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British Industrial History

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Vacuum Brake Co

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January 1896.
December 1907.
July 1908.
September 1913.

of Stratford Place, London

c.1870 John Y. Smith, an Englishman who had been working in Pittsburgh for several years, developed a vacuum brake which also attracted attention in Britain[1]

1875 George Westinghouse's company purchased the rights to the patents of the company for USA and Canada so that both vacuum and air braking systems could be offered; Smith's vacuum brake had been in use in USA since 1872 where it was in use on 10 lines[2]

1875 Tests of the various braking systems were conducted on the Midland Railway using a specially equipped train under the supervision of Mr Edward Woods CE; the various brakes were supported by different railway companies[3]. Westinhouse's air brake was judged most efficient.

1876 North British Railway organised a series of trials between Westinghouse's automatic air-brake and Smith's vacuum brake supplied by the Vacuum Co [4] which demonstrated the advantages of the air-brake. Nevertheless the vacuum system was deployed by many British railway companies.

1877 Public company.

1878 The Vacuum Brake Co was voluntarily wound up[5]

The Vacuum Brake Co did not have manufacturing facilities itself but relied on Gresham and Craven as suppliers[6]

1878 John George Hardy was appointed continental manager of the company

1880 William John Adams was appointed manager of the Vacuum Brake Co, of Queen Victoria St, London

By 1888 Harry Heatly was representing the Vacuum Brake Co on the continent

1891 Smith's Vacuum Brake Company Limited was voluntarily wound up[7]

1896 Managing Director is Alfred Louis Sacre.[8]

1898 Vacuum Brake Co, of 32 Queen Victoria St, London

1907 Advert; also see Gresham and Craven.

1931 The Vacuum Brake Company, Ltd., of London, in conjunction with its associated concerns of Gresham and Craven, Ltd of Manchester, and the Heatly-Gresham Engineering Company, Ltd., of Letchworth, exhibited a full range of vacuum brake equipment for all kinds of railway locomotives and railcars, and rolling stock in the Buenos Aires exhibition.

1934 The Vacuum Brake Co (France) Ltd was voluntarily wound up[9]

1936 Greshams and Vacuum Brake Co Ltd was removed from the register of companies[10]

1952-54 Was quoted on the London Stock Exchange

1955 Acquired by Laycock Engineering Co[11]

1957 Part of Birfield Industries[12]

1961 Manufacturers and appliers of mechanical appliances to locomotives, wagons, trucks and carriages. [13]

1967 Birfield was acquired by GKN

1975 An extraordinary general meeting of the Vacuum Brake Co Ltd was held at GKN head office to review the winding up of the company[14]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The American Railroad Passenger Car, Part 2 By John H. White
  2. The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Sep 06, 1876
  3. The Times, Jun 08, 1875
  4. The Times, 26 December 1876
  5. London Gazette 12 February 1878
  6. Gresham and Craven [1]
  7. London Gazette 6 October 1891
  8. 1896 Advertisement
  9. London Gazette 17 August 1934
  10. London Gazette 16 June 1936
  11. [2]
  12. The Times, Mar 04, 1957
  13. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  14. London Gazette 2 December 1975