Today in Transportation History – 1930: Death of a Pioneering New Zealand Engineer

Robert Julian Scott, whose interests and accomplishments involved several modes of transportation during his many years in New Zealand, died in the city of Christchurch at the age of 69. Scott had been born in Plymouth, England, in 1861. After completing his education, he worked briefly for the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway under the guidance of renowned steam locomotive engineer William Stroudley.

In 1880, Scott went to what was then the British colony of New Zealand. It was there that he found employment with the New Zealand Railways Department (NZR), which was responsible for maintaining the colony’s railway infrastructure and operating its railway system. Scott specifically worked for NZR’s Addington Railway Workshops, a major facility in the Christchurch suburb of Addington for constructing railway equipment and assembling locomotives. Scott served at the Addington Railway Workshops initially as a draftsman and eventually in various engineering positions. By the time he was 26, he had become general manager of the facility.

Scott’s major contributions at the Addington Railway Workshops included helping to develop new types of steam locomotives respectively designated as NZR V Class and NZR W Class. Scott also found time to work on other means of surface transportation. He designed and built a 35-horsepower steam buggy that could carry up to 10 people; this was the first engine-powered passenger vehicle produced in New Zealand. In addition, Scott designed the prototype for an insulated frozen-meat wagon.

Another one of Scott’s notable legacies took shape when he ultimately left his work in railways for a career in higher education. Starting out as a part-time lecturer in engineering at Canterbury College (present-day University of Canterbury) in Christchurch in 1887, he became head of the institution’s school of engineering two years later.

“No one man could have done more than Professor Scott to place engineering education on a sound basis, and to him must be credited the outstanding success of Canterbury College School of Engineering,” asserted a former student in an article in the Wellington-based Evening Post at the time of Scott’s death. “He inculcated the principles of economy, simplicity, and efficiency, and always promoted the highest ideals of public and private conduct.”

Scott’s enthusiasm for means of mobility extended to water transportation and included designing yachts. “He took a considerable part in racing and cruising himself,” noted the New Zealand Star in recounting his maritime pursuits. “He continued his yachting right up to the time of his death.”

For more information about Robert Julian Scott, please check out https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2s9/scott-robert-julian.

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