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John Saxby

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John Saxby (1821-1913) of Saxby and Farmer, Railway Signal Works, Canterbury Road, Kilburn, London, N.W.


1913 Obituary [1]

JOHN SAXBY was born at Brighton on 17th August 1821.

After a very elementary education at Brighton he was apprenticed at the age of thirteen to a carpenter and joiner, to whom he was bound for seven years.

At the end of five years he left, and applied for work at the Brighton locomotive works of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, where he was taken on, his first work being to make oak mile-posts, and he soon introduced a tool of his own device, by which the mile-posts were made more quickly. In course of time he became foreman of the carpenters and joiners, sawyers, pattern makers, plumbers, gas-fitters, and labourers.

On his leaving the Railway Company in 1861, after twenty-two years' service, he started in business for himself at Haywards Heath, and superintended the construction and erection of his interlocking system of points and signals.

Some of his early inventions were thought out while he was with the Brighton Railway Co. His first invention was an improved signalling lamp, which effected a considerable saving of the lamps then in use, but the principal one with which he was chiefly identified, and which brought him a considerable financial return, was his system of interlocking railway points and signals, for which he took out a patent in 1856. Prior to the adoption of his invention one of the most frequent causes of railway disasters was the changing of points while a train was passing over them.

Owing to the increasing demand by the railway companies for his railway points, etc., the works at Haywards Heath became too small for his his requirements, and he moved to Kilburn.

Having entered into partnership with the late Mr. J. S. Farmer, who had been previously assistant to the manager of the Brighton Railway, he built a large factory, which found employment for 2,000 men, and at one time 3,000 including the outdoor men.

On the dissolution of the partnership some twenty years later, Mr. Farmer, who managed the financial side of the concern, took over the control of the English business, and Mr. Saxby the French. Works were established at Brussels and at Creil, near Paris, the latter of which are managed by his son, Mr. James Saxby. Models of his invention were shown at various Exhibitions in England and abroad, for which he received numerous gold, silver, and bronze medals, and diplomas.

His death took place at his residence at Hassocks, near Haywards Heath, on 22nd April 1913, in his ninety-second year.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1880.



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Sources of Information

  1. 1913 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries