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British Industrial History

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John Farquharson McIntosh

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1905. Four coupled express locomotive. Caledonian Railway.
1906. Passenger Engine.
1906. Goods Engine.
1954. Caledonian 440 Express Locomotive.

John Farquharson McIntosh (1846-1918), Locomotive Superintendent at Caledonian Railway

1846 Born at Haugh of Kinnaird (Farnell, Angus)

John F. McIntosh became an apprentice with the Scottish North Eastern Railway, at the Arbroath workshops, at the age of 14. In 1865 he passed out as a fireman and in 1867 he qualified as a driver and moved to Montrose. By this time he was employed by the Caledonian Railway (CR) which had taken over the SNER in 1866. He lost his right hand in an accident in 1876 or 1877. At about the same time he became Locomotive Inspector for the northern section of the CR. He was later given responsibility for all locations north of Greenhill.

By 1881 he was living in Perth. Several appointments followed - Locomotive Foreman at Aberdeen, Carstairs and Polmadie (Glasgow); Chief Inspector; Locomotive Running Superintendent and deputy to John Lambie. Lambie died suddenly on 1 February 1895 and McIntosh replaced him as Chief Mechanical Engineer

Locomotive Superintendent at Caledonian Railway 1895-1914 succeeding Dugald Drummond

Patented the gauge glass protector, Spark arrester, self-adjusting sand-pipe nozzle

Designed the Dunalastair series of 4-4-0, and many other engines

President of Association of Railway Locomotive Engineers


THE Caledonian Railway system runs through the most populous districts of Scotland, from Aberdeen in the North to Carlisle in the South, from East Coast to West Coast, having 1116 miles of railroad, carrying annually 56 million passengers, millions of tons of minerals and goods, and drawing an income of four million pounds sterling. The head offices are in Buchanan Street, Glasgow; but the heart-centre of the Caledonian system is St. Rollox Locomotive Works, situated in the smoky north-east district of the Second City of the Empire. Hence issue engines, carriages, waggons, engine-drivers, and stokers. Founded about the middle of the nineteenth century, St. Rollox Works have grown from a series of small workshops and sheds to a vast industrial emporium, extending over 24 acres, sheltering under slated roofs a space over 13 acres in extent.

Fronted by unpretentious offices in Springburn Road, the works are not likely to impress the casual passer-by; but the external appearance of things is proverbially deceitful. Immediately behind the offices, in one solid block, stand the carriage shop, saw-mill, waggon shop, machine-shop, wheel shop, and nearer Springburn Road the forge and smith shop, running at right angles with the larger building. Passing through the quiet, well-ordered offices, where clerks and heads of departments are busy, we enter the carriage shop, and see a vast hall of industry nearly boo feet long, with carriages in every stage of erection and repair, from the sumptuous saloon fitted with electric light, gilded and adorned for the pleasure and ease of the wealthy, to the plainer vehicles for humbler folk, filling the wide area, and busy workmen plying hammer, chisel, saw, or brush, building, repairing, and adorning the carriages for public service. Over to the left the saw-mill prepares the wood, and to the right the waggon-builders are rapidly constructing the burden-bearers of industry. Machine and wheel shops, fitted with various labour-saving contrivances - iron-turning lathes that cut iron as though it were paper, drills that drive through steel at the touch of a man's finger. . . . . . . . .

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. . . . . Railway Company at Arbroath. The Dundee and Arbroath Railway, formerly a private line, amalgamated with the Scottish North-Eastern in 1862, and in 1867 Mr. WIntosh was removed to Montrose. Here he stayed ten years; for although the amalgamation with the Caledonian Company took place in 1866, and scattered the Montrose workers in various directions, he remained. His handy all-round capability, his knowledge of all the lines, rendered his presence for the tune indispensable.

But in 1876 an unfortunate accident deprived Mr. M'Intosh of his right hand. This necessitated a change of occupation. Here the exceptional character and ability of the man appear. Many a one would have been glad to take a quiet signal-box or other sinecure; but the company recognised his ability, and at once appointed him inspector of railways between Greenhill and Aberdeen. From this time his advance was rapid; he had found his sphere. Foreman at Aberdeen in 1882; promoted to Carstairs in 1884; from that bleak upland junction he was called to superintend Polmadie Works in 1886; and in 1891 appointed chief inspector of the locomotive department of the Caledonian Railway, with his headquarters in St. Rollox, under Mr. Lambie, at that time manager. Mr. Lambie died in 1895, and, as Sir James King has said, the directors appointed Mr. M`Intosh, confident that he would "always regard the efficient, systematic, and regular carrying on of the works, day by day, as his first duty."

Besides ruling over St. Rollox Works, Mr. M'Intosh examines and appoints engine-drivers and firemen, and superintends with paternal care their education and training. For an idea of his multifarious duties we cannot do better than quote the superintendent's own words,— "On the majority of railways, and in Scotland on all of them, the designing and construction of passenger, goods, and mineral plant, as well as locomotives, are under the direction of the locomotive superintendent, and it is his duty, by the construction of new plant, to replace old and useless vehicles, and by the repairing of defective plant to keep the line fully equipped with rolling stock. In performing this work he has to think out and superintend the preparation of designs, order material, and be conversant with the intricacies of an extensive workshop. He must also have an intimate knowledge of the traffic requirements of his railway, and be able to some extent to anticipate them. The manning and distribution of engines is entirely under the control of the department."

Mr. M'Intosh is no ready writer; the foregoing is the plain record of actual experience. Round his office hang charts, continuously brought up to date, showing at a glance the working record, cost, and return of every workshop, industry, and engine—the veritable brain of the locomotive department. Whether conducting a royal party over the railways under his charge or on a round of inspection, the Caledonian superintendent's eye is quick to mark the half- empty train, the idle engine, the unemployed trucks, and sharply calls for remedy. Ruler over 7000 men, he is keenly alive to their welfare, and watches to prevent excessive hours of labour being imposed on his workers. He says himself A locomotive superintendent who does not maintain a constant watch over the hours of labour of his men is unworthy of his position." A workman himself, he appreciates a workman's difficulties, and takes an active interest in the Yearly Friendly Society of the Locomotive Department; the St. Rollox Dining Hall, where a large proportion of the operatives take their meals; the ambulance classes and popular lectures, and enters enthusiastically into the arrangements for the great annual excursion, the greatest of which, as Lord Rosebery remarked, invaded Carlisle city with a Scottish army numbering 15,000, in the year 1899.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Captains of Industry by William S. Murphy. Published 1901.