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Great steam Engineers of the nineteenth century: Part 5 – the 1860s


Steam locomotives grew larger, more powerful and faster during the 1860s. Brian Sharpe outlines how the jobs of the locomotive superintendents of the major railway companies also grew ever larger, in terms of their responsibilities and the huge workforces under their control. 

The 1860s was a time of expansion for the GWR. After the Gauge Commission had decided in 1846 against the expansion of the broad gauge, most new routes were laid to standard gauge only.

Joseph Armstrong already had a good reputation for his work at the GWR’s Stafford Road works at Wolverhampton, reporting to Daniel Gooch. In 1836, at the age of 20, Armstrong had been employed as a driver on Stephenson’s Liverpool and Manchester Railway, moving four years later to a similar post on the Hull and Selby Railway, where he was promoted to the post of foreman and became acquainted with the forward-looking locomotive designs of John Gray. On following Gray to Brighton Works in 1845, Armstrong also got to know another pioneering locomotive engineer of the period, David Joy.

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Midland Railway outside-framed  2-4-0 No. 158A, on display at Swanwick Junction on the Midland Railway – Butterley. Designed by Matthew Kirtley and built at Derby in 1866, this engine was not withdrawn by the London Midland & Scottish Railway until 1947. Matthew Kirtley had worked on the Stockton & Darlington Railway and the Liverpool & Manchester Railway and had driven the first-ever passenger train into London, for the London & Birmingham Railway. He served as locomotive superintendent on the Midland Railway from 1844 to 1873. BRIAN SHARPE

David Joy ‘invented’ a type of valve gear which was basically a refinement of Hackworth’s valve gear. It was widely used in the 19th century; including on LNWR 0-8-0s, some of which remained in service until the mid-1960s.

In 1864, Gooch resigned from his post of locomotive superintendent of the GWR and Armstrong was promoted to replace him. In addition to Gooch’s locomotive duties, Armstrong was made responsible for carriages and wagons, which was reflected in his new job title of locomotive, carriage and wagon superintendent. Armstrong’s younger brother, George, took over the responsibilities of the GWR’s Northern Division.

Read more and view more images in Issue 252 of HR – on sale now!

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