Francis [Frank] William Webb

Hamilton Ellis "cartoon" from The splendour of steam
of Coptic: a Webb compound


Webb was born at Tixall Rectory (illustrated by Dunn) near Stafford on 21 May 1836 and died in Bournemouth on 4 June 1906 (Marshall). Webb, and commentaries about Webb, are extremely difficult to discuss. On the one hand there is a very considerable literature which denigrates Webb's work on compounding: on the other there is a considerable amount of evidence to show that he occupied a key position in Victorian engineering. Some extremely talented locomotive engineers, notably Aspinall, Ivatt and Gresley, were trained at Crewe under Webb. It is a plausible hypothesis to suggest that Gresley's attraction towards three-cylinder designs may owe something to Webb's three-cylinder compounds.

Chacksfield has written an excellent biography: F.W. Webb: in the right place at the right time which fully corrects the many assertions that Webb profited personally from his patenting activity. He does this by making direct reference to correspondence between the Chairman, Sir Richard Moon, and Webb which clearly establishes the limits of Webb's other sources of income: pupils and patenting. One of the most difficult sections of Chacksfield's researches to reconcile is that Frank Webb's grandfather, Henry Webb, did not marry his grandmother (Elizabeth Heath) who gave birth to ten children. As Henry's descendents tended to become pillars of the Church, one is tempted to wonder if a marriage had taken place outwith the Established Church (Quaker/Catholic?). Furthermore, the Webb family was well-established in the major county town of Stafford and were bankers. In 1810 Henry Webb was appointed a high sheriff. This is introduced because Chacksfield makes it abundantly clear that the LNWR employed gentlemen, and there is nothing to suggest that Frank Webb was not a gentleman..

Le Fleming's concise comments are apposite: Webb is unfortunately remembered more for the erratic performances of his three-cylinder compounds than for his lasting and con- structive improvements. These compounds introduced in 1882 with divided drive were, however, the forerunners of such types as the de Glehn, which eventually ranked amongst the most successful and economical ever built. A pioneer in the use of steel in Great Britain for frames, boilers and engine parts generally. His 500 0-6-0 coal engines were probably the simplest and cheapest ever built for a main line. One of these was erected in twenty-five and a half hours. In 1876 his radial axlebox was introduced and in 1880 he was the first to adopt Joy's valve gear. His experiments on compounding started in 1878 and his trials and patents covered a wide field. His autocratic manner and resentment of suggestion mitigated against many of his ideas being brought to a more successful conclusion.

Nock, whose work can often be faulted for its waywardness, neatly encapsulated Webb, however: "The work of Francis W. Webb during the 32 years he was Chief Mechanical Engineer will be discussed as long as there are railways." On the other hand one can question his objectivity: "Compound days on the North Western began in 1878 in a small and apparently innocuous way". The last three words are loaded: at the time the evaluation of compounding was a very sensible way of exploring great efficiency, and may have still been sensible far later in locomotive history. It is worth noting (KPJ) that Webb combined experience in the drawing office, in works management and in materials and that he was highly inventive. A litany of great engineers were his pupils, notably Aspinall, Ivatt and Gresley. Furthermore, Ahrons (Chapter 18: Compound locomotives, 1882-89) observed that "This, the first "compound era" is one of the most interesting in British locomotive history". Mallet had shown his first compound locomotive at the Paris Exhibition of 1878 and presented a paper to the Instn of Mech. Engrs. in 1879 to which Webb contributed in the discussion

Hamilton Ellis, and more recently lesser qualified individuals, notably Vaughan, and the absurd Williams, have enjoyed themselves writing rather tritely about Webb. Rutherford in Backtrack has made several attempts to restore Frank Webb's reputation firstly by discussing compounding Backtrack Vol. 9 page 582 where he observed that most Webb locomotives were not compounds. Those who would question Rutherford's use of "Frank" should note that J.M. Dunn (Rly Mag., 1961, 107, 756) uses this same familiar form. W. Noel Davies, one of Webb's last pupils, goes one better and called him "Frankie".

Cantlie, K. discussion on (page 96) Riemsdijk, J.T. van. The compound locomotive. Part 2, 1901-1921. Trans Newcomen Soc., 1970, 44, 73-98.
Cantlie indicated how nearly F.W. Webb had succeeded with his compounds on the L. & N.W.R. — a fact that was seldom conceded. It was also forgotten that in the mid-nineteenth century mechanical engineers had set up certain limits, or taboos, which were afterwards proved wrong. Among these was an accepted view that if the boiler centre was more than 7 ft. 6 in. (later 8 ft. 0 in.) above rail level, a locomotive would be top-heavy and unstable. Another such agreed limit, or shibboleth) was that coupling rods should never be longer than 7 ft. 6 in. A third such limit, which was longer-lived than the others, was that the diameter of steam pipes should be 10 per cent. of the diameter of the cylinders (This continued until it was fina1Iy broken by Chapclon). The effect of these shibboleths was on passenger locomotives with large driving-whee1s, to limit the boiler diameter, and the second limit restricted the grate area if coupled wheels were used. The third restriction caused a permanent pressure drop between boiler and cylinders.

