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Another trait of his which gave this Association a very fortunate start was his geniality. He told stories on the platform apropos of matters brought up in the convention, and he tried to make the members feel at ease. If he saw a man of good information on a subject under discussion, but who was modest or hesitant about getting up to speak, he would call him out and interrogate him, and in that way gave to men not ready of speech an opportunity to present their views without the embarrassment that might come to them through volunteering to say something. I also believe that it was Mr. Wallace who originated the parliamentary practice of saving time, by saying: "If there are no objections, this matter will pass," or "will be approved,” etc. As I recall it, in the first few meetings of the Association, it was thought to be something unusual in a presiding officer to attempt speed up the proceedings on matters of ordinary importance in that fashion, without waiting for formal motion and seconding, after enough had been said by way of discussion.
Before the organization of this Association railroad civil engineering questions were handled largely by the American Society of Civil Engineers. As we have here a good many members of that Society, I may remind you that the proceedings of the A.S.C.E. are more or less of a stilted character. For illustration, if one on the floor does not actually speak in the third person, the official report will have him down that way in the proceedings, whether or no. I have heard criticism of the A.S.C.E. on account of the formality of its proceedings. Mr. Wallace dispensed with formality. It was his idea that we should get at the meat of the question that was under consideration and pay less attention to formalities. That was one characteristic that led me to admire the man from the start.
Mr. Wallace was a great Engineer, and he has left monumental works. At first we may refer to the Lake Front engineering of the Illinois Central Railroad. While he may not have been the originator of that plan, he carried out a great deal of it, and, as Chief Engineer and General Manager, he consummated the project.
Another strong point of Mr. Wallace's personality was his courage. I had the pleasure and good fortune to be present at the dinner given to Mr. Wallace when he left Chicago to take charge as Chief Engineer of the Panama Canal. The presiding officer at that dinner was the venerable Octave Chanute. There were perhaps a couple hundred railroad operating officials and railroad Engineers present, and the great fear in the minds of these men at that time was that the Engineers who went down to build the Canal would fall victims of yellow fever. At that dinner the varied experiences in the building of the Panama Railroad were brought up, one of the statements being that as many men died of the fever as there were ties in the track across the Isthmus; and there was enough said at that time to discourage any man to think of going there and undertaking such a work. And, beyond personal considerations, it seemed doubtful whether the Government would be able to keep permanently at work a sufficient force of assistant engineers, because of the unhealthful condition of the climate. At that time the scientific way of getting rid of the yellow fever mosquito-whatever the technical name of that insect may be-was not so well understood as now; but what I want to say is that the tenor of the speaking was rather discouraging to any man who would attempt engineering work in a climate like that.
I remember that finally Mr. Wallace was called upon, and he got up and said that he had not prepared an address, but he wanted to say this: "There are a number of men here who have referred to the unhealthful condition of the climate, and I appreciate fully the risk in that respect, but I am not going to the Isthmus of Panama merely to make a reputation as an Engineer. I am going because my country calls me. The United States has decided to build that canal, and some one has got to go down there and do it; and if I knew at this minute that I would lose my life in the undertaking, still I would go." That will bring out to you, I think, the quality of courage of John F. Wallace.
One of the speakers here to-day used the word "downfall" in connection with Mr. Wallace's leaving that work. I do not think he expected that we should interpret him in the literal sense. It was not a downfall; it was only a temporary drawback, because Mr. Wallace did eminent service for a number of years after that, not only as the head of a great engineering and manufacturing establishment, but as the Chairman of the Chicago Terminal Commission. As another speaker has said, he "died in the harness.”
I recall when General Goethals made an address in this city about the time the Panama Canal was completed, and, among other things, he said: "Gentlemen, as an engineering achievement the Panama Canal is not my work. My duties in connection with the enterprise were rather administrative in character. Mr. Wallace and Mr. Stevens, who preceded me, laid out that work, and I adhered to the program which they laid out.” If I have not repeated the exact language of General Goethals on that occasion I am sure I have not strayed from the sense of it. We were told that when Mr. Wallace left the Panama Canal there were eighty steam shovels at work.
