John Speller's Web Pages Archibald Sturrock

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Archibald Sturrock was born on 30 September 1816 at Petruchie, Scotland, the son of a wealthy Scottish banker who was shocked on hearing that his son wished to become a locomotive engineer, which he considered to be the equivalent of becoming a blacksmith. There were nonetheless other locomotive engineers in his family, since his uncle was the Rev. Robert Stirling, the inventor of the Stirling Engine, and his cousins were James and Patrick Stirling. Sturrock apprenticed at the Dundee Locomotive Works, where he was a fellow apprentice of James Ramsbottom and where he attracted the favorable notice of Daniel Gooch. Gooch recruited him to the Great Western Railway in 1841 and in 1846 he became the first Works Manager at Swindon. In 1850 he became Locomotive Superintendent of the Great Northern Railway, where he was responsible for building a number of outstanding locomotives. Like Gooch, Sturrock favored boiler pressures that were higher than those common in his day and is said to have successfully used pressures up to 150 psi. His famous dictum was that the power of a locomotive was "its capacity to boil water." Perhaps his greatest achievement was the design of 4-2-2 locomotive No. 215, which he built to demonstrate to the Directors that it would be possible to run trains between Kings Cross and Edinburgh in 8 hours. Unfortunately nobody was interested at the time and it was 1885 before such a schedule was introduced. In 1863 Sturrock designed a steam tender to boost the power of freight locomotives by as much as 30 percent when starting or on heavy grades. This was patented in Britain on 6 May 1853 and in the USA on 24 November 1863. Since it made the work of the enginemen harder both by making the tender hotter and by increasing the amount of work the fireman had to do, the invention was not popular and was not pursued at the time, particularly as his cousin and successor Patrick Stirling was a champion of simplicity in engine design. Sturrock was, like Gooch, an entrepreneurial spirit, and amassed a considerable fortune. He was a Director of numerous companies including the Empire Assurance Company. He was a founding Director of the Yorkshire Engine Company in Sheffield in 1865, and was later its Chairman. Consequently in 1866 he bought an estate called "Elmfield" on the outskirts of Doncaster and retired from the GNR to the life of a country gentleman. He was a Justice of the Peace and was active in various educational and charitable works in Doncaster. In 1889 Sturrock decided that he was too old for country pursuits such as foxhunting and moved to a house in Cadogan Place in London, where he lived out his days, hanging out at the prestigious Reform Club, and dying at the ripe old age of 92 on 1 January 1909.
Sturrock's masterpiece 4-2-2 No. 215 built to demonstrate to the Directors of the Great Northern Railway that a journey time from London to Edinburgh of 8 hours was not beyond the bounds of possibility in 1853
0-6-0 locomotive fitted with Sturrock's Patent Steam Tender
Sturrock's 0-8-0 Condensing Tank for the Metropolitan line, one of his last designs for the Great Northern Railway, was based on an Avonside Engine Co. design that had recently proved successful on the Vale of Neath Railway
The next class of 8-coupled locomotives to be built for the Great Northern Railway was Ivatt's "Long Tom" of 1903. Henry Alfred Ivatt (left) and Archibald Sturrock (right)are here shown standing in front of the locomotive
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