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John Viret Gooch

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John Viret Gooch (1812-1900) was the locomotive superintendent of the London and South Western Railway from 1841 to 1850.

1812 June 29th. Born the son of John Gooch of Bedlington and his wife Anna the daughter of Thomas Longridge of Newcastle.

He was a pupil of Joseph Locke during the construction of the Grand Junction Railway and became resident engineer after that line opened.

In 1840 he joined his older brother Thomas Longridge Gooch on the Manchester and Leeds Railway.

Gooch was recommended to the LSWR by Locke and appointed locomotive superintendent on 1st January 1841. Officially Locke remained in charge of the department.

Initially locomotives were purchased from a wide range of private manufacturers such as Edward Bury and Co and Nasmyth, Gaskell and Co.

From Jan 1843 the LSWR's own Nine Elms Works started production with the 'Eagle' class singles. Gooch's designs included a number of singles and the 'Bison' class 0-6-0 goods.

After leaving the LSWR in 1850, Gooch went to the Eastern Counties Railway. He was succeeded on the LSWR by Joseph Hamilton Beattie

1856 Subscribed £10 to the Smith Testimonial Fund, commemorating the work of F. P. Smith in promoting the screw propeller.

1861 Boarding at the Great Western Railway Hotel, Paddington (age 48 born London). [1]

1881 Living at Terrace Cottage, Richmond, Surrey (age 68 born London), Civil Engineer. With his wife Emily Mary (age 40 born London) and their daughter Mabel Barbara (age 4 born Richmond) and son Edward S. (age 2 born Richmond). Plus five servants. [2]

1891 Living at Coopers Hill House, Easthampstead, Berks (age 78 born St Georges, London), Civil Engineer. With his wife Emily Mary (age 50 born St Georges, London) and daughters Mabel Barbara (age 16 born Richmond, Surrey) and Ethel Mary (age 9 born Easthampstead). Also one visitor and three servants. [3]

1900. Died


1900 Obituary [4]

John Viret Gooch, who died on the 8th June, 1900, at his residence, Cooper’s Hill, Bracknell, Berks, was one of the last two or three remaining pioneers in railway locomotive engineering.

Mr. Gooch had reached the ripe age of 88, and had retired from active business quite forty years ago, so that to all but a few of the present generation of engineers he was unknown, except for the excellent work he did and the influence he exerted in the evolution of the locomotive of to-day. In this connection, indeed, he deserves to be remembered with Trevithick, the Stephensons, his brother - Sir Daniel Gooch - Brunel, Locke, Sinclair, Ramsbottom, Allan, and others who need not be named. It was under Locke, when at his years of greatest energy and initiative, that Gooch served his pupilage, and during part of the time, away back in the thirties, he was engaged in the construction of the Grand Junction Railway, for which Locke was Engineer.

In view of Mr. Gooch's practice in later years, it is worth recalling that it was while he was with Locke that the latter reintroduced into favour the outside cylinder arrangement. The Grand Junction Railway was opened in 1837, and the first locomotives had inside cylinders; but when it became necessary to refit the engines, the cylinders were placed outside, so that by 1851 this type became the standard locomotive of the line. Gooch was occupied on this work, and continued it during the three years he held the position of Resident Engineer on the Grand Junction Railway.

Early in the forties he became Resident Engineer on the London and South Western Railway, and for ten years had entire charge of the Locomotive Department. He resigned this position to serve in a similar capacity for the Eastern Counties - now the Great Eastern Railway, retiring, as has been said, over forty years ago.

It is scarcely necessary to recall that during his later years on the South-Western Railway and the earlier years of his service on the Eastern Counties Railway, controversy was active as to inside and outside cylinders, and as to the relative advantages of great dead-weight, as compared with light, locomotives.

Most of the heavy railway haulage was done then - about the year 1849 - by engines having inside cylinders, and 30 tons was by no means an uncommon weight; but Gooch held the view that engines with large driving wheels, and of which the weight was moderate and about equally distributed on all the wheels, gave results as good, both as regards economy and speed, as could be realised with the heavier locomotives then more largely in vogue. With this arrangement he combined outside cylinders, inclined to clear the leading wheels, which were thus placed behind the cylinders, the drivers being before, and the trailers behind, the firebox.

The original South-Western locomotives made in 1838 had inside cylinders, the first outside cylinders being applied by Gooch in 1843, and his first engine of this type had 6 feet 6-inch driving wheels - the first locomotive with drivers over 6 feet (except Dr. Church’s 6 feet 2.5 inches), to be run on a railway of 4 feet 8.5-inch gauge.

