Isambard Kingdom Brunel FRS

Best known for building dockyards, the Great Western Railway, steamships, bridges, tunnels and revolutionising public transport and modern engineering, the British mechanical and Civil Engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS was born 9 April 1806.When Brunel was eight he was sent to Dr Morrell’s boarding school in Hove, where he learned the classics. His father, was determined that Brunel should have access to the high-quality education he had enjoyed in his youth in France; accordingly, at the age of 14, the younger Brunel was enrolled first at the College of Caen in Normandy, then at Lycée Henri-Quatre in Paris. Sadly his because his Father Marc sent him to expensive schools, he encountered financial problems, however because he was a Prominent engineer the Government intervened on his behalf. When Brunel completed his studies at Henri-Quatre in 1822, he was due to attend the renowned engineering school École Polytechnique, however Brunel studied under the prominent master clockmaker and horologist Abraham-Louis Breguet instead, after he praised Brunel’s potential in letters to his father.In late 1822, having completed his apprenticeship, Brunel returned to England. Brunel worked for several years as an assistant engineer on the hazardous project to create a tunnel under London’s River Thames near Rotherhithe, alongside his Father, who was chief engineer. However cave-ins and severe flooding in 1828 killed a number of Miners a delayed work, with Brunel narrowly escaping death himself.

During the early part of Brunel’s life, the use of railways began to take off as a major means of transport for goods. This influenced Brunel’s involvement in railway engineering, including railway bridge engineering. In 1833, before the Thames Tunnel was complete, Brunel was appointed chief engineer of the Great Western Railway, one of the wonders of Victorian Britain, running from London to Bristol and later Exeter. The company was founded at a public meeting in Bristol in 1833, and was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1835. It was Brunel’s vision that passengers would be able to purchase one ticket at London Paddington and travel from London to New York, changing from the Great Western Railway to the Great Western steamship at the terminus in Neyland, South Wales. He surveyed the entire length of the route between London and Bristol himself, with the help of many including his Solicitor Jeremiah Osborne of Bristol Law Firm Osborne Clarke who one occasion rowed Isambard Kingdom Brunel down the River Avon himself to survey the bank of the river for the route. Brunel decided to use a broad gauge of 7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm) for the track, despite almost all other railways using standard Gauge, because he believed Broad Gauge would offer superior running at high speeds; he also proved through both calculation and a series of trials that his broader gauge was the optimum size for providing both higher speeds and a stable and comfortable ride to passengers, with the wider gauge allowing for larger carriages and thus greater freight capacity.

Drawing on Brunel’s experience with the Thames Tunnel, the Great Western designed many architectural feats of engineering including soaring viaducts such as the one in Ivybridge, specially designed stations, and vast tunnels including the Box Tunnel, which was the longest railway tunnel in the world at that time. Brunel also ordered many Locomotives to his own specification including “North Star” and 20-year-old Daniel Gooch (later Sir Daniel) was appointed as Superintendent of Locomotive Engines. Brunel and Gooch chose to locate their locomotive works at the village of Swindon.

Brunel also designed many bridges including the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, which spans over 700 ft (210 m), and nominally 200 ft (61 m) above the River Avon. Brunel submitted his designs to a committee headed by Thomas Telford, who rejected all entries, in favour of his own design, however the Public voted in favour of Brunel’s design. Brunel also designed the Maidenhead Railway Bridge. Work also started on the Clifton suspension bridge in 1831, but was suspended due to the Queen Square Riots, However Thanks to colleagues at the Institute of Civil Engineers Work recommenced in 1862 and was completed in 1864, five years after Brunel’s death. The Clifton Suspension Bridge still stands today and over 4 million vehicles traverse it every year.

Brunel also designed the Royal Albert Bridge spanning the River Tamar at Saltash near Plymouth, Somerset Bridge (an unusual laminated timber-framed bridge near Bridgwater, the Windsor Railway Bridge. The Maidenhead Railway Bridge over the Thames in Berkshire is still carrying main line trains to the west, even though today’s trains are about ten times heavier than in Brunel’s time.In 1845 Hungerford Bridge, a suspension footbridge across the Thames near Charing Cross Station in London, was opened. It was replaced by a new railway bridge in 1859, and the suspension chains were used to complete the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Brunel also designed the Royal Albert Bridge in 1855 for the Cornwall Railway, this consists of two main spans of 455 ft (139 m), 100 ft (30 m) above mean high spring tide, plus 17 much shorter approach spans. Opened by Prince Albert on 2 May 1859, it was completed in the year of Brunel’s death.


