George William Carpenter
George was born in Hampstead on 27 June 1923: he was an only child. His father came from Cornwall and his mother from Somerset. He and his parents lived in Wembley Park, in sight of the Metropolitan and Great Central Railways. His father was an engineer, a Technical School Lecturer in Engineering Mechanics. One of Georges happiest childhood memories was being taken by his father to Portsmouth, in 1930, probably, for a visit to what was then the most powerful warship in the world, the mighty HMS Hood. One of his saddest memories, and one which cast a shadow over his whole life, was the sudden death of his father, of a heart attack, in 1931, when George was only eight. His mother also came from the West Country, Somerset, but she was half-Swedish, the daughter of a distinguished botanist who spent many years on the Côte dAzur, travelling the world and cataloguing plants. George often visited the Riviera, for relaxation, especially swimming, but also for the fun of the train journey there and back. His mother.had been a teacher, and went back to that occupation after his father died, teaching general subjects at both the primary and secondary levels. She died in 1975.
He received his primary education at Chalk Hill, and secondary at Kingsbury Grammar School, until he was 16 or 17. On leaving school, he worked for five months about 1940 for Mining and Chemical Products (James Macbrier). At 18 or 19, he volunteered for the Army. He had already indicated a wish to join Gleniffer Diesels of Glasgow, but the Army took him first. On joining, he expressed a desire to join the Royal Engineers, but for almost twelve months, he served in the Rifle Brigade, before transfer to the RE, aged 20. He worked on the Melbourne Military Ry, joining as a sapper (private) servicing engines, firing and spending time on the footplate of engines of the Great Western Railway, shovelling coal into the furnace as they ran down from Paddington to Reading, Bristol and beyond.. He was selected for Officer Training, promoted first to Officer Cadet, then commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, then to Lieutenant in 1944 at the Normandy Invasion. He was subsequently promoted Captain in 1947.
His leg was crushed in a motor cycle accident near Caen swerving to avoid a tank transporter, and he walked with a limp thereafter. He served in South East Asia (in Malaya and a little in Burma) 1946-7, being discharged from the Army in August 1947. This was part of clearing out the Japanese, and the Communist insurgency. He came to know the metre gauge Malayan Railways well, and especially admired the O class Pacifics with their Lentz poppet valves.
From 1947 to 1954 he studied the Railway Traction Course at Bradford Technical College, the only such course in electric traction in the country, by evening study. It had no name such as Bachelor of or Diploma in .., but it entitled him on completion to (associate) membership of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers, subsequently the Railway Division of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and to join the Institution of Electrical Engineers. He later had full membership of I Mech E. In time, he became a Chartered Engineer. By day, for the same years (1947 54), he worked for English Electric, principally on electrical design and analysing what work the EE diesel-electrics could be expected to do, both of which had been part of the course at BTC. He also played a part in the training of the first drivers of 10000 and 10001, the first diesel electrics for BR. He left English Electric on completion of the course in 1954.
Between 1954 and 1960 he worked at Westinghouse Brake in Chippenham on account of the illness of his mother, to be closer to London. The house at Wembley Park was sold, and she moved to Southboro, Tunbridge Wells, in 1954. He lived at Chippenham during the week, but at weekends lived in Tunbridge Wells. He was engaged in the late 1950s to an Australian lady, with the intention they move to Australia. Indeed he had jobs lined up in Australia with Clyde/GM, and with the NSW Railways, under C A Cardew, Test Engineer. She changed her mind, and George remained in England. He worked on contracts and supply for Westinghouse .
From 1960 to 1986 he was in partnership with Kenneth Cantlie in a registered company, of which George was a director, known as The Verity Orient Co. Ltd., an agent for steam locomotive accessories, such as the Giesel ejector, and flange welding. George had met Cantlie at events at the I Mech E. George visited various countries on sales missions. The company was wound up in 1986 on the death of Cantlie. The office was at 8 Chester Row SW1, in the vicinity of Sloane Square.
During this period, he lived at Tunbridge Wells and commuted daily to London or weekly to Chippenham. Until 1957, the Tunbridge Wells stretch was in steam hauled trains (Schools engines), then demus. He then worked (1987-90) at Bruce White and Partners assisting senior partners on railway questions. He retired in 1990.
He was a member of the Visits Committee of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers until that was absorbed into the I Mech E as its Railway Division, and played a large part in organising visits to Germany and France. He visited the USA on his own behalf in 1987, when there was interest in construction (NS, C&O) of steam-turbine-electric locomotives. George was consulted. Such were built, but their lives were short. This was the time of the 1987 NRHS Convention, at Roanoke, with steam locomotives N&W 611 and 1218 in use.
In the early 1990s, he moved into the flat/maisonette off Vincent Square of Betty Short, and the house at Southboro was sold.
George Carpenter died on 27 January 2020 after a short illness. Born on 27 June 1923 he was 96. Of remarkable abilities and a very decent character he had a very wide acquaintance. In particular he worked with Kenneth Cantlie, Giesel and Chapelon and was responsible for the the translation of Chapeleons La Locomotive a Vapeur into English. He received from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers an award for this translation; and some of it's members travelled to London to present it to him. He was fluent in French and exceptionally informed about French locomotives and the entire railway background in France as well as widely abroad including the United States. He presided after Kenneth Cantlie over the weekly lunch club among those knowledgable and seriously interested in steam locomotives.
Carpenter wrote the ODNB entry on Ramsbottom . He shepherded things through that would not otherwise have happened or been of such quality, notably several major papers given to the Newcomen society: notably a Symposium on Chapelon. Dante Portas paper which was the final one published by the Institution of Locomotive Engineers before it merged into the IMechE, He spent a lot of time on Jonathan Glanceys Giants of Steam well acknowledged (his keeen intelligence, astounding memory...) on page 365 and this must have been Carpenter's final contribution of this kind: it is a pity that Glancey is far from perfect).
Former brake engineer with Westinghouse. Locomotive historian. Author of ODNB biographies of Adams, Bulleid, Collett, Fowler and Stroudley. Glancey acknowledges debt to him Was there a conspiracy? SNFC Society Journal, 2008 (131/132) available via Internet in 2015. Chapter 17 in Peter Townend. LNER Pacifics remembered: .
Letter on proposed Fowler compound Pacific and 2-8-2 designs in Locomotive Mag., 1946, 52, 128: this is aigniificant as argues that proposed Fowler designs were in line with Chapelon proportions and that it would have been possible to develop a large compound locomotive within British loading gauge limitations. At the time Carpenter was serving as a Sapper Captaain in the South East Asia Command..
Contribution to discussions
Warder: ILocoE Paper 496:
A great amount of his archival material has been deposited at the National
Railway Museum and requires to be catalogued before access can be
Above partly modified by tribute given by Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles at All Saints Parish Church, Axminster on 14 February 2020.