Friday, 18 November 2016

On valves and gears

A list of locomotives of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, prepared by Locomotive Superintendent John Melling dated 10 April 1839 lists those locomotives built with his "Patent Improvements", and upon which he has later added in pencil notes on which firms have paid him royalties.

Melling was appointed as Locomotive Foreman at Edgehill Shops of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1833; his counterpart at the Manchester end of the line was Alexander Fyfe. Melling took out a patent in July 1837 for "certain improvements" on steam locomotive engines, which were also applicable to stationary engines.. These "improvements" comprised a radial valve gear, which dispensed with eccentrics, and instead derived the valve motion from a pin on the connecting rod. It also included an

"improved fireplace for a Loco-Motive engine, with hollow bars, and ash-pan so constructed as to form part of the boiler"

Melling's valve gear also included valves with a lap of 3/8inch which reduced back-pressure in the cylinder, by allowing increased time for the exaust steam to escape. Melling informed the Directors of the Liverpool & Manchester that he would not accept any payment from them for the use of his invention; however they insisted in December 1837 to reward him with £100 and pay 50 guineas per locomotive fitted with his valve gear and improved firebox. This was half the charge to other railway companies.

Melling's Radial Valve Gear, patented in 1837 and in use into the 1860s (after D K Clark)
In March 1838 the Directors contracted to fit ten new locomotives with his valve gear. Amongst this list were six "Luggage Engines" ordered from Messrs. Todd, Kitson & Laird of Leeds:

 Lion at Rainhill in 1980

  • Lion
  • Tiger
  • Panther
  • Leopard
  • Elephant
  • Buffalo

All six were fitted wtih the patent valve gear and firebox, at a cost to the Company of £52 20s 6d.

With the re-organisation of the L&M Locomotive Department in 1840, Melling was dismissed and replaced by John Dewrance. Melling and his son, Thomas, established the Rainhill Iron Works.

Of the six locomotives ordered from Todd, Kitson & Laird, only Lion survives, but it does not retain Melling's patent valve gear or other "improvements". The valve gear on Lion is that patented by William Barber Buddicom, who was from 1840-August 1841 Locomotive Superintendent of the Grand Junction Railway Locomotive Department at Edge Hill (literally, accross the tracks from the Liverpool & Manchester Works of John Dewrance). Buddicom's patent valve gear utilised two, linked, V-hooks (called Gabs) which connected with the valve spindle providing fore and reverse gear as well as "mid grear"

Diagranatic representation of Buddicom's valve gear

Lion's Buddicom gab-gear, with its opposed gabs 

In other words, the valve gear currently fitted to Lion must date from 1841 or later. It is likely that Lion was heavily rebuilt under the orders of John Dewrance in 1841 when he was ordered by the Directors to catalogue the locomotives then in service on the L&M:

"New Engines" - those which have been built entirely new by the Company
"Rebuilt Engines"  - those which have had all their parts renewed with the exception of the boiler, firebox and frames
"Repaired" - thiose which have undergone a thorough general repair without altering cylinders, gearing.

Dewrance sold or scrapped five old engines and replaced them with new of his own design in that year; four "Old" engines were "repaired" and a further eight were "rebuilt". It is likely that Lion and her sisters figured somewhere on this list. We know that Lion not only had its valve gear replaced but cylinders also: Alexander Fyfe gives her cylinders  11 x 20 inches but at present she carries them 14 x 18 inches. Lion's original boiler measured 39 x 42 inches in cross-section (i.e. slightly oval); the present boiler has a 40 inch internal diameter/42 inches external.

Further evidence to date Lion's valve gear is that the Grand Junction Railway - with which the Liverpool & Manchester amalgamated in 1845 - stopped using gab valve gear in 1844/5 in favour of Indirect Stephenson Link Motion. Furthermore, Lion's blast pipe reaches into the base of the chimney, something which Carl Friedrich Beyer of Sharp, Stewart had concluded was inefficient in 1847, and, from 1848 the LNWR (of which the Grand Junction was a constituent) adopted shorter blast pipes which stopped just above the top row of tubes in 1848.

Lion's very long copper blast pipe, reaching up into the base of the chimney.

The replacement of the Melling Patent valve gear was perhaps due to Melling have left the Liverpool & Manchester, and the company no longer wishing to pay him for the use of his patent "improvements" which would have automatically doubled in royalties. After leaving the L&M, Melling became Locomotive Superintendent of the Dublin & Kingstown Railway, in Ireland.

John Melling in later life
The conclusion drawn by Adrian Jarvis and Len Morris in 1980 that the valve gear on Lion dates from 1838, on the basis that if Lion had been rebuilt in the early 1840s then Stephenson Link would have been fitted rather than retain Gab Gear, is therefore incorrect. The valve gear on Lion dates from a major rebuild in the 1840s, probably carried out sometime between 1841 and 1848, at the Edge Hill shops of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, of even by a fledgling LNWR.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Early Railway Management

 Commander C H Binstead, RN 1797-1876

The Railways of the 1830s were without precedent - not only for size but cost and personnel involved. Who were the Directors of these new companies to get to manage them? On the Liverpool & Manchester, day-to-day management was vested in the redoubtable Henry Booth who as a Secretary and Treasurer, acted as General Manager. This was in addition to a Management Committee of selected Directors which took on the running of the Company.

Other companies, however, vested management in a single figure, often referred to as  General Manager or Superintendent. The majority of these men were selected from half-pay officers because they represented a class of professionals who had experience of commanding and administering large numbers of men and materiel.

The most famous was Captain Mark Huish of the Grand Junction, latterly L&NWR. Born in Nottingham to a family of Unitarians - they attended the High Pavement Chapel - he was commissioned into the forces of the Hon. East India Company, because his religious pursausions barred him from a commission in the forces of the Crown.

Captain John Edward Cleather, a half-pay officer from the Royal Staff Corps  - an elite, specialist unit of Engineers and Administrators - was General Manager of the Manchester & Birmingham Railway.

But by far it was Naval men who were in positions of management:

Captain John  Milligen Laws RN was General Manager of the Manchester & Leeds Railway; he was a nephew of Sir Robbert Seppings, Surveyor of the Navy. He had been promoted Captain in 1833 and had commanded HMS Southampton, a 60-gun Frigate.

 Commander - later Admiral - Cheesman Henry Binstead was appointed as Traffic and Passenger Superintendent. Binstead had considerable experience of this kind of work having served from 1828-1834 as 'Agent for Transports Afloat' directing the movements of men and materiel of the Army and Navy accross the globe.

Lieutenant Peter Lecount RN was appointed as Manager of the London & Birmingham Railway. He was also a qualified civil engineer, fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society

Lieutenant Samuel Eborall RN was Goods Manager of the Grand Junction, and latterly the 'Northern Divison' of the L&NWR; his son, Cornelius was involved wtih the East Lancashire Railway and later became General Manager of the   L&SWR. Lieutenant Eborall had been on half pay from 1815 but up to 1829 had 'been in command of various Merchanmen'

Many of these Naval men had been on half-pay (retired from active duty but still receiving  half pay as a retainer cum pension) for several years before joining the railways: Lecount had been on half pay from 1829; Milligen from 1833 and Binstead from 1841. Perhaps these men sense that they could have a new career with the new-fangled railways, where there skills and experience would be put to good use. So too the Directors of the new companies, who sensed the need for men used to commanding and organising a large undertaking. Indeed, the influence of these Naval men is evidenct in many of the regulations of the railway companies; expressions such as 'Officers and Men' and even terms auch as 'Ahead' and 'Astern' on the London & Birmingham.  The use of signalling flag, semaphores and signal rockets also show a distinct Naval influence. Commander Binstead of the Lancashire &  Yorkshire developed a 'safety signal' and a means of allowing the guard to communicate with the driver.

