Sir John Fowler KCMG LLD

English civil engineer Sir John Fowler, 1st Baronet KCMG LLD was born 15 July 1817. in Wadsley, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, to land surveyor John Fowler and his wife Elizabeth (née Swann). He was educated privately at Whitley Hall near Ecclesfield. He trained under John Towlerton Leather, engineer of the Sheffield waterworks, and with Leather’s uncle, George Leather, on the Aire and Calder Navigation an railway surveys. From 1837 he worked for John Urpeth Rastrick on railway projects including the London and Brighton Railway and the unbuilt West Cumberland and Furness Railway. He then worked again for George Leather as resident engineer on the Stockton and Hartlepool Railway and was appointed engineer to the railway when it opened in 1841. Fowler initially established a practice as a consulting engineer in the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire area, but, a heavy workload led him to move to London in 1844. He became a member of theInstitution of Mechanical Engineers in 1847, the year the Institution was founded, and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1849

Victoria Bridge

He specialised in the construction of railways and railway infrastructure . In 1853, he became chief engineer of the Metropolitan Railway in London, the world’s first underground railway, which opened between Paddington and Farringdon in 1863. Fowler was also engineer for the associated Metropolitan District Railway and the Hammersmith and City Railway. They were built by the “cut-and-cover” method under city streets. To avoid problems with smoke and steam overwhelming staff and passengers on the covered sections of the Metropolitan Railway, Fowler proposed a fireless locomotive. The locomotive was built by Robert Stephenson and Company and was a broad gauge 2-4-0 tender engine. The boiler had a normal firebox connected to a large combustion chamber containing fire bricks which were to act as a heat reservoir. The combustion chamber was linked to the smokebox through a set of very short firetubes. Exhaust steam was re-condensed instead of escaping and feed back to the boiler. The locomotive was intended to operate conventionally in the open, but in tunnels dampers would be closed and steam would be generated using the stored heat from the fire bricks. The first trial on the Great Western Railway in October 1861 was a failure. The condensing system leaked, causing the boiler to run dry and pressure to drop, risking a boiler explosion. A second trial on the Metropolitan Railway in 1862 was also a failure, and the fireless engine was abandoned, becoming known as “Fowler’s Ghost”. The locomotive was sold to Isaac Watt Boulton in 1865; he intended to convert it into a standard engine but it was eventually scrapped. On opening, the Metropolitan Railway’s trains were provided by the Great Western Railway, but these were withdrawn in August 1863. After a period hiring trains from the Great Northern Railway, the Metropolitan Railway introduced its own, Fowler designed, 4-4-0 tank engines in 1864. The design, known as the A class and, with minor updates, the B class, was so successful that the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railways eventually had 120 of the engines in use and they remained in operation until electrification of the lines in the 1900s. Today these railways form the majority of the London Underground’s Circle line

Albert Edward Bridge, Coalbrookdale

Fowler established a busy practice, working on many railway schemes across the country. He became chief engineer for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway and was engineer of the East Lincolnshire Railway, the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway and the Severn Valley Railway. Other railways that Fowler consulted for were the London Tilbury and Southend Railway, the Great Northern Railway, the Highland Railway and the Cheshire Lines Railway. Following the death of Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1859, Fowler was retained by the Great Western Railway. His various appointments involved him in the design of Victoria station in London, Sheffield Victoria station, St Enoch station in Glasgow, Liverpool Central station and Manchester Central station.The latter station’s 210-foot (64 m) wide train shed roof was the second widest unsupported iron arch in Britain after the roof of St Pancras railway station. Fowler’s consulting work extended beyond Britain including railway and engineering projects in Algeria, Australia, Belgium, Egypt, France, Germany, Portugal and the United States. He travelled to Egypt for the first time in 1869 and worked on a number of, mostly unrealised, schemes for the Khedive, including a railway to Khartoum in Sudan which was planned in 1875 but not completed until after his death.

