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Richard David Sanders

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Richard David Sanders (1842-1919), Inventor of the automatic vacuum brake for railway use.

of North Berwick.

of Birmingham (1880)

of Eastbourne (1893)

of Blackheath (1902)

Gained at least 5 British patents on manufacture of copper and copper products, and 2 patents on means of affixing stamps and labels.


1919 Obituary [1]

RICHARD DAVID SANDERS was born at Leamington in 1842.

He was educated partly at the Warwick Grammar School and partly by private tuition in mathematics.

In 1859 he became an articled pupil in the locomotive department of the London and North Western Railway at Wolverton, under the late Mr. J. E. McConnell, and was subsequently employed on the Southern Division of the railway from London to Stafford.

Upon the retirement of Mr. McConnell, he accompanied him to London and acted as assistant in his business as consulting engineer for some little time, but being desirous of acquiring more practical experience, he entered the workshops of the Midland Railway at Derby under Mr. Matthew Kirtley, of which railway his uncle, Mr. Joseph Sanders, was for some years general manager.

In 1864 he became assistant in the works of Messrs. Beyer Peacock, of Manchester, by whom he was recommended for, and obtained in 1866, the appointment of assistant locomotive superintendent on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, being placed in charge of the Southern Division of that line from Bombay to Sholapore.

He was afterwards sent to other parts of the line, and then promoted and given the entire management of the rolling stock departments, both as regards repairs, maintenance, workshops, etc., together with the superintendence of the water supply over the whole line of 1,280 miles.

Owing to a serious accident on the Bhore Ghaut incline he was deputed to carry out an exhaustive series of experiments to ascertain the most effective brake-power for future use. In connexion with this inquiry he was also employed by the Government of India to inquire into and consider the system employed on the Ceylon Railway, upon the similar incline between Colombo and Kandy. It was while engaged upon these experiments that he conceived the idea which ultimately led to his invention of the automatic vacuum brake, now almost universally used upon English railways, and upon all the railways in the Colonies.

In 1873, while in Bombay, he fitted up a train with ejector and vacuum pipes as a means of communication between drivers, passengers, and guards. This train ran between Bombay and the foot of the Ghaut inclines for some time, and was almost identical with the apparatus now being introduced upon some of the English railways.

He also turned his attention to the comfort of passengers travelling under tropical conditions, and invented and introduced a system for cooling the interior of passenger coaches, by which the temperature was reduced about 20° F.; fifty carriages were fitted up with his system and ran for some years between Bombay and Calcutta.

In 1875 Mr. Sanders left India and accepted an appointment as managing engineer to the firm of James Watt and Co. at Soho, where he remained about five years, during which time he built and erected many important pumping engines of large size for the South Staffordshire Water Works Company, and the Birmingham Water Works, the sewage engines on the Victoria Embankment, pumping engines for Singapore and other places. He also had the management of the Soho mint.

Finding that the automatic vacuum brake demanded a great deal of attention, he resigned his position at Soho, and for some time devoted all his time to the development of his inventions, and attending to the details consequent upon the application of his brake to the Great Western, Lancashire and Yorkshire, and Midland Railways.

In 1884 Mr. Sanders was specially selected by Sir Alexander Rendel and the directors of the Mexican Railway to investigate thoroughly the working of that line in every department, and his exhaustive report gained a special vote of thanks from the Chairman and Board of that railway. The records of the Patent Office bear striking testimony to the many and various directions in which his inventive genius found scope for unusual activity, and amongst other fields of study he devoted a considerable amount of attention to the electro-deposition of metals, one of his inventions relating to a method of depositing copper directly into the form of high-conductivity wire.

After many years' work he succeeded in perfecting his invention, and the Copper Works at Queenborough were established for exploiting it; and a considerable amount of copper wire was deposited direct from the rough ingots with a conductivity of from 102 to 103 per cent. as compared with A. Matthiessen's standard.

During the latter part of his life Mr. Sanders carried on a practice as consulting engineer, and was largely occupied in valuing the rolling stocks of nearly all the railways in England, and giving expert evidence thereon in rating appeals.

In his early years Mr. Sanders became interested in military matters, and was a member of the 19th Lancashire Artillery Volunteer Corps. During his residence at Blackheath, London, the frequent air raids probably mused his mind to revert to his early artillery experience, for his last recorded invention, in 1916, related to improvements in the manufacture of shells.

His death took place at Blackheath on 11th May 1919, at the age of seventy-seven.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1871, and in 1878 he read a Paper on Continuous Brakes, advocating the automatic action, which condition was subsequently required by the Board of Trade.


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