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William Barber Buddicom

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William Barber Buddicom (1816-1887) of Penbedw Hall, Mold, Flintshire.

1840 Locomotive Superintendent of the Grand Junction Railway


1888 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM BARBER BUDDICOM, who died on the 4th of August 1887, at the age of seventy-one years, was one of the enterprising, clear-headed, and courageous engineers of the early railway days ; men of the stuff of which George Stephenson was made, and who seemed created especially to meet the demand which everywhere arose for persons competent to direct and control the development of the new means of communication.

His career was of exceptional interest as showing how greatly the mechanical resources of various nations on the Continent have been developed by such Englishmen as Cockerill in Belgium, Buddicom in France, Guppy in Italy, and others whose work has been recorded from time to time in these volumes.

He was the son of the Rev. R. P. Buddicom, Perpetual Curate of Everton, near Liverpool, in which village he was born on the 1st of July 1816. He was educated at home, and at the age of fifteen was apprenticed to Mather, Dixon and Co, ironfounders and engineers of Liverpool. On the completion of his apprenticeship he was appointed a Resident Engineer on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, for the section between Liverpool and Newton Bridge, having for his engineering chief Edward Woods, Past-President Inst. C.E., and as his superior officer for other duties, Henry Booth, who, though nominally only the secretary, was virtually the manager of the railway.

Mr. Buddicom’s work was very varied, including, as it did, the maintenance of the permanent way, bridges, tunnels, stations, &C., the substitution of 75-lb. rails for those of 35-lbs. first laid, and the re-ballasting of the road. The police of the line and stations, and the care of the ropes and engines working the Wapping and Lime Street tunnels, also formed part of his duties, while he had to prepare the pay-sheets of the workmen engaged in these departments, and also to distribute the money.

His engagement was for two years, at the end of which time the directors made him proposals to remain at an increased and increasing remuneration ; but with a foresight remarkable in one so young, he declined to bind himself for a number of years, doubtless feeling that opportunities would arise for rapid advancement.

In this he was fully justified, for while negotiating with John Cockerill for an appointment at his well-known works at Seraing, near Liege, an offer came from Mr. Locke of the post of Resident Engineer for the construction of the Glasgow and Paisley joint line. This Mr. Buddicom accepted, and here he remained till 1840, when, again on the recommendation of Mr. Locke, he was appointed Locomotive Superintendent of the Grand Junction Railway.

He thus, at the age of twenty-four, acquired a post of great importance and responsibility, for in those days of heavy fuel-consumption, even more than now, the locomotive department was the chief factor in the expenditure of a railway. Mr. Buddicom succeeded in reducing considerably the working-expenses, and he originated the system, since become universal, of giving to drivers and firemen premiums for economy in the use of fuel and oil, and, later on, for increased care of their engines. The results were so satisfactory that they were specially referred to in the Directors’ report to the meeting of February 1841, in a way most gratifying to a young officer.

At this time the engines mostly in use were of the Bury type, and the frequent failures of the crank-axles was a considerable source of expense and anxiety. The number of engines was limited, and several different sizes existing, the exchange of pieces possible between different engines was practically inappreciable. It was, moreover, becoming generally recognized by engineers that the locomotive was only in its infancy, and that serious modifications would be needed in order to make it equal to the daily increasing requirements of the railway system.

In Mr. Buddicom’s frequent interviews with Mr. Locke these troubles were much discussed. Locke was in favour of straight axles, outside cylinders, large driving-wheels, and bigger boilers. In those days the idea strongly obtained that high centre of gravity was necessarily incompatible with steadiness of running. After many projects had been mooted and fully discussed, one, the joint idea of Mr. Buddicom and the then foreman of the repairing-shop, Alexander Allan (afterwards so well known in connection with his valve-motion), was submitted to Mr. Locke, who obtained from the Directors authority to have an engine built. The order was given to Sharp, Roberts and Co., of Manchester, but Richard Roberts declared the system radically bad. In consequence, the engine was built at the Company’s own works, and was the first of a type used for many years by Mr. Buddicom and his successors, Mr. F. Trevithick, Mr. Ramsbottom, and Mr. Webb. Of course improvements were made as more powerful and faster engines were required, but the principle of the engine and its main features of construction remained the same.

