William Paton Reid (& son) & Matthew Holmes & Walter Chalmers

William Paton Reid was born in Glasgow on 8 September 1854 and died there on 2nd February 1932 aged 77. (Marshall) He was son of Robert Reid who was Carriage & Wagon Superintendent of the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway and who introduced the centre cradle continuous drawgear for wagons originating from trouble on Cowlairs incline with loaded brake wagons fitted with draw hooks on the headstocks. His brother George became Locomotive Superintendent of the Natal Government Railways and was latterly inspector for locomotives supplied to the South African Railways. The centre cradle with long drawbars took the stress off the body. Stroudley took the idea with him when he left the Edinburgh & Glasgow to join the Highland Railway and thereafter the design became standard practice on British railways. In 1879 W.P. Reid entered Cowlairs Works, NBR, under M. Holmes. In 1883 he was selected to take charge of the locomotive department at Balloch. In 1889 he moved to Dunfermline and in 1891 to Dundee. On 1st May 1900 he became superintendent at St Margarets, Edinburgh. He was appointed to be outdoor assisant locomotive superintendent upon its creation. Following the retirement and death of Holmes, he was appointed locomotive superintendent on 2 June1904. Robert Whyte Reid, who rose to be a Vice-President of the LMS in 1927 predeceased his father on 28 March 1929. His biography is thus included herein. The following is taken from Loco Mag., 1916, 22, 189..

In connection with the recent appointment of Mr. Robert W. Reid as Manager of the Carriage and Wagon Works of the Midland Ry. at Derby, it is interesting to note that he represents the third generation of his family in this sphere of railway work. His father is Mr. W.P. Reid, Locomotive and Carriage Superintendent of the North British Ry., while his uncle, Mr. G.W. Reid, was Locomotive and Carriage Superintendent of the Natal Government Rys., and his grandfather, Mr. Robert Reid, was the Carriage and Wagon Superintendent of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Ry.(now N.B.R.) It was Mr. Robert Reid who introduced the centre cradle continuous drawgear for wagons. This originated through the trouble experienced on the Cowlairs incline with the loaded brake wagons, which were fitted with draw hooks acting on the head stocks. On several occasions a wagon was actually pulled asunder. To avoid this, the centre cradle arrangement, with 'long drawbars, was designed to take the stress off the body. Mr. Stroudley took the idea with him when he left the Edinburgh and Glasgow Ry. to join the Highland Ry., and thereafter the design became standard practice for British Rys

Thomas (North British, v2) noted that in 1903 the NBR was firmly controlled by the cabal that had dimissed Conacher. George Wieland was chairman, and his make-do-and-mend policy was reflected in the locomotive department. He would rather patch up an old engine than build a new one. In the vital opening years of the century when many railways were entering a new locomotive era with the building of 4-6-0s and Atlantics Cowlairs was in the doldrums. To complicate matters Reid was not completely master of his own house. He was a probationer, his appointment being for six months only. He did not have the foreign line passes and other perquisites that went with senior appointments. At the end of his first six months his appointment was continued for a further six months on a temporary basis, and it was not until 2 June 1904 that he was permanently appointed.

Unlike the CMEs of some other railways, Reid's position was one of servility under the management, and at times he had to endure humiliation such as some of his contemporaries would not have tolerated. his initial appointment was for six months on a probationary basis, and this was extended for a further six months: he had to wait a year before his full acceptance (Thomas: North British). He retired on 3rd January 1919 on reaching the age limit. His retirement gifts included a silver salver and silver tea service and an emerald and diamond ring for his wife (Webb). In 1920 he received the CBE. Ellis (North British Railway) implies that Chalmers, Chief Draughtsman and successor to Reid, may have designed at least some of Reid's locomotives.

Reid is remembered mainly for his massive Atlantic locomotives; despite heavier loads his management was averse to the 4-6-0, so Reid chose the 4-4-2 as the next best thing. He also built on the foundations laid by his predecessors Drummond and Holmes to develop the NBR 4-4-0, the well-known Scott and Glen classes surviving into the 1950s, as well as 4-4-2Ts for fast suburban services. The 4-4-0 designs are covered in Middlemass's The Scottish 4-4-0 and in the relevant Volume of the RCTS Locomotives of the LNER. The main innovation was the incorporation of superheating. For freight he stayed with the 0-6-0 and 0-6-2T. A locomotive foreman on the NBR for many years, he well understood the virtues of simple and robust construction, as indeed did most Scottish locomotive engineers. His locomotives were long-lived, lasting virtually to the end of steam.

