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British Industrial History

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Hugh Smellie

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1880. Passenger locomotive for the Glasgow and South Western Railway.

Hugh Smellie (1840-1891), Locomotive Superintendent of the Glasgow and South Western Railway

1892 Obituary [1]

HUGH SMELLIE was born at Ayr, N.B., on the 3rd of March, 1840. At sixteen years of age he was apprenticed to Patrick Stirling, then Locomotive Superintendent of the Glasgow and South Western Railway. He spent twelve months in the running-sheds at Ayr, and was then placed in the new shops at Kilmarnock, where, during the last two years of his apprenticeship, he assisted in building the company’s 'renewal' engines.

On the expiration of his pupilage young Smellie worked for about two years as a journeyman-fitter, when he entered the service of Young and Co. of Ayr, as an engine-fitter.

About the year 1864, however, he returned to the shops of the Glasgow and South-Western Railway, and twelve months later was placed in charge of the drawing-office.

When in 1866 Mr. Patrick Stirling went to Doncaster, as Locomotive Superintendent of the Great Northern Railway, James Stirling, who succeeded his brother, appointed Smellie Works-Manager at Kilmarnock.

In February, 1870, Mr. Smellie was appointed Locomotive Engineer in charge of the engine- and carriage- and wagon- departments of the Maryport and Carlisle Railway. In addition to performing the duties of that office, he acted for the Maryport Town and Harbour Trustees on works for the harbour and for the water-supply of the town.

He remained at Maryport for eight years, when Mr. James Stirling went to Ashford as Locomotive Superintendent of the South-Eastern Railway. Then, on the 30th of June, 1878, Mr. Smellie returned, as Locomotive Superintendent, to his old company, with which the greater part of his life was destined to be spent. At the time he rejoined the Glasgow and South-Western Railway the question of continuous brakes was becoming all-important, and, with characteristic energy, Mr. Smellie pushed forward their adoption on his line. In the course of a few years the greater proportion of the company’s carriages were also lighted by gas, to which matter he gave special attention. He designed and built, for working the through-trains between Glasgow and Carlisle in connection with the Midland route, several express-locomotives, which have admirably fulfilled the requirements of that service. Amongst the improvements he introduced were a very efficient arrangement of side-springs, for controlling the lateral movement of the bogie-centre of the engine, and a steam-brake regulating-valve for goods engines. He also experimented with the American extended smoke-box, with which he fitted four express-engines. Under his management various departments of the works were considerably enlarged, and a large number of labour-saving tools introduced, whereby the output was increased and the cost of production cheapened.

After carrying out the duties of this post for twelve years, Mr. Smellie was appointed, in the autumn of 1890, Locomotive Superintendent of the Caledonian Railway, in succession to Dugald Drummond. He only held this position a few months, however, before his health-which had shown signs of breaking in the summer of 1889-became seriously affected.

There is no doubt he was very much overworked during the railway strike at the beginning of 1851. He took a chill at that time, which resulted in an attack of pleurisy. At the end of March, however, his strength had so far returned as to allow him to undertake the journey to the Bridge of Allan, for treatment at the hydropathic establishment there. To all appearance he was slowly recovering, and was looking forward to active work again, when a change took place, and he died suddenly on the 19th of April, 1891.

Mr. Smellie’s devotion to duty, integrity of character, and constant study of the interests of his employers, won for him universal esteem and respect. He was elected a Member of the Institution on the 5th of March, 1889.

1891 Obituary [2]

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