Edward Fletcher & Henry Tennant

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Born on 26 April 1809 at Redeburn (Everett) near Otterburn and died at West Jesmond (Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 21 December 1889 according to Marshall. Everett noted that Fletcher was baptised on 4 May at the "Scotch" Presbyterian Chapel at Birdhopecraig. Rutherford notes that, surprisingly, Edward Fletcher has "never been the subject of a 'proper' biography" and was not interviewed in his retirement years. Westwood notes that Fletcher was apprenticed to George Stephenson at the time of the Rocket, and driver of Invicta at the opening of the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway, Edward Fletcher became locomotive superintendent of the Newcastle & Darlington Railway in 1845 and, after this company's merger, of the new North Eastern Railway. George W. Carpenter contributed a simple affectionate biography in the Oxford Companion..

Ahrons (Locomotive & train working Vol. 1) stated that: "Mr. Fletcher had held the North Eastern locomotive reins for so many (I believe more than 30) years that he was looked up to as a sort of father by his department and the men. The latter he understood thoroughly, and as he. allowed a great deal of latitude, he was naturally very popular, but whether his lenient "old school" methods were the best for the period is a point that need not be discussed."

Everett challenges notes that although he was paternalistic, and to some extent autocratic, was able to listen to his men, and was usually open to new suggestions. Nevertheless, in a footnote (5) on page 48, he considers that Fletcher was an iron hand in a velvet glove, and was already working towards standardisation.

He introduced a variety of locomotives for this railway, favouring the 0-6-0 for freight and the 2-4-0 for passenger. He introduced exhaust cocks for his locomotives; these released part of the used steam beneath the engine rather than through the blastpipe, contributing to a very soft exhaust. As a designer Fletcher tolerated wide variations between locomotives of the same class, did not interfere with the traditions of the NER constituent companies, retained works at Gateshead, York and Leeds, and later at Darlington. Rutherford also comments on Fletcher's lack of standardization by noting that he did perpetuate certain types notably the 0-4-4 back tanks and that his 901 class were excellent express locomotives (2-4-0) and formed the basis for the Tennant 2-4-0s. He also observes that he had to accommodate a great many locomotives absorbed into the system..

He was very easy going with his men. After he retired in 1882 his successor McDonnell was soon hounded out of office by his subordinates when he tried to tidy up some of the organizational excesses tolerated by Fletcher. A feature of Fletcher's engines was a liability to boiler explosion unmatched on other British railways (Hewison). Raven was one of his most distinguished pupils.

C.M. Jenkin Jones includes Fletcher, with Wilson Worsdell and Raven, as one of the "three great mechanical engineers" who served the NER.

W.B. Thompson in a letter in Locomotive Mag., 1938, 44, 367 observes that Fletcher locomotives were very prone to boiler explosions


Fletcher, E.  Locomotive engine shed and turntables at Gateshead Station. Proc. Instn. Mech. Engrs., 1858, p.256

Further information (mainly on subsequent McDonnell/"Tennant" period Railway Archive

See: C. Hamilton Ellis. Famous locomotive engineers. VI. Edward Fletcher. The Locomotive Carriage and Wagon Review, 1938, 44, 274.
not reproduced in Twenty locomotive men and correspondence:

Exhaust cocks (bye-pass valves)

The exhaust cocks favoured by Fletcher and which were removed by McDonnell are given a lucid description of these is given by Poole where they are considered as a manual form of the jumper exhaust favoured on the GWR.

Henry Tennant

According to ODNB biography Tennant was born in Countersett in Wensleydale in 1823 and died in York on 25 May 1910. He was General Manager of the NER (from 1870), and should be considered with railway managers, but he was Chairman of the Locomotive Committee following the resignation of Alexander McDonnell and prior to the appointment of T.W. Worsdell (whose brother Wilson served on the Committee) as the next Locomotive Superintendent. Tennant's Committee designed two classes of locomotive one of which a 2-4-0 is normally known as the Tennant class and another less well-known class of 0-6-0T (see Railway Archive (1), 53). R.J. Irving, who has studied the financial structure of the NER, has an excellent biography of Tennant in the ODNB which notes that like many Victorian General Managers he had humble origns but rose to the top. He was a Quaker and was responsible for ensuring that the North Eastern Railway had a rock solid financial base. He was also an early advocate of improved industrial relations. In 1892 the shareholders presented him with £10,000, and in 1907 H.M. the King offered him a knighthood, which he declined owing to his advancing years. On retirement in 1891 he joined the Board. Member of Special Committee appointed to inquire into certain schemes for the improvement of railway communication on the western coast of Scotland. See Backtrack, 2015, 29, 356. . Marshall..

Obituary: Loco. Mag, 1910, 16, 112.