Thomas Longridge Gooch: Obituary
Note: This is a sub-section of Thomas Longridge Gooch
1883 Obituary 
Thomas Longridge Gooch was one of that great school of Tyneside engineers created by George Stephenson, and destined more or less to share with him the triumphs and the disappointments which preceded the general introduction of the railway system.
Owing to his enforced retirement from the profession at the early age of forty-two, Mr. Gooch had long outlived his reputation as an engineer; but in the exciting days of the railway mania his name was prominent and ranked second only to that of the Stephensons and Brunel, and had health allowed him to continue his active career, he would doubtless have achieved the fullest honours which the profession could bestow. As it was, he had to be content with a life of private usefulness, in the dignified leisure of which he could, as one of his contemporaries afterwards expressed it, replace the brilliant anticipations of hope by the more sober pleasures of memory.
Thomas Longridge Gooch was the eldest son of John and Anna Gooch, and was born on the 1st of November, 1808, in London, where his parents were temporarily resident. When he was about seven years old his father obtained the appointment of cashier to the Bedlington Ironworks, and it was in that neighbourhood, in the village of Crowhall, that young Gooch received the chief part of his school-education. Here he enjoyed, to the fullest extent, the advantages of outdoor exercise, involved in long walks to and from school, although in summer time his 34-mile trudge by Hartford Bridge could be considerably shortened by the use of stepping-stones across the River Blyth. Latin and Greek were not taught him, but he made pretty good progress in arithmetic and geometry, with a commencement in algebra. During the latter portion of his school days he used frequently to walk on Saturdays 24 miles, to Newcastle and back, to take drawing lessons.
On the 6th of October, 1823, being nearly fifteen years of age, he was bound apprentice for six years to George Stephenson, and entered the factory, then in course of erection, in South Street, Newcastle-on-Tyne. Young Gooch remained in the shops for two years, receiving wages of 8d. a day, afterwards increased to 1s. a day. He then passed on to the drawing-office and was engaged there, and in assisting to take levels and make plans in reference to a projected railway between Newcastle and Carlisle.
In this work his companions were Joseph Locke, William Allcard, and Hugh Steel, Locke having the direction of the work. During this year (1825) George Stephenson was greatly occupied with the Liverpool and Manchester railway scheme, and the rejection of the Bill by Parliament was probably the severest trial he ever experienced.
In the interval between this and the renewed application for the Bill, Mr. Stephenson allowed Gooch to spend some months at Edinburgh University, chiefly with a view to study chemistry ; but, as it was not the proper time of year for the regular classes, he did not get the full benefit of the visit. Nevertheless he obtained some knowledge of the chemistry of that day, and also imbibed a taste for geology, which continued through life, and afforded him many a day’s pleasure and enjoyment.
On his return from Edinburgh, in September 1826, he passed a few weeks at home, and during this time received his first payment as a draughtsman, Michael Longridge, the manager, presenting him with £5 for the copy of a plan of the Bedlington Ironworks.
The Act for the Manchester and Liverpool railway was obtained in 1826, after a severe fight with the landed interest and the canal companies, who were finally conciliated by substantial concessions, and George Stephenson was again appointed engineer (having been temporarily superseded by the Messrs. Rennie).
Young Gooch, then just eighteen years of age, was summoned to Liverpool to join his chief, in whose house at Windsor, Upper Parliament Street, he resided. Here for two years and a half he acted as George Stephenson’s secretary and draughtsman. He made nearly the whole of the working and other drawings, as well as the various land-plans, for the Liverpool and Manchester railway, at the company’s office at Clayton Square, Liverpool, during the day, from instructions supplied in the evening by Mr. Stephenson, either by word of mouth, or by little rough hand-sketches on letter-paper. The evenings were also devoted to his duties as secretary in writing Stephenson’s letters and reports, or in making calculations and estimates.
Mr. Gooch‘s diary records that it “was a busy time for us all, and a most anxious one for George Stephenson. So much was new and untried in the railway itself, and still more as respects the locomotive engine, which had a hard struggle to obtain that favour with the Directors of the railway which it possessed in the mind of George Stephenson."
Gooch fulfilled these duties until April 1829, when he was sent, as resident engineer, to the unfinished Bolton and Leigh Railway, where he remained till the completion of that little branch-line in the autumn of the same year.
He then went to live at Newton-in-the-Willows, to be near a new branch-railway from Newton to Warrington, to which he had been appointed resident engineer under Robert Stephenson, but remained only long enough to assist in the completion, by tremendous exertion, of the parliamentary plans and sections before the statutory time of deposit. The Newton and Warrington extension, which constituted the first step for a line from Liverpool to Birmingham, was, however, not proceeded with; and Mr. Gooch returned again to Liverpool, having been appointed from the 1st of January, 1829, resident engineer of the Liverpool end of that line in succession to Joseph Locke. Mr. Gooch held this charge until one month after the completion and opening of the line.
His diary states:- "The portion of the Liverpool and Manchester railway under my charge extended from Liverpool to near the Sankey Viaduct (about 13 miles), and every possible exertion was needed to complete the works of the great Mount Olive cutting in time for the proposed opening of the line in the autumn. But the most anxious part of my duties were the novel, harassing, and lengthened preparations and experiments necessarily connected with the general opening of the line, which, from being at the Liverpool end, as a matter of course fell upon me. The workshops and stock of engines, carriages, and wagons, were all at Liverpool, where George Stephenson resided, and where the Board of Directors met.
"Here it was that, under the direction of Mr. Stephenson, I had to make all the preliminary arrangements and experiments for the conduct of the traffic, and the conveyance, for the first time, of passengers at the rate of 30 miles an hour! - a velocity which had taken everybody by surprise, and needed much thoughtful preparation for its safe conduct. For this purpose many preliminary experiments were made, in order to test all the various details of the arrangements.
"Every week, for ten or eleven weeks previous to the opening, we made trial trips to Newton or to Manchester and back, generally with two or three trains at a time, conveying in all from 150 to 300 persons. Saturday afternoon was usually chosen, its the works might then be stopped, and the line cleared as much as possible for the occasion. But to do this effectually, and to arrange the numerous and very imperfect points and crossings in use by the contractors executing the works, so as to feel satisfied as to safety, was no easy task.2
The public opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway forms a chapter in the history of the century, and is too well known to be dwelt upon in this memoir. It must therefore suffice to state that Mr. Gooch was a prominent actor in the ceremony, having charge of the Dart locomotive, drawing one of eight trains of which the procession was composed.
The successful inauguration of this line induced an era of great activity in railway engineering, and Mr. Gooch was speedily offered the entire charge, under George Stephenson, of a projected line from Manchester to Leeds. In those days the 30th of November closed a season of even more fevered haste and scramble than is the case at present, and Mr. Gooch’s diary shows that its writer experienced his full share of the amenities consequent on field-work all day, and plotting the results and drawing plans all night. In the case of the Manchester and Leeds survey, the last testing of the levels, which he did himself by comparing them with the summit-level of the neighbouring canal, had to be done by torch-light in the field; and the plans, sections, and books of reference, were only lodged at Wakefield and at Preston a few minutes before the clock struck midnight, and that by the aid of a carriage and four horses to each place.
The occasion of the Bill for the Manchester and Leeds railway reaching committee was Mr. Gooch‘s first appearance as a parliamentary witness. Fortunately he had made himself thoroughly acquainted with the details of the survey, and, although some confusion or trepidation might have been excusable in one so young, he came off with flying colours, and, on leaving the witness-box, he was warmly congratulated and shaken by the hand by all those Directors who were present in London watching the progress of the Bill.
Although the preamble of this Bill was declared not proven in 1831, it was resolved to repeat the application in the following session, Mr. Gooch being reappointed engineer. For some months after this he was nearly idle, but in October received a summons from Mr. Robert Stephenson to assist in preparing the plans and sections of the proposed London and Birmingham railway. In this work he was associated with Frank Forster, M. Inst. C.E., and Thomas Elliot Harrison, Past-President Inst. C.E., and with them took, in a period of six weeks, the whole of the levels for that celebrated line, without reference to what had been done the year before.
Lithography was not then applied to this kind of work, although the strictest accuracy was demanded by Parliament. Nine or ten copies (in duplicate) of the plan and section were wanted. The accuracy of the sections was especially necessary, and Mr. Harrison and Mr. Gooch undertook and finished these entirely with their own hands, tracing them through glass plates inserted in the drawing-boards, with lamps giving a strong light underneath.
This tedious labour occupied night and day for about a week; it was done at the office of John Sanderson, brother-in-law to Mr. R. Stephenson, in Broad Street, London. Though Mr. Gooch took lodgings near at hand, he left them without ever having been in bed during the week, to the astonishment of the landlady. The work was completed by the 25th of November, when a gathering of all hands took place at Stoney Stratford, where plans, sections, and books of reference were completely finished and thoroughly examined. This again involved almost constant night-work, but all the documents were very satisfactorily lodged on the 30th as required.
