Index

Indian career of Frederick Lewis Dibblee


See Frederick Dibblee's railways
Early Indian railway maps to see where these places are
Frederick Dibblee's Employment Record
Institution of Civil Engineers Obituary

Frederick Dibblee was born in Canada and trained as a railway engineer there. He then worked on Brazilian and Prussian railways. See his education and early career. He worked in Prussia under George Barclay Bruce, who was also a consultant to the Great Southern of India Railway. He must have satisfied Bruce, who offered him a job in Madras in India. This was important news for Frederick Dibblee, since it meant that he now was earning enough to get married to Emily Binney, left behind in Canada. He wrote to her, and she left her family without a second thought, crossing the Atlantic to marry him in London before he left for India. She went with him.

At this time, private companies built railways under guarantee from the Secretary of State for India. Frederick Dibblee worked at first for Great Southern of India company which was one of these companies. He started as District Engineer. A year and a half later, he became Chief Engineer. He then worked on Carnatic Railway, which was also in the Madras Presidency, also as Chief Engineer, until 1874.

During this time, his three oldest children were born in Trichinopoly in Southern India, from 1866-1868. Then the next two were born in Hounslow, Middlesex, England (1869-1870). Frederick Dibblee might have gone to England on leave, or his wife may have travelled there, or lived there, by herself. In 1871, three of their children died from chlorea in India. In 1873, Frederick Dibblee did have a "well-earned holday" in England. Letters to Emily Dibblee from her mother and her brother in 1874 show that Emily decided to leave the children in England while she returned to (or with) her husband in India. They considered that it was too dangerous to have the children in India, but the husband came first in Victorian times. Frederick and Emily's next two children were born in Madras.

In 1874, Frederick Dibblee joined the Public Works Department of the Government of India. The year may be relevant. In 1874, the Great Southern of India Railway Company and the Carnatic Railway Company were amalgamated to form the South Indian Railway Company. Perhaps there wasn't a job for him in the new firm, or perhaps he decided that working for the government would bring better career prospects. He spent the next six years working on railways in what is now Pakistan. His youngest child was born in 1876, in Karachi, so Emily must have joined him there. The first five years were on the Indus Valley State Railway and the next year was with Punjab Northern State Railway. In his record it says "Specially mentioned and rewarded by Government of India for satisfactorily carrying to completion the works of the Rawal-Pindi section of the Punjab Northern State railway, Government order No.854-68RC, dated 11th November 1880."

For the next six months, Frederick Dibblee was working on the Gwalior and Jhansi Survey division of the Scindia State Railway. This was in the Princely state of Gwalior, run by the Maharaja of Gwalior, from the Scindia family. Presumably the Government of India lent Frederick Dibblee to the Maharaja, unless this railway was a joint effort. This was followed by another six months doing the Delhi and Ferozepore Railway survey, back in the Punjab Presidency.

By now, it was 1881. The next job was also a survey, in Nagpur, under the Government of Bengal. An incident during the survey obviously became worked up into a good story, which eventually was published in the 'Indian Engineer' in 1888. The story is written in mock-Biblical language, and is just for fun, but it shows some interesting points. First his wife was with him, but obviously not their children (and the youngest child was only six years old). Second, it describes the group of people with him while surveying, which includes six native soldiers and their officer, a native secretary, servants, and a group of young engineers known as 'the boys'. They had tents, so were camping.

In 1882, Frederick Dibblee was Engineer-in-chief of Southern Mahratta Railways. This was only for a few months. The South Mahratta Railway Company was started in 1882, so perhaps he was loaned to help. He also spent a year on the Western Deccan Railway survey. Both these jobs were under the Government of Bombay.

In 1883, he returned to Madras. He did the Nellore Tirupati Railway survey and was Engineer in Chief on the Cuddhapa-Nellore State railway. There is a letter relieving him from charge of the Cuddhapa-Nellore railway.

In 1885, he return to work under the Government of Bengal, on the Benares Cuttack Puri Railway survey.

In 1886, he went to work in Burma. The British had captured the capital Mandalay in 1885, and they wanted to build a railway from there southwards to Toungoo. This lasted until 1888 and was his last job of work. He was posted to the Delhi-Kotri Survey, back in the Punjab, but never got further than Calcutta, where he died from fever, perhaps caught in Burma.

Frederick Dibblee started his time with the Public Works Department as Executive Engineer. It is quite hard to keep track of his different ranks and positions (see Employment Record). There are different classes and grades, and sometimes he gets a temporary promotion which then gets cancelled. He also sometimes took over the duties of a senior post, presumably because someone else had left (or was ill, or died) and the replacement had not yet turned up.