The simple 0-6-0 classes (Coal engines and "Cauliflowers") were built in very considerable numbers and were highly standardized. Webb was a man of vision who envisaged the electrification of the LNWR mainline. It has to be remembered that for a long time Webb was forced to work within the rigid financial constraints which were set by Sir Richard Moon.. There was bound to be friction between Webb and the other chief officers of the company as he enjoyed a much higher level of remuneration than most of them. Rutherford is able to show that many of the compound locomotives were much better than the picture painted by Cox and many others: the Teutonics were "very good indeed". The performance of the Alfred the Greats was "as good as anything operating on any other British railway." Essery is equally strong in his case on behalf of Webb. Subsequently, Rutherford produced two Railway Reflections in Backtrack Volume 16 on page 635 and 695 which sought to restore Webb's reputation where he was especially critical of Hamilton Ellis's and Vaughan's ill-founded embroidery of the facts, especially those relating to the chain brake, income from patent royalties, and once again compounding. These articles show Webb's early involvement with electricity, and its application to signalling, and its potential for traction.

Perhaps the most damning evidence against Webb's compounds came from van Riemsdijk's Compound locomotives: an International survey. (1994) which noted that he had excluded the Webb three-cylinder compounds from his Newcomen Society papers because the "designs were unsatisfactory" and "had no influence on the subsequent development of the compound locomotive except probably to make it unattractive in Britain". This is extremely sharp comment from someone who is regarded as an authority. Nevertheless, van Riemsdijk was "forced" to include the Webb compounds in his book which thus required new material.

Rutherford received considerable support from Reed, whose history of the LNWR is widely recognized as being authorative, who having noted the introduction of the simple coal tanks and cauliflower classes stated: "These developments gave the LNWR an expanding stud of capable and economical six-coupled engines, allowing many older locomotives to be replaced or rebuilt. The new classes thus contributed directly to improved freight train preformance through their greater capacity and this in itself played a part in reducing costs. Reed also noted how the improvements introduced at Crewe had led to economy in construction and maintenance. The locomotive cost per train mile was generally lower in the 1880s than in the 1860s. Reed is less sympathetic about Webb's efforts in compounding and is trenchent on his final decline and forced retirement.

The largely ignored books by Griffiths also give a very different slant to Webb's genius, and it is especially important to note his observation that Webb did not inflate his salary with his income from his patents as the LNWR had free access to the devices described therein. Like many other CMEs Webb may sometimes have used his ingenuity to get round items devised elsewhere, but notes that Webb did accredit Joy's invention. Furthermore, now that a fairly comprehensive list of Ramsbottom's patents is available it is possible that the LNWR demanded a high level of patenting activity. Griffiths notes that Webb's sense of humour lasted until very late his career (1901), even if it was somewhat black in nature: "a live [electrical] rail would make the yard an exciting place for shunters to work at night" (Min. Proc. Instn civ. Engrs., 1902, 147, 112). Griffiths' introductory observations make a fitting conclusion: "Unfortunately, much of the comment, since his death has been based on myth rather than fact. Ill-informed writings have given a distorted impression of the man and his works..."

Thus, although Webb is sometimes derided for his locomotive policies, both he and the LNWR had abandoned the 0-6-0 type some twenty years before certain much respected railways that built it widely had even come into existence! [Talbot Illustrated history noting the displacement of the 0-6-0 by the 0-8-0 and 4-6-0 types at the end of the nineteenth century]

