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 163,139 pages of information and 245,599 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.

Patrick Stirling

From Graces Guide
c1830s. Stirling's 2-2-2 Outside Cylinder Engine.
1865. Engine for the Great Northern Railway.
1868. Built by John Fowler and Co.
1870. Engine for the Great Northern Railway.

Patrick Stirling (1820-1895) was Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Great Northern Railway.

1820 June 29th. Born at Kilmarnock. His father Reverend Robert Stirling was also an engineer, (inventor of the Stirling Engine). His brother James Stirling was a locomotive engineer.

1843 Left Dundee. Employed as a journeyman at the Vulcan Foundry

Soon became foreman in the works of Messrs. Neilson and Co.

Locomotive superintendent of the Bowling and Balloch Railway.

Then joined the shipbuilding firm of Laurance Hill, Port Glasgow.

c.1851 Became foreman to Messrs. R. and W. Hawthorn of Newcastle

1853 Appointed locomotive superintendent of the Glasgow and South Western Railway

1866 Stirling moved to the GNR, where he constructed several locomotive types.

Stirlings most famous construction was the 4-2-2 steam locomotive Stirling single called "eight-footer" because of the 8 ft diameter driving wheel. That engine type set speed records during the race to the north with average train speed between engine changing of more than 60 mph in 1895.

His son Matthew Stirling was CME of the Hull and Barnsley Railway.

1895 November 11th. Died

He was succeeded on the Great Northern by Henry Alfred Ivatt.

1927 - April. 'The former Great Northern engine No. 1 was taken to York to be put in the Railway museum there. Built by Mr Patrick Stirling in 1869, it had outside cylinders and a single driving wheel of 8ft diameter. No. 1 was one of the engines which took part in the procession of locomotives at Darlington on July 3rd, 1925, in commemoration of the centenary of railways.[1]

1895 Obituary [2]

PATRICK STIRLING was born at Kilmarnock on 29th June 1820, being the son of Rev. Robert Stirling, D.D., so well known for his invention of the regenerative air-engine.

From 1837 to 1843 he served his apprenticeship under his uncle at the Dundee Foundry, now owned by Messrs. Urquhart, Lindsay, and Co.

On the completion of his term he worked as a journeyman for a short time, and then was employed by Mr. Robert Napier for three years at the Vulcan and Lancefield Foundries, Glasgow, which at that time were occupied with the construction of the machinery for the early Cunard steamers.

In 1846 he went to Messrs. Neilson and Co.'s Hyde Park Locomotive Works, Glasgow, and was soon promoted to be a foreman.

In 1851 he was appointed superintendent of the short line from Bowling on the River Clyde to Balloch on Loch Lomond, which now forms part of the Dumbartonshire line of the North British Railway.

He was next for a short period with Messrs. Hawthorn of Newcastle-on-Tyne, but returned to Scotland in 1853 as locomotive superintendent of the Glasgow and South Western Railway.

After remaining thirteen years on this line, he joined the Great Northern Railway in the same capacity, on the retirement of Mr. Archibald Sturrock in December 1866. At that time the Great Northern Railway had not long been formed by the amalgamation of several local lines.

In 1876 the number of passengers carried was just over eighteen millions, now it is thirty-three millions; and the train- mileage is now over twenty millions. The extensive works at Doncaster, covering 30 acres, have been constantly employed in replacing, overhauling, or improving the thousand engines engaged on the line. The carriages are also constructed at these works, and he had a large share in their improvement, especially in recent years. The kind of locomotive he constructed was that having large single driving-wheels, with outside cylinders and a bogie at the leading end. This kind had been well developed by John V. Gooch, Robert Sinclair, John Ramsbottom, and Patrick Connor; but his "big singles," introduced in 1870, formed a much more powerful class than any which had preceded them. He adhered to outside cylinders long after they had been abandoned by most locomotive engineers for the express service in this country, although from time to time he built engines with inside cylinders. His large driving-wheels gave ample adhesion for the work to be done, being heavily loaded with 17 tons on the pair; but with steel rails and a good permanent way this load has not proved at all excessive, and steam sanding apparatus removes any difficulty at starting. The straight-topped boiler without steam dome was another characteristic of his locomotives; and also the method of staying the fire-box crown by coupling it direct to the top of the boiler. He was an opponent of compounding in locomotives, and was adverse to any radical change that would interfere with arrangements which proved successful.

