James Edward McConnell

According to Marshall McConnell was born in Fermoy (County Cork) on 1 January 1815 and died at Great Missenden on 11 June 1883. He was apprenticed at Claud Girdwood & Co of Gorbals in Glasgow from 1828 and by 1837 had joined Bury, Curtis & Kennedy in Liverpool where he became familiar with locomotive building. In 1842 he was appointed Locomotive Superintendent of the Birmingham & Gloucester Railway where according to Lowe he built a 2-2-2 in 1844 and an 0-6-0T (Great Britain) as a Lickey banker in 1845. At this time Captain C.R. Moorsom was Chairman of the B&GR, and this probably explains McConnell's eventual transfer to the LNWR.

McConnell was locomotive superintendent of the LNWR's Southern Division at Wolverton from 1846 to 1861. He started work at Wolverton on 15 February 1847 on a salary of £700 par annum (Jack). He gradually replaced the stock of undersized locomotives inherited from Edward Bury by locomotives better suited to the loads and schedules of the time. He made his reputation with the Bloomers, 2-2-2 passenger machines with 7ft driving wheels which appeared in 1851 and were considered one of the finest locomotive classes of the time. He was a proponent of big boilers, and he experimented with a smokebox steam drum that can be regarded as an early form of superheater whose effect, if any, would have been felt only at high speeds. According to Lowe he patented a firebox to burn coal and Lowe considered that he was "considerably ahead of his time particularly regarding boiler design and combustion". He employed rubber suspension on some his locomotives (Jack). Jack must be regarded as the premier source both on McConnell the man and his locomotives..

After his resignation, the LNWR amalgamated its two divisions, the southern division and its Wolverton Works being henceforth subject to the Crewe tradition. See: O.S. Nock, The Premier Line (1952).

Rogers (Chapelon biography) notes what he called "one of the earliest recorded comments on the matter came from J.E. M'Connell, then Locomotive Superintendent of the Birmingham & Gloucester Railway, when giving evidence to the Gauge Commission in 1846. He said: "My opinion is, that with respect to the power, which is in other words speed, that depends upon the amount of evaporating surface in the boiler." Reed (p.77) records:"Although McConnell was a first-rate engineer, and had produced some outstanding locomotive classes, the extension of his territory [to include the Trent Valley line against Moon's wishes] failed to lead to the operating savings he had promised, and the [special] committee tabled a highly critical report in December 1861". This was adopted by the Board in January 1862 and McConnell resigned with effect from 31 March 1862, and on 1 April Crewe became the locomotive headquarters.

Griffiths is rather harsh in his assessment of McConnell, especially his patenting activity: "The 'H' Class engines ... were enlarged versions of the 'Bloomers' but incorporated more of McConnell's patented devices. With a view to burning coal, the firebox contained a longitudinal midfeather and was extended in order to provide a combustion chamber. At its lower part it was extended forwards in order to increase the grate area. A thorough system of staying made the boiler capable of working to a pressure of 150 psi but it is unlikely that such high pressure was actu ally used in service, that for the 'Bloomers' nor mally being 120 psi. Rather than crank-driven pumps, two Giffard injectors were used to supply water to the boiler. One of these locomotives was exhibited at the 1862 Great Exhibition in London. It might be argued that McConnell's position as member for railway matters on the Jury for that exhibition, rather than the merits of the locomotive, caused it to be displayed. In view of his known characteristic for self-publicity that is not impossible. As a result of his involvement with the Exhibition, he was called upon to provide a report on the locomotives exhibited. This was written in conjunction with W. J. Macquorn Rankine, Professor of Civil Engineering and Mechanics at the University of Glasgow, and appeared in the Practical Mechanics Journal Record of the Great Exhibition, 1862.

Nock, O.S. Railway enthusuast's encyclopedia


According to Cox McConnell was the author of five Instn Mech. Engrs. papers.

On the balancing of wheels. Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1848, 1, 1-9 (13 June 1848)

On railway axles. Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1849, 13-27 (24 October)
Torsional deformation

On the deterioration of railway axles, etc. Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1850, 2, 5-14: (April): 3-6.. Disc. 14-19 : (April), 6-14 + Plates 1-2..

On hollow railway axles. Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1853, 4, 87-101.

On an improved wrought-iron piston. Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1854, 5, 119-22.


12231/1841: Steam-engines; retarding engines and carriages on railways; connecting railway carriages or wagons together; effecting a communication with different parts of a railway by signals or otherwise. 7 August 1841
13729/1851: Locomotive steam-engines; and railway axles; parts of which are applicable to stationary and marine steam-engines. 28 August 1851:
Included indentation of boiler over cranks to achieve low centre of gravity and was identical, according to Jack, to another patent of W. Stubbs & J.I. Grylls of Llanelly (1846)
14182/1852: Steam-engines; boilers and other vessels for containing fluids; railways; materials and apparatus employed therein or constructed therewith. 24 June 1852
1306/1856. Locomotives. 2 June 1856.
feed water heaters

Contributions to other's papers

Clark, David Kinnear (Paper No. 887). Experimental investigation of the principles of the boilers of locomotive engines. Min. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs, 1852/3, 12, 382-413. Disc.: 414-31.
On pp 417-20 and 426-9 McConnell disputed the results quoted in Clark's paper where Jack quoted "loss of heat by the chimney has been observed to be prodigeous"