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Francis Joseph Edward Spring

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Sir Francis Joseph Edward Spring (1849-1933), Indian Railways and Port of Madras


1915 Indian Biographical Dictionary

Spring, Hon’ble Sir Francis Joseph Edward, K.C.I.E., 1911; C.I.E. 1894; Chairman and Chief Engineer. Port Trust, Madras; Member, Madras Legislative Council, since 1913; s. of Rev. E. Spring of Cork, Ireland; b. 1849; educ: Middleton School, Cork, and Trinity College, Dublin; joined service, 1870; has been connected with the working of Indian Railways for 45 years; Major, South Indian Railway Volunteer Rifles; Director, Railway Construction; Deputy Secretary to Government of India; Under Secretary, Government of Bengal; Engineer-in-Chief, Krishna Bridge; Engineer-in-Chief, and Manager of the late East Coast Railway; Fellow, Madras and Calcutta Universities; Secretary, Government of Madras (P.W. Branch) for seven years; also Senior Government Inspector for Railways, Madras; retired, as Chief Engineer, 1904; became Chairman and Chief Engineer, Madras Port Trust; maker of Madras Harbour of today; is a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers; Member, American Society C.E; M.A.I, honoris causa; L.C.E. Trinity College, Dublin. Publications: Has written on technical education, light railways for District Boards in India and on the training and control of great rivers; many reports on Madras harbour and its improvement. Address; Harbour, Madras. Clubs: Oriental, Bengal, Bengal United Service, Madras.


1933 Obituary [1]

Sir FRANCIS JOSEPH EDWARD SPRING, K.C.I.E., had been for thirty-four years concerned with railway construction and operation in India, and for an additional fifteen years was chairman and consulting engineer to the Port of Madras, holding this position until his retirement in 1919.

He was born in 1849 and received his theoretical training at Trinity College, Dublin.

He then spent one year in the locomotive shops and drawing office of the Great Southern and Western Railway.

In 1871 he went to India, where he was concerned with the construction of railways and locomotives. He was responsible for the construction of the Kistna bridge, consisting of twelve spans of 300 feet each, and of other important bridges. He was appointed engineer-in-chief to the East Coast Railway and later became manager.

From 1893 he had acted as consulting engineer to the Government of India upon railway affairs and was created C.I.E. in 1894. He was Director of Railway Construction, India, and Deputy Secretary to the Government of India. He was also Under-Secretary for Railways to the Government of Bengal and Senior Government Inspector of Railways.

In 1904 he was appointed chairman and consulting engineer to the Port of Madras and later acted as consulting engineer to the port authority at Chittagong. A knighthood was conferred upon him in 1911.

He died in Jersey on 25th August 1933, at the age of 84.

He had been a Member of the Institution since 1896 and was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.


1934 Obituary [2]

Sir FRANCIS JOSEPH EDWARD SPRING, K.C.I.E., M.A.I., son of the Rev. Edward Spring, rector of Magourney, County Cork, was born on the 20th January, 1849.

He was educated at Middleton School, County Cork, and then passed on to Dublin University, where he received the degree of L.C.E. He served an apprenticeship for one year under Mr. A. McDonnell, M.Inst.C.E., then locomotive superintendent of the Great Southern and Western Railway, Ireland.

In 1870 he entered the Indian Public Works Department and was engaged for 24 years on canal surveys and projects in the Punjab Irrigation Department.

He then joined the Punjab Northern State Railway, and spent the next 5 years, from 1873, on survey and construction of various parts of that Railway and on the Chenab Bridge.

In 1878 he was promoted to the temporary position of Executive Engineer, which was confirmed in 1880, and had charge of a division of the Bhavnagar-Gondal Railway.

He came back to England for 2 years, and then returned to India on the Bengal-Nagpur Railway survey and the Benares-Cuttack Railway until 1884, when he was appointed Under-Secretary to the Government of Bengal on the Public Works Department, Railway Branch, and assistant to the Chief Engineer of Bengal.

In 1888 he became Secretary for Railways, Bombay, a post which he only held for a few months as he then received the appointment of Government Consulting Engineer in Assam. After holding that post for 3 years, he became Secretary for Railways to the Government of Madras, an office he occupied for 5 years, after which he became Deputy Secretary of the Railway Department of the Government of India. In the following year he was appointed Secretary to the Department, and in 1904 he retired with the rank of Chief Engineer, 1st class.

Several months before his retirement from the Public Works Department, Sir Francis accepted the Chairmanship of the Madras Port Trust, and in 1905 he became, in addition to his other duties, Chief Engineer of the Trust ; he thereupon devoted his time to the construction of a modern port at Madras. When he commenced his work there, the harbour was sheltered by two arms each about 3,500 feet long, the entrance, which was 500 feet wide, being directly exposed to the swell from the eastward. There was no place for small craft to lie in shelter in dangerous weather, and the only landing facilities were native surf-boats, a few 10-ton lighters, and an old screw-pile pier. On the beach were a few straggling railway-sidings and two or three sheds ; the beach was to be seen at all times littered with goods of all descriptions in dire confusion. The entire dutiable trade of Madras had to pass through one 10-foot Customs House gateway.

By 1912, working with Mr. H. H. G. Mitchell, M. Inst. C.E., as executive engineer, he had transformed Madras into a modern and efficiently-equipped port. The old exposed harbour entrance was closed and a new sheltered entrance made, rendering the harbour water smooth enough for ships to lie alongside wharves in practically all weathers. Extensive wharves for lighterage and for vessels, a boat-basin, timber-basin, efficient railway-sidings, a fine fleet of large lighters, and adequate sheds and warehouses were provided, and the average time required to discharge general-cargo steamers was halved.

