Pim, James (1796–1856), banker, stockbroker, and railway entrepreneur, was born 7 May 1796 in Dublin, son of James Pim (1767–1848) of Mountmellick, Queen's Co. (Laois), and Dublin, and his wife Anne (1768–1847), daughter of Benjamin Greenwood of Portarlington, Queen's Co. The Pims were one of the most important quaker families in Dublin, many branches of which were represented in the highest echelons of Dublin's brewers, bankers, millers, and merchants: James Pim père was a brewer and corn merchant, and his son Henry (1803–81) a brewer who went into business with John Jameson (qv) in Jameson & Pim (established September 1841) to produce porter. James Pim fils, or ‘Junior’ as he was often called, received his early education at Ballitore School, Co. Kildare, from 18 May 1807. As an adult, he and his father took over the Dublin offices of the Imperial Fire and Imperial Life insurance companies; once Junior became a certified stockbroker (1824), he began selling stocks in the business. Together with Alexander Boyle and Francis Low, he formed the banking firm of Boyle, Low & Pim (1832), situated first at 41 Dame St. but later relocated to College Green (1840); they acted as Dublin agents for the Northern Bank and for England's Provincial Bank.
Owing to the family's mercantile concerns, James and his father had a vested interest in the transport of goods; both men were considerable shareholders in the Grand Canal Co. and James Junior served as treasurer of the Shannon Navigation Co. (1825). When plans were hatched to ship goods to England by way of Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire), a mode of transporting these goods from Dublin had to be established. Pim, a keen follower of scientific advances, proposed the establishment of Ireland's first railroad. To do so, he personally paid Alexander Nimmo (qv) to survey the line and to produce the requisite plans (1825); Pim actively oversaw the drafting of the bill and aggressively supported it. Thanks in no small part to his determination, it received royal assent (6 September 1831) and the Dublin & Kingstown Railway Co. was established. The scheme was largely financed by Pim, his family, and other Dublin quakers, whose involvement gave the project stability and credibility and encouraged others to invest. He initially served as secretary (appointed 2 December 1831), but was later made treasurer (1832–56), bringing to the company his sound judgement, energy, and valuable business experience. He immediately set about securing a loan of £75,000 from the board of works (August 1832) and used his private bank to pay the interest. The venture proved costlier and more difficult than first imagined; however, Pim saved the project by providing encouraging progress reports to the press and public and by means of generous contributions from his bank. It was largely thanks to his efforts that Ireland's first railway was officially opened 17 December 1834. When the company later decided to extend its service to Dalkey, he promoted the idea of building an ‘atmospheric railway’ using air pressure for propulsion; this revolutionary line opened 29 March 1844 amid much excitement, and aroused an enormous amount of interest at home and abroad. Unfortunately, it proved too expensive to maintain, and the entire Dublin–Dalkey line was permanently leased (12 April 1856) to the Dublin & Wicklow Railway Co., which abandoned propulsion by air pressure and reverted to steam. Pim remained treasurer until the transfer, but on his retirement the Dublin & Kingstown Railway Co. awarded him £2,500 for his many years of service and the Dublin & Wicklow Railway Co. agreed to pay his family £700 a year. Because of his unswerving commitment and dedication, he is remembered as the ‘father of Irish railways’. He was a popular figure, who combined wide-ranging scientific interests with an agreeable and amusing personality. After a long illness, Pim died 13 November 1856 at his residence on Upper Mount St. and was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery.
He married (5 November 1823) Eliza (1801/3–1870), daughter of Jonathon Hogg of Grange; they had seven daughters and four sons, and the family lived for a time in Mountmellick and in Monkstown Castle, Co. Dublin. ‘A Pim genealogy’, compiled by F. Bewley Pim, is available from the Quaker Archives, Bloomfield Road, Donnybrook, Dublin, which also holds a second genealogical document, with no title, author, or date, listing branches of the Pim family in sixty to seventy manuscript pages. The differing dates for Eliza Hogg's birth arise from these two sources.