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Henry Whatley Tyler

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Sir Henry Whatley Tyler (1827-1908)

1856 Captain Henry Whatley Tyler, R. E., Railway Department of the Board of Trade, Whitehall


1908 Obituary [1]

Sir HENRY WHATLEY TYLER was born in London on 7th March 1827.

At the age of fifteen he entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, through which he passed with great credit, and obtained at seventeen — the earliest possible age — a commission in the Royal Engineers.

After a course at the Royal Engineers' establishment at Chatham, and a year of service in Ireland, he proceeded to the West Indies, where, in St. Lucia, he was for most of the time private secretary to the civil governors of the island, besides performing his duties as an officer of Engineers.

After a tour through the other islands of the West Indies, he returned to England, and was at once busily employed at the Great Exhibition of 1851. At its close he remained in charge of a collection he had formed of objects left for permanent exhibition, and which afterwards formed the nucleus of the South Kensington Museum.

He was next appointed Engineer to Victoria in 1852, and made several attempts to reach that colony, but in vain, owing to shipwrecks and other disasters. On his third return he accepted the appointment of government Inspector of Railways under the Board of Trade, and shortly afterwards he was promoted to the rank of Captain.

From 1853 to 1877 he was continuously employed in inspecting new railways, reporting on railway accidents, and on numerous special services in the United Kingdom and on the Continent. He got through an enormous amount of work, frequently holding his inquiries in railway trains, as he went from one inspection to another.

In 1864 he delivered an important lecture on "Railways strategically considered," and foreshadowed the great importance of railways in the wars of the future, urging that every soldier should be trained to be more or less of an engineer.

He was employed in 1865 to test experimentally the practicability of, and to report after completion on, the Mont Cenis Summit Railway and the Mont Cenis Tunnel, as well as on the best mode of improving communications across the Channel to the Continent — when he already advocated a Channel tunnel.

For years he urged the construction of the Euphrates Valley Railway, and he constructed the first railway in Greece.

In 1866 he inspected the railway systems leading through France and Italy, and his report on available routes to the Postmaster-General led to the adoption of the Brindisi route for the Indian mail.

He reported on Ramsgate Harbour in 1869, and on the Festiniog and other narrow-gauge railways during 1864 to 1870. Repeatedly did he deliver lectures before the Royal United Service Institution, and several Professional Papers of the Corps of Royal Engineers were contributed by him. He also lectured on Railways at the School of Military Engineering, Chatham.

In consequence of an outbreak of cholera he was engaged by the Board of Trade in 1867 to inquire into the water-supply of the East End of London, and showed that the Old Ford reservoirs were polluted with sewage from the River Lea.

Again, in 1871 he inspected the water-supply, and gave evidence before a Parliamentary Commission to settle regulations with regard to London water companies.

In 1874 he inspected the Erie Railway and its connections, and in 1875, at the request of the Turkish Government, he inspected the Romnelian Railways.

As Chairman of the English Channel Tunnel Commission, he signed with his colleagues in 1876 a formal convention between the English and French Governments for building a tunnel beneath the Straits of Dover, which is still in existence.

From 1871 to 1877 he was Chief Inspector of Railways; and his Annual Reports, published as Blue Books, on Railway Statistics, and on Railway Accidents, formed text-books of great value.

Among the improvements he fought for were:— the Block system; Interlocking of points and signals; Means of communication between different parts of a train in motion; Proper methods of securing tyres to wheels; Continuous footboards; Continuous automatic brakes, etc. It was his elucidation of this last important subject that led to Mr. Westinghouse's offer to him, on hearing that he was leaving the Board of Trade, to join the Board of his Company.

Besides his official writings, he read Papers on railway matters before the Institution of Civil Engineers, for which he received a Telford medal and premium (twice). He also contributed Papers to the Society of Arts on railway subjects and wrote for the Quarterly Review and other publications.

In 1877 he resigned his Board of Trade appointment, when he received the honour of Knighthood, but, after thirty-three years of exceptional services, without a pension either from the Royal Engineers or the Board of Trade.

