Page:History of West Australia.djvu/613
CLAYTON TURNER MASON, J.P., M. Inst. C.E.
Photo by Greenham & Evans.
C.T. MASON, J.P.
THE world reads of an astounding scientific discovery and wonders. Men begin to debate with themselves whether science after all cannot solve all the secrets of nature. Perhaps no century since the dawn of history has so indelibly stamped its impress on the progress of the age as this wonderful nineteenth has done. What hitherto were regarded as the insoluble problems in nature, sacred because of their profound mysteriousness, are now common property-knowledge. Men with hushed breath, as if dreading some infelicitous climax to such a series of startling discoveries, ask, "Where are they going to stop? Perhaps, after all, they will succeed in overcoming friction, and then, with the slightest impact, we shall be set agoing, and never stop." Such imaginative possibilities are buoying up the popular mind, and they endeavour now to reconcile all other branches of learn-to this gigantic progress-maker. Experiment, that Baconian instrument of inductive logic, has been mainly responsible for all progress and truth, and they hesitate not to apply its infallible criteria to the realms of religion and philosophy. All departments of this limitless word Science are on the march. In the van, side by side with the beautifully-marshalled giant of Electricity, is stationed a formidable rival, fighting, too, for the best interests of her country—Civil Engineering. Both do noble, valiant service, and both win equal applause in the fray. The prowess and utility of the latter has been longer tested and her achievements admired, though swift and dazzling are the strokes of her rival.The place of civil engineering can never be filled or usurped; its contrivances and mechanical results are of more fundamental necessity for humanity than the superadded fascinating delicacies of electricity. Almost all means of transit are due to a theoretical and practical knowledge of this important profession, and the loss of these would spell the ruin of the world. Its devotees are for ever harassing their brains, devising some better scheme for the common good, and how seldom are their disinterested actions sufficiently recognised by the recipients of these conferments. In Western Australia, while as yet the colony was young and weapons rude, we cannot but respect and admire the energy and skill of those pioneers who, though continually hampered and fettered, contracted works of great engineering skill, which remain as monuments to their ability and labours. Among these Mr. Clayton Turner Mason's name bears universal reputation. He was born at Torrington, in Hertfordshire, in 1847. He was sent very young to Rickmansworth and Hampton private schools, where excellent elementary education is given. As a "provectiore" he received high-class instruction in King Edward's School, Birmingham, where he studied for some time. On leaving school with a considerable quantum of fundamental and useful knowledge, he felt that natural inclinations were strong for civil engineering. With such an unusual early leaning towards his calling, he was articled by his father to Mr. Thomas Waring, a leading member of the Institute of Civil Engineers, who was practising at Cardiff, in Wales. His term of apprenticeship was characterised by hard work and enthusiastic devotion to the science. Although but a young man, Mr. Mason was appointed to measure up the quantities in the great dispute between the contractor and the Penarth Dock and Railway Company, in which £100,000 was involved. He felt on the conclusion of his term that he had learnt much from such an able master, but at the same time was aware of the indefiniteness of scientific scope and research. He left for London, where he practised for some time before leaving for America. On this latter continent he was a great traveller, and reaped valuable information from the different methods of theory and practice in that country. If any country in the world is versatile, it is America, and that versatility is due to a pliable and complete gift of adaptation. In 1874 Australia claimed his services, and after various scientific achievements, he was engaged from 1884-87 in the Railway branch of the Public Works of New South Wales. At this period Western Australia was yawning and tossing dreamily about. It had remained long quiescent and inactive, and now thought of action and progress. In 1887 he came to Western Australia under engagement to the Government, and took up the duties of Resident Engineer of the Geraldton and Northampton Railway. This was the first Government Railway constructed in Western Australia. Difficulties, pecuniary and otherwise, retarded the progress of the line. For eighteen months he sedulously discharged his duties through a trying period. At one moment all available sums were expended and labour stopped. At the next, arrival of necessary implements and material was seriously delayed, and all patience taxed to the utmost. With such disturbing