Early in 1841 it was decided to transfer the Grand Junction Company’s repairing shops from Edge Hill to Crewe, then a small roadside station. Mr. Buddicom was charged to prepare the plans, the estimate amounting to between £71,000 and £72,000, which was then considered a large outlay for such a purpose. These plans were carried out, and the buildings still exist as portions of the great establishment at Crewe, now increased to meet the mechanical wants of the whole London and North-Western system. At the commencement of these works, Mr. Locke, who had been named by a body of English capitalists, engineer of the Paris and Rouen railway, finding it difficult to procure the rolling-stock and fixed plant in France on reasonable conditions, suggested that Brassey and Mackenzie, the contractors for the railway, should, in conjunction with William Allcard of Warrington, then contractor for permanent way on the Grand Junction Railway, and Mr. Buddicom, jointly contract to supply the necessary plant.

The conditions were that the manufacturing establishment should be built in France, so as to be useful to the railway company, if, at the completion of the contract, the latter wished to acquire them. The idea took concrete shape as the firm of Allcard, Buddicom and Co, and their proposals being accepted, some temporary buildings, previously used for the manufacture of stationary engines, were leased at Chartreux, near Rouen. Preliminaries being thus avoided in the erection of the buildings, Mr. Locke, to still further economise time, adopted, as the type of engine to be constructed, the design for the Grand Junction locomotive before-mentioned.

Having arranged with his partners to take charge of the works in all matters relating to mechanical operations, Mr. Buddicom resigned his position as Locomotive Superintendent of the Grand Junction Railway in July 1841.

Great exertions were necessary to execute the work contracted for within the limited time allowed, the Paris and Rouen line being pledged to be opened throughout in 1842, but all was ready, to the satisfaction of the Directors, of Mr. Locke, and of the French Government.

Soon after the opening, Messrs. Allcard, Buddicom & Co. contracted to work the line, furnishing locomotive-power, and repairing the carriages and wagons on the principle of the prime cost of the stock being borne by the railway company, but the contractors paying for its depreciation at the expiration of the contract. Every other expense relating to locomotive-power, or repair of wagons and carriages, including responsibility for accidents caused by the fault of engine-drivers or others in their employ, remained with the contractors. This arrangement was extended to the Havre and Ronen line when it was opened in 1843, to the Fecamp, the Mantes and Caen, and the Caen and Cherbourg lines, a total length of 300 miles, and continued in force till the end of 1860. The repairing-shops were built at Sotteville, near Rouen.

In 1845 Messrs. Allcard, Buddicom & Co. abandoned the Chartreux works, and built more suitable ones adjoining those of the railway at Sotteville, the company agreeing to purchase the contractors’ premises at the end of the contract, should the latter wish to dispose of them.

It was during the early days of the Paris and Rouen line that the extension of railways began in France, and Mr. Buddicom had at the time much to do with the supply of rolling-stock then. Mr. William Mackenzie had undertaken to complete the works of the Orleans and Tours line, and to provide the engines and rolling-stock. This work was entrusted to Messrs. Allcard, Buddicom & Co. They also supplied the engines required for the Boulogne and Amiens Railway, the nucleus of the great system now belonging to the Northern Railway of France. When the concession for the Paris and Lyons Railway was granted, the capital was not forthcoming, and the successful company applied to Mr. Buddicom's firm to take a large number of shares, to be paid for, if they chose, in locomotives. These terms were accepted, and the aid thus afforded in floating the company was, at the least, very useful.

In the sequel, the company being successful, Mr. Buddicom waived the right to supply these engines, the Rouen works at the time being fully occupied.

In 1849, having contracted with the Southern of France Company for a quantity of rolling- and fixed stock, Messrs. Allcard, Buddicom & Co. erected branch works at La Bastide, near Bordeaux, introducing thereby an entirely new trade into the district. Thus, out of the six great companies, among whom the French railway system was divided, Mr. Buddicom supplied the first engines for four, and might have done, had he so willed, for five. In this connection may be mentioned a fact that is very significant of the part taken by Englishmen in the construction of the French railway system.

The rule of the road in France is the converse of that which obtains in England, carriages and horsemen keeping to the right ; but when the French railways were made the English contractors introduced their own national use in this respect, and to this day French trains take the left on double lines and on the crossings of single ones.

In 1848, when the Revolution broke out in France and all over the Continent, very great difficulty was experienced from the communistic principles of the working classes. These were opposed to all contracts, condemning them as being 'l'exploitation de l'homme par l'homme' -a popular cry which was the cause of greatly exciting the working classes against heads of establishments, and, more especially, if, as in the case of the Rouen Railway Works, the heads were not Frenchmen. The Northern Railway, the St. Germains, the Versailles, the Paris and Orleans, and all other lines, with the exception of the Paris and Rouen and Ravre system, had been taken possession of by the Clubs, and were actually worked, as far as regards the locomotive power and rolling-stock, under the orders of one of them specially composed of the men employed on the railways.

