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Thomas Robert Shervinton

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Thomas Robert Shervinton (1827-1903) of the Imperial Government Railways of Japan

1903 Obituary [1]

THOMAS ROBERT SHERVINTON began his engineering career in the service of the Board of Works in Ireland, and was employed on the famine relief works of 1846-48.

From 1849 to 1854 he was engaged under Mr. Peter Barlow as Assistant and Resident Engineer in charge of works chiefly on the South Eastern Railway.

On the recommendation of Mr. Barlow he was appointed in 1854 an Assistant Engineer in the service of the East Indian Railway Company.

Two years later he was promoted to be Resident Engineer, and in that capacity, and subsequently as a District Engineer, he had charge of works of great magnitude and considerable engineering difficulty. During the mutiny he served as a Volunteer in a Rifle Corps.

On the completion of the extensive works on the East Indian Railway, Mr. Shervinton was offered an appointment in Japan, that country having determined to establish railway communication from the coast to the capital, a system which, including Government and private lines, has now extended to over 4,000 miles.

He ultimately became the Chief Engineer to the whole system of railway communication in Japan, his clear, concise and systematic conduct having won the confidence of the Japanese in a remarkable manner. His offer to introduce a system of engineering instruction for the youth of Japan was eagerly taken advantage of; and great progress in that respect was made under his direction.

Reference should be made to the extent and magnitude of the works carried out by Mr. Shervinton, in spite of great difficulties in a country subject to frequent volcanic action. The success of the first tunnel at Otsu was a virtual triumph to the Japanese, and the difficulty thenceforth was to induce them to consent to a line which would not have a tunnel on its route.

After seventeen years’ service in India and eight years in Japan, Mr. Shervinton desired to be relieved from the unceasing cares and responsibilities of his arduous post. The Japanese, unwilling to part with an adviser in whom they placed absolute confidence, made him most liberal offers if he would remain, but, finding that he adhered to his determination, the Japanese Government appointed him their Consulting Engineer in England, submitting for his personal consideration all new railway projects, and entrusting him with the provision of the material and equipment of the same. So entirely suited to the exigencies of the country were his designs for locomotives that, with the permission of the Government, they have been adopted throughout Japan in the railways built by private enterprise. The Japanese Government signalized their high appreciation of his services by conferring on him the Imperial orders of 'The Rising Sun' and 'The Sacred Treasure.'

He died at his residence, 14 Earl’s Court Square, London, on the 30th April, 1903, aged 76.

Mr. Shervinton was elected a Member of the Institution on the 2nd April, 1867.

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