Brunel’s achievements inspired and ignited the imagination of many technically minded Britons. However After Brunel’s death standard gauge was adopted by all railways in the country. Despite the Great Western’s claim of proof that its broad gauge was the better the decision was made to use Stephenson’s standard gauge, mainly because this had already covered a far greater amount of the country. However, by May 1892 when the broad gauge was abolished the Great Western had already been re-laid as dual gauge (both broad and standard). There is also a larger than life bronze statue of him at Neyland holding a steamship in one hand and a locomotive in the othe

another of Brunel’s interesting use of technical innovations was the atmospheric railway, the extension of the Great Western Railway (GWR) southward from Exeter towards Plymouth, technically the South Devon Railway (SDR), though supported by the GWR. Instead of using locomotives, the trains were moved by Clegg and Samuda’s patented system of atmospheric (vacuum) traction, whereby stationary pumps sucked air from a pipe placed in the centre of the track.The section from Exeter to Newton (now Newton Abbot) was completed on this principle, and trains ran at approximately 68 miles per hour (109 km/h). Pumping stations with distinctive square chimneys were sited at two-mile intervals. Fifteen-inch (381 mm) pipes were used on the level portions, and 22-inch (559 mm) pipes were intended for the steeper gradients.The technology required the use of leather flaps to seal the vacuum pipes. The natural oils were drawn out of the leather by the vacuum, making the leather vulnerable to water, rotting it and breaking the fibres when it froze. It had to be kept supple with tallow, which is attractive to rats. The flaps were eaten, and vacuum operation lasted less than a year, from 1847 (experimental service began in September; operations from February 1848) to 10 September 1849. A number of South Devon Railway engine houses still stand, including that at Totnes (scheduled as a grade II listed monument in 2007 to prevent its imminent demolition, even as Brunel’s bicentenary celebrations were continuing) and at Starcross, on the estuary of the River Exe, which is a striking landmark, and a reminder of the atmospheric railway, also commemorated as the name of the village pub.

In 1835, before the Great Western Railway had opened, Brunel proposed extending its transport network by boat from Bristol across the Atlantic Ocean to New York City. The Great Western Steamship Company was formed by Thomas Guppy for that purpose. It was widely disputed whether it would be commercially viable for a ship powered purely by steam to make such long journeys. Technological developments in the early 1830s—including the invention of the surface condenser, which allowed boilers to run on salt water without stopping to be cleaned—made longer journeys more possible, but it was generally thought that a ship would not be able to carry enough fuel for the trip and have room for a commercial cargo. Brunel formulated the theory that the amount a ship could carry increased as the cube of its dimensions, whereas the amount of resistance a ship experienced from the water as it travelled only increased by a square of its dimensions. This would mean that moving a larger ship would take proportionately less fuel than a smaller ship.

To test this theory, Brunel offered his services for free to the Great Western Steamship Company, which appointed him to its building committee and entrusted him with designing its first ship, the Great Western.When it was built, the Great Western was the longest ship in the world at 236 ft (72 m) with a 250-foot (76 m) keel. The ship was constructed mainly from wood, but Brunel added bolts and iron diagonal reinforcements to maintain the keel’s strength. In addition to its steam-powered paddle wheels, the ship carried four masts for sails. The Great Western embarked on her maiden voyage from Avonmouth, Bristol, to New York on 8 April 1838 with 600 long tons (610,000 kg) of coal, cargo and seven passengers on board. Brunel himself missed this initial crossing, having been injured during a fire aboard the ship as she was returning from fitting out in London.

