Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,443 pages of information and 245,911 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Francis William Webb

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Francis William Webb (1836–1906)
Francis William Webb (1836–1906)
1869. Steam Hammer with Steel Cylinder and Standards.
1872. Axle-Box for Locomotive Engines.
1872. Injectors for Locomotive Engines.
1873. The 'Penrith Beacon' for the London and North Western Railway.
1876. Locomotives for 18-In Railway at Crewe.
1877. Tank loco for the London and North Western Railway.
1880. Shunting engine.
1880-1890. Webb's Tank Engine.
1882. Locomotive for the London and North Western Railway.
Three Cylinder Compound Engine 1882.
1885 The Inventions Exhibition- Compound Engine, London and North Western Railway.
1889. Steel locomotive boiler for London and North Western Railway.
1893. Three- Cylinder Compound-Webb
1897. London and North-Western Locomotive.
1901. L.N.W.R. Four-cylinder compound.



F. W. Webb (1836–1906) - Railwayman, Civil Engineer and Local Politician.

1836 May 21st. Born to Rev William and Maria Webb at Tixall Rectory.

F. W. Webb was the head of the locomotive department of the London and North Western Railway for over 30 years. He tends to be remembered today for his stubborn and autocratic bearing, and for problems experienced with his compound express locomotives. However, Webb was a brilliant and dynamic engineer and administrator, keen to adopt new technology where he saw improved performance or economy.

1862 Francis William Webb, Locomotive Department, London and North Western Railway, Crewe, became a member of the I Mech E. [1]

c.1871 Elected to the Council of the I Mech E.

1877 Vice-President of the I Mech E.

1906 June 4th. Died.

1907 Obituary [2]

FRANCIS WILLIAM WEBB, late Chief Mechanical Engineer to the London and North Western Railway, died at Bournemouth on the 4th June, 1906, aged 70.

He was the second son of the Rev. William Webb, Rector of Tixall, Staffordshire, and was born at Tixall Rectory on the 21st May, 1836.

As a boy he showed considerable mechanical aptitude, which led to his being articled, at the age of 15, to the late Francis Trevithick, the first locomotive superintendent of the London and North Western Railway.

His connection with the company to whose service practically the whole of his long life was devoted thus dates from August, 1851, when he entered Crewe works as an apprentice. On completing his pupilage he was placed in the drawing-office, and in February, 1859, he became chief draughtsman.

Less than 3 years later he was appointed works manager under the late Mr. Ramsbottom, who had succeeded Mr. Trevithick as locomotive superintendent. Mr. Webb continued in the position of manager until July, 1866, when he left the company’s service to become manager of the Bolton Iron and Steel Co’s works. This was the only break in his association with the London and North Western Railway, and 3 months after his return to Crewe in July, 1871, Mr. Webb was appointed, in succession to Mr. Ramsbottom, Chief Mechanical Engineer to the company, an appointment which he held with conspicuous ability until his retirement in Nay, 1903, a period of 32 years.

During Mr. Webb's long tenure of office, the Crewe works, which were conducted on a comparatively modest scale, in 1851, underwent very considerable development and expansion, many special departments being added to the locomotive works. Besides the building and repairing of locomotives, Mr. Webb was also responsible for signalling appliances, cranes, electrical machinery, permanent-way equipment and all the mechanical details essential to the operation of an extensive railway system.

As a locomotive engineer, Mr. Webb will be chiefly remembered for his work in connection with the development of the compound system. In 1878 he converted one of his old locomotives into a compound, and having worked it for some years experimentally on the Ashby and Nuneaton branch with favourable results, he designed and built in 1881 a compound locomotive of an entirely new type. This engine, named the "Experiment," had a very successful christening trip, and was the first of the well-known three-cylinder compound type with which Mr. Webb's name became so closely associated, and which excited considerable attention and criticism amongst railway engineers.

The "Greater Britain" class of compound engine followed in 1891, an example of this type being exhibited at the World's Fair, Chicago, in 1893, and in 1897 Mr. Webb designed and built an engine with four cylinders, afterwards known as the "Black Prince" class, of which "La France," shown at the Paris Exhibition of 1900, was a later example.

Mr. Webb also designed a compound goods-engine for working heavy mineral traffic, and a large number of these engines are still at. work.

Although his onerous professional labours necessarily occupied the greater part of his time and attention, Mr. Webb found many opportunities to interest himself in the local institutions of Crewe. He twice served the office of Mayor of Crewe, and as President of the Mechanics' Institution for many years he spared no effort to advance the intellectual welfare of the students. He was an Alderman of the Cheshire County Council and served on the Commission of the Peace for the county. The Crewe Engineer Volunteer Corps, in which he was deeply interested, practically owes its formation to his influence. He was also largely instrumental in founding the Cottage Memorial Hospital, to the endowment fund of which institution he gave a donation of 25,000 shortly before his retirement. The Benevolent Fund of The Institution of Civil Engineers benefited to a similar extent by his generosity.

Before his long illness commenced, Mr. Webb frequently attended the meetings and took part in the proceedings of this Institution, to which, at various times, he presented the following Papers, published in the Minutes of Proceedings:- 'A Standard Engine-Shed,' 'Steel Permanent Way,' 'Locomotive Fire-box Stays,' and 'Copper Locomotive-Boiler Tubes.'

Mr. Webb was elected an Associate of The Institution on the 23rd May, 1865, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 3rd December, 1872. He was elected a member of the Council in May, 1889, and in November, 1900, he became one of the four Vice-Presidents, of which he was the senior at the time of his retirement from the Council in 1905.

1906 Obituary [3]

1906 Obituary [4]


Webb's life and worked has been addressed in a recently published (2007) biography by J. E. Chacksfield[5]

See Also


Sources of Information