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1847 Dissatisfied with the scarf joints then in use for joining iron track, William Bridges Adams invented the first railway fishplate, in the form of an unbolted wedge between adjoining chairs, in collaboration with Robert Richardson, a junior engineer under Peter Bruff on the Eastern Counties Railway. The two men patented the invention in 1847. Although the design was successful, with sales to the Eastern Counties Railway among others, financial difficulties forced Adams to relinquish the patent. This "wedge" version was soon overtaken by an improved, bolted design by James Samuel of the Eastern Counties Railway.
Although there is debate about the relative shares of Richardson and Adams, in this invention, the circumstances which led to the taking out of a joint patent was described in the course of the discussion about Mr. Adams' paper on 'Railway Permanent Way.'