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British Industrial History

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Thomas Rickett

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1858. A Small Steam Carriage made for the Marquis of Stafford.
1860. Exhibited to the Queen and Royal Family at Windsor Castle, January 10th 1860.
1860. Motor Carriage used by the Earl of Caithness in 1860.
1860.

Thomas Rickett (1825- ) of Castle Foundry, Buckingham

1825 May 17th. Born in Kidderminster the son of John Rickett, Grocer, and his wife Mary Pallett

1858 Traction engine (Patent self-propelling cultivator). [1]

1858 Made steam locomotives for the Earl of Stafford and then for the Earl of Caithness.[2]

1860 'A steam-carriage, designed by Mr. Rickett, of the Castle Foundry, Buckingham, to run upon common roads, was submitted to the Queen, Prince Albert, and the Royal family a short time since. It is built for a private carriage, having ample room for three persons in front and for stoker behind, and is arranged to run an average speed of ten mile per hour....[much more]'[3]

1861 Living in the Market Place, Buckingham: Thomas Rickett (age 35 born Kidderminster), Manufacturing Engineer employing 10 men and 1 boy. With his wife Ellen Rickett (age 20 born Kidderminster), a Governess.[4]

1871 Living at 16 Devonshire Place, Northfield, Worcester: Thomas Rickett (age 45 born Kidderminster), Mechanical Engineer - Manager of Tube Works. With his wife Isabella H. Rickett (age 20 born Islington) and their two sons Charles E. Rickett (age 2 born Islington) and William T. Rickett (age 1 born born Northfield, Worcester). One servant.[5]

1891 Living at 17 Torriano Avenue, St. Pancras, London: Thomas Rickett (age 65 born Kidderminster, Mechanical Engineer. With his wife Isabella H. Rickett (age 44 born Canonbury) and their three children; William T. Rickett (age 21 born Birmingham), Cabinet maker; George Rickett (age 15 born Birmingham); and Emily E. Rickett (age 13 born Birmingham).[6]


Extract from Steam Locomotion on Common Roads by William Fletcher. Published 1891.

Mr. Thomas Rickett, of Castle Foundry, Buckingham, completed a road locomotive, which was tested in March, 1858. This engine was capable of traversing any road, and could be steered with precision.

An engine made for the Marquis of Stafford commenced to run during the latter part of 1858, and was fairly successful. Fig. 54 shows this engine, which was carried on three wheels, the two driving wheels behind and one steering wheel in front. The main framing of the engine was formed by a pair of longitudinal iron tanks. The boiler was fixed at the back ; the steam cylinders were placed horizontally, one on each side of it, a seat for three passengers being provided in front between the forward end of the boiler and the steering wheel. The crank shaft, as will be seen from the illustration, was placed beneath the seat, the piston rods being coupled on to it in the usual manner. On one side of the crank shaft a small chain wheel was keyed, while a similar wheel of larger diameter was keyed on the driving axle, motion being communicated from the former to the latter by means of an endless pitch chain, as shown. The relative sizes of these two wheels were as 1 to 2.5.

The driving axle was placed as nearly under the boiler as possible, and worked in axle boxes fitted with springs. Behind the boiler was a foot-plate, coal bunker, and seat for stoker. One driving wheel was secured to the axle, the other running loose except when thrown into gear by a clutch. The carriage was steered by means of a lever connected with the fork of the front wheel, which latter passed through a guide in order to allow for the action of the spring. The driver, besides having the steering under his control, was provided with the reversing lever and brake handle, which gave him all necessary command over the carriage. The cylinders were 3in. diameter and gin. stroke; the working steam pressure was 100lb. per square inch. The driving wheels were 3ft. diameter. The boiler was of the internal flue and return-tube type, and made of steel. The weight of the carriage when fully loaded was only 30 cwt. On good level roads it ran about twelve miles an hour.