With the greatest difficulty Mr. Buddicom succeeded in escaping from these influences, or more properly speaking, in delaying their interference. Some of his men, both French and English, stuck to their duties and personally protected him on several occasions, enabling him to carry on a small service of trains, and stem the interference which had caused such confusion and mischief in other directions. On the Paris and Orleans line the manager of the station and workshops had been shot by his own people. But the crisis came at last, the clubs sending a deputation to the Directors of the Paris, Rouen and Havre Companies to communicate their orders, which were to the effect that Messrs. Allcard, Buddicom and Co.’s contracts were to be at once broken, that the working of the railway was to be handed over to the persons to be nominated by the clubs, and that Mr. Buddicom and all the English and other foreigners employed were to cease to be connected with the railway, and to leave the country. Mr. Buddicom was summoned by the Board of Directors to attend the meeting, and received great personal abuse from the delegates of the club, as well as open threats of assassination if he hesitated to act in accordance with the decision of the club. Just when the language of the delegates became most violent, word came to the Directors that the Chamber of Deputies had been taken possession of by the mob.

The excitement which this created caused the delegates to become more and more abusive towards him. Some of them and some of the Directors left the room. The meeting ended by a proposition from the manager of the railway, Mr. de Laperiere, or the Secretary, Mr. Thibaudeau, that a general Board of Directors should be called for the following day to receive the communication made by the delegates, and that the decision of the Board should be communicated the club authority immediately afterwards.

During the night the political position was altered completely. The party of order gained the upper hand ; the delegates did not show themselves on the following day. Mr. Buddicom consequently held his ground, and continued to work the railways, not merely those included in the firm’s contract, but helped the Versailles line to convey the traffic for one of the 'great fountain' days with engines lent by the Paris and Rouen Company, the service of the Versailles Railway having been entirely disorganized by the action of the clubs.

From this period the authorities were enabled to give the works at Sotteville and Mr. Buddicom personally the necessary protection. He had special police service told off for this purpose, and on more than one occasion received instructions not to expose himself. He also received special authorization from the Prefect of the Seine to carry arms, and use them, if need be.

It may here be mentioned that when the Revolution broke out in February 1848, the dregs of Rouen - at that time a number of ticket-of-leave men who were residing there under the supervision of the police - visited Sotteville works (after setting fire to the wooden bridge carrying the Havre line over the Seine), with the declared purpose of burning the rolling-stock, being encouraged by the boatmen on the river, whose work had been seriously affected by the railway. The night was a memorable one, storm and rain intensifying the emotions caused by the sight of the blazing bridge. There was no protection from any one but a few resolute French workmen and clerks, as the English workmen were advised by their comrades in the works to keep out of sight.

Several of these men formed themselves into a sort of body-guard to protect Mr. Buddicom, and one man in particular heated some irons in one of the fires, and facing the crowd of mischief-makers, vowed destruction to any one who attempted to harm Mr. Buddicom. These hot irons had a wonderful effect, and though torches were lit, and bottles containing spirits of turpentine were prepared to quicken the fire, the idea was abandoned, thanks to the exertions of the work people.

A curious argument of one of the rioters to the effect that the works would, if burnt, throw many out of employment, whereas the burning of another bridge crossing the Seine a few miles distant, and belonging to the Railway Company, would meet the case, also had its effect, the animosity being against the railway and not against Allcard, Buddicom and Co. This proposal was received with approval, and a party started with the proposer to carry out the project. The night became so wet that the party dispersed before reaching the bridge, and all was safe. The following nights the firm’s employees formed among themselves a regular body of protectors to the works, and prevented any mischief being done.

On the first night of the outburst attempts had been made to break the doors of Mr. Buddicom’s house in the works, but without success, the only mischief done being some broken windows. In the early morning he got his wife and two daughters to his father-in-law’s house, whence in a few days they proceeded to England.

Among other matters which occupied him much during the three first days of the Revolution was the anticipated arrival at Sotteville of the King, who was endeavouring to escape from France. A special messenger had come to Mr. Buddicom from Paris requesting him to be ready, if need be, for a dash in the direction of the coast, and he necessarily had to be prepared for such an event without allowing any one to know that such a visit was even possible. The King escaped by another route, as is well known. A period of great bodily and mental fatigue was passed, when there arose other difficulties of a nature Mr. Buddicom had not previously had to contend with. The gentleman at the head of the mercantile part of the business went away, leaving him alone to contend with financial troubles of a very serious naure.

