Samuel Waite Johnson
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Publications: only one found so far, but it is a superb survey of his own contributions to locomotive and rolling stock design, and richly augmented by data on the leeading dimensions, diagrams and photographs.

Address by the President. Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1897, 54, 149-208. + Plates 18-48.
A "short" review of British Railway progress, special reference being made to the Midland Railway, with which he had been connected for nearly twenty-five years, as typical, in great measure, of the progress on other lines of railway in Britain. Statistics on both passenger and freight traffic growth on the Midland Railway, and the cost of handling this traffic, including that which could be attributed to locomotives, their operation, maintenance and staffing. In 1873 the locomotive stock of the Midland Railway numbered 1,040, and in 1897 it had risen to 2,327. Joseph Tomlinson, in his Presidential Address delivered before this Institution in May 1890, had described and illustrated a large number of types of British locomotive engines as originally constructed and as now existing in this country. the advances made on the Nidland Railway during the last forty or fifty years, in the size, power, weight &, of main-line standard engines
Identified six types of locomotive:
Single-driving passenger tender express engine with leading bogie: well suited for lines with gradients not exceeding 1 in 150. This class of engine was a great favourite with drivers of express trains. The steam sanding apparatus has been indispensable in bringing these engines back into favour. One illustrated in Plate 39 featured large cylinders and piston-valves
Four-wheel-coupled passenger tender engine with leading bogie was the most favoured by a general consensus of opinion, as shown by its adoption in one form or another on nearly every line in the country. It is the most useful engine that can be employed on ct railway, because it is suitable for any line with varying gradients and curves, and was a safe and reliable engine.
Six-wheel-coupled tender engine for goods and mineral traffic: adopted almost universally. The diameter of the wheels was slightly greater for fast goods than for heavy mineral trains. Plate 41 shows the Midland Railway standard goods locomotive.
Suburban passenger traffic was generally worked by four-wheel-coupled tank engines, the coupled wheels in many instances being placed beneath the boiler, and a trailing bogie beneath the coal bunker and tanks.
Shunting locomotives: six or four-wheelcoupled tank engines, as illustrated in Plate 40, were found to be most suitable.
Gauge:"My ideal gauge for a railway is 5 feet 3 inches. How many of the difficulties experienced by locomotive superintendents and mechanical engineers would have been avoided, had the 4 ft. 8½ ins. gauge been superseded years ago by the 5 ft. 3 ins. gauge. The crowding of machinery into the confined space between the frames limits the boiler diameter when the wheels are large, cramps the firebox width, and unduly reduces the dimensions of crank bearing surfaces and webs. All these obstacles would have disappeared, and many things which are now so difficult would have been easy of accomplishment, had the gauge been made somewhat broader". .
Includes a table (Table 10 p. 196) of Midland Railway locomotive crank axles taken out during five years ending December 1896.
Ended the Paper with an examination of what other railways were up to at that time: the Ivatt small Atlantic design, for instance..

Biography

Johnson was born in 14 October 1831 at Bramley, near Leeds. According to Manifold (Hollick et al) his father (James) worked for the GNR for sixteen years before becoming engineer of the North Staffordshire Railway. Samuel Johnson died in Nottingham on 14 January 1912 (John Marshall). Radford (Derby Works and Midland locomotives p.119)  notes that he died after being knocked down by a runaway horse and trap. He learnt to be an engineer with E.B. Wilson & Co., locomotive builders, where he encountered Sturrock, as a result of which he joined the Great Northern. Westwood adds that Johnson's father was an engineer who would shortly join the Great Northern Railway. Following a grammar school education Johnson was supervised by James Fenton whilst apprenticed to the E. B. Wilson Company where he and must surely have made the acquaintance of David Joy who was working on the Jenny Lind, for which design the young Johnson helped with the drawings. In 1859 he became Acting Locomotive Superintendent of the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway, and in 1864 he was appointed Locomotive Superintendent of the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway. After two years north of the Border [the debacle surrounding his departure is described by Highet and quoted under Stroudley] he returned to England to succeed Robert Sinclair of the Great Eastern at Stratford Works. According to Thomas (North British) Johnson "took" five Neilson 2-4-0 express locomotives ordered for the E&GR to the ECR with him. Here, however, he remained for only seven years before moving on to Derby to take charge of the Locomotive Department of the Midland Railway, a post which was soon also to include the duties of Locomotive Engineer to the Somerset & Dorset Joint and Midland & Great Northern Joint Railways. A son, James, was in charge of locomotives on the Great North of Scotland Railway..

