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Frederick Harvey Trevithick

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Frederick Harvey Trevithick (1852-1931) major contribution to Egyptian railways.

son of Francis Trevithick

Worked for the Great Western Railway and for the Egyptian State Railways and at the latter advanced to Chief Mechanical Engineer


1931 Obituary [1]

FREDERICK HARVEY TREVITHICK was a grandson of Richard Trevithick, the inventor of the steam-locomotive.

He was born at Crewe in 1852 and educated at Cheltenham College. He served his apprenticeship with Messrs. Harvey and Company of Hayle, Cornwall, later entering the Great Western Railway workshops at Swindon. He was subsequently transferred to London in 1880 to take charge of the London district of the locomotive department.

In 1883 he was appointed chief mechanical engineer of the Egyptian State Railways, and carried out very valuable work in connexion with the great reorganization scheme inaugurated by Sir Evelyn Baring (afterwards Lord Cromer).

He was sent in 1884 by Lord Cromer, whose full confidence he possessed, to make a report on the petroleum industry in Russia, and in 1896 to make a report on the railways of India, and again in 1900 on the railways of the United States and Canada. Mr. Trevithick greatly improved the organization of the Egyptian State Railways, and a commission held in 1904 and 1905 reported generally that they found the locomotive department eminently efficient. The Khedive conferred upon Mr. Trevithick the Orders of the Medjidieh and Osmanieh for his services.

During his many years' work in Egypt he studied the problem of standardizing equipment, and he conducted a famous and exhaustive series of trials on locomotives to determine the value of feed-heating, superheating, and air-heating. These formed the subject of a joint paper read at the Institution in 1913 for which he was awarded the Willans Premium in 1918.

Mr. Trevithick was elected a Member of the Institution in 1913, and was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

He was 79 years of age at the date of his death which occurred on 9th December 1931, at Avignon.


1931 Obituary[2]

"THE LATE MR. F. H. TREVITHICK.

We greatly regret to have to put on record the sudden death, on the 9th inst., at Avignon, of Mr. Frederick Harvey Trevithick, late Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Egyptian State Railways.

The son of Francis Trevithick, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and North Western Railway, Mr. F. H. Trevithick was the grandson of Richard Trevithick, the inventor of the steam locomotive. He was born at Crewe in 1852, and was educated at Cheltenham College. His apprenticeship was served at the works of Messrs. Harvey and Company, Hayle, Cornwall, after which he worked in the shops of the Great Western Railway at Swindon. After a variety of experience there he was made superintendent of the locomotive and carriage department for the London district.

In 1883 he was appointed Ingdnieur en Chef du Materiel et de la Traction (later changed to Chief Mechanical Engineer) of the Egyptian Railway Administration, thus taking a responsible part in the great re-organisation scheme inaugurated by Sir Evelyn Baring. At that time the State Railways were in a deplorable condition; as may be imagined, in the chaotic state to which the country had been reduced, they had not escaped. No new locomotive stock was procured for twenty years, while at the date of Mr. Trevithick’s appointment practically all the coaching and goods stock had been in use for 12 years and most of it for 30. The condition of the locomotive stock presented a great problem. Engines had been purchased in ones and twos, sometimes at the whim of the Khedive, from an exhibition. The history of the department shows that so long as stock was being purchased under the old regime, the types of engines were being increased at the rate of 3*25 per annum, while the engines per class at times numbered less than 2.

It will be remembered that, in the reconstruction, irrigation and other services had first claim, and there was little money for the railways. Mr. Trevithick, therefore, after a close study of the situation, embarked upon a comprehensive plan of standardisation and rebuilding, the effect of which was to bring the equipment into a strikingly different condition. Some new stock was, however, soon indispensable, but the new classes were kept down to four, and designed in such a way that parts were standard with the rebuilds or old types. While new stock was thus gradually introduced to cope with expanding traffic, the number of types was steadily reduced, and about twenty years later had fallen from 54 to 22, while the number of engines per class had risen to about 20. In the policy of re-building, the various parts of the more numerous classes were compared and standards evolved, neglecting engines exceptional either from design or age. In one case it was found possible to embrace no less than nine old types in one class of rebuilds. In the course of the twenty years mentioned, some 50 per cent, of the original stock had been dealt with in this way, and in about 12 years from the start the average boiler pressure was raised by nearly 33 lb. Differences of frames existed and even wheel bases were not in all cases to the desired standard, but in renewable parts these rebuilds mainly conformed to the standards of the new designs. The policy steadily followed resulted in time in over 50 per cent, of the engines (new and old) having three types of cylinders between them. No less than 69 per cent, of the stock was able to make use of similar valves. Some 67 per cent, of the stock was fitted with standard running gear. Six different classes of engines had only two types of boilers, and in these and other matters the standards covered both passenger, goods and shunting locomotives. In running gear, for instance, engines for all three classes of traffic had uniform valves, eccentrics, valve spindles, guides, crossheads, links, pistons, and piston rods, as well as axle boxes, horn cheeks, &c.,