Having in 1867 reported on the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, he was invited to a seat on the Board, soon after became Vice-President, and in 1877 de facto President, which position he held until 1895, giving twenty-eight years of arduous service to the interests of that company. It was due to his skill and enterprise that the pioneer engineering feat of constructing the St. Clair tunnel at Sarnia was successfully carried out; this tunnel superseded the ferry boats which conveyed the trains of the Grand Trunk across the river.

Among the other companies with which he was connected may be mentioned the Westinghouse Brake Co., of which he was chairman, the Great Eastern Railway, National Mutual Assurance and Globe Insurance Cos., of all of which he was a director.

He was chairman of the Rhymney Iron Co., chairman of the Peruvian Bondholders Committee, then director, and in the last year of his life chairman of the Peruvian Corporation, besides being connected with many other less-known enterprises. All of these positions he held to the end, and was a most indefatigable worker.

In 1878 he proceeded to the Cape of Good Hope, as chairman of a Commission upon the railways of that colony.

In 1880 he was elected Member of Parliament for Harwich, which seat he held until 1885, when he was elected Member for Great Yarmouth, holding the seat until 1892. His last great expedition was to Peru in 1895-1896 when he spent six months, on behalf of the Peruvian Corporation, inspecting all their railways and properties; and although he was nearing his seventieth year he was able to endure hardships, vicissitudes of climate, long journeys in the saddle, and display great activity of body as well as of mind. He was a powerful and amusing speaker with a good presence and a good voice, and had a trenchant and facile pen.

His death took place on 30th January 1908, in his eighty-first year.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1856; he was also an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers, having been at one time an Associate of Council.


1908 Obituary [2]

SIR HENRY WHATLEY TYLER, late R.E., who died at his residence, Linden House, Highgate, on the 30th January, 1908, at the age of 81, was connected with The Institution for upwards of 50 years, and was at one time an Associate of Council.

The eldest son of the late Mr. John Chatfield Tyler, of Cheltenham and Bromsgrove, he was born on the 7th March, 1827, and was educated at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.

In 1844, he was gazetted Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, and, having specialized in railway work, he received an appointment as Government Inspector of Railways at the Board of Trade when he was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1853.

Retiring from the Army in 1867, he became Chief Inspector of Railways in 1871, and retained that position until 1877. Upon his retirement in the latter year, the honour of knighthood was conferred upon him.

Having severed his connection with official life, Sir Henry Tyler became President of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, in which capacity he controlled that important system for 18 years. Owing to opposition to his administration upon the part of a section of the shareholders, especially on the absorption of the Great Western Railway of Canada, he resigned his Presidency in 1895 in favour of Sir Charles Rivers Wilson. He was also Chairman of the Peruvian Bondholder’s Committee, and subsequently, when that body ceased to exist, he became a member of the Board of the Peruvian Corporation. Sir Henry was also a member of Council of the Corporation of Foreign Bondholders.

In later years he acted as Chairman of the Rhymney Iron Company, the Westinghouse Brake Company, and Deputy Chairman of the Great Eastern Railway, besides serving on the boards of other companies.

In addition to his business interests, he found time and opportunity to serve his country in Parliament for 12 years from 1880 to 1892, representing first Harwich and afterwards Great Yarmouth, as a member of the Conservative party.

Sir Henry Tyler was elected an Associate of The Institution on the 3rd May, 1853, and from the outset of his connection with The Institution took great interest and an active part in the proceedings. In addition to his numerous valuable contributions to discussions on subjects connected with the railway branch of the profession, several Papers from his pen were published in the Proceedings.

For his Paper on the Festiniog Railway, read and discussed in 1865, he was awarded a Telford medal and a Telford premium, and he also received a Telford premium for a later Paper on the Working of Steep Gradients and Sharp Curves on Railways. He also delivered lectures at the Royal United Service Institution, and was the author of a number of technical articles in the 'Quarterly Review' and other publications.

He married in 1852, Margaret, daughter of Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Pasley, E.C.B., R.E., by whom h0 had eight sons and three daughters.


1909 Obituary [3]

. . . born in 1827, was for many years railway inspector to the Board of Trade, but for a quarter of a century was prominent as chairman of the Rhymney Iron Co . . . chairman of the Westinghouse Brake Co. . . director of the Great Eastern Railway . . [more]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1908 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  2. 1908 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  3. The Engineer 1908/02/07