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Thomas Russell Crampton

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1846.
1882. Hydraulic Tunnelling Machinery.

Thomas Russell Crampton (1816-1888) was an English engineer

He is best known for designing the Crampton locomotive but had many engineering interests including the electric telegraph and the channel tunnel for which he designed a boring machine.

1816 August 6th. Born in Broadstairs, Kent

Crampton was privately educated before beginning his career in engineering.

Thomas Crampton served his articles with the well known engineer John Hague of London from 1831 to 1839

After a short time with Marc Brunel, he joined the Great Western Railway at Swindon, where he helped Daniel Gooch who was Locomotive Superintendent.

In the early 1840s, the broad gauge was being assailed by the standard-gauge railways and Gooch's role was to design locomotives for the broad gauge which would out-perform those of the 4ft 8½ in. gauge, thus persuading the Board of Trade and MPs that the 7ft gauge should be retained through its technical merit. Crampton seems to have played an auxiliary role in this struggle, but at the time he was harbouring thoughts which his employers would have regarded as treacherous, as his ambition was to build a 4ft 8½ in. gauge locomotive equal to those of the broad gauge.

Crampton accepted prevailing opinion that one advantage of the broad gauge was that it permitted a higher centre of gravity for the same degree of stability: boilers could be higher-pitched, and large driving wheels could be employed; giving lower piston speeds, and thereby high speeds without choked exhausts. Crampton also realized that the performance of the Gooch locomotives was largely a result of the greater heating surface which could be installed in the bigger and broader machines.

1843 The essential feature of the locomotive which Crampton patented was the placing of the driving axle behind the firebox. This enabled him to use large driving wheels irrespective of the size or height of the boiler, at the same time preserving a low centre of gravity.

Crampton soon left Gooch and the GWR. He took a job with another engineer and devoted his spare moments to perfecting and publicizing his design.

1845 He found his first customer, the British managers of the Namur and Liege Railway in Belgium. These were built by Tulk and Ley. They ordered two units with 7ft driving wheels and a 14.5 sq. ft grate. A peculiarity of this design was the trapezoidal shape of the bottom part of the firebox. This shape was one of the legacies left by Crampton to continental railways; French designers, in particular, appreciated this form as it facilitated forward extension of the bottom part of the firebox. One of these two engines ran its trials on the Grand Junction Railway, and as a result a 'Crampton Patent' locomotive was built at the Crewe Worksby that company.

The newly-organized LNWR, one of the strongest members of the standard gauge camp, ordered two more Cramptons. The LNWR locomotive superintendent (McConnel) was naturally anxious to show that the broad gauge need not have a monopoly of large driving wheels and high speeds. The Cramptons he ordered had 8-ft drivers and the larger of them, the 6-2-0 Liverpool, had the unprecedentedly large heating surface of 2,290 sq. ft (with a grate area of 21.5 sq. ft). Boiler pressure was 120 psi, and cylinders 18in. x 24in.

1851 Liverpool was on show at the 1851 Great Exhibition, where it won a gold medal, much to Gooch's disgust. Gooch probably felt that Liverpool could undermine the claims to technical superiority of the broad gauge faction, although in retrospect the stirring reports of brilliant runs made by Liverpool may have been exaggerated to provide polemical ammunition.

1851 Award at the 1851 Great Exhibition. See details at 1851 Great Exhibition: Reports of the Juries: Class V.

Crampton was involved with dummy-crankshaft designs wherein the cylinders drove onto a crankshaft normally situated between the driving wheels. One of his final designs was for a 2-2+2-2 outside-cylinder tank engine.

Stroudley referred to a machine, made by Crampton to show the effect of balance-weights on locomotives being exhibited in Birmingham in 1850, and added that although it demonstrated as clearly as possible the principle of balancing, engines had since been built and put upon railways imperfectly balanced.

1851 Thomas Crampton was employed by the Submarine Telegraph Co to design and supervise the laying of its second attempt at a cross-Channel telegraph cable, which was successful after initially not having sufficient cable on board the ship to complete the crossing.

He invented endlessly, but few of his devices ever passed beyond the drawing stage. In the discussion to the Dewhurst paper J. Foster-Petree observed that ideas came so fast that [he] was "incapable of learning from them". Early in his career he invented the Crampton valve gear, which seems never to have been used (probably because its inventor realized it was inferior to the Stephenson gear). He also had achievements in civil engineering, constructing part of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway and lines in Eastern Europe and Turkey. He was responsible, too, for laying the world's first international submarine cable across the Straits of Dover in 1851.

1888 April 19th. Died in London. A total of 320 locomotives were built under his patents.


1888 Obituary [1]

THOMAS RUSSELL CRAMPTON died on the 19th of April, 1888. He had been in failing health for some years, and at last passed quietly away in his seventy-second year.

Mr. Crampton was one of the best-known English engineers of the middle period of this century, his reputation being chiefly based upon the popular type of locomotive-engine to which he gave his name. He was, however, an all-round engineer, his active and powerful mind attacking difficult professional problems with the boldness, ingenuity and fertility of resource characteristic of a true mechanic.

He was born at Broadstairs, Kent, on the 6th of August, 1816, and, after being educated at a private school, was articled, on the 21st of May, 1831, to John Hague, M. Inst. C.E., of Cable Street, Wellclose Square, where his fellow pupil was Mr. (now Sir Frederick) Bramwell.

After serving his time he was assistant to the elder Brunel, and subsequently Mr. (now Sir Daniel) Gooch, under whose directions he prepared the drawings for the first locomotive for the Great Western Railway.

He was then for four years engaged in a responsible position under Messrs. John and George Rennie, for whom he carried out several important works.

In 1848 he commenced practice on his own account as a civil engineer. He took an active part in the classical Battle of the Gauges, being on the winning side in that stirring controversy.

During the interval between 1842 and 1847 Mr. Crampton had made several improvements in the details of the locomotive-engine, and in the latter year he embodied his various ideas in a design which was, and has ever since remained, entirely distinctive. The essential principles of the Crampton engine area long boiler, outside cylinders set amidships, and low centre of gravity, obtained by placing the driving-wheels at the rear of the engine, behind the firebox. His apologia for this departure from received practice took the form of a Paper presented to the Institution in 1849, 'On the Construction of Locomotive Engines, especially with respect to those modifications which enable additional power to be gained, without materially increasing the weight, or unduly elevating the centre of gravity.'

An animated discussion, lasting over three evenings, followed the reading of this Paper, the opinions of English engineers of that day being distinctly against Mr. Crampton’s innovations. One engine only, the 'Liverpool,' was built in England on this system. It worked on the London and North Western line till 1852, when it was withdrawn, as being too heavy for the track then in use.

But though he was not received as a prophet in his own country, his ingenious ideas obtained considerable favour on the Continent, especially in France, where for nearly forty years the light express trains of the Northern and of the Eastern Companies have been, and still are, in the case of sections having easy gradients, worked by Crampton engines, but little, if at all, differing from the prototype.

At the Inventions Exhibition of 1885, Mr. Crampton exhibited a model, made in 1856, of his type of locomotive, accompanied by a statement giving some remarkable statistics as to its efficiency and economy. These results induced Mr. Crampton in 1885 to develop a new type of engine to maintain any speed required, and to meet the ever-varying demands upon it, with fewer repairs, and with a minimum of danger.

But perhaps Mr. Crampton’s most distinguished work, although one less known to the general public, was the laying, in 1851, of the first practical submarine telegraph cable between Dover and Calais. The credit of proposing this scheme has been generally assigned to Professor Wheatstone, who in 1840 prepared a scheme, but no action was taken at the time.

In 1850 Mr. John Watkins Brett took the great work seriously in hand, and on the 28th of August of that year he laid a line from Dover to Cape Grisnez, which, however, ultimately broke down. A second cable was prepared in the following year, but the laying of it was surrounded by serious difficulties, pecuniary and otherwise.

At this stage, when the prospect of success was most gloomy, Mr. Crampton stepped into the breach, and by a marvellous exercise of ability, industry, and indomitable courage he devised the means of carrying out the enterprise, himself contributing a great part of the capital required. He undertook the whole engineering responsibility of laying the cable, directed the operations, and had the satisfaction, on the 25th of September, 1851, of announcing to the men of science assembled round the Queen at the ceremony of the closing of the Great Exhibition, that he had achieved a task which engineers and capitalists had combined to treat as impossible.

The vast importance of the work then accomplished can hardly be over-estimated. It was the first step in submarine telegraphy, and from it have sprung the prodigious developments of that system which now connects all parts of the civilized globe in a network of electrical wires. Mr. Crampton may, therefore, fairly be considered as the father of submarine telegraphy.

Among the various works carried out by Mr. Crampton as contractor, either alone or in conjunction with others, may be mentioned the Berlin Waterworks, which he constructed jointly with the late Sir Charles Fox ; the Ottoman Railway from Smyrna to Aidin ; the Varna and Rustchuk Railway; the East Kent Railway, from Strood to Dover ; the Herne Bay and Faversham Railway, and the line from Sevenoaks to Swanky. These latter lines eventually became merged into what is now known as the London, Chatham and Dover system, in the construction of other portions of which Mr. Crampton was also subsequently interested.

Of his practical inventive genius much might be said. He invented a furnace for burning powdered fuel, which was run for some time in Woolwich Arsenal ; also a revolving furnace for the manufacture of iron and steel, brick-making machinery, a system of cast-iron forts, and a tunnel-boring machine. From an early age Mr. Crampton evinced an anxiety to promote the interests of his native town.

In 1851 he started the Broadstairs Gasworks scheme, subscribing a large portion of the capital, and eventually constructing the works. He also originated and built the waterworks there, to which undertaking he likewise subscribed capital, and presented the church with its clock.

Mr. Crampton was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 3rd of March, 1846. He was transferred to the clam of Member on the 7th of March, 1854. His nomination paper as an Associate bears the following distinguished signatures :-I. E. Brunel, George P. Bidder, Joseph Locke, Charles May, J. R. McClean, J. E. Errington, W. Cubitt, J. M. Rendel, Joseph Cubitt, John Hawkshaw, T. Hawksley, and J. Walker.

He served on the Council as an Associate in 1853. Mr. Crampton was a Member of Council, and a Vice-President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, a Member of Council and Vice-President of the Society of Arts, a Member of Council of the Society of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians, a Member of the Societe des Ingknieurs Civils of Paris, a Member of the Iron and Steel Institute of Great Britain, of the Cleveland Institution of Engineers, of the North Staffordshire Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, and of the Smeatonian Society. He was an officer of the Legion of Honour, and had the Prussian Order of the Red Eagle. Personally Mr. Crampton was of commanding presence, and his handsome face, invariably lit up by a pleasant smile, was familiar to most frequenters of the Institution, the meetings of which he attended with great regularity. He further manifested his interest in the Society by bequeathing to it in trust a sum of £500, free of legacy duty, for the purpose of founding a 'Crampton Prize,' to be awarded annually to the Author of the best Paper on 'The Construction, Ventilation and Working of Tunnels of Great Length,' or, failing the reception of such a Paper, then to the Author of the best Paper on any subject the Council may select.

Mr. Crampton’s death is regretted by a very wide circle of professional friends, to whom his frank and genial nature made him ever welcome, and by whom his practical genius, energy, and indomitable perseverance will ever be remembered with admiration.


1888 Obituary [2]

THOMAS RUSSELL CRAMPTON was born at Broadstairs, Kent, on 6th August 1816, and after receiving a private-school education was articled on 21st May 1831 to Mr. John Hague, of Cable Street, Wellclose Square, London.

After serving his time, he acted during the years 1839-1844 as assistant to the elder Brunel, and subsequently to Mr. (now Sir Daniel) Gooch, under whose directions ho prepared the drawings for the first locomotive for the Great Western Railway.

Four years were then spent under Messrs. John and George Rennie on various important works; and in 18-18 be commenced practice on his own account as a civil engineer.

In the "battle of the gauges" he took an active part in favour of the narrow gauge.

During the years 1842-1847 he made several improvements in the details of the locomotive engine, and embodied his ideas in the design of engine bearing his name, of which the characteristic features are—a long boiler, outside cylinders set in the middle of the engine's length, and a low centre of gravity, obtained by placing the driving wheels behind the fire-box. These departures from received practice formed the subject of a paper to the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1849.

One engine only was built in England on this plan, the "Liverpool," weighing 35 tons, which ran on the London and North Western Railway till 1852, when it was withdrawn in consequence of being too heavy for the permanent way then in use. It was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and won for its inventor the grand medal.

The Crampton engine met with considerable favour on the Continent, especially in France, where for nearly forty years the light express trains of the Northern and Eastern Railways have been, and still are in the case of sections having easy gradients, worked by these engines.

The satisfactory results obtained from thirty-five years' working led him in 1885 to design a new engine with four cylinders and largo driving wheels, suitable for meeting the ever-varying demands of speed and tractive power, with fewer repairs and with a minimum of danger (Proceedings 1886, page 527). A small engine of this kind for 18 inches gauge was regularly at work at Woolwich arsenal for sonic time during 1887.

The most distinguished work of his professional life was probably the laying in 1851 of the first practical submarine cable between Dover and Calais. After the failure of a previous cable laid in 1850 by Mr. Brett, a second cable was prepared in 1851; but the laying was surrounded by serious difficulties, pecuniary and otherwise. The period of concession was within seven weeks of expiration when Mr. Crampton, contributing with his friends the capital required, undertook the whole engineering responsibility of constructing and laying the cable, and directed the operations to a successful issue before the closing of the Great Exhibition on 25th September 1851. He may therefore fairly be considered as the father of submarine telegraphy.

