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Sir John Fowler

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Not bad for a lad from Sheffield! lol

Fowler, [sir] John

Born Sheffield on 15 July 1817 and died Bournemouth on 20 November.1898. His major engineering achievements were the Metropolitan Railway and the Forth Bridge. He was educated privately and trained under J.I. Leather, engineer of Sheffield waterworks; then under J.U. Rastrick on the London to Brighton Railway. In 1839, under Leather, he became resident engineer on the Stockton & Hartlepool Railway, on the completion of which in 1841 he was appointed engineer, general manager and locomotive superintendent. In 1844 he set up for himself as a consulting engineer in London and was engaged on lines east of Sheffield which became part of the MS & L. During the Railway Mania Fowler took an active part with the numerous bills then before Parliament.

He designed the Pimlico bridge, completed in 1860, the first railway bridge over the Thames in London. In 1860 he became enginerr of the Metropolitan Railway, an exceedingly difficult project involving the underpinning of buildings, and the diversion of sewers and other services. For this he designed a fireless 2-4-0T, known as Fowler's Ghost, but it was not a success. Zerah Colburn (Plate 36) also credits John Fowler with the 4-4-0T design. The first section of the Metropolitan Railway was opened on the 9th January1863. Of the 13 mile Inner Circle line Fowler was responsible for the construction of over 11 miles and also over 4 miles of branches. In 1869 he advised on railways in Egypt, and in 1870 in India.

In 1875 Fowler took into partnership Benjamin Baker and together they designed the Forth Bridge, the greatest railway bridge in the world. (See also W. Arrol) It was begun in 1883 and opened on 4th March1890. Fowler and Baker were consulting engineerss for the first London tube Railway, the City & South London opened in 1890, and with J. H. Greathead they were joint engineers for the Central London tube railway opened in 1900.

On 17th April1890 Fowler received a baronetcy and retired soon after. He became MIME in 1847, the year the Institution was founded, and MICE in 1849 and was President in 1866-7. On 2nd July1850 he married Elizabeth Broadbent of Manchester and they had 4 sons.

Very good reproduction of illustration of him with William Gladstone on inspection train on Metropolitan Railway: p. 95: Christopher Awdrry's Brunels' broad gauge railway. See also Appendix 13 in Vaughan's Railwaymen..ODNB biography by Mike Chrimes..

Sources: DNB 22 Supplement pp 658-60; Mackay, T., Life of Sir John Fowler. 1900.

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