The interval until the middle of February 1832, was occupied in preparing at Newcastle the estimates for the whole work, and a month later Mr. Gooch accompanied Mr. R. Stephenson over the country, via Tring, Banbury, and Warwick, noting it closely, so as to be prepared for a dross-examination on this rather more direct route, which it was rumoured was to be used against them by the allied canal and landed interests. Although every precaution was taken which prudence and foresight could suggest, the Bill was thrown out by the House of Lords on the ground that the dissenting landowners were in the proportion of 59 miles to 53. This involved a repetition of the work of the previous autumn, with the result of getting up the case in greater detail. This time Edward Dixon, M. Inst. C.E., was associated with Mr. Gooch.
The Act for the London and Birmingham railway was obtained in April 1833, Mr. Gooch was appointed resident engineer to about 36 miles at the north end of the line, or from Birmingham to Kilsby Tunnel, and on the 23rd of the following October he took up his quarters at Coventry.
This closed the most exciting and interesting part of Mr. Gooch's working career. He had been worthily associated with the two great railway enterprises which have become household words in the history of engineering, and his rapid and continuous advancement was a necessary consequence. The remainder of his professional life was that of a prosperous, influential, and highly respected engineer.
After he had been for two years on the London and Birmingham works, a deputation of the resuscitated Manchester and Leeds line waited upon the London and Birmingham board, with a request that Mr. Gooch might be allowed to lay out the line and prepare the scheme for Parliament. At first this was only a temporary transfer, and after the lodgment of the Bill he returned to his duties on the London and Birmingham; but eventually he was appointed joint principal engineer (with George Stephenson) of the Manchester and Leeds line, and took up his residence in Manchester.
The works of this railway were of an unusually heavy character, including a summit level tunnel nearly 1.75 mile long, through a portion of Blackstone Edge, and the line had been described as the (then) greatest triumph of engineering science over the obstacles interposed by nature presented by any railway in the kingdom.
The Manchester and Leeds Railway was opened on the 1st of March, 1841, and the Directors presented Mr. Gooch with a sum of £1,000, in token of their approval of the manner in which the works had been successfully completed; but the value of this compliment was exceeded, in his estimation, by a testimonial from the whole of his staff, consisting of an address and a handsome tea-service.
On the completion of the line Mr. George Stephenson retired, Mr. Gooch remaining alone as principal engineer, and remaining in that office for three years, chiefly occupied in winding-up the heavy contracts in connection with the main line, and in the construction of branches.
An interesting and, perhaps, unique circumstance occurred about this time, which will serve to show the confidence Mr. Gooch inspired in railway magnates. Among many similar applications, he was asked to lay out a line to be called the Manchester, Bury, and Rossendale Railway. This he did, with the full consent of his Directors; but at the eleventh hour they resolved to start a line of their own in competition with it, which they called upon Mr. Gooch also to lay out. This, of course, placed him in an awkward position, and he proposed at once to retire from both projects, but he was requested by the parties on both sides to continue, so he laid down for each the best line he could select.
A severe struggle took place in the House of Commons, in which, though he was present in Committee, he took no part, other engineers being called in to give evidence. It ended in a decision by the Committee in favour of the Rossendale line.
In June 1844 Mr. Gooch retired from the Manchester and Leeds Railway. A month later he received a kind letter from his friend, Mr. Joseph Locke, offering him to become joint engineer with Mr. Locke of the great project of the day, the London and York Railway. This was a strong temptation to him, but the consideration that it would necessarily place him in it hostile position the Stephensons and the London and Birmingham interest led him ultimately to decline the offer.
However, by this time the railway mania was in full swing, and Mr. Gooch speedily found himself solicited on every side to lay out new lines, insomuch that, although using great discrimination in the projects he associated himself with, he soon found his hands full. At the time these schemes were only in the parliamentary stage, the Manchester, Bury, and Rossendale (to which he had succeeded Mr., now Sir John, Hawkshaw) being alone in actual construction.
Of all these undertakings the most important was the Trent Valley, of which he was “joint principal engineer” with Mr. Robert Stephenson and G. P. Bidder. At the turning of the first sod of this line on the 13th of November, 1845, Sir Robert Peel, then Prime Minister, made a speech which it was generally thought greatly increased the force of the railway mania.
Shortly previous to this, Mr. Gooch had been invited by the East India Company to go to India in a very high and responsible position, with a view to the introduction of railways into that country; but, though the appointment would have been a most lucrative one, he decided not to accept it, being influenced mainly by family reasons, and by the state of his health. This latter consideration was of greater importance than he had at first attached to it, for the strain of years of almost ceaseless hard work had begun to tell seriously upon him.