As the fire delayed the launch several days, the Great Western missed its opportunity to claim title as the first ship to cross the Atlantic under steam power alone. Even with a four-day head start, the competing Sirius arrived only one day earlier and its crew was forced to burn cabin furniture, spare yards and one mast for fuel. In contrast, the Great Western crossing of the Atlantic took 15 days and five hours, and the ship arrived at her destination with a third of its coal still remaining, demonstrating that Brunel’s calculations were correct. The Great Western had proved the viability of commercial transatlantic steamship service, which led the Great Western Steamboat Company to use her in regular service between Bristol and New York from 1838 to 1846. She made 64 crossings, and was the first ship to hold the Blue Riband with a crossing time of 13 days westbound and 12 days 6 hours eastbound. The service was commercially successful enough for a sister ship to be required, which Brunel was asked to design.

Brunel had become convinced of the superiority of propeller-driven ships over paddle wheels. After tests conducted aboard the propeller-driven steam tug Archimedes, he incorporated a large six-bladed propeller into his design for the 322-foot (98 m) Great Britain, which was launched in 1843.Great Britain is considered the first modern ship, being built of metal rather than wood, powered by an engine rather than wind or oars, and driven by propeller rather than paddle wheel. She was the first iron-hulled, propeller-driven ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean.Her maiden voyage was made in August and September 1845, from Liverpool to New York. In 1846, she was run aground at Dundrum, County Down. She was salvaged and employed in the Australian service.And today she is fully preserved and open to the public in Bristol, UK.

In 1852 Brunel began designing a third ship, larger than her predecessors, intended for voyages to India and Australia. Named The Great Eastern and built at John Scott Russell’s Napier Yard in London, she was cutting-edge technology for her time: almost 700 ft (210 m) long, fitted out with the most luxurious appointments, and capable of carrying over 4,000 passengers. Great Eastern was designed to cruise non-stop from London to Sydney and back (since engineers of the time misunderstood that Australia had no coal reserves), and she remained the largest ship built until the start of the 20th century. Like many of Brunel’s ambitious projects, the ship soon ran over budget and behind schedule in the face of a series of technical problems. Also because Brunel’s engineering innovations were so revolutionary and ahead of their time, the prevailing economic and industrial conditions meant It was several decades before transoceanic steamship travel emerged as a viable industry. Great Eastern set forth on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on 17 June 1860. Under Captain Sir James Anderson, the Great Eastern was also deployed as an oceanic telegraph cable-layer playing a significant role in laying the first lasting transatlantic telegraph cable, which enabled telecommunication between Europe and North America.

Brunel became A celebrated engineer in his era and numerous monuments were dedicated to Brunel in London at Temple, Brunel University, Paddington station, Bristol, Plymouth, Swindon, Milford Haven and Saltash. The topmast of the Great Eastern is also used as a flagpole at the entrance to Anfield, Liverpool Football Club’s ground.Contemporary locations bear Brunel’s name, such as Brunel University in London, a shopping centre in Bletchley, Milton Keynes, and a collection of streets in Exeter: Isambard Terrace, Kingdom Mews, and Brunel Close. A road, car park, and school in his home city of Portsmouth are also named in his honour, along with one of the city’s largest public houses There is an engineering lab building at the University of Plymouth named in his honour.

In a 2002 BBC television poll Of the “100 Greatest Britons”, Brunel came second, behind Winston Churchill. Brunel’s life and works have been depicted in numerous books, films and television programs. Perhaps the most recent is the 2003 book and BBC TV series, Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, which included a dramatisation of the building of the Great Eastern. Many of Brunel’s bridges are also still in use, having stood the test of time. Brunel’s first engineering project, the Thames Tunnel, is now part of the London Overground network. The Brunel Engine House at Rotherhithe, which once housed the steam engines that powered the tunnel pumps, now houses the Brunel Museum dedicated to the work and lives of Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Many of Brunel’s original papers and designs are now held in the Brunel Institute alongside the SS Great Britain in Bristol, and are freely available for researchers.

Nigel Gresley

Best known for designing the A4 steam locomotive, Sir Nigel Gresley, The Chief mechanical Engineer of London North Eastern Railway, sadly passed away 5 April 1941. He was Born 19 June 1876 he became one of Britain’s most famous steam locomotive engineers, rising to become Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER). He was the designer of some of the most famous steam locomotives in Britain, including the LNER Class A1 and LNER Class A4 4-6-2 Pacific engines. An A1, Flying Scotsman, was the first steam locomotive officially recorded over 100 mph in passenger service, and an A4, number 4468 Mallard, still holds the record for being the fastest steam locomotive in the world (126 mph). Gresley’s engines were considered elegant, both aesthetically and mechanically. His invention of a three-cylinder design with only two sets of Walschaerts valve gear, the Gresley conjugated valve gear, produced smooth running and power at lower cost than would have been achieved with a more conventional three sets of Walschaerts valve gearMechanical .

