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British Industrial History

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Robert James Chalmers

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Robert James Chalmber (1874-1940)

1941 Obituary [1]

ROBERT JAMES CHALMERS had a distinguished career in Australia as chief mechanical engineer of the Queensland Government Railways. He was also well known to a wide circle of Australian members of the Institution, to which he rendered valuable services over a number of years as a representative for Queensland on the Australian Advisory Committee. Mr. Chalmers came of a family of locomotive engineers with close associations with the North British Railway, of which his brother, Mr. W. Chalmers, became chief mechanical engineer in 1920.

He was born at Brighton in 1874 and received his education at Allan Glen's Technical College, Glasgow. In 1889 he entered the Cowlairs works of the North British Railway, and on completing his apprenticeship in 1894 he entered the drawing office. From 1895 to 1901 he gained additional experience as a locomotive draughtsman and designer, in the works of various British railways and locomotive builders, after which he went to Australia. He joined the Queensland Government Railways at Ipswich in the same year, and was engaged on the design of locomotives and rolling stock until 1904. He subsequently went to India as assistant locomotive superintendent of the North Western Railway, and later became district carriage and wagon superintendent at Lahore.

In 1911 he returned to Queensland, where he was made leading draughtsman at the Ipswich railway works. He was appointed assistant works manager and chief draughtsman in 1920. While holding this position he was responsible for introducing the "C17" type of locomotive which represented a considerable improvement on existing designs. In 1919 he carried out a valuation of the rolling stock and machinery 9f the Chillagoe Railway prior to its acquisition by the Government. His appointment as chief mechanical engineer took place in 1925, and he occupied that position longer than any of his predecessors. In the years immediately following his promotion, Mr. Chalmers successfully guided his department through severe industrial difficulties and disturbances, and towards the close of his term of office the outbreak of war created special problems in its demand, upon the plant, for defence works.

Mr. Chalmers retired in February 1940, and his death occurred only five months later, on 31st July. He had been a Member of the Institution since 1921.

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