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Kevin Jones' Steam Index

Charles Beyer & other key engineers who worked at Beyer Peacock

See also Garratt and Johann Andreas Schubert

Charles Beyer stands out for several reasons, not the least being that he was a German who designed locomotives whose outward form is now recognized to have set the aesthetic standard for the typically British nineteenth-century locomotive. Carl Beyer, according to Rutherford and Marshall, was born in Plauen in Saxony on 14 May 1814. His father was a poor weaver and it had been assumed that Carl would follow this trade, but an early talent for drawing led to him entering the Dresden polytechnical school. Here he spent four impoverished years, for his family was very poor, but he graduated without difficulty, and found a job in a machine works at Chemnitz.

He did well, for after two years (in 1834) he received a state grant to visit England and find out how English textile machinery makers were perfecting their product. This brought him to Manchester, home for most of his life. Throughout his later career Beyer seems to have benefited greatly from a talent for making friends. Even men who should have been his business competitors gave him their confidence, and sometimes put business his way. One of his first influential friends was Richard Roberts, a talented, inventive partner in Sharp, Roberts Company, manufacturersof textile machinery. After Beyer had returned to Dresden to hand in his report, he returned to Manchester and went to Roberts for a job. Despite his poor English, and the resentment amongst fellow-workers that he was a foreigner, he did well in the position of junior draughtsman. This was in 1834, and during the next few years the firm gradually turned its main attention to the construction of locomotives. Roberts soon delegated most of the locomotive design work to him.

The well-known Sharp locomotives of the 1840s, the 2-2-2 passenger and 0-4-2 goods, were virtually Beyer's creation. While Beyer was careful to ensure that his designs were stout and long lasting (for example, by employing thick plate frames), he also contrived to give his designs a distinctive and beautiful external appearance. This aesthetic foundation became a tradition of Sharp locomotives and, later, of Beyer, Peacock designs; and was founded on a bold external outline, with chimneys and domes relatively large but so shaped to avoid an appearance of heaviness. From the front the locomotives looked sturdy and solid, from the side they seemed well-balanced, with the wheels seeming to support each end yet without being excessively spaced. The Beyer dome of the forties (still to be seen on locomotives in the Isle of Man) was a shiny brass structure which terminated in an excrescence resembling an upturned bell. It may have appealed to the King of Saxony, who visited the Sharp factory in 1844 and was no doubt pleased to find one of his own nation in charge of locomotive design; it was not long before the Saxon railways ordered Sharp locomotives.

In 1853 Beyer left Sharp, Roberts. He soon formed a partnership with Richard Peacock and the pair built a locomotive works on a twelve-acre site at Gorton, Manchester. Their first locomotive was designed by Daniel Gooch, and was the first standard-gauge machine built for the Great Western Railway. Most of the production, however, was designed by Beyer in accordance with specifications supplied by their clients. Apart from British railways, many overseas lines were impressed by Beyer, Peacock locomotives and placed large orders. Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia were among .the best early customers, whilst Beyer, Peacock machines performed the lion's share of work in New South Wales right up to dieselization. A particularly well-known Beyer design was the four-coupled tank locomotive with a leading Bissel truck and sharply inclined cylinders. This type was used on the Metropolitan Railway. After his retirement, Beyer's line was continued by another German, Hermann Lange.

Beyer had not contributed any spectacular innovation to the development of the steam locomotive, but he had set standards of appearance which would belong lasting. At the same time he had shown that sturdiness of construction, even at the expense sometimes of heavier weights, was worthwhile; the reluctance of so many railways to buy other than Beyer, Peacock is evidence of this. Beyer was friendly with many railway engineers, including George Stephenson and the Beatties, and it is possible that he played an important role in the circulation of new ideas. Certainly it was in his Manchester house in 1847 that the founding meeting of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers was held. Having failed to marry Sharp's daughter, Beyer remained a bachelor. Like many other men risen from the working class to the higher social reaches of industry he was not intolerant of workers who did not do their best. On the other hand, he was not slow to demonstrate the more acceptable face of paternalism, giving financial help to many individuals he considered deserving. .He did not live long after he retired to his English gentleman's country house near Llangollen; perhaps retirement did not suit an energetic bachelor like Beyer. He died very rich, and left much of his wealth to Manchester University and the Manchester College of Technology.

