Outram, Benjamin

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b. 1 April 1764 Alfreton, England
d. 22 May 1805 London, England
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English ironmaster and engineer of canals and tramroads, protagonist of angled plate rails in place of edge rails.
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Outram's father was one of the principal promoters of the Cromford Canal, Derbyshire, and Benjamin Outram became Assistant to the canal's Engineer, William Jessop. In 1789 Outram was appointed Superintendent in charge of construction, and his responsibilities included the 2,978 yd (2,723 m) Butterley Tunnel; while the tunnel was being driven, coal and iron ore were encountered. Outram and a partner purchased the Butterley Hall estate above the tunnel and formed Outram \& Co. to exploit the coal and iron: a wide length of the tunnel beneath the company's furnace was linked to the surface by shafts to become in effect an underground wharf. Jessop soon joined the company, which grew and prospered to eventually become the long-lived Butterley Company.
As a canal engineer, Outram's subsequent projects included the Derby, Huddersfield Narrow and Peak Forest Canals. On the Derby Canal he built a small iron aqueduct, which though designed later than the Longdon Aqueduct of Thomas Telford was opened earlier, in 1796, to become the first iron aqueduct.
It is as a tramroad engineer that Outram is best known. In 1793 he completed a mile-long (1.6 km) tramroad from Outram \& Co.'s limestone quarry at Crich to the Cromford Canal, for which he used plate rails of the type recently developed by John Curr. He was, however, able to use a wider gauge—3 ft 6 in. (1.07 m) between the flanges—and larger wagons than Curr had been able to use underground in mines. It appears to have been Outram's idea to mount the rails on stone blocks, rather than wooden sleepers.
Outram then engineered tramroads to extend the lines of the Derby and Peak Forest Canals. He encouraged construction of such tramroads in many parts of Britain, often as feeders of traffic to canals. He acted as Engineer, and his company often provided the rails and sometimes undertook the entire construction of a line. Foreseeing that lines would be linked together, he recommended a gauge of 4 ft 2 in. (1.27 m) between the flanges as standard, and for twenty years or so Outram's plateways, with horses or gravity as motive power, became the usual form of construction for new railways. However, experience then showed that edge rails, weight for weight, could carry greater load, and were indeed almost essential for the introduction of steam locomotives.
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Further Reading
R.B.Schofield, 1986, "The design and construction of the Cromford Canal, 1788–1794", Transactions of the Newcomen Society 57 (provides good coverage of Outram's early career).
P.J.Riden, 1973, The Butterley Company and railway construction, 1790–1830', Transport History 6(1) (covers Outram's development of tramroads).
R.A.Mott, 1969, Tramroads of the eighteenth century and their originator: John Curr', Transactions of the Newcomen Society 42.
"Dowie" (A.R.Cowlishaw, J.H.Price and R.G.P. Tebb), 1971, The Crich Mineral Railways, Crich: Tramway Publications.
PJGR

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

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