John Farquharson McIntosh

Marshall does not quote McIntosh's place of birth, but this was given on a website relating to the Caledonian Railway, as the Haugh of Kinnaird on 28 February 1846 (his father was employed as a farm worker for Lord Southesk), but in 1851 the family moved to Cotton House of Tayock in the Parish of Dunn where his father worked as a labourer on the railway. In 1860 McIntosh became an apprentice at the Arbroath workshops of the Scottish North Eastern Railway. The website refers to McIntosh being a driver by 1867. He lost his right hand in 1876 or 1877, then became a Locomotive Inspector at about this time, and subsequently became Locomotive Foreman at several CR depots, latterly at Polmadie. He was Chief Inspector under Drummond, and became Locomotive Running Superintendent and depute to John Lambie. The website makes it clear that the CR Board appointed McIntosh as Locomotive Superintendent with some reluctance on 1 February 1895, and at a salary of only £700 per annum. This reluctance was not justified because there is ample evidence that McIntosh rapidly increased in stature and was capable of mixing as an equal with the greatest locomotive engineers of the late Victorian/Edwardian period, such as Webb and Drummond.

Rosling Bennett in a commentary on the Stockton & Darlington Centenary (J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1925, 15, 501) noted hearing "Mackintosh" of the Caledonian Railway taking some credit in about 1903 for having nearly obliterated the outside cylinder on his railway 

According to Jim MacIntosh in a caption to an illus. in Rly Arch., 2009 (24) 36 upper McIntosh had a holiday house at Skelmorlie from which he used to walk to Wemyss Bay station to talk with the locomotive crews.


Contribution to others' Papers

McIntosh addendum to Marshall, W.P. Evolution of the locomotive engine. Min Proc. Instn civ. Engrs., 1897/98, 133, 306
Described recent locomotive development on the CR. Webb & Dugald Drummond were also present.

Following Churchward's presentation to the Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1904 McIntosh contributed the following: "We have no fixed locomotive testing plant, properly so called, unless a 10-mile gradient of 1 in 75 may be classed as such. Tabor indicator was used. Noted that working conditions could not be replicated on a test plant (945-6).

Association of Railway Locomotive Engineers (via Hughes)
Meeting November 1910: McIntosh raised the topic of superheating, saying that the Caledonian had tried a foreign superheater company, and let them do what they wanted, on an ordinary engine, at a cost of £416, including making patterns. This included £50 royalty, and he thought that this would allow him to make his own parts. A saving of 23% on water and 25% on coal was made on a journey from Perth to Carlisle.

McIntosh was President for 1911, hence the summer meeting was held in Glasgow, at the Central Hotel. In an interesting point of detail, members 'decided to dispense with dinner after the winter meeting, and have lunch instead, after which members could have an hour or two together.' (Possibly this was when the real business was done.) The one formal item of interest minuted was a technical discussion on methods of pressing wheels on axles.

According to Atkins (The Scottish 4-6-0 classes) McIntosh contributed an article to Cassier's Magazine on British express locomotives in March 1910. Peter Livingstone Dunn contributed a paper (2696) to the Institution of Civil Engineers on St Rollox Works in 1896/7.

According to a website there were further publications, including a presentation in Chicago, and patents. The minutes of the ARLE (compiled by Geoffrey Hughes) note that in 1898 McIntosh made a "long contribution" on locomotive firebox stays, and in 1905 he contributed on the topic of spark arrestors (and had found that they obstructed the draught). N. Groves (Great Northern locomotive history. V. 2 notes the ineffectual nature of the spark arrestors. In 1910 he noted that "Scotch firms went to Belgium or Germany, where steel is very much cheaper". He also reported on his initial experience with a "foreign" superheater with a saving of about 25% on coal. In 1911 he was President of ARLE and made a number of suggestions concerning topics which should be considered by the Association, such as brick arches and lubrication. Ingenuously, Williams Stars of steam states that "There were no learned papers; no mass applications for patents"!. Williams' observations should be treated with extreme caution (note the four patents).

Perhaps Williams misinterpreted Nock's brief summary of his abilities in his book on the Caledonian Dunalastairs: which includes this statement: "McIntosh was already a great railwayman [but] he was no theorist, no engine-designer, but instead a very practical running man, and a strong administrator. His position was similar to that of George Whale on the London & North Western Railway. McIntosh had a clear conception of the kind of engine needed to work the traffic, and he gave the drawing office no more than a broad outline of his wishes". Presumably, the Chief Locomotive Draughtsman, Tom Weir, must have been responsible for most of the actual design work.

