According to Steel and Steel The miniature world of Henry Greenly this Wilson when a boy, was present at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829. He was apprenticed to Mather and Dixon for seven years and thereafter remained with the firm until 1842. The next year he went to the LNWR works at Crewe. During his railway career he served at Edgehill and at Nine Elms (LSWR) London.
Participant in correspondence in The Engineer in 1895/6 concerning ten-foot driving wheels on broad gauge locomotives. In a letter published 3 January 1896 he noted that Mather & Dixon were marine engineers which accounted for the nautical flavour of the 10ft single built for the GWR broad gauge. This was designed by John Grantham (who became a partner in Mather & Dixon); Robert Hughes, manager of the marine department, afterwards of the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich and Inspector of steamships; Banks, locomotive foreman "well known at Derby", Buddicom first locomotive superintendent of the Grand Junction Railway, and of the locomotive works at Rouen, Josiah Kearsley, first locomotive superintendent of the Midland Counties, George Harrison first locomotive superintendent of the Scottish Central and manager at Brassey's Birkenhead; Mr Potts, afterwards of the firm Jones and Potts; Newton-in-the-Willows, locomotive builders where the first solid locomotive wheel was made by the wheelsmith Frost..All of the preceding were apprentices or journeymen during Wilson's time, William Tait, of the firm Tait and Mirrlees, Scotland Street, Glasgow was the erector of the 10ft wheel locomotive.Wilson worked mate with him on the same locomotive. Tait was the manager of Neilson's Hyde Park Locomotive Works in Glasgow.in 1845 and his mate - John Wilson - was manager from 1864 to 1884 under James Reid, sole owner of Neilson's works. James Smith scarf welded the 10ft tires. The crank axles were forged at Mersey Forge when Mr Norris was manager and turned by Charles Ackers. Ned Bursing turned.the rims and tires on a large lathe for which a curved piece had to be cut out of the wall for clearance.
Refers to Trans. Inst. Civil Engrs, 1849, 8 [KPJ presumably to paper by Crampton to which Robert Stephenson and several others contributed to the discussion]. Stephenson did not attach much importance to the size of the wheels. The 10ft wheel had beeen abandoned on account of getting up the speed of trains at starting. Henry Maudslay observed that nothing had been said as to the appropriate length of stroke. He wished to ask whether instead of decreasing the diameter of the wheels, a proportionate length of stroke had been given, a great advantage of starting would have been obtained. R. Stephenson thought that Maudslay had started an interesting point. The proportionate length of stroke to the capacity of cylinders had not, he believed, been yet correctly obtained.
The following twelve individuals, Wilson found, bear testimony that two more locomotives with 10ft driving wheels were built: Brunel, Stephenson, Snowball, Maudslay, Gooch, Sturrock, Dean, Wood, Sheward, Bucknell, Wyatt, Crampton.
Following is "exact transcription" of what John Wilson published:
If I was tell them that the 100 miles an hour Grasshopper, with sandwich frames, was the last 10ft wheel locomotive, I should be contradicted as Mr Greenly said. The Cornwall beat that speed on her trial trip down Madeley Bank: we got 120 miles the hour out of her with 8ft 6in wheels,.
Book makers are apt to make mistakes like myself. Mr Stretton has much to say on the subject; perhaps he will not thank me for correcting him. In answer to his letter of October 16th about Mather, Dixon and Co. re-lining engines and the actual design of them and about the blue print of the disc wheel, there was no Bath-street Foundry in 1838. John Jones left Bath-street to be manager of the Old Swan Foundry, near Liverpool, in 1835, and never was manager at Mather, Dixon, Grantham, North Foundry, but joined Mr. Potts in partnership at Newton-in-the-Willows about 1839.
I was at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830 as a boy. I was bound apprentice to Mather and Dixon for seven years, James Aspinal, afterwards Mayor of Liverpool, signing my indenture, and I remained with them until 1842, when the works closed, and all the locomotives were build in my time. I put up the first vice in Crewe Works, 1843, built several engines at Crewe, Edge Hill and Nine Elms; was manager of Salford Rolling Mills, 1854, and rolled the first steel tire ever rolled, Krupp men standing by while I worked the mill. For nine years I was foreman erector for Sharp, Stewart and Co., when I put the first injector on an engine on the St. Helens Railway; Mr Robinson was with me, of Sharp, Stewart and Co. I was manager twenty years to Neilson and Co., Hyde Park Locomotive Works; twenty five years member of the Association of Engineers and Shipbuilders, and forty years member of the Manchester Association of Engineers.
165 Onslow Drive, Dennistoun, Glasgow John Wilson December 23rd, 1895.