The Engineer for 7th March, 1859, says: "Lord Stafford and party made another trip with the steam carriage from Buckingham to Wolverton. His lordship drove and steered, and although the roads were very heavy, they were not more than an hour in running the nine miles to Old Wolverton. His lordship has repeatedly said that it is guided with the greatest ease and precision. It was designed by Mr. Rickett to run ten miles an hour. One mile in five minutes has been attained, at which it was perfectly steady, the centre of gravity being not more than 2ft. from the ground. A few days afterwards this little engine started from Messrs. Hayes's Works, Stoney Stratford, with a party consisting of the Marquis of Stafford, Lord Alfred Paget, and two Hungarian noblemen. They proceeded through the town of Stoney Stratford at a rapid pace, and after a short trip returned to the Wolverton railway station. The trip was in all respects successful, and shows, beyond a doubt, that steam locomotion for common roads is practicable."

Mr. Rickett built two more engines, substituting spur gearing in place of the pitch chain. One of these carriages was sold to the Earl of Caithness. The cylinders were placed near the passengers seat, the crank shaft being at the chimney end, near to the main axle, to suit the gearing. The bearings of the driving axle carried the springs, and worked in guides set at an angle from the perpendicular, but at right angles to a line drawn connecting the centres of the two axles, so that the motion of the springs did not materially affect the gearing. There were two sets of spur wheels and pinions, giving proportionate speeds of ten and four miles an hour, so that in ascending hills or traversing rough roads, by throwing in the slow gear, the actual tractive force was multiplied two and a half times. This carriage was intended to carry three passengers, who sat in the front, the stoker being behind. The weight of the carriage, fully loaded, was 50 cwt

This locomotive was found to travel exceedingly well, and on good roads attained high rates of speed. The Earl of Caithness, in the carriage just described, travelled from Inverness to his seat, Borrogill Castle, within a few miles of John o' Groat's House. He writes as follows: "I may state that such a feat as going over the Ord of Caithness has never before been accomplished by steam, as I believe we rose one thousand feet in about five miles. The Ord is one of the largest and steepest hills in Scotland. The turns in the road are very sharp. All this I got over without trouble. There is, I am confident, no difficulty in driving a steam carriage on a common road. It is cheap, and on a level I got as much as nineteen miles an hour"

The Earl of Caithness brought the trial to a successful result, and ere long steam travelling upon the high roads will be availed of to a large extent. Thus wrote the Engineer but steam passenger travelling on roads has developed very slowly.

"In 1861," we read that "Lord Stafford, now the Duke of Sutherland, had a vertical boiler applied to his carriage,' which could not have been any improvement upon Rickett's return-tube horizontal boiler. In 1864, Mr. Rickett supplied an engine for working a passenger and light goods service in Spain, intended to carry thirty passengers up an incline of 1 in 12, at ten miles an hour. The steam cylinders were Sin. diameter, bolted to side frames ; the driving wheels were 4ft. diameter. The front of the engine was carried upon a pair of leading wheels placed 2ft. 6in. apart. The boiler could be worked up to 200lb. pressure if required.

We have seen that Mr. Rickett used chain gearing on his earliest engine. His later engines were provided with spur wheels; but he abandoned any form of gearing and made his last engines direct-acting.

In November, 1864, he says: "The direct-acting engines mount inclines of 1 in 10 easily; whether at eight, four, two, or one mile an hour, on inclines with five tons behind them, they stick to their work better than geared engines."

Fig. 55 shows a road locomotive and passenger coach constructed by Mr. Rickett, in 1865, similar to the set sent to Spain. The engine would draw a load of 4 tons, at ten to fifteen miles an hour. The steam cylinders were 8in. diameter and 22in. stroke. The driving wheels were 4ft. diameter; the weight of the engine was 6 tons.

These later engines, like the illustration, were simple in construction, without any cog gearing; they were made almost entirely of wrought iron and steel, and were thoroughly well built.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 'Steam in the Village' by R. A. Whitehead, David & Charles, 1977
  2. The Autocar 1897/04/10
  3. Illustrated London News - Saturday 11 February 1860
  4. 1861 Census
  5. 1871 Census
  6. 1891 Census