Railway promoters & financiers

Blount, Sir Edward Charles
Born on 16 March 1809 at Bellamour, near Rugeley, Staffordshire, the second son of Edward Blount (1769–1843), banker and politician, member of a staunchly Catholic family. At home, he gained a knowledge of French from Father Malvoisin, an émigré priest. He was then educated at the grammar school in Rugeley, before attending St Mary's at Oscott, near Birmingham, from 1819 to 1827. In the summer of 1827 he joined the London office of the Provincial Bank of Ireland. He was appointed to the Home Office during George Canning's short-lived ministry and often went to the House of Commons, developing an interest in Catholic emancipation. In the autumn of 1829 Blount was appointed to the British embassy in Paris and served as an attaché under Lord Granville. In the summer of 1830 he transferred to the Rome consulate, where he met Cardinal Weld, Lord Shrewsbury, and the future Napoleon III. Such diplomatic and political connections proved invaluable during his banking career. He returned to Paris in 1831 and abandoned diplomacy to establish a fortune of his own. To begin with Blount lived on a family allowance and dabbled in journalism, writing for the first railway newspaper, The Railway Chronicle, before joining Callaghan & Co., a Paris bank that was agent for the Catholic bank of Wright, Selby & Co., of London. He then set up his own bank with his father's financial backing: Edward Blount, Père et Fils. On 18 November 1834 he married Gertrude Frances Jerningham (d. 1907), daughter of William Charles Jerningham. They had two sons and three daughters. The bank prospered with deposits from wealthy British expatriates. Blount soon formed a partnership with Charles Laffitte, nephew of Jacques Laffitte, a famous financier and politician. From 1836 Laffitte, Blount & Cie became a tireless promoter of French railways. Blount was surprised by French investors' lack of interest and, after parliament excluded state financing for the railways in 1838, he offered to finance and build a line from Paris to Rouen. He easily raised 15 million French francs in London, Liverpool, and Manchester, and this encouraged French investors to subscribe the same amount. The French government lent the project 14 million francs and authorized the line on 15 July 1840. A company, the Chemins de Fer de l'Ouest, was formed by Blount, who became the first chairman. The board of directors was half French and half English, and those who backed the venture included Baron James de Rothschild, Lord Overstone. The line, which was designed by the British civil engineer Joseph Locke, with Thomas Brassey as contractor, was opened on 9 May 1843. To gain a thorough knowledge of railway management, Blount learned engine driving, spending four months on the London and North Western Railway. Buddicom, the locomotive manager of the LNWR at Liverpool, brought over fifty British engine drivers for the French railway, which prospered from the start. Laffitte, Blount & Cie subsequently promoted the construction of the expanding French railway network, in collaboration with Baron James de Rothschild and others. After the failure of the bank following the 1848 revolution, Blount, having paid its creditors in full, resumed business in 1852 as Edward Blount & Co., with the help of Thomas Brassey and other wealthy friends. Between 1838 and 1870 Blount helped finance the Rouen–Le Havre, Amiens–Boulogne, Nord–Dieppe–Fécamp, Creil–Saint-Quentin, Lyons–Avignon, and Lyons–Geneva railways. When these were absorbed into regional networks, Blount joined the board of the new companies, acting as director of the Compagnie du Nord, director and vice-chairman of the Paris–Lyons–Mediterranean railways, and chairman of the Chemins de Fer de l'Ouest until 1894. Blount also promoted Swiss, Austrian, Portuguese, and Middle Eastern railways, such as the Fell Railway over Mont-Cenis; and he financed other major engineering projects, becoming chairman of the Compagnie des Eaux. Attracted by the technical challenge he also invested in the Compagnie des Polders de l'Ouest to reclaim marshes as farmland, and the Channel Tunnel Company losing money in both ventures. To raise money for these projects Blount joined the Réunion Financière in 1856, a coalition of private bankers set up by James de Rothschild to counteract the rise of the Pereires' Credit Mobilier. In 1864 Blount was a founding member of Société Générale de Paris. In 1870 he transferred his business to this limited-liability bank and became its chairman. In 1901 he was made honorary chairman, remaining the bank's London agent. For his services during the Siege of Paris Blount was made CB on 13 March 1871, and KCB on 2 June 1878. He was also a commander of the Légion d'honneur. Blount founded and chaired the British chamber of commerce in Paris. He also belonged to the Paris Cercle de l'Union, the French Jockey Club, and the Reform Club in London. Additionally, he acted as banker to the papal government. After the war of Italian independence of 1859, and the annexation of the Papal States to the new kingdom of Italy, he had the delicate task of arranging the transfer of the financial liabilities of the Papal States to the new Italian government, and the conversion of the papal debt. A benefactor of the Roman Catholic church in Britain, Blount built a school near Birmingham, and a church at East Grinstead. Devoted to the turf, he was a patron of the stable of the Comte de Lagrange; and following the latter's death in 1883 he kept a small stable of his own. Blount died at his home, Imberhorne, East Grinstead, Sussex, on 15 March 1905. ODNB entry by Isabelle Lescent-Giles

Brown, Ashley Geikie
Died 13 September 1957. General Secretary, British Railway Stockholders' Union. Worked for Admiralty; Special Grants Committee, Ministry of Pensions, 1914–18. One of the founders of the Railway Reform League, 1931; Member of the Council and Committee of the British Railway Stockholders Union, 1932–43, and General Sec. of that organisation, 1933–38; attached to General Manager’s Department, GWR, 1943–47. Publications: Greece Old and New, 1927; Sicily Present and Past, 1928; two works on railway matters: The Future of the Railways, 1928; The Railway Problem, 1932. Latterly lived in Wicklow. Letter Locomotive Mag., 1934, 40, 395..

