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Joseph Tomlinson

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1858. Engine for the Taff Vale Railway.

Joseph Tomlinson (1823-1894)

1823 Born in London.

1837 After leaving school he joined his father, who was passenger superintendent, at the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

In 1851, at the time of the Great Exhibition, he was working for the London and South Western Railway, and often drove the special train which took Prince Albert from Windsor to Waterloo and back, often accompanied by his two sons, the Prince of Wales and Prince Alfred.

From 1854 he worked for the Midland Railway, and here he oversaw the transition from coke to coal as the fuel for locomotive engines. This experience came in useful later in his career, when at the Taff Vale Railway he was forced to use coal due to the continued strike of the Rhondda Valley colliers.

1857 Joseph Tomlinson, Junior of the Locomotive Department of the Midland Railway.[1]

After a period as a consulting engineer in Cardiff, he joined the Metropolitan Railway as resident engineer and locomotive superintendent. He improved the line considerably, and was responsible for designing and laying out their new locomotive works at Neasden.

1890-91 He was President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

1894 April 22nd. Died.[2]

1894 Obituary [3]

JOSEPH TOMLINSON was born in London on 11th November 1823, and was educated from 1831 to 1836 at a private school in London, and in Darlington 1836-37.

From 1837 to 1839, his father being at that time passenger superintendent of the line, he had the run of the shops of the Stockton and Darlington Railway at Shildon, of which Mr. Timothy Hackworth was then the locomotive superintendent.

From 1839 to 1842 he was in the shops of the Manchester and Leeds Railway at Miles Platting, Manchester.

In July 1846 he joined the London and South Western Railway as outdoor foreman at Nine Elms, under Mr. John V. Gooch, and had charge of the engines and working of the whole of the London district until 30th June 1852, the last two years with the late Joseph Beattie.

At the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851 he frequently drove the special train taking Prince Albert from Windsor to Waterloo and back, accompanied sometimes by his two sons, the Prince of Wales and Prince Alfred.

In 1852 he joined the London and North Western Railway at Crewe as draughtsman in charge of the locomotive engine works, under the late Francis Trevithick and the late Alexander Allan.

In 1853, on Mr. Allan joining the Scottish Central Railway, he was appointed his assistant.

In September 1854 he was appointed assistant to the late Matthew Kirtley at Derby, in charge of the outdoor working of the locomotive department of the Midland Railway system. During his service here the transition took place from the use of coke to that of coal as fuel for locomotive engines, and the alterations necessary for success had to be devised; a series of experiments carried on over a considerable period resulted in the adoption of the deflector plate in the fire-door hole, and the brick arch in the fire-box, both of which continue to the present day to be the best known means for preventing smoke and the escape of sparks, and for ensuring as far as possible the perfect combustion of the fuel. He also carried out the important work of classifying the engines more completely for their different duties and districts.

The locomotives being also in a bad state, owing to sufficient numbers not having been added for the increasing traffic, had to be brought up fairly to the requirements of the time; and this had only just been accomplished, when in January 1858 he was appointed locomotive superintendent of the Taff Vale Railway at Cardiff. Here he found himself at the very outset driven to the use of coal alone for carrying on the traffic, in consequence of the continued strike of the colliers in the Rhondda Valley, where the coking coal was obtained; and he therefore tried the experiment of covering up the entire surface of the fire-bars with small pieces of broken fire-brick, not exceeding three inches cube, and putting the fire upon them, so as to prevent the direct action of the fire on the iron of the bars, by which previously they bad been so rapidly burnt out as to render the use of the Welsh steam coal impracticable in locomotives.

Of this simple plan, which at once proved successful, he gave a description with results in a paper to this Institution in the same year (Proceedings 1858 page 274). He also improved upon the existing design of locomotive with six wheels all coupled, by adding compensating levers between the leading and driving wheels, and by other modifications in detail.

