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British Industrial History

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John Rangeley

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There are various references to John Rangeley as a merchant in the Leeds area, as an ironfounder in Stone, and a gentleman in Camberwell. It is probable that these refer to the same man, based on the following:-

Rangeley and Dixson were ironfounders in Stone, and in 1799 'John Rangeley of Leeds married Miss Dixon of Stone' [1]. His wife's name was Sarah[2] John Rangeley, gentleman, of Camberwell, patented a 'Safety Rotation Railway' (see below). The 1841 census records John Rangeley and his wife Sarah and two children living in Camberwell. A John Rangeley was promoting a patented railway system at the time of his death in December 1842, and the death announcement identifies his home as at Birstall, and formerly at Leeds (see below).

1816 'New Patents: John Rangeley, Oakwell Hall, Yorkshire, gent, for improvements of his hydro pneumatic engine, being a new method of constructing and working engines or machines for lifting and raising weights, turning machinery of all descriptions, drawing carriages on railways, and capable of being applied to all purposes where mechanical power is required. - May 4.'[3]

1818 'RANGELEY AND DIXSON's PATENT ROLLER PUMP. The improved method of raising Water by this Pump consists in its being wrought by Rotary Motion, without rod bucket, which produces a constant stream. It is equally adapted for a sucking, lifting, or forcing Pump. It unites strength and durability with simplicity, and causes a very considerable saving of power.
It is particularly applicable to Deep Wells, Ships, Draining Mines, Drainage or Irrigation of Land, Water Works, Breweries, Distilleries, Fire and Garden Engines. &c. as well as for Domestic uses. It has a convenient application to all kinds of motion, such as Water-Wheels, Windmills, or Machinery wrought by Horses or Oxen, and Manual Power, when for common uses. The whole being entirely metal, it will be seldom liable to get out of order, and may worked for a length of time without examination or change.
Communications, from the Trade, others, (post paid) addressed Rangeley and Dixson, the Manufactory, Stone, Staffordshire; or the Warehouse, No. 80, Lombard-street, London, (where an assortment of Pumps are on hand) will meet due attention.'[4]

1821 'Partnership subsisting and carried on by us the undersigned, John Rangeley and William Dixson the younger, at Stone, in the County of Stafford, and elsewhere, under the firm of. Rangeley and Dixson, in the manufacture and application of Rangeley's Patent Roller Pumps, and all other manufactures and businesses connected or used or exercised therewith by us, was dissolved on the 31st day of October now last past by mutual consent.—All persons who are creditors of the said Partnership will be paid the amount of their respective demands thereon by the said John Rangeley; and all persons who are indebted to the said late firm of Rangeley and Dixson are requested to pay the debts so due from them respectively to the said John Rangeley and his present Partner, Edward Holt Diggles, or one of them, who are duly authorised to receive the same.—Dated this 5th day of January 1821. John Rangeley. William Dixson, jun.' [5]

1822 Notice of Bankruptcy - John Rangeley and Edward Holt Diggles, Stone, Ironfounders [6]

1828 Notice of dividend - J. Rangeley and E. H. Diggles [7]

1843 Death announcement: 'On the 26th Dec. last, at Rome. John Rangeley, Esq., formerly of North Town End, Leeds, and late of Oakwell Hall, Birstall. Mr. Rangeley had visited Rome for the purpose of laying before his Holiness the Pope the drawings and models of a new plan for the construction of railways, for which Mr. R. had obtained a parent prior to his leaving this country. So pleased was his Holiness at the principle, that he gave immediate directions for a short experimental line to be put down, and appointed him engineer to superintend the construction; immediately subsequently to which he was seized with apoplexy, and almost instantly expired.' [8]

Patented Railway

Rangeley invented a bizarre type of railway, which, in essence, had the rails - instead of wheels - on the carriage, motive power coming from an enormous number of powered wheels fixed to the ground. He had turned the concept of the railway train on its head, pursuing the advantage of not encumbering the moving train with the weight of its boiler, coal, propelling machinery, etc. He evidently put a lot of thought into some aspects, such as roof racks for luggage, but presumably dismissed the major pitfalls and ignored the inevitable naysayers, and took the trouble to patent the system, not only in England but also in the USA. The full USA Patent (No. 1916) may be found online.

We have been to a private view of this ingenious contrivance to effect a rapid power of locomotion with more safety, less expense, and with equal or greater speed, than is achieved by the present system of railways. The following a brief outline of the plan : —
"The Safety Rotation Railway is an inversion of the ordinary construction, inasmuch as wheels are made to revolve on fixed bearings, placed in two parallel lines along the road ; and the carriage, without wheels, built upon a pair of running rails., carried along the peripheries of the train of wheels, kept in revolution by steam engines at fixed distances. The wheels may be driven by a succession endless bands, or any other mode of actuating them, one band in every case passing around two pullies attached to every two adjacent wheels. The carriages are designed to hold 40 passengers each, with luggage, the whole, including the carriage, not to exceed five tons; the running rails always to bear on eight or ten wheels, that no wheel shall have to support more than 10 or 12 cwt. The luggage box is made to pass between the line of wheels and to reach below their centres, kept in place by a pair guide pullies ; that the carriages cannot get off the road, nor can they meet or overtake each other, consequently no collision can take place. It is practicable by this system (the carriages being dispatched singly) to ascend steeper acclivities than ordinary, that the expense of tunnelling would be obviated, and of cutting and embanking considerably reduced ; and railways may made available in hilly districts, from which they are now excluded, nothing more the bare weight of a slight carriage, its passengers and luggage, being required to be elevated, thus saving the enormous power necessary for carrying a heavy locomotive engine and its appendages.
"On this road the public may travel with safety, ease, and comfort, unaccompanied by the nuisance of a locomotive engine, and free from annoyance by sparks, smoke, or dust.
"It is calculated that not only the cost of the construction of a Safety Rotation Railway will not exceed two-thirds of the expenditure now actually required for one of equal dimensions of an ordinary nature, but the annual saving in maintaining the line in constant and substantial repair, will be 70 per cent less than what is ordinarily required for the like purpose railways now used."
For this ingenious plan we are indebted to the scientific abilities of Mr. John Rangeley, who has obtained a patent for the invention. If the plan be found to succeed, there will be no difficulty, in the opinion of other eminent engineers, connecting the Rotation Railway with those now use.' [9]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, Volume 105
  2. [1] Genealogy Forum
  3. The New Monthly Magazine and Universal Register, Volume 6, 1816
  4. Carlisle Patriot, 6 June 1818
  5. London Gazette
  6. London Gazette 6 July 1822
  7. Leeds Intelligencer, 3 April 1828
  8. York Herald, 25 February 1843
  9. Yorkshire Gazette, 4th September 1841