Webb's papers

Working of railways. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs, 1875, 41, 44-6.
Work of Precursor class
Standard engine shed of the London and North Western Railway Company. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs, 1885, 80, 258-9 + plate at back of volume.
Description of steel permanent way, as used on the London and North-western Railway. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs, 1885, 81, 299-301.
steel sleepers
On compounding locomotive engines. Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs, 1883, 34. 438
According to Ahrons Webb had two main objectives: fuel economy and the suppression of coupling rods. Thomas Crampton contributed to the discussion.
Permanent way. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs, 1896/97, 130, 178.
Engineering Conference, 25th May 1897, Railways: design of deep fishplates and fishplate chairs, including experiments with lead fishplates.
Particulars of various parts of recent London and North Western locomotives. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs, 1898, 133, 302-05. Addendum.
Compound locomotives. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs, 1899, 138, 406-11
This is an extremely lucid account of Webb's approach to compounding and is summarised below:
Second Metropolitan Engineering Conference, 7 June 1899. Notes Introducing Subjects for Discussion. Section III - Machinery.
For many years the weights and speeds of passenger trains had been continually on the increase with ehed inevitable result of a demand for more powerful and quicker running locomotives to haul them. In 1878 he converted one of the old engines into a compound on the Mallet system which he worked for about five years on the Ashby and Nuneaton branch. The resultsx were so satissfactory that he designed an entirely new mode of the compound principle which enabled him to dispense with coupling rods without losing the advantages of their use. He was also able bto increrase the size of the axle bearings and other wearing parts wwhilst retaining single frames. He used two high pressure pressures w2hich were outside the frames and drove the back pair of wheels. The one low pressure cylinder was inside the frames and drove the front driving axle. The locomotive was built in 1881-82 and named Experiment. The high pressure cylinders were 11½in in diameter, and the low pressure on 26in: they shared a stroke of 24in. The driving wheels were 6ft 6in and Joy's valve gear was used. The results obtained were so satisfactory that 29 further engines were built, but with high pressure cylinders of 13in diameter. The total mileage for this class between April 1882 and the end of February 1899 was 15 million miles, or more than 33,000 miles per engine per annum. The coal consumption was slightly over 34 lbs per engine mile.
In 1884 the Dreadnought class was introduced for Euston to Carlisle traffic. These had two high pressure cylinders of 14in diameter and one low pressure cylinder of 30in diameter with a common stroke of 24in. The driving wheels were 6ft 3in diameter and the boiler pressure 175 psi. Joy's valve gear was used. Forty engines wsere in service with a total mileage to the end of February 1899 of 18.68 million miles, or over 37,000 miles per engine with an average coal consumption per engine of 39.4 lbs per mile.
To meet increasing speeds the Teutonic class was introduced in 1889. These were similar to the Dreadnought class, but with 7ft 1in driving wheels. The high pressure cylinders were actuated by Joy's valve gear, but the low pressure cylinder was actuated by a single loose eccentric and a rocking lever. The Jeannie Deans was shown at the Edinburgh Exhibition in 1890 and had since worked the 14.00 corridor dining car train from Euston to Crewe returning with the 19.32 corresponding up train. Until the end of February 1899 the locomotive had worked over 5 million miles with an average coal consumption of 37.9 lbs per mile.
In 1891 the Greater Britain class was introduced for the heavy and fast traffic between Euston and Carlisle, The high pressure cylinders were 15in in diameter, and the low pressure cylinder 30in with a common 24in stroke. Both pairs of the 7ft 1in driving wheels were placed in front of the firebox to obtain a more even distribution of the weight upon them. There were two high pressure cylinders of 15in diameter and one low pressure cylinder of 30in diameter with a common stroke of 24in. Once again a loose eccentric was used to actuate the low pressure cylinnder. The long boiler barrel of 18ft 6in was divided into sections with a combustion chamber in between. This was fitted with a steam blast device to clean the tubes. On 4 November 1891 Greater Britain hauled 25 empty coaches from Crewe to London at an average speed of 44½ mile/h. Nine further locomotives of this type were built including Queen Empress exhibted at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893. By the end of February 1899 the class had accumulated 2.7 million miles: an average of 54,454 miles per locomotive and used an average of 38.7lbs of coal per mile.
TTo increase freight haulage capacity an eight coupled compound locomotive was introduced. All three cylinders drove the second coupled axle: the high pressure cylinders were outside the frames, but their valve chests and the low pressure cylinders were inside the frames. The high pressure crank pins were set at right angles to each other and thee low pressure cylinder was connected to a centre crank set at 135° to the high pressure crank pins. 81 of these locomotives were in service between Crewe and Leeds, Crewe and Carlisle, Liverpool and Carlisle and in South Wales. The average annual mileage was 28,331 and coal consumption 53.4lbs per mile
In 1894 the John Hick class was introduced for hauling heavy [passenger trains in the Northern Division. These were similar to the Greater Britain type except in having 6ft 3in driving wheels. Ten were built and averaged 48,868 miles per annum with a coal consumption of 44.8 lbs coal per mile.
The Black Prince class had two high pressure and two low pressure cylinders: the high pressure ones were 15in diameter and the low pressure 20½in diameter with a common 24in stroke. All drove onto one axle and employed two sets of Joy's valve gear with high pressure cylinders being actuated through levers. The boiler pressure was 200 psi and the rear wheels (behind the firebox) were coupled to the driving wheels. Black Prince entered service on 2 August 1897 and worked the 17.02 up dining saloon express non-stop to Willesden and returned on the 23.50 "Scotch" sleeper non-stop to Crewe.
On the 8 June 1899 a special train was run for the Institution's members from Euston (depart 09.50) non-stop to Crewe (arrive 13.10) hauled by Iron Duke, a four-cylinder compound with four couple wheels. The coupled wheels were 7ft 1in diameter. The high pressure cylinders were 15in diameter and the low pressure 20½ diameter with a common 24in. stroke. The total heating surface was 1379.6ft2 and the grate area 20.52. The boiler pressure was 200 psi.
William Dean and Aspinall contributed to the discussion.

Locomotive firebox stays. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs, 1902, 150, 87-113. Disc.: 114-46. (Paper 3346).
In a reply to the observations made upon his paper Webb on pp. 124-5 noted that copper stays on an 0-6-0 achieved 261,000 miles whilst copper zinc stays on a similar locomotive achieved 285,000 miles. Arsenic levels had to be limited. Webb noted that having been in charge of  3,000 boilers on the LNWR with 2.5 million stays "the position was not exactly a bed of roses". Ramsbottom observed the importance of keeping iron stays tight.
Copper locomotive boiler tubes. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs, 1903/04, 401-13. (Paper 3423)
Cited earlier paper on locomotive fire-box stays. A metallurgical paper: the first tube failed when the engine had completed 34,067 miles, and the second tube of the same make at the end of 40,612 miles. Had worn thin from the inside. Mea culpa?: is this Paper one from the Civils?.

