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John Trevor Barkley

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John Trevor Barkley (1826-1882)

1882 Obituary [1]

Mr. JOHN TREVOR BARKLEY was born at Yetminster, Dorsetshire, on the 12th of October 1826. He was educated at Uppingham School, and began his business career at the South Hetton Collieries, near Sunderland, in 1839, being then thirteen years of age. After assisting for some time in the engineering management of these and other collieries, he began to take an interest in railway business, which was at that time a comparatively new sphere of labour, and in which better prospects of success were opened out to a capable engineer than perhaps any other. Mr. Barkley's first railway appointment was that of resident engineer on the Whitehaven and Furness line, but he was afterwards connected with several others.

In 1850, Mr. Barkley accepted an appointment to manage the coalmines of Heraclea in Turkey, which were then being developed by the Turkish Government. During the Crimean War the English Government obtained possession of this coalfield, and shared the benefits derived from it with its French allies. Under Mr. Barkley's direction, tramways were laid along the valleys, and smaller tramways laid in many of the mines. Quays for shipping the coal were built, and by regular payments to the workmen great activity was developed and satisfactory results obtained.

When the English Government asked for the use of the coalfields, the Turkish Minister refused to grant it, on the ground that it was the private property of the Sultan. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe was, however, then the ambassador of England at the Porte. He sought and obtained an interview with Abdul Medjid, and obtained what he wished, but, as his Lordship subsequently stated, "it was not till after a personal altercation with the Sultan." Coal can only be shipped from these mines in quite calm weather, i.e., almost exclusively during the summer months. The coast is very bold and exposed, so that the cost of making a harbour or harbours would be very great. There are no headlands of which advantage could be, taken, and the water is deep close up to the shore. The mountains surrounding the mines for twenty miles, make it practically impossible to connect the coal workings with any place by a railway. The greatest quantity of coal extracted from the mines in any one year has not exceeded 120,000 tons. It nominally costs the Government 16s. a ton delivered in Constantinople; it really costs considerably more.

The Heraclea mines, under these circumstances, never did much good as a commercial enterprise. Although the coal is of good quality and worked by adits and levels in seams of 10 to 16 feet thick, the difficulty of transporting it to suitable markets, and the competitions offered by English coal, brought in many cases to Constantinople as ballast in grain-carrying ships - making coal almost as cheap there as in London - affected the success of the enterprise; and after four or five years, Mr. Barkley gave it up.

In 1855, he returned again to railway engineering, and engaged in the construction of the Danube and Black Sea Railway, a line forty miles in length, which was pioneered by Sir Samuel Cunard, Mr. Price, now a member of the Railway Commission, and other English engineers and capitalists of position.

Several other railways in the east of Europe were constructed by Mr. Barkley - including the Rustchuk and Varna line - as well as upwards of twenty bridges in Roumania, &c., chiefly on the Bucharest and Varna Railway.

Falling into indifferent health, Mr. Barkley, about 1869, returned to England, where, however, his active and vigorous mind did not brook a long period of idleness. He took an active part in several commercial and engineering undertakings, and on the formation, in 1872, of the Landore Siemens-Steel Company, he became, with Mr. Dillwyn, M.P., and Dr. Siemens, one of its first directors.

He took an active interest in the development of the steel manufacture by the Siemens process, with the details of which he was thoroughly acquainted. He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1873.

He died on the 8th of January last, in the fifty-seventh year of his age.

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