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Frederick Thomas Turner

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Frederick Thomas Turner (1812-1877)

1877 Obituary [1]

MR. FREDERICK THOMAS TURNER was born at Hereford on the 4th of August, 1812, educated at Margate, and articled to Mr. John Fawcetts, surveyor, of Gray’s Inn, London.

On the completion of his pupilage he was for some years an assistant to the late Mr. Rastrick, M. Inst. C.E., when Engineer to the London and Brighton Railway Company.

In 1845 and 1846 he was similarly employed under Mr. Frank Giles, during which time he was engaged on the surveys and plans of various railways in Sussex, Staffordshire, and Shropshire.

From 1847 to 1849 Mr. Turner acted as Engineer to the late Mr. John Tredwell, in carrying out the works of the North Kent railway, and was subsequently engaged on various other lines.

In 1852 he went to Spain, and was for a year employed on the preliminary surveys of the Cordova and Malaga railway.

On his return in 1853 he proceeded to Russia, where he laid out and surveyed the railway from St. Petersburg to Peterhoff, of which Mr. G. R. Stephenson, President Inst. C.E., was the Consulting Engineer. It was while thus occupied that the Act for the East Kent railway from Strood to Canterbury Was passed. In the following year Mr. Turner proposed the extension of the line to Dover. At that time, on the breaking out of the war with Russia, there was considerable discussion as to the unprotected state of the coast between Folkestone and Dover, and as to *the importance, for military purposes, of putting Dover with its port and harbour, garrison and fortifications, in communication with the interior of the country and with the Arsenal of Woolwich, so as to remove the danger of its isolation by the destruction of the exposed line of railway, a point which had been urged most strenuously by the late Duke of Wellington. The gravity of the case was considered a sufficient reason for the suspension of the Standing Orders of Parliament, and the plans being lodged in April 1854, the Act was obtained during the same session.

From 1854 until his retirement from the active exercise of the profession, Mr. Turner was continuously employed in the development of the railway system in the county of Kent.

In 1857 the line from Faversham to Herne Bay, projected by him, was sanctioned. The extensions to Margate and Ramsgate were passed in 1859 and 1860, and these works were subsequently carried out under his direction.

In 1858 he laid out the continuation of the East Kent Railway from Strood to Bickley, where it joined the South-Eastern railway, and thus completed a second route between the metropolis and Dover. Owing, however, to the difficulties, which were foreseen, in working the traffic advantageously over the Brighton and South-Eastern Companies’ systems, it became necessary to obtain an independent access to London. With this view Mr. Turner projected the metropolitan extensions of the East Kent line, which by this time had obtained the title of the London, Chatham, and Dover railway.

The plans were deposited in 1859, and in the following session, after a contest of many weeks in both Houses of Parliament, the Act was obtained by which independent access to the Victoria Station and to Farringdon Street was secured. By these extensions a communication between the lines north and south of the Thames was authorized, by way of Blackfriars, and the whole of the south of London was opened up by the semicircular railway from Victoria to Ludgate Hill, via Brixton. The boldness of this proposal and its execution have mainly contributed to bring about the present excellent system of metropolitan and suburban railways, which have so much altered the conditions of life in London. In carrying out the works, which were of great magnitude, including a heavy tunnel in the -London clay,l several miles of viaducts, and the bridge over the river Thames at Blackfriars, Mr. Turner was associated with the late Mr. Joseph Cubitt, V.P. Inst. C.E., a Joint Engineers in Chief.

As originally designed by Mr. Turner, a high-level station at Farringdon Street, approached from the Holborn Viaduct, formed part of the scheme, but contrary to his advice it was abandoned. The correctness of his judgment has been proved within the last few years by the erection of a station at that point. Mr. Turner also laid,out and constructed the line to Seven Oaks, and obtained the Act for its extension to Maidstone ; but owing to the financial troubles of the London, Chatham, and Dover Company and its subsidiaries, occasioned by the collapse of 1866, the Maidstone line remained in abeyance until after Mr. Turner's retirement from the profession, although a considerable portion of the works had been constructed, The last work of magnitude carried out by him was the High-Level line to the Crystal Palace, the Act for which was obtained in 1862. He likewise partially constructed the branch to Blackheath Hill, which formed part of a scheme sanctioned by Parliament for an independent line, in the hands of the London, Chatham, and Dover Company, to Greenwich and Woolwich. From 1862 to 1865 Mr. Turner unsuccessfully projected new lines to Brighton ; but in 1866 an Act was obtained, after a long parliamentary fight, for a line to Brighton via East Grinstead and Lewes, as devised by him and promoted jointly by the London, Chatham, and Dover, and the South-Eastern Railway Companies. This was, however, never carried out, owing to the financial difficulties in which the companies were placed. Since 1866 scarcely a session has passed without the revival of this idea; and during 1877 a line was sanctioned which, although not possessing the completeness of the original design, is a step in the direction of a second route to Brighton.

As an engineer Mr. Turner's greatest forte consisted in the facility with which he could determine the course to be taken through a difficult line of country, and his appreciation of the salient points appeared intuitive. Having once walked through a district and sketched out the route, it was seldom that any alteration was found necessary when the sections were taken. Mr. Turner had, indeed, a remarkably good eye for a favourable line of railway, and owed his success to his undoubted ability ' in this respect. The best proof of this is, that the gross mileage receipts of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway are higher than those of any railway in the kingdom, with the exception of lines situated altogether in the metropolis, or connecting such a chain of manufacturing towns as is served by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company. His talent for construction was not so marked; and although thoroughly practical in all details, yet the carrying out of the works did not possess the same interest for him as the laying out of a line. In fact he seemed to care comparatively little about the completion of a railway, provided he felt sure it was in good hands and would be creditable when finished. Mr. Turner had a large staff of assistants, by all of whom he was much liked. He had the tact to humour, and the experience and judgment to guide them - qualities to which he owed the power to execute the large and important works with which his name will ever be honourably associated. He was a man of excellent taste in art, as his fine collection of paintings sufficiently proves ; many of these examples having been frequently most generously lent for exhibition at the Presidents’ conversazioni, when they were given at the house of the Institution.

Soon after his retirement in 1870 Mr. Turner’s health began to fail, and for some years he suffered from the disease which proved fatal on the 21st of August, 1877 ; but even by those who knew him best, the sudden termination of his life was not anticipated. He was elected a Member of the Institution on the 6th of February, 1866.

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