John Wallace Pringle
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John Wallace Pringle

Colonel Sir John Wallace Pringle, CB, FRGS (23 May 1863 - 16 July 1938) was a British engineer who was Chief Inspecting Officer of the Railways Inspectorate of the Ministry of Transport from 1916 to 1929. As such he was in charge of investigations into a number of serious railway accidents in the UK.[1]

Early life

Pringle was born in Madras, the son of a Scottish father, General George Pringle, and English mother, Octavia Catherine Cother.[2]

Early career

Pringle became a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in 1883.[3] As an army officer, Pringle fought in the Third Anglo-Burmese War, 1885-1886.[4] In the Uganda railway survey between 1891 and 1892, Pringle was second in command to James Macdonald. The survey's findings confirmed that the caravan route to the Great Rift Valley was the best path for the line, followed by the easiest gradient to be found over the Mau Escarpment and down to Lake Victoria. Macdonald and Pringle recommended construction of a three-foot six inch gauge railway. They suggested that Kikuyuland would be a suitable place for whites to live, and their civilizing effect would drive out slavery, but the railway was needed to give access to the new colony.[5] Pringle became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.[4] He received the Gill Memorial from this society in 1895 for his work on the Uganda railway survey.[3] In 1896 he was appointed superintending engineer on the survey and construction of the Hyderabad-Godavari Valley Railway.[6]

Inspecting officer

Pringle had reached the rank of Major in 1900 when he was appointed an inspecting officer in the Board of Trade. At the start of World War I in 1914, he was appointed a deputy director of railway transport with the temporary rank of Colonel. In 1916 he was confirmed in this rank when he returned to the Board of Trade as Chief Inspecting Officer. When the Ministry of Transport was formed in 1919, he was transferred to the new ministry with his department, retaining his position as Chief Inspecting Officer until his retirement in 1929.[3]

Pringle conducted various accident inquiries, including that into the Sevenoaks derailment of 24 August 1927. He chaired a committee to investigate the general adoption of automatic train control on British railways, following the adoption of an electro-mechanical system on the Great Western Railway (GWR), reporting in April 1922. He chaired a second committee on the same subject that reported in 1930, but little was done outside the GWR. He was Chairman of the Electrification of Railways Advisory Committee, which reported in 1928.[6]

Pringle was made a Companion of the Bath in 1921, and was knighted in 1925. He died at Cuckfield, Sussex on 16 July 1938 at the age of 75.[3]


  1. ^ "Obituary: Colonel Sir J. W. Pringle". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 18 July 1938. p. 14.
  2. ^ India, Select Births and Baptisms, 1786-1947
  3. ^ a b c d "Sir John Wallace Pringle" (PDF). Proceedings. Institution of Railway Signal Engineers: 13. September 1938. Retrieved 2011.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b "Uganda Railway Survey diaries". Janus. Retrieved 2011.
  5. ^ Nicholls, Christine Stephanie (2005). Red strangers: the white tribe of Kenya. Timewell Press. p. 18. ISBN 1-85725-206-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  6. ^ a b "Inspecting Officers (Railways) - Pringle, [Sir] John Wallace". SteamIndex. Retrieved 2011.

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