Thomas's account of the Reid Atlantics probably tells the curious reader more about the relatively lowly position of the Locomotive Superintendent, William Paton Reid, and the relationship between him and David Deuchars, Superintendent of the Line, and William Jackson, the General Manager. It also demonstrates the close involvement of at least one of the Board Members, Dr John Inglis of the Glasgow family shipbuilding and engineering firm in the affairs of locomotive acquisition and control. Thomas is able to show, through his close examination of the company's outgoing correspondence, that Jackson was a martinet who was highly intolerant of what he regarded as inefficiency.

The book is also interesting for the involvement of officers from other railways in the assessment of the locomotives which the Civil Engineer, James Bell, had adjudged to be unstable and damaging to the track. Both H.A. Ivatt and Vincent Raven were brought in as consultants to assess the locomotives. The former suggested modifications, which had little to do with stability and these were ignored, presumably because of cost. The latter who was then an assistant to Worsdell was involved in extensive tests, including dynamometer car tests, which led to a highly laudatory report for which he received 200 guineas, twice what Ivatt received (but whether this was a personal fee is not stated). This, in turn, tells the reader more about the impressive Mr Raven who was clearly held in very high esteem even before he became Chief Mechanical Engineer of the North Eastern. The tests over Shap against an LNWR 4-6-0 of the Experiment class are also mentioned where the Atlantic returned an enormous coal consumption of 71 pounds per mile. It would seem that Reid came perilously close to sharing the fate of Smith on the Highland Railway.

See: C. Highet, Scottish Locomotive History 1831-1923 (1970)

Everard, S.
Cowlairs commentary. Loco. Rly Carr. Wagon Rev., 1942, 48, 3-6; 48-50; 94-6;125-7 156-8; 190-2 :1943, 49, 20-2; 60-2; 92-4; 124-5; 156-7: 1944, 50, 29-31, 51-2, 155-7; 191-2: 1945, 51, 24-5; 59-61; 90-2; 152-3; 171-3. 47 illus. (line drawings s.el.)

Purdom, D.S.
Locomotive development on the N.B.R., from 1910 to the grouping. Loco. Rly Carr. Wagon Rev., 1940, 46, 242-5. illus.

The Eng V 153 12.2.1932 p 185; Engg 12.2.1932 p 184; The Locomotive 2.1932 p 63; RM 8.1904 p 172;
Rly Mag. note on appointment see NBR Study Group J., 2000, (78), 33

Matthew Holmes

According to Marshall  Matthew Holmes was born in Paisley in 1844 and died in Lenzie on 3 July 1903. His father was appointed foreman at the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway's Haymarket locomotive depot, and when aged 15 Matthew Holmes was apprenticed to Hawthorn & Co of Leith and in 1859 joined the E&GR. In 1875 he was appointed as a chief inspector, acting as an assistant to D. Drummond at Cowlairs Works. In 1882 he succeeded Drummond in 1882, but had to retire in May 1903 due to heart problems. Middlemass called him a "gentle gifted soul" and "every inch a gentleman". Some of his locomotives survived virtually until the end of steam, notably the simple J36 class of 0-6-0.  Campbell Highet (Scottish locomotive history, p. 135) stresses that Holmes was not in charge of the locomotive department of the Stirlingshire & Dunfermiline Railway in Paton's time as he would have been an apprentice at that time. Illustrated interview in Rly Mag. 1900 July. He had been a member of the council of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland..

Stirling Everard (Cowlairs commentary Loco. Rly Carr. Wagon Rev. 1943, 50, 29-31 and 51-2) is very dismissive of Holmes' design abilities and implies that his designs were based directly upon Caledonian practice. Middlemass stresses that one of Holmes' achievements was to be able to provide the motive power for the Anglo-Scottish trains between Edinburgh and Berwick when the 1862 Working Agreement with the NER on the provision of motive power collapsed on 30 April 1894.

