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Robert Harben Whitelegg

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Robert Harben Whitelegg (c1873-1957), Kilmarnock locomotive engineer.

c1873 Born in Garston, Merseyside, while his father Thomas Whitelegg was employed locally at the Hamilton's Windsor Ironworks Co.

He was educated at Stratford House School, Brewers Company School and City of London College.

He went on to train under his father Thomas at the Plaistow Works of the London Tilbury and Southend Railway. Later in 1891 he would be appointed as the inspector of new rolling stock and materials. The following year he was working at Nasmyth, Wilson and Company's works in Manchester where was supervising the construction of engines being built for the LTSR. He would later follow this with a short period in Spain for the same firm.

Robert returned to England in 1905, where he became the Works Manager at the Plaistow shed and succeeded his father as Locomotive Superintendent in June 1910. Following the development of an enlarged 4-4-2T in 1912 he produced a large 4-6-4T and some special coaches for the Ealing and Southend services. Before delivery of the 4-6-4T the LT&SR was amalgamated with the Midland Railway, in 1912. Robert felt unable to accept a subordinate position on the Midland Railway. He applied unsuccessfully for the post of Chief Mechanical Engineer on the Great Eastern Railway, however A. J. Hill was appointed, so Robert sought what employment he could find, later becoming a partner in a small agricultural engineering firm at Towcester.

In 1915 he became a consulting engineer in London for the Canadian Locomotive Company, who at the time were supplying locomotives for the military in France.

In 1917, at the invitation of the deputy controller of merchant shipbuilding he joined the Admiralty where he was chiefly engaged on the standardisation of shipyard machinery as well as inspection of shipbuilding materials for the construction of standard ships.

On 6 August 1918 he returned to the railway, working as Locomotive Superintendent of the Glasgow & South Western Railway at Kilmarnock in Scotland. On the 1 January 1919 his job title became Chief Mechanical Engineer. He found the entire locomotive stock and the works so badly run down after World War I that he had to order 10 Drummond 0-6-2Ts from North British Locomotive Company, these were built in 1919. He also sent the boilers out for overhaul as well as rebuilding several existing locomotives. In addition to this in 1922 he brought out another impressive-looking 4-6-4T for use on fast passenger train service between Glasgow and the coast. He also prepared designs for a 4-4-4T and a 4-6-6T.

On 1 January 1923 the Glasgow & South Western Railway became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and further developments were stopped. At this point Robert left to become General Manager of Beyer, Peacock and Company at Gorton in Manchester in succession to an unhappy gentleman by the name of Watson who had died shortly after his appointment. Here Robert patented several articulated locomotives of the Beyer-Garratt type.

In 1929 Robert left to tour railways in Canada and USA.

In 1930 he turned to consulting work in partnership with J.D. Rogers, former assistant superintendent of motive power for the Virginian Railway. He retired in 1941.

1857 March 9th. Died at his home in Chelsea, aged 85.

1957 Obituary [1]

It is with regret that we have to record the death of Mr. Robert H. Whitelegg at the age of eighty-four on March 9.

Mr. Whitelegg received his initial training in the works of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway and later worked for the Metropolitan Railway Carriage and Wagon Company, Ltd., and Nasmyth Wilson and Co., Ltd.

He returned to the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway in 1900 and succeeded his father as chief of the locomotive department ten years later. He left this railway, after its amalgamation with the Midland Railway in 1913, and held various posts in industry until 1918 when he became chief mechanical engineer to the Glasgow and South Western Railway.

In 1923 he res1gned from the office of mechanical engineer. Kilmarnock, of the former L.M.S.R. after the grouping of the railways, and joined Beyer Peacock and Co., Ltd., as general manager and engineer-in-chief, a post be held for seven years.

Mr. Whitelegg later became a partner in the firm of Whitelegg and Rogers from which he retired in 1941.

Mr. Whitelegg will probably be best remembered by railway students for the tank locomotives he introduced on the L.T. and S. Railway in his office as chief of the locomotive department. One of these 4 4-2 locomotives the "Thundersley" was described in our issue of March 17, 1911.

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