Gowrie C. Aitchison

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Gowrie Colquhoun Aitchison was born in Poona, India on 25 February 1863.

He was appointed Secretary and Manager of the NWNGR at the age of 35 in March 1898, following the departure of Samuel Tanner. He signed the 6-monthly certificates relating to Permanent Way as Resident Engineer (after a brief period jointly with Sir James Szlumper as Consulting Engineer) and Rolling Stock as Locomotive Superintendent to confirm both were in a good condition and repair. Aitchison was already (since 1895) Secretary and Manager of the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad & Hotels Company Ltd[1].

When he was interviewed by Harper Bros about the PBSSR scheme in 1903 he expressed an interest in being its Manager and the Board of the North Wales Power & Traction Co. Ltd appointed him to this role from 1 January 1904 at a salary of £600pa. In May 1904 this was detailed as £400pa for the Moel Tryfan Undertaking (ie the NWNGR), and £200 for the Portmadoc - Rhyd ddu section. A further £100 pa was to have been payable when the Dinas-Carnarvon section was authorised and made. "But he shall not without further remuneration to be agreed upon, be required to set out or measure any works or prepare any plans of the works so to be constructed." [2] Some plans he signed in 1904 [3] suggests he did get involved in these. He was also required to collect the evidence for forthcoming NWNGR LRO and the Dinas-Carnarvon Bill. Under the Agreement he was entitled to take or hold any other appointment and to continue his private practice as a Civil Engineer. He was also to act as Engineer of the NWPT supervising construction, but his remuneration was not to be reduced if this was withdrawn.

In November 1908 the Power Co. Board "considered the Portmadoc Board would have to terminate the Agreement as the Power Co. were unable to continue to pay on behalf of the Railway Co." and 4 months later the NWPT Board decided to dismiss him as General Manager of the Power Co. and recorded that the Portmadoc Co had already done so, which was approved. The Agreement had provided that "as regards the Moel Tryfan Undertaking (ie the NWNGR), the PBSSR shall not determine the employment before 31 December 1913 . . . . The Portmadoc Co. may determine the Moel Tryfan Undertaking appointment at any time upon paying the Manager his salary for that Undertaking for the unexpired portion of 10 years ending 31 October 1913". Aitchison took legal action but the NWPT Solicitor recommended a settlement which was reached in mid 1910 to pay him £150 pa, and this was paid until 1913.[4]

In September 1910 the NWNGR directors announced his resignation as Manager, but they offered him a seat on the Board which he accepted and he was elected at the half-yearly meeting filling the vacancy left by the resignation of Charles Davidson. In October the local press [5] reported he was moving to London, retaining his position with the NWNGR, but in the event he moved to South Collingham, Notts to join Smith Woolley and Wigram (later Smith Woolley & Co)., a firm of Land Agents, Surveyors and Civil Engineers. He remained Secretary of the NWNGR and continued to sign the annual certificate for the maintenance of rolling stock as Engineer. G.W. North was made the local Manager. He had been on the line for 11 years[6]

Following the death of James C. Russell in August 1912, Aitchison offered the Court to take on the post of Receiver and Manager from him (on 15 January 1913, but backdated) at a salary of £25 pa in addition to that of £250 pa as Secretary. For the previous 6 or 7 years he had been doing most of Russell's work for him during his illness and incapacity "only troubling him when absolutely necessary".[7] He held the positions until Henry Joseph Jack and the Dolgarrog People took over, Henry Joseph Jack taking over as Receiver and Manager 9 April 1921. Although the first moves to take control occurred in April 1920, Aitchison remained in position whilst the Dolgarrog People gradually assumed control of the organisation by 1st April 1922.

During WW1 he served in the Army as Major, being promoted to temporary Lieutenant Colonel in 1915 and temporary Lieutenant in 1921.

He gave his name to the engine Gowrie. He was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and a transcript of his career prior to the NWNGR is available on the web. [8]

He was also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries.

[9] [10]


  1. ^ An Illustrated History of the Snowdon Mountain Railway p17 Peter Johnson ISBN 978 0 86093 613 2
  2. ^ Agreement NWNGR/PBSSR/Atchison 5 May 1904. Gwynedd Archives
  3. ^ Narrow Gauge in South Carnarvonshire J.I.C. Boyd 1972 p271
  4. ^ Directors Minutes NWPT Co. Manchester Museum Of Science & Industry ESI 37/3
  5. ^ North Wales Weekly News 14 October 1910
  6. ^ ibid
  7. ^ Affidavit by Aitchison 23 October 1912
  8. ^ WHR Heritage Group Journal - group House Magazine Issue No: 14 , page(s): 5 - see website of the WHH Group
  9. ^ WHR Heritage Group Journal - group House Magazine Issue No: 8 , page(s): 3
  10. ^ WHR Heritage Group Journal - group House Magazine Issue No: 044 , page(s): 011

See also[edit]