In 1870 he provided advice to an Indian Government inquiry on railway gauges where he recommended a narrow gauge of 3 feet 6 inches (1.07 m) for light railways.He visited Australia in 1886, where he made some remarks on the break of gauge difficulty. Later in his career, he was also a consultant with his partner Benjamin Baker and with James Henry Greathead on two of London’s first tube railways, the City and South London Railway and the Central London Railway. As part of his railway projects, Fowler also designed numerous bridges. In the 1860s, he designed Grosvenor Bridge, the first railway bridge over the River Thames,and the 13-arch Dollis Brook Viaduct for the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway. He is credited with the design of the Victoria Bridge at Upper Arley, Worcestershire, constructed between 1859 and 1861,and the near identical Albert Edward Bridge at Coalbrookdale, Shropshire built from 1863 to 1864. Both remain in use today carrying railway lines across the River Severn. In the 1880s, he was chief engineer for the Forth Railway Bridge, which opened in 1890 and Following the collapse of Sir Thomas Bouch’s Tay Bridge in 1879, Fowler, William Henry Barlow and Thomas Elliot Harrison were appointed in 1881 to a commission to review Bouch’s design for the Forth Railway Bridge. The commission recommended a steel cantilever bridge designed by Fowler and Benjamin Baker, which was constructed between 1883 and 1890

Fowler stood unsuccessfully for parliament as a Conservative candidate in 1880 and 1885. His standing within the engineering profession was very high, to the extent that he was elected president of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1865, its youngest president. Through his position in the Institution and through his own practice, he led the development of training for engineers. In 1857, he purchased a 57,000 acres (23,000 ha) estate at Braemore in Ross-shire, Scotland, where he spent frequent holidays and where he was a Justice of the Peace and a Deputy Lieutenant of the County.He listed his recreations in Who’s Who as yachting and deerstalking and was a member of the Carlton Club, St Stephen’s Club, the Conservative Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron. He was also President of the Egyptian Exploration Fund.In 1885 he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George as thanks from the government for allowing the use of maps of the Upper Nile valley he had had made when working on the Khedive’s projects. They were the most accurate survey of the area and were used in the British Relief of Khartoum. Following the successful completion of the Forth Railway Bridge in 1890, Fowler was created a baronet, taking the name of his Scottish estate as his territorial designation. Along with Benjamin Baker, he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Edinburgh in 1890 for his engineering of the bridge. In 1892, the Poncelet Prize was doubled and awarded jointly to Baker and Fowler. Fowler died in Bournemouth, Dorset, at the age of 81 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London. He was succeeded in the baronetcy by his son, Sir John Arthur Fowler, 2nd Baronet (died 25 March 1899). The baronetcy became extinct in 1933 on the death of Reverend Sir Montague Fowler, 4th Baronet, the first baronet’s third son.

Frederick Hawksworth CME

BR 2-6-0 1501pt

The last Great Western Railway Chief Mechanical Engineer Frederick William Hawksworth sadly died 13 July 1976. He was born 10 February 1884 in Swindon, and he joined the GWR in 1898, aged 15 where he worked Under George Churchward and C.B.  Collett before becoming Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Great Western Railway when he was 57, in 1941. Having been at the forefront of steam locomotive development under George Jackson Churchward, ideas at Swindon Works had somewhat stagnated under the later years of his successor C. B. Collett, whose reluctance to give up the CME’s post resulted in Hawksworth’s lateness in taking up this position. Hawksworth had been one of Churchward’s “Bright Young Men”, and was involved in Churchward’s designs: he worked on, for example, the general arrangement drawings for “The Great Bear”.

Hawksworth continued in the design tradition which he had been involved in throughout his career, but made some important improvements. In particular increased superheat started to be fitted to the larger classes under his regime, and the works started to make much more use of welded construction. Another prominent new concept was a tender with slab sides, using welded construction, giving a much smoother appearance than the traditional design with stepped sides and riveted plates. His first design to be built, from 1944, was the Modified Hall, a significant development of the Collett design with increased superheat and very different cylinder and frame construction.After the war there were four more new designs, mostly improvements of earlier types. The ‘County’ Class 4-6-0 was the last and most powerful GWR 2-cylinder 4-6-0, the culmination of a line that began with the ‘Saints’ 42 years before. The chassis was similar to the modified Hall, but the boilers were to a new design, larger in diameter than the Std 1 (Hall) boiler but smaller in diameter and appreciably shorter than the Castle boiler. This boiler used tooling which was available from LMS 8F 2-8-0 boilers which Swindon had built for the Railway Executive during World War II and was pressed to 280psi, higher pressure than any previous GWR boiler.