Within a few years, too, Gooch increased the size of his express-engine driving-wheels to 7 feet. Their success was marked, for they ‘struck a mean' between the very light locomotives which William Bridges Adams built for some lines about this time, and the much heavier types. The former, in fact, known as the ‘Express,' never came within the range of practical application, whereas Gooch‘s design, especially as embodied in the 'Snake' class, and subsequently developed in the tank engines built by him when on the Eastern Counties Railway, for working the Tilbury traffic, had a permanent influence on later locomotive practice.

Gooch’s 'Snake' class was, in fact, a famous type in the earlier days of locomotive practice. The original engine built by Gooch when on the London and South-Western Railway was a six-wheeled engine with driving-wheels 6 feet 66.5 inches in diameter, and leading and trailing wheels 4 feet 0.5 inch in diameter, the wheel-base being 12 feet 8.5 inches, and the total weight in working order only 19 tons. It is noticeable that of this weight only 6 tons rested on the drivers, while the load on the leading wheels was 8 tons.

In the tank-engines subsequently built, to which reference has already been made, the addition of rear-tanks and the extension of the foot-plate, gave a better distribution of the load. The 'Snake' had cylinders 14.25 inches in diameter with 21-inch stroke, and the slide-valves were fitted with back-plates arranged to admit steam through the valves as well as past the ends as usual, the effect of double ports being thus obtained. There were also other special features about the 'Snake;' the pumps were driven by eccentrics forged solid on the driving-axle, the firebox was fitted with a mid-feather made of corrugated plates, and the boiler was fitted with Gooch’s combined pressure-indicator and safety-valve, which was the predecessor of the modern pressure-gauge. This indicator consisted of a short brass cylinder of l square inch area fitted with a piston loaded by a helical spring. The steam-pressure acted on the under side of the piston and forced it upwards, the pressure being shown by a finger on the piston-rod moving against a graduated scale. On the piston being raised above a certain distance it uncovered a port through which the steam could escape, the arrangement thus constituting a safety-valve.

The 'Snake' had 12.4 square feet of grate surface, 898.5 square feet of heating surface, and the boiler pressure was 80 lbs. During some trials of the engine made in September, 1848, on the South-Western Railway with a train weighing 17.5 tons, the engine attained an average speed of 51.25 miles per hour, excluding stoppages (or 41.4 miles per hour with stoppages included), on a consumption of 23.2 lbs. of coke per mile, the water evaporated being given as 8.9 lbs. per pound of coke.

Reference has already been made to the tank locomotives built by Gooch for the Tilbury traffic. These were successively built in three different sizes, with 11-inch, 12-inch, and 14-inch cylinders respectively, the boilers being also successively enlarged. Of the second-sized type, which had 12-inch cylinders with 22-inch stroke, and weighed in working order 23.75 tons, of which 9 tons rested on the drivers (6 feet 6 inches in diameter), some trials were made in 1853 between London and Norwich, when it was found that the water evaporated per pound of coke was 8.5 lbs., and the consumption of coke per mile from 15.1 lbs. to 15.5 lbs. The train-load was 45.6 tons, and the mean speed-including eight or nine stoppages on the 259 miles run-about 37 to 37.5 miles.

In two cases, however, with a train of 68 tons, speeds of 46 and 43.3 miles an hour were obtained, the steam-pressure being 105 lbs. and 100 lbs. instead of 84 lbs. These results, even in the light of the 47 years' progress since made, are distinctly satisfactory ; although, after all, experience went to show that, while there might be commercial advantage in the diminution of relative weight, the light locomotive as an engine worked at a decided disadvantage, and that in proportion to the effective horse-power exerted, the larger sizes, if of equally good design, structure and management, worked at a less cost for fuel, repairs and attendance than the light engines.

Mr. Gooch afforded another instance of commercial success prematurely robbing engineering science of an able and experienced worker, for he did little practical work during the past forty years, enjoying country life in his Berkshire home.

While engaged in the work of railway locomotion he applied himself diligently to his business, and although he was elected a Member of this Institution on the 2nd May, 1854, he only spoke on two occasions, once on the treatment of water to suit it for locomotive use, giving results of the experimental use of many chemical solvents, and again on his favourite subject of light versus heavy engines. By those who knew him his memory will be cherished, and for his services to locomotive engineering he will always be respected.


1900 Obituary [5]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1851 Census
  2. 1881 Census
  3. 1891 Census
  4. 1900 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  5. Engineering 1900 Jan-Jun: Index: General Index