Timothy Hackworth


Timothy Hackworth  "The Father of The Railways



Hackworth’s contributions to locomotive design are thoroughly discussed in a 400-page volume authored by Robert Young -  Timothy Hackworth and the Locomotive.  Of special interest is Appendix N which is a compilation of Hackworth’s inventions.  Of particular interest is listed as Invention #26 – the use of six couples wheels, spring mounted throughout. Could this have been the inspiration for Hopkin Thomas’ Nonpareil?


A detailed biography of Timothy Hackworth was published in Welford’s Men of Mark Twixt Tyne And Tweed.


The following condensed biography is composed of information  from http://www.railcentre.co.uk/hackworth/hackworth1.htm, and from  http://www.steamindex.com/people/hackwort.htm  (May 2008) :


Timothy Hackworth was born on 22nd December, 1786, at Wylam, Newcastle to John Hackworth, foreman blacksmith at Wylam Colliery. He left school at the age of 14 and served a seven years' apprenticeship at the colliery, under his father, in the same trade.


Of his son, John Hackworth is quoted as saying he: "...gave early indication of a natural bent and aptitude of mind for mechanical construction and research, and it formed a pleasurable theme of contemplation for the father to mark the studious application of his son to obtain the mastery of mechanical principles, and observe the energy and passionate ardour with which he grasped at a thorough knowledge of his art"


He completed his apprenticeship in 1807 and was installed as foreman in the position occupied by his father, before his death 3 years previous. It was a position he held for 8 years. In 1816 he took up a position at Walbottle Colliery, where he remained for 8 years. During this time he was "loaned" to the Forth Street works, whilst George Stephenson was away on business for some months. On his return George Stephenson was so impressed with the way the works had been run during his absence that he offered Timothy Hackworth one-half share of his own interest in the business. Hackworth declined the offer. Hackworth returned to Walbottle in the latter part of 1824, but did not resume his position at the colliery.


In 1816 Hackworth moved to Walbottle colliery near Newcastle as foreman smith. On the opening of the Forth Street Works of Robert Stephenson & Co at Newcastle in 1824 he was asked to supervise the works during the absence of George Stephenson on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway and of Robert in South America. Reluctantly Hackworth agreed, and thus supervised the construction of the first locomotives at this works: it was Hackworth who suggested coupling the wheels of S & D locomotives No 1 Locomotion and its three successors with outside rods and return cranks instead of chains. He declined to take a share in the works, and in 1825 he was appointed to the S & DR to take charge of locomotives and machinery. He established his headquarters at New Shildon. He first built the stationary winding engines for the Brusselton and Etherley inclines.


In 1827 he built the first six-coupled locomotive, Royal George, at Shildon. It was also the first locomotive on which the cylinders drove directly onto the wheels, and it was the first completely reliable locomotive on the S & DR.


Learning of the forthcoming Rainhill trials on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1829 he designed and built a light 0-4-0 named Sanspareil, again with vertical cylinders driving directly onto the rear wheels, and with a return-flue boiler. It had to be withdrawn from the competition because of a cracked cylinder casting (the cylinders had been cast at Robert Stephenson & Co.), but when repaired the engine worked on the Bolton & Leigh Railway until 1844. It was then used at Coppull colliery near Chorley (see Daglish) for driving a pump, and for light winding, until 1863. After overhaul and restoration it was presented to the Science Museum, London, by John Hick of Bolton.


