Braithwaite & Ericsson inventors of the Novelty

John Braithwaite
Marshall states that John Braithwaite was born (19 March 1797) and died in London (25 September 1870). Trained by his father, John, baptised in 1760 and died in 1818) Mainly famous for collaborating with John Ericsson on locomotive Novelty which entered Rainhill Trials. After 1834 John Braithwaite became involved with the Eastern Counties Railway and was responsible for its 5ft gauge. He is the subject of an excellent ODNB biography by G.C. Boase, revised by Christopher F. Lindsey. In 1817 he reported before the House of Commons on the Norwich steamboat explosion, and in 1820 he ventilated the House of Lords using air-pumps. In 1822 he constructed a donkey engine, and in 1823 cast the statue of the Duke of Kent by Sebastian Gahagan.

Braithwaite was introduced to George and Robert Stephenson in 1827, and about the same time became acquainted with Captain John Ericsson, who then had many new ideas. In 1829 Braithwaite and Ericsson constructed the locomotive The Novelty for the Rainhill trials. This engine was the first to run a mile within a minute (56 seconds); but the trials were entered late, and Novelty, probably constructed hastily, failed to complete the course. Nevertheless, some contemporary accounts of the event were enthusiastic about the engine, and although Braithwaite did not win the contest with his machine, he still received orders for two locomotives—though of a different design—for the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Braithwaite with Ericsson manufactured the first practical steam fire-engine, which was ultimately destroyed by a London mob. It had, however, previously been effective at the fires at the English Opera House and the Argyle Rooms in 1830, and at the conflagration of the Houses of Parliament in 1834.

In 1830 fought and lost a lawsuit brought by Lord Cochrane and Alexander Galloway, who claimed that one of their patents had been infringed by Braithwaite and Ericsson's patent on Furnaces of steam boilers and pneumatic apparatus for creating atmospheric draught therein (5763/1829). In 1833 Braithwaite built a caloric engine in conjunction with Ericsson. The following year he ceased to take an active part in the management of the works in the New Road, but instead began to practise as a civil engineer for public works, and was largely consulted at home and abroad, particularly on the capabilities and improvement of locomotives.

In 1834 the Eastern Counties Railway was projected and laid out by Braithwaite in conjunction with Charles Blacker Vignoles. The act of incorporation was passed in 1836, and Braithwaite was soon after appointed engineer-in-chief for its construction. He adopted a 5 foot gauge, and upon that gauge the line was constructed as far as Colchester, the works, however, being made wide enough for a 7 foot gauge. On the recommendation of Robert Stephenson it was subsequently altered to the national gauge of 4 ft 8½ in. He ceased to be officially connected with the Eastern Counties Railway on 28 May 1843, but while engineer of the company he brought in American excavating and pile-driving machinery for the construction work.

In 1835 Braithwaite published a Supplement to Captain Sir John Ross's narrative of a second voyage in search of a north-west passage, containing the suppressed facts necessary to an understanding of the cause of the failure of the steam machinery of the Victory, in an effort to explain the breakdown of a steam boiler which he and Ericsson had installed, in the belief that the ship was being equipped for experimental purposes and not for a challenging sea voyage. Sir John Ross published a reply in the same year.

Braithwaite was joint founder of the Railway Times, which he started in conjunction with J.C. Robertson as editor in 1837, and he continued as sole proprietor until 1845. He undertook the preparation of plans for the Direct London and Exeter Railway, but the panic of the period, and his connection with some speculative ventures, necessitated the winding up of his affairs in 1845. Braithwaite had, in 1844, a share in a patent for extracting oil from bituminous shale, and works were erected near Weymouth, which, but for his financial difficulties, might have been successful.

In 1836–8, Ericsson and Braithwaite had fitted a screw propeller to an ordinary canal boat, which started from London along the canals to Manchester on 28 June 1838, returning by way of Oxford and the Thames to London. Although the operation of the boat was successful, the experiment was abandoned because of the restricted draught of the canals and the competition of the railways, which took away the traffic.

In 1844, and again in 1846, Braithwaite was often on the continent surveying railway lines in France, and on his return he was employed to survey Langstone harbour in 1850, and to build the Brentford brewery in 1851.
Portrait: Dendy-Marshall, C.F.  The Rainhill Locomotive Trials of 1829. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1930, 20, 1076 (Fig. 8) (Paper No. 269)

Ericsson, John

Collaborated with John Braithwaite to build Novelty for Rainhill Trials. According to Marshall born in Filipstad, Vermland in Sweden on 31 July 1803 and died in New York on 8 March 1889. He emigrated to the USA in 1839 where he promoted screw propulsion for ships. Prior to the Novely he had been involved with steam fire engines. (Lowe). Period in England, 1826-39: see P.W. Bishop: John Ericcson. Trans. Newcomen Soc., 1976, 48, 41. Portrait: Dendy-Marshall, C.F.  The Rainhill Locomotive Trials of 1829. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1930, 20, 1077 (Fig. 9) (Paper No. 269). In memory of John Ericsson. Locomotive Mag., 1926, 32, 275 noted that theUnited States had issued a postage stazmp to commemorate him.