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Thomas Higinbotham

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Thomas Higinbotham

Thomas Higinbotham (1819 – 5 September 1880), engineer and civil servant, was born in Dublin, the third son of Henry Higinbotham, merchant, and his wife Sarah, née Wilson.

Education and training

Educated in Dublin at Castle Dawson School and the Royal Dublin Society House, Higinbotham moved to London about 1839 initially working for a firm that promoted railway companies, and often appeared before parliamentary committees on railways, then as an engineer on British railroads, where he gained high repute in his profession.[1] In about 1838-9 he moved to London and entered the office of Sir William Cubitt, who was mentor to several Victorian railway engineers. Subsequently he was appointed as assistant-engineer of the South Eastern Railway, between Dover and Canterbury. Afterwards Sir Wm. Cubitt, who was advising engineer to the Great Northern Railway Company, had him appointed as resident engineer of that railway He was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on 7 February 1854.[2]


Migration to Australia

He moved to Melbourne, Australia in 1857, living with his eldest brother George's household in Melbourne. He never married.

In 1860 became engineer-in-chief of the Victorian Railways replacing the first engineer George Christian Darbyshire. He supervised the surveying and construction of all new Victorian lines and championed various rail improvements including city station locations, construction of Melbourne's outer-circle railway and adaptations to permit unbroken rail traffic between Sydney and Melbourne. He was removed from office in January 1878 by the Berry government and replaced by Robert Watson but invited by the South Australian, Tasmanian and New Zealand governments to report on their railway systems.

Final year

In March 1880 the Service government reappointed him engineer-in-chief of the Victorian railways, but the ministry soon fell and he was unhappy under its successor. He had decided to resign but died in his sleep on 5 September, to be replaced as Engineer-in-Chief by William Elsdon.[3]

His long standing and status in the department was rewarded on his retirement by a sumptuous banquet and presentation.

References

Bibliography

  • Wettenhall, R. L. 'Higinbotham, Thomas (1819–1880)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, Melbourne University Press, 1972, pp 397–398.
  • Cumming, D.A. Some Public Works Engineers in Victoria in the Nineteenth Century Technology Report No. TR-85/10. August 1985.
  • 'Obituary: Mr. Thomas Higinbotham, M.I.C.E.', Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, vol 17, 1880, pp 91–92;
  • 'Obituary' The Age (Melbourne), 6 Sept 1880;


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