Galloway, William Johnson
Born in Sale on 5 October 1868; died in London on 28 January 1931. Educated at Wellington College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Joined family business of boiler making in Manchester. MP foor a time. Director of Great Eastern Railway from 1903; then LNER until his death. Buried Weaste Cemetry. Conducted musical concerts held in Royal Albert Hall: see presentation to him Locomotive Mag., 1914, 20, 207.

Gould, Jason (Jay)
Born in Roxbury in New York State on 27 May 1836; died of tuberculosis in New York on 2 December 1892. From 1859 became a major speculator in Amercian railroad finaance; beginning with small railroads and moving on to control the Erie Railroad, Union Pacific and other lines. Mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery, New York and Jay Gould Memorial Reformed Church. Wikipedia and Humm J. Rly Canal Hist. Soc., 2015, 38, 252.

Hornby, William Henry
Born on 2 July 1805 in Blackburn into family of cotton spinners. He followed into this business, adopting steam power for the spinning machinery, and his Brookhouse Mills became one of the llargest local employers. He promoted the Blackburn, Darwen & Bolton Raillway which included a major tunnel at Sough (see Jeffrey Wells, Backtrack, 2015, 29, 366). He became a Director of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, Mayor of  Blackburn and a Tory MP, but he appears to have been an enlightened employer. He had  been a keen athlete in his youth and one of his Albert Neilson Hornby was a notable cricketer. He died  at Poole Hall in Cheshire on 5 September 1884. J. Geoffrey Timmins ODNB entry makes no mention of the railway (yet another failing in this so-called national treasure)

Nicholson, Cornelius
See Jeffrey Wells, Backtrack, 2015, 29, 646. Fought unsuccessfully for Lancaster & Carlsle Railway to be routed through Kendal. See also Backtrack, 2016, 30, 715

Renton, James Hall
Invested his personal fortune in West Highland Railway: figurehead of him at Rannoch station Humm J. Rly Canal Hist. Soc., 2015, 38, 252. See also Backtrack, 26, 410, for photograph of memorial. Chairman of the Ayrshire & Wigtownshire Railway formed in 1887 to take over the Girvan & Portpatrick Railway (see Locomotive Mag., 1946, 52, 120. Also Deputy Chairman Forth Bridge Company and Director LTSR (Dawn Smith).

Rushton, Thomas Lever
Born: Bolton 1811. Died: Cannes, France 8 February 1883. Banker, solicitor, industrialist and landowner. Proprietor of Bolton Ironworks as Rushton and Eckersley. He was a partner in Bolton's first commercial bank, Hardcastle, Cross & Co. (Grace's Guide). See also article by Peter Townend in Rly Arch., 2016 (50), 53 which includes portrait of him.

Salomons, Sir David
Born 22 November 1797. Died in London on 15 July 1873. Stockbroker and banker. Member of Parliament. Sought Jewish emancipatuion. ODNB.

Tomline, George
Born 3 March 1813; died in London on 25 August 1889. Educated Eton. Performed Grand Tour. MP for constuencies in Lincolnshire and Shropshire. Developed Felixstoew  Railway and Dock. Residence at Orwell Park.

Van Sweringen brothers (Vans)
Oris Paxton was born on 26 April 1879 and died on 22 November 1936. Mantis James was born on 8 July 1881 and died on 12 December 1935. Inseperable brothers who owned or controlled an enormous railroad mileage by the 1930s. Mausoleum at Shaker Heights in Cleveland. Internet and J. Rly Canal Hist. Soc., 2015, 38, 252..

Wemyss, Randolph Gordon Erskine
Born in Wemyss Castle on 11 July 1858. Following a death in November 1907 at the Lochhead and Victoria of a miner, Wemyss, assisted with the underground rescue operations, and developed symptoms from shock and exposure. He never recovered and died on 17 July 1908. He was buried at Wemyss in the Chapel Garden. He had been tutored at home by Revd. John Thomson; minister of St. Adrian’s church in West Wemyss, until he entered Eton College in 1873. Following the early death of his father in March 1864, he inherited the Lairdship and the estates. Day to day management was carried out by his mother until he reached the age of twenty-one. The principal activity on the estate was coal extraction centred on West Wemyss, under the Wemyss Coal Company. A new wet dock was opened in 1872 at a cost of £10,000. Railway schemes were developed to assist the business, and construction of the Wemyss Private Railway from Thornton to Buckhaven began in 1879, and was completed in 1881 at a cost of £25,000.
In January 1900 he embarked on the steam yacht “Vanadis” for a honeymoon cruise to Egypt and South Africa. The honeymoon, however, was interrupted by the outbreak of the Boer War. Wemyss donated the yacht to the war effort as a hospital ship and he was promoted to the rank of Captain and on 4 September 1900 travelled to Mafeking with Charles Cavendish, 3rd Baron Chesham. He returned from South Africa in July 1901. After his service in the Boer War, business continued in the coalfields on his estates, the docks at Methil and the creation of the Wemyss and District Tramways Company from Leven to Kirkcaldy.
As a benevolent landlord, he provided improved housing for workers. He oversaw the developments at East and Coaltown of Wemyss, and a new village at Denbeath. He personally spent around £75,000 on housing in the parish. The Randolph Wemyss Memorial Hospital was erected in Buckhaven in his memory at a cost of £10,000, and opened on 28 August 1909. Not in ODNB: Wikipedia (09-01-2017) and Munro. The railways of Wemyss  NBRSGJ, 1995 (60), 4.

2017-01-10
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