Thomas [Tom/Tommy]  Francis Coleman

Steamindex home page

This page predates the Tim Hillier-Graves biography which KPJ has not seen, but has been well received in Backtrack.  "Francis" was included by Glancey. Rutherford states that "Of all the 'backroom boys' on the locomotive design side in the CME departments of the Big Four, T. F. Coleman was undoubtedly the most important and most successful. Not only did he sort out the problems with the early Derby designs for Stanier but was directly responsible for all Stanier's greatest: Class 5 4-6-0, 8F 2-8-0, rebuilt three-cylinder 4-6-0s (Scots, Patriots etc) and, greatest of them all, the Princess Coronation Pacifics. Later he became responsible for carriage design, too, and directed design of the later Coronation Scot set (exhibited in America) and the 1941 Royal Train vehicles, as well as the Wirral multiple units. (Rutherford: Backtrack, 2008, 22, 100).
Tommy Coleman was born in Endon, Staffordshire, in 1885 and served an apprenticeship with the Kerr, Stuart & Co. at the California Works, Stoke-on-Trent. He then moved to the Stoke Works of the North Staffordshire Railway on 1st May 1905 and later became works plant draughtsman. At the time of the grouping he was Chief Draughtsman NSR (and H. G. Ivatt was Works Manager). See also A.E. Owens who also originated in Stoke and was moved to Derby, and was probably involved in many unfulfilled draughting-outs: such as Stanier 4-4-0 (Don Rowland, Rly Wld, 1985, 46, 130.,
One of Coleman's early design successes was the 'Endon Tip' — a mechanical chute and hopper arrangement for loading limestone from Caldon Low quarries directly from railway wagons into canal barges) The crushed stone could be loaded quickly without damaging the boats. The equipment was built in Stoke workshops about 1917 and was in use until the depression when Endon Basin was closed around l930. See Railway Archive.
On the retirement of E.M. Gass at Horwich in September 1926, Coleman was transferred there as Chief Draughtsman. The first new design prepared under his supervision was the Fowler 2F 0-6-0 'Dock Tank', of which ten were built at Derby in 1928-9. He seems to have had a sentimental attachment to this design because on a number of occasions in the 1940s when he drew up sheets of the future LMSR standard range of locomotives, the 'Dock Tank' could always be found. He may have  been the "Coleman" who contributed to the discussion which followed Whittle's showing of his film on superheaters
Coleman was given the task of designing a taper-boiler 2-6-0 using the boiler pressings for the 5XP underway at Derby. The design was a stop-gap. The operating people wanted more 2-6-0s and in lieu of the promised two-cylinder 4-6-0, the Stanier 2-6-0 was rushed out. The first example appeared with a Swindon-style safety-valve bonnet which was quickly removed and a dome-shaped cover with a hole in the top substituted. The next job Coleman received was for the Class 5 4-6-0 and before he could get underway in 1933 he was moved to Crewe as Chief Draughtsman with continuing control of Horwich. The Class 5 was designed in association with Vulcan Foundry which prepared some of the first drawings. This was followed by the 8F 2-8-0. It had been hoped to use the same boiler as on the Class 5, but calculations showed that the weight distribution would have been incorrect and the 8F barrel was shortened by one foot.
There were teething troubles with the new Derby designs. This was not very serious with  the two 'Pacifics', which were possibly 'pre-production prototypes' and new drawings were being prepared for future construction, the 5XP 4-6-0s had been delivered in quantity and it was found that their steaming was very poor and they were incapable of keeping time with the Euston-Birmingbam expresses. In contrast, the mixed-traffic Class 5 4-6-0s were a 'hit' from the start and were dealing with very heavy expresses. The very first, Vulcan Foundry-built No.5020, was given some trials and was very satisfactory. The operators couldn't get the Class 5s quickly enough, but the Jubilees were a big problem.
In March 1935 Chambers was transferred to Euston as Locomotive Assistant to the CME and Coleman was transferred to Derby as Technical Assistant and Chief Draughtsman LMSR. The Jubilees were improved and a number of Swindon features on the earlier versions of the new classes was designed out. New boilers were designed with domes, sloping throatplates and larger superheaters. Before leaving Crewe Coleman instigated the rebuilding of the experimental high-pressure 4-6-0 No.6399 Fury as a conventional three-cylinder locomotive. A new taper boiler was schemed out, larger than those used for either 5X, 5 or 8F, and this was classified as a No.2. The resulting locomotive was renumbered 6170 and named British Legion. The new boiler had been drawn up by G. R. Nicholson and the cylinders by Willcox, an ex-Horwich man. The cylinders were far better than the original NBL efforts.
In the early years of WW2 Coalman suggested trying the No.2 boiler on the Jubilee and draughtsmen were given the job to see if it would work. By shortening the barrel and using a modified inside cylinder as per No.6170 a locomotive only 2½ tons heavier than before, but of 6P power was evolved: No.5735 Comet and No.5736 Phoenix were enthusiastically received but no more were authorised. Instead it was decided to begin rebuilding the parallel boiler Patriots as as their boilers were condemned and also to rebuild all the Royal Scots with the modified No.2 boiler (ie 2A).