The credit of making that zone healthful, I believe, is generally given to General Gorgas; but he had the co-operation and assistance of Mr. Wallace in the actual work of clearing the country of yellow fever mosquitos through the use of petroleum. They made Panama an inhabitable and fit place for American citizens to live in, and, before Mr. Wallace left the canal we heard very little of the yellow fever peril.
In my estimation the manner in which Mr. Wallace left Panama will never be remembered against him. It was an unfortunate political turn of affairs. It was not out of consideration of engineering matters at all
. While it was a temporary misfortune, he soon outlived it, and I do not think it was very much for a man like John F. Wallace to live down; and, what stands to his credit as a high-minded gentleman, he did not do any talking about it. He kept his feelings to himself and was willing to wait for the verdict of history. I do not recall a single newspaper interview
which Mr. Wallace gave out in defense of his position in leaving the Panama Canal.
Mr. Wallace was democratic in his instincts and always approachable. In his chairmanship of this Association there was not much quibbling over small matters. He swept them aside, and he did it in an inoffensive way. He was eminently an American, he was reared like other boys, experiencing the usual struggles and hardships of men who begin at the foot of the ladder; and when he got to the top he did not overlook the favor of his former associates.
Mr. Hunter McDonald :-) used “downfall” spontaneously, and not with any premeditation. The manner in which I used the word "downfall” is illustrated by the careers of a number of leading men in the world, among them Disraeli, who had his downfall; Gladstone, who had his downfall; Poincare, who had his downfall, and they all came back, and so did Mr. Wallace.
Mr. Edwin F. Wendt :-In 1900 the first convention of this Association was held in Steinway Hall, here in Chicago. There were present two eminent Engineers who have passed away, John F. Wallace, our first President in 1900, and John A. Atwood, our Vice-President in 1920. Both these men were very active in the affairs of the Association, and both were charter members. They were eminent Engineers; in fact, they were what we would call railway men, because they understood engineering, particularly in its application to the development of railway transportation. Both of these men had vision of the future.. If you will read one of the earliest talks of Mr. Wallace, you will find that he said that the record of the past is the only safe guide for the future. That is the justification for the publication of our Manual. It reflects the experiences of the past.
Mr. Atwood, as well as Mr. Wallace, had a vision of the development of this Association, and the growth of our organization is a great tribute to them.
I want to say that both of these men were of the highest personal character, and both were most eminent railway Engineers.
It seems to me that success does not consist of money or position or title. Success consists of what a man gets out of life, and measured by this spiritual standard, I think that both Mr. Wallace and Mr. Atwood were most successful men.
Mr. G. J. Bell (Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe) :-During the convention of the American Railway Engineering Association at Chicago, March 15, 1922, when tribute was paid to John Findley Wallace, I was not in the room when called on, but am very glad to pay, however inadequate, my tribute to his memory.
I owe him much and am proud to say he was my friend and to have known him intimately was a privilege.
It was my good fortune to start in railroad work with a man like Mr. Wallace. He was large-souled, generous and helpful and many young Engineers, like myself at that time, seeking a start, found it through him. I was with Mr. Wallace almost eight consecutive years and in the later
years of my service was quite close to him and remember very clearly his idea was at that time, an organization similar to the present American Railway Engineering Association, to fill a want which societies then in existence did not reach. Later he was one of the leaders who organized this Association and was its first President.
He was one of those rare combinations of thorough ability, good judgment and consideration of the rights of others. A man of strong personality, sterling qualities and keen sense of justice and possessed in a high degree the power to command loyalty from those under him. He was a born leader, very resourceful and his ready grasp and common-sense treatment of an engineering problem in controversy could always be depended on. His reputation in his profession was of the highest order and he was regarded as one of the distinguished Engineers of the country. Such characters are an inspiration to all members of the profession.
