Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,107 pages of information and 245,598 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

John George Robinson

From Graces Guide


Three-Cylinder Compound Engine. 1906.
1954. Atlantic express locomotive.
1957. Three-Cylinder Engine for shunting services.
1959.Three Cylinder Atlantic Locomotive.

John George Robinson (c1856-1943), chief mechanical engineer of the Great Central Railway and a director of the Superheater Corporation

c1860. Born the son of Matthew Robinson

1871 Living at 124 St. Ann's Street, Chester: Matthew Robinson (age 41 born Walbottle), Locomotive Foreman. With his wife Jane Robinson (age 50 born Walby, Cumb.) and their three children; James A. Robinson (age 15 born Carlisle), Engine Fitter at Works; John G. Robinson (age 14 born Newcastle-upon-Tyne), Clerk; and Jane E. Robinson (age 12 born Wolverhampton).[1]

1875 He was entrusted with looking after the work in England, for the Building of the Huelva Pier.[2]

1911 Living at Boothdale, Fairfield, near Manchester: John George Robinson (age 54 born Newcastle-upon-Tyne), Chief Mechanical Engineer - Great central railway. With his wife Mary Ann Robinson (age 53 born Helston) and their three children; Margaret Jane Ethel Robinson (age 25 born Limerick, Ireland); Kathleen Mary Robinson (age 22 born Limerick, Ireland); and Matthew Salton Robinson (age 18 born Limerick, Ireland), Engineering Apprentice. Married 26 years with four children. Three servants.[3]

1943 Obituary [4]

THE death of Mr. John George Robinson, which occurred at the advanced age of eighty-seven, on December 7th, will be widely regretted in railway circles. He was, it will be recalled, the chief mechanical engineer of the Great Central Railway Company from 1902 until 1923.

He came of a railway family, and his father, the late Matthew Robinson, was the divisional locomotive, carriage, and wagon superintendent of the Great Western Railway.

He was educated at Chester and served his apprenticeship at the Great Western works at Swindon. Later he gained railway experience in Ireland, where he was the locomotive, carriage, and wagon superintendent of the Waterford, Limerick, and Western Railway.

In July, 1900, Mr. Robinson was appointed locomotive superintendent of the Great Central Railway.

In 1902 he took charge of the carriage and wagon department and was made chief mechanical engineer. He designed several new classes of locomotives for Great Central service, most of which we described in THE ENGINEER. An early engine was the single-driver express locomotive with a Belpaire firebox. His six-coupled express engine and the three-cylinder compound engine with bogie and tender attracted the attention of the late Charles Rous-Marten, who will be remembered as a popular writer on railway runs. Rous-Marten's articles on "Great Central Compound Engines and their Work" appeared in our issues of April 24th and May 1st, 1908.

Other locomotives designed by Mr. Robinson, which we described and illustrated, included the six-coupled express engine "Sir Sam Fay," the express 4-6-0 goods engine "Glenalmond," and the six-coupled large tank engine with Robinson superheater. The four-cylinder express passenger engine "Lord Faringdon" was another noteworthy superheater locomotive, while one of the last Robinson engines was the four-coupled superheater passenger engine of 1922.

In 1919 and 1920 Mr. Robinson conducted some important experiments on the uses of pulverised and colloidal fuels in locomotive boilers.

He laid out the company's new carriage and wagon works at Dukinfield, and was responsible for enlarging and modernising the locomotive works at Gorton.

He was concerned with the special three-cylinder high-pressure eight-coupled tank shunting locomotives, the first of their kind, which were built for pushing loaded trains over the humps at the shunting and marshalling yards at Wath, near Doncaster.

During the last war Mr. Robinson was a member of the Railway War Manufacturers' Sub-Committee, and, in addition to supervising war production at the company's works, he designed a 2-8-0 tender engine with a Robinson superheater for service in France.

His superheater design gained for him a Diploma for Grand Prix at the Latin-British Exhibition, and he also designed a successful lubricator for locomotive and marine engine use.

His services to the nation were recognised when he was awarded the C.B.E., and for many years Mr. Robinson was a well-known member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

1944 Obituary [5]

JOHN GEORGE ROBINSON, C.B.E., whose death occurred at Bournemouth on 7th December 1943 at the age of 87, was an outstanding locomotive engineer of his time and will be remembered for the development of the superheater, which bears his name, and a lubricator for locomotives, besides other railway engineering equipment.

He had been a Member of the Institution for over fifty years, having been elected in 1891. He was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and a past-president of the Association of Railway Locomotive Engineers.

He entered the works of the Great Western Railway in 1872 as a pupil under the late Mr. Joseph Armstrong, and subsequently served under the late Mr. William Dean.

In 1878 he was appointed to the running department at Bristol as assistant to his father, the late Mr. Matthew Robinson, divisional locomotive, carriage, and wagon superintendent.

He joined the Waterford, Limerick and Western Railway in 1884 as assistant locomotive and carriage superintendent, and five years later was promoted to be superintendent.

In 1900 he became locomotive and marine engineer to the Great Central Railway and on his assuming the additional charge of the carriage and wagon departments, some two years later, was made chief mechanical engineer, a position which he filled with distinction for over twenty years. During his tenure of office he designed a number of "Atlantic" and 4-6-0 types of locomotives, the latter being amongst the most powerful constructed in the United Kingdom at that time.

In 1907 he brought out a three-cylinder, high-pressure, eight wheels coupled bogie tank engine for the marshalling of trains at Wath concentration yard.

His invention of the Robinson superheater materialized in 1911, and a year later he received the award of a diploma (Grand Prix) on its display at the Latin-British Exhibition. An extension of his invention was the fitting of superheaters in a number of transatlantic liners. Other results of his researches included the "Intensifore" lubricator; apparatus for the use of pulverized coal; oil and colloidal fuel in stationary, locomotive, and marine type boilers; and "anti-collision" devices for minimizing loss of life in railway collisions.

During the war of 1914-18 Mr. Robinson served as a member of the Railway War Manufacturers' Subcommittee, and superintended the production of gun carriages, shells, and other equipment in addition to the construction of ambulance trains. His design of a 2-8-0 goods and mineral locomotive was adopted by the War Office as a standard type for use in France. For his services to his country he was awarded the C.B.E. in 1920.

Mr. Robinson's retirement took effect in 1923, but he continued to act in a consultative capacity to the newly formed London and North Eastern Railway, in which the Great Central Railway was merged, for another year.

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