James Kennedy (1797–1886), mechanical engineer, of Bury, Curtis and Kennedy
1797 January 13th. Born in the village of Gilmerton, Liherton, three miles from Edinburgh.
At 13 or 14 years old he was apprenticed to a millwright at Dalkeith. He was there for 5 years.
Engaged at Sir John Hope's Colliery, to look after some pumping and winding engines.
After 5 years in the coal mines he employed as a millwright at the cotton mills at Blantyre, 9 miles from Glasgow.
Went to Laverock Hall, near Hamilton, to erect some pumping and winding engines.
After 2 years he went to the Lochrinn Distillery at Edinburgh with Mr. Gutzmer.
He later became foreman at Mr. Gutzmer's factories where he made the direct-acting engines of the 'Emerald Isle' (belonging to the St. George Steam Packet Co); and he went to Liverpool to fit them in the ship. It was in Liverpool that a Mr. Jevons introduced him to George Stephenson. 
1824 Stephenson put him in charge of his engine works in Newcastle upon Tyne, where Kennedy was involved in the design and building of two pairs of stationary engines and the first four locomotives for the Stockton and Darlington Railway.
1825 He was appointed to manage the works of Mather and Dixon in Liverpool, from where he was engaged by Edward Bury (who had recently started in business as Edward Bury and Co), as works foreman at their Clarence Foundry in Liverpool. There he constructed land, marine, and locomotive engines. The Dreadnought, a locomotive employed to help in the construction of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, was made in 1829.
The Liverpool, another locomotive constructed by Mr. Kennedy, was placed on the Liverpool and Manchester line on the 12th June, 1830. From this time Edward Bury's locomotives acquired a high reputation.
Mr Kennedy was unable to compete at the public trial of locomotives on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830 as he was busy completing some marine engines for Mr. Samuel Cunard, of Halifax. Thenceforth he continued to be a good deal occupied in the construction of marine engines.
1837 he constructed two pairs of high pressure engines for use in vessels on the Rhone with locomotive boilers
1838 he constructed two pairs of condensing engines, also with locomotive boilers carrying 60 lb. pressure, for steam-vessels on the same river. The draught through the fire was maintained by an exhausting fan. These steamers were still in existence in 1860.
1842 Kennedy was taken into partnership by Edward Bury, the firm becoming Bury, Curtis and Kennedy.
1844 Joined Thomas Vernon and Son, shipbuilders in Liverpool
1847 He was elected a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, of which he served as president in 1860.
1849 Dissolution of the Partnership formerly existing between Edward Bury, Timothy Abraham Curtis, James Kennedy, and John Vernon, under the firm of Thomas Vernon and Co., in and near Liverpool, as Iron Ship Builders, Boilermakers, and Smiths, which ceased on the 31st March
1886 September 25th. Died at his home, Cressington Park, Garston, near Liverpool.
He was survived by his wife, Adelaide.
1886 Obituary 
JAMES KENNEDY was born on 13th January 1797, in the village of Gilmerton, three miles south of Edinburgh.
At the age of thirteen he left school and was apprenticed to a millwright near Dalkeith, with whom he remained for five years.
He then spent some years at Sir John Hope's collieries at Lasswade, taking charge of the winding and pumping engines; and afterwards worked as a millwright in some cotton mills at Blantyre, near Glasgow.
He was next employed by Mr. John Stevenson in fitting water-wheels at the Monkland Steel Works.
Thence he went for two years to Lavenoch Hall, near Hamilton, to erect pumping and winding engines, for which the designs and patterns had been made by himself.
He next obtained employment at the Lochrin Distillery, Edinburgh, where he substituted a larger engine in place of the small one previously used for grinding malt. While in Edinburgh, he constructed direct-acting marine engines for steam-vessels; one of these was for the s.s. "Emerald Isle" belonging to the St. George's Steam Packet Co., Liverpool, whither he proceeded to superintend its erection.
Being there introduced to George Stephenson, who was at that time establishing locomotive works at Newcastle-on-Tyne, he was appointed in 1824 manager of the works, where he remained for eighteen months. During this engagement he planned and erected the engines for a tug on the Tees at Stockton, constructed two pairs of winding engines with vertical drums for hauling loaded wagons up inclines on the Stockton and Darlington Railway, and planned the first three locomotives by which that railway was opened in 1825.
Leaving Newcastle at the end of 1825, he returned to Liverpool, and undertook the management of the works of Messrs. Mather and Dixon.
Later he became a partner in the firm of Messrs. Bury, Curtis, and Kennedy, of Liverpool, engaged in the construction of locomotive, marine, and stationary engines. The first locomotive built by him here was the "Dreadnought," employed in the formation of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829; it had horizontal cylinders working on a crank-shaft which was connected with the driving wheels by pitch chains.
In 1830 the second locomotive of his construction, the "Liverpool," was placed on the same line. This was the first engine made in England with horizontal cylinders applied direct to the crank-axle of the driving wheels. The draught was at first obtained by means of a blowing cylinder; but this arrangement not proving successful, a tubular boiler was substituted, in conjunction with a vertical cylindrical fire-box surmounted by a capacious dome. The satisfaction given by a locomotive built by his firm for the Leicester and Swannington Railway resulted in their making also the engines for opening the London and Birmingham Railway.
From 1832 to 1834 they sent to America a number of locomotive engines, together with the wheels, axles, and iron-work for wagons and carriages. Having previously constructed marine engines for the early Cunard steamers, in 1837 he built two pairs of non-condensing engines for boats on the Rhone, having locomotive boilers working with 60 lbs. steam pressure per square inch; and in the following year he supplied for the same purpose two pairs of condensing engines, with boilers in which the draught was obtained by an exhausting fan at the bottom of the chimney; the piston-speed was about double that in use at the time in England; and these engines were still in existence at Lyons in 1860.