all of identical pattern. Side and connecting rod ends were treated in the same way, but in some cases the centres varied. Boiler parts and accessories and cab details were reduced in like manner. The carriage and wagon stock was dealt with as far as was thought economical on the same lines, and new types evolved, especially one type of coaching stock which for long did excellent service, and which enabled sets of iron work to be bought abroad while the woodwork could be cheaply fitted in Egypt. The works were rebuilt in course of time and fitted with excellent plant, so that they became thoroughly capable of passing repair work through on modern lines.

As time went on and the country advanced in prosperity and trade, better and better service was demanded, and the standards which had so serviceably tided the railways over a very difficult period had to be departed from, as is always, of course, ultimately inevitable. It may, however, be mentioned that when, in 1904-5, a commission visited the country to report on the railways, Mr. Trevithick’s department was pronounced to be eminently efficient.

As readers of Engineering are well aware, in the later years of his tenure of office, Mr. Trevithick conducted a series of progressive trials on feed water heating and superheating on locomotives. These were probably some of the most extensive trials of their kind made, and were fully recorded in our columns. The work included exhaust steam feed heating, without and with further heating by waste gases; low degree superheating and high degree superheating; and progressive combinations of these until in the last trials high degree superheating was combined with high degree feed heating. Air heating was also tried. Egypt is an almost ideal country for such work, as the absence of gradients reduces the variables appreciably, although high winds at times add to the difficulties. The results obtained were consequently full of interest.

The series of trials and the whole subject on broad lines was discussed in a joint paper read before the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1913. This provoked a very interesting discussion, and has, it may be added, often been quoted since. Its arguments attracted a considerable amount of attention in the United States, where superheating and feed water heating have since become the regular practice on large units. For this contribution Mr. Trevithick was awarded the Willans Premium, given in 1918 for the best paper, under the terms of the award, in the previous six years.

As will be gathered, Mr. Trevithick was one of the early officials brought into the country with a view to its rehabilitation. He enjoyed the confidence and trust of Lord Cromer to an unusual degree, and was selected by him for various special tasks. He was, for instance, sent to Russia in 1884 to report on the petroleum industry, and in 1896 to India to report on the railways of that country. In 1900 he was sent to Canada and the United States, also to report on the railway systems. He was typical of the older type of British official, intent upon filling his position honourably and with credit to himself and his country, He fully upheld the high ideals set by Lord Cromer, and expected everybody under him to follow his lead in such things. He built up from small beginnings a very loyal staff of Europeans and others round him, while to the lower grades he was at once the unimpeachable official and friend. By the Egyptians generally, both of high and lowly rank, he was alike honoured and regarded with affection. He possessed what is now a rather rare type of courtesy, was genial in company and attentive to the views of others. He never cared about attracting attention to himself and seldom took part in professional gatherings. When, after an extension beyond the pensionable age, he retired to this country, he finally settled down at Buccleuch House, Richmond, where old associates were always welcome, and continued his interest in locomotive design, taking out a number of patents in the lines with which he had been specially concerned. He was a man of excellent physique, and enjoyed vigorous health to the last. His death occurred when, with his wife, Dr. H. K. Trevithick, J.P., he was leisurely making his way to Marseilles to join the boat for an Egyptian winter visit, to which many of his former friends out there were looking forward.

Mr. Trevithick was made an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1881 and a member in 1891. He joined the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1913. He was honoured for his work in Egypt by H.H. the Khedive with the Orders of the Medjidieh and Osmanieh."


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