Gresley was born in Edinburgh, but was raised in Netherseal, Derbyshire, a member of the cadet branch of a family long seated at Gresley, Derbyshire. After attending school in Sussex and at Marlborough College, Gresley served his apprenticeship at the Crewe works of the London and North Western Railway, afterwards becoming a pupil under John Aspinall at Horwich of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR). After several minor appointments with the L&YR he was made Outdoor Assistant in the Carriage and Wagon Department in 1901; in 1902 he was appointed Assistant Works Manager at Newton Heath depot, and Works Manager the following year.

This rapid rise in his career continued and, in 1904, he became Assistant Superintendent of the Carriage and Wagon Department of the L&YR. A year later, he moved to the Great Northern Railway (GNR) as Carriage and Wagon Superintendent. He succeeded Henry A. Ivatt as CME of the GNR on 1 October 1911. At the 1923 Grouping, he was appointed CME of the newly formed LNER (the post had originally been offered to the ageing John G. Robinson; Robinson declined and suggested the much younger Gresley). In 1936, Gresley was awarded an honorary DSc by Manchester University and a knighthood by King Edward VIII; also in that year he presided over the IMechE

During the 1930s, Sir Nigel Gresley lived at Salisbury Hall, near St. Albans in Hertfordshire. Gresley developed an interest in breeding wild birds and ducks in the moat; intriguingly, among the species were Mallard ducks. The Hall still exists today as a private residence and is adjacent to the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre, with its links to the design of the famous Mosquito aircraft during World War II .In 1936, Gresley designed the 1,500V DC locomotives for the proposed electrification of the Woodhead Line between Manchester and Sheffield. However The Second World War forced the postponement of the project, which was completed in the early 1950s. Sadly Gresley did not live to see the result, tragically dying after a short illness on 5 April 1941 he was buried in Netherseal, Derbyshire. Gresley was succeeded as the LNER CME by Edward Thompson. There is a statue of Sir Nigel Gresley at Kings Cross in London, complete with duck although there are moves afoot to have the duck removed and the new statue without the duck was unveiled 5 April 2016.

Charles Collette CME

The great Western Railways’ Chief Mechanical locomotive Engineer Charles Benjamin Collett sadly passed away 5 April. He was Born 10 September 1871 and was chief mechanical engineer of the Great Western Railway from 1922 to 1941. He designed (amongst others) the GWR’s 4-6-0 Castle and King Class express passenger locomotives. Collett’s predecessor, George Jackson Churchward had delivered to the GWR from Swindon a series of class leading and innovative locomotives, and arguably by the early 1920s the Great Western‘s 2-cylinder and 4-cylinder 4-6-0 designs were substantially superior to the locomotives of the other railway groupings. In 1922 Churchward retired, and Charles Benjamin Collett inherited a legacy of excellent standardised designs. However, with costs rising and revenues falling, there was a need to rationalise the number of pre-grouping designs and to develop more powerful locomotives, hence the creation of the Big four railway companies in 1923 – Great Western, London Midland Scottish, London North East and Southern Railways.

Collett was a practical development engineer and he took Churchward’s designs and developed them – the Hall from the Saint class, and the Castle from the Star. He was also responsible for more humble locomotives, such as many of the pannier tank classes. However despite this he received criticism by contemporary engineers and later railway historians for undertaking very little innovation in his designs, instead sticking with Churchward’s style in every case. Arguably this meant that by the time Collett retired the superiority of Great Western locomotives was lost to more modern designs, particularly those of William Stanier, who worked at Swindon before moving to the LMS in 1932, and took Churchward’s style with him but developed it in line with the progression in steam technology.

By 1926, GWR’s competitors had caught up, so Collett was asked to design something bigger than the Castle in order to haul heavy expresses at an average speed of 60 mph. So Great Western’s General Manager Sir Felix Pole told Collett to proceed with the design and construction of a “Super-Castle”. The result was the King class 4-6-0 design which emerged from Swindon works in June 1927. This had dimensions never previously seen, and represented the ultimate development of Churchward’s four cylinder concept. It was the heaviest (136 tons), and had the highest tractive effort (40,300 lbs.) of any 4-6-0 locomotive ever to run in the United Kingdom. However Because of its weight, the King class was restricted to a limited number of routes. Nevertheless the king class locomotives are an impressive sight.

Severn Valley Railway Spring Steam Gala 2019

The Severn Valley Railway Spring Steam Gala, takes place from March 15th until March 17th 2019 and features 10 steam locomotives. GWR No. 1450 was also due to work the push-pull autotrain however this will now be replaced by Pannier Tank No. 1501, which will be paired with Autocoach No. 178 and as No. 1501 is not auto-fitted, the service will no longer be push-pull. There are four visiting locomotives which will work alongside the home fleet for the gala. Visiting locomotives this year include:

  • GWR Pannier Tank No. 6430. This tank engine worked Autotrains in the South Wales Valleys from 1940 until 1954, being based at Pontypool and Newport during this time. With thanks to Llangollen Railway.
  • GWR Large Prairie No. 4144. This Large Prairie locomotive was Based at Tondu for a number of years,  and was used for hauling local passenger trains deep in South Wales. With thanks to Great Western Preservation.
  • GWR 5600 No. 5619 “Taffy Tank” This Locomotive regularly hauled Heavy coal trains before being preserved, having been based at Barry for a number of years. With thanks to Telford Horsehay Steam Trust.
  • LNWR ‘Coal Tank’ No. 1054.  This locomotive was built in 1888 and worked the last passenger train over the Merthyr & Abergavenny Railway on January 5th 1958. It was the last surviving member of its class, and was put into store at Abergavenny in the late 1950s where it was fitted with a snow plough in event of disruptive snowfalls during the winter months. It was brought out of storage to assist with the last passenger train over the Merthyr & Abergavenny Railway, on a special excursion. With thanks to the National Trust & Bahamas Locomotive Society.

Home fleet locomotives operating during the Severn Valley Railway Spring Steam Gala include:

  • GWR Saddle Tank No. 813. This locomotive was Originally built for the Port Talbot Railway & Docks Company, and was predominantly used for hauling coal trains and shunting in colliery sidings.
  • GWR Pannier Tank No. 1501. This locomotive was regularly used for hauling long rakes of empty coaching stock in and out of Paddington Station.
  • GWR heavy-freight 2-8-0 No. 2857. This Great Western frieght Locomotive ended its working life in Neath (having spent many years at other sheds in South Wales) after covering 1,276,713 miles.
  • GWR Pannier Tank 0-6-0 No. 7714. This was one of Hundreds of Pannier Tanks which were built for the Great Western Railway, with No. 7714 being based in mid-Wales until 1959 when it was sold to NCB Penallta Colliery in South Wales.
  • GWR Manor 4-6-0 No. 7802 Bradley Manor. The GWR 4-6-0 Manor locomotives are associated with the Cambrian Network, and No. 7802 Bradley Manor could often be found hauling the Cambrian Coast Express from Shrewsbury to the coast in the post-war years.
  • British Rail Standard 4 locomotive No. 75069 . This locomotive was originally built at Swindon Works. The Standard 4s could often be found operating in Wales, with No. 75069 ending up in Barry Scarpyard until it was overhauled at the Severn Valley Railway entering service again in 2019


On 21 February 1804, the world’s first self propelling locomotive, the Pen-y-Darren, ran along the Merthyr Tydfil treatment road from Pen-y-Darren to Abercynon a distance of 9.75 miles(16 kilometres). The Pen-y-Darren was based on a 1802, high-pressure steam engines which had been built by Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick to drive a hammer at the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil, Mid Glamorgan . With the assistance of Rees Jones, an employee of the iron works and under the supervision of Samuel Homfray, the proprietor, The engine was mounted on wheels and turned it into a locomotive. In 1803, Trevithick sold the patents for his locomotives to Samuel Homfray.

Homfray was so impressed with Trevithick’s locomotive that he made a bet with another ironmaster, Richard Crawshay, for 500 guineas that Trevithick’s steam locomotive could haul ten tons of iron along the Merthyr Tydfil Tramroad from Penydarren to Abercynon. Amid great interest from the public, on 21 February 1804 it successfully carried 10 tons of iron, 5 wagons and 70 men the full distance in 4 hours and 5 minutes, an average speed of approximately 2.4 mph (3.9 km/h). as well as Homfray, Crawshay and the passengers, other witnesses includedMr. Giddy, a respected patron of Trevithick and an ‘engineer from the Government’. the engineer from the government was probably a safety inspector and particularly interested in the boiler’s ability to withstand high steam pressures.

The configuration of the Pen-y-darren engine differed from the Coalbrookdale engine. The cylinder was moved to the other end of the boiler so that the firedoor was out of the way of the moving parts. This obviously also involved putting the crankshaft at the chimney end. The locomotive comprised a boiler with a single return flue mounted on a four wheel frame at one end, a single cylinderwith very long stroke was mounted partly in the boiler, and a piston rod crosshead ran out along a slidebar, an arrangement that looked like a giant trombone. As there was only one cylinder, this was coupled to a large flywheel mounted on one side. The rotational inertia of the flywheel would even out the movement that was transmitted to a central cog-wheel that was, in turn connected to the driving wheels. It used a high-pressure cylinder without a condenser, the exhaust steam was sent up the chimney assisting the draught through the fire, increasing efficiency even more.


Despite many people’s doubts, he won the bet and showed that, provided that the gradient was sufficiently gentle, it was possible to successfully haul heavy carriages along a “smooth” iron road using the adhesive weight alone of a suitably heavy and powerful steam locomotive. Trevithick’s was probably the first to do so; however some of the short cast iron plates of the tramroad broke under the locomotive as they were intended only to support the lighter axle load of horse-drawn wagons and so the tramroad returned to horse power after the initial test run. Homfray was pleased he won his bet. The engine was placed on blocks and reverted to its original stationary job of driving hammers. In modern Merthyr Tydfil, behind the monument to Trevithick’s locomotive is a stone wall, the sole remainder of the former boundary wall of Homfray’s Penydarren House. A full-scale working reconstruction of the Pen-y-darren locomotive was commissioned in 1981 and delivered to the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum in Cardiff; when that closed, it was moved to the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea. Several times a year it is run on a 40m length of rail outside the museum.

James Watt FRS FRSE

Scottish inventor, mechanical engineer, and chemist James Watt FRS FRSE was born 30 January 1736 (19 January 1736 OS in Greenock, Renfrewshire. His father was a shipwright, ship owner and contractor, and served as the town’s chief baillie,while his mother, Agnes Muirhead, came from a well educated distinguished family. Watt’s grandfather, Thomas Watt, was a mathematics teacher and baillie to the Baron of Cartsburn. Watt did not attend school regularly; initially he was mostly schooled at home by his mother but later he attended Greenock Grammar School. He exhibited great manual dexterity, engineering skills and an aptitude for mathematics, but is said to have suffered prolonged bouts of ill-health as a child.

When he was eighteen, his mother died and his father’s health began to fail. Watt travelled to London to study instrument-making for a year, then returned to Scotland, settling in Glasgow intent on setting up his own instrument-making business. He made and repaired brass reflecting quadrants, parallel rulers, scales, parts for telescopes, and barometers, among other things. However Because he had not served at least seven years as an apprentice, the Glasgow Guild of Hammermen (which had jurisdiction over any artisans using hammers) blocked his application, despite there being no other mathematical instrument makers in Scotland. However the arrival of astronomical instruments, bequeathed by Alexander Macfarlane to the University of Glasgow which required expert handling, Allowed Watt to bypass this stalemate. These instruments were eventually installed in the Macfarlane Observatory. He was offered the opportunity to set up a small workshop within the university by two of the professors, the physicist and chemist Joseph Black and Adam Smith. At first he worked on maintaining and repairing scientific instruments used in the university, helping with demonstrations, and expanding the production of quadrants. In 1759 he formed a partnership with John Craig, an architect and businessman, to manufacture and sell a line of products including musical instruments and toys. This partnership lasted for the next six years, and employed up to sixteen workers.