It had been the custom of several of the railways for which they were working to make their payments in bills payable not earlier than three months after date, which were discounted without the slightest difficulty by the Bank of France, being considered first class paper. In consequence of the disorganization which followed the February days, and the mischief done to bridges and other portions of the railways, particularly on the Paris and Rouen and Havre and St. Germains lines, traffic was suspended, and necessarily receipts were nearly nil, the results being that the bills as they matured could not be met by the Companies, and Messrs. Allcard, Buddicom &. Co. had, as drawers of these bills, to arrange with the people into whose hands they had come in the course of business. This state of things necessarily created great anxiety, especially as at the same time their bankers suspended their payments.

It was absolutely necessary to provide funds for a large number of work people, who otherwise would have been thrown out of employment, and many of whom would, in all probability, have joined the band of disaffected instead of protecting the works. The men and employees were all put on short time, and became very reasonable when they saw the difficulties which had to be encountered, and how much better their wants were provided for than those of the greater portion of the other work people of the neighbourhood of Rouen.

The difficulties were increased by the great scarcity of specie wherewith to pay wages. Great exertions had to be made to overcome this trouble. Interviews with members of the Revolutionary Government were necessary to obtain even very small amounts from the Bank of France and its branches in exchange for notes. It was even necessary to present proofs that the change was to be exclusively used for wages, and generally a very insufficient quantity was given, necessitating paying several men together with bank-notes. The immense service rendered to business people by the prudent action of t.he Bank of France can only be appreciated by those who had to struggle with the serious financial difficulties experienced by employers of labour, and generally by those in business. Mr. Buddicom met with the greatest consideration.

The Bank had discounted a large amount of the railway companies’ paper, and also other paper bearing the firm’s signature. On the authorities being informed of the inability to meet these engagements, and the offer being made to submit the books of the concern for inspection in proof of this statement, the position was fully appreciated. Mr. Buddicom was informed that the Bank, knowing that the bills were legitimate ones, and that their drawers were in no wise responsible for the financial difficulties in which they were placed, desired him to use all endeavours to keep the workmen employed, and the traffic on the railways, such as it was, from being interrupted, assuring the firm that every latitude possible should be given in respect of the bills for which they were liable. Mr. Buddicom was told not to cripple their resources, as the Bank of France was perfectly satisfied to wait. Had this policy of waiting not been adopted as its general policy by the National Banking Establishment, the financial catastrophe in France would have been far greater.

Shortly after the Coup d’htat in 1852 business confidence was restored, and a period of prosperity for France set in. About this time Mr. Buddicom’s partner, desiring to diminish his responsibility in the concern, and having lost some of his confidence in French operations, withdrew from the firm. A new partnership was formed, Mr. Buddicom alone being director, under the title of Buddicom and Co. This arrangement continued unchanged till the expiration of the partnership in 1860.

During this period he was actively connected with other matters in France, in Germany, in Italy, and some in England.

In 1854, jointly with Messrs. Parent and Shaecken, the extensive Belgian contractors, and Mr. Brassey - Parent, Brassey and Buddicom - a contract was made with the Lyons and Geneva Railway Company for the execution of the Bellegarde Tunnel on that line, the length something more than 4,000 metres.

In 1860 Mr. Buddicom formed one of a party, of which Mr. Brassey and Charles Jones were the leading spirits, for the construction and stocking of the Maremma Railway, completed in 1865.

In 1860, jointly with Mr. Brassey, he undertook the work of doubling the Rouen and Dieppe line, and rebuilding a number of the bridges over the river in the valley, and in 1863 formed part of the company Brassey, Parent and Buddicom, contracting for the execution of a portion of the Southern Railway of Italy. Owing to circumstances the execution of these latter works was confided to a branch of the house of Parent, Shaecken and Co, the contractors, but the financial operations remained at the charge of the original contractors. The winding up, however, devolved on Mr. Buddicom, owing to the death of Mr. Parent, followed by that of Mr. Brassey.

During this period, Mr. Buddicom was busily occupied, as one of the directors of an extensive colliery in the neighbourhood of Marseilles, jointly with Mr. Brassey, Mr. Blount and others. Also as one of the directors of a colliery company in the Prussian Rhenish provinces, and in a similar position connected with the Societe des Polders de l’0uest for reclaiming an extensive tract of ground in the Baie de St. Michel on the Brittany coast, and in the Baie des Veys on the coast of Normandy.

