Thomas Elliot Harrison and brothers
Born in Fulham on 4 April 1808, but family moved to Sunderland.. He
was the son of William Harrison (c1778-1846) and his wife Eliza Anna Marie
Hall. In the north east his father arranged the transport of coal from Fawdon
colliery to the River Tyne for export and became wealthy. Thomas Elliot Harrison
died at Whitburn on 20 March 1888
(Marshall). Marshall states Elliott:
others Elliot. ODNB entry by David Brooke;
and entry in Chrimes by R.W.
Thomas Elliot was educated at Kepier Grammar School and articled to W. and E. Chapman in Newcastle. Attempted to establish himself in London, But interview with Telford was highly dismissive and implied that few civil engineers were able to find work, but did find work with Robert Stephenson on obtaining levels for Wolverton to Rugby section of L&BR. Subsequently, employed in construction of Stanhope & Tyne Railway where father and uncle were also involved. Later involved in Newcastle & Carlisle, Swinton & Knottingley, York & Doncaster, Hull & Selby, and his last project was the Alnwick & Cornhill (second Backtrack reference). He was also closely involved in the construction of the Victoria Bridge on Penshaw & Washington section of the Leamside line and of the High Level Bridge in Newcastle where a plaque commemorates this involvement. He also "engineered" the amalgamation of the York, Newcastle & Berwick, York & North Midland and Leeds Northern railways into the North Eastern Railway. He was married twice and is buried at Whitburn. He was the inventor of two extraordinary locomotives supplied to the broad gauge Great Western Railway in 1838 and which failed to see 1840. See patent and RCTS The locomotives of the Great Western Railway. Part 2. Broad gauge..
Letter from Bill Fawcett in Backtrack quoted in extensuo:
I was very interested to read the article on that much-neglected engineer, Thomas Elliot Harrison in Vol.6 No.5, and would just like to add a few comments, enlarging on the relationship of his family with the Newcastle & Carlisle and North Eastern Railways.
Harrison's involvement with the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway is ill-documented but appears to relate solely to the period 1848-9, when George Hudson leased that company on behalf of the York Newcastle & Berwick Railway (YNB). This coincided with the early stages of construction of the Alston Branch, which seems to have involved both TEH and his younger brother, John Thornhill Harrison. The latter was engaged to carry out the resurvey of the route for the second Alston Branch bill, and certified construction contracte from 1848; some were also signed by his branch. Following Hudson's downfall, the YNB disowned the lease and work on the Alaton Branch appears to have been supervised by the Newcastle & Carlisle's own engineer, Peter Tate, until J. T. Harrison's appointment as resident engineer on these works in December 1849. There he remained until November 1850, when he went left for other work and was replaced by George Barclay Bruce.
Bruce has been credited with the design of the Lambley Viaduct on the Alston Branch but in fact he just supervised its construction. This leaves the two Harrisons as the designers of it and the bulk of the bridges on that line including a number of elegant and distinctive viaducts, particularly that over the Gilderdale Beck. Which brother was responsible remains unclear, but the diversity of design among the larger bridges suggests that possibly it was John, advised by TEH.
On the North Eastern Railway, Harrison himself originated the structure of Divisional Engineers, although they did not assume this title, together with extra responsibilities, until his death. He began with John Bourne at Newcastle and Thomas Cabry (originally resident engineer on the York & North Midland Railway) at York, later joined by William Cudworth at Darlington, following the amalgamation with the Stockton & Darlington Railway. Between 1868-9 Bourne was succeeded by Alfred Rood Clanny Harrison, another brother of TEH. On the latter's death in 1888, Alfred was appointed 'Engineer for New Works' but did not retain the post for long before the appointment of Sir John Wolfe Barry as the NER's Consulting Engineer. Thus Charles Augustus Harrison followed Alfred as Northern Division Engineer (Newcastle) and then succeeded Barry on his death in 1908.
