Churchward, George Jackson

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b. 31 January 1857 Stoke Gabriel, Devon, England
d. 19 December 1933 Swindon, Wiltshire, England
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English mechanical engineer who developed for the Great Western Railway a range of steam locomotives of the most advanced design of its time.
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Churchward was articled to the Locomotive Superintendent of the South Devon Railway in 1873, and when the South Devon was absorbed by the Great Western Railway in 1876 he moved to the latter's Swindon works. There he rose by successive promotions to become Works Manager in 1896, and in 1897 Chief Assistant to William Dean, who was Locomotive Carriage and Wagon Superintendent, in which capacity Churchward was allowed extensive freedom of action. Churchward eventually succeeded Dean in 1902: his title changed to Chief Mechanical Engineer in 1916.
In locomotive design, Churchward adopted the flat-topped firebox invented by A.J.Belpaire of the Belgian State Railways and added a tapered barrel to improve circulation of water between the barrel and the firebox legs. He designed valves with a longer stroke and a greater lap than usual, to achieve full opening to exhaust. Passenger-train weights had been increasing rapidly, and Churchward produced his first 4–6– 0 express locomotive in 1902. However, he was still developing the details—he had a flair for selecting good engineering practices—and to aid his development work Churchward installed at Swindon in 1904 a stationary testing plant for locomotives. This was the first of its kind in Britain and was based on the work of Professor W.F.M.Goss, who had installed the first such plant at Purdue University, USA, in 1891. For comparison with his own locomotives Churchward obtained from France three 4–4–2 compound locomotives of the type developed by A. de Glehn and G. du Bousquet. He decided against compounding, but he did perpetuate many of the details of the French locomotives, notably the divided drive between the first and second pairs of driving wheels, when he introduced his four-cylinder 4–6–0 (the Star class) in 1907. He built a lone 4–6–2, the Great Bear, in 1908: the wheel arrangement enabled it to have a wide firebox, but the type was not perpetuated because Welsh coal suited narrow grates and 4–6–0 locomotives were adequate for the traffic. After Churchward retired in 1921 his successor, C.B.Collett, was to enlarge the Star class into the Castle class and then the King class, both 4–6–0s, which lasted almost as long as steam locomotives survived in service. In Church ward's time, however, the Great Western Railway was the first in Britain to adopt six-coupled locomotives on a large scale for passenger trains in place of four-coupled locomotives. The 4–6–0 classes, however, were but the most celebrated of a whole range of standard locomotives of advanced design for all types of traffic and shared between them many standardized components, particularly boilers, cylinders and valve gear.
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Further Reading
H.C.B.Rogers, 1975, G.J.Churchward. A Locomotive Biography, London: George Allen \& Unwin (a full-length account of Churchward and his locomotives, and their influence on subsequent locomotive development).
C.Hamilton Ellis, 1958, Twenty Locomotive Men, Shepperton: Ian Allan, Ch. 20 (a good brief account).
Sir William Stanier, 1955, "George Jackson Churchward", Transactions of the Newcomen
Society 30 (a unique insight into Churchward and his work, from the informed viewpoint of his former subordinate who had risen to become Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London, Midland \& Scottish Railway).
PJGR

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

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