George Hughes

Although there is as yet no book about him, Hughes has been well served by biographical papers (notably by Marshall), references in other works, in Cook's concise biographical sketch (which forms the basis for the biography herein, but with the mistakes corrected, and with amplification by the material in Westwood), in Cox's semi-autobiographical material, and in H.A.V. Bulleid's comprehensive biography of Aspinall which appears to show that Hughes was able to flourish whilst Sir John was around, but was incapable of adpting to the bear-pit conditions which characterized the first decade on the LMS. Nock (Great locomotives of the LMS) that Hughes was 67 years old when the L&YR merged with the LNWR and that the younger man Beames should have been appointed CME (and CME of the new LMS). Certainly, Hughes appears to have been an unwise choice (in the same way that Robinson would have been for the LNER). Hughes remained at Horwich whilst a corporate locomotive strategy for the new company fell into the hands of the locomotive operators at Derby, notably Anderson.


Hughes is one of the few locomotive engineers to have written a book (Marshall provides interesting insights into this activity).

The construction of the modern locomotive. London: E. & F.N. Spon, 1894. 261pp.
Ottley 10514 (Supplement): notes folding diagrams. Includes elevation and plan of Aspinall 0-6-0. Sections include the boiler, foundry, steel castings, brass foundry, forgings, the forge, smithy work including springs, coppersmiths' work, the machine shop and the erecting shop..


Locomotives designed and built at Horwich with some results. Proc. Instn mech. Engrs, 1909, 77, 561-639.
Compounding and superheating in Horwich locomotives. Proc. Instn mech. Engrs, 1910, 78, 399-451.

Non-ferrous metals used in railway work. Proc. Inst. Metals, 1911, 20 September?
Stated aim according to Griffiths was to minimize use of expensive non-ferrous metals, especillay copper and brass.

Contributions to Discussions

Churchward, G.J.
Large locomotive boilers. Proc. Instn mech. Engrs.,1906, 70, 165-75. Discussion: 176-255.
Hughes opened the discussion questionning why freight locomotives were not fitted for compounding in the UK. He also mentioned piston valves, water softening and furnace deign.

Fowler, Henry
Lighting of railway premises: indoor and outdoor. Proc. Instn mech. Engrs., 1906, 70, 865-906. Disc.: 906-41.
Includes arc lighting, oil lamps and gas lighting; the use of a portable photometer for assessing lighting in passenger stations; the cost of gas mantles; fuel consumption; the use of incandescent electric lamps; and the problems of lighting goods yards, locomotive sheds and workshops. Hughes, who had been Fowler's chief before he left for Derby (where this paper was written) contributed to the Discussion (pp 917-20)


17927/1903. Improvements in means for raising steam in locomotive boilers and the like. Published 26 May 1904. Applied  19 August 1903
26309/1903. Improvements in apparatus for raising steam in locomotive and other boilers. Published 10 November 1904. Applied 2 December 1903.
3729/1906. Improvements in locomotive and traction engines. Published 31 January 1907. Applied 15 February 1906.
5614/1906 Improvements in or connected with the low pressure steam chest of locomotive or traction engines to admit steam from the boiler thereto. Published 13 July 1906. Applied 8 March 1906.
18090/1906. Improvements in locomotive and traction engines. Published 31 January 1907. Applied 13 August 1906.
18196/1906.Improvements in condensers. Published 31 January 1907. Applied 14 August 1906.
18,053/1909 Improvements in the cylinders and valves of compound engines. Published 4 August 1910. Applied 5 August 1909.
9773/1912. Improvements in steam superheaters for tubular boilers. Published 25 April 1913. Applied 25 April 1912.
8288/1912. Improvements in steam superheaters for tubular boilers. Published 27 February 1913. Applied 6 April 1912.

Further information

Griffiths indicates that Hughes may have contributed to the Railway Congress Association, possibly that in the USA in 1905 (where he accompanied Aspinall) and at one in 1922 (Griffiths states "International Railway Association") where he may have reported on locomotive boges, axles and springs. It is also stated that Hughes contributed to the discussion on Riches Instn Mech. Engrs paper on steam railcars with information on the L&YR design of railcar.


Hughes was born on 9 October 1865 in Benwick (Cambridgeshire Fens) and was the son of a farmer and miller. This was not in Norfolk (see Marshall below) as Rutherford frequently states, but he was educated at County School at Elmham in Norfolk, and died in Stamford after spending much of his retirement in Cromer. Cook notes that in 1882 he became a premium apprentice at Crewe under F.W. Webb, and in 1887 he moved to the new LYR works at Horwich as a fitter and erector. In 1888 he took charge of the Testing Shop there, and by 1894 he was in charge of the Horwich gas works and lighting system. In the following year he became Chief Assistant in the Carriage & Wagon Department at Newton Heath, and returned to Horwich in 1899 as Works Manager and Principal Assistant to the CME. He succeeded H.A. Hoy as CME from 12 March 1904. Under his direction Horwich established a reputation for progressive locomotive engineering, particularly in the development of superheating. Equally there were developments in workshop techniques, directed at increasing the accuracy of manufacture and the interchangeability of parts. In May 1892 he married Ann Mary Young of Swaffham in Norfolk..

Westwood adds that from 1904, he is associated with the fitting of the first Schmidt high temperature superheaters in Britain, which he applied to two of his 0-6-0 locomotives in 1906. A student of compounding, he soon realized that Webb's compounds were only likely to produce economies in slow freight service, and built some 0-8-0 locomotives on the Webb four-cylinder system. But in a perceptive paper presented to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1910 he argued that the fuel economy of his compounds was insufficient to outweigh the higher initial cost and extra maintenance expense. His four-cylinder simple 4-6-0 was at first a mediocre performer, but after the fitting of superheaters and redesign of steam passages its successors did quite well, and were arguably the most handsome machines of their time. Hughes was always willing to learn from foreign experience and but for WW1 would probably have built 2-10-0 locomotives to the general design of the Belgian Flamme. He adopted Flamme ideas in his dynamometer car which served the LMS and British Railways.

On 1 January 1922, with the amalgamation of the LYR and LNWR, Hughes became CME of the greater LNWR, and in 1923 he became CME of the LMS, retaining his headquarters at Horwich. The main activity during his LMS regime at Horwich was the design of the 'Crab' 2-6-0, the detailed work on which was prolonged by the need to meet the requirements of the Civil Engineers of the constituent companies, which had differing loading gauges and weight restrictions. An ambitious scheme for a range of standard types from 0-6-0T to Pacific was prepared, but the slow progress of the 2-6-0 project retarded work on the other classes, and none was completed.

The difficulties of working under conditions of grouping contributed to Hughes' retirement in September 1925, just before his sixtieth birthday. He retired to Cromer where he served on the Coastal Erosion Committee. His wife died in 1928, but he re-married in 1929. In 1940 he moved to Stamford where he died on 27 October 1945. He is buried in his birthplace. The obituary in The Engineer (2 November 1945, p.349) noted: he was a lovable, cheerful man. He did valuable work without any display, any push, and for that reason perhaps in a noisy world did not always receive the recognition he deserved.

Marshall, J.: George Hughes of Horwich. British Railway Journal, 59, 47.
60, 112 and
, 166
and fairly daft correspondence involving Essery (lover of 4Fs).

Marshall, John. The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway. Volume 3.
Nock, O.S. Railway enthusuast's encyclopedia

Retirement notices:

Mr George Hughes. Rly Mag., 1926, 58, 149.
The railway portrait gallery: Mr George Hughes, C.B.E. Rly Mag., 1925, 57, 236. illus. (port.)

See Hughes locomotives