Irish Railway Record Society
JOURNAL 190 OBITUARY
OWEN JENNINGS (1930-2016)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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