Robert Urie, his son & possible other
also Jock Finlayson
Robert Wallace Urie
Marshall notes that Robert Urie
was born at Ardeer (Ayrshire) 22 October 1854 and died in Largs on 6 January
1937. He was the last CME of the LSWR. He was educated at Glasgow High School
and in 1869 began a six year apprenticeship at Gauldie, Marshall & Co;
Dubs & Co, and William King & Co. He then worked as a draughtsman
at various locomotive builders until joining the Caledonian Railway as
draughtsman under D. Drummond . In 1890 he became
chief draughtsman at St Rollox Works and in 1896 Works Manager.
In 1897 he moved with Drummond to the LSWR as works manager at Nine Elms. In 1909 he transferred to the new works at Eastleigh. In January 1913 he succeeded Drummond as CME, but was 58 when appointed, holding the post until the LSWR was absorbed into the SR when he retired. During WWl he served on a committee of locomotive engineers to design standard locomotives. He also organized Eastleigh works to manufacture munitions. His locomotive designs were simple and robust, all with two outside cylinders. There were three classes of 4-6-0, one of which formed the pattern for the King Arthur class; a 4-8-0T and 4-6-2T. He rebuilt the Drummond 'paddlebox' 4-6-0 into a better machine.and designed the 'Eastleigh' superheater. Nock notes that the Urie 4-6-0s were notable for their very high hammer blow, but that the outside cylinder 4-6-0s with their sloping firegrates and superheated boilers form an "oustanding" contribution to British locomotive history. MIME 1898.
Forge (Rly Wld, 44, 580) noted that Urie has been described as having a phenomenal memory, especially for details. Many people were to find this inconvenient, and he was instant in making decisions and, having once made them, as immovable as the Rock of Gibraltar when it came to any suggestion of alteration. It is said that it took ages for the design staff to persuade Urie to allow them to add even the smallest rim to the stovepipe chimney of 'N15' 4-6-0 No 736 to mitigate its awful severity. In addition, Urie had a pair of steely eyes. In the words of one of his staff, they looked right through you, came out the other side and then returned for another pass!
One illuminating story has come down to us. It was Urie's custom when he came down to the Works to walk through the shops, speaking to no one and apparently seeing nothing. At the end of his tour he would take his stand in a convenient spot. Messengers would go flying to all parts to summon before Urie foremen in whose shops he had found something amiss.
With the errant foremen lined up in front of him, he would start off. I am assured that as the first delinquent was dismissed, shaking in every limb, the next in line would be seen to begin shaking and starting to sweat.
The physical presence of Drummond might have left Eastleigh Works for ever, but something of his spirit evidently lingered. In these enlightened days, it seems almost incredible to think that grown men, and skilled craftsmen at that, could be so dominated by two such men. An interesting thought is whether Drummond or Urie would have been able to subdue a really militant shop steward of our own generation.
So it is that Robert Urie fails to approach the standard of Drummond as a source of legend. As I have said, they were quite different characters. Urie remained as CME until retirement at Grouping. It is significant that, during the 15 or so years that I [i.e. Forge] spent at Eastleigh, the men in the Works nearly always referred to Drummond as 'The Old Man', but his successor was never referred to as anything other than 'Urie'.
Eric Langridge Under ten CMEs served the bulk of his Eastleigh premium apprenticeship under Urie and notes that he lost some of Drummond's privileges, such as the use of the "Bug". He struck the young Langridge as "a very sincere person" and walked with a "dignified, steady gait". He lived in Hill Lane in Southampton. Two of the sons are noted: J.J. Urie (who went to Chile) and D.C. Urie who wnt to the Midland Great Western Railway, thence to the Highland Railway.
Ellis London Midland & Scottish p. 136 refers to "one real stand-up row, which resolved things" between himself and Dugald Drummond and ackknowledges Jock Urie of Brighton.
10,782 Applied 1 May 1914, Accepted 3 September 1914. Improvements in steam superheaters.
10,701 Applied 1 May 1914, Accepted 13 August 1914. Improvements in means of connecting pipes or conduits.
Proc Instn Mech Eng, 1937, 135, 565;
Loco. Rly Carr. Wagon Rev., 1937, 43, 53.
The LATE Mr. Urie and his engines. Rly Gaz., 1937, 66, 89. (port.)
[OBITUARY-R.W. Urie]. Rly Gaz., 1937, 66,115. illus. (port.)
Other material about
Lake, C.S. Some CMEs I have known: VII: R.W. Urie. Rly Mag., 1943, 89, 213-19. 15 illus. (incl. 4 ports.).
[RETIREMENT of R.W. Urie]. Rly Engr, 1923, 44, 321.