They used some of the names from the vanished Churchward County Class 4-4-0s. He also designed The taper boilered 9400 Class 0-6-0 pannier tank, which were similar to the 5700 class under the footplate but had a much larger boiler giving them more power and adhesive weight – and thus braking capacity. Only the first ten, built by the Swindon, appeared under the GWR. The last two designs were only seen in British Railways livery. Arguably his most radical design was the 1500 Class. This had the same boiler as the 9400 but an all new short wheelbase chassis with outside Walschaerts valve gear and no running plate, and made considerable use of welded construction, the only remaining 15xx class left, no.1501, can currently be seen on the Severn Valley Railway. They were designed for easy maintenance by the trackside. The last Hawksworth design was a very light conventional 0-6-0 pannier tank, the 1600 Class. This was a modernisation of the 2021 Class.

Hawksworth remained Chief Mechanical Engineer through the formation of the Western Region of British Railways in 1948, continuing to work on locomotive design until retiring at the end of 1949. He died in Swindon 27 years later in July 1976. His ashes are buried in St. Mark’s Church, adjacent to the former site of Swindon Works.

LNER 4468 Mallard

On 3 July 1938 The London and North Eastern Railway A4 Class 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive Number 4468 “Mallard” set the official world speed record for steam locomotives at 125.88 mph (202.58 km/h). The record was achieved on the slight downward grade of Stoke Bank south of Grantham on the East Coast Main Line, and the highest speed was recorded at milepost 90¼, between Little Bytham and Essendine. It broke the German (DRG Class 05) 002’s 1936 record of 124.5 mph (200.4 km/h) Mallard still officially holds the record and as plaques affixed to each side of the locomotive commemorate the feat. LNER 4468 Mallard was built at Doncaster, England in 1938. It was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley as an express locomotive to power high-speed streamlined trains. Its wind-tunnel-tested, aerodynamic body and high power allowed it to reach speeds of over 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), though in everyday service it was relatively uncommon for any steam hauled service to reach even 90mph, much less 100.

In 1948, the newly formed British Railways, decided to test locomotives from all of the former ‘Big Four’ companies to find the best attributes of speed, power and efficiency with coal and water. There were two ways of testing and comparing locomotives: either at the Rugby Locomotive testing plant, which was not ready until late 1948 or by testing in the field itself. The results of these trials would be used to help design the British Railways Standard design of locomotives. The express passenger locomotive designs which would be compared were: London Midland Region (former LMS) Princess Coronation class, Eastern Region (former LNER) Class A4, Southern Region (former Southern) Merchant Navy class and Western Region (former GWR) 6000 Class or King class. Three Gresley A4 locomotives were chosen to represent the Eastern Region: E22 Mallard, 60033 Seagull and 60034 Lord Faringdon. All of the locomotives had the Kylchap double blastpipe chimney arrangement and were fresh from Doncaster works. Mallard had emerged from Doncaster with a fresh coat of post-war garter blue livery, stainless steel numbers 22 with a small ‘E’ painted above them (for Eastern region), new boiler (her fourth) and third tender of her career.

E22 Mallard was used on 8 June 1948 on the Waterloo-Exeter route. Driver Marrable took the famous A4 with a load of 481 tons tare, 505 tons full, the same that had been used on the previous trip by 35018 British India Line. Mallard got through Clapham Junction in 6 minutes 57 seconds, Woking in 28 minutes 47 seconds. At Hook there were adverse signals, causing Mallard to slow to a crawl. Even so, Salisbury was reached in 108 minutes and 28 seconds. Despite the signals earlier, the train was only 5-and-a-half minutes late. The net time was 95.5 minutes. Mallard failed after this trial and 60033 Seagull took over. 10 June saw Seagull achieve the run in 96 minutes 22 seconds, but had departed 3 minutes late, meaning Seagull had arrived with the same load 3.5 minutes early. For Mallard, the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials were over, but Mallard was to return to the Waterloo-Exeter line for a Locomotive Club of Great Britain (LCGB) railtour in 24 February 1963 after wch it was retired, having covered almost one and a half million miles (2.4 million km).

LNER 4468 “Mallard” was restored to working order in the 1980s, and ran some specials between York and Scarborough in July 1986 and a couple of runs between York and Harrogate/Leeds around Easter 1987. Mallard is now part of the National Collection at the United Kingdom’s National Railway Museum in York. On the weekend of 5 July 2008, Mallard was taken outside for the first time in years and displayed alongside her A4 sisters, thus reuniting all four A4s extant in the UK for the first time since preservation. She departed the museum for Locomotion, the NRM’s outbase at Shildon on the 23 June 2010, where she was a static exhibit, until she was hauled back to York on 19 July 2011 and put back on display in its original location in the Great Hall.

