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Alexandre Gottschalk

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Philippe Alexandre Gottschalk (1834-1898)

of 13 Rue Auber, Paris


1898 Obituary [1]

PHILIPPE ALEXANDRE GOTTSCHALK was born in St. Petersburg on 13th August 1834, his father being Danish and his mother French.

In 1843, when nine years old, he came to Paris, and after being educated at the Louis-le-Grand Lyceum became a student from 1850 to 1853 in the Ecole Centrale, obtaining there a first-class diploma.

In 1854 he commenced his career as an engineer in the service of the Southern Railway under Messrs. Flachat, Clapeyron, and Lechatelier, by whom he was sent next year to England to order and inspect and pass rails and permanent way of the combined Brunel and Barlow pattern, which was then adopted on the Southern lines.

Returning to France in 1855 he was engaged for two years under M. Eugene Flachat on the various works which attended the amalgamation of the different lines forming the Western Railway.

From October 1857 to 1866 he was engineer to the Russian Railways, which at that time were under the direction of a board in Paris, with M. Collignon as director general; and he rapidly rose to the position of engineer-in-chief, which he held at the opening in August 1862 of the last section of the Moscow and Nijni-Novgorod Railway, having had to design the whole of the stations &c. for this and for the St. Petersburg and Warsaw Railway, together 1,100 miles long.

From 1863 to 1866 he had charge of the equipment with rolling stock of the Nicolas Railway from St. Petersburg to Moscow, 370 miles long, acting on behalf of Messrs. Cail and the Fives-Lille Co.

From 1867 to 1878 he was appointed by Messrs. Talabot and Desgrange to succeed the latter as engineer and locomotive superintendent of the Austrian Southern Railways, which form an integral part of the Lombardy Railways, and are still under the direction of a board in Paris. A remarkable instance of his pertinacity in insisting upon what he believed justice to require, and at the same time of his generosity, occurred early during this twelve years' period, in connection with the agreement whereby he was to receive a percentage on the saving he might effect in the working expenses. The florin having since declined in valise, he claimed an amount based on its original value at the date of the agreement; the board, though impressed by the force with which the claim was urged, declined to accede thereto, and he had to bow to their decision; the next day he presented to the workmen's schools at Marburg, established by the company, the whole of the sum he had claimed on the higher scale, amounting to about £1,200.

The network of lines under his management comprised about 1,400 miles, including the Summering and Brenner passes, and on his leaving in 1878 were worked by 1,275 locomotives, 3,353 passenger carriages, and 25,927 wagons; a considerable portion of these had been built in the company's shops at Vienna and Marburg, and the economy he effected was all the more remarkable as following upon the important saving previously brought about by his able predecessor.

M. Desgrange having issued notes on the working of the Sommering incline, M. Gottschalk followed up the idea by yet more extensive notes on that of the Brenner incline of 1 in 40, which crossed the Alps between Innsbruck and Bozen at an elevation of 4,480 feet; for this incline he designed a class of locomotive which was adopted also for the Mont Cenis line, then worked by the Lombardy Railways Co. For these notes he was awarded in 1876 the geld medal of the Societe des Ingenieurs Civils.

Returning to France in 1878, he was elected in 1879 a Vice-President and in 1880 President of the Societe des Ingenieurs Civils. Owing to the leading part he took in the discussions during his presidency upon the subject of the purchase of the railways, he was appointed on 25th November 1880 a member of the government Railway Commission. In the same year ho became naturalised as a Frenchman.

In April 1881 he was appointed a member of the Improvement Committee of the Ecolo Centrale, and was also elected President of the Fellowship Association connected therewith.

In January 1882 he was appointed by the Ministry of Public Works to be a member of the Consulting Committee for the technical working of railways. In connection with the latter and with the Railway Commission, he was occupied during the remaining eighteen years of his life with a large number of practical investigations, in all of which ho took a leading part.

On 12th July 1890 he was created an Officer of the Legion of Honour. Ho was consulting engineer to the Bank of Paris and the Netherlands, and to the Austro-Hungarian State Railways, and was concerned in establishing the Association of Iron and Steel Works in the north and east of France.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1880; and on the occasion of the meetings held in Paris in 1878 and 1889, his early acquaintance with England was highly appreciated by those who were so fortunate as to come in for his welcome and cordial greetings.

His death took place in Paris on 21st February 1898 in the sixty-fourth year of his age.


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