While working as an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow, Watt became interested in the technology of steam engines After noticing the steam from a boiling kettle forced the lid to move. His friend, John Robison, then suggested steam could be used as a source of motive power. He realized that contemporary steam engine designs wasted a great deal of energy by repeatedly cooling and reheating the cylinder. Watt introduced a design enhancement, the separate condenser, which avoided this waste of energy and radically improved the power, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of steam engines. Eventually he adapted his engine to produce rotary motion, greatly broadening its use beyond pumping water. Watt dramatically improved on the efficiency of Thomas Newcomen’s 1712 Newcomen steam engine with his Watt steam engine in 1781, which was fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world.

The design of the Newcomen engine, in use for almost 50 years for pumping water from mines, had hardly changed from its first implementation. Watt began to experiment with steam, though he had never seen an operating steam engine. He tried constructing a model. He realised the importance of latent heat—the thermal energy released or absorbed during a constant-temperature process—in understanding the engine, which, unknown to Watt, his friend Joseph Black had previously discovered some years before. In 1763, Watt was asked to repair a model Newcomen engine belonging to the university. Even after repair, the engine barely worked. After much experimentation, Watt demonstrated that about three-quarters of the thermal energy of the steam was being wasted heating the engine cylinder on every cycle. Watt decided to condense the steam in a separate chamber apart from the piston, and to maintain the temperature of the cylinder at the same temperature as the injected steam by surrounding it with a “steam jacket.Thus very little energy was absorbed by the cylinder on each cycle, making more available to perform useful work. Sadly Watt had financial difficulties constructing a full scale engine to demonstrate his findings. Luckily backing came from John Roebuck, the founder of the celebrated Carron Iron Works near Falkirk, with whom he now formed a partnership. Roebuck lived at Kinneil House in Bo’ness, during which time Watt worked at perfecting his steam engine, however the Piston and cylinder could not be manufactured with sufficient precision. Watt also worked first as a surveyor, then as a civil engineer for eight years to finance his work. Sadly

Sadly Roebuck went bankrupt, however salvation came in the form of Matthew Boulton, who owned the Soho Manufactory works near Birmingham, and acquired his patent rights. Through Boulton, Watt finally had access to some of the best iron workers in the world. The difficulty of the manufacture of a large cylinder with a tightly fitting piston was solved by John Wilkinson, who had developed precision boring techniques for cannon making at Bersham, near Wrexham, North Wales. Watt and Boulton formed a hugely successful partnership (Boulton and Watt) which lasted for the next twenty-five years.In 1776, the first engines were installed and working in commercial enterprises. These first engines were used to power pumps and produced only reciprocating motion to move the pump rods at the bottom of the shaft. The design was commercially successful, and for the next five years Watt installed more engines, mostly in Cornwall for pumping water out of mines. These early engines were not manufactured by Boulton and Watt, but were made by others according to drawings made by Watt, who served in the role of consulting engineer. The field of application for the invention was greatly widened when Boulton urged Watt to convert the reciprocating motion of the piston to produce rotational power for grinding, weaving and milling. Although a crank seemed the obvious solution to the conversion Watt and Boulton were stymied by a patent for this, whose holder, James Pickard, and associates proposed to cross-license the external condenser. Watt adamantly opposed this and they circumvented the patent by their sun and planet gear in 1781.

Watt made a number of other improvements and modifications to the steam engine. Such as A double acting engine, in which the steam acted alternately on the two sides of the piston. He also described methods for working the steam “expansively” (i.e., using steam at pressures well above atmospheric). He designed A compound engine, which connected two or more engines, a steam indicator which prevented these primative boilers from exploding and parallel motion which was essential in double-acting engines as it produced the straight line motion required for the cylinder rod and pump, from the connected rocking beam, whose end moves in a circular arc. He also created a throttle valve to control the power of the engine, and a centrifugal governor, all of which made his Steam Engines far more efficient than the Newcomen Engine. In order to minimaze the risk of exploding boilers, Watt restricted his use of high pressure steam and all of his engines used steam at near atmospheric pressure. Watt entered a partnership with Matthew Boulton in 1775. The new firm of Boulton and Watt was eventually highly successful and Watt became a wealthy man.