From his diary it appears that for nearly twenty years his only real holiday was a three days’ honeymoon when he was married; and though when he retired from the Manchester and Leeds Railway, he had proposed to seek some relaxation in the Lake District of England, he had scarcely reached Bowness before being called away again to resume his labours in the committee-rooms, and more and fiercer contests than he had yet experienced. These brief rests, added to a fortnight’s trip up the Rhine a year or two later, were not sufficient to repair the waste of brain-power entailed by an enthusiastic love of the profession.
In August 1847 Mr. Gooch was suddenly taken ill in the office at 24 Great George Street, and the doctor at once prescribed an entire cessation from work. Mr. Gooch went to Dawlish, where he remained quietly for about a month; but, finding he was too, near his work, he was recommended to leave England. In the result, he passed the winter at Pau with his family, and making a long round homewards in the following spring, arrived in England very much better, after eight months’ complete holiday.
Mr. Gooch then resumed his profession for two or three years. In the meantime the bubble of the railway mania had burst, and new schemes were few, so that he had more leisure than ever before in his life. But despite this his health continued to decline, and in 1851, at the early age of forty-two years, he was compelled to retire from a profession most congenial to his taste, and in which he had risen to a position in the first rank.
The concluding pages of a most interesting MS. autobiography, from which this memoir has been abridged, contain a simple and unaffected expression of his sorrow at this premature close of his active career, the almost pathetic nature of his regrets being only equalled by the modest way in which he refers to his achievements, and the thankful spirit in which he records that his savings had been sufficient to secure him at moderate interest an ample competence.
Dropping thus quietly out of active life, Mr. Gooch purposed to devote the remainder of his days to benevolent objects. His contributions to charitable objects were liberal, and given in most cases anonymously. He was a man of unpretending manners and kindly disposition, who made friends of all with whom he became acquainted. For several years he had been a manager of the Carus Wilson Soldiers’ Aid Society, the founder of which devoted his life to the welfare of soldiers, especially of those on foreign stations. In this work Mr. Wilson associated with him a number of ladies and gentlemen, among them being Mr. Gooch. On his death-bed Mr. Wilson solemnly handed over the charge of the Society to Mr. Gooch, who from that time zealously attended to its affairs.
For many years his duties as manager obliged him to carry on a large correspondence with all parts of the globe on matters relating to the circumstances of soldiers and sailors. In a quiet way, unknown mostly to the public, he and his volunteer helpers have carried on a work of charity, the good effects of which have been felt in all parts of the world to which the British soldier or sailor finds his way.
He was a member of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle, and was until a short time before his death to be seen every day in its library in Westgate Road.
He was deeply interested in the Stephenson Centenary celebration at Newcastle a year ago, but through infirmity he was unable to take part in the proceedings. He was urged to make an appearance on that day, but his reply was to the effect that, being up in years, he did not again wish to mix with the bustle of the world.
The usual limits of an obituary notice in these volumes have been exceeded in the case of Mr. Gooch, as one of the very few men who in their own persons took part in the birth, adolescence, and the full maturity of the railway system, from the horse-worked Stockton and Darlington Line of 1825, to the inauguration of the Britannia Bridge; This last marks the second period in the history of engineering, as the canal-system and reclamation works of the latter half of the eighteenth century noted the first, and in connection with it the sterling merit of Mr. Gooch is entitled to full recognition. Beyond his technical qualifications as an engineer, as a man of business he was distinguished by cool judgment and deliberation. His almost romantic devotion to the Stephensons, father and son, met with a warm return. The friendship between them was steady and unbroken for nearly forty years, marked by strong affection, sincere respect, and mutual reliance. Towards the close of Robert Stephenson’s life, Mr. Gooch, having returned home after a long absence on the Continent, had the satisfaction of spending with his family four happy months under his friend‘s hospitable roof in Gloucester Square; and, at Mr. Stephenson’s earnest request, Mr. Gooch accompanied him on his last visit to Norway.
Mr. Gooch was elected a Member of the Institution on the 3rd of June, 1845, but did not take any active part in its proceedings. The establishment of the Benevolent Fund in connection with the Society secured the thorough sympathy of his warm heart, and he was one of the most liberal donors to its capital fund.
This excellent engineer, good citizen, and virtuous man, passed quietly away on the 23rd of November, 1882, in his seventy-fifth year, his peaceful end a fitting sequel to a well-spent life.
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