Saxby, John

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b. 17 August 1821 Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, England
d. 22 April 1913 Hassocks, Sussex, England
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English railway signal engineer, pioneer of interlocking.
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In the mid-1850s Saxby was a foreman in the Brighton Works of the London Brighton \& South Coast Railway, where he had no doubt become familiar with construction of semaphore signals of the type invented by C.H. Gregory; the London-Brighton line was one of the first over which these were installed. In the 1850s points and signals were usually worked independently, and it was to eliminate the risk of accident from conflicting points and signal positions that Saxby in 1856 patented an arrangement by which related points and signals would be operated simultaneously by a single lever.
Others were concerned with the same problem. In 1855 Vignier, an employee of the Western Railway of France, had made an interlocking apparatus for junctions, and in 1859 Austin Chambers, who worked for the North London Railway, installed at Kentish Town Junction an interlocking lever frame in which a movement that depended upon another could not even commence until the earlier one was completed. He patented it early in 1860; Saxby patented his own version of such an apparatus later the same year. In 1863 Saxby left the London Brighton \& South Coast Railway to enter into a partnership with J.S.Farmer and established Saxby \& Farmer's railway signalling works at Kilburn, London. The firm manufactured, installed and maintained signalling equipment for many prominent railway companies. Its interlocking frames made possible installation of complex track layouts at increasingly busy London termini possible.
In 1867 Saxby \& Farmer purchased Chambers's patent of 1860, Later developments by the firm included effective interlocking actuated by lifting a lever's catch handle, rather than by the lever itself (1871), and an improved locking frame known as the "gridiron" (1874). This was eventually superseded by tappet interlocking, which had been invented by James Deakin of the rival firm Stevens \& Co. in 1870 but for which patent protection had been lost through non-renewal.
Saxby \& Farmer's equipment was also much used on the European continent, in India and in the USA, to which it introduced interlocking. A second manufacturing works was set up in 1878 at Creil (Oise), France, and when the partnership terminated in 1888 Saxby moved to Creil and managed the works himself until he retired to Sussex in 1900.
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Bibliography
1856, British patent no. 1,479 (simultaneous operation of points and signals). 1860, British patent no. 31 (a true interlocking mechanism).
1867, jointly with Farmer, British patent no. 538 (improvements to the interlocking mechanism patented in 1860).
1870, jointly with Farmer, British patent no. 569 (the facing point lock by plunger bolt).
1871, jointly with Farmer, British patent no. 1,601 (catch-handle actuated interlocking) 1874, jointly with Farmer, British patent no. 294 (gridiron frame).
Further Reading
Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company, 1956, John Saxby (1821–1913) and His Part in the Development of Interlocking and of the Signalling Industry, London (published to mark the centenary of the 1856 patent).
PJGR

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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