In 1844 he controlled the affairs of Messrs. Thomas Vernon and Son, Liverpool, in the business of iron-shipbuilding, and prepared plans for vessels requiring exceptional strength, in which be introduced iron deck-beams, now universally employed.
His death took place on 25th September 1886, at his residence, Cressington Park, near Liverpool, in the ninetieth year of his age.
He was a Member of this Institution from the commencement in 1847, and occupied the Presidential chair in the year 1860.
"THE LATE MR. JAMES KENNEDY.
We have to record the death of Mr. James Kennedy, of Liverpool, who has just died at the age of eighty-nine. He was one of that band of men, now rapidly passing away, who, in the early years of this century, were engaged in the creation of the locomotive, the marine engine, and the iron ship, and who did more to transform the conditions of life than any set of men who have ever inhabited the globe. He was the assistant of George Stephenson, and managed his works at Newcastle at the time that the early locomotives of the Stockton and Darlington Railway were being built. One of these, with the design of which he was intimately associated, was the “Locomotive” which now occupies a position of honour on a pedestal at Darlington. He also served under Mr. Bury, of Liverpool, and ultimately he entered the firm, which became Bury, Curtis, and Kennedy. He built the “ Dreadnought” for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and also the “Liverpool,” and supplied locomotives for the Leicester and Swannington line. His engines also hauled the early trains on the London and Birmingham line. He built marine engines for the early Cunard boats, and high-pressure engines for packets on the Rhone, these latter working with 601b. of steam pressure. In 1836 he proposed to Mr. W. Brown, of Liverpool, to establish steamers to ply across the Atlantic, and to fit them with compound engines on the Woolf principle, the high-pressure cylinder being set at one end of the side lever and the low-pressure cylinder at the other. This project was, however, declined, as high pressures were considered too dangerous for ships in those days.
But, to understand how much Mr. Kennedy did, it is necessary to follow his career in detail. He was born in 1797, at Liberton, a village three miles south of Edinburgh. At the age of thirteen he left school, and was apprenticed to a millwright at Dalkeith, with whom he stayed five years. For some time after this he seems to have moved about from job to job, as the opportunity presented itself. First, he went to Sir John Hope’s collieries for some years, taking charge of the winding and pumping engines; then he worked as a millwright in some cotton mills at Blantyre, nine miles from Glasgow, and afterwards he served a Mr. Stevenson, who had no shop, but who employed him to fit water-wheels at the Monkland Steel Works. From this place he wént to Lavenoch Hall, near Hamilton, to erect pumping and winding engines, the patterns of which he had made himself. His next move was to the Lochrinn Distillery, Edinburgh, where he replaced a small engine, used for grinding malt, with a larger. He worked under a man named Gutzner, and after eighteen months he became foreman. While here he constructed direct-acting engines for the s.s. Emerald Isle, owned by the St. George’s Steam Packet Company, and went to Liverpool to fit them on board the vessel. In that town he met a Mr. Jevons, an iron merchant; this gentleman introduced him to George Stephenson, who at that time was establishing locomotive works at Newcastle-on-Tyne, In 1824 Mr. Kennedy undertook the management of these works, but only stayed sixteen months. His time was, however, fully occupied, for he built a tug for the Stockton river, constructed two pairs of winding engines with vertical drums, on which the rope was laid by a mangle-wheel, and turned out four engines for the Stockton and Darlington line. In these engines he introduced grease cups and oil cups, and coupled the side rods direct to the wheels. At the end of 1825 Mr. Kennedy left Stephenson and undertook the management of the works of Mather and Dixon, at Liverpool. He was next engaged by Mr. Edward Bury, and was employed on stationary, marine, and locomotive engines. He built the “ Dreadnought,” which was used in the construction of the Liverpool and Manchester line in 1829. It had horizontal cylinders which worked on to a crankshaft connected by pitch chains to the driving wheels. This engine was afterwards sold to Mr. Hargreaves, of Bolton, and was employed in the coal trade for twenty years. In the following year (June 30, 1830) another of his locomotives, the “Liverpool,” was placed on the line. This was the first engine made in England with horizontal cylinders applied directly to the crank axle. It drew twelve wagons, each containing five tons of coal at a good pace, and won a race with a stage-coach from Liverpool to Manchester. The draught was obtained by a blowing cylinder, but as the arrangement was not successful a tubular boiler with a vertical cylindrical firebox was substituted. This became the permanent type made by the firm, and up to a few years ago many engines of this pattern could be seen on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.
Mr. Kennedy did not join in the famous competition of locomotives at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester line in 1830, as he was fully employed in the construction of marine engines for Mr. Samuel Cunard, of Halifax. He built a large number of marine engines, among which were (1837) two pairs of high-pressure engines with locomotive boilers for boats on the Rhone. The following year he built two pairs of condensing engines for the same purpose, providing exhausting fans to obtain the draught. These engines were still in existence at Lyons in 1860. In 1844 the deceased joined the firm of Mr. Thomas Vernon and Son, Liverpool, in iron shipbuilding, and prepared plans for vessels requiring exceptional strength ; in these he introduced iron deck beams.
In the year 1847 Mr. Kennedy became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and in 1860 he was elected to the presidency, occupying the chair at the Birmingham meeting. His last attendance was at the Liverpool meeting in 1872, when his tall form, towering head and shoulders over his friends, coupled with his aged appearance, rendered him a conspicuous object."
Sources of Information
- The Engineer 1875/12/24
- London Gazette 11 May 1849
- 1886 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
- Engineering 1886/10/01