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Richard Fenwick Thorp

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Richard Fenwick Thorp (1868-1908)

1909 Obituary [1]

RlCHARD FENWICK THORP, second son of the Rev. W. T. Thorp, of Charlton Hall, Northumberland, was born on the 2nd September, 1868.

From Richmond School, Yorkshire, he passed into Coopers Hill College in 1887, and after undergoing the 3 years’ course there, he joined the Great Western Railway Company in 1890, remaining in their service 7 years, He was chiefly employed on the widening of the main line, the reconstruction of old bridges, and the design and erection of new superstructures where necessary.

In March, 1898, Mr. Thorp left the Great Western Railway to take up the appointment of Chief Engineer to the Kanan Devan Hills Produce Company in South India. This company had obtained the concession of a large tract of land, 200 square miles in extent, in the hills of North Travancore for the purpose of growing tea, coffee and other produce. The country was almost inaccessible, communications being confined to a few bridle-paths. The first works undertaken were an aerial ropeway from the foot of the hills to the summit, worked by electricity, some 70 miles of roads with the necessary bridges and other works, and a Ewing single-rail tramway.

An account of the construction of these works, and of the difficulties encountered by Mr. Thorp, working with one or two European assistants and native labour, will be found in the Paper entitled "Kotagudi Aerial Ropeway and Connecting Roads in North Travancore," which he contributed to the Proceedings of The Institution in 1905.

By the time these and certain minor works were successfully completed the area under cultivation had greatly increased, and in order to facilitate the work of the principal factories, it was decided to utilize the Pullivasal Falls for the erection of an electrical power installation. The work was successfully carried out by Mr. Thorp and is described in his Paper on the "Munaar Valley Electrical Power Scheme," for which the Author was awarded a Crampton prize.

This concluded Mr. Thorp’s work in India. He returned to London in 1906, and entered into partnership with the late Mr. B. H. Thwaite, practising as consulting engineers in Westminster, but the association was destined to be of short duration.

Mr. Thorp became seriously ill, and although he fought with untiring patience and courage to the end, he was never able to do much professional work. Mr. Thwaite was also stricken by illness and died in April, 1908, and Mr. Thorp, who survived his partner only a few months, died on the 28th July, 1908, in his fortieth year.

He was an ardent advocate of the thorough scientific education of engineers, and it may justly be said that the happy combination of sound theoretical attainments with a high degree of practical ski11 which his own career presented was the best justification which could be advanced for his belief.

Mr. Thorp was elected an Associate Member of The Institution on the 5th December, 1893, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 28th March, 1905.

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