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John Haswell

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John Haswell (1812-1897), Locomotive Superintendent of the Austrian State Railway. [1]

1812 March 20th. Born in Lancefield, near Glasgow.

Married Sophia Lane (b.7 March 1821 in Stockport, Cheshire, d. 6 September 1910 in Traunkirchen, Austria)[2]

Described as 'One of the most influential of the early continental European designers. Worked at Fairbairn's works in Manchester. Appointed by the Vienna-Raab Railway in 1840 to manage its new workshops.[3]. Albert Gieseler gives Haswell's starting date on the Vienna-Raaber Bahn as 1837.[4]. He also states that in 1840 the workshop of the "Maschinenfabrik der Wien-Raaber Eisenbahn" under the direction of John Haswell, consisting of the machine factory, the boiler works, foundry and two mills. In 1855 the works was renamed as the "Maschinenfabrik der k.k. priv. Staatseisenbahn-Gesellschaft", and John Haswell retired as head of the business in 1882.

1853 Patented a steam hammer, which bore a 'striking' resemblance to that patented by John Condie in 1846.

1861 Patented a hydraulic forging press. Although this was not the first hydraulic press for working hot metal, the success of Haswell's press led to wide adoption of hydraulic forging presses. Examples were made under licence by the Kirkstall Forge Co.

1897 June 8th. Died in Vienna.


1897 Obituary [5]

On the 8th of last month there passed away at Vienna, full of years and honours, one of the fathers of mechanical engineering on the Continent. Though absent from England, except or short intervals, some sixty years, he yet had many friends and acquaintances in this country.

Mr. John Haswell was born in 1812, at Lancefield, near Glasgow, of a family well known across the border. Several of its members have distinguished themselves in the royal naval service, and in that of the old East India Company. Part of the Lancefield estate, now covered with engineering and shipbuilding works, came by inheritance some years ago into the possession of the subject of our brief notice.

After attending for a time the then Andersonian University in Glasgow, we find him, in his twenty-second year, in the employ of the celebrated firm of William Fairbairn and Co. Sent out by them to Vienna to erect some steam engines for one of the first railways laid down in Austria, on the completion of the work he was persuaded by the then chairman of the company to remain permanently in Vienna.

In 1837 he had to lay down the plans and machinery for locomotive repairing works for the then Vienna Gloggnitzer Railway. On the completion of the works he was asked to remain as chief manager. He very soon began to manufacture engines, and it was here that some of the first, if not the first locomotives were built on the Continent. We believe that a locomotive was manufactured here one year ahead of the first turned out by the celebrated Borsig, of Berlin. So that these workshops very soon got to be, and are, indeed, still, one of the most considerable locomotive works in Austria and Germany. In those early days, sixty years ago, the year of the Queen's accession, that we have all been celebrating, it need hardly be said that everywhere, and especially in Austria, mechanical engineering was in a very backward state. To teach his men, Mr. Haswell had often to take the fitter's file or the patternmaker's plane into his own hands. Since then, of course, Austria. has made great advances. The diffusion process of making sugar, roller milling, the brewing of lager beer, bent-wood furniture, the Mannlicher gun, and others, are Austrian inventions that have gone round the world.

John Haswell was nearly half a century at the head of these works, up to the year 1882. Here was set up the very first iron foundry in Vienna. It gives one some notion of the many difficulties of different kinds that Mr. Haswell was obliged to overcome when we mention that the then Government would not permit the use of charcoal in the cupola for fear of injuring the Styrian iron manufacture. The use of coke in the blast furnace was then unknown in Austria, so common gas coke had to be taken. It is stated that chilled iron railway wheels, largely used, were first cast in Austria in his foundry. It will be by his hydraulic forging press that Mr. Haswell will be longest remembered. Small articles had no doubt before been stamped out by hydraulic pressure, but the heavy hydraulic press exhibited at the London Exhibition in 1862 was the first of the kind in England. It encountered much prejudice, and something like twenty years more had to come and go until its value was understood in our country; there is now scarcely a large steel works without one. Its general application was no doubt furthered by the appearance of soft steel, free from the slag that required the blow and vibration of the hammer to drive it out. Meanwhile, Haswell's forging press gave his works a preponderating position on the Continent in the manufacture of locomotive wheels and other heavy forgings, and was a source of much profit.

Mr. Haswell also showed at the London Exhibition of 1862 some interesting new types of locomotives that excited much attention and controversy at the time in England It was generally understood that these engines were built for a kind of line of which we have not the like for its heavy inclines and sharp curves. His duplex locomotive was still running until a recent period. Mr. Haswell was beyond question the first inventor of the corrugated furnace. Locomotive boilers fitted with this furnace were in 1870 in use on the Austrian State Railways, of which Mr. Haswell was then chief mechanical engineer. Not merely the first engines, but also the first passenger and post-office carriages in Austria were built at Mr. Haswell's works. To succeed so thoroughly in a new and foreign country, in such a variety of work, at such an early period, requiring the education of a whole staff, requires a remarkable combination of faculties, requires all the proverbial ‘ingenium perfervidum Scotcmtm’. And no one who enjoyed his acquaintance could help seeing that he was a man intellectually quite above the ordinary. Not fond of any display, he was capable of acts of very great generosity and kindness known only to those helped.

The Emperor of Austria, ever ready to recognise merit, made him a member of at least two of his orders of knight hood; he was also a Juror at the Universal Vienna Exhibition of 1873. It is often forgotten in Great Britain, and still more frequently ignored on the Continent, that the manufactures of iron, of cotton goods, of gas, of machinery especially, were in the earlier part of the century all brought over from Great Britain. The inventions of Watt, of Cort, of Murdoch, of Stephenson, of Richard Roberts and of others produced a body of men that could not be obtained elsewhere. There is scarcely a single large city on the Continent without some family of more or less consequence having an origin of this kind from some part of Great Britain. But, of course, few names have attained to the position of, say, Waddington in France, Cockerill in Belgium, and Haswell in Austria.



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1876/01/07
  2. [1] Grave in Döbling Cemetery - John Haswell Wikipedia entry
  3. 'Locomotive Designers in the Age of Steam' by J. N. Westwood, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1977
  4. [2] Albert Gieseler's website 'Kraft- und Dampfmaschinen': Maschinenfabrik der Wien-Gloggnitzer Eisenbahn
  5. The Engineer 1897/07/09, pp.31-2