During his short period of office on the Great Eastern he initiated two notable designs, the first British 0-4-4 side-tank engine with inside frames, and the first English 4-4-0 express locomotive with inside frames and inside cylinders. Both types he repeated, with variations, on the Midland, and no less than 205 of the former were constructed between 1875 and 1900. Over sixty of them were still at work on L.M.S lines in 1948.

Johnson had no phobias where domes were concerned and, in consequence, his bogie single driver express engines, amongst the most beautiful locomotives the world has ever seen, were better-looking machines than the domeless creations of Stirling. At the same time Johnson took no chances and, until the end of the century, he provided every one of his engines with two Salter safety valves on the dome and a lock-up safety valve, concealed under an elegant brass casing, on the firebox. Like Patrick Stirling Johnson adopted the beautiful 4-2-2 arrangement and one of these is preserved as part of the National Collection..

Before retiring in 1904 Johnson had designed his greatest masterpiece, a 3-cylmder express locomotive on W.M. Smith's compound system. Five of these engines appeared between 1901 and 1903 and more, slightly modified, were built by his successors, R. M. Deeley and Henry Fowler. Altogether 240 were constructed, the most successful comounds ever to run on British metals, and, in  the author's opinion, the most handsome of all British 4-4-0s. They were numbered 900-939 and 1000-1199. At the November 1902 meeting of ARLE (as edited Hughes) Worsdell noted that the Americans had gone in strongly for compounds, but were now giving them up (this was in response to enthusiasm for developments in France as expressed by Johnson) and by Churchward noting the GWR purchase of a French compound..

Dow observed the beautiful finish of Samuel W. Johnson's engines on the Midland Railway adding: Of his designs it has been truly said: 'The precision of a Breguet watch and the beauty and finish of an Adam house went into a Johnson engine on the Midland.., no locomotives now have a finish by Johnsonian standards'

Radford noted that Johnson was "fighting a battle against the constrictions of the 4ft 8½in gauge. He was firmly of the opinion that 5ft 3in would be an ideal gauge, and that the use of such wider gauge would have greatly reduced the difficulties countless Locomotive Superintendents experienced in crowding all the machinery into the space between the frames. This he observed limited the boiler diameter when the driving wheels were large, cramped the firebox width and unduly reduced the dimensions of the crank bearing surfaces and webs. The remark about limited boiler and firebox dimensions became particularly relevant when he introduced his renowned single wheelers"

Jack Simmons contributed a concise biography to the Oxford Companion, but Johnson is a very major gap in the ODNB..

Hamilton Ellis (Midland Railway) noted that Samuel Johnson was not in the least like his literary namesake. Nor had he any resemblance to his predecessor in office. Old Matthew Kirtley had been the rough, jovial, homespun sort of engineer, the man who had once been a fireman, and whose daughter married a title. We see his likeness in a group of his staff, grinning amid all their serious faces, wearing solid-looking clothes that do not fit. His engines, as we have seen, were like him: rugged, not conspicuously elegant, tremendously substantial and lasting. Mr. Johnson was as surely Mr. Johnson as Mr. Kirtley had been Old Matt. He was a pillar of the Church, with a formal beard, neatly attired in discreet dark dittoes, a man of kindly severity and meticulous habit. His work, like himself, was meticulous. A Johnson locomotive was designed like a work of art, and made like a watch. "Mechanical judgment" was the virtue, in the words of Mr. P.C. Dewhurst, himself the meticulous historian of Midland locomotives and an eminent locomotive engineer of his own time. The Johnson engines were among the most beautiful of all the many lovely designs produced during the later Victorian years.

See: H. Ellis, Twenty locomotive men (1958).
Nock, O.S. Steam locomotive.
Radford, J.B.: Derby Works and Midland locomotives: the story of the works, its men, and the locomotives they built. 1971.
Nature of Johnson household in Nottingham from 1881 Census: Backtrack 14, 637. (includes a portrait)
Nock, O.S. Railway enthusuast's encyclopedia

2012-11-07