STEWART M.inst.C.E. – Civil Engineer and Surveyor
1832 - 1914
Stewart was born in Perthshire, Scotland 1832 (1).
Growing up in Perth, he was educated at the Perth Academy. (2)
Leaving this fine Scots Grammar School at eighteen years of age in 1850,
James was Articled to Mr. Peter D.Brown, M.Inst.C.E. (3)
next eight years, firstly as a pupil and then as Chief Assistant, he
learned the profession of Civil Engineering. Along with mechanical
engineering he was also engaged in the engineering work of railways,
roads, bridges and waterworks. It was also during this time, in 1853, that
he was fortunate to be involved under Mr. P Brown M.Inst.C.E. in pond
design and construction at the Stormontfield Salmon Works on the Tay.
experience was to be put to good use again by James. This was with
the introduction of salmon and trout to the Waikato and Thames tributaries
of New Zealand by Mr. Firth and Mr. Nathan in 1875. (4)
Eight years gaining the skills of Civil Engineering gave a solid
foundation, for a career that was pursued right up to his death in 1914.
James married Mary in Perth, Scotland. It was this same year that they set
out for new horizons in New Zealand. Leaving his native land of Scotland,
James and Mary arrived on the clipper barque, Joseph Fletcher, at Auckland,
New Zealand on 18th August 1859. (5) They
settled in Auckland, capital of New Zealand, at this time. Jame’s skills
were at once in demand in a country that was rugged terrain, tracts of
dense bush and little roading, railway, bridges or waterworks. The first
years in this new home saw him:
competition for design of the Auckland Waterworks.
Mr. Samuel Harding surveying the Auckland – Drury railway route in about
1861 (this was to become the first part of the North Island Main Trunk
Railway from the Auckland end)
appointed engineer to the Auckland City Board of Works 1862 - 1863. (6)
tensions festering between European Settlers and Maori finally came to a
head. What is known as the New Zealand Wars with the Waikato Wars
erupting in 1863. Railways were put on hold in the Auckland Province and
preparation for war was a priority for the Government. James was sent to
Sydney, by the then Minister of Defence, to purchase steamers for the New
Zealand Government, suitable for use on the Waikato River during the
campaign. Two of these, the iron gunboats “Koheroa”
and “Rangiriri”, were from
designs by James. Superintending the work, they were constructed at Sydney
by P.N. Russell and Co. (7)
The end of
the Waikato Wars saw James and Mr.Samuel Harding appointed engineers by
the Provincial Government for the construction of the Auckland – Drury
railway. In 1867, this was put on hold until Government funding became
available again in 1870. (8)
1867, James, in addition to being in private engineering practice, was
also appointed by the Marine Department to be Inspector of Steamers and
Examiner of Engineers at Auckland. (9)Steamships
were taking the place of sailing ships at this time. Engineers required a
different set of skills to run the boilers and machinery of steamers.
civil engineering, skills were well utilised, in the design and overseeing
of construction of lighthouses, and reconstruction of various steamers
boilers and machinery. Of mention, were the alterations in the engines, to
compound principles, of the steamer ss.
Star of the South(10).
Compound principles were a new technology at that time.
that James became involved with in design and supervising construction of
were Bean Rock (11),
Ponui Passage (12)
and Manukau Heads (13).
Bean Rock, associated initially with marine engineer James Balfour, who
unfortunately drowned before his plans were complete, ended up in Jame’s
hands. Incorporating many of Balfour’s design aspects, the eventual
completed design was James Stewart’s work. Likewise Ponui Passage
Lighthouse of which James wrote about the design and construction in an
article, which he read to the Auckland Institute in July 1871.
proclamation and opening of the Thames Goldfield from 1st
August 1867 bought a gold rush to the area. Many of the Auckland
businessmen became involved with this goldfield in mining, timber milling,
running steamers to Thames, tramways and later a railway. Thames was not
alluvial gold that could be panned for and required large amounts of
capital and equipment. Pumps to remove water and stamper batteries to
crush the gold quartz. Amongst the many people involved in Thames
goldmining, James Stewart was recorded as one of seven shareholders in the
Queen of Beauty Goldmine.