Rutherford (Backtrack, 1995, 9. 528): sought to modify the historical perspective of locomotive innovation by recording the "many names left out altogether or given short shrift. Arguably the most important man in locomotive design and manufacturing throughout the reign of Victoria was the Saxon Charles Beyer and the many engineers and firms who were influenced by him passed on much of his approach even further afield. The whole of the 'Manchester school' of locomotive practice owes him a great debt, as does that at Crewe from Rarnsbortom's time onwards. The influence extended to Scotland when Sharp, Stewart & Co. moved to Glasgow and was augmented when Henry Dübs, a Beyer protege, set up his own works there too.
The 1840s had been a time of great upheavals and voices were raised from many quarters against modernity, machinery and money-grubbing. Henry Cole, organiser of the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, hoped to calm things by bringing the art of manufacturers and high art closer together. He spoke of "an alliance between art and manufacture which would promote public taste". The railway locomotive was probably the most obvious product of the new age visible to everyone and in the work of Charles Beyer it came nearest to Henry Cole's ideal.
Beyer died in 1876 at the early age of 63 and though he was unmarried and has no family tree, his influences would produce a dynasty greater than that of the Hapsburgs. A full biography of this man and his associates is one of the great gaps in both railway and industrial history. It was in his house that the Institute of Mechanical Engineers was formed in 1847 and his endowments did a great deal for engineering and scientific further education in Manchester. The firm that he founded with Richard Peacock in 1854 became synonymous with all that was best in British locomotive engineering, throughout the world. It is perhaps a reflection on the state of technical education at the time (and is reflected in the beneficiaries of his will) that his chief draughtsman was nearly always a fellow-countryman who had received the superior Continental education, firstly Hermann Jaeger and then Hermann Lange

Hills's history of Beyer Peacock and Newcomen Society paper 40-75
Walter Rothschild (Backtrack 1999, 13, 53)
when writing about Schubert noted that 'Beyer' may be a form of 'Bauer' - 'Farmer' - or it may well be a former manner of spelling 'Beier' - the German for 'Bavarian'. If this is so, it would be an indication that Beyer's family originally came from somewhere further south.
Ellis, C. Hamilton. Famous locomotive engineers. III Charles Beyer. Loco. Carr. Wagon Rev., 1937, 43, 351-4.
Includes a portrait.
Hunt, David. Locomotive builders to the Midland Railway. Midland Record, (21), 111-26.
Beyer innfluenced Midland locomotive design: article includes portrait of Beyer.
Michael Rutherford: Charles Frederick Beyer and his influence. Backtrack, 12, 623.
Harold W. Hart. Richard Paecock's partner. Railway World, 1972, 33, 34

Beyer is not included in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: is King George I also excluded?.

Richard Peacock

Peacock was born in Swaledale on 9 April 1820 and died in Manchester on 3 March 1889 (Marshall). He was educated at Leeds Grammar School, but at fourteen left to be apprenticed at Fenton, Murray & Jackson in Leeds. He was a precocious locomotive superintendent at eighteen (of the Leeds & Selby Railway), but when then was taken over by the York & North Midland Railway in 1840 he worked under Daniael Gooch at Swindon, but in 1841 became the locomotive superintendent of the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne & Manchester Railway, subsequently the Manchester, Sheffield, & Lincolnshire Railway. In 1853, he joined Beyer to found the celebrated locomotive company Beyer, Peacock. According to Lloyd (Backtrack, 2004, 18, 710) he had met Beyer through the acquisition of locomotives from Sharp Bros and through both being amongst the founders of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1847. Earlier, he had worked for the Great Western at Swindon, from which he had fled to escape the wrath of Gooch. See : E.L. Ahrons, The British Steam Railway Locomotive 1825-1925 (1927); The Engineer, 8 March 1889


Description of a light steam hammer for light forgings. Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs, 1860, 284-7. Disc.: 287-92. Plates 61-5..