His death took place at Doncaster from pneumonia on 11th November 1895, in his seventy-sixth year.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1867; and was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and an original Member of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland.

1896 Obituary [3]

PATRICK STIRLING, born on the 29th of June, 1820, at Kilmarnock, was the son of the Rev. Robert Stirling, D.D., then one of the ministers of that parish. Dr. Stirling was well known, not only as a divine, but as a scientific man. It was he who conceived the idea of an improved air-engine, described more than fifty years ago in the Proceedings of the Institution. By the persevering ingenuity of his younger brother, James, the idea was so far perfected that the engine worked well and proved an economical mode of producing power at the Dundee Foundry and also at a spinning-mill in the same town. The engine was, however, ultimately laid aside in consequence of its being found impossible to preserve the air-heating vessel from being melted or burnt, which both Ericsson and Rankine, who experimented in the same direction, found an equally insuperable found an equally insuperable difficulty.

From Kilmarnock Dr. Stirling went to Galston, also in Ayrshire, the charge of which parish was given to him by the Duke of Portland; and during the latter years of his life was known as the Father of the Church of Scotland.

It will be seen, therefore, that the subject of this notice inherited the mechanical genius which appears to be a strongly marked characteristic of the family. For not only did his father and uncle display ability in that direction, but his brother, James, is now Locomotive Engineer to the South Eastern Railway Company, and his second son, Matthew, occupies a similar position in the service of the Hull, Barnsley, and West Riding Junction Railway; while the eldest son, Robert, is Works Manager at Gateshead to the North Eastern Railway Company; the third son, Patrick, is Assistant Works Manager at Doncaster, and James is in the Engineer’s Department of the Great Northern Railway at Nottingham.

In 1837 Patrick, then seventeen years of age, was apprenticed to his uncle, James Stirling, who was at that time Manager of the Dundee Foundry. During the six years of his apprenticeship he obtained considerable knowledge of the construction of locomotive engines. He then became foreman at a small engineering works in the Isle of Dogs. The place not agreeing with him, however, he returned after twelve months to Scotland, where he worked for three years as a journeyman in the service of Messrs. Napier & Co., of Glasgow, being paid at the rate of eighteen shillings per week.

In 1846 he entered the Hyde Park Foundry of Messrs. Neilson & Co., where he had ample opportunities of applying and developing the knowledge he had acquired at Dundee, and so well did he avail himself of them that in less than twelve months he was made foreman of the locomotive construction department.

Mr. Stirling remained with Messrs. Neilson & Co. until 1851, when he was appointed Locomotive Superintendent of a short line from Bowling, on the Clyde, through Dumbarton to Balloch, on Loch Lomond, now part of the North British system.

After twelve months, however, he resigned that post to join Mr. Lawrence Hill in shipbuilding at Port Glasgow. He then became Works Manager to Messrs. R. & W. Hawthorn (now Hawthorn, Leslie & Co.) of Newcastle-on-Tyne. His connection with that firm was also short, for in 1853 he was appointed to the important post of Locomotive Superintendent to the Glasgow and South Western Railway Company. Shortly afterwards the headquarters of the Locomotive Department of that line were moved to Kilmarnock, where Mr. Stirling spent the greater part of his thirteen years’ service with the Company.