Government funding became available again when the Government Immigration
and Public Works Department was established. Under what is known as the
“Vogel” Scheme, priority was placed on road and rail construction which
employed immigrant labour to open up areas for settlement. (16) James
turned to his passion – design and construction of railways. In 1870 he
was appointed to survey the upgrading of the Auckland – Drury railway.
1872 he became Resident Engineer for construction of the extension of the
rail route to Mercer. This was followed by his appointment in 1874, to be
in charge of all railway works in the then Auckland Province. (17).
route continued down from Mercer
which was completed 1875, to Ngaruawahia completed 1877, to Hamilton
completed 1877 (19),
to Te Awamutu opened 1 July 1880. (20)
Thus this formed the Auckland – Te Awamutu section of the Main Trunk
Railway, a distance of 100 miles of track. Construction was under
difficult conditions for much of this route lay across swamp and peat
lands, requiring large amounts of ballast to be poured into some areas
before tracks could even be layed.
At the same
time as the Auckland – Te Awamutu railway route were constructed, surveys
for a railway route between Auckland and Kaipara harbour were begun in
1876. This was under the direction of Messrs. Samuel Harding and James
Stewart. This line passed through Henderson, Swanson and Waitakare and
connected with the existing Riverhead - Helensville line at Kumeu. Two
years later an alternative route was surveyed from Wai komiti (now New
Cost assessments favoured the earlier survey which connected with Kumeu.
The construction was commenced in 1879 and completed in July, 1881. (21)
In 1879 the
railway eastwards from Hamilton toward Thames was begun. Morrinsville was
opened in October 1884. The Thames Branch line from Morrinsville to Te
Aroha was opened 1 March 1886 but Paeroa was not reached until 20 December
1895 and Thames 19 December 1898. The railway was bought to these towns to
service settlement and goldmining and completed the roundabout rail route
Auckland – Thames. (22)
In June 1880, a roading project giving access to Rotorua was announced
James, the District Engineer was directed by government to carry out the
necessary exploration and surveys to allow construction to begin on this
project. As he carried out the survey, construction followed, beginning at
Cambridge. By December 1880 a suitable dray track had been built of
approximately 20 miles. A smaller gang followed the surveyors and by April
1881, a bridle track was completed to Rotorua.
Government once more faced funding problems with recession looming. James
was retired from the Public Works Department and he re entered private
practice with Mr. Ashley Hunter.
20 November 1880, Te Aroha was proclaimed a Goldfield. A town was
established at Waiorongomai nearby to Te Aroha. Piako County Tramway built
in 1882-83 was built to service the goldmining and battery area.
James was engineer to the Piako county tramways for the opening up of the
Waiorongomai Mines. (25)
1881 the Patetere Association had discussions on the feasibility of a
railway line from Morrinsville to Rotorua. The Thames Valley and Rotorua
Railway Co. was formed and in 1882 James was contracted as Resident
Engineer to oversee survey, design and construction of this initially,
privately constructed railway. The railway was constructed in two sections
– Morrinsville to Lichfield under the District Railways Act ( distance
about 42 miles) and Putaruru to Rotorua under the Railways Construction
and Land Act ( distance nearly 32 miles). (26)
The first section of railway was opened at Tirau on 8th March,
1886 and Lichfield on 21st June 1886, both opened at the time
of the Tarawera Eruption which destroyed the famous Pink and White
Terraces. Tirau became an important communication point at the time of the
of Jame’s sons, Andrew, who spent time with James in the construction
camps, was later to settle at Tirau in the 1900s, farming.
