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Travers Hartley Falkiner (1829-1897)
TRAVERS HARTLEY FALKINER, who died at his residence, 9 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin, on the 29th October, 1897, after a brief illness, was the second son of Captain Richard Falkiner, of Mount Falcon, Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary, who served in the campaigns of the Peninsular War as an officer in the 4th Dragoon Guards. Mr. Falkiner, who was born at Mount Falcon in July, 1829, received his early education at a private school in Dublin, and entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1845, obtaining mathematical honours in his first year. His University career was short, as in 1846 he left college to become a pupil of Mr. George Willoughby Hemans who was at that time Chief Engineer of the Midland Great Western Railway of Ireland. Mr. Falkiner had previously passed a short period under Sir John Macneill on the Great Southern and Western Railway, and was thus associated from the outset of his career with the two great Irish lines, with which he maintained a close connection to the time of his death. His professional association with Mr. Hemans lasted until that gentleman's enforced retirement through ill-health; and, in the latter years of their co-operation, he became a partner in the eminent firm of which Mr. Hemans was the head.
Mr. Falkiner's first responsible work was as Resident Engineer, under Mr. Hemans, on the Athlone and Ballinasloe section of the Midland Great Western Railway; and he was subsequently occupied in the construction of various extensions of that system. On the completion of the Irish main lines, he removed to London with Mr. Hemans, in conjunction with whom he constructed the beautiful line from Zurich to Chur. On returning to England he, in conjunction with Mr. Hemans and Mr. Bateman, Past-President, deposited plans for the great scheme for the utilization of the sewage of London, proposed by the Metropolitan Sewage and Essex Reclamation Company. The works were actually commenced, but, owing to the severe depression which followed the monetary panic of 1866, were ultimately abandoned. Following this Mr. Falkiner assisted Mr. Hemans, who had been appointed the Consulting Engineer for the Government of New Zealand, and subsequently, in conjunction with Sir George Bruce, Past- President, and Sir Thomas Tancred, he held that post for some years.
Turning his professional energies from design to construction, Mr. Falkiner, who, on Mr. Hemans’ retirement from the firm, had formed a partnership with that gentleman’s son-in-law, Sir Thomas Tancred, undertook, in the year 1878, a contract for the Lismore to Dungarvan section of the Waterford, Dungarvan and Lismore Railway. The chief work of magnitude included in the contract was a heavy bridge over the River Blackwater at Cappoquin. This river, which has a large drainage area, is subject to heavy floods. The foundations were bad, sufficient waterway was not allowed in the first design handed to the contractors, and the bridge, when nearly completed, was almost entirely carried away, the bed of the river being scoured right across for several hundred feet, undermining the foundations. Mr. Falkiner’s suggestions were then adopted; a large increase of waterway was provided, and cylinders were substituted for the stone piers. The bridge thus reconstructed has proved equal to all emergencies. He next took in hand the Waterford and Wexford Waterworks, while at the same time a large contract for the construction of what was known as Lord Devon’s Railway, a line 40 miles in length, extending from Newcastle West, CO. Limerick, to Tralee, CO. Kerry, was vigorously proceeded with. The works included a tunnel, with heavy approach cuttings, 70 feet deep in hard rock, as well as the traversing of extensive bogs.
Before the opening of the Limerick and Kerry line, the Fenit Railway, from Tralee to Fenit, CO. Kerry, 7 miles long, was taken in hand, in conjunction with the formation of an extensive artificial harbour at Fenit at the mouth of Tralee Bay, which is one of the safest and best on the west coast of Ireland and forms the most important station for the large fleet of boats engaged in mackerel fishing on that coast. This structure consists of a causeway of rubble with heavily-pitched slope extending from the land for about 300 feet, and thence an open viaduct of 900 feet, in continuation of which there was built a concrete wharf, 450 feet in length, with 8 feet of water at L.W.S.T. A further length of 300 feet was added for smaller boats and then the main pier, 800 feet long, was built of 10-ton blocks of concrete with cross-walls on a rubble foundation. This main pier is double-faced, and affords a depth of from 18 to 21 feet of water at L.W.S.T. close alongside. The works have been for years subjected to severe storms, but have withstood all attacks with little charge for maintenance, and have proved thoroughly effective and of great public utility. Before the completion of these works a line 12 miles long from Farranfore to Killorglin (also in Kerry) was carried out for the Great Southern and Western Railway, a large and handsome viaduct across the River Laune being the principal feature.