It was decided to streamline the next batch of Pacifics. Coleman wanted to redesign them for more power, simplicity in valve layout and ease of maintenance and prepared several diagrams showing increased developments from the standard Princess Royal Pacific. The final diagram had a much larger boiler and grate and the Horwich cylinder layout and a derived valve-gear arrangement. This was the only one shown with a streamlined casing! Stanier had authorised the diagrams before leaving for India on a Committee of Enquiry and Coleman got through a completely new design hidden underneath the streamlining. Had it been realised that he was starting from scratch and not just streamlining a modified Princess, he might not have got away with it. According to Rutherford the credit for their conception and form should go to Coleman, although Riddles obviously had a managerial role in their inception.
Following the sudden death of Fairburn in October 1945, H.G. Ivatt took over and officially became CME in February 1946. lvatt was an old colleague of Coleman's from North Staffordshire days and new schemes were worked out to improve manufacture. Notable at this time were the many experimental variants on the Class 5s, the Class 2 2-6-0 and 2-6-2T, the Class 4 2-6-0, the last two 'Pacifics' with roller bearings and, of course, the LMS main line diesels. Ivatt was against nationalisation and also against the whole concept of the BR Standards which he saw as a waste of time, money and effort, all of which could have been spent developing (his own?) regional designs. He indicated that he would retire and Coleman, who also didn't fancy the new set-up, promised to stay on until Ivatt left. The latter, however, lingered on until June 1951. Coleman lasted until the end of July 1949 when he retired, but not before he had modified the Britannia class boiler (Cox). Chacksfield's excellent biography of Ron Jarvis (page 77) mentions his subject's contact with Coleman in the immediate postwar period and considered Coleman to be "somewhat a rough diamond", albeit an excellent locomotive designer.
To the historian or the engineering biographer he is a shadowy character. He wrote no articles, read no learned papers and involved himself not one jot in the affairs of engineering institutions and societies. He devoted all his energies at work to his work and once Stanier realised that he could safely delegate locomotive design to Coleman, then he (Stanier) could get on and sort out the mechanical engineering department as a whole. The very success of Stanier in what was a very difficult and complex undertaking must make him the best of the Big Four CMEs, but Coleman should go down as one of the best railway company locomotive designers of the century. In fact, only the work of Churchward and his leading draughtsman O.E.F. Deverell can compare. In his youth Tommy Coleman had played soccer for Port Vale. Coz calls him a huge man with gargoyle like features
Cox Locomotive panorama page 120 notes that Coleman was a huge man of gargoyle-like features, [whose] blunt and craggy manner made short work of the remaining ndependence of Derby, Crewe and Horwich, and thenceforth design knew its master, who wielded undisputed sway [and] continues to note Coleman's influence on Stanier's masterpiece the Coronation Pacific..