McIntosh was  awarded the MVO (Member of the Victorian Order) by King George V on 11 October 1911 in the Royal Saloon at Perth. He met the King again in the autumn of 1913 when on the return trip from Balmoral, McIntosh attended the Royal Saloon at Carlisle, where His Majesty wished him goodbye, as he was to retire before the King’s next trip to Scotland. (information from Jim Macintosh of the Caledonian Railway Association)..

Marshall records that McIntosh died in Glasgow on 6 February 1918. John McIntosh's reputation rests largely on his 'Dunalastair' 4-4-0 series, in which he set the fashion for larger boilers. He was well-qualified to design locomotives that would please both men and management, for he had been fireman, driver, locomotive inspector, and locomotive depot foreman, losing his right hand during the course of his ascent. He also designed 4-6-0 locomotives, including the famous Cardean, and the only eight-coupled locomotive to be built for Scottish railways, an 0-8-0. Following the display of one of his locomotives at the Brussels Exhibition, the Belgian State Railway ordered many 4-4-0 and 0-6-0 locomotives of the Mclntosh type; these outnumbered his machines built for the Caledonian. Nock described him as being breezy, jovial with a sense of bonhomie. Ellis (Some classic locomotives p.104) noted that McIntosh was "gifted with the power of pungent and often broad repartie." Surprisingly, McIntosh is not in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. There is no substance for linking Harold McIntosh, who was responsible for late locomotive development on GNR(I) and probably for the azure blue livery applied on that railway with the more famous John McIntosh.

Patents & inventions

On page 180 of John Thomas's Springburn story there is mention of a gauge glass protector being invented by McIntosh and on the same page there is a mention of an invention with Grafton of a self-adjusting sandpipe nozzle which was very useful on the Oban line. Highet confirms the former (tested to 3000 psi and made of toughened glass).

23849: Applied 12 November 1898, accepted 31 May 1899: Improvements in or relating to railway wagon brakes with Archibald St Clair Ruthven
4019: Applied 2 March 1900, accepted 16 February 1902: Improvements in or relating to railway wagon brakes with Archibald St Clair Ruthven
7009: Applied  22 March 1902, accepted 22 April 1903: Improvements in and connected with engine valve gear with John Riekie
22998: Applied 29 October 1908, accepted 28 October 1909: Improvements in or relating to the smoke boxes of locomotive boilers with Reuben Walter Preston of J. Stone & Co.

Spark arrester: incorporated 9994 applied for 27 April 1909

Grace's Guide notes Patented the gauge glass protector, Spark arrester, self-adjusting sand-pipe nozzle


The bibiography on his locomotive output is extensive and is outlined elsewhere: Atkins gives a critical appraisal of his 4-6-0 classes, none of which came anywhere near to what Churchward had achieved at Swindon in terms of performance, but which were better than most non-Swindon products at that time. Middlemass is far more appreciative of his 4-4-0 dersigns, most of which were at least comparable with the best of Drummond practice on the LSWR, the Claud Hamiltons on the Great Eastern, etc. Nock included drawings of a Pacific and a de Glehn compound in his Caledonian Railway.

Atkins noted that "To summarise, the work of the Caledonian 4-6-0s was rarely exceptional, sometimes good and frequently indifferent. For engines of their size and theoretical power, loadings were not unduly high nor schedules particularly demanding in relation to what was expected of the CR 4-4-0s. Indeed, the very fact that after nearly 20 years of development of the 4-6-0 type a moderately proportioned 4-4-0 could deputise and be preferred, was an indictment of the big six-coupled engines' shortcomings. To the casual observer, however, the latter were not immediately apparent concealed within an outer fabric of ethereal blue magnificence".

Atkins, C.P.: The Scottish 4-6-0 classes
H. Cornwell, Forty Years of Caledonian Locomotives 1882-1922 (1974)
Middlemass, T.: The Scottish 4-4-0
Nock, O.S. The Caledonian Railway (1963): see page 138
Nock, O.S. Railway enthusuast's encyclopedia
Retirement at end of 1913: Loco. Mag., 1913, 19, 274. (includes concise biography)

Updated: 2014-12-26