Blenkinsop, John

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b. 1783 near Newcastle upon Tyne, England
d. 22 January 1831 Leeds, England
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English coal-mine manager who made the first successful commercial use of steam locomotives.
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In 1808 Blenkinsop became agent to J.C.Brandling, MP, owner of Middleton Colliery, from which coal was carried to Leeds over the Middle-ton Waggonway. This had been built by Brandling's ancestor Charles Brandling, who in 1758 obtained an Act of Parliament to establish agreements with owners of land over which the wagon way was to pass. That was the first railway Act of Parliament.
By 1808 horse haulage was becoming uneconomic because the price of fodder had increased due to the Napoleonic wars. Brandling probably saw the locomotive Catch-Me- Who-Can demonstrated by Richard Trevithick. In 1811 Blenkinsop patented drive by cog-wheel and rack rail, the power to be provided preferably by a steam engine. His object was to produce a locomotive able to haul a substantial load, while remaining light enough to minimize damage to rails made from cast iron which, though brittle, was at that date the strongest material from which rails could be made. The wagonway, formerly of wood, was relaid with iron-edge rails; along one side rails cast with rack teeth were laid beside the running surface. Locomotives incorporating Blenkinsop's cog-wheel drive were designed by Matthew Murray and built by Fenton Murray \& Wood. The design was developed from Trevithick's to include two cylinders, for easier starting and smoother running. The first locomotive was given its first public trial on 24 June 1812, when it successfully hauled eight wagons of coal, on to which fifty spectators climbed. Locomotives of this type entered regular service later in the summer and proved able to haul loads of 110 tons; Trevithick's locomotive of 1804 had managed 25 tons.
Blenkinsop-type locomotives were introduced elsewhere in Britain and in Europe, and those upon the Kenton \& Coxlodge Wagonway, near Newcastle upon Tyne, were observed by George Stephenson. The Middleton locomotives remained at work until 1835.
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Bibliography
10 April, 1811, "Certain Mechanical Means by which the Conveyance of Coals, Minerals and Other Articles is Facilitated….", British patent no. 3,431.
Further Reading
J.Bushell, 1975, The World's Oldest Railway, Sheffield: Turntable (describes Blenkinsop's work).
E.K.Scott (ed.), 1928, Matthew Murray, Pioneer Engineer, Leeds.
C.von Oeynhausen and H.von Dechen, 1971, Railways in England 1826 and 1827, Cambridge: W.Heffer \& Sons.
PJGR

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

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