He presented Papers to The Institution dealing with "Remodelling and Equipment of Madras Harbour"; "Coastal Sand-Travel near Madras Harbour"; "The West Quay of Madras Harbour" (with Mr. H. H. G. Mitchell, M. Inst. C.E., as co-Author); "Restoration of a Cyclone-Damaged Breakwater-End in Madras Harbour" and a second Paper on "Coastal Sand-Travel near Madras Harbour."

All these Papers were read and discussed at Ordinary Meetings of The Institution; for the Paper dealing with the West Quay he was awarded the George Stephenson Gold Medal and an Indian Premium, and for the Paper on Damage to the Breakwater-End he received a Telford Premium.

Sir Francis retired in 1919, shortly after his seventieth birthday. He was created a Commander of the Indian Empire in 1894, and promoted to Knight Commander in 1911, whilst Dublin University conferred upon him the degree of M.A.I.

He was elected an Associate Member of The Institution in 1881, and transferred to the class of Members in 1885. He served for 3 years (1910-13) as the representative Member of the Council in India.

He married, in 1873, Charlotte Becher, daughter of Mr. S. Townsend, J.P., who died in 1930.

Sir Francis died on the 25th August, 1933, at St. Aubin, Jersey, where he had spent the last 14 years of his life.


1933 Obituary[3]

"THE LATE SIR FRANCIS SPRING, K.C.I.E.

The news of the death of Sir Francis Joseph Edward Spring, K.C.I.E., at his home in Jersey, on August 25, will be received with regret by a wide circle in the engineering profession. Sir Edward was for nearly 49 years in the Indian Public Service, during the last 151 years of which he was Chairman and Chief Engineer of the Madras Port Authority. A son of the late Rev. Edward Spring, rector of Magoumey, County Cork, he was born on January 20, 1849, and received his general education at Middleton School, County Cork. Passing on to Trinity College, Dublin, he subsequently received the degree of L.C.E., and served an apprenticeship of one year under Mr. A. McDonnell, then locomotive superintendent of the Great Southern and Western Railway of Ireland. In 1870, Francis Spring passed the “ Stanley ” examination for the Indian Public Works Department, securing second place. Proceeding to India, he was appointed to the Punjab Irrigation Department, in which he worked for 21 years on canid surveys and projects. In May, 1873, the young engineer joined the Punjab Northern State Railway and for the succeeding 5 years was engaged on survey and construction works on various portions of the line. For a part of this time he was employed on the Chenab Bridge, comprising 64 spans of 143 ft. He was promoted, temporarily, in May, 1878, and permanently, in January, 1880, to the rank of executive engineer, and for a year (1879-80) had charge of the Bhavnagar division of the Bhavnagar-Gondal Railway, finishing 70 miles of earthwork and 20 miles of plate-laying.

After spending nearly two years in England, Mr. Spring returned to India as second grade executive engineer and was employed on surveys on the Bengal-Nagpur and the Benares-Cuttack Railways until 1884, when he was appointed Under-Secretary to the Government of Bengal Public-Works Department, Railway Branch, Four years later he became Secretary for Railways, Bombay, which position, however, he only occupied a few months, having been appointed Government Consulting Engineer in Assam, a post he continued to hold for three years. Mr. Spring subsequently became Secretary for Railways to the Government of Madras, and, after holding this office for five years, proceeded to Simla to take up the position of Deputy Secretary to the Railway Department of the Government of India. In the following year he was appointed Secretary to the Department, and about 12 months later, in 1904, he retired under the 55-year age limit, with the rank of Chief Engineer, 1st class.

Useful as Mr. Spring’s work had been up till his retirement from the Public Works Department, he then entered upon a period of perhaps still greater utility. Some months before his retirement he was approached by the Madras Government and offered the chairmanship of the Madras Port Trust. This position he accepted, and assumed office on February 6, 1904, becoming Chief Engineer to the Trust, in addition to his other duties, in 1905. After securing the services of Mr. (now Colonel) H. H. G. Mitchell as executive engineer, he devoted all his energies to the construction of a modern port at Madras, and a graphic account of the great work accomplished is contained in papers which he presented to the Institution of Civil Engineers on April 16, 1912, April 15, 1913, February 5, 1918, and February 24, 1920. A perusal of these will show that a fine modern harbour, furnished with deep-water quays and transit sheds, warehouses, and miles of railway sidings and roads, has been built on what was previously a windswept, surf-beaten, sandy coast, “ littered at all times with timber, coal, railway material, general cargo, machinery, &c., in dire confusion,” all of which goods had been landed by local surf boats and a few 10-ton lighters. For his paper on “ The West Quay of Madras Harbour,” presented in collaboration with Mr. H. H. G. Mitchell, to the Institution on February 5, 1918, Sir Francis was awarded a George ^Stephenson Gold Medal and an Indian Premium, and for his further contribution, presented on February 24, 1920, and entitled “ Restoration of a Cyclone-Damaged Breakwater-End in Madras Harbour,” he received a Telford Premium.

Sir Francis retired in 1919, soon after his 70th birthday. For his eminent services, he had received the C.I.E. in 1894 and the K.C.I.E. in 1911, while his old university had conferred upon him the degree of M.A.I., honoris causa. He was for 20 years a fellow of the Calcutta and Madras Universities, and for over 10 years a member of the Madras Legislative Council. He became an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on December 6, 1881, and rose to full membership rank on May 19, 1885, subsequently serving on the Council. In 1895, he became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers; he was also a foundation member of the Institute of Transport, having joined that body on February 9, 1920. Sir Francis was for many years a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and was an honorary life member of the Institution of Engineers, India, and an honorary fellow of the Society of Engineers."


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1933 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  2. 1934 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  3. Engineering 1933/09/08