Marshall notes that he was born in London on 11 November 1823 and died there on 22 April 1894. He trained at Shildon Works (under Timothy Hackworth: Tomlinson's father was Passenger Superintendent of the SDR) between 1837 and 1839 and at Miles Platting between 1839 and 1842. He then returned to the Stockton & Darlington Railway until July 1846 when he became outdoor foreman at Nine Elms under J.V. Gooch until 30 June 1852. He then spent a relatively brief spell at Crewe as a draughtsman under F. Trevithick and Alexander Allan. In 1853 he became Outdoor Superintendent to Matthew Kirtley on the Midland Railway. From January 1858 he became Locomotive Superintendent of the Taff Vale Railway until July 1869 (RCTS Locomotives of the Great Western Railway. Part 10). Between 1869 and 1872 he acted as a consulting engineer. From 30 November 1872 (at a salary of "rising to £800 within two years" Jackson) until 8 April 1885 he was Resident Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent of the Metropolitan Railway, after which he became a Director of the TVR and acted as a consulting engineer. Tomlinson was followed by Hanbury on the Metropolitan Railway. He was President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1890 when his Presidential Address gave some of his recollections of early locomotives. But it did more than that acting as a locomotive history. Tomlinson acknowledged its debt to D.K. Clark and to Z. Colburn. Some of the other later key figures are listed in his Presidential Address are reproduced below..
One of the greatest moves in a progressive direction was made about the year 1845, when the battle of the gauges was fought and when gigantic efforts were made by all to outvie one another Stephenson, Hawthorns, Bury Curtis and Kennedy, Sharp Roberts & Co., Fairbairn, Fenton Murray and Jackson, E.B. Wilson, and others. Of those in charge of locomotive departments, like James Edward McConnell, Daniel Gooch, James Cudworth, John Viret Gooch, Alexander Allan, Francis Trevithick, Matthew Kirtley, Thomas Russell Crampton, and many more, most had now [died:. notable exceptions alive at that time were Edward Woods and Alexander Allan].
The revolution in size of engine was then begun, with great diversity of design. and against all sorts of difficulties, chiefly those arising from want of endurance of material in rails and tires; and was carried on at all costs till the age of Sir Henry Bessemer, followed by Sir William Siemens, who [invented methods to produce steel on a large scale cheaply]... The creations of today [i.e 1890] are the work of many engineers, including Matthew Kirtley, Daniel Gooch, Alexander Allan, Francis Trevithick, James Edward McConnell, John Viret Gooch, Edward Fletcher, John Ramsbottom, Joseph Armstrong, Charles F. Beyer, Henry Dubs. Walter Neilson, Samuel W. Johnson, Patrick Stirling, Charles Sacré, William Adams, Francis W. Webb, William Kirtley. William Stroudley, Dugald Drummond, and many others who are well known. ...