Nils Ericson (1802–70)

Nils Ericson was one of the leading engineers of canals and railways in Sweden.

He was born in 1802 in the mining region of Långban in central Sweden. His father, Olaf Ericsson, was a mine superintendent until 1810 when he moved to Forsvik and became director of rock blasting for the construction of the Göta Canal. Nils and his brother Johan had no formal education but learned about mechanics from their father and in the drawing office of the canal company. The abilities of the two children were noted by the leader of the Göta Canal project, Count Baltzar von Platen, and they were appointed as cadets and given further training by two engineers who had toured British canals.

At the age of around 20, both brothers became engineers in the Swedish army. In 1830 Nils transferred to the navy and began a career designing and improving canals. He designed the Saimaa Canal in Finland and the enlargement of locks on the Trollhätte Canal in Sweden. With his son Werner he designed the Dalsland Canal, which was completed in 1868.

From 1850, Ericson was mostly concerned with the design of railways. Sweden was later than many European countries in railway construction. Ericson was given the responsibility of devising a strategic network of main lines for the nation. By 1860, 527 km route miles were in operation. He resigned his post in 1862 and the strategic network was largely completed by 1881.

In 1859 he was made a Friherre of Sweden, equivalent to a baron. (He changed the spelling of his name from Ericsson to Ericson at about this time.) He died in 1870. A statue of him stands in front of Stockholm central station.

His brother Johan became an innovative and versatile mechanical engineer in England and America (known as John Ericsson).