Portrait: O.S. Nock The Southern King Arthur family. 1976
Nock, O.S. Railway enthusuast's encyclopedia
David Chalmers Urie
Atkins notes that due to the sudden ill-health of Cummings as Chief Mechanical Engineer on the Highland Railway Urie was recruited from the Midland Great Western Railway in Ireland. Soon after his arrival and upon making his first tour of inspection Urie was astonished to find all four of the 1919 'Clans' deliberately concealed in the dark recesses of Aviemore carriage shed, stored unserviceable with burnt fireboxes. These were promptly despatched to Lochgorm for overhaul and repainting. The offending steel fireboxes were probably replaced then also, although those in Nos 77 and 78 enjoyed a life of eight or nine years.
Urie found much evidence of slack discipline in the Locomotive Department after the rigours of the war. Of small stature, he was not a man to court popularity. In 1923 he instituted through working of the 'Large Ben' 4-4-0s between Inverness and Wick, and of the 'Clans' between Inverness and Glasgow (Buchanan Street). These workings did not persist for very long but they attracted particular venom from the footplate fraternity as they were lodging turns requiring the crews to spend nights away from home. Urie was once unwittingly referred to in the hearing of his own brother as an 'Irish blackguard', which would have been a much stronger sentiment then than now. (Although a Scot, Urie had come to Lochgorm from the Midland Great Western Railway).
Son of Robert Wallace (above): Rutherford (Backtrack 16 515) notes that he was a "thorn in Stanier's side", especially during the time when the Jubilee class had serious steaming problems. Cox (Locomotive panorama, Vol. 1 p. 101) stated that "whereas Anderson used to chastise our department with whips, Urie was apt to chastise it with scorpions". Bulleid (Master builders p. 146) stated that Urie forbade the Jubilee class from the Birmingham to Euston two-hour expresses. Urie also vetoed the development of a small 4-6-0 for use on the more lightly constructed routes in the Highlands. Was R.W. Urie who opened the discussion on a paper on traction motors (J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1965, 55, 330-1) the son of this Urie?.
Contribution to the discussion on Gresley's High-pressure locomotives, Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1931, 120, 185.
William Montgomerie Urie
Marshall: Born in Glasgow in 1850 and died at Bishopbriggs on 9 December 1917. He was Works Manager St Rollox, Caledonian Railway. He was eduacated at St Enoch's School and Training College and served a six year apprenticeship in the Hyde Park Locomotive Works and Glasgow Locomotive Works. From 1870 he worked in the Fairfield Works of John Elder & Co; Bowershall Works, Leith; Palmers Works, Jarrow; and Beyer Peacock, Manchester. He then went to the Belgian Locomotive Works in Brussels, as draughtsman, and Gouin's Locomotive Works in Paris, returning to Brussels as draughtsman. For 8 years from 1875 he was draughtsman of the NBR works at Cowlairs, and afterwards occupied a senior position in the CR works. From 1883-7 he was engineer and manager of the Steam Tramway Co, Singapore, Returning to Glasgow he served as assistant to John Strain. In 1889 he went as draughtsman, then chief draughtsman, at the Caledonian's St Rollox works. Later he became works manager and close personal friend of J.F. McIntosh and retired at about the same time as McIntosh, in 1914. MIME 1899. Written communication on Sauvage IMech E paper
Obituary: Engg 1917, 104, 626.
Finlayson, Thomas Scott [Jock]
Finlayson was educated at the Anderson Technical College in Glasgow and apprenticed at Neilson Reid. He was a draughtsman at Alley Maclellan and at McOnie, Harvey and Co., General Engineers in Glasgow before becoming a leading draughtsman at North British Loco. He was recruited from the NBL in 1913 to be Chief Draughtsman to Urie at Eastleigh and continued to be influential after Maunsell became Group CME as is evidenced from Holcroft's Locomotive Adventure. 'Jock' was known to express the private opinion that the 'King Arthur' engines were no better than the Urie N15 class and that the enthusiasm for the 'K.A.' was pure propaganda. This sort of attitude seemed to be general, for, while Brighton and Lancing Works accepted the situation, Eastleigh was not at all pleased about the 'overlordship' and the visits of 'brass hats' from Waterloo. Surrey Warner came up in high dudgeon to tackle Maunsell about our activities and to complain that they were carried out without his personal knowledge. To placate him, Maunsell took the blame on himself and said that he had despatched us on our missions at short notice, but in future the formality of giving notice of each intended visit and the nature of the inquiry would be made beforehand and our arrival on the premises made known. The observance of these formalities wasted a lot of time, for by walking down the line from the station and going straight into the Works it had been possible to catch an earlier train back to London.
