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James Falshaw

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Sir James Falshaw (1810-1889), railway agent, contractor and engineer


1890 Obituary [1]

. . . . In the year 1836, at the age of twenty-six, he became principal assistant to George Leather, of Leeds, Engineer of the Aire and Calder Navigation, Goole Docks, &c. He remained with that gentleman for seven years, during which period he was engaged in preparing parliamentary- and working-plans and surveys for various schemes, many of which were successfully carried through Parliament and executed. Amongst these may be mentioned the Leeds Water-Works, for which an Act was obtained in 1837. This work consisted of a storage-reservoir 50 acres in extent at Eccup, 7 miles from Leeds ; a second storage-reservoir at Weetwood; a service reservoir at Woodhouse Moor ; and a tunnel, l.25 mile long between Eccup and Weetwood. Plans of the Stockton and Hartlepool Railway were prepared in 1837, the works commenced in the following year, and completed in the spring of 1841, Mr. (now Sir John) Fowler, Past President Inst. C.E., being Resident Engineer.

The chief work on this line was the construction across Greatham Marsh of a brick viaduct of ninety-two arches, the foundations of which were so bad that piles had to be driven from 30 to 60 feet in depth. The railway works were successfully and rapidly completed, and were highly eulogized in the newspapers of the time.

The Bradford Water-Works scheme was reported on in 1838, plans prepared in 1840, the Act obtained in the following year, and the work executed in 1842 and 1844. The experience gained on these and other works stood Mr. Falshaw in good stead in after life.

In the spring of 1843 Mr. Falshaw commenced business at Leeds on his own account; but he did not, it appears, entirely sever his connection with Messrs. Leather, for a year later he was engaged with J. W. Leather and R. O. Hodgson in the opposition to the proposed valley line of the Leeds and Bradford Railway, taking levels, plotting sections, making estimates, and giving evidence before Committees of the House of Lords.

It was at this time that a turning point in his career took place. John Stephenson, of the firm of John Stephenson and Co (with whom were associated William Mackenzie and Thomas Brassey, offered him the charge of the construction of the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway, the contract for which, as a single line, had been taken by the firm. After due consideration, Mr. Falshaw decided to accept this offer, and the month of June, 1844, found him installed at Kendal, vigorously discharging his new duties, purchasing sleepers, inspecting quarries, and arranging terms with landowners. In the following month he was first introduced to Mr. Brassey at Carlisle, at a conference between the engineers, Messrs. Locke and Errington, and the contractors.

It is worth recording that at this meeting Mr. Locke decided that 'as many stone blocks were to be used as possible,' which order was, curiously enough, qualified six months later by Mr. Errington. In conversation with Mr. Falshaw, Mr. Errington said, 'I have no objection to sleepers being used in the district between Shap and Kendal ; although Mr. Locke has an objection to them, I have not, and you may use them.'

Great difficulties and delays were encountered in gaining possession of the land, and these sorely tried Mr. Falshaw’s patience, for he had agreed with Mr. Brassey, at a meeting of the directors in August, to finish the line in two years’ time. In November, however, the Board decided to double the line, at an extra cost of £80,000.

Mr. Falshaw was not destined to carry this work to completion, for in the early part of the following year, 1845, he was very busily engaged in London, with Mr. Brassey and Mr. Stephenson, making estimates for the Scottish Central, the Scottish Midland, the Caledonian, and other important railways, and in attending Committees of the House of Commons.

On one of these occasions he heard Mr. Brunel, in giving evidence in favour of the Hawick Railway, say that he 'saw no difficulty in locomotives ascending gradients of l in 70, with 4 mile curves at a speed of 20 or 30 miles an hour,' the boldness of which statement created a profound impression upon those present.

The tender of Messrs. Stephenson, Brassey and MacKenzie for the Scottish Central and Scottish Midland Railways and the Castlecary branch of the Caledonian Railway having been accepted, it was arranged that Mr. Falshaw should conduct the operations on terms very favourable to himself. In July, 1845, he therefore removed to Stirling.

The line commenced at Greenhill, where it joined the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, and extended to Forfar, via Larbert, Stirling, Dunblane, Crieff, Perth, and Cupar Angus, a total length, including branches, of over 100 miles, 70 of which were double line. The heaviest portion of the work was the Moncrieff Tunnel, 1,200 yards in length.

In carrying out this important undertaking, Mr. Falshaw developed great administrative ability. He had at his command a force of eight thousand men, and the works were accordingly prosecuted with great vigour. Mr. (now Sir Charles) Hartley joined his staff in the autumn of 1845, and was placed in charge of the Dunblane district.

On the 1st of March, 1848, after an inspection by Captain Wynne, the section of the Scottish Central Railway between Greenhill Junction and Stirling was publicly opened for traffic, and the remainder of the line to Perth on the 22nd of May following. Two months later the Scottish Midland Railway, from Perth to Forfar, was also opened for traffic. The entire work having been thus completed in three years, the contractors were rewarded with a substantial bonus.

On the 5th of January, 1849, a public dinner was given in Mr. Falshaw’s honour at Stirling. Immediately upon the opening of the Scottish Central and Scottish Midland Railways, the directors of both companies resolved to let to Mr. Falshaw the contract for the upholding of their whole undertaking for a term of seven years. He accordingly entered upon this work on the 1st of January, 1849, and the contract terminated satisfactorily in due course in 1855. During this period he also executed many additional works in connection with these railways.

In 1851 his connection with the firm of Messrs. John Stephenson and Co. ceased. Mr. Stephenson had died in 1848, but Mr. Falshaw never lost touch with Mr. Brassey, who frequently consulted him and requested his assistance. . . . [more]



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