Contributions to others' Papers

Findlay, G. The working of railways. Min. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs., 1874/75, 41, 1-18. (Paper 1419)
Lady of the Lake class; Big Bloomers; 5ft 6in four-coupled; 6ft 6in four-coupled; working of Clark brake.Webb (43-5) noted that locomotives should be worked hard.
Fox, C.D and Fox, F.  The Pennsylvania Railroad; with remarks on American railway construction and management. Min. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs, 1875, 39, 62-88. Discussion: 89-123.
Participants in the discussion included F.W. Webb, T.W. Wordsell, M. Longridge, P. Williams, W. Stanley, W.B. Lewis, J. Fernie and E.A. Cowper.

Greig, David and Eyth, Max. Experiments referring to the use of iron and steel in high-pressure boilers. Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1879, 268.
Clark Steam engine p. 658-9 notes that Mr. F. W. Webb, in discussion of the paper of Messrs. Greig and Eyth, stated that after having tried various proportions of rivets and pitches, he had arrived at a single-riveted double-welt joint for 7/16-inch boiler plates of steel, possessing 71.6 per cent of the breaking strength of the whole plate, made with ¾-inch rivets at 2 inches of pitch. The covering plates are 3/8-inch thick and 5¼ inches wide, making a lap of 2 5/8 inches on each plate, and a width of 1½ inches from the centre line of the rivets to the edges of the plates. He believed this distance, 1½ inches, to be the best, and previously to the adoption of the given proportions he had found that the holes went oval long before the joint ought to have been destroyed.

Fernie, J. Mild steel for the fireboxes of locomotive engines in the USA. Min. Proc. Instn Civ. Engrs., 1883, 72, 84-96. Disc.: 97-130;  Correspondence: 130-4.

Marie, George. On the consumption of fuel in compound locomotives. Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1884, 35, 119-21.
According to Griffiths, Webb made a written contribution, but the spoken discussion turned towards criticism of Webb's compound locomotives from McDonnell, Ramsbottom and Aspinall.

Particulars of various parts of recent London and North Western locomotives in W.P. Marshall's Evolution of the locomotive engine. Min Proc. Instn civ. Engrs., 1897/98, 133, 241

Pole, William. Some notes on the early history of the railway gauge. Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1875, 26, 66-76; Disc.: 76-91. + Plate 7
Could confirm what had been stated by Mr. Armstrong with regard to the gauge of the Wylam line, which was now being altered by the present proprietors, Mr. John Spencer and others, to 4 ft. 8½in., because of the difficulty of not being able to transfer the chaldron wagons from one gauge to the other. It would also be remembered that the first portion of what was now the Great Eastern Railway had been originally put down and opened as a 5ft. gauge, and a quantity of the rolling stock was worked on that gauge, and was altered afterwards to the 4ft. 8½in gauge. The Crewe and Chester line had been made originally 4ft. 9in. gauge, and he recollected the engine wheels used to be turned with thick flanges on purpose to work that line as a district by itself, until the gauge was subsequently altered to the 4ft. 8½in. With regard to the alteration made in the distance between the up and down roads, which had been referred to in the paper, on several portions of the Liverpool and Manchester line there was still the old 4ft. 8½in distance between the up and down roads; and on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway he had noticed that the same was the case on a portion that he had recently been over. He was under the impression that the object was to have the means of working between the up and down lines on any emergency; and he had heard the same reason assigned also in other similar instances.
With respect to the difficulty of getting a sufficiently powerful engine on the 4ft. 8½in gauge, with sufficient extent of bearing surface between the axleboxes and horn plates, the most recent engines on the London and North Western Railway had bearing surfaces larger than any broad-gauge engines, and were working with unusually little wear; with journals of 9 in. length, there was as much as 112 to 120 sq. in. area of bearing surface between the axlebox and the horn plate on each side. This he considered a step in the right direction, causing a considerable reduction in the expenses of working the 4ft. 8½in. gauge ; some of the engines had been running from 43,000 to 44,000 miles up to the present time, and there had been no necessity yet to touch the axleboxes in any part. He had been enabled to obtain the extra length of bearing without at all interfering with the simplicity of the motion or requiring the use of .weigh-bars to get at the valve-spindles.

Webb's patents
This section has been greatly enhanced by access to Spink (seen NRM in May 2012). although KPJ is gratified that the previous patent listing was almost complete. Spink lists some sixty patents including provisionals: he also lists  nearly twenty abandoned applications (these are now listed separately). According to Reed Webb patented more than 75 inventions from 1864 to 1903. Dunn states eighty, although some were abandoned. Many did not get beyond the drawing board and experimental stage. In his last dozen years the schemes and patent claims were drafted initially in a small locked office off the drawing office by John Scragg, a stumpy, large-nosed untidily-moustached confidential draughtsman who lasted until around 1920. This office was known as the model room, for here full-size models of Stephenson, Allan and Joy motions were set on adjustable cast-iron columns sliding over ground-steel facings; in that room were investigated the theoretical events and merits of other valve motions, including over the years 1899-1903 the Marshall and Younghusband forms, and in Whale's time the Walschaerts gear. The infamous chain brake was invented by John Clark in 1862 according to Rowatt, T. Railway brakes.Trans Newcomen Soc.,1927, 8, 19-32 .

