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Hobler, George Alexander (1864–1935)

by A. E. Creelman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

George Alexander Hobler (1864-1935), railway engineer and administrator, was born on 18 January 1864 at Coorada, Upper Dawson district, Queensland, third child of English-born Francis Helvetius Hobler, squatter, and his Scottish wife Jessie Ann, née Learmonth, and grandson of George Hobler. After a state school education Hobler entered the Queensland Railways in January 1879 as a civil engineering cadet. In 1885 he was promoted from junior draughtsman to second-class assistant surveyor and in 1888 became assistant engineer on the Cairns line. He married Antoinette Gertrude van Heucklelum at St John's Church of England, Cairns, on 16 December 1890.

In 1892 Hobler was engaged to prepare the evidence for the Queensland government in the John Robb case. After the Supreme Court verdict of mid-1893 against Robb, who had claimed over £250,000 additional payment as contractor on the difficult second section (Redlynch to Myola) of the Cairns-Herberton railway, Hobler was promoted to district engineer. He was given charge of the construction of the mountain section of the line as far as Mareeba, and was subsequently appointed by the London trustees of the Chillagoe Railway and Mines Co. Ltd to supervise the continuation of the line to Chillagoe. He also supervised the building of the Chillagoe smelters (completed in 1901) and a wharf at Cairns. In 1909 he became inspecting engineer and in 1911 constructing engineer for lines throughout the State, including those built by local authorities under special Acts of parliament.

On 31 August 1912 Hobler joined the newly formed Commonwealth Railways in Melbourne as deputy-engineer-in-chief under Henry Deane for the construction of the transcontinental railway. Under an administrative rearrangement in April 1914 he was given charge of the civil engineering branch and in February 1918 he was appointed engineer (later chief engineer) of the way and works branch, Port Augusta, South Australia. Throughout World War I he held the appointment of honorary lieutenant-colonel, Railway Staff Corps.

Hobler was regarded as an expert on northern Australia. In November 1914 he travelled from Pine Creek to Bitter Springs (Mataranka), Northern Territory, along the proposed extension of the Pine Creek-Katherine River railway and next year reported to the Standing Committee on Public Works. In May-June 1920 he represented the Federal government on an expedition to the North-West and Kimberley district of Western Australia, organized by the Western Australian government and the North Australian Railway and Development League, to report on the country from Meekatharra to Wyndham. Hobler concluded that 'with proper development the country could carry a great population, and support numbers of wealth producing industries'; he advocated construction of a railway from Meekatharra across the desert to Newcastle Waters, Northern Territory, with branch lines to Wyndham, Derby, Port Hedland and Carnarvon. His exploring earned him a fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society (London).

Hobler retired from the Commonwealth Railways in 1926 when he joined the advisory North Australian Commission in Darwin. When the commission disbanded in 1931, Hobler moved to Mosman, Sydney, whence he travelled the world as an observer of railway systems. He died at Mosman on 6 October 1935 and was cremated; his ashes were scattered from an aircraft over Darwin. He was survived by his wife and two daughters; his son, Cyril, had been killed in the battle of the Somme in 1916.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Papers (Commonwealth), 1914-17, 4 (323, 344), 1920-21, 5 (58)
  • Capricornian, 6 Nov 1926
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Oct 1935
  • Hobler papers (MSS 1861, State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

A. E. Creelman, 'Hobler, George Alexander (1864–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hobler-george-alexander-6691/text11541, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 20 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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