Charles Edward Fairburn


Trend in design of electric locomotives. Proc. Inst. Electrical Engrs., 1938, 83, 581-633.

[Faraday Lecture, 1940]. Proc. Inst. Electrical Engrs.
Details from obituary notice J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1945, 35, 388-9.

Diesel shunting locomotives. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1941, 31, 175-222.

The electrification of the Wirral Line of the LMS. Min. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs, 1943.
Details from obituary notice J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1945, 35, 388-9.

Maintenance of diesel electric shunting locomotives. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1944, 34, 212-58 (Paper No.446).

Fairburn was born in Bradford on 5 September 1887; educated at Bradford Grammar School and gained an Open Scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1905. After taking a First in Mathematical Moderations and in Final Schools, he read Engineering Science, being the first student in the new Engineering School at Oxford; in this he also gained First Class Honours. He then became a pupil under Henry Fowler at Derby for two years. In 1912 he joined the Siemens Dynamo Works Ltd of Stafford, being first involved in research work; from 1913 to 1916 he was assistant to the Resident Engineer on the Shildon-Newport electrification of the North Eastern Railway. He was responsible for the design and erection of the overhead equipment and for commissioning the locomotives. After service as an Experimental Officer in the Royal Flying Corps in World War 1, he joined English Electric Company to organise a railway electrification department. By 1931 he had become Chief Engineering Manager of the Traction Department of EE and had been involved with electrification schemes in 49 countries, as well as with the development of diesel-electric locomotives. In 1934 he was invited to join the LMS as Chief Electrical Engineer. Rutherford states (Backtrack, 16, 515) that he was "something of a catch for the LMSR and especially for Hartley".

In 1938 Fairburn became additionally Deputy CME under Stanier, and thus Acting CME when Stanier became engaged in full-time Government work in 1942. On Stanier's retirement from the LMS in 1944 he became CME. Despite his limited experience of steam traction he took a close interest in it, especially in the modified version of the Stanier 2-6-4T with which his name is particularly associated. He began to introduce new ideas based on his industrial experience, in such matters as the layout and numbering of drawings. More drastic changes in techniques and personnel would almost certainly have followed had Fairburn not died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 58 on 12 October 1945. When considering his successor Ivatt and "his" mainline diesel electric locomotives it is tempting to wonder how much of the way had been prepared by Fairburn. Terry Jenkins Sir Ernest Lemon has quite a lot to say about Fairburn including that  he played golf with Lemon..

Carpenter, George W. biography in Oxford Dictionary of National Biographywho noted that: "He was an outstanding engineer with quick perception of any issue and great powers of concentration."

On page 88 of Larkin's book: Charles E. Fairburn is described as a most able administrator. First engineer to graduate from Oxford; also a graduate from Cambridge. Previously General Manager of English Electric under Sir George Nelson (Chairman). Larkin was involved in diesel electric shunters at Derby. Fairburn "was a first-class administrator, a brilliant mathematician and a tireless worker (page 91).

Cox (Locomotive panorama, Vol. 1): "Fairburn, on the other hand [compared with Ivatt], was one of the first examples of someone coming straight from outside industry into a top position in railway engineering. Starting as Chief Electrical Engineer in 1934, he was far from being solely an electrician, and his former positions of responsibility with the English Electric Co., including their heavy mechanical engineering activities, gave him great authority in dealing with railway workshops and production matters after he became Deputy C.M.E. Thus he was a scourge of the inefficient in the shops, and soon became extremely 'canny' in weighing up form on steam traction matters, in which, to the surprise of some and the affront of others, he took a very real interest. A protege of Sir Harold Hartley (see also Rogers Last steam locomotive engineer pp 87-8 who had to inform Riddles that he was being sent to Scotland to pave the way for Fairburn's entry), who was his strong supporter at management level, he had a brain like a calculating machine, and liked to arrive at all his results by the operation of pure logic. For this, unlike Ivatt, he called for the utmost by way of detailed and accurate information, not only because whole segments of railway activity were new to him, but also because that was the way he liked it-he was prepared to take endless time and trouble with the job in hand, and to give it his undivided attention, and he expected his staff to do the same." Cox's Chronicles of steam C.E. Fairburn who had joined the railway in 1934 was nominally [KPJ the nominally should be noted] in command at Derby from 1942 until his death at the end of 1945, but although his interest in steam matters was real, his previous career spent with the English Electric Co.. naturally had not given him the knowledge, feel' and instinct of a true steam locomotive man. [KPJ's emphasis]

Thus it was not surprising that it required not a little finesse to satisfy Fairburn and Ivatt simultaneously, and to interpret Stanier's activities and demands to both, in a manner which did not fall foul of the susceptibilities of any of the three of them. Occasionally it took some doing to avoid this undesirable outcome since their admiration for one another's ways was not always boundless."

Chacksfield, J.E. Ron Jarvis: from Midland compound to the HST. 2004.
Jarvis (page 65) "got to know Fairburn quite well" as they shared an official car for journeys between Derby and Watford during WW2. Jarvis considered that Fairburn "had his own definite views and needed dipolmatic handling at times", moreover "he was not a fit man and could at times be quite irritable". There is also a suggestion that whilst Fairburn was Acting CME he had not always been loyal to Stanier.

Langridge, E. Under ten CMEs. 2 p. 7
Fairburn, who succeeded Stanier as CME in 1944 had had a distinguished academic career at Oxford. He had served – perhaps strange to note – three years pupilage at the Derby locomotive works under Fowler; so he must have known something about steam locomotives. He then joined Siemens and became involved in the ER ewport-Shildon electrification work. He was in the RAF and became a pilot in World War I, after which he joined English Electric in their traction department, later becoming manager of their Dick, Kerr works at Preston.' Lastly he joined the LMS in 1934 as chief electrical engineer and in 1937 became deputy CME – so he was a pretty all-round engineer. He was a man of strong opinions. He disliked the 'out-of-date' steam locomotive and was very keen that the drawing office should follow the practice of English Electric in making 'unit drawings' of every detail instead of ordering up details from a sub- assembly drawing. He rapidly became a thorn in the flesh to the older dyed-in-the-wool steam men, and removals and transfers of anyone who criticized his views soon took place. He saw the future traction unit as a diesel-electric locomotive. He had proved himself right in the matter of diesel shunters versus steam shunters and was only waiting the time when the diesel engine section at Rugby should have developed their basic 350 hp engine into a 1,600 hp one