Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Thomas Doyne (1823–1877)

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William Thomas Doyne (1823-1877), civil engineer, was born in Ireland, son of Rev. Thomas Doyne and his wife Sophia, née Armstrong. At 16 he studied engineering at the University of Durham for a year and was then articled to Edward Dixon, resident engineer of the London and South Western Railway. After experience in Hamburg and Ireland he worked on the London and North Western under Robert Stephenson in 1846. In 1847-51 he was managing engineer of the Rugby-Leamington line where, among other tasks, he built a wrought-iron lattice bridge. He was elected an associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1849 and in 1851 with W. B. Blood submitted a paper on 'An investigation of the Strains upon the Diagonals of Lattice Beams, with the resulting Formulae', which won a prize and he became a full member of the institution. He was then working in Wales and in 1854 went to the Crimean war. He returned to England in 1856 and next year became chief engineer of a projected railway in Ceylon. After two years he moved to New Zealand where he helped to survey the tramway from Nelson to the copper mine at Dun Mountain. He then examined railways in New South Wales and Victoria.

In February 1861 Doyne was invited to plan the survey and construction of the Launceston-Deloraine railway, the first in Tasmania. Examined by a parliamentary committee, he reported with enthusiasm on the increased production, trade, communal happiness and savings from the 'extraordinary facilities afforded by the line of country' he had chosen. He spent six months supervising the surveyors of the railway. Later that year at the request of the West Tamar Road Trust, Doyne designed an elegant bridge to cross the South Esk at Launceston. Known as King's Bridge, a wrought-iron arch spanning 190 feet, its parts were made in Manchester and shipped from London in 1863. It was officially opened on 4 February 1864 and cost £12,000.

In 1862 Doyne calculated the cost of the Launceston-Deloraine railway at £317,000. Seven years later he found that it would exceed his estimate by £100,000. Press comments were unrestrained; Doyne sued for libel but did not recover a verdict for damages. A select committee of inquiry censured him. In 1870 the railway commissioners complained that he was absent from Tasmania while the railway was being built, leaving control to his partners and staff. Meanwhile Doyne had set himself up in general practice in Melbourne and his advice was sought by the governments of Queensland and Western Australia. In 1871 he was a member of a board appointed to inquire into the alleged silting-up of Hobson's Bay.

Doyne had married Helen Cox, probably at London in 1853. He died at St Kilda on 29 September 1877 aged 54, survived by a son and two daughters. Well read and a good conversationalist, he was described in the records of the Institution of Civil Engineers in London as a clever and painstaking engineer, a good mathematician, geologist and analytical chemist.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (House of Assembly, Tasmania), 1863 (70)
  • R. M. Garvie, ‘W. T. Doyne, Bridge Builder, and King's Bridge, South Esk, Launceston’, Papers and Proceedings (Tasmanian Historical Research Association), vol 14, no 4, Apr 1967, pp 142-65.

Citation details

'Doyne, William Thomas (1823–1877)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




29 September, 1877 (aged ~ 54)
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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