Beyer Peacock & Company Formed 150 years ago
Charles Frederick Beyer (1813 - 1876) , the eldest partner,
was 41 when his firm was founded. Son of a poor weaver from Plauen
in Saxony, he worked his way through the Dresden Polytechnic,
spending only £60. l0s.0d. in his three years there. In
1834 a travel grant enabled him to make a trip to England to
study textile machinery and, in spite of offers of employment
in Germany, he returned to this country and entered the drawing
office of Sharp Roberts & Company, Manchester. When this
firm began to build railway locomotives again in 1837, Beyer
was moved to that department and in 1843 became the Chief Engineer.
Disappointment at not receiving a partnership, or possibly at
being refused in marriage by one of Sharps daughters, made
him leave in 1853, and the following year he entered into partnership
with Richard Peacock to start a firm of mechanical engineers
whose business was to be confined chiefly to the manufacture
of locomotive engines.
The locomotive superintendent
of the Manchester & Sheffield Railway, Richard Peacock
(1820 - 1889), knew Beyer through buying some Sharp Bros. engines
for his line and also through the Institution of Mechanical Engineers,
which they both helped found in 1847. Peacock left Leeds Grammar
School at the age of fourteen to become an apprentice with the
firm of Fenton Murray & Jackson in Leeds. At the age of eighteen
he became locomotive superintendent of the Leeds and Selby Railway,
but when this was taken over by the York and North Midland Railway
in 1840, he went to work under Daniel Gooch on the Great Western.
His connection with Manchester began in 1841 when, only 21, he
became the locomotive superintendent of the Sheffield, Ashton
under Lyne and Manchester Railway and laid out their running
sheds at Gorton, where later the railway workshops, nicknamed
Gorton Tank, were established. It was due to Peacocks
influence that Gorton was transformed from meadows and cornfields
into a great engineering centre.
The third partner, Henry
Robertson (1816 - 1888) was born at Banff on 16 January 1816.
After graduating from Aberdeen University, he spent some time
in the Lanarkshire collieries and then joined the firm of Robert
Stephenson & Locke, which was building railways round Edinburgh
and Glasgow and into England. Among other work for them, he levelled
and set out that part of the West Coast route over Shap Fell.
After a varied career in Scotland, he became interested in the
Brymbo estate of the great ironmaster John Wilkinson and decided
to redevelop it by building a railway direct to Chester. He helped
with the Chester - Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury - Birmingham, Shrewsbury
- Hereford lines among others on the Welsh borders and designed
two famous viaducts, one of 19 arches over the Dee near Ruabon
and the other over the Ceiriog at Chirk. Although he joined the
firm of Beyer, Peacock mainly to provide capital, he was far
from being a sleeping partner, giving advice on many occasions
and even securing some orders for engines.
From 1855 to 1966 nearly 8,000
railway locomotives were built at Gorton Foundry by Beyer, Peacock.
This was a new company beginning on a new site, and it was founded
by three men, all of whom had risen from obscurity to positions
of management and authority in different spheres of railway engineering.
In 1890 Beyer, Peacock, in
collaboration with Mather & Platt, built their first electric
locomotives (7414). These were for the City & South London
Railway and were the first electric tube engines in the world.
The line was opened formally by the Prince of Wales (afterwards
King Edward VII) on 4 November 1890. No more electric locomotives
were built until 1926, when an order for four was completed in
association with the English Electric Company for the Montreal
Harbour Railways (02438). These engines, partially rebuilt, were
still at work in 1968. In 1960 Beyer, Peacock, in conjunction
with Metropolitan - Vickers Ltd. , built ten of the 25kv A.C.
electric engines for the London Midland Region of British Railways.
These may be seen in Manchester sometimes and are numbered 3046
On the death of Richard Peacock
on 3 March 1889, his son Ralph, who had been in the works since
1862, became Managing Director. In 1892, when Lange died, he
became responsible for the entire management of the concern.
In 1902 he felt that, as there was no longer any family interest
connected with the firm except his own, it should become a public
company. He retired from active management but served on the
Board of Directors until 1905.
But difficult days were ahead,
for when the Directors of the new company met for the first time
in April 1902, the position of the steam locomotive was being
threatened. The internal combustion engine was developing into
a reliable machine for road transport, while many railway companies
were investigating electric traction. The new company made several
enquiries to see whether they should enter either of these fields
to meet competition on an equal footing. They decided that to
build motor cars would mean re-equipping the works, but they
did build about a dozen steam lorries. They also built a few
railcar designs (9281). On the other hand, railway engines were
getting more and more powerful. On some lines, especially abroad,
the limits of development for the ordinary type of locomotive
had been reached, and plans for Fairlie, Mallet and Meyer articulated
engines drawn up by Beyer, Peacock show that this company was
actively investigating new types of engine design during the
opening years of the present century.
Alongside Garratts, the firm
continued to build ordinary steam locomotives which included
the same improvements in design as their double-ended counterparts
but continual technical improvements in diesel engine design
and changes in fashion made steam locomotives obsolete and no
more orders for steam engines were received after 1958. The firm
turned to building diesel engines. Except for a few industrial
locomotives, all their diesel engines were sold to British Railways.
101 diesel hydraulic engines of Beyer, Peacocks own design
were sold to the Western Region, but then British Railways decided
to buy only diesel electric types. Beyer, Peacock continued to
build diesel electrics for British Railways, but as this was
becoming increasingly uneconomic, Gorton Foundry was closed in
Taken from A Short
History of Beyer, Peacock by Dr. R.L. Hills
Volume 40 of the Newcomen
Transactions contains a paper "Contributions to Locomotive
Develoment By Beyer, Peacock & Co." by R.L. Hills some
copies are still available from The Book House, Cumbria www.thebookhouse.co.uk
For a more complete
history of the company "Beyer, Peacock Locomotive Builders
to the World" By R.L.Hills & D Patrick