Kirtley, Matthew

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b. 6 February 1813 Tanfield, Co. Durham, England
d. 24 May 1873 Derby, England
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English locomotive engineer, responsible for the introduction of the brick arch in fireboxes.
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At the age of 13, Kirtley was a pupil of George Stephenson on the Stockton \& Darlington Railway. He subsequently became a fireman and then a driver of locomotives: he drove the first locomotive to enter London on the London \& Birmingham Railway. When the Midland Railway was formed in 1844 he was appointed Locomotive Superintendent. Ever since the Act of Parliament for the Liverpool \& Manchester Railway had required that its locomotives consume their own smoke (probably as a reaction to the clouds of black smoke emitted by steamboats at Liverpool), the usual fuel for locomotives had been coke. Early multi-tubular boilers, with their small fireboxes and short tubes, were in any case unsuitable for coal because they did not allow the burning gases sufficient time to combust properly. Many engineers attempted to solve the problem with weird and complex boiler designs. Kirtley and Charles Markham, who was working under him, succeeded by inserting a deflector plate above the firedoor and an arch of firebricks in the front of the firebox: this helped to maintain the high temperatures needed and lengthened the route by which the gases travelled. The brick arch and deflector plate became the usual components of locomotive fireboxes, and expensive coke was replaced as fuel by coal.
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Further Reading
J.Marshall, 1978, A Biographical Dictionary of Railway Engineers, Newton Abbot: David \& Charles.
E.L.Ahrons, 1927, The British Steam Railway Locomotive 1825–1925, London: The Locomotive Publishing Co. (describes the brick arch and Kirtley's locomotives).
PJGR

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

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