In 2013, To celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Mallard achieving the world record speed for a steam locomotive of 126mph in 1938, LNER 4468 Mallard was reunited with the only other surviving A4 locomotives for theGreat Gathering inside the Great Hall at the National Railway Museum, It was joined by the temporarily repatriated A4′s Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada as well as A4′s No 60019 (LNER 4464) Bittern, 60007 (LNER 4498) Sir Nigel Gresley and 60009 Union of South Africa in the Great Hall at the National Railway Museum in York on 3 July 2013. Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada eventually went home in Spring 2014 and Bittern, Sir Nigel Gresley and union of South Africa have since been busy doing various Rail Tours and Steam Galas.

Thomas Savery

On 2 July 1698, English inventor Thomas Savery patented an early steam engine for raising water and allowing motion to all sorts of mill work by the impellent force of fire, which will be of great use and advantage for draining mines, serving towns with water, and for the working of all sorts of mills which don’t have water or constant winds. He demonstrated it to the Royal Society on 14 June 1699. The patent has no illustrations or even description, but in 1702 Savery described the machine in his book The Miner’s Friend; or, An Engine to Raise Water by Fire, in which he claimed that it could pump water out of mines. Savery’s engine had no piston, and no moving parts except from the taps. It was operated by first raising steam in the boiler; the steam was then admitted to the working vessel, allowing it to blow out through a downpipe into the water that was to be raised. When the system was hot and therefore full of steam the tap between the boiler and the working vessel was shut, and if necessary the outside of the vessel was cooled. This made the steam inside it condense, creating a partial vacuum, and atmospheric pressure pushed water up the downpipe until the vessel was full.

At this point the tap below the vessel was closed, and the tap between it and the up-pipe opened, and more steam was admitted from the boiler. As the steam pressure built up, it forced the water from the vessel up the up-pipe to the top of the mine.However, his engine hadfour serious problems. First, every time water was admitted to the working vessel much of the heat was wasted in warming up the water that was being pumped. Secondly, the second stage of the process required high-pressure steam to force the water up, and the engine’s soldered joints were barely capable of withstanding high pressure steam and needed frequent repair. Thirdly, although this engine used positive steam pressure to push water up out of the engine (with no theoretical limit to the height to which water could be lifted by a single high-pressure engine) practical and safety considerations meant that in practice, to clear water from a deep mine would have needed a series of moderate-pressure engines all the way from the bottom level to the surface. Fourthly, water was pushed up into the engine only by atmospheric pressure (working against a condensed-steam ‘vacuum’), so the engine had to be no more than about 30 feet (9.1 m) above the water level – requiring it to be installed, operated, and maintained far down in the mine.

Savery’s original patent of July 1698 gave 14 years’ protection; the next year, 1699, an Act of Parliament was passed which extended his protection for a further 21 years. This Act became known as the “Fire Engine Act”. Savery’s patent covered all engines that raised water by fire, and it thus played an important role in shaping the early development of steam machinery in the British Isles.The architect James Smith of Whitehill acquired the rights to use Savery’s engine in Scotland. In 1699, he entered into an agreement with the inventor, and in 1701 he secured a patent from the Parliament of Scotland, modeled on Savery’s grant in England, and designed to run for the same period of time. Smith described the machine as “an engyne or invention for raiseing of water and occasioning motion of mill-work by the force of fire”, and he claimed to have modified it to pump from a depth of 14 fathoms, or 84 feet. In England, Savery’s patent meant that Thomas Newcomen was forced to go into partnership with him.

By 1712, arrangements had been between the two men to develop Newcomen’s more advanced design of steam engine, which was marketed under Savery’s patent. Newcomen’s engine worked purely by atmospheric pressure, thereby avoiding the dangers of high-pressure steam, and used the piston concept invented in 1690 by the Frenchman Denis Papin to produce the first steam engine capable of raising water from deep mines. After his death in 1715 Savery’s patent and Act of Parliament became vested in a company, The Proprietors of the Invention for Raising Water by Fire. This company issued licences to others for the building and operation of Newcomen engines, charging as much as £420 per year patent royalties for the construction of steam engines. In one case a colliery paid the Proprietors £200 per year and half their net profits “in return for their services in keeping the engine going”.The Fire Engine Act did not expire until 1733, four years after the death of Newcomen.

