William Stroudley: locomotive engineer


The construction of locomotive engines. Min. Proc. Instn. civ. Engrs., 1884/5, 81, 76. (Paper No. 2027)
Stroudley noted that the crank axle is the only disadvantage to an inside-cylinder engine, with an inside frame and when this is of good proportions, it offers but a small objection. Owing, however, to the narrow gauge of the rails in this country, the crank-axle cannot be made as strong as it ought to be.

He has always hooped the larger cranks, and has for some time past hooped every new crank, in the same proportion as adopted by Mr A. Sturrock years ago on the Great Northern Railway, reducing the risk to a minimum. (page 79).

A machine, made by Crampton to show the effect of balance-weights on locomotives was exhibited in Birmingham in the year of 1850, and although it demonstrated as clearly as possible the principle of balancing, engines have since been built and put upon railways imperfectly balanced.

On page 81 he claimed that fully expansive working invalidated the case for compounding. He claimed that the Westinghouse brake gave entire satisfaction. The paper included a detailed examination of boiler design and he advocated Siemens-Martin steel for frames. The paper includes a folding plate giving outline drawings of classes A,B,C,D,E, and G classes, and another folding plate giving a detailed general arrangement drawing of a class B 0-4-2: information on tests are also included. The alphabetical notation applied to the locomotive classes is a manifestation of the standardization which Stroudley was seeking to impose..

On page 112: "With regard to the boilers, he had been advised many years ago by Mr Charles Sacré... to give his attention to the better constructrion of the boiler of the locomotive" He then listed improved working methods.

Electric-lighting for railway-trains. Min. Proc. Instn. civ. Engrs., 1886, 83, 329-32

Official Records have been checked.

5/1868: 1 January 1868: Re-railing or replacing carriages or waggons on rails of railways.
2022/1870: 18 July 1870: Weighing machine
3540/1872. 25 November 1872. Lamps. with G.C. Tandy
Oil lighting - fuel reservoir kept cool
6/1873: 1 January 1873: Casting metals with D. Drummond
4311: Railway signals with F.D. Banister.
1678/1875. 5 May 1875. Fastening tyres on wheels
384/1875. 7 June 1875. Indicating speed of steam engines.
2434/1875. 6 July 1875.Means of communication: passengers with driver with Rushbridge.
Fred Rich: Yesterday once more. 1996 gives detail of how this system was used routinely.
6071/1887 26 April 1887. Fog signal apparatus for railways.

There are also references in the literature for patents relating to self-feathering paddle wheels fitted to vessels Rouen and Paris built by Fairfield in 1888 (illustrated in Cornwell's study), steam blowers and further work on signalling: these have still to be traced.


Stroudley was born on 6 March 1833 at Sandford, four miles south of Oxford (Cornwell). He was educated at a local Methodist dame school and at an early age became a machinist in a local paper mill. At the age of ten he went with his father to Birmingham to work in a printing shop. He was apprenticed to John Inshaw who ran a private engineering company and became a tubemaker and enginewright. In 1848 he joined the Vulcan Foundry in Birmingham and worked on stationary engines. In the following year he returned to Inshaw and worked on the engines for twin-screw canal boats. In 1853 he joined the GWR as a fitter under Gooch at Swindon. In 1854 Inshaw offered Stroudley the job of fitting engines and machinery in an Australian cornmill, but his parents objected, and this led to work in a paper mill in Wansford, and then as a running shed fitter at Peterborough on the GNR where he encountered Sacré and Johnson. In 1857 he left to take charge of the small private railway of Lord D'Eresby (see Pearson and Ruddock: Lord Willoughby's Railway) and David Maurton letter in Rly Archive No. 38 p. 70. Following that went to take charge of the machinery at Helpston Paper Mills, but in 1859 returned to the GNR where he was promoted to foreman fitter. Whilst still at Peterborough the young Stroudley invented a re-railing ramp and developed a snowplough (before developing the latter still further on the Highland Railway. He also devised a shield and pinching screw for smokebox doors and a sliding door for fire holes.

His first important appointment came in 1861, when he became Manager at the Cowlairs Works of the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway under William Steel Brown. Highet: notes that in 1865 the amalgamations of the Monklands Railways with the Edinburgh & Glasgow, and of the new combine with the North British Railway, under that title, took place, and the new Board decided on an arrangement which was to troublesome; namely to have two locomotive superintendents. William Hurst was to remain at Edinburgh and be responsible for the original NB area, while the E&GR under Johnson formed the Western Division. Johnson's works manager was Stroudley and one of his young foremen was Dugald Drummond who had come back to Scotland from Peto, Brassey & Bens, Canada Works in Birkenhead. All three men were strong characters and relationships between them were not always amicable.

Rutherford (Backtrack, 2004, 18, 754 et seq page 757) strongly disputes "Later claims that Stroudley had designed locomotives at Cowlairs — "It was here that he built his first locomotive, which showed so marked an improvement on existing types, that the appearance and early performance was for some time the topic of the day". Really! This appears to be part of the mythology built around Stroudley following his death", adding why was Johnson rather than Stroudley promoted at Cowlairs. Stroudley was the first to make a move. When the Highland Railway advertised for a successor to William Barclay, Stroudley was appointed and he took the young Drummond with him to Inverness to be his foreman erector. Peter Treloar Rly Arch, 2006 (14) p. 4 et seq uses an article on Stroudley's Gladstone 0-4-2s to state that Stroudley did design locomotives at Cowlairs whilst his chief W.S. Brown was ill. Michael Reynolds' An eminent locomotive engineer (Rly Mag., 1900, 7, 251-7) on page 253 argued that "owing to the condition of Mr Brown's health Mr Stroudley very soon had practically entire charge of building and repairing locomotives" at Cowlairs..