In 1863 he represented the South Wales Steam Collieries Association in the experiments at Devonport, extending over many weeks; and reported unfavourably on the mixture of North-country coal and Welsh dry coal, which up to that time had been used by the government. The experiments were published in a blue book, and resulted in the use of the mixture being discontinued.

In 1869 he resigned his position on the Taff Vale Railway, owing to some political difficulty; and started on his own account in Cardiff as a consulting engineer in shipping and in marine and land engines.

In 1872 he was invited to join the Metropolitan Railway as resident engineer and locomotive superintendent, in which double capacity he gradually worked up the line into a condition of prosperity. When the original Chapel Street Works at Edgware Road Station became altogether inadequate to the increased requirements of the locomotive department, he designed and laid out the new locomotive and carriage works at Neasden. Before removing from the Chapel Street Works he carried out there a series of experiments for this Institution on the friction of journals; and in 1885 was appointed Chairman of the Research Committee of the Institution on the subject of friction.

In April 1885 he resigned his position on the Metropolitan Railway, and resumed practice as a consulting engineer. In this capacity he was called in to design and superintend the erection of new supports for carrying the overhead telephone wires in London, which had collapsed in the severe snowstorm in the winter of 1887; and was also consulted in regard to the surveying for new lines of wire to provincial towns, and other matters connected with the telephone system.

In 1890, in conjunction with Mr. Samuel Swarbrick, formerly general manager of the Great Eastern Railway, he was appointed to investigate the management and working of the Taff Vale Railway; and the elaborate report which they jointly prepared having resulted in various improvements, he was elected on the new board of directors in 1891.

The labour and exposure attending the work of investigation, which was carried on during the winter of 1890-91, doubtless told upon his health and strength, though the ultimate effects did not become apparent till the spring of 1893. From this time he was more or less confined to his house, and though frequently rallying, and throughout retaining his whole interest in all engineering work that was going on, he never recovered sufficiently to get about again, and died at his residence at West Hampstead on 22nd April 1894, at the age of seventy.

In 1871 he was elected an Associate, and in 1874 a Member, of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Having been a Member of this Institution from 1857, and for many years a Member of Council and a Vice-President, he was elected President in 1890 and 1891. His presidential address in 1890 (Proceedings page 181) contained his own personal recollections of the development which he had witnessed of the locomotive engine from the year 1837; and in his own words therein recorded "I soon fell in love with a live engine, and from then to now have had a feeling of first love for it."

1894 Obituary [4][5][6]

JOSEPH TOMLINSON was born in London on the 11th of November, 1823, and was educated at a private school.

In 1833 his family removed to Darlington, his father having been appointed passenger superintendent of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

With a strong predilection for mechanics, there is no doubt that this change decided young Tomlinson’s future career. Speaking more than fifty years afterwards he stated that his first knowledge of the locomotive engine was obtained in 1837, when Timothy Hackworth, then locomotive superintendent of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, consented to allow him the run of the company's shops at Shildon. The two years he spent there imbued him, as he often declared, with a love for the 'live engine,' to which he always remained faithful.

In 1839 he went for three years to the works of the Manchester and Leeds Railway at Miles Platting.

In 1846 Mr. Tomlinson was appointed foreman engineer at the Nine Elms Works of the London and South Western Railway, at first under Mr. J. V. Gooch and subsequently under the late Mr. J. H. Beattie. In that post he had for six years charge of the locomotives and of the working of the whole of the London district.

He would often refer with amusement in after life to his efforts to explain the mechanism of the locomotive to the young Prince of Wales and Prince Alfred, when travelling from Windsor to Waterloo to visit the great Exhibition of 1851. He frequently acted as driver of the special train which conveyed the royal party.

In 1852 Mr. Tomlinson entered the drawing office of the London and North Western Railway Company at Crewe, under the late Francis Trevithick. There he also worked under the late Alexander Allan, who, being appointed in the following year Locomotive Superintendent of the Scottish Central Railway, now part of the Caledonian system, took him as chief assistant.