At the termination of the contracts for working the various railways alluded to, which had been merged into one company, the Western of France, the company claimed their rights of taking possession of the Sotteville works, including the portion belonging to Buddicom and Co., as well as the tools, &c. Thus the firm ceased to exist, and Mr. Buddicom abandoned the business of an engineer.

After residing some time in Paris he took up permanent residence at Penbedw, North Wales, retaining merely in France his connection with the Societe des Bouches du Rhone, that of the Nengede ‘Colliery, the Polders de l’ouest, the Society Brassey, Parent and Buddicom, and his connection with the banking-house of Edward Blount and Co. of Paris.

Previous to 1860 Mr. Buddicom was for a time a Director of the Dublin and Meath Railway, and of the Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway. He was also a Director of the Central Argentine Railway and the Central Argentine Land Company, remaining connected with them till some time after the completion of the former and organization of the Land Company. He was a Magistrate for the County of Flint, and served as High Sheriff in 1864. From the time of his return to England his career was an uneventful one, and he never ceased to regret that he so early severed himself from the profession.

Mr. Buddicom was elected a Member on the 3rd of June, 1845.


1887 Obituary [2]

WILLIAM BARBER BUDDICOM was born in Liverpool on 1st July 1816, being the second son of Rev. Robert Pedder Buddicom of Everton, afterwards principal of St. Bees College.

After serving a five years' apprenticeship from 1831 to 1836 with the old-established firm of Mather Dixon and Co. in Liverpool, he was engaged in his twentieth year as resident engineer on the Newton Bridge section of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway under Mr. Edward Woods, which position he occupied for two years, and during the time carried out many important works on the line.

In 1838 he became resident engineer on the Glasgow Paisley and Greenock Railway under Messrs. Locke and Errington, where he remained until 1840, when he was appointed locomotive superintendent of the Grand Junction Railway, and prepared the plans and estimates and laid the foundation of the original Crewe Works. Here he introduced the system of premiums to engine drivers for economy in consumption of fuel and oil, with such good results in reducing the working expenses of the line that the plan has since become almost universally adopted. In conjunction with Mr. Locke he designed the original Crewe outside-cylinder engines.

In 1841 he went to France, on the invitation of Mr. Locke, the engineer of the Paris and Rouen Railway, to erect works near Rouen for constructing the rolling stock for that line.

Under the firm of Allcard Buddicom and Co. he started an old millwright's shop at Les Chartreux, a suburb of Rouen, pending the building of extensive works at Sotteville, on the line of the railway; and he worked the line from its opening in 1842 till 1860.

In 1848, when all the other railways were in the hands of the "Clubists," it was mainly through his exertions that the Paris and Rouen line was not handed over to them.

In 1851 Mr. Allcard retired, and the firm became Buddicom and Co., by whom the additional sections of the line were also worked as they were successively opened. All the rolling stock for these lines was made to Mr. Buddicom's designs, as was also a great portion of that for the Amiens and Boulogne, the Orleans and Tours, the Southern of France, and other railways. The Sotteville Works employed from 1500 to 2000 men.

In 1847 he received the dignity of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour for his distinguished services. After 1860 he was associated with Messrs. Brassey, Parent, Seharcken and Co. in making the Bellegarde Tunnel on the Lyons and Geneva Railway, the Maremma Railways, and the Southern Railways of Italy; and was also interested in the Mont Cenis mountain railway on Fell's system.

In 1864 he retired from professional work, and settled in Flintshire, of which county he was a magistrate, and filled the office of high sheriff in 1864.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1874; and was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and of the Societe des Ingenieurs Civils of France.

His death took place on 4th August 1887 at the age of seventy-one, at his residence, Penbedw Hall, Mold, Flintshire.

Note from the 1888 Proceedings
WILLIAM BARBER BUDDICOM. In the memoir given in page 466 of last year's Proceedings the two following corrections are desired by his son, having escaped observation in the revision of the memoir for publication in the Institution Proceedings.

The system of premiums to engine drivers for economy in consumption of fuel and oil, which was introduced by Mr. Buddicom on the Grand Junction Railway, had it is understood been carried out previously on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

The original Crewe outside-cylinder engines of 1840 were introduced by Mr. Locke and Mr. Buddicom on the Grand Junction Railway, while Mr. Buddicom was the locomotive superintendent of that line; and subsequently in France on the Paris and Rouen Railway and other lines.


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