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John Allen McDonald

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John Allen McDonald (1847-1904), Chief Engineer of the Midland Railway

1835 Anne James Leach married George McDonald in Bristol[1]

1851 Anne J McDonald 42, widow, lived in Clifton with Anne M McDonald 12, Evan I McDonald 9, John A McDonald 3[2]

1869 Arthur Harman McDonald, civil engineer, of Poole, and John Allen McDonald of Thornbury, civil engineer, were the executors of Anne James McDonald[3]



1905 Obituary [4]

JOHN ALLEN McDONALD, Chief Engineer of the Midland Railway, died suddenly from angina pectoris at his residence, Borrowash, near Derby, on the 18th December, 1904.

The youngest son of a well-known Bristol surgeon, he was born in that city on the 9th July, 1847, and received his education at the Bristol Grammar School and subsequently at a private school at Clifton.

In 1865 he became a pupil of his brother, A. H. McDonald, at that time Resident Engineer under W. R. Galbraith, on several branches of the London and South Western Railway in Surrey and Dorsetshire, and on completing his pupilage, he received an appointment as assistant to Charles Richardson on the Bristol Harbour Railway.

In 1869 the subject of this notice was appointed Engineer for Eckersley and Bayliss, Contractors, whom he represented on the Rhymney extension (London and North Western and Rhymney Joint) Railways, and the Yate and Thornbury Branch of the Midland Railway. The latter work brought him into contact with J. S. Crossley, then Chief Engineer for the Midland Company, and in August, 1871, Mr. Crossley engaged him as an Assistant under John Underwood, the Engineer for New Works. As Resident Engineer he carried out a series of important works for the Company, among which may he mentioned the Trent and Leicester Widening ; Branches at Burton-on-Trent and at Kettering ; the Whitecross Street Depot in London; the Branch Railway and Dock at Poplar; and the large Goods Station at Somers Town.

In 1889 Mr. McDonald was transferred to Derby as Chief Assistant for New Works under A. A. Langley, then Chief Engineer, subsequently having charge of the maintenance of the Southern Division of the Midland Line; and in July, 1890, on the retirement of Mr. Langley, Mr. McDonald was appointed Engineer-in-Chief to the Company.

During his tenure of this office, he carried out a large amount of heavy work for the Company, both construction of new lines and the doubling of existing lines. Among the former may be mentioned, the Saxby and Bourne Railway; the branch to Higham Ferrers; the new lines between Sheffield and Barnsley; the New Mills and Heaton Mersey railway; the Heysham branches; the swing-bridge over the river Nene at Sutton Bridge; and the remodelling of the stations at Sheffield and Nottingham: and at the time of his death he had nearly completed the first ten miles of the Midland new main line between Royston and Bradford. The widenings he carried out comprised a length of 167 miles, the more important being the completion of four lines between London and Kettering ; the widening of the Erewash Valley Railway ; and the Masborough to Royston widening. Besides these works, a large number of the old cast-iron and timber bridges have been renewed, and at the present time there are scarcely any such bridges carrying the main lines of the Midland Railway.

In 1896 Mr. McDonald introduced a heavier section of bullheaded rail, weighing over 100 lbs. per lineal yard, and considerably more than 500 miles of road have been laid with this rail.

Mr. McDonald's last and greatest work was the construction of Heysham Harbour, in which he was associated with G. N. Abernethy. This great scheme involved the enclosure of about 140 acres of foreshore within breakwaters, and the construction of a tidal harbour within this area for the accommodation of the new steamship service of the Midland Company to Ireland. The harbour was opened only 3 months before his death, and it is probable that his health suffered from the extra strain and anxiety attending such an undertaking. Mr. McDonald was 57 years of age, and unmarried.

By his powers of organization, the skill and resource displayed in all the works which he undertook, and his broad-minded and intelligent grasp of all questions brought before him, Mr, McDonald won the entire confidence of his Directors, while his kindly and genial nature secured for him the personal devotion of his staff.

Mr. McDonald was elected a Member of the Institution on the 5th March, 1878. In 1899, he was elected a Member of the Council, on which he served until his death.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. BMD
  2. 1851 census
  3. National Probate Calendar
  4. 1905 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries