Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The Forgotten Enginemen of the Dunedin & Port Chalmers Railway Coy., 1872-73 (Part Two)


Gravestone of George Hendrie Amos
St. James Anglican Cemetery, Blakiston, S.A.
[Source : Annette Schirmer,
Regional Cemetery Curator]

Mr J. George Hendrie Amos - Chief Engineer

This Blog is a continuing instalment in my series entitled "The Forgotten Enginemen of the Dunedin and Port Chalmers Railway". To go to my short history of the D&PCR Co. click HERE. In this blog series we explore these "forgotten" enginemen, their early lives, their engineering and railway backgrounds, their employment with the D&PCR Co., and their subsequent railway and post railway careers and lives. 

Our first biography, having been pieced together from a myriad of diverse but interconnecting published and Internet sources, charts the life of Mr J. George Hendrie Amos, being employed as the D&PCR Co. Chief Engineer. From my research I would describe Mr Amos as a very practical, well liked and highly respected man, skilled and very knowledgeable in engineering and railway matters, adaptable and definitely not afraid to try something new, a loving husband and father, but perhaps unfortunately not so skilled in affairs of business or just simply unlucky. As we shall read, his varied life was sadly cut short in the prime of his life.

George Amos is recorded as having been born to Francis and Jane (née Baxter) Amos on the 23rd March 1842 at Smithdown Lane, Liverpool, England. His gravestone states that he was "formerly of Crewe, England". His earlier working life is, as yet, unknown but Crewe was a major railway junction for the London & North Western Railway, additionally being the location of their large locomotive works. As he obviously held a locomotive driver's qualification when working with the D&PCR Co. in Otago he must have had previous firing and driving experience on the railways in England, presumably based at or around Crewe if we take his gravestone as a clue. 

George Amos is specifically noted in a short history of the 'Fairlie' locomotive "Josephine" as being "the representative of the Vulcan Foundry" and "Chief Engineer" for the D&PCR Co. Additionally, the 1994 publication "Port Chalmers and its People" by Ian Church quotes Amos as "of the Fairlie Company". I assume this to refer to the Vulcan Foundry who manufactured the Fairlie locomotives. 

As Amos would supervise the assembly of at least one of the locomotives and of their running I first assumed that his services as an Engineer were no doubt included in the contract signed to supply the locomotives and this may in fact still be so. Sending a trained company representative half way around the world to oversee construction and assembly of technical equipment was standard practice and I have also noted this with such diverse and complex constructions as gas works and large pipe organ installations. 

But then I discovered that Amos had formerly worked as an Engineer for the Kaipara Flax Mills in Northland, New Zealand and had returned "home" (i.e. to Britain) sometime in early 1871. Amos then "returned [to New Zealand] to take charge of the fitting up of the locomotives, carriages, trucks, &c., for the Port Chalmers Railway". So, knowing that the D&PCR Co had been formed in early 1871 we cannot discount the possibility that his return to Britain had been arranged by the latter Company for their specific purposes. But without doubt Amos, and as Engineer in Charge, must have received some technical training at the Vulcan Foundry at Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire. He was also noted as being "accompanied [on the 'Wave Queen' to New Zealand] by two assistants, Messrs Thomas and Gatwood".

Men on the footplate of "Josephine" in Sept 1872.
I believe the man at front left to be David Proudfoot
but could the Driver at front right be George Amos?
[Source : OESA Collection, 1979]

Amos is recorded as having supervised the fitting up of the Fairlie locomotive "Josephine" in a shed on the pier at Port Chalmers in Otago after their arrival on the "Wave Queen" on the 28th August 1872. Therefore, and as we know that he held the requisite locomotive driver's ticket, I feel sure that Amos would have been driving "Josephine", if not at least being on the footplate, when she made her first trial run through the new Port Tunnel to Blanket (Sawyers) Bay and return on Tuesday the 10th September 1872.

George Amos is first specifically noted as actually driving a locomotive when, on Saturday the 26th October 1872, he drove "Josephine" from Port Chalmers through to Dunedin on the partially ballasted line with his associate John Thomas being in charge of the brake van. Being conveyed on the train in a first class carriage were the promoters as well as members of the Legislature and House of Representatives.

I would assume that besides driving Amos attended to engineering matters and keeping the locomotives and rolling stock in good working condition. He would also continue to be be employed by the Otago Provincial Government Railway after the purchase of the D&PCR Co. on the 10th April 1873. 

On the 17th May 1873 Amos is noted as driving the locomotive "Clutha" from the fitting shed in South Dunedin to the [old] Caversham Tunnel on the new "Southern Trunk Line" in the presence of the District Engineer, Mr Blair, and the Inspector of Plant, Mr Turton. Then Amos is further noted as driving a Glasgow manufactured 'Neilson' saddle tank locomotive conveying around 120 gentlemen (note no ladies!) from Dunedin to the then terminus of Green Island on the first "Railway Excursion" on the line which took place on the 14th December 1873. According to Mr W.F. Sligo, retired Railway Foreman in 1928, his fireman around this time was Charlie Stewart who would later become Locomotive Foreman in Dunedin.