Finally after 13 years from the initial discussions of the Patetere
Association, the railway was opened for through traffic to Rotorua on 8
December 1894. (28)
James was asked to do a feasibility survey of two railway routes Gisborne
to Rotorua – one via the Urewera and the other via Opotiki. In July 1899
James reported on the survey, recommending the route Gisborne to Rotorua
via Opotiki. Government approved construction. (29)
opening of the Railway to Rotorua, James turned his attention to electric
traction of the Auckland city tramways. He visited England in 1896 for the
latest information and on his return, in partnership with Ashley Hunter
oversaw the laying of the Auckland Electric Tramways as consulting
(30). The opening
ceremony in 1902 was attended by Hugh crowds.
career, he took a keen interest in the seeking of knowledge from many
sources. Along with standards in the profession of Engineering and
Surveying. Joining the Auckland Institute in 1868 he remained a member,
apart from a short break, until his death. He was President of the
Institute in 1890 and again in 1901. In addition he represented the
Institute on the Board of Governors of the New Zealand Institute from
1903. In 1906 he was appointed Trustee. (31).
As to his chosen profession of Civil Engineer and Surveyor, he was elected
A.M.I.C.E. in 1868 and made M.I.C.E. in 1877. On 9th August
1881 he became an Authorized Surveyor, licensed under the Land Transfer
Act in July 1884. (32)
Stewart had a family of three sons and four daughters. In 1909, James and
Mary celebrated a 50th Wedding Anniversary and the birth of a
grandson Jack Morton Stewart, at the family home “Tirorangi”.
Even though New Zealand where he settled was loved, a love of Scotland,
his birthplace, was retained. He enjoyed the poems of Robbie Burns and
works of Sir Walter Scott. He joined the Stewart Society and passed down
to family, oral stories of his birthplace. James died on 12th
February 1914, aged 82 years, and is buried at Auckland, New Zealand. A
man hardworking, with good knowledge and commonsense who was a leader of
CYCLOPAEDIA NEW ZEALAND, Vol. 2, Auckland Province pg.316 – 317
7.THE NEW ZEALAND
WARS VOLUME I: 1845- 1864, James Cowan 1923 R. E. Owen, 1955, Wellington
Cyclopaedia New Zealand, Vol. 2, Auckland Province pg.316 - 317
ZEALAND GAZETTE, ALPHABETICAL LIST OF OFFICERS OF THE CIVIL ESTABLISHMENT
OF NEW ZEALANDEmployed on
the 1st day of July 1871, showing the Rate of Salary and length of Service
up to that date. R –S
Research I have done over the last eighteen months to begin writing a
biography on James Stewart could not have been achieved without the
wonderful sharing and help of many people. The above article is but a very
brief overview of the more in depth work currently being written. The
journey is a fun one while I am doing my research and visiting the places.
I stand in awe as I know that Great Grandfather was in that place in the
late 1800’s. Overseeing survey, design and construction of lighthouses,
bridges, roads, railways and tramways in conditions that I could not even
begin to imagine today. I am grateful for the help received to date from
Jocelyn Raymond, Judy Adlington and Neville Collins; the staff of the
Waihi Library; Marleene Boyd, National Maritime Museum NZ; John Isdale,
Thames School of Mines; Peter Barber Te Aroha Historical Society; Dr.
Neville Ritchie, Regional Archaeologist Department of Conservation; Staff
of NZETC, NZ National Library, Waikato Museum, Auckland Museum, Rotorua
Museum and MOTAT.
following are a list of structures and designs James Stewart was involved
with and today are registered Historic Places under the New Zealand
Historic Places Act. Many of these sites are now part of the NZ Tourist
Island Main Trunk Railway
Auckland – Te Awamutu
Tower, Railway Tirau
Waiorongomai Tramways Te
About the Article Author
AnneSTEWART BALL, daughter of
JACK MORTON STEWART, is currently writing a full biography about the life
and work of her Great Grandfather JAMES
STEWART. Semi retired has given Anne the opportunity of time to
carry out the Research and Writing. Anne was born in Epsom, Auckland 1949.
Upon leaving school, she started work at Field Research Department,
Ruakura Agricultural Reseach Station as a Technical Assistant in 1966.
From here she moved into the field of Adult Education and Research,
working in the Forest and Scrap Metal Industries. Disciplines covered were
Training, Occupational Health and Safety, Environmental and Quality.
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