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John Edward Errington: Obituary

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Note: This is a sub-section of John Edward Errington


1863 Obituary [1]

John Edward Errington, the eldest son of Mr. John Errington, a cadet of an old Northumberland family, was born at Hull, on the 29th December, 1806.

He early evinced signs of great intelligence, and was remarked at school for his high spirit, for the prominent position he took in all his classes, and as being a general favourite with his masters.

Having shown in his youth great predilection for engineering and for the constructive arts, he was placed at an early age under an engineer officer, then conducting extensive public works in Ireland. After remaining some time on these works, he became the assistant of the late Mr. Padley in the various surveys which that gentleman conducted in the early stages of railways in this country.

This employment brought him into connection with the late Mr. Rastrick (M.Inst C.E.), by whom he was engaged to assist in various surveys, and his first active employment in railway projection was at the time of the preparation of the plans for the Birmingham end of the Grand Junction Railway, and it was at this period that Mr. Errington first met Joseph Locke, with whom he eventually became associated for the rest of his life.

When the Grand Junction Railway came under the sole direction of Mr. Locke, he gave Mr. Errington an appointment as Resident Engineer, and intrusted to him the superintendence of the construction of a portion of the line, where he had an opportunity of making himself thoroughly acquainted with the practical methods adopted by Mr. Locke in carrying out the various contracts.

After the completion of that railway, Mr. Errington took charge of the line from Glasgow, by Paisley, to Greenock, and the works were carried out under his superintendence: the harbour works at the latter port were also laid out by him, and the construction was carried on under his immediate supervision.

To an active and thoughtful mind like his it was not surprising that, during his residence in Scotland, various projects should have suggested themselves to him for connecting the political and commercial capitals of Scotland - Edinburgh and Glasgow - with England.

At that time Mr. Vignoles had constructed the North Union Railway, a line extending from Newton, on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and virtually forming an extension of the Grand Junction line, to Preston, and various other projects were started to connect Preston with Lancaster. These lines would place Preston in direct communication with London, and the subject of extension northwards to Scotland had already occupied the attention of a Government Commission and of several of the most eminent Engineers of that day.

The two principal projects, however, that interested the public in that special district were the rival schemes of George Stephenson for a coast line crossing Morecambe Bay and the direct scheme for uniting Lancaster and Carlisle by as straight a line as the nature of the country would permit. The plans for this latter project were deposited in 1842, under the name of the Caledonian Railway Company, with Mr. Locke as Engineer in chief. This project was, however, withdrawn; but it was brought forward again in a subsequent session, as the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway, and Mr. Errington’s name was then associated with that of Mr. Locke as the joint Engineers.

The immediate superintendence of the works remained in Mr. Errington’s hands, and whilst Mr. Locke attended to various details of his largely-increasing practice in London, Mr. Errington devoted himself to the carrying out of the numerous bridges, viaducts, and other works which abound on that line.

Mr. Errington, although generally giving his assistance to Mr. Locke in the laying out of the several lines that came under Mr. Locke’s charge, devoted himself principally to the works in the north of England and Scotland. He carried out the [[Caledonian Railway]], upon which he evinced great judgement, by his mode of constructing the line across and forming junctions with the various tramways then in use for carrying on the traffic between the several collieries, without stopping the train.

He constructed the Clydesdale Junction Railway, the Scottish Central, the Scottish Midland Junction, the Aberdeen Railway (now the Scottish North Eastern), and he either brought forward or was consulted about the entire system of railways from Lancaster to Inverness.

After the commencement of the larger works in Scotland, Mr. Errington removed to London and devoted his attention to the various additions and branches made to the railways constructed under his and Mr. Locke’s superintendence. About that period the [[London and South Western Railway]] Company were projecting anew their extension of the narrow-gauge system into Devonshire; and, owing to some difference between himself and the Board of Directors, Mr. Locke having ceased to be Engineer to that Company after the revival of their projects to the westward, the Directors naturally sought the advice and assistance of some well-known Engineer, whose antecedents might justify some knowledge of the locality.

At this juncture they selected Mr. Errington, and under his direction various lines were deposited to meet the necessity which had arisen. After several deposits of plans and subsequent withdrawals, the Company finally sought powers to construct a line from Yeovil to Exeter. The plans for this project were deposited in November, 1855, and the Act received the royal assent in 1856.

The works on the line were immediately commenced, and after great difficulties, owing to the heavy tunnels at Crewkerne and Honiton, the line was opened to the public in 1860. Several branches of this line were also constructed under his direction, and shortly after the completion of this work, Mr. Errington, whose health had been for some time precarious, suddenly became worse, and he expired at his residence in Pall Mall East, after a short illness, on the 4th of July, 1862, at the comparatively early age of fifty-five years, and he was interred at Kensal Green, in close proximity to his early friend and associate, Mr. Locke, who had not long preceded him to his final rest.

During the whole of Mr. Errington’s career, both in Scotland and subsequently, when Engineer to the South Western Railway, he was actively engaged in various parliamentary contests, and the conscientious manner In which he gave his evidence, coupled with a marvellous power, which he had possessed from his childhood, of simplifying and bringing vividly before his hearers anything that he thought necessary they should know, gave his opinion great weight with the Committees before whom he was examined, and the Boards which he attended.

Mr. Errington, like his partner, Mr. Locke, had early learnt the lesson of endeavouring to make railways commercially succesfu1, and his principle was therefore to study economy to the greatest possible extent; at the same time his taste in matters of art led him to combine elegance with strength and economy of design.

His bridges on the Lancaster and Carlisle and the Caledonian Railways, those across the river Thames at Richmond, Kew, and Kingston, and lastly, the works of art on the Exeter line of the South Western Railway, show with what success his efforts were crowned.

In private life, Mr. Errington’s kindness of heart, his great tact, and his affectionate disposition tended to endear him to his associates and to his pupils. Possessed of sound talents and modesty, and a retentive memory, his society was sought by a large circle of friends, who deeply regretted his loss, and the respect of all his associates in his professional life was secured by his honourable character and fair dealing.

Mr. Errington joined the Institution of Civil Engineers, as an Associate, in the year 1831, and was transferred to the class of Members, on the 22nd of January, 1839. He became a Member of Council for the Session 1850, and was elected one of the Vice- Presidents for the Session 1861-62. He attended the meetings very regularly, took part in the discussions, was ever ready to advise and assist in every way for the benefit of the Society, and at his decease bequeathed the sum of One Thousand Pounds to the Institution.

He was a Member of whom the profession and the Institution might be justly proud, and his example should be carefully studied by the younger Members.


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