An early photo of Elizabeth Barrett,
Later Mrs George Amos
[Source : My Heritage]

On the 21st July 1874 George Amos would marry Elizabeth (Eliza) Barrett of Dunedin. Online family records would indicate that Elizabeth was born in New York to Michael Barrett, a native of Galway, Ireland, and Mary Jennings. Both her parents are buried in the Southern Cemetery, Dunedin. While George was Anglican and the marriage took place in St Paul's Anglican Church in Dunedin, the Barrett family - and Elizabeth - were Catholic. Their differing religions appears not to have caused any rifts with the Barrett family. 

In November 1874 a railway collision at Hillside with railway trucks being left on the line led to a Government criminal prosecution with "the accused", being driver George Amos, and "recently locomotive foreman", having been subsequently "suspended" from his position, being charged with criminal negligence under the Railways Offences Act, 1865. At a preliminary hearing the Government Prosecutor, Mr Stout, did however accept that Amos "had been an engine driver and railway employee for the last twenty years, and as such bore the highest possible character".

Upon the case being formally heard and hearing all evidence, the Magistrate, and no doubt with considerable relief on the part of Mr Amos, "did not consider defendant responsible for any disregard of duty, and whilst expressing an opinion that there had been neglect on somebody's part, he dismissed the case." Mr Amos then happily resumed his position as Locomotive Foreman. 

In February 1875 two locomotives are noted as having been fitted up in Dunedin "under the superintendence of Mr Amos". This would be at the Government Railway workshops in South Dunedin, being located close to the site of where the Hillside Railway Workshops would be established in 1877.

The old Oamaru Railway Station (centre) & Engine Shed (left).
The line at left is to the north while that to right is to the south
thus all trains had to inconveniently reverse out of the station.
[Source : NZ Railways Publicity]

By January 1876 Amos was now the Inspector of Permanent Way and Rolling Stock for the Provincial Government Railway at Oamaru in North Otago. In May 1876 he gave evidence at the inquest into "The Waiareka Railway Accident" which also (very) indirectly involved his former associate Frederick Gatwood from the erstwhile D&PCR Co. Railway.

On the 13th June 1878 Amos was farewelled from his position as Railways Foreman at Oamaru, being given an illuminated framed testimonial and a purse of sovereigns [with a value of £52] from the Railways Dept. employees. The testimonial noted his "straight-forward and gentlemanly conduct [which] earned the respect and good wishes of everyone with whom you have come in contact". Amos advised those present that the reason for his retirement was due to being called upon, without consultation and against his wishes, "to proceed to Timaru" with the Dept. but wished not to leave Oamaru and resented this "promotion of a doubtful nature".

By early July 1878 Amos had adopted a quite surprising new line of business - that of Proprietor of the Shamrock Hotel in Thames street, Oamaru. On Saturday the 6th July he was "installed" with "musical honours" by the Railways Band who had turned out "in full force" to honour their friend of whom they held "the greatest regard". 

The new "Northern Hotel" under construction, 1880
[Source : Waitaki District Archives]

By January 1879 Amos had bought the old wooden Northern Hotel in Oamaru but then, despite there then being no less than 17 hotels in Oamaru, promptly engaged Architects Thomas Forrester and John Lemon to design a fancy new Hotel to be constructed in Oamaru limestone in the Italianate style. This new hotel building is still extant today on the corner of Tyne street and Wansbeck street in the Oamaru Historic Precinct, being category listed two by Heritage New Zealand, but is missing the original decorative pediment and no longer serves the purposes of a hotel.

The Northern Hotel in its Heyday as shown on a
public display board, Oamaru Historic Precinct
[From my own collection] 

Advertisements for the hotel would always, and no doubt with some pride, include the reference, "Late of the Railways Department". While in September 1880 Amos was accused of selling 26% under proof brandy (ie, with water added post distillation) so was, it would seem, the rest of the proprietors in the town! Amos did not contest the case and was, as were most of the others, fined the nominal sum of five shillings. So basically just an official slap on the hand and thankfully nothing more.

The Former Northern Hotel, Tyne St, Oamaru
as it appears today (minus the original pediment)
[Source : From my own collection]

But in March 1883 we now find that George Hendrie Amos, Hotelkeeper of the Northern Hotel, Oamaru, had been declared bankrupt, then selling up to Lewis Morton. I assume Amos had simply overstretched his finances with the expense of rebuilding work and stiff local competition. Thereafter, and at an unknown date, Amos subsequently moved with his wife and family to Australia. I have checked with the local Waitaki District Archive in Oamaru who cannot identify any photographs of George Amos.

