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Theodore Newel Ely

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Theodore Newel Ely (1846-1916)


1917 Obituary [1]

THEODORE NEWEL ELY, who died 28th October, 1916, at Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, was born at Watertown, New York, 23rd June, 1846 and graduated as Civil Engineer at the Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy, New York, in 1866.

His life work was with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Beginning in 1868 as Assistant Engineer on the Philadelphia and Erie Division, he advanced through various grades until, in 1875, he went to Altoona as Superintendent of Motive Power of the Pennsylvania Railroad, He was made General Superintendent of Motive Power of all the lines east of Pittsburgh in 1882, and Chief of Motive Power of the lines east and west of Pittsburgh in 1893, his office in the latter position being at Philadelphia.

He retired from active service in 1911 because of ill-health.

During Mr. Ely’s administration at Altoona, locomotive and car designs were developed and improved, and many practices were introduced for increasing the efficiency and economy of railroad operations, among them being the establishment of a department of chemical and physical tests, and the encouragement of the entrance of young men of technical education into the mechanical department. Later, as Chief of Motive Power, he took an active part in the consideration of the questions of policy involved in the increases in the capacities of locomotives and cars, especially in freight service, and the substitution of steel for wood in the construction of both freight and passenger cars. Mr. Ely’s professional activities extended to many related organizations outside the Pennsylvania Railroad, and he was also deeply interested in science and art, taking an active part in many organizations for their advancement, among them being the American Academy in Rome, of which he was one of the founders and Vice-President.

He was a Member of the American Societies of Civil, Mechanical, and Mining Engineers, and an Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects. Among other academic distinctions conferred upon him was the honorary degree of M.A. of Yale University. Mr. Ely was elected a Member of The Institution 4th December, 1888.


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