Francis Robert Johnson, a member of the (British) Institution of Civil Engineers and of the American Society of Civil Engineers, contributed a paper on "The survey of the Manmad-Dhulia Railway, India" to the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1894. He also published a book on Stress in girder and roof trusses... (London, 1894) and a short monograph, Practical hints for light railways at home and abroad (London, 1896). The latter dealt with street railroads in Britain and India.
During 1896-1901 Johnson was employed in the Public Works Department of the Cape Colony. He produced a Parliamentary Report, General review of irrigation and water supply, rainfall, and water rights in the Cape Colony... which was a summary of all the information relating to these topics assembled by the Department of Public Works since it became responsible for hydrology in 1893. The report was intended as a first step in planning the development of the colony's water resources. It was published also in the form of an article titled "Hydrography of Cape Colony" in the Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope (1900, Vol. 17, pp. 155-169, 227-238).
While stationed at East London Johnson applied for an appointment as civil engineer in the Free State and Natal, either on the railways or in irrigation. During 1901 he left East London, hoping to have an interview with the minister of lands and works of Natal Colony. He settled in Pietermaritzburg, from where he enquired during 1902 about the duration of the hunting season. In 1904 he contributed a paper on "South African Irrigation" to the Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Later Johnson described "The Bear Creek hydrographic survey, British Columbia" in the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers (1912). Until 1932 he contributed regularly to correspondence on many different civil engineering projects in the same journal.