Amongst the various works that he carried out, either alone or in conjunction with others, may be mentioned the Berlin Water Works, which he constructed jointly with the late Sir Charles Fox; the Ottoman Railway from Smyrna to Aidin; the Varna and Rustchuk Railway; the East Kent Railway from Strood to Dover; the Herne Bay and Faversham Railway; and the line from Sevenoaks to Swanky. These latter lines became merged eventually into the London Chatham and Dover Railway, of which he was subsequently interested in the construction of other portions also. This railway was opened with six locomotives built in 1857 and fitted with steam-jacketed cylinders designed by him (Proceedings 1886, page 397).

He invented a rotary dust-fuel furnace, which was used for some time in Woolwich arsenal, and of which he gave a description to this Institution in a paper on mechanical puddling (Proceedings 1876, page 244); also brick-making machinery, a plan of cast-iron forts, and an automatic hydraulic tunnel-boring machine. The last was designed with special reference to the execution of the Channel Tunnel, and was fully described in his lecture to this Institution at Leeds (Proceedings 1882, page 440).

In 1851 he started the Broadstairs gasworks, subscribing a large portion of the capital, and eventually constructing the works. He also originated and built the waterworks there, and presented the church with its clock.

He was elected a Member of this Institution in 1847, the year of its commencement, and became a Member of Council in 1879, and a Vice-President in 1883. He was an officer of the Legion of Honour, and of the Prussian Order of the lied Eagle.

He died at his residence, 19 Ashley Place, Westminster, on 19th April 1888, in the seventy-second year of his age.


1888 Obituary [3]

THOMAS RUSSELL CRAMPTON was born at Broadstairs, in Kent, in 1816, and died at his residence, Ashley Place, Victoria Street, on the 19th April 1888.

Mr. Crampton was trained as a railway engineer, in which capacity he served under the elder Brunel for several years, and afterwards under Mr. (now Sir) Daniel Gooch, then chief locomotive engineer for the Great Western Railway, and now the chairman of that company. In 1848, after leaving previously held a responsible position under Messrs. Rennie, he commenced business on his own account, and, for a quarter of a century afterwards, few names were better known in connection with railway enterprise.

Mr. Crampton's system of locomotive engine was designed in 1843, and perfected between that year and 1847. The whole of the moving machinery is on the outside of the engine, which has a low centre of gravity, large driving-wheels, and unusually large wearing surfaces, the boiler being constructed without angle iron, with the object of reducing wear and tear. In 1849 Mr. Crampton's engine was selected to introduce the express service into France between Calais and Paris, on the Great Northern of France Railway. It still continues to do that service after an interval of thirty-five years. In the Great Exhibition of 1851, one of the largest locomotives ever constructed was exhibited on this system it contained 2200 feet of heating surface, with 8-feet driving-wheels, 18-inch cylinders, and 24-inch stroke. The council, or great medal, was awarded to Mr. Crampton for his invention. The gold medal of the Society of Arts was awarded for the same system in 1843. Mr. Crampton having been a member of the jury of the French exhibition of 1856, was excluded from any award, but the council, in their report, referred to the merits of the invention in flattering terms. The engine exhibited was one of twelve, taken from the regular service of the Northern of France line, after running for six years an average of 36,000 miles per annum. The Eastern Railway Company of France leave employed no other single express engine for thirty-two years.

It is considered to be good work when an ordinary engine runs 20,000 to 24,000 miles per annum for five consecutive years—the usual life of these machines being 300,000 to 450,000 miles—whereas Crampton's engines are stated to have run an average of 35,130 miles each per annum during 71 years (the time taken between two great repairs), the total life of each engine being 655,177 miles.

Mr. Crampton laid the original cable between Dover and Calais in 1851, and was thus the first to establish the practicability of submarine telegraphy. A piece of the original cable was shown by him at the Inventions Exhibition three years ago. All telegraph messages to England were conveyed through this piece of cable for four years although it has a kink in it, which was cut out during repairs, and not for want of insulation. Crampton's first submarine cable and his locomotive were put into practical operation about the same period, and both remained in good working order after nearly thirty-five years. The story of Crampton's connection with submarine telegraphy is so well known that we need not enter upon it here. The concession to construct the cable between Dover and Calais was within seven weeks of expiring, and no one appeared to have either the confidence or the courage to carry out the enterprise, when Mr. Crampton himself raised the £10,000 required to lay the cable, and, within the required period, had not only constructed, but laid the cable across the channel.