Cox (Chronicles of steam) observed that Coleman "had in his own field the same inborn flair for effective and even brilliant engineering", but abhorred public speaking and communal activities, such as Institution affairs. The Duchess, class 5 4-6-0, 8F and class 4 2-6-4T "all owed a great deal to Coleman". In respect of the Duchess "it was he who proposed most of the modifications to the original 'Princess'"; nevertheless, the Duchess was Stanier's masterpiece: fuller extract:.
Ever since. the departure of Fowler at the end of 1930, design in the round was split between H.Q. wherever that might be and the Drawing Offices of which the leader was Derby. Sometimes as in Ivatt's time, both elements were in the same town some 15 minutes' walk from one another, but however disposed, the H.Q. design function was supposed to initiate new proposals, and the Drawing Office was supposed to accept these proposals and work them up into production drawings. But with so powerful a personality as T.F. Coleman m charge of the Drawing Office things were unlikely to remain as simple as that, and this juncture enables me to pay a tribute to one of the great locomotive designers of the steam age. Coleman, like H.G. Ivatt, came from the tiny North Stafford Railway, and like Ivatt, he had in his own field the same inborn flair for effective and even brilliant engineering. Without anything much by way of academic achievement, and abhorring public speaking and all communal activities such as Institution affairs, he nevertheless, by some hidden instinct, was able to hit the target of practical and effective design in nearly everything he undertook. He reached his greatest heights in partnership with Stanier who knew what he wanted but was not always able to visualise it in precise terms. Coleman was able to interpret an initial idea and exploit it in a highly individual manner, and Stanier's biggest successes, the Duchess 4-6-2, the class 5 4-6-0, the class 8 2-8-0 and the class 4 2-6-4 Tank, all owed a great deal to Coleman. Indeed the first of these engines could almost be described as a Coleman product for it was he who proposed most of the modifications to the original 'Princess'. This is no detriment to general acknowledgement that the' Duchess' was Stanier's masterpiece, for however much his henchmen may have contributed, it was Stanier who carried the full responsibility of decision to accept or reject each feature.
It may be recalled that in the late summer of 1942 Stanier was appointed Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Production, and although he retained his position as Chairman of the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Committee of the Wartime Railway Executive Committee, he ceased to be directly responsible for L.M.S. Locomotive matters. Before then, during his periodic visits to Derby it was Coleman's custom always to try to have something new to show him, and in March 1942 Coleman produced his version of the form which post-war development might take. Diagram DD 3605 illustrated 12 proposed standard types as set out in Table 18. Of these, seven were existing Stanier designs considered suitable for projection into the bright new world to come, but the remammg five contained some novel proposals to say the least. Considering, as was generally held at the time, that more power would be needed for fast frieght working Coleman saw considerable scope on the future L.M.S. for an engine such as Gresley's V2 class 2-6-2, and Fig. I I shows the form this might have taken as a Derby rather than as a Doncaster design. Looking further afield round the British locomotive scene, Coleman was also struck by the usefulness of the G.W.R. 2-8-2 Tank engines for heavy mineral loads over short hauls, and he visualised a number of places in the Midlands and the North where the L.M.S. could usefully employ motive power of this kind to eliminate tender-first working. Fig. 12 shows a Derby version of such an engine in the form of a 2-8-4 Tank carrying the standard boiler of the class 8 2-8-0, while Fig. 13 illustrates the small-wheeled but powerful 0-6-2 Tank which, again, was based upon the G.W. 5600 class. Fig. 14 shows the successor to the Fowler class 4 0-6-0 freight engine which was proposed at that time and the group of twelve was completed by a tapered boiler version of the Derby 0-6-0 shunting tank, and by the Fowler 0-6-0 outside cylindered Dock Tank in unaltered form. This last engine was the very first design which Coleman had undertaken for the L.M.S. after he had been transferred from Stoke to Horwich and he had so great an affection for it that he always included it in any standardisation proposals. This engine was to him what the mouse was in Terence Cuneo's wonderful railway paintings -a combination of trade mark and mascot, and indicates that under an extremely craggy exterior, T.F.C. could be very warmly human.
This series of engines was worked up in sufficient detail so that any or all of them could have been put into production design. Who knows, had Stanier been younger and had continued as C.M.E. into the post-war, that one or more might not have become a new L.M.S. standard. It is interesting too to consider that, although nothing could have been further from Coleman's mind at the time, this series of engines might also have formed the basis of a British Railways standardisation, for besides the L.M.S. they could also have covered all the known traffic categories on the L.N.E.R. and G.W. and even on the S.R. Their principal defects for this purpose would have been twofold. First, some of them would have had a very restricted route availability, and secondly the retention of inside cylinders for the 0-6-0 and 0-6-2T. types was a retrograde step promising higher maintenance costs than need be.

Tim Hillier-Graves
L M S locomotive design and development: the life and work of Tom Coleman. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Transport. 291pp.
Reviewed in Backtrack by MR (Michael Rutherford?) and given the green flag

LMS 4-6-0s on and off the drawing board. Part 1. E.A. Langridge. Steam Wld, 1997 (120), 36-43.

Note on his retirement (Locomotive Mag., 1949, 55, 139) incorrectly gives him initials "J.F.", but otherwise seems correct

Chacksfield, J.E. Ron Jarvis: from Midland compound to the HST. 2004.
Jarvis was somewhat less euphoric about Coleman (p. 67): "Tommy Coleman resented any design suggestions from outside his own sphere." Nevertheless, Coleman was "a very capable chief, ran his office firmly and was something of a rough diamond... Bluff and outspoken [but] a shrewd designer (p. 77)

Langridge, E.A. Under ten CMEs. 2011.
Very important source on Coleman as Langridge sees him from below whereas Cox perceived him from above, but also from below see Locomotive Panorama. On page 159 (first volume) he notes that Coleman recruited G.R. Nicholson (trained Yorkshire Engine Co. and ex-South America) and L. Barraclough (ex-NBL) and two others — fellow ex-contract shop draughtmen. In Volume 2 he notes on p. 28 that he lost a son during an emergency operation in Bradford, and that he lost interest in work after this. Furthermore. Coleman had no interest in non-steam developments.