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William John Maxwell

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William John Maxwell (1838-1881)


1881 Obituary [1]

MR. WILLIAM JOHN MAXWELL was born in Belfast on the 24th of May, 1838.

He became a pupil to the late Sir John Macneill, M. Inst. C.E., in 1857, and was at first employed in the office of the Belfast and County Down railway, and afterwards as Resident Engineer on the line during the construction of a portion of its extensions from Comber to Downpatrick and Ballynahinch.

At the conclusion of these works he joined the office of Sir John Macneill at Dundalk for a couple of years, and in 1862 went as Resident Engineer at Portadown during the construction of a new station and other works there for the Ulster railway company.

In 1863 he was appointed Resident Engineer on the Dublin and Meath railway during its construction, and in 18G4 was sent by Sir John Macneill to assist in making surveys for railways in European Turkey.

On his return he became engaged as engineer and agent; to Mr. John Killen, contractor, with whom he remained about four years, and Mr. Eillen dying during the progress of the contract which he had undertaken for the improvement of the river Medlock, Mr. Maxwell completed the work for the executors. In these works Mr. Maxwell displayed much skill and ingenuity in his method of effecting t.he excavation and removing water during construction, as well as for the financial success of the undertaking, which threatened at one time to prove a considerable loss to the contractor.

In 1870 he was sent by Mr. Telford Macneill to make surveys and reports on the Euphrates Valley railway, especially respecting the harbour and port of Alexandretta, and the route to the Euphrates via the Beilan Pass. The portion of the railway over this pass was proposed to be worked on the Fell system then in use on the Mont Cenis railway. On Mr. Maxwell's return he was examined before the "Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Euphrates Valley Railway, 1871," as to the working of the proposed system.

In 1871 Nr. Maxwell, in contemplation of waterworks being constructed at Beyrout, Syria, was appointed engineer for the purpose of making the required surveys, plans, and arrangements for the construction of the works, and attending at Constantinople as representative of the promoters. Two years after, Mr. Maxwell went again to Beyrout as agent for the contractor, and, notwithstanding many difficulties, succeeded in bringing the works to a successful completion, chiefly by native workmen and without it single serious accident. During this stay at Beyrout he; accompanied by some friends,' explored the water-bearing caverns in the Lebanon, extending for miles underground, which convey the waters of the melted snow from the mountains to the sources of the Nahr-el-Relb (the famous Dog river), from which source the town of Beyrout is supplied.

After his return from the East in 1875, he was appointed by a financial company in London to report on the proposed construction of a railway and harbour in the north of Germany, and also on a proposed water supply for the town of Antwerp. Next year he again visited Beyrout as delegate of the waterworks company, this being his sixth journey to the East.

While at home in 1878 he was seized with paralysis, and after a time, not finding his strength return, he determined to visit Australia, hoping the change would benefit him; but this not being the case, he left Adelaide in July 1880, and bore the voyage well as far as Naples. On the second day after leaving there, the 22nd of August, he was seized with another (the third) attack of paralysis, which proved fatal in a few hours. He was buried at sea on the same evening.


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