Ralph Peacock

Eldest son of Richard Peacock (not to be confused with two other Ralph Peacock's listed in Grace's Guide). Died March 1928 aged 90. Began his engineering training at Gorton Foundry and in 1860 went to the E. Gouin et cie works in Paris. In 1889 he succeeded his father as managing director of Beyer, Peacock until he retired in 1905. Patent with Charles Holt: Machine for cutting to length and forming the heads on stays for fire boxes and boilers and other purposes. Obituary Locomotive Mag., 1928, 34, 121..

Henry Robertson

Henry Robertson was born in Banff on 16 January 1816 and died at Pale Hall, Llandderfel near Bala on 22 March 1888 (Marshall). He graduated from Aberdeen University, spent some time in the Lanarkshire collieries, joined the firm of Robert Stephenson & Locke and worked on several railways in Scotland, the line over Shap and several lines in the West Midlands, notably the Shrewsbury & Chester Railway. Later he became involved in the Brymbo Estate with John Wilkinson and assisted with the civil engineering on railways in this area including the railway viaducts over the Dee at Ruabon and the Ceiriog at Chirk. He became a partner in Beyer Peacock and Richard Hills (Backtrack, 2004, 18, 710) emphasises his activity within this partnership. P.S.M. Cross-Rudkin in Chrimes.

James Hadfield

Born 1900. Late entry (due to L.A. Summer's asserion in British Railways steam that Hadfield might have made a better job of being in charge of locomotive development than Riddles at the Railway Executive). So far full biographical  details have been elusive, but joined Great Central Railway at Gorton where he became a draughtsman, then moved across the tracks to Beyer Peacock in 1924 and eventually became Works Manager and Chairman. Active in ILocoE affairs (attending many diners, etc).
Chairman Manchester Centre. Chaired and introduced (with searching questions)
Topham's Running man's ideal locomotive (prior to his Chairmanship)
Bond's paper on turbine lomotive (prior to his Chairmanship)
Bert Spencer's ILocoE paper on locomotive development on LNER.
Cox's ILocoE paper on axleboxes

Ernest Frederick Stephen Lang

Born Manchester in March 1867. He was educated privately and at Owen’s College, now Manchester University, after which he was apprenticed in the works of Beyer, Peacock & Co. where his father was Managing Director. Here he passed through the various shops and drawing office, later being sent to the University of Hanover, Germany, to study metallurgy and to obtain a knowledge of the German language. On returning to England he became a pupil under the late F.W. Webb at Crewe works. It was here he took up the special study of steel manufacture by both the Bessemer and Siemens’ processes and carried out practical work on furnace, foundry and forge, as well as a course in the chemical laboratory. On his return to Manchester he was appointed manager of the new steel works established by Beyer, Peacock & Co., Ltd., a position which he held until his retirement in 1930. His activities were not confined to the department mentioned, for he travelled extensively, both on the Continent of Europe and in the United States, where his knowledge of languages and his engineering ability, no less than his capacity for making friends, made him a valuable representative for the Firm. He was an able and prolific writer, and contributed many papers and articles on engineering subjects to various Institutions and scientific publications. His retirement found him as busy as ever, devoting much time to research on the historical side of engineering, as a result of which he became an authority on the sequence of events therein and upon the achievements of leading engineers of the last century, many of whom he had known personally. He was a member of the Civil, Mechanical and Iron and Steel Institution, and had been a member of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers since 1919. He died after a protracted illness on the 21 November 1940 in Torquay. Obituary: J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1940, 30, 503-4; also Loco. Mag., 1940, 46, 301.
Chaired ILocoE meeting in which Gass gave his views on compounding and Lang mentioned H.L. Lange's contribution to the two-cylinder compound design including its successful employment on the firm's products in South America.

Hermann Ludwig Lange

Marshall notes that Lange was born in Plauen in Saxony on 10 May 1837 and died in Manchester on 14 February 1892. In April 1855 he started an apprenticeship at F. A. Egells which lasted until July 1858. He then studied engineering at Karlsruhe Polytechnic for two years. At the invitation of Charles Beyer he joined Beyer Peacock on 15 January 1861. After a year in the works he moved to the drawing office. He became chief draughtsman in 1864. On the death of Beyer in 1876 he became chief engineer and co-manager. . In 1888 he became a director of the firm. Ellis (Some classic locomotives) notes that Lange was the designer of the Metropolitan type: the 4-4-0Ts used on the Metropolitan Railway and the Metropolitan District Railway. Rutherford (Backtrack, 2006, 20, 552-63) describes a patented device to enable two-cylinder compounds of the Von Borries type to start as simples and switch to compounds automatically. According to Ahrons there were other patented devices..

