James Joseph Magennis VC Frances Elizabeth Clarke Stewart Parker Samuel Beckett Sam Hanna Bell William Carleton John Hewitt Rosamond Praegar Bernard (Barney) Hughes

William Robinson (1840 - 1921):
Engineer; railway innovator


William Robinson is best remembered for his development of new signals systems for the railways, most particularly the track circuit, which he developed at first on the Pennsylvania railroad system, though it was quickly a fixture throughout the world.

Robinson was born in Coalisland, County Tyrone; the family emigrated to the United States when he was four. He was educated in Brooklyn, where they had settled, and Wesleyan University, Connecticut. He began a career in education, being Principal of Ansonia High School, Connecticut and later, of Spring Valley Academy, New York, but switched to working in the oil business. He had always had a special interest in railways, particularly in signalling systems, and exhibited to acclaim an "open circuit" system at the American Institute Fair in 1870. For the next two years he worked on improving this invention, and patented his inventions in the United States and Europe. He founded the Robinson Electric Railway Signal Company in 1873, and in 1878 the Union Electric Railway Signal Company, to install his signal systems on railroads throughout the United States.

In 1906 he published History of Automatic Electric and Electrically Controlled Fluid Pressure Signal Systems for Railroads, and in 1907 was awarded a PhD from Boston University. He was a Fellow of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and an honorary member of the Signal Section of the American Railway Association. In 1910, the Interstate Commerce Commission acclaimed the track circuit as being the most significant contribution to the development of railway safety.



Born: 22 November 1840
Died: 2 January 1921
Richard Froggatt
Acknowledgements:

Wesley McCann

Bibliography:
Dictionary of Irish Biography; The Invention of the Track Circuit, American Railway Association, 1922