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Born: 1862 09 01
Died: 1941 01

Railway and Bridge Engineer

James MACKENZIE was born in Blairgowrie, Scotland. He served his indentureship in that country.

In 1889 he came to the Cape Colony and joined the CAPE GOVERNMENT RAILWAYS. After the construction of the Don Petro Jetty in Port Elizabeth he joined the NATAL GOVERNMENT RAILWAYS and was employed on the building of the railway line from Ladysmith to Harrismith over Van Reenen’s Pass. On this construction for the first time the system of reversing stations was used to overcome the steep grade up the Drakensberg escarpment. RC Wallace served under him on this railway construction.

He was employed by contractors on the construction of the Pretoria-Pietersburg line and from Dundee to de Jagersdrift on the Vryheid line the completion of which was interrupted with the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War. In 1901 due to the war he had to flee to the Cape sacrificing all his possessions and he then rejoined the Cape Government Railways and was employed as temporary District Engineer initially on the survey and construction of the Kalabaskraal-Hopefield and the Amabele-Butterworth lines.

Due to his specialised training in Scotland on bridge design and construction he was appointed Bridge Engineer on the Cape Government Railways specifically to survey the old bridges and assess their design for the strengthening thereof to accommodate increased axle loading and heavier locomotives. This post he retained on the establishment of the South African Railways in 1910 with the Union of the Provinces in South Africa. He wrote a paper on his investigations into the earlier constructed bridges in the Cape Colony for which he was awarded the coveted Telford Medal. He designed and constructed among others the Sauer Bridge over the Gouritz River and the Gamtoos River Bridge.

He retired in 1922 as Bridge Engineer on the South African Railways but still did consulting work and was involved with the building of the Beit Bridge over the Limpopo River near Musino (Messina).

In 1915 he was elected President of the South African Society of Civil Engineers. In his Presidential address he lauded his predecessors for that what they had achieved for the profession and the country and mentioned that twenty members of the Society were on active service with the Union Expeditionary Forces. He would endeavour to forecast what the future had in stall for the Civil Engineer. He saw a great future in agriculture and promoted the development thereof and the provision of bulk storage facilities for grain and the bulk transport for agricultural grain products eliminating bagging for transport. Coupled to this was the need for irrigation works without which the country cannot advance agriculturally.

He announced that the Attorney General could not proceed with the proposed Bill for Civil Engineers only, it had to include the other Engineering disciplines. He then mentioned that the School of Mines and the South African College had received the recognition of the Institute of Civil Engineers (London) as the introduction of indentureship in South Africa fulfilled their requirements for membership.

He died at Woodleigh Banket near Salisbury (now Harare) Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in January 1941. He was unassuming and ever loyal to those that he served and ready to help and share his knowledge with others. [Text prepared after Louw, Piet. 2006. Railway Civil Engineers who were President of the Cape Society of Civil Engineers 1903 To 1905, The South African Society of Civil Engineers 1909 To 1947 and of The South African Institution of Civil Engineers from 1948 to 2004.


List of projects

With photographs
With notes

'Apple Express' : Rail Bridge over the Gamtoos River: 1903. Hankey, Eastern Cape - Engineer
Dundee-Jagersdrift Branch Rail Line: 1898-1899. Dundee, KwaZulu-Natal - Engineer