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John Miller

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John Miller (1805-1883) M.Inst.C.E.

1830 John Miller, Surveyor and Civil Engineer residing at 56 Georges Street, Edinburgh, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]


1883 Obituary [2]

JOHN MILLER was born at Ayr, on the 26th of July, 1805.

His father, Mr. James Miller, was a builder in that town, and it was probably from seeing his father engaged in the construction of some of the principal buildings in Ayr and the neighbourhood that Mr. Miller first acquired the desire of following the profession of a Civil Engineer.

He received the elementary part of his education at Ayr Academy, and at the age of twelve and a half years he entered the office of Mr. C. D. Gairdner, solicitor, factor for the Earl of Cassillis, and other landed proprietors in the county.

Mr. Miller, however, evinced no liking for the legal profession, although he always admitted that the knowledge he obtained of county matters, and the management of estates, while in Mr. Gairdner’s office was of great service to him in after-life. During this time Mr. Miller devoted his evenings to the study of mathematics under a private teacher.

At the end of five years Mr. Gairdner became agent for a bank, and gave up the legal profession, and Mr. Miller determined to become a land surveyor, the profession of civil engineer being then almost unknown in Ayr.

In 1823 he left Ayr for Edinburgh, and entered the office of the late Thomas Grainger, M. Inst. C.E., and so steadily did he apply himself to work that in 1825 Mr. Grainger took him into partnership.

By this time the importance of railways had begun to be recognised in Scotland; and in 1823 Mr. Grainger was employed to lay out a line to connect the Monkland mineral field with the Forth and Clyde Canal at Kirkintilloch, which line was carried out by Mr. Grainger, as also the extension of the line to Ballochney and the Wishaw and Coltness line. The chief promoters of these first railways in Scotland were the Forth and Clyde Canal proprietors, and they, in the year 1825, projected a scheme for the construction of a line of railway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. James Jardine was appointed Engineer, and he entrusted the survey of the western half of the line to Mr. Miller. This scheme, however, was not carried out. The line so proposed followed very much the same course as is now taken by the Caledonian Company’s direct line between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

As then proposed it was only intended for the conveyance of minerals and heavy goods traffic, passenger traffic not being thought of.

From 1829 to 1831 Mr. Miller was engaged in laying out and constructing roads in various counties in Scotland and in the south of Ireland ; but after this date nearly his whole time was devoted to railway engineering.

In 1830 the project of a railway between Edinburgh and Glasgow was revived, and Messrs. Grainger and Miller were appointed engineers. Like the project of 1825, however, this scheme also failed. It followed generally the route now taken by the line between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Bathgate and Airdrie.

From this time, although Mr. Grainger and Mr. Miller continued in partnership until 1845, they acted separately in all railway matters, each taking the exclusive charge of laying out and executing the works with which each was specially entrusted.

In 1831 the Glasgow and Garnkirk line was opened for passenger and goods’ traffic, and this gave a fresh impetus to the construction of railways in Scotland.

In this year Mr. Miller was again engaged laying out the Edinburgh and Glasgow line, and, having completed the survey, the late Mr. George Stephenson was asked to go over the line with Mr. Miller and report on it. His report was so favourable that, in 1832, a bill for its construction was introduced into Parliament ; but was very summarily rejected on the opposition of the landowners, who were then, as a rule, greatly opposed to having their estates intersected by railways.

In 1835 Mr. Miller was Engineer for the Dundee and Arbroath Railway, the Glasgow, Ayr and Eilmarnock Railway, the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, now forming part of the North British system, and several others which were not proceeded with. The works on the above-named lines were all designed and carried out by Mr. Miller.

He was subsequently Engineer for, and constructed, the North British Railway, Edinburgh to Berwick, and branches, the Edinburgh and Hawick Railway and branches, now part of the North British line; the Dundee and Perth Railway, now part of the Caledonian system ; the extension of the Glasgow, Ayr and Kilmarnock Railway to Dumfries and Gretna, now the Glasgow and South Western Railway ; the Stirling and Dunfermline Railway, and other lines; and in 1845 he was appointed Engineer by the promoters of the Direct Northern Railway extending from London to York. That the line so laid out between London and York merited the name of “Direct” may be inferred from the fact that the distance ’between London and York by it was 176 miles, while the distance as the crow flies between St. Paul’s in London and the great tower of York Minster is 174.25 miles.

An arrangement was subsequently come to between the rival schemes of the London and York, and Direct Northern Companies which resulted in the present Great Northern line, and Mr. Miller was appointed Engineer for the construction of the works of the northern half, an appointment which he subsequently resigned.

Mr. Miller was also Engineer for many other lines both in England and in Scotland, some of which were not proceeded with at the time, but have since been constructed. In November 1845 he deposited plans for upwards of 1,500 miles of railway.

On the above railways there are probably some of the finest viaducts in Great Britain; notably the Almond Valley Viaduct on the Edinburgh and Glasgow line, consisting of forty-six arches of 50-feet span; the Avon Viaduct on the same line of twenty-one arches of 50-feet span ; the viaduct over the canal near Falkirk, and the Castlecary Viaduct on the same line. The Dunglass Viaduct on the North British line between Edinburgh and Berwick, the centre arch of which has a span of 135 feet ; Ballochmyle Viaduct over the River Ayr, on the Glasgow and South Western line, the centre arch of which has a span of 180 feet, the level of the rails being about 170 feet above the river; and the Lugar Viaduct on the same railway, over the River Lugar, which consists of nine arches of 50-feet span, and five of 30-feet span, the rails being 150 feet above the river. Mr. Miller always considered the last-mentioned his greatest work. The foundations, owing to the old coal-workings underneath, gave great trouble, but the viaduct stands without the slightest flaw. The piers are 7 feet thick at their springing, and from their great height the viaduct has altogether a beautiful and light appearance.

Mr. Miller retired from the profession of Civil Engineer in 1850, and from that time seldom appeared as a witness in Parliament, and then only in reference to schemes with which he had formerly been connected.

In 1868 he was returned to Parliament as one of the members for the City of Edinburgh, but lost his seat at the General Election in 1874. Having on his retirement from the profession of Civil Engineer purchased the estates of Leithenhopes in Peeblesshire and Drumlithie in Kincardineshire, he devoted a great part of his time to the management and improvement of these estates.

He died on the 8th of May, 1883, in his seventy-eighth year.

Mr. Miller was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in June 1830, and was transferred Member in May 1831. At the time of his death he was the senior Member of the Institution. He was also for many years a Member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.


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