A newspaper in March 1702 announced that Savery’s engines were ready for use and might be seen on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons at his workhouse in Salisbury Court, London, over against the Old Playhouse.One of his engines was set up at York Buildings in London. According to later descriptions this produced steam ‘eight or ten times stronger than common air’ (i.e. 8-10 atmospheres), but blew open the joints of the machine, forcing him to solder the joints with spelter. Another was built to control the water supply at Hampton Court, while another at Campden House in Kensington operated for 18 years.A few Savery engines were tried in mines, an unsuccessful attempt being made to use one to clear water from a pool called Broad Waters in Wednesbury (then in Staffordshire) and nearby coal mines. This had been covered by a sudden eruption of water some years before. However the engine could not be ‘brought to answer’. The quantity of steam raised was so great as ‘rent the whole machine to pieces’. The engine was laid aside, and the scheme for raising water was dropped as impracticable. This may have been in about 1705.Another engine was proposed in 1706 by George Sparrow at Newbold near Chesterfield, where a landowner was having difficulty in obtaining the consent of his neighbours for a sough to drain his coal. Nothing came of this, perhaps due to the explosion of the Broad Waters engine. It is also possible that an engine was tried at Wheal Vor, a copper mine in Cornwall. Several later pumping systems may be based on Savery’s pump. For example, the twin-chamber pulsometer steam pump was a successful development of it.

Sir Nigel Gresley

Famous for being the Cheif Mechanical Engineer for the London North East Railway, Sir Nigel Gresley was, Born 19 June 1876 he became one of Britain’s most famous steam locomotive engineers. He designed some of the most iconic and damous 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 gear.

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.

LNER 4468 Mallard

This rapid rise in his career was maintained 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 theWoodhead Line between Manchester and Sheffield. The Second World War forced the postponement of the project, which was completed in the early 1950s. Sadly Gresley died after a short illness on 5 April 1941 and was buried in Netherseal, Derbyshire. He was succeeded as the LNER Chief Mechanical Engineer by Edward Thompson. A statue commemorating Sir Nigel Gresley was unveiled at Kings Cross in London, complete with duck although the duck was removed as it was thought to poke fun at Gresley’s achievements and a new statue without the duck was unveiled 5 April 2016, however there was an outcry after the duck was removed and it has since been reinstated.

Reverend W. Awdry OBE

English cleric, railway enthusiast and children’s author Wilbert Vere Awdry, OBE was born 15th June 1911 better known as the Reverend W. Awdry he created Thomas the Tank Engine, who starred in Awdry’s acclaimed Railway Series. Awdry was born at Ampfield vicarage near Romsey, Hampshire in 1911. In 1917 the family moved to Box, in Wiltshire, moving again in 1919, and 1920, still in Box, the third house being Journey’s End which remained the family home until August 1928. Journey’s End was only 200 yards (180 m) from the western end of Box Tunnel where the Great Western Railway main line climbs at a gradient of 1 in 100 for two miles, and a banking engine was kept there to assist freight trains up the hill.

These trains usually ran at night and the young Wilbert could hear them from his bed, listening to the coded whistle signals between the train engine and the banker, and the sharp bark from the locomotive exhausts as they fought their way up the incline. Awdry related: “There was no doubt in my mind that steam engines all had definite personalities. I would hear them snorting up the grade and little imagination was needed to hear in the puffings and pantings of the two engines the conversation they were having with one another: ‘I can’t do it! I can’t do it! I can’t do it!’ ‘Yes, you can! Yes, you can! Yes, you can!’” Here was the inspiration for the story of Edward helping Gordon’s train up the hill, a story that Wilbert first told his son Christopher some 25 years later, and which appeared in the first of the Railway Series books

The characters that would make Awdry famous and the first stories featuring them were invented in 1943 to amuse his son Christopher during a bout of measles. After Awdry wrote The Three Railway Engines, he built Christopher a model of Edward, and some wagons and coaches, out of a broomstick and scraps of wood. Christopher also wanted a model of Gordon; however, as that was too difficult Awdry made a model of a little 0-6-0 tank engine. Awdry said: “The natural name was Thomas – Thomas the Tank Engine”. Then Christopher requested stories about Thomas and these duly followed and were published in the famous book Thomas the Tank Engine, released in 1946. The first book (The Three Railway Engines) was published in 1945, and by the time Awdry stopped writing in 1972, The Railway Series numbered 26 books.