In 1829 Hackworth designed coal staithes on the Tees at the new town of Middlesbrough. To carry the S & D Middlesbrough extension across the Tees he designed a plate-girder bridge, then a completely new idea. Despite thorough testing in model form the design was rejected by the directors who adopted a suspension bridge designed by Capt Samuel Brown RN (1776-1852), erected in 1830. As Hackworth had predicted, it was a failure, and its replacement by Robert Stephenson's cast iron bridge in 1842 was also unsatisfactory (see J. Harris). Hackworth's next locomotive was the Wilberforce class 0-6-0 of which six were built in 1831-2. They had vertical cylinders at the rear driving cranks on a fixed shaft connected to the wheels by coupling rods, so allowing all axles to be sprung. They had 'return multitubular fire-tube' boilers with a heating surface of about 500ft2. In 1833 he entered into a new contract with the S & D in which he became responsible for the working of the locomotives and workshops but remained free to operate his own business as a builder of locomotives and stationary engines. He opened new workshops, foundry and built houses for workers, and put his brother Thomas in charge of the new works. Thomas remained there until 1840.


Throughout this period from 1827 Hackworth was studying the use of steam expansively, providing lap on all his slide valves. In 1835 he built a new engine for the Black Boy incline, with a cylinder 40in diam x 30in stroke, using a 'double trunk' principle in which the connecting rod was pivoted at the piston and worked inside a large tubular piston rod. It was in use until 1874. In 1836 he built a 2-2-2 for the Russian government using the same 'double trunk' principle. In 1838 he introduced an improved type of 0-6-0 in which inclined cylinders at the rear drove the front coupled wheels by long connecting rods. One of this type, the Derwent built by Kitching of Darlington in 1845, is preserved at Darlington. However,  three 0-6-0s built by Hackworth in 1838 for the Albion Coal Mining Co in Nova Scotia, reverted to the earlier design with vertical cylinders over the rear wheels. One of these, Samson, is preserved at New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.


In 1840 he gave up the S & D contract and concentrated on his own Soho Engineering Works at Shildon where he built locomotives, stationary engines and boilers. His son John became works manager. His last engines for the S & D were two 0-6-0s, similar to Derwent, built in 1842. In 1846 he began an order for twelve 2-2-2s for the London & Brighton Railway to a design by John Gray who, however, made so many alterations to the design that the final delivery time passed before the order could be completed. As a result Gray was dismissed, Hackworth's last locomotive was the 2-2-2 Sanspareil (No 2) to his own design embodying all his experience. It was purchased by the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway in 1854, becoming No 135, and gave excellent service, running at speeds up to 75mph with trains heavy for the period. It was broken up in 1881. Marshall considered that Hackworth has an assured place in locomotive history as the first to establish the steam locomotive as a thoroughly reliable machine. Throughout his 25 years at Shildon he took an active interest in the welfare of his employees and their families as Holcroft makes very clear:


In the record books of the Stockton & Darlington Railway for May 13th, 1825, the following appointment is recorded "John Dixon reports that he has arranged with Timothy Hackworth to come and settle on the line, particularly to have the superintendence of the permanent and locomotive engines. The preliminary arrangement as regards salary is £150 per annum, the Company to find a house, and pay for his house, rent and fire."


"...He entered upon the duties of a locomotive engineer under circumstances of great difficulty and discouragement. Skilled artisans were then few in number and difficult to obtain. Machinery for turning and fitting had not been brought to anything like its present perfection, and the work was consequently of a rude and imperfect kind; while it was also necessary to construct the early locomotives of slender materials. The 'Sans Pareil' was a marvel of mechanism considering the conditions under which it was made" - J.S. Jeans , 1875.


There is evidence to support the belief that Timothy Hackworth was the driving force behind the ultimate success of the locomotive and without him the Stockton and Darlington Railway may have faced financial ruin. It was he who had the difficult task of repairing and maintaining the unreliable locomotives of the Railway.


Pangborn, when comparing the work of Stephenson and Hackworth in 1830, said ; " ...On the other hand, Timothy Hackworth is original, is actually of himself improving the locomotive in essentials as no other man is doing, and is incomparably in advance of George Stephenson in everything which may be truly said to lay claim to distinction. He has and is stamping a character upon the structure of the locomotive of the very highest importance..."  To the people of Shildon, past and present, Timothy Hackworth will always be "The Father of The Railways".


Rev. May 2008