Binstead is in fact of particular interest to this writer, as his family share a home with Binstead, who lived in South Parade, Wakefield from 1870 to his death - renting the large Georgian town house as a residence appropriate to a Royal Navy Admiral. There can't be many railway companies which can boast a Vice-Admiral as their Traffic and Passenger Superintendent!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Musical Connections

Glenn Miller's "Don't sit under the apple tree" and "The Tenessee Waltz" are well-known pieces of American popular music.  But why - and how - are they connected to the Liverpool & Manchester Railway?

The answer is their composer: Thomas Haynes Bayly, 1797-1839

One of his most popular songs was "Long, Long Ago" writtend  in 1833 but only published posthumously, in the United States, in 1844 where it became incredibly popular.

The tune - sped and jazzed up a little - is that for "Don't sit under the Apple Tree" popularised by Glenn Miller in 1942.

But how does Glenn Miller and  popular early nineteenth century song-writer relate to the Liverpool & Manchester?

MUSIC. Of course!

From documentary evidence we know that there was a trumpeter or 'bugleman' who sent off every train from Liverpool Road Station, Manchester with the strains of "I'd be a butterfly", written by Bayly in 1828 and  one of the most popular songs of its day.

Writing in 1836 Edward Herapath, however, described the sending out of trains as akin to 'a few cracked notes from an old broken down cavalry trumpet". Not very flattering.

But here's what the song sounded like. Enjoy.

Friday, 12 August 2016

When is a Rocket not a Rocket?

In September 1884, the professional journal "The Engineer" published  the above sketch by James Nasmyth (of Steam Hammer fame) which he had drawn fifty-four years earlier at the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, resulting in a flurry of correspondance that, in fact, there had been not one but two Rockets

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Rules and Regulations

Anthony is pleased to announce his facsimile version of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway "Rules and Regulations March 1839" are now available  Here

These rules were the product of eight years of operating the world's first inter-city railway - lessons learned often the hard way, and sadly, fatally. They were the basis of the rules and regulations approved by the 'General Railway Conference' held in Birmingham in January 1841, and approved for use nationally in the first attempt to standardise signaling and safety protocals on the burgeoning railways of Britain. Their influence can also be seen in railway regulations in France.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016


What was it like to work on the early railways? How safe were they? Presented here are excerpts from the LNWR Regulations of 1847.

At a Meeting of the Board of Directors held on the 11th of September, 1847, it was

That the following code of Rules and Regulations be, and the same is hereby approved and adopted for the guidance and instruction of the Officers and Men in the service of the London and North-Western Railway Company, and that all former Rules and Regulations inconsistent with the same be cancelled.

That every person in the service do keep a copy of these Regulations on his person while on duty under a penalty of five shillings for neglect of the same.
By order of the Board of Directors.
                 General Manager,
     London and North Western Railway.

Choo Choo Trains

On my way into Manchester this morning - basking in the luxuary of a 142 ('Pacer') DMU - a mother and her twin, very excited, 4 year old daughters were making the same journey to visit MOSI. Every time they saw another train, all three mimed the act of pulling a whistle chain and loudly "Choo-Chooed". This, in itself, reminds us of the potency of the Steam Locomotive - but trains in Britain have not got "Choo Choo" since 1968 - but yet it remains the "classic sound" of a train. But... 'twas not always thus ...

Coming soon to all good bookshops

 Anthony is pleased to announced his first book for Amberley Publishing Ltd will be published in time to mark the 186th Anniversary of the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, 15 September 2016.

Buy it here


Hello, and welcome to the blog of Railway Historian Anthony Dawson. Here he hopes to share some of my historical findings of the pioneering years of the Railways in Britain, c1830-1855.

Anthony was born in Wakefield in 1980; his parents owned shares in an '8F' - when house-hunting it is rumoured his father wanted a property with a drive sufficiently large to put it on. His mum, obviously, refused. He is a graduate of the University of Bradford (B.Sc Hons, Archaeology) and Leeds (M.Res, History). He had worked for Tameside Museum Services and for a period taught Local History and Archaeology at Salford City College. He puts his enthusiasm for early railways into good pracitce as a volunteer on the Steam Railway at the Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester as a Trainee Fireman working on the replica 'Planet' 2-2-0 locomotive, based at the world's first Passenger Railway Station.