Allan ‘did not design Crewe-type’ engines: there’s more to the story

I enjoyed reading issue 250 of Heritage Railway and was delighted to find an interesting article by Brian Sharpe regarding 1840s locomotive engineers.

As a professional railway historian studying and writing about the period 1830-50, it is always nice to see something – anything – from the earlier 19th century. However, I feel I need to note that neither Francis Trevithick nor Alexander Allan had any involvement with the design of the ‘Crewe’ type and furthermore, that name is a misnomer.

What we now call the ‘Crewe’ type should perhaps be best called the ‘Edgehill’ type as that is where William Barber Buddicom, the Locomotive Superintendent of the Grand Junction Railway and its Chief Engineer Joseph Locke first developed it.

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Grand Junction Railway 2-2-2 No. 49 Columbine, built at Crewe Works in 1845, and withdrawn in 1902, on static display at the Science Museum in London. The Science Museum website credits its design to Alexander Allan and states that it is the first example of the standard ‘Crewe’-type engine with 6ft diameter driving wheels. The locomotive has had its cab removed so that it appears as it did in the early 1870s. ROBIN JONES

Thanks to very sharp curves leading into Warrington Junction on the Liverpool & Manchester, the GJR suffered from a series of crank-axle failures on their 2-2-2 Patentee type locomotives.

The situation had become so bad after only two years of operation that Joseph Locke was investigating building a standard locomotive and means of reducing the frequency of axle breakages.

A year later the GJR board ordered Buddicom to report on the matter and how best to tackle the issue of crank-axle failure.

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Anthony L Dawson,
BSc (Hons) Dip PT M.A, email.

Read this letter in its entirety (plus other readers’ letters) in Issue 251 of HR – on sale now!

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Sam Hewitt