287/1864: Improvements in tools or machinery for cutting or shaping metal and other material. Applied 3 February 1864, Accepted 1 August 1864.
343/1864. Improvements in the manufacture of railway rails. Applied 9 February 1864. Accepted 9 August 1864.
Re-rolling to produce rails with lighter section
878/1865: Improvements in the manufacture of steel tires for railway wheels. Applied 28 March 1865. Accepted 27 September 1865?
Source states accepted 1863 (which is clearly incorrect): casting blank tyres with a stalk where the axle would be: the stalk would later be punched or pressed out
3332/1865: Improvements in the construction and manufacture of steel crossing for railways, and in the moulds for casting the same, all or parts of which said improvements in moulds are applicable for casting other articles. Applied  23 December 1865. Accepted 20 June 1866.
888/1867: Improvements in machinery and apparatus employed in the manufacture of iron and steel by the Bessemer process, with Henry Sharp (Bolton Iron & Steel Co.). Applied 27 March 1867. Accepted 23 September 1867.
2924/1867. Improvements in the manufacture of smiths' anvils, with Henry Sharp (Bolton Iron & Steel Co.). Applied 18 October 1867. Accepted  17 April 1868.
3545/1868. Improvements in the cosnstruction of steam hammers and in apparatus employed therein. Applied  23 November 1868. Accepted 20 May 1869.
3403/1869. Improvements in locomotive and other steam-engines and boilers, parts of which are applicable to rivetted work and railway rolling stock in general. Applied 25 November 1869. Accepted 24 May 1870.
Spink records that covers (a) the making of the inner portion of the fire-box, excepting the top and tube-plate, of  a single sheet of iron or steel, (b) making the tube-plate separate from the other part, (c) using oblong rivets, (d) use of Bessemer or cast steel for frames, cross stays and bogie carriages, and consolidating the metal by forging, (e) an improved circular valve, (f) making cases of buffer, draw and bearing springs of cast steel, (g) improved springs consisting of pair of rectangular and other shaped plates, (h) improved springs consisting of conical discs of different diameters combined in sets.
3747/1869 Improvements in mills for rolling and crushing metals and other materials. Applied 27 December 1869. Accepted 25 June 1870.
Hydraulic powered mills
1669/1870 [P] Improvements in ladles for molten metals. Applied 9 June 1870. Provisional only.
2884/1871 Improvements in locomotive engines and railway breaks. Applied 27 October 1871. Accepted 26 April 1872.
Combined steam and hydraulic brakes: also includes method of feeding water into a boiler via clack boxes. Spink adds that transmission of brake force to train of carriages was via a rotating shaft
2985/1871 Improvements in injectors and arrangements for working the same. Applied 6 November 1871. Accepted 1 May 1872.
3442/1871 Improvements in or applicable to locomotive engines and boilers, parts of which improvements are also applicable to other boilers and to railway carriages. Applied 20 December 1871. Accepted 20 June 1872,
Spink notes that covers (a) construction of axle boxes with the brasses in two halves joined vertically between two side frames, adjustable on screws, (b) the reversing of the cones of the tyres of the centre wheels of engines and carriages having three or more pairs of wheels in a rigid frame, to reduce wear and strain (especially on curves) and to check lateral oscillation on straight track, (c) forming fire-door, air and other holes in fireboxes by two rings, one of which is forced into the other, (d) design of glass tube water 'gauge'.
3748/1873 [P] Improvements in locomotive engines. Applied 19 November 1873. Provisional only.
Exhaust steam disposal: Spink adds that condensing system for use in tunnels, automatically activated from the track.
442/1874 Improvements in mechanism or arrangements for actuating railway points and signals. Applied 4 February 1874. Accepted 3 August 1874' Locking mecanism: improved see 462/1875
494 /1874 Improvements in mechanism or arrangements for actuating railway points and signals. Applied 7 February 1874. Accepted 4 August 1874.
As above
1135/1874. Improvements in injectors. Applied 1 April 1874. Accepted 26 September 1874.
3916/1874. Improvements in mechanism or arrangements for actuating and interlocking railway points and signals. Applied 13 November 1874. Accepted 8th May 1875,
Includes combination of weight levers with an oscillating frame connected with a signal, so that any required number of signalmen may have control over the same signal.
462/1875. Improvements in mechanism or arrangements for actuating railway points and signals. Applied 6 February 1875. Accepted 27 July 1875.
Improvements to system covered by 442/1874
206/1876. Improvements in mechanism for actuating and locking railway points and signals. Applied 19 January 1876. Accepted 7 July 1876.
The object of the Invention is to simultaneously and separately lock both rails of a pair of points when in their correct position the signals, by connection with the point mechanism, being locked and unlocked by the lever handle locking mechanism in the order required, the point mechanism and signals being also at the same time locked while a train is passing the points.
2352/1876.. Improvements in mechanism or arrangements for interlocking railway points and signals. Applied 6 June 1876. Accepted 28 November 1876.
Iimproved system for locking the levers of railway points and signals.
167/1877. Improvements in apparatus for applying the brakes and giving notice to the drivers, firemen and guards on approaching or passing signals at danger or caution, and in arrangements for automatically showing by the lights the direction in which an engine is travelling. Applied 12 January 1877. Accepted 5 July 1877,