Hermann Jaeger

Mentioned by Rutherford (Backtrack, 2006, 20, 552-63 (p. 556): born in Plauen in 1837. Chief draughtsman at Beyer from 1865. Retired to Dresden after Beyer died. Rutherford cited Ernest F. Lang: The early history of our firm. Part 6 Beyer-Peacock Quarterly Review, 1928, 2 (3), 52-7.

David Patrick

1901-1976: David Patrick. CEng, MIMechE, who died on 26 November 1976, aged 75, spent his whole career as a designer in the locomotive industry. After apprenticeship at Andrew Barclay & Sons, Kilmarnock, and studying at the Royal Technical. College, Glasgow, he joined Beyer Peacock at its Gorton, Manchester works. During the industry' s difficult years in the 1930s he worked in the Drawing Offices at Armstrong-Whitworth, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and the Sentinel Wagon Works at Shrewsbury;

Returning to Beyer Peacock in 1937 he became Chief Engineer [Design] and a director of the Gorton company. In this capacity he was responsible for the ultimate development of its famous Beyer-Garratt articulated locomotives, including some of the largest and most powerful, steam traction units in the world. When the Company entered the diesel and electric field in the 1950s his was the primary responsibility for co-ordination of the design of mechanical parts and major components of several new types, culminating in the Hymek diesel- hydraulics for the Western Region.

He was a long~serving and assiduous member of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers, holding office as Secretary and Chairman [twice] of the Manchester centre. A loyal colleague and staunch friend of those around him, David Patrick excelled in a profession which typified British mechanical engineering at its best and forged unswerving devotion in those who served it

Steam locomotive design. London: The Draughtsman Publishing Co. Ltd. 92 pp. paper covers. .

Patrick's papers
Some notes on American locomotive practice 1948. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1949, 39, 54-86. Disc.: 86-111. (Paper No. 483)
Steam, diesel electric and electric locomotives are considered, and in the case of the first the vast differences from European practice are noted.
Contributions to discussions
Cook's paper on Churchward (J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1950, 40, 188)
Topham's paper on Running man's ideal locomotive
Cox's ILocoE paper on axleboxes

Carl Heinrich Schobelt

Born in Chorlton, Manchester on 1 September, 1863, of British parents, and was educated at Grafton House School, Manchester. Aged fifteen he entered a five year apprenticeship with Messrs. Sharp, Stewart & Co., Atlas Works, Manchester, at that time located in Oxford Road, during the years 1878 to 1883. Upon completion of his apprenticeship he was appointed draughtsman and remained in that position until 1888, when Sharp, Stewart & Co. moved to Glasgow. An excellent testimonial obtained for him a position as draughtsman with Beyer, Peacock & Co., Gorton Foundry and he was rapidly promoted to leading hand. In 1892 he was moved to the scheming office as assistant to Mr. S. Rendell, Chief Locomotive Designer, and upon the promotion of the latter to the post of Chief Draughtsman in 1902, Mr. Schobelt succeeded him as Chief Designer. He continued in this office until 1918, and during this period the Garratt articulated locomotive was introduced and developed. His next appointment was that of assistant to the General Manager, and finally, in 1925, he became Chief Draughtsman, which post he occupied at the time of his death. Died on 25 October, 1927, following upon a brief illness which demanded emergency surgery. The burial took place in the Southern Cemetery, Manchester, after a memorial service at St. Thomas’s Church, Heaton Chapel. In his younger days Schobelt was an enthusiastic Volunteer. He joined the 1st Manchester Rifles in 1883, and served until 1906. He obtained a long service medal, and was made an Honorary Life Member of the Corps. He was elected a member of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers in 1919. See Atkins Backtrack, 2010, 24, 634. and obituary J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1929, 19, 130. .

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