According to T. E. Harrison's lengthy obituary in the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, his relationship with the NER changed significantly after 1877. Until then he had managed a large consultancy business from an office in Westminster, residing in London for five months of each year and relying on his brother-in-law, Robert Hodgson, to act as superintending engineer on works for the NER. His remuneration from the company seems to have consisted of a percentage on the cost of new works, from which he would have covered his office expenses, in addition to a salary which in July 1872 was raised to £3,000, the same as that of Henry Tennant, the NER General Manager. Hodgson died in 1877 and Harrison then decided to reduce his workload, wind down the consultancy and concentrate on the NER hence the eventual transfer of his office staff to that company.
The Civils obituary also points out that Harrison was actually born in Fulham; however, he grew up on Wearside and was always regarded as a local lad. Indeed, although the NER increasingly came to centralise its administration in York, Harrison's office remained on Tyneside in Newcastle Central Station, where he was working the day before his death, just a fortnight short of his eightieth birthday. John Dent Dent, then chairman of the NER, expressed the formidable nature of Harrison's role as virtually the father of the company: "I dare not have undertaken the responsibility of accepting the chairmanship had it not been for the confidence with which Mr Harrison inspired me... To his other qualities you must add a singularly kind and affectionate disposition which underlay the somewhat forcible style that occasionally awed those that did not know him. All the Directors, old and young, felt the same affectionate respect for him, and I believe there has seldom been any public servant who exercised so powerful and so deserved an influence over the policy of a company as Mr Harrison."
Dent's testimony is a reminder of the unusual breadth of Harrison's training and experience. After the setback at his first meeting with Telford, he spent a year in the office of an accountant, a friend of his father, and subsequently claimed that this was one of the most useful experiences of his life. This clearly proved invaluable during the negotiations in which he and Henry Tennant created the North Eastern Railway, as well as the many arbitration cases he later decided.
[The fuel and fire-boxes of the locomotive engines on the Stanhope and Tyne railway]. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs, 1837, 1, 38
Brakes: According to Brown Great Northern locomotive engineers V. 1 p. 191 Harrison sent a copy of a report on the history of automatic braking systems to the Board of the GNR in December 1877. Hoole: Illustrated history of NER locomotives (pp. 214-16) states why Westinghouse system was adopted from April 1879: it was cheaper and lighter (10 cwt per carriage).
6, p. 270 (includes portrait).
See Backtrack, 5, p. 254
Rutherford returns to Harrison (and his significance) Backtrack, 15, 228.
Brooke, David entry in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.: Brooke is critical of Harrison's cautious approach to full block signalling in his contribution to the Royal Commission on Railway Accidents, 1874-7, but acknowledges his contribution to improvements in train braking.
Woodward, G. Trubshaw, Hartley and Harrison : early nineteenth century engineers and architects. Trans Newcomen Soc., 2001, 72, 77..
7260 Locomotive engines. 21 December 1836 [number corrected to that given in Woodcroft].
Boiler on one unit: engine on another: actually supplied to GWR broad gauge as Thunderer and another as Hurricane.
John Thornhill Harrison.
Third son of William Harrison and born at Thornhill, near Sunderland. He was articled to Thomas Elliot Harrison and worked on the London & Birmingham and Stanhope & Tyne Railway before moving to join Isambard Kingdom Brunel working on the Cheltenham & Gloucester, Cheltenham & Great Western Union and South Devon Railways. In 1850 he beacame the resident engineer on the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway. He died in Ealing on 4 November 1891. R.W. Rennison and A. Gunning in Chrimes
Alfred Reid Clanny Harrison
Fourth son of William Harrison. Born Thornhill and baptised on 26 November 1816. "Said" to have beeen a pupil of I.K. Brunel. Got involved in Australian Gold Rush, but persuaded to enter civil engineering and worked for the government of Victoria in Melbourne between 1852 and 1864. He returned to Britain and by 1870 he was Engineer of the Northern Division of the North Eastern railway. He resigned in March 1890. Died Jesmond on 20 January 1903. . R.W. Rennison and A. Gunning in Chrimes