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Charles de Neuville Forman

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1896. Glasgow Central Railway.
1897. Viaduct over The Kelvin Valley, Maryhill.
1897. Bridge over Dumbarton Road at Clydebank.

Charles De Neuville Forman (1852-1901), civil engineer of Formans and McCall

Born in Glasgow on 10 August 1852, son of James Richardson Forman

Educated and raised in Glasgow.

His early associations were connected with railways and railway projects.

He was apprenticed to his father, James Richardson Forman, who co-founded the firm Forman and McCall, which had taken a large share in the railway development of the country.

Charles Forman then acquired some valuable experience under the James Deas, engineer to the Clyde Trust, who at that period was engaged in planning and carrying out the construction of the Queen's Dock.

1876 He joined his father's firm as partner.

1888 - 1896 Perhaps the most important achievement in his career was the inception and construction of the Glasgow Central Railway. It opened on August the 10th 1896, on his 44th birthday.

Other achievements that he was involved with were:

  • West Highland Railway to Fort William,
  • Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway,
  • Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway,
  • Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway. [1]

1901 Obituary [2]

CHARLES de NEUVILLE FORMAN, born in Glasgow on the 10th August, 1852, was the eldest son of the late Mr. James R. Forman, whose death took place in July, 1900.

The subject of this notice was educated at Glasgow High School, at private schools in St. Andrews, London and Edinburgh, and at Glasgow University.

From 1867 to 1872 he served an apprenticeship with the firm of Forman and McCall, and in 1873 he was employed under the late Mr. James Deas, Engineer of the Clyde Trust, who was at the time engaged on the construction of the Queen’s Dock.

Returning to the office of Messrs. Forman and McCall in 1874, he was admitted as a partner in the following year, the style of the firm becoming Formans and McCall.

Mr. Forman easily developed strong commercial instincts and a clear insight into the principles which regulate trade, and with the aid of the opportunities afforded by the associations of the firm, he soon obtained prominence as a leader in railway enterprises. He carried with him a strong power of conviction, was naturally resourceful, and possessed an unusual command of details, coupled with which qualities he had a keen perception of character, with great determination and energy of mind. The firm has been continuously associated with the development of the railway system of the west of Scotland, and through Mr. Forman’s energy and ability this undoubtedly received a decided impulse; in various instances long talked of enterprises were formulated, successfully conducted through Parliament, and eventually carried out under his guidance.

His first charge was the Kelvin Valley Railway, opened for traffic in 1878. This was followed in 1880 by the Strathendrick and Aberfoyle Railway, opened in 1884, to which were due the development of Aberfoyle as a summer residence and the formation of a company for the working of the slate on the Montrose Estate, which has since continued a thriving industry. About that time the North Monkland Railway, the Poker Railway and the Kilsyth and Bonnybridge line were also being carried through.

Mr. Forman’s first Parliamentary contest of importance was the promotion of the Clyde, Ardrishaig and Crinan Railway in 1887, which he successfully carried in face of a strong opposition - the powers were, however, subsequently allowed to lapse. The extension of the Strathendrick and Aberfoyle Line northwards by Loch Lomond to form a through line to Fort William had hitherto been kept in view, but this scheme was superseded by the Helensburgh route under the name of the West Highland Railway, extending from Craigendoran, near Helensburgh, to Fort William, a distance of 100 miles. The bill for this undertaking he was instrumental in carrying through Parliament in 1889, and the line was successfully completed and opened for traffic in 1894.

The most important of Mr. Forman’s undertakings was the Glasgow Central Railway, which brought the Lanarkshire coalfields of the Caledonian system into direct communication with the Queen’s Dock, formed an underground city and suburban line for Glasgow, and opened the way for the extension of the Company’s lines into the county of Dumbarton. Powers were applied for and obtained in 1888 after a prolonged struggle, the Caledonian Railway Company having in the interval become possessed of the undertaking.

Work was commenced in 1890, and the line opened in 1896. The railway traversed in covered way the busiest thoroughfares of the city, and at such a depth as to necessitate an extensive scheme of intercepting sewers. The execution of the work was much hampered by restrictions for preserving the traffic of the streets from interruption, and what with these and the difficult nature of the subsoil, the many drains, water-, gas-, electric and other pipes to be dealt with, and important structures to be underpinned, the work may well be classed among the most important engineering undertakings of the day.

Consequent on the commencement of the Glasgow Central Railway Mr. Forman was engaged in 1890 in the promotion of the Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway, and after being defeated in that Session, powers were obtained the following year for the line. This railway forms a natural extension of the Glasgow Central line and traverses the north bank of the Clyde between Glasgow and Dumbarton, connecting the Caledonian Railway with the riverside lands, and bringing the coalfields and steel works of Lanarkshire on that Company’s system into direct communication with the shipbuilding and other industries below Glasgow. Forming as it did a direct invasion of the North British Railway Company’s territory, the enterprise demanded unusual skill in its promotion. The extraordinary development of the lands for public works along the route of the line since its opening has fully justified the evidence laid before Parliament. The construction of these lines involved a considerable extent of intricate tunnel and city work.

Besides having carried out various minor lines, Mr. Forman had in hand at the time of his death the construction of extensions of the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway, which afford that Company an independent access between the Lanarkshire coalfields and the port of Ardrossan, the Paisley and Barrhead district railways connecting the last-named line with Paisley and its environs to the south and west. Also the Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway - this last being the outcome of repeated efforts to obtain the extension of the West Highland line to Inverness.

Mr. Forman’s last efforts were directed against the monopoly claimed by the Clyde Trustees, as custodians of the River, to control the power to construct docks thereon, and the prolonged contest extending over three Sessions, and the ultimate passing, of the Renfrew Dock and Harbour Extension Bill, to which he devoted the greatest energy, are characteristic of his great determination and ability in this particular sphere.

By his constitutional activity of mind, which permitted no rest, and his devotion to work, Mr. Forman was led to disregard his bodily requirements, and though naturally of a strong and sound constitution, the strain and lack of recreation began to take effect in 1898. With the accumulation of his personal responsibilities at this time, however, he did not allow himself opportunity to sufficiently recruit his strength, and the prolonged Parliamentary contest with the Clyde Trustees, carried on concurrently with his other work, was a severe tax on his health.

In the summer of 1900 he was seized, while in Spain, with an attack of paralysis, notwithstanding which he still pursued his work. This attack being soon followed by other warnings in October of that year, he was forced to suspend work and seek rest abroad. His health, however, continued to fail, resulting in his death at Davos Platz, Switzerland, on the 8th February, 1901, at the early age of forty-eight.

Mr. Forman had a wide circle of friends, and was well known and highly respected in Scotland, and at the Parliamentary Bar as an engineer unusually powerful in the promotion of commercial enterprises. He was ever ready to give advice to all who might make him their confidant in matters of business or otherwise, and his quick perception and farsight, coupled with self-forgetfulness and a generous disposition, caused him to be burdened with many responsibilities regarding others. Mr. Forman’s loss is much felt by many in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, and his short career is a remarkable instance of personal influence in stimulating both industrial and professional activity within his sphere of action.

In much of his work since 1888 Mr. Forman was more or less intimately associated with Sir John Wolfe Barry, K.C.B., Past-President, and at the date of his death was carrying out jointly with Sir John the Ballachulish extension of the Callander and Oban Railway.

Mr. Forman was elected a Member of the Institution on the 6th December, 1887. To the Engineering Conference of 1899 he contributed a Note entitled, "Economy in Handling and Transport of Minerals."


1901 Obituary [3]



1901 Obituary.[4]




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