PAUL BEDFORD ELWELL, born on the 7th February,
1853, was educated at King’s College, London, where he obtained
distinction in mathematics. After spending a year at Liege, where he
gained experience in coal mining and iron manufacture, he studied
electricity, and was engaged from 1875 to 1879 in the construction of
large experimental machinery.
He then acted for a time as Consulting Engineer for
electric lighting to the Northern London Estates Company, and in 1884 he
joined Thomas Parker in partnership on the formation of the undertaking
at Wolverhampton known as Elwell-Parker, Limited.
For the next three years he was engaged in that
capacity in the design and manufacture of all kinds of heavy electrical
machinery for tramways, lighting, mining, the deposition of metals, and
From 1887 to 1889 he practised as a Consulting
Engineer, preparing plans, in conjunction with Messrs. Berlier, for the
proposed underground tubular electric railway in Paris, and carrying out
experiments with Messrs. Commelin and Desmoyhres in connection with
submarine boats. While in Paris he translated into English Gaston
Plante's 'Recherches sur l’Electricite.'
In 1889 Mr. Elwell went to New South Wales and
practised for a time as a Consulting Engineer in Sydney. His ability and
experience soon attracted attention, and in 1891 he was appointed
Electrical Engineer to the Railway Commissioners of the Colony. In that
capacity Mr. Elwell rendered valuable service to the Railway Department.
Under the direction of the Commissioners the electric train staff and
tablet system of safe railway working was extended to cover practically
all the busy portions of the line, being in operation in the north as
far as Tamworth, in the west to Dubbo, and in the south to Albury: and
during the installation of the electric instruments for the safe working
of the lines numerous improvements were devised, largely by Mr. Elwell,
in order to meet special traffic requirements on particular sections.
In 1895, at the instance of the Commissioners, he
studied in America and on the Continent the latest devlopments in
connection with electric tramway working; and the experience thus
obtained, coupled with his wide technical knowledge, enabled him to
render great assistance to Mr. Henry Deane, the Engineer-in-Chief of the
Railway Department, in the construction of electric tramways in New
South Wales and in the conversion of the present steam system into
electric traction. The last and most important work on which he was
engaged was the George and Harris Streets Tramway, with its large power
station containing four generators of 850 kilowatts each.
Unfortunately Mr. Elwell did not live to see the
completion of this work. He was found to be suffering from some disease
which attacked the ankle, and, in the hope of entire eradication, the
leg was removed above the knee. The operation did not have the desired
effect, and the disease, spreading further, caused his death on the 10th