It is, however, with the Great Northern Railway that Patrick Stirling’s name is identified. He was forty-six years of ago when he was appointed, in 1866, Locomotive Superintendent to that Company; and for nearly thirty years he had charge of the shops at Doncaster. His accession to that post meant more than a similar change on any of the great lines could mean to-day. Before his time most of the engines in use on the Great Northern system were made by private firms under contracts. This was not a condition of things to satisfy a man of Mr. Stirling’s ability, and he had been less than four years in charge when, in 1870, he produced the large single-driving-wheel engine with outside cylinders and a bogie at the leading end, with which his name is associated. This he described to the Institution in 1873 in the course of the discussion upon Mr. John Robinson’s Paper on “Modern Locomotives,” and accounts of it also appeared in Engineering. Mr. Stirling’s “8-feet singles,” as they are called, were of a more powerful class than any which had preceded them and possessed special features rendering them an independent type which will no doubt become historical. In addition to their mechanical merits, they are distinguished for graceful design, and engineers from all parts of the world have described them and chronicled their performances as typical of the best English work. The locomotives now turned out at Doncaster differ from those of 1870 only in minor modifications of detail to meet the heavier work required; and it is ample testimony to the skill and foresight of the designer that, on a line so progressive as the Great Northern, a type of engine introduced five-and-twenty years ago should still hold its own.

Mr. Stirling advocated the outside cylinder type long after it had been abandoned by most locomotive engineers for the express service in this country, although he from time to time built some engines with inside cylinders. When hard running was required, he always suggested the use of outside cylinder engines, and certainly the manner in which his performed their duty fully warranted his belief in them. The large driving-wheels give ample adhesion for the work to be done; they are heavily-loaded - carrying 17 tons - but, with steel rails and a good permanent way, this load has not proved excessive. The adoption of the Gresham steam sanding apparatus removes any difficulty at starting, and once the train is in motion no further trouble is experienced. At very high speeds there has been little wear and tear of these engines; in fact, they have proved economical in every way. The straight-topped boiler without steam-dome was another characteristic of Mr. Stirling’s locomotive. He did not believe in the use of the steam-dome and he had no trouble from priming, which was probably a result of the ample space left between the tubes. Another feature was the method of staying the crown of the fire-box, which was coupled direct to the top of the boiler. It may be added that he was a strenuous opponent of the compound system in locomotives.

Only in August last Mr. Stirling’s engines took a Scotch express over the 188 miles between London and York in 188 minutes. When a few years back the superintendent of the line informed him, not without hesitation, that it was proposed to accelerate still more an already fast and heavy express, Mr. Stirling replied, “There is no need to consult me. As long as you don’t time the train above 60 miles an hour, including stoppages, the engines will be all right.” During the last thirty years the locomotive department has increased in extent and importance with the growing requirements of the Company and of the public. The ground now covered by the works at Doncaster is more than 30 acres, while upwards of 8,500 men were employed under Mr. Stirling’s immediate supervision. Only a man of exceptional vital powers would have continued to carry out such arduous duties so late in life, but he lived for his work,and the daily routine had become a habit which could not have been broken without a severe shock. Beyond perhaps a love of reading and of flowers he had no hobby apart from his work, although latterly he took considerable interest in the proceedings of the town Tennis Club, of which he was President. But in the shops and on the metals Mr. Stirling was at home. He would wander over the latter in the most reckless fashion, engrossed in thought, as though the engines he had built could not dare to hurt him, and more than once he came perilously near being run over.

As an illustration of the good feeling existing between him and his men, it may be mentioned that they erected and presented to the town a handsome drinking fountain, to commemorate his seventieth birthday, and "to mark the respect and esteem in which he is held by them." If a demand were made for a temporary reduction in the amount of wages paid, Mr. Stirling took care that the burden which the men had to bear should be as light as possible. He invariably had recourse to short time all round as a means of reducing expenses, and except under necessity men were never discharged.

While carrying out his duty towards his directors with the utmost fidelity and zeal, Mr. Stirling never refused to listen to an honest appeal for justice from one of his men. In private life he was a charming companion, but in business and public matters he was laconic and reserved to a degree, and he was altogether a man whose friendship was most valued by those who knew him best.

Mr. Stirling died at his residence in Doncaster on the 11th November, 1895, the cause of death being pneumonia complicated by heart disease, from which he had suffered for some years.

He was elected a Member of the Institution on the 28th May, 1878, but his devotion to his work and his retiring disposition prevented him from taking any prominent part in its proceedings.

Mr. Stirling was one of the original Members of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland. In 1877 he was placed on the Commission of the Peace for the borough of Doncaster.

1895 Obituary [4]

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