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JOURNAL 190 OBITUARY

PATRICK OWEN JENNINGS (1930-2016)

The death occurred on 19 January 2016 of Pat Jennings, retired Chief Civil Engineer, Córas Iompair Éireann/Irish Rail (1980-’95), and a founding Fellow of the Irish Academy of Engineering.

Pat was born on 15 March 1930 in Aughrim, Co Galway,  and educated at Garbally Park, Ballinasloe and University College Galway, from which he graduated with a BE Degree in 1951. He spent a short time with the Office of Public Works in Dublin before moving to London to work for Sir William Halcrow, Consulting Engineers. In 1953, he joined the tunnelling and construction firm of A Waddington & Son and he was involved in major works on the remodelling of the Northern Line connections at King’s Cross London Underground station. He then moved to Newport, South Wales in 1955, where he was a member of the team that installed the first Benoto piling system in the UK in the foundations at Rogerstone Power Station.

Returning to Dublin in late 1956, he first worked with Irish Construction Company Ltd on the building of the new Graving Dock No. 2 at Dublin Port which was completed in 1957 but closed at the end of April 2016. He subsequently joined A F Hastings & Co. as contractor’s agent on the drainage schemes at Sutton and Howth, before moving to Belfast to take charge of the Mourne Stoneyford Water Supply Scheme contract in 1959.

Pat Jennings joined CIÉ in August 1960 as a Senior Assistant Engineer in the New Works section of the Chief Civil Engineer’s Department. He was appointed New Works Engineer on 27 December 1966 and, in that role, was responsible for the execution of a number of major projects, including construction of the Silvermines branch (opened on 30 December 1966) and the Ballinacourty branch (opened on 3 April 1970). In May 1971, he was promoted to Area Civil Engineer, Dublin, with responsibility for the maintenance of 800 track miles. Reorganisation of the Civil Engineering Department in December 1975 resulted in his further promotion to Assistant Chief Civil Engineer (Maintenance of Way). During his tenure of that post he developed and implemented a fully mechanised system of track maintenance, backed up by mobile gangs and track patrols, to replace the previous manual system of track maintenance on CIÉ, thus reducing manning levels by up to 50%. He specified and procured a track-recording car, which enabled CIÉ’s track maintenance activities to be planned on the basis of quantitative track data rather than qualitative assessment, and he strengthened the fleet of on-track maintenance machines of various types to match the maintenance task, providing and equipping a specialised workshop for machine maintenance. By adopting mobile portal gantries for laying pre-fabricated track panels, he introduced and perfected a mechanised system for track renewals, which gave optimum results with lowest manning levels. He was also instrumental in setting up an advanced automated factory for the manufacture of pre-stressed concrete sleepers at Portlaoise.

On 1 April 1980, Pat was appointed Chief Civil Engineer. He restructured the Civil Engineering function, carrying out a complete review of the department’s work and safety procedures, establishing new standards of maintenance for track carrying high-speed passenger traffic, and redefining the frequency and quality of inspection routines. During 1980-84, he organised and directed the project team that carried out the Civil Engineering and Permanent Way Works associated with the successful introduction of the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) system. From 1987, until his retirement on 31 March 1995, he served as a member of the Executive Board of Iarnród Éireann.

Pat did not confine himself to engineering; when I was Systems Development Manager at the CIÉ Computer Department and basic computer terminals had been installed throughout the network, I was having a discussion with him at a Permanent Way convention at Newcastle upon Tyne when he posed the question as to why timesheets were being forward to Dublin by train every week and not input locally. We agreed we would progress the subject and the Permanent Way payroll became the first on-line payroll in the CIÉ Group.

Prior to his retirement, he had already become a respected consultant: in 1988, he was a member of an International Bank for Reconstruction & Development mission to Uganda Railways, and in 1994 he joined a World Bank mission studying the future role of Albanian Railways. After his retirement, consultancy assignments continued: he directed projects providing management support for transition of Lithuania Railways (1995-99); renewal of the Tapa-Petersi line, Estonia (1996-97); and the Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan components for restructuring of the Central Asian Railways (1997-98). He also provided specialist advice on World Bank projects for separation of the infrastructure business of Pakistan Railways (1998) and the preparation of National Railways of Zimbabwe for concessioning (1998-99). At home, Iarnród Éireann called on his expertise for coastal defence works in the Greystones-Wicklow section and at Malahide and Rogerstown estuaries on the Belfast line.

Pat Jennings was elected a member of the Institution of Engineers of Ireland in 1961. He was transferred to the class of Fellow in 1969 and served as president for 1994-’95. In addition to his role in founding the Irish Academy of Engineering (IAE) in 1997, he was also a Fellow of the Permanent Way Institution (PWI), having joined in 1972. He was invested as President in 1989 at Llandudno, Wales, for a period of two years. His investiture was attended by many members of the Irish Section and also by the Chairman of Córas Iompair Éireann and the Chairman of Northern Ireland Railways, which was unprecedented. He was a vice president of the Union of European Railway Engineering Associations and was a long serving member of both the International Union of Railways (Union Internationale des Chemins des fer – UIC) and the Railway Engineers Association. He was a contributor to several significant published works, including Engineering Ireland (IAE) and Understanding Track Engineering (PWI).

Pat was a long standing friend of the Society and delivered a paper on Concrete Structures in the 1970s. When engineering drawings were no longer required, he ensured that they were forwarded to the Society. On one occasion, while the Society was still at Drumcondra, an almost overwhelming number of sacks of historic drawings were delivered!

In 1955, Pat married Molly O’Brien (who pre-deceased him in 2009), and they had four daughters to whom, with other members of Pat’s family, we extend our deepest sympathy.                      O

Copyright © 2017 by Irish Railway Record Society Limited
Revised: January 18, 2017 .

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