Stroudley was the the first "proper" Locomotive Superintendent of the Highland Railway, an impoverished line where the Board kept very tight control. Neverthess, Stroudley managed to keep the locomotives running, and was able to develop his style, including a design of 0-6-0T which was later to manifest itself as the Terrier class at Brighton. He also introduced his celebrated locomotive livery known as 'Stroudley's Improved Engine Green', actually a rich gamboge. Whilst at Inverness he developed the wedge type of snowplough in three sizes: See Niall Ferguson's Snow in the Highlands. Br Rly J., 1993 (49) 398-407.

P.J.G. Ransom's The Mont Cenis Fell Railway page 56 describes (and illustrates) a design submitted by Stroudley to the Duke of Sutherland (who made a large investment in the Mont Cenis Railway) for a locomotive to exploit the Fell system.

In 1870 he moved from Inverness to become Locomotive Superintendent of the LBSCR at Brighton where Craven had failed to introduce standard practice. Dow records that when Stroudley took over at Brighton in 1870 he soon began to make improvements. New workshops and running sheds were put in hand and he began a purge of archaic engines by systematic standardization. He had his own preferences and pet aversions. The gamboge livery, most appropriate for a sunshine line such as the Brighton, became the garb of the passenger engines, the goods engines being painted a shade that was actually based upon the summer green of Virginia creeper leaves. The majority of his locomotives were given names, generally associated in some way with the system they served, and each driver had his own engine, with his name painted inside the cab.

Stroudley favoured front coupled express engines (none of his designs had bogies), of which the Gladstone class 0-4-2 was the most famous, and forms part of the National Collection. He also supported the Westinghouse brake, speed indicators, and inside bearings for tender wheels. He disliked compounding, injectors, and dirty engines. Westwood  considered that while not contributing any earthshaking improvements to locomotive design, William Stroudley probably fully deserved the reputation he gained during his lifetime. Certainly he set aesthetic standards on the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway which were long-remembered and long-followed. He reorganized Brighton Works, and tried to standardize the variegated collection of engines left by his dictatorial predecessor Craven, and went on to introduce some notable types, notably his light 0-6-0 tank locomotive known as the Terrier class, and his fast 0-4-2. The latter type, of which Gladstone was the most celebrated, gave good results, despite high maintenance costs and the misgiving of other engineers about the use of that wheel arrangement for fast running. (Stroudley, even more strongly than Stirling, distrusted the bogie.)

Stroudley greatly improved the strength of draw-bars. Once on the LBSCR he sought to balance the valve gear to reduce wear on the slide valves; introduced one-piece casting for pairs of cylinders; introduced unshiftable eccentrics and preheated the boiler water by condensing the exhaust in the tanks. Michael Reynolds' An eminent locomotive engineer (Rly Mag., 1900, 7, 251-7)  Examination of his paper Min. Proc. Instn. civ. Engrs., 1884/5, 81, 76. (Paper No. 2027) shows that he was a very early exponent of standardization..

With their handsome copper-capped chimneys and yellow livery, these 'Brighton' engines were much enjoyed by the Railway's clients. An 0-4-2 received a gold medal at the 1889 Paris Exhibition, just as a Terrier had done at the 1888 Exhibition. Several members of the Terrier class are still in working condition. Although, in accord with the spirit of the time, Stroudley was a little autocratic, he was very fair and moreover took the trouble to know his subordinates personally. He thereby got good results from his enginemen, who in turn appreciated his commodious cabs and the trouble-free running of his locomotives. He kept his superintendency until 1889, when he died of pneumonia on 20 December 1889 (Marshall) whilst attending the Paris Exhibition. Both Cornwell and Burtt in his concise biography reminds the reader that he was a highly skilled marine engineer and naval engineer and designed three paddle steamers for the Newhaven to Dieppe service.

Ellis observes the dapperly  turned out, yet tubby and little-eyed, Stroudley might have been set down by the ignorant as a mathematics-and-science master at a minor public school (and how strangely such doffed their majesty when they put away the mortarboard and gown!) Yet in men's minds and memories, he became more nearly godlike than most of the officially deified Roman emperors.

Dow stated that Stroudley was a giant in the mid-Victorian locomotive engineering world, was held in similar regard at Brighton where, disciplinary and autocratic, he ruled with a benevolent despotism from 1870 until his death nineteen years later.

Fred Rich (Yesterday once more) page 73 et seq includes an anecdote about Stroudley on the footplate with Driver Bill Coney, a member of the Salvation Army, who managed to contradict the Master when he placed excessive reliance upon Stroudley's air brake rather than by augmenting it with the hand brake when descending Falmer bank.

See: Cornwell, H.J. Campbell, William Stroudley (1968).
Nature of Stroudley household from 1881 Census: Backtrack 14, 637. (had a substantial domestic staff).
Nock, O.S. Railway enthusuast's encyclopedia
Portrait: Geddes: Highland Railway liveries p.9.
Carpenter, George W. entry in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Obituary: Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1889, 40, 746-53.

F.W. Stroudley
Marx: Douglas Earle Marsh (2005) p. 110 states that in May 1905 F.W. Stroudley ("one of the last Stroudleys in LB&SCR employment") was relieved of his duty of inspecting locomotive stores and material from northern manufacturers and declined an inferior position at Brighton and left.