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Alfred John Hill

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Alfred John Hill (1862-1927) of the Great Eastern Railway.

1927 Obituary [1][2]

ALFRED JOHN HILL, C.B.E., during the whole of his engineering career served the Great Eastern Railway.

He entered Stratford works in 1877 at the age of fifteen, for a six years' apprenticeship. After a year in the drawing office he was transferred to the works manager's office and in 1891 was appointed assistant works manager.

In 1899 he was appointed manager of the locomotive, carriage and wagon works.

In 1912 he became locomotive superintendent and in 1915 chief mechanical engineer.

During the War Mr. Hill was chairman of the southern group of railways for the manufacture of munitions and represented all the railways of the country on the priority branch of the Ministry of Munitions.

In 1917 he went to America for the Government in connexion with the supply of materials urgently required by the railways, and for these services he was awarded the C.B.E. He was responsible for many improvements at Stratford works, including the building of s new foundry and a large engine repairing shop.

Mr. Hill became a Member of the Institution in 1901 and he was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

He won a Whitworth Scholarship in 1882 and was awarded several prizes for his papers read before the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was a Justice of the Peace for West Ham, and later for Bexhill-on-Sea.

In 1923 he retired and his death occurred on 14th March 1927.

1927 Obituary[3]


A link with the old Great Eastern Railway has been severed by the sudden death of Mr. Alfred John Hill, which occurred at Bexhill on Monday, March 14. It will be remembered that, until the railway amalgamation of 1923, Mr. Hill was chief mechanical engineer of the Great Eastern Railway, with which company he had been associated all his professional life. He retired in 1923, settling in Bexhill, and it was in the golf-club house there -that the unexpected end came, at the not very advanced age of 64.

Mr. Hill was born in 1862, his father, Mr. Thomas Hill, being a native of Peterborough. He received his general education at Waternewton Rectory, Northamptonshire, and, in 1877, entered the locomotive, carriage and wagon works of the Great Eastern Railway Company at Stratford as an apprentice. His technical education was steadily persevered in during apprenticeship, and in 1882 he obtained a Whitworth Scholarship. In that year also he entered the drawing office at Stratford. It may here be mentioned that his interest in engineering education was consistently maintained. A student of the Railway Company’s Mechanics’ Institute at Stratford, he later became a teacher there, and then, for twelve years, was chairman of its committee, while he gave ungrudging support to other technical institutions in the district.

At the beginning of 1890, Mr. Hill became an assistant to the works manager at Stratford. In 1899, he was made works manager, and, in 1912, was appointed locomotive, carriage and wagon superintendent. In 1915, when the official reorganisation of railways took place, he was created chief mechanical engineer, retaining this position until the amalgamation of the Great Eastern Railway with the Great Northern, North Eastern, and other railway companies.

During the war period he was actively employed in various national services. By 1917, the question of the supply of materials for railways had become acute, and Mr. Hill went to the United States, on behalf of the Government, in connection with this. When the railway workshops were involved in the manufacture of munitions, Mr. Hill became chairman of the Southern Group, and, when on the Priority Branch of the Ministry of Munitions, represented the whole of the railways of the country, For these and other services it was generally agreed that he justly merited the distinction of C.B.E. which was conferred on him.

It will be noticed that a large part of Mr. Hill’s occupancy of the offices of locomotive superintendent and chief mechanical engineer covered the war period and the disturbed years which immediately followed it, times not, on the whole, suitable for much development or experimental work. Added to this, from the nature of the area served, the Great Eastern Railway did not need to employ locomotives of exceptional size and power. At the same time, the traffic conditions of the line, and particularly those of Liverpool-street station, called for special study, and Mr. Hill was responsible for several interesting designs which have since been proved fully justified from the aspects of performance, fuel economy, and low maintenance costs.

Of these designs may be mentioned an 0-6-2 tank engine for heavy suburban traffic, which was noticeable for the employment of a somewhat higher boiler pressure than that in use on similar locomotives at the time. He also introduced after the war, an 0-6-0 locomotive for heavy coal traffic, and the re-modelled 4-4-0 express locomotive. Both these classes have Belpaire boilers and superheaters, and are proving Mr. Hill’s practical knowledge of the requirements of the line. Under his supervision, too, the Stratford works were considerably extended, progress methods, as well as plant, receiving particular attention. Bogie rolling-stock, both for main line and suburban traffic, was standardised.

On the theoretical and commercial side of his profession, Mr. Hill was equally active. He was president of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers for the years 1914-1915, and, from 1920 to his retirement, acted as chairman of the Carriage and Wagon Superintendents’ meetings at the Railway Clearing House. He became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1901, and an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1888, advancing to full membership in 1910. At the latter institution a papers read by him in 1895, and entitled “ Repairs and Renewals of Railway Rolling-stock,” was awarded a Watt medal, a Crampton prize, and a Telford premium. Another paper on “ The Use of Cast Steel in Locomotives,” read in 1887, had been awarded the Miller Prize. In 1924 he gave the Institution Lecture to Students on “ The Work of a Mechanical Engineer’s Office.”

Like many busy engineers, however, Mr. Hill found time to concern himself in useful matters outside his profession. He was keenly interested in railway ambulance work, and for many years was honorary secretary for the organisation comprising the many ambulance corps on the whole of the Great Eastern Railway system. The subject of regular ambulance training for the staff received his special attention."

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