Outlines (a) a system of actuating self-acting continuous brakes when a train is passing a signal 'at danger' or 'caution', (b) a method of actuating self-acting brakes, whistles or gongs, singly or simultaneously, when passing signals at 'danger' or 'caution' by the use of elastic props, (c) a system of actuating lamps or shades before lamps on locomotives by connection with the reversing lever or its mechanism to show a 'colour' corresponding to the direction in which the engine is to move.
691/1878. Improvements in brake apparatus for railway vehicles. Applied 20 February 1878. Accepted 19 August 1878.
Actuating brakes by differential pistons and cylinders, or differential bellows, or like apparatus, where the pressure or partial vacuum acts in one direction simultaneously on both pistons or bellows and when this pressure or vacuum ceases to act, the pistons or bellows re-act in consequence of the pressure or vacuum reserved in one of the cylinders or bellows.
692/1878. Improvements in boilers and wheels for locomotives and other vehicles, parts of which improvements are applicable to other purposes. Applied 20 February 1878. Accepted 19th August 1878,
Covers (a) a method of constructing the hole for fire-box doors, (b) a design of fire-box stay, where the stays are tubular and fix in taper holes, (c) design of fusible plug in which there is a yet smaller and more fusible plug to give earlier warning, (d) method of making joints of cylinder covers, valve chests, pipes, covers, lids, and where joints have to be made between two surfaces by the combination of a compressed tubular ring retained in a dove-tail groove, (e) method of securing tyres on the rims of railway wheels.
693/1878. Improvements in brake apparatus for railway vehicles, and in signalling on railway trains from passengers to guards or drivers, or between guard and driver. Applied 20 February 1878. Accepted 19th August 1878.
Modifications to Patent 691/1878 to enable carriages to be used on trains with different braking systems. The brakes are actuated by chains, wire or ropes along the length of train, and friction drums. Also covered by the patent is a system of giving signals on trains by reducing the pressure or vacuum in pipes for actuating brakes, passing along a train to a fixed extent.
3289/1878. Improvements in slide valves and valve ports or facings for steam and other motive engines. Applied 21 August 1878. Accepted 20 February 1879.
Covers (a) a circular valve free to rotate in its buckle, combined with port faces formed with extended clearance spaces and lubrication spaces, thus the valve rotates and wear is even instead of causing grooves, (b) combination of an equilibrium valve, through the interior of which steam is admitted to the cylinder, with the improved circular or ordinary slide valves for compound engines, (c) arrangement of rectangular slide valves so as to be moved laterally when the pressure of steam fluctuates and so avoid grooving
1892/1879. Improvements in railway brakes. with John Carter Park. Applied 13 May 1879. Accepted 13 November 1879.
Modifications to the Clarke and Webb chain brake.
3549/1879. Improvements in permanent way and point connections of railways. Applied 4 September 1879. Accepted 25 February 1880.
Claims relating to  (a) manufacture of permanent way chairs by blocking and bending steel or iron into forms, (b) use of these chairs with wrought iron or steel sleepers, with packing between sleeper and chair, (c) use of elastic steel keys, (d) connection of facing and trailing points by a controlling bar, chain, or its equivalent, (e) combination of springs, weights or weight levers with points.
1128/1881. Improvements in or applicable to locomotive and traction engines and boilers. Applied 16 March 1881. Accepted 3 September 1883.
Seven claims relating to differnt aspects of compound engines: (i) combination of locomotives with two pairs of driving and carrying wheels, driven separately, one pair being driven from two cylinders and the other from one or two cylinders, one set of cylinders working steam direct from the boiler, and exhausting to the other cylinder or cylinders, the axles of the two pairs of driving wheels being uncoupled. (ii) as previous with arrangements for re-heating the exhaust steam from the high pressure cylinders before the steam is used in the low pressure cylinder or cylinders. (iii) arrangements for readily changing the working from compound to simple, or vice versa. (iv) combination of locomotives with two pairs of driving and carrying wheels and one pair of front carrying wheels on a radial axle or set of bogie wheels, together with valve gear similar to Joy's motion, and arrangements for re-heating the exhaust steam. (v) locomotive as in (iii) and (iv) when an additional pair of driving wheels is added, coupled by ordinary coupling rods. (vi) arrangements for changing the position of slide valves by connecting the same with some part of the engine which has motion imparted to it. (vii) method of permitting expansion or contraction of fireboxes by constructing them with one or more gussets formed and connected with the edges of the firebox.
3152/1881. Improvements in means, apparatus, or arrangements for storing and supplying heat for heating railway and other carriages, and for other purposes, more particularly applicable to foot and bed warmers, and to other portable heaters, with Joseph Reddrop and Martin Hugh Foye. Applied 20 July 1881. Accepted 21 December 1881,
Patent, granted to Webb and two analytical chemists (Joseph Reddrop and Martin Hugh Foye), involved the use of acetate of soda. This Patent was not in KPJ's original list and Spink cited Nock's The railways of Britain which describes the process, but does not cite Patent details.