Chapter 8 (Locomotive Review, 1884-1894) of Ellis's North British Railway (1955) covers Holmes' 4-4-0 and 0-6-0 designs. Subsequent chapters deal with locomotives for the West Highland line and with carriage design. These last are also covered in John Thomas' The West Highland Railway (1965). There is a portrait of Holmes in Ben Webb's Locomotive engineers of the LNER (p. 54). He was succeeded as Locomotive Engineer on the NBR by W.P. Reid..

Thomas (North British v2) is effusive about Holmes: Like Drummond and Robert Chalmers, Matthew Holmes had known Cowlairs in Edinburgh & Glasgow days. He had been 29 years in railway service when he was appointed locomotive superintendents the previous 10 as general running foreman over the whole system. In contrast to his rumbustious predecessor Holmes was a mild-mannered man much liked by all who came in contact with him. He stayed longer at Cowlairs than any other holder of the office and he produced the company's most prolific class.

One of his own engines hauled his funeral train from Lenzie to Haymarket. The editor of the St. RolIox and Springburn Express, a future Secretary of State for Scotland, had this to say of him:

With the passing away of Mr Matthew Holmes Glasgow and particularly Springburn, is the poorer. Of a quiet and unobtrusive nature Mr Holmes was a gentleman every inch. He did much good work in his sixty odd years, and he always did it without placing a trumpet to his mouth. To the humblest workman he was always accessible and a patient hearing was always afforded whether the complaint was groundless or the reverse. Men in his position do not act so. The imperious tyrant had no part in the life of Matthew Holmes who was beloved by the men under him, and no better compliment perhaps can be paid an overseer than that in the discharge of a sacred trust he evinced humanity of the kindest pattern. In every sense of the term he left the railway world better than he found it. He is another example of those captains of industry who have risen from the ranks, and to the last was an example of affability and kindness of heart.

Illustrated interviews. No. 33–Mr. Matthew Holmes. Locomotive Superintendent, North British Railway. Rly Mag., 1900, 7, 1-10.
This is one of the more disappointing members of this series: there is a very brief description of Holmes' office at Cowlairs Works, but this article amounts to little more than a very brief description of Cowlairs Works, and mainly that of its carriage and wagon activity. There are also brief notes on some of the major locomotive types. There is a portriat of Holmes, however.

Walter Chalmers

Last (1920-1922) Chief Mechanical Engineer of NBR, following W.P. Reid. RCTS Locomotives of the LNER Part 1 notes that he was apprenticed at Cowlairs, and became Chief Draughtsman in 1904 or 1906 in succession to his father Robert. When Reid retired the directors took the opportunity to reorganise his department. as from 1 January 1920 two separate departments were created: Walter Chalmers became chief mechanical engineer and J.P. Grassick became the  locomotive running superintendent (indoor and outdoor). Retired from LNER in June 1924 when succeeded by R.A. Thom as Mechanical Engineer for the Scottish Area. Ellis (North British Railway p.202) suggests that Chalmers may have been the real designer of the Reid locomotives. Vital statistics lacking. Highet notes that Chalmers was responsible for superheating the Reid designs (and for removing the wing plates from the smokeboxes). Middlemass (Scottish 4-4-0) is extremely disappointing on the subject of Walter Chalmers in adding nothing. The brief biography in RCTS Locomotives of the LNER Part 1 notes that Chalmers' father had been Assistant Locomotive Superintendent to Reid and had served the NBR for forty-three years. This source also notes that Chalmers had designed a three-cylinder 2-8-0 presumably as a consequence of the Glenfarg tests. It would seem that J.G. Robinson was friendly with both the Chalmers. Chalmers was author of one of the chapters in Railway Mechanical Engineering..Locomotive maintenance and repair, 2, 83-119. At a meeting of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers in Glasgow on 3 November 1921 (Journal, 11, 777), a G.N. Chalmers of Hurst, Nelson & Co. was present..

Inaugural Address, Scottish Centre Insititution Locomotive Engineers. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1922, 12, 876.

