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Name: BLACKETT, James William

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Birth Date: Oct 1855 New Plymouth, New Zealand

Death Date: 4.8.1905 at Springs, Transvaal, killed in a trolley accident (North has died of pneumonia in Springs)

Nationality: British

First Date: 1896

Profession: Uganda Railway - Surveyor, Asst. Engineer; dep. Kilindini June 1898 in charge of final survey from Nakuru to Lake Victoria. Member of first Railway survey party to cross the Mau Aug 1898. Working for UP as Transport Officer Ravine Nov 1900, District Eng.

Book Reference: North, Playne, Mills Railway, Permanent Way

General Information:

Playne - Superintendent of Surveys on Railway Construction, killed in a trolley accident
North - dep. Mombasa for England 26-1-1902, end of appt 24-4-1902; List of Officers who have done good service during the construction of the Railway …. District Engineer' OG Notice dated 1-12-1903
Mills Railway - the Kikuyu Survey - 14 October 1896 they went by rail to Mile 10, where their pleasure at the ride must have been dampened by immediately clambering into and out of the three ravines. James Blackett was in charge of this party, and although he made a bad start owing to an insufficeincy of porters and desertions among those he had, nevertheless found the alignment down the escarpment into the Rift Valley and also the way up the other side over Mau."
Mills Railway - Blackett had more than his share of frustration. He arrived at Kikuyu on 25 November 1896 with 81 men remaining from his original caravan of 129; the others had either deserted or fallen sick. He had no survey instruments when he reached Kikuyu, which was probably Fort Smith and at the end of December reported that three of his Indian assistants were ill, no food had arrived for them and all he could do was give them trade goods for barter and let them forage for themselves.
The theodolite tripods had been broken on the journey and "no axes or machetes have arrived yet and what few we have been able to borrow from the District Officer here are now almost useless for want of a grindstone, so that I hope it will not be long before the tools and grindstones arrive, as well as the rest of our goods which are now scattered along the road at Mazeras, Kibwezi, Nzoi and elsewhere, so far as I can make out."
Blackett did not sit bemoaning his fate. He had "been over the Kikuyu escarpment from Ngong to Lake Naivasha with a view to finding a better route than that shown on Macdonald's map".
Mills Railway - In his search for the best alignment Blackett received considerable help from Francis Hall, District Officer at Fort Smith, who probably knew the country better than anyone else from his many safaris through the District
Permanent Way - a railway surveyor, after whom Mount Blackett near Londiani is named, he had found a way to the lake which was much shorter and easier than that suggested by Macdonald. .......... it did, in practice, save 75 miles in comparison with the line suggested by Macdonald.
Ainsworth - May 1898 - with the Advance Railway Survey Camp at Kiboko Swamp north of Fort Smith. Accused Kikuyu of trying to poison the drinking-water.
President of Mombasa Club 1900

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