John Speller's Web Pages John Auld

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John Auld
One of the unsung heroes of twentieth-century locomotive design is John Auld (1871-1949), who was the last Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Barry Railway from 1909 until it was taken over by the GWR in 1922. His major contribution on the Barry Railway was to design the "L" Class 0-6-4 tanks, of which ten were built in 1914, Barry Railway Nos. 139 to 148 (GWR Nos. 1347 to 1355 and 1357). These ten engines, constructed by Hawthorn, Leslie & Co., were the last engines built for the Barry Railway. They must have looked very fine in the smart deep crimson livery of the Barry Railway.

But it was on the Great Western Railway that Auld made his greatest impact. Shortly after Charles B. Collett took over from Churchward as Chief Mechanical Engineer he suffered an enormous shock in the death of his wife. For the rest of his life he spent much of his time dabbling in spiritualism, trying to communicate with the spirit of his dead wife, and suffered almost constantly from acute depression. His performance was thus not what it might have been and for most of his reign as CME he had to rely to a large degree on his assistants. Until 1932 this mostly meant W. A. Stanier, but with Stanier's departure to the LMS the mantle descended on John Auld. Kenneth J. Cook (who succeeded Hawksworth as CME at Swindon in 1949) notes that Auld was a "very charming man, respected by all." In the last five years before Collett's retirement in 1941 Collett, who was approaching seventy years of age, was also becoming less physically capable of carrying on. In July 1941 John Auld's retirement left Collett without anyone to cover for him and the true state of things became apparent. Furthermore Collett's 70th. birthday coincided with his refusal of a request to hand Swindon Works over to the War Effort on the grounds that he would wouldn't mind if Hitler won. At this point the Directors forcibly retired Collett and Hawksworth took over.

What all this means is that the designs produced at Swindon in the years 1936 to 1941 were in large part the responsibility of Auld rather than Collett. These include the "Grange" and "Manor" Classes. Both of these, derived from 43XX Class Moguls, were very useful engines. The "Grange" with slightly smaller driving wheels was more powerful than the standard "Hall" Class, while the "Manor" was a light-weight alternative for lines that could could not take the weight of a "Hall." Of the 30 "Manor" Class locomotives that were built, no fewer than 9 have been preserved. Another locomotive introduced in 1939 was the 81XX Class of 2-6-2 tanks. They had a boiler pressure of 225 psi rather than the usual 200 psi, and a driving wheel diameter of 5' 6" instead of the usual 5' 8", making them the most powerful "Prairie" tank locomotives ever built in Britain.
Former Barry Railway Auld "L" Class 0-6-4T No. 1349, as rebuilt with Swindon taper boiler
Preserved GWR 78XX "Manor" Class 4-6-0 No. 7822 "Foxcote Manor" newly outshopped from Crewe Works. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. A video of No. 7812 Erlestoke Manor" on the Severn Valley Railway may be seen here
No. 8109 of the GWR's 81XX Class -- the most powerful Prairie tank class in Britain, of which only 10 were built before the outbreak of World War II
GWR 68XX "Grange" Class 4-6-0 No. 6876 "Kingsland Grange"
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