William Wilson, as reported here before, was the British driver of the first train that travelled between Fürth and Nuremberg. There isn’t much about him in the internet in English, but a Wikipedia article in German, and more in the franken-wiki. One learns that he didn’t speak a word of German when he came, but he spent the rest of his life in Germany. His health was affected by standing at the front of the train in a frock coat and top hat in wind and weather.
The franken-wiki reports on letters from the consul in Cologne, where Wilson first arrived in Germany, to the Ludwigs-Eisenbahn railway company:
„Gleich nach dem Abgang unseres Briefes zur Post erschien Wilson, ein Stück Beefsteak. Wir mussten einen Dolmetscher nehmen, um uns mit ihm zu verständigen.“ und: „Der Engländer sitzt hier und verzehrt gutes Geld – er sagte mir schon gestern, dass ihm Herr Stephenson nur sparsam mitgegeben habe, er von mir also Geld und Beförderung erwartet.“
(Wilson is described as ‘a piece of beefsteak’ – ‘We had to use an interpreter to talk to him’ – and spending good money because Stephenson gave him so little for the journey).
Today the Nürnberger Zeitung reports at length on Wilson, who died 150 years ago (on 17 April 1862).
Curiously, Wilson, who was born in Walbottle, now a suburb of Newcastle on Tyne, has become a Scot in the article, and Walbottle been transplanted to the Highlands. Having called him ‘ein worthy gentleman from England’, the article immediately ‘corrects’ itself and says that ‘on the British islands’ people take such things as whether one is English or Scottish very seriously. He is referred to as ‘a Scot who can stand up to the Highland winds’ and my favourite:
Am 18. Mai 1809 in Walbottle geboren, versuchte Wilson sein Glück jedoch nicht in den heimischen Hochlanden, sondern beim Nachbarn in den tieferen Gegenden: er lernte beim Eisenbahnpionier George Stephenson im englischen Newcastle und brachte es dort zum Maschineningenieur und Lokführer.
(Born on 18 May 1809 in Walbottle, Wilson tried his luck not in his native Highlands, but in the lower regions of the neighbour(ing country): he trained under George Stephenson, the railway pioneer, in Newcastle in England and became a mechanical engineer and train driver).
The article is quite detailed in other respects, about how Wilson accompanied the train and supervised the reconstruction – students made sketches of all the parts first (why does this remind me of Germany selling high-speed trains to China?), how popular he was with passengers and how much he earned in Nuremberg.
LATER NOTE: A day later, the text has been changed. Must stop commenting on local paper websites. Why should I mind if the population of Nuremberg can’t tell the difference between Mao and Zhou?