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Loftus Perkins

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January 1866.

Loftus Perkins (1834-1891) was an English engineer, particularly involved in developing the practical technologies of central heating and refrigeration.

1834 May 8th. He was born in London, the son of Angier March Perkins and was likely apprenticed to his father. His father and grandfather, Jacob Perkins, had moved to England from New England and the family still had many contacts in the U.S.A.

1851 Began training as a mechanical engineer under his father.

1853-4 Loftus worked in America.

1854 Loftus returned to England and joined his father's business, working there for 8 years on experiments with the steam gun and other inventions. Developed Perkins Patent Metal.

1861 Loftus Perkins, 6 Francis Street, Regent's Square, London.[1]

1862 After working for his father for 8 years, Loftus went to Hamburg and Berlin where he worked on his own account, designing and building heating systems.

1865 Patented an improved version of the baking oven using "stopped-end steam tubes".

1866 Returned to England and went into partnership with his father as A. M. Perkins and Son.

He devoted his energies to heating and refrigeration and combined great imagination with practical engineering instincts. He also contributed to the development of the steam engine, particularly in the use of high pressure steam. Among his innovations were:

  • The "Polly Perkins" - mobile steam ovens for the British Army;
  • Steam ovens for us in bakeries;
  • High-pressure steam tractors;
  • The Anthracite - a 70-ton yacht powered by high-pressure steam;
  • "Express" - a 160 ft steamship powered by a Perkins 800 horse power quadruple compound engine;
  • the "Arktos" cold chamber (1888) for preserving food.

He married Emily Patton (born 1837/8) from New York. Loftus was joined in the family business by his sons:

1873 Patent with Louis Sterne, of Victoria Street, Westminster, Engineer, for an invention of "improvements in the construction of railway rolling stock and traction engines." Perkins was of Seaford Street, Regent Square, Middlesex.[2]

1876 Patent with Louis Sterne for an invention of "improvements in the construction of railway rolling stock and traction engines."[3]

1878 A 79 ft steam yacht was built for Loftus by Forrest and Son of Limehouse using triple-pressure steam engines on the Perkins system built by Greenwood and Batley of Leeds with a Perkins water tube boiler.

c.1880 The Perkin's Engine Company had offices in Queen Victoria Street, London. Its business concerned the use of high pressure steam in engines as proposed by Perkins.

1881 Became a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers

Registered 30 patents.

1891 April 27th. Loftus died in London and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery

1893 Amalgamation of A. M. Perkins and Son Ltd and Werner and Pfleiderer to form Werner, Pfleiderer and Perkins Ltd. Due to disputes over the Arktos patents, the Perkins family cut their links with the new company.

1900 A. M. Perkins and Son continued to act as heating engineers.

1920 The firm merged with Joseph Baker and Sons as Baker, Perkins.

Extract from Steam Locomotion on Common Roads by William Fletcher. Published 1891.

We have now to notice a novel road locomotive designed by Mr. Loftus Perkins, and made in 1871 by Messrs. Perkins and Son, Seaford Street, Regent Square London, which was shown at work in the grounds of the International Exhibition at South Kensington in June, 1873.

The engine was of the compound type, the diameter of the high pressure cylinder being 1.75 in., the diameter of the low pressure cylinder was 3.25 in., and both cylinders were 4.5 in. stroke. The engine was worked at 450 lbs. steam pressure, and at the time of the Exhibition it ran at a speed of 1,000 revolutions per minute, and had been often at work during the period of 2.5 years, and was declared to be in as good condition as when new.

The design of the locomotive was somewhat similar to Cugnot's made as far back as 1770. Mr. Parkin's engine was mounted upon three wheels, a single broad wheel 2 ft. diameter at the front acting as the driving and steering wheel, fitted with a rubber tyre, and two trailing wheels behind. The engine, boiler, and all the machinery was placed on a frame encircling this single driving wheel and turned with this wheel when the steering gear was actuated.

One important feature of the arrangement was, that the engine always pulled in the direction in which it was steered; and all the weight so placed was utilized for tractive purposes. The boiler was constructed of thick wrought-iron tubes with welded ends, the consumption of coal was only 2 lb. per indicated horse power per hour. No exhaust blast was required in the chimney, the engine drew behind it a carriage on which an atmospheric surface condenser was placed, composed of a large number of small tubes into which the exhaust steam was turned. The engine was practically noiseless, and it emitted no smoke, it moved easily at the rate of eight miles an hour, and readily passed over rough places, was steered with facility, and quickly turned about in any direction. This road locomotive was for some time used by the Yorkshire Engine Co, Meadow Hall Works, Sheffield.

In October, 1871, the engine drew a wagon load of passengers weighing 33 cwt. from St. Albans to London, 21 miles, at seven miles an hour running time, there being numerous stoppages for vehicles to pass. The india-rubber tyre on the driving wheel was run 1,500 miles without any armour on, and we are informed that no wear was apparent as the engine only weighed 3.5 tons. But a special chain armour invented by Mr. Loftus Perkins was prepared and used occasionally.

This is the smallest road locomotive we have noticed of the compound type, and this high pressure and high speed miniature engine was said to develop 20 indicated horse power. This was certainly a novel road steamer, but we fear that it was not a practical success.

See Loftus Perkins: Obituary

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1861 Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  2. London Gazette 1873
  3. London Gazette 1876
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • Civil engineer records