5052/1882. Improvements in radial axles boxes for locomotive and other rail or tramway vehicles. Applied 24 October 1882. Accepted 14 April 1883,
4738/1884. Improvements in or applicable to locomotive and other steam engines. Applied 12 March 1884. Accepted 13 September 1884.
Screw reverse gear for compound engines and a combination of a central and annular orifice for the escape of exhaust steam from the engine to produce a blast for the furnace.
14632/1886. Improvements in actuating or partly actuating locks or latches used for securing the doors of railway carriages and other vehicles. Applied 11 November 1886. Accepted 5th August 1887.
A handle inside the vehicle is made to act to unlatch the ordinary latching arrangement of the door actuated from the outside of the carriage, such unlatching mechanism inside the vehicle being independent of the ordinary outside latching mechanism and leaving the latter free to act and be used in the ordinary manner. This Patent was not in KPJ's original list
16447/1886. Improvements in or applicable to apparatus for actuating brakes for railway vehicles. Applied 15 December 1886. Accepted 5 August 1887.
Modification in the detail of the vacuum brake: removable stuffing box for vacuum cylinder.
1686/1888. Improvements in or applicable to automatic vacuum brakes. Applied 4 February 1888. Accepted 23rd November 1888.
Cock and valve for control of a vacuum brake system. This Patent was not in KPJ's original list  
1974/1888. Improvements in locomotive and other boilers for generating steam. Applied 9 February 1888. Accepted 30 November 1888.
Object was to combine firebox and the shell of the boiler to allow freedom for expansion and contraction of metal so that mild steel may be used for fireboxes in place of copper. Methods included the use of corrugated plates, and cylinder and partial cylinder construction of fireboxes.
16608/1888. Improvements in the construction and arrangement of locomotive engines. Applied 15 November 1888. Accepted 7 September 1889.
The combination and arrangement of two sets of cylinders together, so that both sets may be worked by steam direct from the boiler or one set of cylinders by steam direct, and the other set by exhaust steam from the set worked direct. Coupling of the wheels driven by each set of cylinders was also covered.
701/1889. Improvement in or applicable to compound locomotives where the wheels driven by the high are uncoupled with the wheels driven by the low pressure cylinder or cylinders. Applied 14 January 1889. Accepted 9 November 1889.
Automatic reversing gear for the low-pressure cylinder or cylinders of compound locomotives. This Patent was not in KPJ's original list  
1263/1889. Improvements in staff apparatus for controlling the traffic on single-line railways, with Arthur Moore Thompson,. Applied 23 January 1889. Accepted 21 September 1889..
Provision of a simple form of apparatus whereby the use of the staff may be retained [instead of tablets], and the delay consequent on its present mode of working avoided, by having a suitable number of staffs in a magazine at each end of a section, the magazines being electrically connected and controlled in such a way as to prevent more than one staff being in use at a time. See also 962/1892.
19479/1889. Improvements in tools for cutting tubes, for the purpose of removing them from boilers and for other purposes, and in mechanism for operating the same. Applied 4 December 1889. Accepted 11th October 1890.
Electric Tool for cutting out old and faulty boiler tubes. This Patent was not in KPJ's original list  
12199/1890. Improvements in staff and tablet apparatus for controlling the traffic on single-line railways, with Arthur Moore Thompson, Applied 5 August 1890. Accepted 22 November 1890,
Working intermediate block posts between the staff or tablet stations to avoid the necessity of making them staff or tablet stations by forming the tablets or staffs in several parts which may be separated and readily put together again, and arranging these parts that if one is separated the remaining parts cannot be utilized for actuating the apparatus, or, if a part is absent the remaining part cannot be placed in the apparatus from which it has been removed. This Patent was not in KPJ's original list  
1378/189l. Steam valves and casing for engine cylinders. Applied 26 January 189l. Accepted 21 November 1891.
The application of a casing with piston valves to engine cylinders which have previously been fitted with the ordinary rectangular slide valves and an improved form of piston valve. The latter has 'wings' or 'feathers' projecting from the end of the valve so that steam slightly turns it each time and grooving is avoided. This Patent was not in KPJ's original list.
3712/189l. Improvements in locomotive boilers. Applied 2 March 189l. Accepted 24 December 1891.
Design of combustion chamber which was placed in mid-boiler, and equipped with ash hopper and steam blowers to clear the boiler tubes.This Patent was not in KPJ's original list.
962/1892. Improvements in staff apparatus for controlling the traffic on single line railways, with Arthur Moore Thompson. Applied 18 January 1892. Accepted 28 May 1892.
Modification to the system covered by British Patent 1263 of 23 January 1889, enabling the temporary closing of certain stations or block posts See Mike Christensen for application of Webb/Thompson system on Anglesey Central section of LNWR
13122/1892. Improvements in apparatus for controlling the traffic on single-line railways, with Arthur Moore Thompson. Applied 18 July 1892. Accepted 8th April 1893.
Modification to the system covered by British Patent 12199 of 3 August 1890, which substitutes a receptacle for tickets in connection with the staff or tablet apparatus itself, instead of having the tickets in connection with the staff or tablet itself. This Patent was not in KPJ's original list.