He will be missed in the meetings of the Association and the many technical societies to which he belonged.
Mr. Wallace was a gentleman, a man in all the word implies. True to his friends and the world is better for his having lived. He was a man worth while.
The President:-1 wish I had time to read you the first annual address of the first President, Mr. Wallace, but I will read you the last paragraph. It is a keynote speech, and could be as well delivered at the meeting to-day as when it was delivered nearly twenty-five years ago :
"While the question of what is economical management respecting maintenance of way and structures is one which the management of each property must solve for itself, we can certainly assist each other by a full and frank comparison of views and a discussion of the various elements that constitute an economical handling of our maintenance of way work. The establishment of certain recognized principles as the result of our investigations and discussions will materially assist our managements in adopting a policy that will lead to the truest and highest economy."
That is an extract from the address of the first President, and gives the keynote to the work of the American Railway Engineering Association.
This will close our exercises for the memory of Mr. John F. Wallace, and Peace be to his memory.
COLONEL GEORGE HERBERT WEBB
(For Memoir, see Part II, pp. 195-200.) Mr. S. E. Emmons (Ann Arbor):-It was my good fortune to assist Colonel Webb in France, at probably his most trying moment. You no doubt have heard about his work in France, and know that he built the Navarre Cutoff, with ten miles of double track line. He had three thousand men on the job, and had started the work when the War Department, with very questionable judgment, and without warning, took every man away from him. When I came upon him, the same day, I had sixteen men. I found Colonel Webb all by himself, except for a French interpreter, and he even had to chop the wood to build his own fire. He grabbed hold of me with my sixteen men, and the first thing that he did was to put guards out on his equipment, and with the utmost good humor and energy, set about to collect his new force, which did not arrive for one month. This shows what he had to contend with in his work in France.
Mr. G. A. Mountain (Canadian Railway Commission) :-In memory of Colonel Webb, the words that fall from my lips will be few. The late Colonel Webb was intimately associated with a good deal of railroad work in Canada, and I speak in behalf of his Canadian confreres as well as myself, and also on behalf of the Government Control Board of Canadian Railways, and I will say this to his fellow-members: That we had always had the strictest confidence in cases that he presented before the Canadian Railway Commission, and the presentation was done in such a manner that there was no doubt left in the minds of that body that his honesty of purpose was shown.
It was only a year ago that I had the pleasure of having quite a conversation with the late Colonel Webb in this hotel. I need not say to you that I was shocked at his state of health, and when I got notice from his Detroit office of his death, I was not surprised, but I was shocked. I then took the opportunity of conveying to the engineering department of the Michigan Central Railroad the feelings of his Canadian brother Engineers.
The late Colonel Webb did not have to be told in his lifetime that he had the esteem and confidence and friendship of his friends of the profession, and it may not be amiss to his memory that the few words I have spoken may come to the ears of his relatives and friends of the feeling which we had for him.
His work as an Engineer we all knew well. That is true of those who were of about his time in life. To the younger members I will say he was an example to those who were closely associated with him, and I hope you will accept these few words of mine with the idea we may always hold his memory dear.
Prof. H. E. Riggs (University of Michigan) :-I want to speak, not as a man who had a very intimate touch with Colonel Webb during my railroad career but as one of a group of men of about the same age, who have been personal friends for years. In the last few years of Colonel Webb's lifetime it was my privilege to know him quite intimately, and it was my privilege to know the feeling of the Engineers of the city of Detroit and the State of Michigan for Colonel Webb.
A great many of us, when we are in the railroad service, are so busy that we do not make the impression on the community that we ought to make, and that we have the ability to make. Colonel Webb, I believe, left on his city and state an impression such as few of you Engineers, whether in the railway service or out of it, have made.
Colonel Webb was a man of genial disposition, a man who was interested in young men, and a man who stood for the finest and the best