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British Industrial History

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Archibald Sturrock

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1866. Designed by Sturrock and built by John Fowler and Co for the Great Northern Railway. Re-built by Patrick Stirling.

Archibald Sturrock (1816-1909) locomotive superintendent of the Great Northern Railway from 1850 until c.1866

1816 September 30th. Born in Petruchie, Dundee in 1816.

1829 Took an apprenticeship at the Dundee Foundry Co. Here he was involved with the construction of a locomotive for the Dundee and Newtyle Railway and met Daniel Gooch, who was to become Locomotive Superintendent of the Great Western Railway.

Following a period with William Fairbairn and Sons in Manchester, and travel abroad, Sturrock persuaded Gooch to offer him a post in the Locomotive department of the GWR in 1840. In spite of a difficult initial relationship with Brunel, Sturrock won his confidence and was appointed Works Manager at the Swindon Works. Sturrock worked with Gooch, who was based in London, designing and building the Iron Duke and other GWR locomotives.

When the recession of the late 1840s hit the GWR, a reference from Brunel helped secure Sturrock the post of Locomotive Superintendent of the Great Northern Railway in 1850.

During his 16 years with the GNR, Sturrock designed over a dozen classes of both passenger and goods locomotives to meet the needs of the fast-growing railway, where the transport of coal and other minerals was as important to the profitability of the line as passenger traffic. Sturrock was accountable for around 40% of expenditure and he continually battled with the chairman and board to persuade them to purchase locomotives, wagons and carriages in time to meet the growing demands of the line.

In 1850 when Sturrock joined the GNR, there were 340 employees in the Locomotive Department and the locomotive mileage was 609,092. When he retired in 1866, the employees numbered 3,834 and the mileage was 4,873,113.

1866 In 1866 A. Sturrock on the G.N.R. fell into line with other locomotive engineers, and designed six large 2-4-0 express engines, which were built by John Fowler and Co., of Leeds, and the Yorkshire Engine Co, of Sheffield. They had double frames, the outside members being of the sandwich type. The cylinders were 17in. by 24in., driving coupled wheels 7ft. diameter. The leading wheels were placed underneath the smokebox, with the result that the remarkably long wheel base of 9ft. 7in. + 8ft. 6in. = 18ft. 1in. was obtained. The axles and tires were of steel, and the outside coupling rod cranks had the long throw of l4in. In this respect Sturrock seems to have followed [[E. B. Wilson]]'s practice. The engines were not very successful on the fastest express trains, and between 1873 and 1878 Patrick Stirling rebuilt all of them as 2-2-2 single engines.[1]

Sturrock had a long and active retirement in Doncaster. He was involved with the founding of the Yorkshire Engine Co and chaired the business for several years.

1909 January 1st. Died in London


Obituary 1909 [2]

. . . He was born at Petruchie, in Forfarshire, on September 30th, 1816. When just sixteen years old the schoolboy went into the shop of the East Foundry, Dundee. . . . at the age of twenty-four appointed assistant locomotive superintendent on the Great Western Railway. . . on the strong recommendation of Brunel, he was appointed locomotive superintendent of the southern section of the Great Northern Railway, with headquarters at Peterborough. . . . He married in 1845 Miss Fullerton, who died in 1852; and again Miss Cranley in 1854. She died the same year.


A Recent Biography

A detailed account of Sturrock's life and work was written by his great-great-grandson Tony Vernon and published in 2007.[3]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1925/06/05
  2. The Engineer 1909/01/08
  3. 'Archibald Sturrock - Pioneer Locomotive Engineer' by Tony Vernon, Tempus Publishing Ltd., 2007