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Robert Hodgson

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Robert Hodgson (1817-1877)

1858 of the North Eastern Railway.[1]

1877 May 30th. Died.[2]


1877 Obituary [3]

MR. ROBERT HODGSON, son of the late Rear-Admiral Brian Hodgson, was born at Edinburgh in 1817.

Two of his early years were spent at school in France, and afterwards he completed his education at the High School in Edinburgh.

Immediately after leaving school he was placed for a short time under Mr. James Nasmyth, of Edinburgh (the inventor of the steam hammer), and thus formed a friendship with that distinguished man which continued through life.

Although Robert Hodgson manifested a deep interest in mechanics while in Mr. Nasmyth's establishment, that branch of the profession was not the one which he was to follow in after life ; for in 1834 he became a pupil of Mr. Thomas E. Harrison, Past-President Inst. C.E., who was at that time engaged in the construction of the Stanhope and Tyne Railway.

As railways continued to progress in the counties of their birth (Durham and Northumberland) under Mr. Harrison's care, Mr. Hodgson had ample opportunities for acquiring a thorough knowledge of the profession.

In 1846 the celebrated High-level Bridge over the Tyne at Newcastle was designed by the late Mr. Robert Stephenson, and its execution was intrusted to Mr. Harrison. Mr. Hodgson became the Resident Engineer of that work, which at the time was by far the most important of its kind that had been undertaken in England, and is still justly looked upon as a trophy of engineering boldness and skill. Contemporaneously with the erection of that bridge a line of railway north of the Tyne to Berwick-on-Tweed was proceeded with, in the construction of part of which Mr. Hodgson was also engaged.

The union of the different lines in Durham and Northumberland with the Great North of England railway having been effected in 1847, under the name of the York, Newcastle, and Berwick Railway Company, with Mr. Harrison as its Engineer,Mr. Hodgson continued under him to take part in the construction of the new branches which that company from time to time carried out. At length, in 1854, the larger amalgamation of the York, Newcastle, and Berwick, the York and North Midland, and the Leeds Northern Companies having been completed, under the name of the North- Eastern Railway Company, Mr. Harrison took the position, for which both by experience and professional ability he was so eminently qualified, of Engineer-in-Chief of that great undertaking, and retained Mr. Hodgson on his staff in the capacity of Constructing Engineer for new works.

From that period until the present time the North-Eastern Railway Company, as is well-known, has been incessantly engaged in the execution of new works for the accommodation of the rapidly increasing trade of the busy and important districts which its lines traverse, and in the carrying out of all of these Mr. Hodgson had, under Mr. Harrison, the principal charge.

To enumerate these works would be a long task; suffice it to say that the most important were the Tyne Docks, completed in 1859 ; the Hull and Doncaster line, including the large and novel swing bridge over the Ouse at Goole; the Leeds new station and connecting lines; the Team Valley line from Gateshead to Ferryhill; the York and Doncaster line with another swing bridge over the Ouse ; the new station at York, recently opened ; and several other works still in progress, which Mr. Hodgson took an active part in commencing, but the completion of which he has not been permitted to see.

Mr. Hodgson’s professional career thus extended over a period of nearly forty years, during which he had under his charge the construction of several hundred miles of railway, besides dock and other works of various kinds, all of an important character, and many involving great engineering difficulties. The whole of these will bear witness to after generations of the painstaking care and professional skill with which they have been executed.

Mr. Hodgson loved his profession, and always manifested a deep interest in all that concerned it. On every one around him he constantly impressed the necessity for thoroughness and conscientiousness in all that they did, and to the numerous band of pupils whom he trained he set a bright example of persevering energy and high devotion to duty. To these last the recollections of Mr. Hodgson will be all the more permanent and tender when they remember how often, amidst daily professional intercourse, the master was to them merged in the genial and faithful friend. He was one of the most generous of men, his influence and his purse being alike freely available to all who required them, and he counted no trouble too great to promote the objects, or further the advancement of those in whom he took an interest.

Other fields of labour more than once presented themselves to Mr. Hodgson, but identified as he felt himself with the career, and strong in the confidence and affection of his chief and relative Mr. Harrison, he preferred to remain in the locality where he had begun professional life, and which had for him so many attractions. By the directors of the North-Eastern Company he was much esteemed, and when his death was reported they passed a resolution expressing their sense of the fidelity, zeal, and ability with which he had served them, and of the great loss which they had sustained.

Mr. Hodgson’s strong and well-built frame gave promise of many years of further usefulness, but his busy life of ceaseless activity began to tell upon him, and in 1875 indications of bronchial disease manifested themselves. Although the first attack was apparently soon thrown off, the enemy repeatedly returned in an increasingly aggravated form. At length his medical advisers recommended that he should pass the winter of 1876 in Algiers, whither he accordingly went in October. But not receiving the benefit which he expected there, he removed to Cannes, where, after several months of suffering, alternating between fitful improvements and increasing debility, graver pulmonary complications ultimately appeared, and at last the struggle terminated on the 30th of May, 1877, just as he had completed his sixtieth year. According to his own request, Mr. Hodgson was buried in the churchyard of the village where he had long resided, Whitburn, near Sunderland, amidst the deep regrets of a large company of old pupils and many loving friends.

Mr. Hodgson became a Member of the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers in February 1856 ; he joined the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1858, and was elected a Member of The Institution of Civil Engineers in January 1861.


1878 Obituary [4]

ROBERT HODGSON was born at Edinburgh in 1817, and in 1834 became a pupil of his relative, Mr. Thomas E. Harrison, by whom he was employed upon various railways then under construction in Durham and Northumberland.

In 1846 he was appointed resident engineer for the construction of the High-Level Bridge over the Tyne at Newcastle; and subsequently continued to act under Mr. Harrison, as constructing engineer for new works, upon the lines which in 1854 were finally formed into the North Eastern Railway.

From this period he had the carrying out of all the new works on that railway, among which the most important were the Tyne Docks, the Hull and Doncaster line including the hydraulic swing bridge over the Ouse near Goole, the Leeds new station, the Team Valley line from Gateshead to Ferryhill, the York and Doncaster line with another swing bridge over the Ouse, the new station at York, and other works still in progress.

After passing several months abroad in ill health, he died at Cannes on 30th May 1877, at the age of sixty.

He became a Member of the Institution in 1858.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1858 Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  2. 1858 Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  3. 1877 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  4. 1878 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries