Herbert William Garratt

Garratt was born in London on 8 June 1864; and died Richmond, Surrey, on 25 September 1913. He was apprenticed at Bow works, NLR, from 1879 to 1582 under J.C. Park. He then moved to Doxford's marine engineering works in Sunderland. After acting as inspector for Sir Charles Douglas Fox and Sir Alexander Rendel he went to the Central Argentine Railway in 1889, becoming locomotive superintendent in 1892. From 1900 he worked on the Cuban Central, Lagos Government, Lima (Peru), and New South Wales Government Railways, returning to Britain in 1906. According to Rutherford (BackTrack, 12, 387) his ideas for articulated locomotives were rejected by Kitsons. On 21 March 1910 Garrattt had written to F.G. Wright (Churchward's key assistant, proposing a 2-4-2-2-4-2. After inspecting rail-mounted artillery for the NSW Government he visited Beyer, Peacock & Co, Manchester, to discuss a method of mounting heavy artillery on railway bogies. One characteristic which is missing from Rolt's account (below) but is clearly identified in the R.L. Hill's Newcomen Society paper is that Garratt was also an artist.

Rolt is highly illuminating in an unexpected source (Hunset hundred): The highlight of Edgar Alcock's stay at Beyer Peacock's was the appearance on the scene of H.W. Garratt and the birth of the Beyer-Garratt articulated locomotive. Garratt came to Beyer's before he registered his patent for this locomotive and shortly before H.A. Hoy died suddenly in 1908, to be succeeded as general manager by Rogerson. What followed is best told in Edgar Alcock's own words. It is a story of great interest, both as a first-hand piece of locomotive history and for the light it throws on the personality of the narrator.

'Garratt brought his original idea of the articulated locomotive to Hoy, who thought there was something in it. Therefore Hoy turned the idea over to Rogerson to examine and develop a little, but he instructed me to keep closely in touch with Garratt in the matter in order that the latter might have whatever service and assistance he wanted.

'When Garratt first came along he brought only the bare idea, really just a rough sort of sketch. He had seen a long bogie wagon go over reverse curves in a yard and wondered whether a locomotive could not be built on the same principle.

'Garratt was a tall, bearded man, and he was not always strictly addicted to temperance. He did not come in every day while his design was being worked out, but only for two or three hours a day twice or thrice a week. Nevertheless, works and drawing office combined to get the idea into a workman like shape; and considering the difficulties under which we had to work the first two orders turned out quite successfully - particularly when one remembers the physical configuration of the two lines involved. The first two types built were for the Tasmanian Government Railways and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.

'When we in the Gorton works were in difficulties over the spherical pipe joint in these first Garratt locomotives we tried one thing after another without being able to ensure anythii~g like complete steam tightness. Then I turned up my engineering index and found that something about spherical steam joints had been described years before in connection with one of the locomotives built for the Festiniog Railway in North Wales. I looked up the description and studied it. Then two of us went down to the railway to see the Festiniog locomotives actually at work, and when we came back we were able to build up a joint which was successful and formed the basis of all the future improvements which have been made until the present day.

'At that time the late Sam Jackson was a young draughtsman. He was on the design and estimating side of the drawing office, and among his regular jobs was an attendance at shop weighing to check up the weights and have such items as the boilers weighed and the centre of gravity found by slinging. He was a forward young man at that time, very keen on his job, and always wanting extra things done which held up the work; therefore our passages of arms were not infrequent. Jackson stayed with Beyer's until the end of his life. He developed rapidly and fully, and in his later years became what is freely admitted to be the best locomotive designer in the industry.

'In fact the Beyer-Garratt articulated locomotive - as it is known today - is really the production of Jackson much more than it is the child of Garratt. The early development was slow and Garratt, who died during the First World War, did not make very much money out of the royalties, though his widow was amply recompensed in the years after 1918 by the increasing number of orders at that time.

This, then, at first hand, is the story of the development of the most successful of all articulated steam locomotive designs; a story in which that little engineering 'commonplace book' which Edgar Alcock had had the good sense to keep in his 'teens played an important part. In any articulated locomotive the flexible steam joints present the knottiest problem to the designer and the fact that the Garratt joint was developed from that of the earlier Fairlie articulated locomotive is of con siderable interest. It is also of interest to recall that at the time Edgar Alcock was just beginning his work on the development of the Garratt at Beyer's, the Hunslet Engine Company were building the Fairlie locomotive Gowrie at Leeds.

Garratt. was elected MIME in 1902.

Westwood noted that Garratt died in 1913, not living long enough to see the inter-war popularity of his invention, the Garratt articulated locomotive. This locomotive had two engine units, between which the boiler was fitted by means of a pivot at each end. The Garratt locomotive was especially popular in Africa, giving a high power output with its weight spread over a very long wheel-base; the wheelbase, being flexible, was no obstacle to fast running on curved track.

Patents (from Hills)

13,937 An Improvement in the Expansion Links of the Valve Gear of Locomotive and
other Steam Engines
. 14 Nov. 1885.
reversing mechanism
8682 Improvements in or connected with the sand boxes of locomotives. 25 April 1899.
To keep sand dry
20123 An improved egg-opener. 8 Oct. 1901.
17,165 Improvements in and relating to locomotive engines. 26 July 1907 (published 11 June 1908).
The key patent for articulated locomotive: term extended 4½ years May 1923. 26 July 1923, 26 January 1928.
5851 Improvements in means for preventing radiation and loss of heat or transmission of heat from or to steam pipes, tubes, cylinders, and the like. 11 March 1909.
19,338 Improvements in and relating to locomotive engines. 30 Aug. 1911.
6217 Form of burner for oil, liquid fuel, or gas. 12 March 1912.
6697 Internal combustion, oil or gas driven locomotives. 18 March 1912.
3689 Spark-arrester for locomotive and other engines. 12 February 1913.

Note: There are many further patents for the Garratt locomotive which are held in the name of Whitelegg and Beyer Peacock.

Major sources of information

Birse, Ronald M. entry in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Hills, R.L. and Patrick, D. Beyer Peacock: locomotive builder to the world. 1982.
Hills, R.L. The origins of the Garratt Locomotive. Trans. Newcomen Soc., 1979/80, 51, 175-89. Disc.: 189-92.
Durrant, A.E. Garratt locomotives of the world.
Disappointing for biographical information.

Obituary notices

Engineering 1913, 96 (3 October) p 461.

Proc Instn mech Engrs, 1913  (December) p 1334.

Others involved with direct development of Beyer Garratt locomotive

Samuel Jackson

Initially trained at Crewe but became a pupil at Beyer Peacock in 1908 (1900 according to Rutherford Backtrack 1998, 12, 387- actually page 389). Was Assistant Works Manager by 1913, Works Manager from 1918 to 1924, and Chief Designer and Works Manager from 1925.

W. Cyril Williams

Born in South Africa. Locomotive Salesman for Beyer Peacock. Sales Director from 1945.

See Nock, O.S. Williams and the Garratts. Rly Mag., 1971, (September) 483-7.

2005-10-27