You are not logged in. Login

Who Am I Photograph from November Newsletter

 Moncure Robinson-Nov 2012 Issue

The engineer was Moncure Robinson – one of the leading engineers of the middle of the nineteenth century. He was born in Richmond, Virginia on February 2, 1802 and began his civil engineering career as a surveyor in a party that was running levels between Richmond and the Ohio River, preparatory to the designing and building of the James River and Kanawha Canal. Shortly after he left for Europe to study civil engineering at the L’Ecole des Ponts et Chaussees in Paris from 1825 to 1827. Other than officers from the United States Military, he was the first American to study in France. While there, he also toured much of Europe to observe civil engineering projects. Returning to the United States at the age of 25, he had an experience that few Americans could match and which placed in him in great demand to build canals and railroads. In 1829 he was hired by the State of Pennsylvania to survey the canal and railroad route from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. He was best known at the time for his survey and design of the Allegheny Portage Railroad, the 36 mile combination of ten inclines and level railroad over the Allegheny Mountains which connected the state's canal on the east side of the Alleghenies with the state's canal leading to the Ohio River. This experience led to work on many railroads and canals in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Most prominent was his design of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad on which he built a major stone bridge and a long tunnel to connect the two cities and transport coal from the coal fields to Philadelphia. His major bridge was for the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad across the James River at Richmond, VA and was a series of nineteen Towne trusses built high above the river. This bridge opened in1838. Later in life he moved into the managing of railroads. James D. Dilts in his book

The Great Road: The Building of the Baltimore and Ohio, the Nation’s First Railroad, 1828-1853 (1993) described him as follows, “tall and handsome…with cold, gray eyes, an aquiline nose, and a scar on the left side of his face that ran from the corner of his mouth to his ear. Women found him fascinating.” He died in 1891 in Philadelphia and is buried there. For more information see Professional Biography of Moncure Robinson by R. B. Osborne, written in 1889 and reprinted in the William and Mary Quarterly, Second Series Vol. 1, No. 4, October 1921 pages 237-260. 

 James River Bridge
James River Bridge burned in Civil War.