Chapter in  book: Macaulay. Modern railway working reproduced in North British Study Gp J. 2004 (93), 13

Contributions to discussions

Fowler, Sir Henry (paper No. 115) pp 130-1 on steel fireboxes and on p. 128 asked about built up crank axles

Reid, R.W. Some comparisons between British and American railway rolling stock. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1921, 11, 547-8..
Reid visited the USA and Canada: Walter Chalmers commented on the NBR experimental steel cars which had steel underframes and external cladding. Noted problems of noise and sweating on the inside of the coach from steam brought through from kitchens..

Tyler, J.W. Railway communications in Great Britain. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1925, 15, 320
Comment on balancing locomotive power with train size

Robert Chalmers

John Thomas (North British V. 2): "With the departure of Matthew Holmes from the scene in 1903 there was no doubt as to who was the key figure at Cowlairs— Robert Chalmers. As chief draughtsman and locomotive superintendent he had served the company continuously for 28 years. His friend, former associate and near contemporary Dugald Drummond was in command at Eastleigh and had nine vigorous years ahead of him as locomotive superintendent of the LSWR. It was logical to think that Chalmers would slip into the vacant NBR chair. But that was not to be. The appointment went to the new boy at Cowlairs, William Paton Reid. When describing the development of the NBR Atlantics Thomas states that The Chalmers were friends of J.G. Robinson, although this is not confirmed in Jackson's biography of Robinson,.

Grassick, John Pingney
Appointed District Locomotive Superiintendent Western Section with office at Eastfield sheds in 1910 (Locomotive Mag., 1910, 16, 112) Head of Motive power (Liocomotive runninng superintendent)  following Reid's retirement. Running Superintendent, North British Railway  attended Inaugural Meeting of I. Loco. E. Scottish Centre.


Grassick, J.P.
The locomotive from a footplate point of view. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1922, 12, 51-67. Disc. 67-104. (Paper 114)
Experience on NBR: spark arresters had to be removed. Problems with steel

Robert Whyte Reid
Son of William Paton Reid, died 28 March 1929 at Derby aged 44, when Vice President Works and Ancillary Undertakings. Educated Royal High School, Dundee and Royal Technical College, Glasgow. Received his engineering training in Glasgow, London, Loughborough and Wolverton. Joined Midland Railway in 1909, and in 1916 became Works Manager of the Carriage Department, and in 1919 promoted Carriage & Wagon Superintendent. Appointed Carriage & Wagon Superintendent of LMS upon its formation. Awarded CBE in 1920 for his work on the construction of ambulance trains during WW1. President of Institution of Locomotive Engineers in 1924-1925 session. The biography of Ermest Lemon (by Terry Jenkins), records how Lemon tended to step into Bob Reid's shoes, adds considerably to our knowledge about both men. Present in group photograph taken at Railway Centenary in Darlington: J. Instn Loco, Engrs, 1925, 15, 576 . Obituary Locomotive Mag., 1929, 35, 135 [KPJ: his early death must have been terrible for his old Dad].


Some comparisons between British and American railway rolling stock. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1921, 11, 522-45. Disc.: 546-9. (Paper No. 104)
Written as result of visit to USA and Canada:Irvine Kempt (Caledonian Railway) page 547 had visited the USA and thought that "at St Rollox we were very much ahead of the Pullman people" (the Pullman workshops in Chicago were very untidy: "a plentiful supply of shavings littered the floor". Like most British observers he found the American sleeping car system to be unpleasant with its lack of privacy and the lavatories in the centre of the cars. Walter Chalmers (pp 547-8) commented on the NBR experimental steel cars which had steel underframes and external cladding. Noted problems of noise and sweating on the inside of the coach from steam brought through from kitchems..

Presidential Address: Developments in coaching stock construction. J. Instn Loco Engrs., 1926, 16, 192-7. Dicsc.: 197-220; 277-94.
Mentioned the development of articulated rolling stock on LNER. Noted that demand for greater comford had led to increase weight. Noted use of steel in coach construction. Steam heating had added to the cost, and electric lighting placed a greater load on the locomotive. Unusual address for amount of discussion included.

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