The Great Eastern Hotel, Littlehampton when owned
by Mr J. Stuart, post 1886
[Source : State Library of South Australia]

It would appear that from at least February 1885 Amos then became the Publican of the 'Great Eastern Hotel' at Littlehampton, South Australia, being 34 km south east of Adelaide. As noted below, it is quite possible that after Oamaru they had previously resided in both Sydney, New South Wales and in Melbourne, Victoria. Amos appears to have been a genial and generous host. I note one occasion in February 1885 where Amos supplied "Five hundred parrots and 250 pigeons" for a pigeon and parrot shooting match, thereafter supplying luncheon for the shooters. 

Sadly, and on the 21st May 1885, George and Elizabeth Amos would lose their two year old son Frank Victor Amos to "Convulsions" at the Great Eastern Hotel. 

I subsequently note a "licensing transfer" dated the 9th June 1886 which confirms a transfer from "G.H. Amos to J. Stuart, Great Eastern Hotel, Littlehampton". Stuart's name appears on the pediment of the original hotel building shown above.

The Royal Hotel, Balaklava, South Australia

Also in June 1886 we note another "licensing transfer" being "G.H. Amos [to] Royal Hotel, Balaklava". Balaklava is a rural town 93 kilometers north of Adelaide. For Amos this would appear to be a 'step up' from the previous hotel and was no doubt an effort to work his way back up again after his humiliating financial failure at Oamaru.

But fate would deal the family a further cruel blow as his sojourn here as Publican would, unfortunately, be very short lived. George Amos, "Victualler", the husband of Elizabeth (Eliza) Barrett (formerly of Dunedin) and father of four children, died at the Royal Hotel in Balaklava, South Australia on the 15th April 1887 at the still relatively young age of 45 years and is buried at the St. James Anglican Cemetery, Blakiston, South Australia. I did wonder why he was buried at Blakiston but then discovered that it is an adjoining township to Littlehampton where he had previously resided and after I obtained a photo of his gravestone I could see that his son Frank had been buried here in May 1885 so neither Father nor son rest alone.

New Zealand, Sydney and Melbourne newspapers were asked to copy the death notice which would strongly indicate that George Amos and his family resided in Sydney and Melbourne after leaving Oamaru after 1883 and before moving to Littlehampton prior to 1885. I have, however, not been able to establish the cause of death as this would incur a charge. Amos gave his entire estate probated at a value of less than £500 to his wife. 

As to his surviving wife Elizabeth Amos née Barrett, her Mother's Probate records for 1907 show that she had married again to Mr John Francis Bryan and was then living back in Dunedin. Elizabeth (Eliza) Bryan, née Barrett, previous Amos, and born in 1859, died suddenly at the residence of her son Ernest in Christchurch on the 10th February 1916 aged 57 years and is buried in the Sydenham Cemetery. Her second husband John Bryan, and aged 66 years, died on the 20th May 1921 from injuries he received after being knocked down by a tram in Christchurch. Both John and Elizabeth are buried together.

George Amos was survived by two daughters, Mrs Mary Jane Millward (died Surbiton, Surrey, England 1972), and Mrs Greta (1) Gunson / and later (2) Alexander (died Birkenhead, NZ 1st April 1947), and a son, Ernest Amos (died Christchurch 1st March 1960). His second son, Frank Victor Amos (as noted above) died at Littlehampton, South Australia on the 21st May 1885. 

The strong New Zealand connection gives me some hope that direct descendants of George Amos and Elizabeth Barrett / Amos / Bryan will come forward (I have already had contact with one) with further information and possibly family photographs. It would be wonderful to finally track down a photograph of George Amos and put a face to the name so that we can give him the recognition he richly deserves for the leading part he played in the establishment and running of Otago's earliest railway.

Copyright : This blog may not be reproduced without my specific written permission and / or that of family descendants. Excerpts may however be quoted for non-commercial and academic use provided this site is acknowledged. Please feel free, however, to publicize this Blog.

Sources :

- Papers Past / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
- Archives New Zealand / Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
- Heritage New Zealand / Pouhere Taonga
- "The New Zealand Railways Magazine", 1934
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin
- McNab Room, Dunedin Public Library
- "Dunedin and Port Chalmers Railway - New Zealand's First 3ft 6in Gauge Line" by TA McGavin, 1973
- "Josephine and Her Friends" by JA Dangerfield, c.1994
- Genealogy.com
- Trove (National Library of Australia)
- With grateful thanks to Annette Schirmer,  Regional Cemetery Curator, Anglican Parish of Mount Barker, South Australia
- With an acknowledgement to Mark Alexander, United Kingdom

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