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British Industrial History

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Timothy Hackworth

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Statue of Timothy Hackworth.
Sketch from Timothy Hackworth's note book.
1923. Hackworth's erecting shop at Shildon.
1825. Time table.
Soho House at Shildon.
1834/5. Engine costs.
1836. Locomotives for Russia.
1836. Locomotives for Russia.
1837. Time table.
1848. Example of handwriting.
1833. The wife of Timothy Hackworth.
1837. Locomotive 'Arrow'.
1838. Hackworth's 0-6-0 Engine 1838.
1839. Locomotive 'Albion'
The wife of Timothy Hackworth.
Hackworth's business card.
Hackworth's safety valve.
Hackworth's safety valve.
Hackworth's Plug Wheel.
Timothy Hackworth's grave stone at Shildon.

Timothy Hackworth (1786-1850) was a steam locomotive mechanical engineer who lived in Shildon, County Durham

1786 December 22nd. Born in Wylam, Northumberland, the eldest of three sons and five daughters of John Hackworth (d. 1802), master blacksmith at Wylam colliery, and his wife, Elizabeth Sanderson of Newcastle. (Married 04 June 1781 at Ovingham, Northumberland)

He went to Wylam School

1800 At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed, initially to his father who was foreman blacksmith at Wylam Colliery and who died the following year.

Hackworth worked with William Hedley at Wylam Colliery in the early 1800s and assisted in the production of Puffing Billy, the world's oldest surviving steam locomotive.

At the end of his apprenticeship in 1807 Timothy took over his father's position. Since 1804, the mine owner, Christopher Blackett had been investigating the possibilities of working the mine's short 5-mile colliery tramroad by steam traction. Blackett set up a four-man working group including himself, William Hedley, the viewer; Timothy Hackworth, the new foreman smith and Jonathan Foster, a "wright". The first step in 1808 was the relaying of the Wylam tramway with cast iron plates, until then a simple timber-way.

In 1811, the four-man team began investigating the adhesive properties of smooth wheels using a manually operated carriage propelled by a maximum of four men, and in the same year a single-cylinder locomotive devised by one Waters, reportedly on the Trevithick model, was built and tried for a few months with erratic results

In 1812 Hackworth and Jonathan Foster, the colliery engine-wright, were responsible for the Grasshopper

In 1813 they built the Wylam Dilly

In 1813 Hackworth married Jane Golightly at Ovingham parish church, who shared his devout Methodism. They had three sons (one died in infancy) and six daughters; the eldest son, John Wesley Hackworth (1820–1891), carried on the business after his father's death.

1815 Forced to give up his job at Wylam beacuse his religous beliefs would not permit him to work on Sunday

1816 Joins Walbottle Colliery as foreman smith and remains with the company for eight years

1824 Manager at Robert Stephenson and Co for a year. His brother Thomas Hackworth had taken over at Warbottle Colliery

Contracted to build some boilers for the Tyne Iron Co but soon received a better offer to work on the Stockton and Darlington Railway

1825 Becomes the engineer on the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

With Stephenson, Hackworth helped develop Locomotion, a moderately successful engine that Hackworth adopted as a pet project. However, the Locomotion was soon replaced by the Sans Pareil, which took part in the Rainhill Trials in 1829. Although Hackworth's locomotive was heavy, it was allowed to take part, but failed when a cylinder cracked. The engine was however subsequently used on the Bolton and Leigh Railway and can still be seen in action at the Timothy Hackworth Museum.

His design in 1827 for the Royal George used a steam blastpipe in the chimney to draw the fire, and he is usually acknowledged as the inventor of this concept. However, Goldsworthy Gurney claimed prior art, having used a similar steam blast as early as 1822. The steam blast was copied by Stephenson for his locomotive, the Rocket. According to another source (Brown, 1871), Stephenson used the steam blast already before 1815. It had been common practice to exhaust the steam into the chimney to minimise noise. Recent letters acquired by the National Railway Museum would appear to confirm Hackworth as the inventor.

1830 Hackworth designed two classes of engine for working the coal traffic of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, in both of which the vertical cylinders and the six-coupled cast iron wheels of the "Royal George" type were retained, but the " motion " and boilers were different. The six engines of the No. 12 or "Majestic" class had the cylinders placed upon overhanging platform in front of the smoke-box.[1]

One of his 1833 apprentices, Daniel Adamson, later further developed his boiler designs becoming a successful manufacturer and influential in the inception of the Manchester Ship Canal.

1833 he entered into a new contract with the S&DR in which he became responsible for the working of the locomotives and workshops but remained free to operate his own business as a builder of locomotives and stationary engines. He opened new workshops, foundry and built houses for workers[2]. The business was conducted from new workshops at New Shildon, where locomotive, marine, and industrial engines and boilers were built. He placed his brother Thomas in charge along with Nicholas Downing and the business was initially called Hackworth and Downing. The latter dropped out later; Thomas remained until 1840 when Timothy took over the whole works.

He also built, at Shildon in 1836, the first locomotive to run in Russia for the St Petersburg railway and in 1837 the Samson for the Albion Mines Railway in Nova Scotia, one of the first engines to run in Canada.

1840 Hackworth gave up his contract with the Stockton and Darlington Railway and concentrated on the Soho Works at Shildon which he took over from his brother Thomas Hackworth, who had run Hackworth and Downing from the premises. Timothy fulfilled contracts for the Clarence Railway and various collieries and also built stationary marine and industrial engines.

1841 Timothy Hackworth living at Soho, Shildon (age 50), an Engineer, with his wife Jane and daughters Hannah and Jane. [3]

1846 He began to build engines for the London and Brighton Railway where John Gray was locomotive superintendent. Gray designed a class of express passenger locomotives and the whole of this class (12 engines) was built by Timothy Hackworth at Soho 1846-1848.

1849 Hackworth built Sanspareil no.2 but he had difficulty selling this locomotive[4] and it remained unsold by the time of his death of typhus in 1850

1850 July 7th. His death took place from typhus at his home, Soho, Shildon, co. Durham. He is commemorated by the Timothy Hackworth Museum at Shildon.

1851 Jane, his widow, (age 62), an Engineer's Widow is living at Soho, Shildon with children Ann Ambler (married) (age 36), Mary (age 34), Elizabeth Holmes (widow) (age 32), Timothy (age 26) an Engineer, Ann (age 22) and Samuel Holmes (age 5), grandson. Plus a servant. [5]

1852 Jane Hackworth died.

Today he has a school named after him in his hometown of Shildon where the pupils annually learn of Timothy Hackworth and his work on trains. His home was also turned into a museum, which has since being renovated and a large museum called The National Railway Museum at Shildon built nearby.

Read a thorough account of his achievements by Robert Young in The Engineer 1922/03/03.

Railway Locomotives - Built at Shildon for the Stockton and Darlington Railway

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1925/01/23
  2. Biography of Timothy Hackworth [1]
  3. 1841 census
  4. NRM Archives [2]
  5. 1851 Census
  • Chris de Winter Hebron, 50 Famous Railwaymen, 2005
  • [3] Wikipedia
  • The Engineer of 16th July 1920
  • Timothy Hackworth and the Locomotive by Robert Young. Published 1923.
  • British Steam Locomotive Builders by James W. Lowe. Published 1975. ISBN 0 905100 816
  • Hackworth archive at the NRM [4]