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Thorsten von Zweigbergk

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Thorsten von Zweigbergk

1930 Obituary[1]


We learn, with regret, of the death of Mr. Thorsten von Zweigbergk, which occurred recently at Stockholm, after a long illness. He was closely associated with the development of electric traction in its early days, both in the United States and in this country.

Mr. Zweigbergk was born at Lund, in Sweden, and obtained his engineering and electrical training under his uncle, Jonas Wenstrom, who may be termed the founder of the electrical-engineering industry in that country. As a young man, however, he emigrated to the United States, where, in 1894, he joined the staff of the Thomson-Houston Company (afterwards the General Electric Company) at Schenectady. At a later date, he became associated with Professor Sidney Short, whom he assisted to found and to develop the business of the Walker Electric Co. When this concern was absorbed by the Westinghouse interests in 1900, Professor Short, Mr. Zweigbergk, and the rest of the Walker Company’s engineers came to England, where they formed the nucleus of the staff of the Preston works of Messrs. Dick, Kerr and Company. At that time, the horse tramways of the country were being rapidly electrified and many new lines were being built. There was keen competition for the various contracts, and much difference of opinion regarding the details of the equipment that should be employed. One of the most interesting points which arose was in connection with the patents for the magnetic blow-outs used on the controllers. In the negotiations and litigation that took place between the rival claimants for the invention of this system, Mr. Zweigbergk played a leading part. Messrs. Dick, Kerr considered that they had a good case. At the same time, they did not forget the proverbial uncertainties of the law, and therefore took the wise course of designing another form of equipment should the legal decision go against them. This task was assigned to Zweigbergk, who, under high pressure,, developed and perfected the metallic-shield blow-out, which, in practice, has since proved one of the best devices of its kind that has been invented.

In 1904, on the death of Professor Short, Mr. Zweigbergk was appointed chief designer of the traction department of Messrs. Dick, Kerr and Company. In this position he carried out a great deal of important work, perhaps the best known of which was the electrification of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway between Liverpool and Southport. This was the first section of main line in this country to be operated by electric traction, and the methods used and the results obtained have been made free use of in subsequent work."

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