Holcroft on pp. 138-9 of Locomotive adventure returns to the dominance of Eastleigh: "Up to 1926 seven classes to Ashford practices had been built, all highly successful, and another four classes were built later. Those engines so far built at Eastleigh were no more than duplications of the Urie régime as regards the basic design, but modified by Maunsell with some features of Ashford. One would have expected in this situation that the 'Nelson' design would have followed the established Eastern pattern; instead of which there was much that savoured of pre-Grouping days in the heavy-handedness in design of parts prevailing under Urie and the inclusion of many details and fittings of Eastleigh pattern
How did this situation arise? In my view, old 'Jock' got the better of Clayton in the exchanges carried out in his office. He was astute, never directly opposing any proposals coming from Waterloo Headquarters, but making a flank attack by bringing forward alternatives of his own and doing his best to persuade Clayton that they were preferable to what had been put forward. He had had two years in which to size up Clayton's strong and weak points. With his Derby background, Clayton was basically Midland; it was Pearson who advocated Swindon practices to Maunsell in 1914, and his views had hitherto prevailed. 'Jock' tenaciously clung to the Urie practices and would never admit that the 'King Arthurs' were any better than the original N15 class. In the circumstances, it was not surprising that there was some backsliding; if he talked Clayton into deviations it was likely that Maunsell would accept Clayton's advice and give his approval to them.
When Eastleigh started to develop the design [of the Schools class] 'Old Jock' protested that he could not work a Belpaire firebox in, and that it would be heavier than a round top one and would produce excessive axle loads. We knew that he disliked Belpaires, taper boilers, circular smokeboxes and conjugated valve gears. However, he got the better of Clayton, who rather gave in to him, so the final scheme presented to Maunsell included a shortened version of the 'King Arthur' boiler, or, more correctly, that of the 'Arthurised' SI5 class, for it had wider waterlegs in the firebox. A third valve gear was adopted for the inside cylinder but it necessitated a second reversing shaft linked to the main one. A conjugated gear would have provided a lighter and cheaper alternative. Holcroft Locomotive adventure p. 152.
As things turned out, however, the 'Nelsons' were perhaps the most reliable, trouble-free and economical in many ways of all the Southern locomotives, but in performance I think they could have been better. Having gained experience of four-cylinder engines under Churchward at Swindon, my ideas as to how the detail design should have been carried out were very different.
As regards my relations with Finlayson, a little incident which occurred at one of the Annual Technical Staff Dinners, presided over by Maunsell at the Charing Cross Hotel, will speak for itself. During an interval in the evening, when all were feeling the effects of good fare and cheerful company, 'Old Jock' came up and greeted me by placing a hand on my shoulder and exclaimlng, 'Mr. Holcroft my mentor!' At our occasional meetings, matters were always discussed in a friendly spirit, though we might not agree. There was everpresent the underlying knowledge that 'Jock' always endeavoured to preserve the status quo ante whilst I was keen to ginger things up all round.
In my view Clayton did not take a sufficiently strong line with Eastleigh; on several occasions I had persuaded him to try to have all the Urie 4-6-0 classes, and in particular the N15 class, brought into line with the 'King Arthur' as regarded cylinders, valve gear and boiler pressure as opportunity occurred during general repairs. He did put this up during his visits, but was met each time by 'stonewalling'; there was always some good reason forthcoming why it could not be undertaken for the time being. Had these changes been made in the early days, the cost would have been repaid by twenty or thirty years' improved performance of the locomotives on the road.
To me these rebuffs were most frustrating, and if I maintained that all these Urie 4-6-0s and the Drummond TI4 should not be 'crawling around like half-dead flies', it was only a very grossly exaggerated view of the state of affairs.
He retired at the end of January in 1937 and died in August 1941. Obituary J. Instn Loco. Engrs.; Loco. Rly Carr. Wagon Rev., 1942, 48, 212
Langridge Under ten CMEs has quite a lot to say about Finlayson perhaps most interestingly on page 171 where he implies that the Vulcan Foundry Stanier Class 5 locomotives may have owed quite a lot to the design input of Charles Finlayson brother of J.J. Finlayson at Eastleigh and considered that the Class 5 may owe much in its appearance to Eastleigh..
Contributions to discussion
Kelway-Bamber paper J.Instn Loco Engrs., 1926, 16, 1027: contributed to the discussion with some rather sharp remarks which noted the importance of firebox volume and noted that superheating increased the volume of the steam. He considered that locomotive horsepower corresponded to 50 times the grate area and therefore expected 2000 hp from the A1, 1650 from the Lord Nelson and a mere 1500 hp from the Castle
Atkins (Rly Wld, 46, 300) considers how Finlayson may have been indirectly involved in the ill-fated HR River class.
Forge, Eric E. Eastleigh and locomotive design 1. 342-7.
Page 340 group portrait which includes Surrey Warner, Robert Urie's son Jock and Finlayson examining an H15
Group photograph at Swiss Locomotive Works, Winterthur on 2 June 1930. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1930, 20, Plate (between pp 466-7)