Mr. Crampton's automatic system for excavating long tunnels by the ordinary hydraulic motors, conveying the debris, mixed with the waste water from the motor, along and out of the tunnel in pipes or otherwise, and thereby dispensing entirely with the locomotives, wagons, and lifting machinery ordinarily employed, is well known in engineering circles. Where the material cut is too large to be floated away with the waste water, it is, reduced to the size required, at a nominal cost, by simple means in common use. If desired, particularly in cutting clay, all or part of the waste water, before mixing with the debris, may be caused to lubricate, so as to keep out all dirt from the bearings, and pass over the surfaces of the cutter to their cutting edges, mixing with the debris as cut, and generally preventing the accumulation of debris on the machine. A piece of grey chalk was thus cut out of the Channel tunnel at the rate of five yards per hour, the power used being 1.2 horse-power per cubic yard per hour. Coal takes the same power. Sandstone was cut from the Mersey tunnel at the rate of 1.5 yards forward per hour, with four horse-power per cubic yard per hour. Galt clay was cut at the rate of ten yards forward per hour, wills half a horse-power per cube yard per hour.

The cost of one horse-power per hour is less than one penny. Some years ago, the work done with Mr. Crampton's machine at the experimental works of the Channel Tunnel Company attracted a good deal of attention, and the subject was dealt with by the inventor in a lecture delivered before the Institution of Mechanical Engineers at Leeds in 1882.

From a metallurgical point of view, Mr. Crampton's career is chiefly interesting in, respect of his attempts to introduce a furnace for heating and puddling, in which remarkably high temperatures and a great economy of fuel were obtained by the use of coal dust. The results obtained are described in papers read by Mr. Crampton in 1873 and in 1874. He claimed that his system effected the utilisation of slack or small coal, without the production of smoke; that it enabled fuel and air to be fed automatically in proper proportions, thereby securing perfect combustion; that it gave heat of the highest intensities with regularity of temperature and quality; that it reduced wear and tear, secured the elimination of phosphorus and sulphur, and facilitated fettling. One of the first furnaces constructed on Crampton's system was erected at Woolwich Arsenal, where it gave in some respects very satisfactory results. It was also adopted at Middlesbrough by the firm of Fox, Head & Company. For a time, it seemed as if either the Danks or the Crampton furnace would supersede the older reverberatory puddling furnace. It was found, however, that the impurities contained in the powdered fuel exercised a detrimental effect on the linings of the furnaces; and that this and other drawbacks rendered dust fuel a less suitable heating medium than producer gas. The system was, moreover, set aside in favour of either the Bessemer or open-hearth methods of manufacturing steel by firms that were undertaking new developments, and it was never, therefore, carried so far as its inventor desired to see it. But up to the last hour of his life, Mr. Crampton firmly believed in, and was a strong advocate for, the use of powdered fuel fed in the way he directed.

Mr. Crampton was one of the original members of the Institute, and few members were more regular in their attendance at both the London and the provincial meetings. He frequently also took part in the discussion of papers, especially when they bore upon the improvement of the puddling process, and the construction of engines and boilers. Mr. Crampton was also a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, of the Society of Arts, and of several kindred institutions. For some years he was a member of Council of the two last-named societies.

The career of Mr. Crampton divides itself naturally into two parts. In the first part his time was almost entirely devoted to railway construction, either alone, or in conjunction with Messrs. Peto, Betts, and others. During this period he constructed the Ottoman Railway, from Smyrna to Aidin; the Varna and Rustchuk Railway; the East Kent Railway, from Strood to Dover; the Herne Bay and Faversham Railway; and the greater part of what is now the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway. The second part of Mr. Crampton's career was devoted to general engineering work, to the perfecting of his revolving furnace, and to the business of the many learned societies with which he was connected, and before which he has read many valuable papers. Engineering has justly said of him that "he was essentially an independent worker, a man who originated his own ideas, and carried them out with energy and persistence, often to a successful issue, and always as far as their intrinsic merit would permit. . . . He was the manager and engineer of his own enterprises and not of those of other people. At the same time, his thorough practical training, accurate knowledge, and keen mental grasp, gave him high rank in the profession, while his commanding presence, strong individuality, and genial disposition, made him hosts of friends in all conditions of life."

Mr. Crampton was an officer of the Legion of Honour of France, and a member of the order of the Red Eagle of Prussia. He was twice married.


1888 Obituary [4]



1888 Obituary [5]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Steam Index Web Site
  • British Steam Locomotive Builders by James W. Lowe. Published in 1975. ISBN 0-905100-816