Robert Young

Timothy Hackworth and the locomotive. London 1923. 406pp.


Ottley 378: "very detailed work containing much information on early railways and locomotives".
Rutherford notes several errors in Backtrack: (vol. 9 p. 534) see page 528. Notes especially an error on page 51 where locomotive illustrated is not Wylam "Grasshopper" locomotive, but is Puffing Billy. C.F. Dendy Marshall considered it to be an excellent work..
Reissued as part of the150th Anniversary celebrations by Shildon Town Council in 1975.

Ahrons' review occupies nearly two pages of the Locomotive Mag. (Volume 29, pp. 186-9) and is reproduced in full below:

This is a most interesting and enjoyable book, and a welcome contribution to our knowledge of locomotive history. The author is a lineal descendant of Timothy Hackworth, and writes not only from inside family knowledge, but also with the added advantage of reference to original letters and documents, some of which he quotes in full. Books, purporting to be history, have been written in the past on the subject. of the locomotive and its growth some of which, apart from the number of inaccurate statements contained in them, are of such an extremely partisan character as to lose almost all value. These, according to the biassed views of the writers, either ignore Hackworth 's undoubted work as a pioneer, or are bitterly anti-Stephenson. The writer is glad to see that Mr. Young has a much higher and better outlook. In the preface he writes:

" It is always difficult to apprise the just share of merit accruing to those who have been instrumental in originating and developing any great undertaking, and it is far from the present writer's intention either to decry the work of Hackworth's contemporaries or to revive ancient controversy. What he (Hackworth) accomplished is set out in greater detail,. and the record is made public in the hope that the achievements of a modest and unambitious man may not pass into oblivion."

The author has had no easy task in steering clear of the rocks of partisan strife, and if, perhaps, he barely grazes them in one or two places, it must be remembered that the descen- dants of Timothy Hackworth have just cause for feeling sore over the neglected memory of a great mechanical engineer. In this connection it may perhaps be fairly said that the Stephenson-Hackworth controversy dated principally from the appearance of the well-known Lives of the Engineers, by Samuel Smiles. Smiles appears to have been so obsessed with the undoubted achievements of the Stephensons that he not only totally neglected Hackworth, but apparently credited them with some of Hackworth's ideas, which the Stephensons do not appear to have ever claimed for themselves. The authority of Smiles carried much weight with the general public, and it was, therefore, natural that the somewhat fiery John Wesley Hackworfh, the son of Timothy, should have felt indignant at the neglect accorded to his father's work. But there was no similar justification for some modern writers, who chose to step in where angels fear to tread, and considered it necessary to put forward their own views of Hackworth's claims by the easy process of belittling the Stephensons. No man would have shown keener disapproval of such "literary" antics than the high-principled Timothy Hackworth himself. Moreover, it was not the fault of George Stephenson, but that of the biographers, that Hackworth's work was not suitably acknowledged.

Turning now to Mr. Young's book, Chapters I and II. deal with the early history of the locomotive from Cugnot to Trevithick, and thence take us to the year 1811, when Hackworth, then twenty-four years of age, comes upon the scene as foreman smith at Wylam Colliery. It is pleasant to note the author's suitable appreciation of the work of Richard Trevithick, and due mention is made of the cranked axle in Trevithick and Vivian's patent engine of 1802. Chapter III. gives a very interesting account of the “grasshopper" or Wylarn "dilly" locomotives, which were made with Hackworth's assistance to Christopher Blackett's and Hedley's instructions. The credit for the use of a smooth wheel on a smooth rail, which has been claimed for Hedley, is rightly given to Trevithick's Pen-y-darran locomotive, "which progressed simply by the adhesion of the wheels." Chapter IV. deals with the Blenkinsop-Murray rack-rail locomotive, and also with the walking locomotive by William Brunton of Butterley.

The early Killingworth engines of George Stephenson are· fully considered in Chapter V. It will be remembered that the axles of these engines were coupled by means of chains, and the author points out that the first locomotive in which direct coupling rods were used was the Stockton and 'Darlington No. 1 "Locomotion," which was built at Stephensonr's Newcastle factory in 1825. For a short time Hackworth was temporarily employed by R. Stephenson & Co. during the early period of the building of this engine, and the author states that the coupling rods on the wheels were Hackworth's invention. There may be excellent reasons for this statement, but it would have been well if the author had given proof of it, more especially as he is generally very careful to give supporting documentary evidence. In this particular case, the proof is not given, an omission which may be the cause of another controversy in regard to the inventor of coupling rods, rivalling the celebrated blast pipe battles. D.K. Clarke, who was careful to give Hackworth due credit for the blast pipe, stated (Railway Machinery, page 3) that “outside coupling rods were substituted by Stephenson for chains." This, of course, does not prove that the author is in error, especially as Clarke' s history is occasionally faulty. The author (page 105) states that Hackworth left Stephenson's factory "in the latter part of 1824," about ten months before the "Locomotion" was delivered to the S. & D. Ry., and therefore, the use of coupling rods must have been decided upon at a very early period in the design.

On May 13th, 1825, Hackworth was appointed superintendent of the permanent and locomotive engines of the Stockton and Darlington Ry., and it is interesting to note that the first locomotive superintendent of a British railway received the muniicent salary of £150 per annum, with house rent and coals free. Seeing that he was not only locomotive superintendent, but also had charge of all the mechanical appliances, and was In addition the manager of the railway, it is evident that the thrifty railway company did not overpay a good man.

In Chapter VIII., "The Railway in operation," there is a very interesting account of Hackworths work in improving the stationary engines and drums used for working the Brusselton and Etherley inclines. The post of the first locomotive superintendent was no sinecure. Of the Shildon workshops the author writes:

.. The railway repairing shops consisted of a narrow barn-like building, divided into joiners' shop and a blacksmith,' shop, the latter with two smiths' hearths. There was also a small engine shed with room for two locomotives only, and this for months remained roofless. The cautious Committee wasted no money on elaborate buildings, and the conditions under which the rolling stock was maintained were ludicrously—and painfully—inadequate...
There were no machine tools except hand lathes, and no means of raising engine and boiler but the screw jack of old fashioned make with four "paps" or "horns," to which a lever was applied. There was no gas, only the dim and feeble candle, and there was very much overtime."

Many a night Hackworth was hard at it, and often took a turn with the hammer in removing wheels.

Chapter IX., " The Locomotive Crisis," describes the early troubles on the S. & D.R., with the first engines of the "Locomotion" type. Naturally there were defects to be expected in such machines in their infancy. The author, with fair impartiality, says that Hackworth himself had assisted in designing them, though the extent of his collaboration is not clear, and .. he, no less than Stephenson, would be vitally affected by their failure." Afterwards, Hackworth had daily opportunities of noting the defects of engines with which he lived, and his practical observations led up to the design of " The Royal George" of 1827, a full description of which is given in Chapter X.

The" Royal George" was certainly a successful locomotive and a credit to its designer. The author disposes of the story that the " Royal George" was a rebuild of the older four- cylinder engine by Robert Wilson of Gateshead. The latter was a failure, and the S. & D. directors desired Hackworth to use its boiler shell. Amongst other noteworthy details of the "Royal George" was the first direct spring-loaded safety valve, the origin of which is due to Hackworth. In this and the previous chapter, some interesting and friendly correspondence between the Stephensons and Hackworth is quoted in full.

Chapter XI. contains the account of the Rainhill contest. Of Hackworth's " Sanspareil," a full sized model was made in 1893 by the Baltimore and Ohio Ry. for the Chicago Exhibition of that year.

Chapter XlI. deals fully with the invention of the blast pipe, a subject which has always caused much controversy. On behalf of Hackworth's claims the author unfolds his story generally with fairness, and quotes his authorities. There is one quotation to which exception may be taken. Richard Roberts (of Sharp Roberts Co.) in a letter to John Dixon of the S. & D.R.:—

" Says he thinks the' Sanspareil ' had a blast pipe at the contest, and that the' Rocket' subsequently had one, and that he heard some of the Liverpool and Manchester mechanics say that George Stephenson made a visit in the night to the 'Sanspareil' to see how the effect was produced."

The latter portion is pure hearsay, and therefore not evidence, and as such is not fair to the memory of Stephenson. Moreover, it was made by a rival locomotive manufacturer, and therefore lends itself to the suspicion of being somewhat tainted. It is just to the author of the book to add that the quotation is given in a footnote, apparently as an afterthought, and is not put forward amongst his main arguments. We have drawn attention to it since the same story in a much more highly embellished form was given out as a fact by another and extremely biassed writer. 'Ye are glad to see that this latter version is not even hinted at by the present author. From this we can turn to the very different and significant quotation from the first edition of Smiles's Lives of George and Robert Stephenson, " in which the latter is stated to have said" that whatever merit or value may attach to this alteration," (i.e., the contraction of the blast pipe orifice), " I believe to be due to Timothy Hackworth" It is curious to learn that Smiles omitted this from later editions, though R. Stephenson's letter appeared in The Engineer about 1858.

Chapter XlII contains illustrations of some interesting early locomotives,and also discusses another vexed historical question, viz. : the origin of the locomotive doubl crank axle. This involves a "triangular duel" between the claims of Hackworth's "Globe," Stephenson's "Planet," and Bury's " Liverpool."

Locomotive progress from 1830-1834 is considered in Chapter XIV., which contains many historical particulars of the early Stockton and Darlington engines, both of Hackworth's and other designs. In 1833, Hackworth made a new agreement with the railway company, by which he contracted to provide and maintain in good condition the whole of the locomotive power. In virtue of this, Hackworth obtained complete independence of action, and built his own shops at Shildon, known as "Soho Works." Here he not only constructed locomotives for the S. & D.R., but also for other railways, whilst at the same time he was responsible for the whole of the locomotive supply, working and repairs on the former.

In Chapter XV. particulars and an illustration are given of the first locomotive for Russia. Amongst other illustrations of early S. & D.R. locomotives we notice (page 269) Hawthorn's four-wheeled engine "Swift," with intermediate crankshaft. This illustration is taken from Déghilage's French work Origine de la Locomotive, and shows the engine in a later and rebuilt form, which was considerably different from that of the original. Deghilage apparently got this from The Engineer, of June lOth, 1881, page 432, to which it was supplied by Mr. George Graham. Some of W. & A. Kitching's locomotives are also illustrated, and some interesting particulars are given of three of Hackworth's engines exported in 1838 to Nova Scotia, which were the earliest locomotives to work in British North America. One remained in service until 1882; it was afterwards purchased as a relic by the Baltimore and Ohio Ry., and exhibited by them at Chicago in 1893.

In Chapter XVI. we obtain some excellent and amusing character sketches of the first S. & D.R. engine drivers, amongst whom was Jemmy, elder brother of George Stephenson.

"Jemmy was famous for the use of a rich and lurid vocabulary, and .must have been on this account an object of no small anxiety to his chief."
" Jemmy was in the habit occasionally—by way of a change—of getting off his engine when on its journey, and taking a walk beside it. This proceeding was also a test of the engine's qualifications. Sometimes the engine kept up with him, and sometimes it didn't, and he was wont to express his satisfaction or annoyance accordingly."

In 1840, Hackworth severed his connection with the S.& D.R., and henceforth devoted his whole attention to his private engineering business. In Chapter XVII., particulars are given of the later locomotives and machinery built between 1840 and 1850, terminating with the famous 2-2-2 engine, the second Sanspareil." which was the last locomotive built by Timothy Hackworth, and appeared at the end of 1849. Details are also given of stationary and colliery winding engines; one of the latter is still at work.

The longitudinal boiler seams of the "Sanspareil" were welded, and the dome was also welded and flanged out of a single plate. The author also mentions other interesting constructional details of this engine, but whether it can be justly claimed that the slab frames with solid axleguards were then (1849) a novel method of construction is doubtful, since Sharp Bros. had previously made such (inside) frames. If the claim be limited to outside slab frames, as would appear to be the case from a statement made subsequently on page 438, it may be conceded.

An illustration is given of the 2-2-2 engine :;\0. 190 of the York, Newcastle and Berwick Ry. by R. Stcphenson & Co.. 1849, and attention is drawn to " the most curious feature of the oval boiler, which was stayed across the narrow diameter." Oval boilers were not uncommon at that period .. Six four-coupled goods engines built in 1838-9 by Messrs. Todd, Kitson and Laird, of Leeds, for the Liverpool & Manchester Ry., had oval boilers. and there were also a number of similar boilers on engines designed by R. & W. Hawthorn and J. E. McConnell Timothy Hackworth died on July 7th, 1850, at Shildon. He had justly earned the author's tribute :-

" Thus passed away a loving kindly gentleman, sincerely mourned by all who knew him, who had lived an upright unselfish life, ' as honest a man,' said Henry Pease, ' as ever walked.' " .

Chapter XIX. deals with the work of John Wesley Hackworth, the son of Timothy, and the inventor of the well- known radial valve gear, and in chapter XX. the author adds a just appreciation of the work and characters of Richard Trevithick, George Stephenson and Timothy Hackworth. An appendix of twenty-seven pages contains extracts from a number of historical letters and documents.

The author has produced a book of great historial value, which can be thoroughly recommended. The printing, illustrations, and page plates are very clear and well executed.

See also letter by C.V. Green in Locomotive Mag., 1939, 45, 357