Napoleon - Information and Records Management - University of Canterbury - New Zealand
R. J. Scott

The Napoleon of Canterbury College

These drawings were found in the University Warehouse in the Engineering archives section. They are by Professor R.J. Scott. He was born in Plymouth, England in 1861, educated at King's College in London and at the Royal School of Mines.

Scott started at Canterbury College as a part-time lecturer in Mechanical Engineering. He set up the Mechanical Engineering department in 1888, and became lecturer in charge of the School of Engineering and Technical Science in 1889. He was professor in charge of the School of Engineering from 1894 -1923.

Lewis 1876 boneshaker 1869

The image above depicts the 'boneshaker' which was so named in England as it had a rigid frame and iron-banded wheels that resulted in a 'bone-shaking ride'.

James Starley in Coventry added the tangent spokes and the mounting step to his famous bicycle named 'Ariel' (see below image). He is regarded as the father of the British cycling industry. This type of bicycle was retronymed the 'ordinary' (since there were then no other kind) and was later nicknamed 'penny-farthing' in England.

The Aerial 1875 A Fisherman's Jaunt 1838

In A History of the University of Canterbury 1873 - 1973 by Gardner, Beardsley & Carter (1973), Scott is described as 'the Napoleon of Canterbury College'. He was refered to as 'Loppy Scott' and was called this because of his heavy, awkward walk. He was said to be 'a very large man with a magnificent head and imposing, even belligerent, expression'.

Vehicle Sketch Loco 48

unknown sketch 1 sketch 2

Following on from his railway engineering experience in England, Scott joined the NZ Railway Service in 1881 and held the positions of locomotive draftsman, designer for the locomotive department, acting locomotive superintendent and manager of the Addington Workshops.

modern mast 1914 turbine

Scott had a passion for yachting and was a skilled marine designer. He was thought of as a 'kind of academic admiral with a quarter-deck manner and turn of language'.

accumulator pipe joint npl road tester

Scott's life's work was to make the Engineering School a national institution rather than a provincial college. Scott and R.J. Seddon (the longest serving NZ PM of all time) were friends and he used this influence as an advantage for himself and the college.

On 27 Jan 1902 the electrical engineering laboratory was opened by Seddon. This was the first college erected with the aid of a government subsidiary - this was perceived as the day of Scott's 'great triumph'.

range finder carriage with arrow engineering sketch 2

sails 1914 building plan barbette

Scott's accomplishments:

  • Designed and operated the first motor car in Australasia in 1880, a 35 h.p. steam buggy
  • Designed in 1881 the first insulated wagon for the carriage of frozen meat for NZ rail
  • Prepared the drawings and specifications for the first locomotive built in NZ
  • Designed and built at the Addington Workshops the first locomotive made by NZ Government Railways
  • Created the 'prairie' type of locomotive which was originally termed in America the 'Scott' type.
  • Designed the first oil engines made in NZ
  • Chairman of the Royal Commission on NZ Railways rolling stock and on Tramway Brakes
  • Chairman on the commission of the Addington Workshops
  • Chairman during the war for the Munitions Commission of NZ

macmillan 1842 the spider 1872 kangaroo 1884

Many of these drawings show Scott's interest in transport. The drawing above of the 'Kangaroo bicycle' shows the first chain-driven bicycle with gearing. These bicycles were popular through the 1880s before the widespread adoption of the two wheeled bicycle.