Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Railway and bridge engineer. Richard Boyse Osborne, who was born in England in 1815,(1) embarked on a career as an engineer after receiving his education in Ireland. In 1834 he went to Canada, moving on the United States the following year. He became engineer of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad in 1842. During the next three years he developed the first railway bridge to use all-iron trusses constructed on the Howe principle. The bridge was erected near West Manayunk, Pennsylvania, on 3-4 May 1845. Two months earlier Osborne had left for six months' leave in Ireland, taking with him a ten-foot model of a 200-foot-span Howe truss. This model, according to James, 'almost certainly inspired the 220 ft span Irish version built to carry Moorsom's Waterford & Kilkenny Railway over the Nore at Thomastown 1846-50'. Osborne patented his bridge truss in Ireland in June 1845,(2) and at about the same time was appointed engineer under CHARLES BLACKER VIGNOLES  CHARLES BLACKER VIGNOLES on the Waterford & Limerick Railway. During the next five years he was responsible for the design of several iron bridges on the line, the largest being a skew bridge at Ballysimon, Co. Limerick.

In 1850 Osborne left Ireland for Panama. After six months he returned to the United States, where he spent the rest of his life, remaining active as an engineer and railway promoter. He settled in Philadelphia, where he is recorded in the American census of 1880 as a sixty-four-year-old English-born civil engineer, living in a hotel with his Pennsylvania-born wife, Eliza. He died in 1899.(3)

ICEI: elected member, 1856.(4)


All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from ICEI membership applications, I, 17, and John G. James, 'The evolution of iron bridge trusses to 1850', Transactions of the Newcomen Society 52, (1980), 86-87.

(1) Was he the son of the person of the same name who was admitted to Trinity College, Dublin, in February 1810 at the age of seventeen and received the BA degree in 1814?
(2) An English patent 'for' certain improvements in bridges, roofing, and flooring' followed at the end of 1846 (Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal 10 (Jan 1847), 32.
(3) The ICEI reported him dead in 1875 (TICEI 11 (1874-1876), report of council, 1876, 2).
(4) IB 12, 15 Aug 1870, 197.