Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,398 pages of information and 233,518 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
of Stratford Place, London
c.1870 John Y. Smith, an Englishman who had been working in Pittsburgh for several years, developed a vacuum brake which also attracted attention in Britain
1875 George Westinghouse's company purchased the rights to the patents of the company for USA and Canada so that both vacuum and air braking systems could be offered; Smith's vacuum brake had been in use in USA since 1872 where it was in use on 10 lines
1875 Tests of the various braking systems were conducted on the Midland Railway using a specially equipped train under the supervision of Mr Edward Woods CE; the various brakes were supported by different railway companies. Westinhouse's air brake was judged most efficient.
1876 North British Railway organised a series of trials between Westinghouse's automatic air-brake and Smith's vacuum brake supplied by the Vacuum Co  which demonstrated the advantages of the air-brake. Nevertheless the vacuum system was deployed by many British railway companies.
1877 Public company.
1878 The Vacuum Brake Co was voluntarily wound up
1878 John George Hardy was appointed continental manager of the company
1880 William John Adams was appointed manager of the Vacuum Brake Co, of Queen Victoria St, London
By 1888 Harry Heatly was representing the Vacuum Brake Co on the continent
1891 Smith's Vacuum Brake Company Limited was voluntarily wound up
1898 Vacuum Brake Co, of 32 Queen Victoria St, London
1907 Advert; also see Gresham and Craven.
1931 The Vacuum Brake Company, Ltd., of London, in conjunction with its associated concerns of Gresham and Craven, Ltd of Manchester, and the Heatly-Gresham Engineering Company, Ltd., of Letchworth, exhibited a full range of vacuum brake equipment for all kinds of railway locomotives and railcars, and rolling stock in the Buenos Aires exhibition.
1934 The Vacuum Brake Co (France) Ltd was voluntarily wound up
1936 Greshams and Vacuum Brake Co Ltd was removed from the register of companies
1952-54 Was quoted on the London Stock Exchange
1961 Manufacturers and appliers of mechanical appliances to locomotives, wagons, trucks and carriages. 
1967 Birfield was acquired by GKN