James Lyons Cleminson

(1840-1896), Civil Engineer and inventor of Cleminson's patent axle system for railway rolling stock.

Born in Leeds on 11 October 1840; died at his residence in Regent's Park, London on 15 November 1896, He was the eldest son of the late Mr. John Cleminson, who was locomotive superintendent of the Iquique, or the original Nitrate Railway, and who was also a naval engineer, and had fought in the Baltic and under Garibaldi. James was educated at Genoa and Marseilles, and at an early age gave indication of that engineering skill for which he was subsequently noted. He served his apprenticeship under John England (sic KPJ presumably George England), of Hatcham Iron-works, and was then employed as chief draughtsman to the Somerset and Dorset Railway, where his aptitude in designing rolling-stock was speedily recognised. He afterwards came to London, and was appointed manager to Robert Fairlie, with whom he was intimately associated in designing and bringing out the Fairlie locomotive.
For several years he was chief of the drawing department, and technical adviser to the Isca Foundry Company, Newport, and on returning to London he occupied several important positions in connection with the firm of Clarke, Punchard & Co.
In 1874 he commenced business as a civil and consulting engineer; and amongst the many projects with which he has been identified as consulting engineer are the Buenos Ayres and Pacific Railway, of which he was the originator, Bahia Blanca and North-Western, Ville Maria and Rufino, Bahia and San Francisco, and North Wales Narrow-Gauge Railway. He was also consulting engineer to the only railway in China, viz., the Imperial Railway of North China. In this capacity he frequently came into contact with Li Hung Chang, and was created a Chinese mandarin in recognition of his distinguished services.
Having spent a considerable time in China, Cleminson possessed an intimate knowledge of that empire and its resources. He had also bestowed upon him various decorations from different parts of the world in appreciation of his railway enterprise. He was the inventor of the Cleminson composite wheel, and of the well-known flexible wheel base, the utility of which was universally recognised. Besides possessing a rare engineering knowledge, he devoted himself especially to the study of the chemical composition of steel. Cleminson was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1882.