Watt retired in 1800, the same year that his fundamental patent and partnership with Boulton expired. The famous partnership was transferred to the men’s sons, Matthew Robinson Boulton and James Watt Jr. Watt continued to invent other things before and during his semi-retirement though none was as significant as his steam engine work. He invented and constructed several machines for copying sculptures and medallions. He maintained his interest in civil engineering and was a consultant on several significant projects. He proposed, for example, a method for constructing a flexible pipe to be used for pumping water under the Clyde at Glasgow. He and his second wife travelled to France and Germany, and he purchased an estate in mid-Wales at Doldowlod House, one mile south of Llanwrthwl. In 1816 he took a trip on the paddle-steamer Comet, a product of his inventions, to revisit his home town of Greenock. James Watt’s improvements to the steam engine converted it from a prime mover of marginal efficiency into the mechanical workhorse of the Industrial Revolution. The availability of efficient, reliable motive power made whole new classes of industry economically viable, and altered the economies of continents. This brought about immense social change, attracting millions of rural families to the towns and cities.

English novelist Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) wrote of Watt; “To us, the moment 8:17 A.M. means something – something very important, if it happens to be the starting time of our daily train. To our ancestors, such an odd eccentric instant was without significance – did not even exist. In inventing the locomotive, Watt and Stephenson were part inventors of time.”

Watt Sadly died on 25 August 1819 at his home “Heathfield” in Handsworth, Staffordshire (now part of Birmingham) at the age of 83. He was buried on 2 September in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church, Handsworth. However he received many honours for his pioneering work during his lifetime. In 1784 he was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and was elected as a member of the Batavian Society for Experimental Philosophy, of Rotterdam in 1787. In 1789 he was elected to the elite group, the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers. In 1806 he was conferred the honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of Glasgow. The French Academy elected him a Corresponding Member and he was made a Foreign Associate in 1814. The watt is named after James Watt for his contributions to the development of the steam engine, and was adopted by the Second Congress of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1889 and by the 11th General Conference on Weights and Measures in 1960 as the unit of power incorporated in the International System of Units (or “SI”).Boulton and Watt also feature on a Bank of England £50 note. the two industrialists pictured side by side with images of Watt’s steam engine and Boulton’s Soho Manufactory. Quotes attributed to each of the men are inscribed on the note: “I sell here, sir, what all the world desires to have—POWER” (Boulton) and “I can think of nothing else but this machine” (Watt). In 2011 he was one of seven inaugural inductees to the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame.

Metropolitan Railway

The Metropolitan Railway (also known as the Met opened on 10 January 1863 between Farringdon Station and London Paddington Station. It served London from 1863 to 1933, its main line heading north-west from the capital’s financial heart in the City to what were to become the Middlesex suburbs. Its first line connected the main-line railway termini at Paddington, Euston, and King’s Cross to the City. The first section was built beneath the New Road using the “cut-and-cover” method between Paddington and King’s Cross and in tunnel and cuttings beside Farringdon Road from King’s Cross to near Smithfield, near the City. It opened to the public on 10 January 1863 with gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives, and became the world’s first passenger-carrying designated underground railway.

The line was soon extended from both ends, and northwards via a branch from Baker Street. It reached Hammersmith in 1864, Richmond in 1877 and completed the Inner Circle in 1884, however the most important route was the line north into the Middlesex countryside, where it stimulated the development of new suburbs. Harrow was reached in 1880, and the line eventually extended to Verney Junction in Buckinghamshire, more than 50 miles (80 kilometres) from Baker Street and the centre of London.

Electric traction was introduced in 1905 and by 1907 electric multiple units operated most of the services, though electrification of outlying sections did not occur until decades later. Unlike other railway companies in the London area, the Met developed land for housing, and after World War I promoted housing estates near the railway using the “Metro-land” brand. On 1 July 1933, the Met was amalgamated with the Underground Electric Railways Company of London and the capital’s tramway and bus operators to form the London Passenger Transport Board. Former Met tracks and stations are used by the London Underground’s Metropolitan, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Piccadilly, and Jubilee lines, and by Chiltern Railways.