Messrs. Falkiner and Tancred likewise undertook the construction of the line connecting Oxford with Southampton through Didcot and Winchester. Mr. Falkiner was subsequently associated with the firm of Sir T. S. Tancred, Arrol & Co., the contractors for the Forth Bridge, and took personal charge of the difficult and costly works at Dalmeny and Inverkeithing, connecting the great bridge with the main line.
On the completion of this undertaking Mr. Falkiner returned to Ireland to enter on the construction, under the sanction of the Government, of three of the important extensions carried out under Mr. Arthur Balfour’s Light Railways Act; and at this period he constructed the Ballina and Killala line in connection with the Midland Great Western system, as well as the Killorglin, Cahirciveen and Valentia line, and the line from Headford to Kenmare, on the Great Southern system, which have done so much to open up the South of Ireland to British tourists.
While thus engaged, Mr. Falkiner was called upon by the Midland Great Western Railway Board to undertake a further extension of their system from Galway to Clifden, a distance of 40 miles, and he successfully carried out that important work, which presented many engineering difficulties, especially in connection with the crossing of deep and treacherous bogs. Among other works constructed by him in Ireland were the Rathmines and Rathgar Waterworks, the Pembroke township drainage and the Rathangan arterial drainage.
Mr. Falkiner was also frequently occupied in reporting on continental and other railway projects. He projected a line under the sanction of the Turkish Government across the Balkans from Rustchuk to Adrianople. For this purpose he personally inspected the entire route of the proposed railway, walking the whole way, armed with the Firman of the Porte, and accompanied by an escort, Mr. Falkiner reported in favour of the line, but financial considerations interfered to prevent its adoption. With Sir Thomas Tancred and Mr. Coiseau, of Paris, he was associated in the construction of the Messins, Tarsus and Adana Railway in Cilicia. The last years of Mr. Falkiner’s life were occupied in developing the Parnell Quarries at Arklow, and only a few months before his death he had taken in hand the Drumcondra Link Line, now in course of construction for the Great Southern and Western Railway.
Mr. Falkiner possessed varied and extensive knowledge of many branches of engineering, while his sound and calm judgment and untiring patience in mastering detail were always of great service. Those who came in close contact with him were ever ready to acknowledge and extol his high sense of honour and justice, which went hand in hand with an unbounded generosity devoid of the slightest tinge of ostentation. Perhaps his chief characteristic, however, was extreme modesty, which caused him to shrink from publicity; indeed to see his name in print was always distasteful, while he almost shunned the thanks of those to whom in times of difficulty and distress he was ever willing to give help and employment. Mr. Falkiner was very successful in his methods of dealing with workmen. Before commencing operations he always took measures to secure their comfort, providing well-constructed huts, where a town or village was distant, with shops at which they could obtain necessaries at cost prices. In accident or illness medical attendance was provided, and he never awaited litigation in cases of personal injury, except where the claim was palpably frivolous or unjust. He thus won the confidence and regard of his men, and found them ever ready to help loyally in any emergency. He thoroughly understood the character of his navvies, and especially that of his fellow-countrymen. As an instance an episode may be mentioned which happened during the construction of the Spencer Dock by the Midland Great Western Railway Company at the terminus of their system on the River Liffey. These docks were formed by an enlargement and deepening of the basin of the Royal Canal at its junction with the river. For this work it was necessary to divert the channel of the canal, temporarily, into a side cutting separated from the old bed by another embankment. From some miscalculation as to the strength of this embankment, the diverted water more than once broke through, and on the latest occasion the entire destruction of the new works was imminent. Mr. Falkiner, becoming aware of the danger, immediately took measures. He ordered to the scene a barrel of stout and a keg of whiskey and told the assembled men that to save the works it was essential they should work on through the whole night. They responded with a cheer, and going at the task as Irishmen can in a crisis worked with feverish energy through the night; in the morning the danger had been finally averted, and the embankment was effectively staunched.
Mr. Falkiner was elected a Member on the 12th January, 1864.