William Adams: His Life and Locomotives

Pen & Sword Books Ltd

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William Adams (1823 – 1904) is probably best known from his locomotive designs for the London & South Western Railway. The years at Nine Elms were the culmination of career which began formally in marine engineering, including a period at sea with the Royal Sardinian Navy, encompassed civil engineering and surveying before joining the North London Railway as locomotive, carriage and wagon superintendent.

He has been described as the father of the suburban train, an inventive engineer, who pioneered the use of continuous train brakes, developed well designed, free-steaming locomotive boilers for services requiring rapid acceleration and frequent stops, and his invention of a bogie with controlled side-play revolutionised future locomotive design. His next move was to the Great Eastern Railway where his designs met with mixed success, before moving south of the Thames to Nine Elms. Here, over five hundred locomotives were built to his designs, with his later express classes regarded by many as his greatest achievement.

Adams also proved himself a very capable designer in developing locomotive and carriage works at all three railways, improving efficiency and reducing costs.

This book tells the story of a genial man with a love of music, who was undoubtedly one of the finest late Victorian locomotive engineers.