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British Industrial History

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Thomas Weatherburn Dodds

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Thomas Weatherburn Dodds (1826-1899)

1854 of Holmes Engine Works, Rotherham - Dodds and Son

1900 Obituary [1]

THOMAS WEATHERBURN DODDS, born on the 2nd May, 1826, at the Felling, Hewarth, in the county of Durham, was the eldest son of the late Isaac Dodds, one of the early railway engineers.

While still young he became a pupil of the late Sir James Falshaw, Bart., who was at that time engaged on various railway works in the Midlands.

In 1845 he went to Glasgow with his uncle, Mr. John Stephenson, of the firm of Stephenson, McKenzie and Brassey, and assisted in the construction of the Lancaster and Carlisle and the Caledonian railways.

In the latter part of 1850 Mr. Dodds was taken into partnership by his father, with whom he re-opened the Holmes Engine and Railway Works, Rotherham.

The following passage from the Obituary Notice of Mr. Isaac Dodds, written in 1883, may be quoted as indicating the nature of the work carried out by the firm :- 'It must be admitted that by the introduction of steeled rails by Messrs. Dodds, who had great prejudices to overcome, but who persevered and spent freely to prove the economy, increased durability, and superior working of steel as against iron, they were the pioneers of the rails which railway companies have now almost entirely adopted. Mr. Dodds and his son carried on the engineering works with considerable success, and obtained a reputation for originality of design and excellence of work in the manufacture of locomotive, portable, and other steam-engines, machinery, and railway plant generally. The first of the type of the portable engines now in use was designed and made at these works, and they supplied not only home railways, but India, Spain, Portugal and other foreign countries.'

Messrs. Dodds and Son designed and manufactured the rolling stock of the Santander and Alar Railway in Spain, and in conjunction with the late Alfred Jee, constructed part of the line.

The firm also erected converting furnaces at Pittsburg for Mr. Andrew Carnegie in the early sixties. Mr. Dodds registered a large number of patents for his inventions, and took an active part in promoting the employment of steel for the manufacture of rails, boilers, ship plates and artillery. The firm claimed to have made the first locomotive engine turn-table to work on a smooth outer ring; to have introduced various self-acting switches; and in place of the leather-cased buffers filled with horsehair, to have made buffers with a series of spiral springs for engines and carriages.

Mr. Dodds took up the question of coal burning in lieu of coke in the locomotive engine, and was one of the first to render it successful.

The panic of 1866 and other adverse circumstances, however, had a disastrous effect, which resulted in the closing of the works some little time afterwards. Mr. Dodds subsequently accepted, in 1870, the position of Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent to the North Staffordshire Railway Company, and he also acted as Engineer of the Trent and Mersey Navigation.

In 1882 he was commissioned to go to the Transvaal, where he remained for six months, making a report on railway extensions and on gold mines at Lydenberg, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Spitzkop.

In 1884 he was appointed General Manager of the Santa Fe Colonial Railways.

He returned to England in 1887, and in 1892 was sent to South America to investigate the causes of the high cost of working the Buenos Ayres and Pacific Railway.

Eventually he became General Manager of the line, and was given a seat on the Board of Directors at Buenos Ayres. Ill health, however, compelled him to retire in 1896, and on the 6th September, 1899, he died at his residence, Carter Knowle Road, Sheffield.

Mr. Dodds was a clear-headed man, with a keen desire to obtain knowledge. He possessed great kindness of character and was generous to a fault.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 4th April, 1854, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 1st April, 1873.

Obituary 1899 [2]

"...On the 9th inst. the remains of Thomas Weatherburn Dodds, M.I.C.E., were interred at Shelton Cemetery, Hanley, Staffordshire. Mr. Dodd , who died at his residence, 3-1, Carter Knowle-road, Sheffield, at the age of seventy-four, was a civil, mechanical, and mining engineer. Since 1845, in England and other countries, he has taken a prominent part in the construction of locomotive and various branches of mechanical engineering and railways. During five years he occupied the post of Engineer-in-Chief of the North Staffordshire Railway, and he also bold the post of engineer..."More.

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