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British Industrial History

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James Graeme Hepburn Warren

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James Graeme Hepburn Warren (1875-1935)

1904-23 Chief of the drawing office at Robert Stephenson and Co

Author of "A Century of Locomotive Building" published by Andrew Reid and Co.

Director and later chairman of Wrightlington Colliery Co


1935 Obituary [1]

IT is commonly believed, and not quite unjustifiably, that engineers are men of single interests, lacking the taste for the finer things of life, and wholly absorbed in the materialism of their own vocation. If we desired to present an exception to the contrary we could not do better than point to Mr. J. G. H. Warren, whose death, after prolonged illness, last week, will be deplored, not alone by locomotive engineers or by general engineers, but by many who knew, admired, and loved him in quite other walks of life. In him we had a man, by profession and training an engineer, but of catholic tastes and wide culture. Already a master of literary French, and a fair student of German, late in life he taught himself Greek so that he might go direct to the fountain head of classical refinement.

He was born on August 30th, 1876, at Bawdrip, in Somerset, where his father was Rector. Those who are interested in exceptional phenomena will be pleased to note that he never went to school. He was educated privately, and we may suppose that those who influenced his boyhood nurtured that taste for literature, art, architecture, and archaeology which blossomed later.

At the age of sixteen the lad was sent to Neilson and Co., of Glasgow, where he worked all day and continued his education in the evenings and his spare time. He developed at Neilsons, at Kerr Stuarts, and later at Bagnalls such skill as a locomotive draughtsman and designer that the late Mr. J. M. Gait invited him to go as chief of the drawing office to Robert Stephenson and Co., Ltd., at Darlington, and there he remained from the middle of 1904 till 1923, when trouble with his eyes, and indifferent health made it necessary for him to retire.

He spent the rest of his days at Bath. But his was not a life of inactive retirement. He was a director and later chairman of the Wrightlington Colliery Company and vice-chairman of the Chancery-lane Safe Deposits and Office Company. His interest in the colliery was intimate and practical. He applied in that work his wide knowledge of engineering and introduced material improvements of various kinds.

There is no lover of locomotives and locomotive history who is not familiar with Warren's principal literary work. In June, 1923, Stephensons celebrated their centenary. For two years before that date his whole time was devoted to the book which bears his name, "A Century of Locomotive Building," published by Andrew Reid and Co., Ltd., for the firm. That book possesses literary qualities above the ordinary and is so thorough and so complete that in the decade and more which has passed since it appeared very little emendation or addition has been found necessary. It is a monument by which his name will always be remembered.

We have tried to give the reader who had not the pleasure of Warren's friendship some idea of his avocations-that is, interests outside his usual calling or vocation. We may add to those we have mentioned that he became after his retirement a student of music, heraldry, wood engraving, and book plates, and that be was a keen gardener and an observer of wild birds. His love of architecture was such that he was one of the original supporters of the Bath Preservation Society and lectured for it. He was also a member of the Somerset Archaeological Society, the Bath Literary Society, and a trustee of the Holburne of Menstrie Museum of Art in Bath. When we recall that all these activities were pursued in the face of persistent bad health we wonder at the courage of the man at the same time that we admire and thank him for showing the world that engineering and generous culture may walk hand in hand.


1935 Obituary [2]

JAMES GRAEME HEPBURN WARREN will be remembered for his authoritative work on the historical aspect of locomotive engineering, and especially for his monumental book, "A Century of Locomotive Building," which he published in 1923, when his firm, Messrs. Robert Stephenson and Company, Ltd., celebrated their centenary.

Mr. Warren was born at Bridport, Dorset, in 1875, and was educated privately.

In 1892 he entered Messrs. Neilson, Reid and Company's locomotive works, in Glasgow, as an apprentice and served until 1898, when he entered the drawing office.

He joined Messrs. Kerr, Stuart and Company in 1902 as leading draughtsman and, except for a brief period as chief draughtsman with Messrs. W. G. Bagnall and Company, was so engaged until 1904. His skill as a draughtsman and locomotive designer led in that year to an invitation from Messrs. Stephenson to become chief draughtsman in their works at Darlington. He accepted this position and held the appointment until 1923, when he retired owing to ill health.

Later he took charge of the preparation of the drawings and subsequent building of the full-sized reproduction of the Great Western Railway locomotive North Star, which was exhibited in Darlington and in London during 1925. He also assisted in the reconstruction of the historic locomotive Lion at Crewe for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway centenary celebrations in 1930.

He was for several years a director and for some time chairman of the Writhlington Collieries at Radstock, near Bath, and in 1928 served on the committee appointed on the use of the "guss" in Somerset coal mines. In addition he designed a steel "putt" with wheels, to replace the old-fashioned wooden sledge. He had a very wide range of interests outside engineering, including languages, archaeology, and architecture.

During his retirement he lived at Bath, where he died on 25th March 1935.

He had been a Member of the Institution since 1907.


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