Locke, Joseph

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b. 9 August 1805 Attercliffe, Yorkshire, England
d. 18 September 1860 Moffat, Scotland
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English civil engineer who built many important early main-line railways.
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Joseph Locke was the son of a colliery viewer who had known George Stephenson in Northumberland before moving to Yorkshire: Locke himself became a pupil of Stephenson in 1823. He worked with Robert Stephenson at Robert Stephenson \& Co.'s locomotive works and surveyed railways, including the Leeds \& Selby and the Canterbury \& Whitstable, for George Stephenson.
When George Stephenson was appointed Chief Engineer for construction of the Liverpool \& Manchester Railway in 1826, the first resident engineer whom he appointed to work under him was Locke, who took a prominent part in promoting traction by locomotives rather than by fixed engines with cable haulage. The pupil eventually excelled the master and in 1835 Locke was appointed in place of Stephenson as Chief Engineer for construction of the Grand Junction Railway. He introduced double-headed rails carried in chairs on wooden sleepers, the prototype of the bullhead track that became standard on British railways for more than a century. By preparing the most detailed specifications, Locke was able to estimate the cost of the railway much more accurately than was usual at that time, and it was built at a cost close to the estimate; this made his name. He became Engineer to the London \& Southampton Railway and completed the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyme \& Manchester Railway, including the 3-mile (3.8 km) Woodhead Tunnel, which had been started by Charles Vignoles. He was subsequently responsible for many British main lines, including those of the companies that extended the West Coast Route northwards from Preston to Scotland. He was also Engineer to important early main lines in France, notably that from Paris to Rouen and its extension to Le Havre, and in Spain and Holland. In 1847 Locke was elected MP for Honiton.
Locke appreciated early in his career that steam locomotives able to operate over gradients steeper than at first thought practicable would be developed. Overall his monument is not great individual works of engineering, such as the famous bridges of his close contemporaries Robert Stephenson and I.K. Brunel, but a series of lines built economically but soundly through rugged country without such works; for example, the line over Shap, Cumbria.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Officier de la Légion d'honneur, France. FRS. President, Institution of Civil Engineers 1858–9.
Further Reading
Obituary, 1861, Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers 20. L.T.C.Rolt, 1962, Great Engineers, London: G. Bell \& Sons, ch. 6.
Industrial Heritage, 1991, Vol. 9(2):9.
See also: Brassey, Thomas
PJGR

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

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