Christopher subsequently added further books to the series.In 1952, Awdry volunteered as a guard on the Talyllyn Railway in Wales, then in its second year of preservation. The railway inspired Awdry to create the Skarloey Railway, based on the Talyllyn, with some of his exploits being written into the stories.Awdry’s enthusiasm for railways did not stop at his publications. He was involved in railway preservation, and built model railways, which he took to exhibitions around the country. Awdry wrote other books besides those of The Railway Series, both fiction and non-fiction. The story Belinda the Beetle was about a red car (it became a Volkswagen Beetle only in the illustrations to the paperback editions).Awdry was awarded an OBE in the 1996 New Year’s Honours List, but by that time his health had deteriorated and he was unable to travel to London. He died peacefully in Stroud, Gloucestershire, on 21 March 1997, at the age of 85. His ashes are interred at Gloucester Crematorium.

George Stephenson

English civil engineer and mechanical engineer George Stephenson was born on 9 June 1781. He is credited with building the first public railway line in the world to use steam locomotives. Renowned as being the “Father of Railways”, the Victorians considered him a great example of diligent application and thirst for improvement, with self-help advocate Samuel Smiles particularly praising his achievements. His rail gauge of 4 feet 81⁄2 inches (1,435 mm), sometimes called “Stephenson gauge”, is the world’s standard gauge. George Stephenson was born in Wylam, Northumberland, 9.3 miles (15.0 km) west of Newcastle upon Tyne.At 17, Stephenson became an engineman at Water Row Pit, Newburn. George realised the value of education and paid to study at night school to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. In 1801 he began work at Black Callerton colliery as a brakesman’, controlling the winding gear of the pit. In 1811 the pumping engine at High Pit, Killingworth was not working properly and Stephenson offered to fix it. He did so with such success that he was soon promoted to enginewright for the neighbouring collieries at Killingworth, responsible for maintaining and repairing all of thec olliery engines. He soon became an expert in steam-driven machinery.

In 1815, aware of the explosions often caused in mines by naked flames, Stephenson began to experiment with a safety lamp that would burn without causing an explosion. At the same time, Cornishman Sir Humphry Davy, the eminent scientist was also looking at the problem. Despite his lack of any scientific knowledge, Stephenson, by trial and error, devised a lamp in which the air entered via tiny holes. Stephenson demonstrated the lamp himself to two witnesses by taking it down Killingworth colliery and holding it directly in front of a fissure from which fire damp was issuing. This was a month before Davy presented his design to the Royal Society. The two designs differed in that, the Davy’s lamp was surrounded by a screen of gauze, whereas Stephenson’s lamp was contained in a glass cylinder. For his invention Davy was awarded £2,000, whilst Stephenson was accused of stealing the idea from Davy. A local committee of enquiry exonerated Stephenson, proved that he had been working separately and awarded him £1,000 but Davy and his supporters refused to accept this. They could not see how an uneducated man such as Stephenson could come up with the solution that he had. In 1833 a House of Commons committee found that Stephenson had equal claim to having invented the safety lamp. Davy went to his grave believing that Stephenson had stolen his idea. The Stephenson lamp was used exclusively in the North East, whereas the Davy lamp was used everywhere else. The experience with Davy gave Stephenson a life-long distrust of London-based, theoretical, scientific experts. There is a theory that it was Stephenson who indirectly gave the name of Geordies to the people of Tyneside. By this theory, the name of the Geordie lamp attached to the pit men themselves. By 1866 any native of Tyneside could be called a Geordie.

Cornishman Richard Trevithick is credited with the first realistic design of the steam locomotive in 1802. Later, he visited Tyneside and built an engine there for a mine-owner. Several local men were inspired by this, and designed engines of their own. Stephenson designed his first locomotive in 1814, a travelling engine designed for hauling coal on the Killingworth wagonway, and named Blücher after the Prussian general Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. This locomotive could haul 30 tons of coal up a hill at 4 mph (6.4 km/h), and was the first successful flanged-wheel adhesion locomotive: its traction depended only on the contact between its flanged wheels and the rail. The new engines were too heavy to be run on wooden rails, and iron rails were in their infancy, with cast iron exhibiting excessive brittleness. Together with William Losh, Stephenson improved the design of cast ironrails to reduce breakage; these were briefly made by Losh, Wilson and Bell at their Walker ironworks. According toRolt, he also managed to solve the problem caused by the weight of the engine upon these primitive rails.He experimented with a ‘steam spring’ (to ‘cushion’ the weight using steam pressure), but soon followed the new practice of ‘distributing’ weight by utilising a number of wheels. For the Stockton and Darlington Railway, however, Stephenson would use only wrought iron rails.