Mr. Tomlinson, however, did not remain long in Scotland. In September, 1854, he became assistant locomotive superintendent of the Midland Railway, under the late Mr. Kirtley. During the three years he held that post he took an active part in adapting the locomotives to the use of coal as fuel, instead of colre. He also classified them in accordance with their respective duties and districts and assisted in improving the rolling-stock generally.

Mr. Tomlinson’s position in the railway world was established when in January 1868, he obtained the appointment of Locomotive Superintendent of the Taff Vale Company. A heavy demand was at once made upon his resources. A strike of colliers in the Rhondda Valley, whence coking coal had been obtained, stopped the supply of coke, which owing to its good quality and low price had hitherto been used almost exclusively as fuel on the Taff Vale line. Previous trials of the use of Welsh steam coal had resulted in failure, owing to the rapidity with which the fire-bars were burnt out, due, it was supposed, to the clinker formed upon them.

Mr. Tomlinson at once instituted a series of experiments, the results of which he communicated in a Paper to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The burning out of the bars he found to be preventable by covering them with a layer of small pieces of fire-brick, and so successful was this remedy that the Company was from that time rendered independent of supplies from the Rhondda collieries.

In 1863 he represented the South Wales Steam Collieries Association at Devonport, where experiments were carried out with the object of proving the inefficiency of the mixture of north-country coal with Welsh anthracite in use by the Royal Navy. Mr. Tomlinson reported against - the mixture, the use of which was then discontinued by the Admiralty.

His connection with the Taff Vale Railway Company ceased in 1860, when, owing to some difference with the Board, he sent in his resignation. Mr. Tomlinson then started in business at Cardiff as a consulting engineer and for the next three years was occupied with work in connection with shipping interests and with marine and land engines.

In October, 1872, Mr. Tomlinson returned to the railway world on the invitation of the directors of the Metropolitan Company who offered him the post of Resident Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent. The affairs of this Company were at that time in an unsatisfactory condition, its locomotive stock being in a very neglected state. The works at Chapel Street, Edgware Road-now used as running-sheds were inadequate, and Mr. Tomlinson was instructed to select a site for new works which would not only be suitable for the then requirements of the line but allow ample room for future extension. He chose Neasden, and designed and carried out the present locomotive and carriage-works, which were opened in 1883. He also constructed extensions of the line from Moorgate Street to Aldgate, and from Swiss Cottage to Harrow. As Chairman of the Research Committee on Friction, appointed by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, he carried out in 1883 and subsequent years a series of valuable experiments at the old works in Chapel Street.

Mr. Tomlinson retired from the service of the Metropolitan Railway Company in April, 1885, and started in practice in London as a consulting engineer. For the National Telephone Co he designed and superintended the erection of the network of telephone wires over the metropolis.

Meanwhile the affairs of his old line, the Taff Vale railway, had fallen into such a condition that1 in 1890 an investigation into the management and working became necessary. Mr. Tomlinson and Samuel Swarbrick were asked to conduct the inquiry. In the result great changes were effected in the management of the line, Mr. Tomlinson being requested in the following year to take a seat on the board of directors. Unfortunately, however, his health was affected by exposure during this investigation, which was mainly carried out in the severe weather of the winter of 1890-91. Two years later internal complication arose and he became seriously ill.

He gradually lost strength and passed away at his residence in West Hampstead on the 22nd of April, 1894. Re owed his success in life not only to his ability as an engineer, but to the energy and perseverance of his character as a man. He possessed considerable powers of organization and every work he took in hand was thoroughly and efficiently carried out.

Mr. Tomlinson was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 7th of February, 1871, and was transferred to the class of Member on the 17th of February, 1874. He was also a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, of which he served the office of President in the years 1890 and 1891. His inaugural address, delivered on the 1st of May, 1890, contained an interesting account of the development of locomotion on railways.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] Institution of Mechanical Engineers