India, Mr. Hawkins was characterised by the same energy and ability as at home; and that his services were thoroughly appreciated is illustrated by the fact that, in October 1871, the directors increased his salary to the maximum pay of the appointment.

Though considered a healthy man, and never known, when in England, to be absent from his work by reason of illness, yet the seeds of a serious disorder must have been latent, for on the 3rd of August, 1875, Mr. Hawkins was found dead in his bed from heart-disease, after a Short indisposition of only two or three days. He was elected a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 5th of May, 1874.

Mr. Hawkins was most attentive to his business, and was ever ready with expedients in cases of emergency. He was, moreover, not at all averse to put his own shoulder to the wheel; and it is melancholy to think that a career that promised so well was destined to be cut short before its subject had reached the prime of life.

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