Stephenson was hired to build an 8-mile (13-km) railway from Hetton colliery to Sunderland in 1820. The finished result used a combination of gravity on downward inclines and locomotives for level and upward stretches. It was the first railway using no animal power. In 1821, a parliamentary bill was passed to allow the building of the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR). This 25-mile (40 km) railway was intended to connect various collieries situated near Bishop Auckland to the River Tees at Stockton, passing through Darlington on the way. The original plan was to use horses to draw coal carts on metal rails, but after company director Edward Pease met Stephenson he agreed to change the plans. Stephenson surveyed the line in 1821, assisted by his eighteen-year-old son Robert. That same year construction of the line began. A company was set up to manufacture locomotives for the railway, It was named Robert Stephenson and Company, and George’s son Robert was the managing director. In September 1825 the works at Forth Street, Newcastle completed the first locomotive for the new railway: originally named Active, it was soon renamed Locomotion. It was followed by “Hope”, “Diligence” and “Black Diamond”.

The Stockton and Darlington Railway opened on 27 September 1825. Driven by Stephenson, Locomotion hauled an 80-ton load of coal and flour nine miles (15 km) in two hours, reaching a speed of 24 miles per hour (39 km/h) on one stretch. The first purpose-built passenger car, dubbed Experiment,was attached, and carried dignitaries on the opening journey. It was the first time passenger traffic had been run on a steam locomotive railway. Although Richard Trevithick had demonstrated the idea back in 1808 using catch-me-who-can on a circular track which was situated near the present day Euston Station.The rails used for the new line were wrought-iron rails which could be produced in much longer lengths than the cast-iron ones and were much less liable to crack under the weight of heavy locomotives and The gauge that Stephenson chose for the line was 4 feet 81⁄2 inches (1,435 mm), and this subsequently came to be adopted as the standard gauge for railways, not only in Britain, but also throughout the world. Stephenson had also ascertained by experiments at Killingworth that half of the power of the locomotive was consumed by a gradient as little as 1 in 260 & came to the conclusion that railways should be kept as level as possible. He used this knowledge while working on the Bolton and Leigh Railway, and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR), executing a series ofdifficult cuts, embankments and stone viaducts to smooth the route the railways took.

As the L&MR approached completion in 1829, its directors arranged for a competition to decide who would build its locomotives, and the Rainhill Trials were run in October 1829. Entries could weigh no more than six tons and had to travel along the track for a total distance of 60 miles (97 km). Stephenson’s entry was Rocket, and its performance in winning the contest made it famous. The opening ceremony of the L&MR, on 15 September 1830, was a considerable event, drawing luminaries from the government and industry, including the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington. The day started with a procession of eight trains setting out from Liverpool. The parade was led by “Northumbrian” and included “Phoenix”, “North Star” and “Rocket”. The railway was a resounding success and Stephenson became famous, and was offered the position of chief engineer for a wide variety of other railways.1830 also saw the grand opening of the skew bridge in Rainhill as part of the grand opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The bridge was the first to cross any railway at an angle. This required the structure to be constructed as two flat planes (overlapping in this case by 6′) between which the stonework forms a parallelogram shape when viewed from above. This has the effect of flattening the arch and the solution is to lay the bricks forming the arch at an angle to the abutments (the piers on which the arches rest). This technique, which results in a spiral effect in the arch masonry, provides extra strength in the arch to compensate for the angled abutments.

Britain led the world in the development of railways and this acted as a stimulus for the industrial revolution, by facilitating the transport of raw materials and manufactured goods. George Stephenson cannot claim to have invented the locomotive. Richard Trevithick deserves that credit. George Stephenson, with his work on the Stockton and Darlington Railway and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, paved the way for the railway engineers who were to follow, such as his son Robert, his assistant Joseph Locke who went on to carry out much work on his own account and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. These men were following in his footsteps. Stephenson was also farsighted inrealising that the individual lines being built would eventually join together, and would need to have the same gauge. The standard gauge used throughout much of the world is due to him.