20488/1892. Improvements in apparatus for closing an electric circuit by the passage of a locomotive or train over a line of railway, and recording apparatus connected therewith, with Arthur Moore Thompson. Applied 12 November 1892. Accepted 21 October 1893.
Device works by the depression of the rail. It can be employed to record the passing of the train at the signal cabin. This Patent was not in KPJ's original list.
21243/1892. Improved method of forming junctions between electric light cables and electric lamps, with Arthur Moore Thompson. Applied 22 November 1892. Accepted 2 September 1893.
Covers the formation of junctions between electric light cables and electric lamps by means of a metal screw forced into contact with the copper core of the cables combined with a porcelain box or cover-piece containing the necessary fuse wires and lamp terminals. This Patent was not in KPJ's original list.
4180/1893. Self-acting anti-vacuum valves for locomotive cylinders. Applied 25 February 1893. Accepted 23rd December 1893.
Device enables air to be freely drawn into the cylinders preferably through the steam chest or chests, when the engine is running with the steam shut off, and thus free the movement of the pistons which is now more or less retarded by their effort to create a vacuum.
7556/1893. Improvement in locomotive, marine and other boilers. Applied 13 April 1893. Accepted 17 March, 1894.
Smokebox tube-plate made in two parts, an outer and inner one, the outer being firmly secured to the boiler and having a packing device for making a joint, the inner, which carries the ends of the tubes, being loose and free to slide in the outer Part. This Patent was not in KPJ's original list.
13547 Improvements in locomotive and other steam boilers. Applied 13 July 1894. Accepted 11 May 1895.
(i) Drilling small holes into, but not through, the water side of the tube plate to equalise the section of the metal between the tubes and at the same time keep the tube plate cooler. (ii) method of fixing tubes so that the ends on the outside of the plate are not burned away by the fire. This is done by recessing the tube plate to take the beading on the tubes.
6208/1895. Improvements in water gauge attachments for steam boilers. Applied 26 March 1895. Accepted 18 January 1896.
Two means of preventing the scattering of glass when water gauges burst, the first by encasing the glass in spiral wire-spring, and the other by encasing it in a guard or shield of thin sheet metal.
25496/1896. Improvements in or connected with railway rail joints. Applied 13 November 1896. Accepted 7 August 1897.
Combined joint chair & splice in halves, wherein three bolts of large size are employed for securing the parts without weakening the rail by drilling large holes through the web.
29239/1896. Improvements in the valve gear of locomotive engines. Applied 21 December 1896. Accepted 6th November 1897.
Method of working the valves of two cylinders of a four-cylinder locomotive engine with one set of eccentrics and links or other suitable expansion and reversing gear (from Poultney British express locomotive development p. 37).
29240/1896. Improvements in the construction and working of locootive engines and boilers. Applied 21 December 1896. Accepted 6 November 1897.
The dividing of the smoke box of a locomotive boiler into two independent compartments, each compartment enclosing a portion of the discharge ends of the tubes and providing each compartment with a separate blast pipe and chimney (from Poultney British express locomotive development p.38)
29638/1896. Improvements in steam generators with Arthur Moore Thompson. Applied 24 December 1896. Accepted 11 September 1897.
Flash type steam generator
12128/1897. Improvements in apparatus for working railway points and signals by electric power with Arthur Moore Thompson. Applied 17 May 1897. Accepted 2 April 1898.
Miniature form of the ordinary interlocking frame.
18259/1897 Improvements in and connected with apparatus for controlling the traffic on single lines of railway, with George Edwards and Arthur Moore Thompson. Applied 5 August 1897, Accepted 18 Decemeber 1897
George Edwards was of the Railway Signal Co Ltd, Fazakerley, Liverpool. Developed apparatus covered by British Patents 1263 (of 23 January 1889) and 9084 (of 12 June 1890). It covered making the electric connection or line by which the instruments are electrically operated capable of use also for transmitting telephonic messages, substituting a magneto-electric generator for the batteries hitherto used for generating the electric current and the provision of staffs such that several trains can be despatched successively from one end of a section to the other end when required whilst still not allowing of a further staff being removed until all the trains so despatched have passed over the section. Finally provision was made for sending an engine along a portion of a section, to render banking assistance, for example.
5982/1898. Improvements in the arrangement of buffers for railway vehicles. Applied 11 March 1898. Accepted 21 January 1899
Arrangement of rolling stock buffers to prevent undue pressure on the inner buffers of coupled vehicles when passing round curves.
6052/1899. Improvements in apparatus for working railway points and signals, with Arthur Moore Thompson. Applied 20 March 1899. Accepted 27 June 1900.
Modifications to British Patent 12128 (of 17 May 1897) to provide an improved apparatus for actuating points more especially points to sidings over which shunting is performed and requiring quick movement and the avoidance of damage to the points and the actuating apparatus should the points be run through.
12357/1901  Improvements in the form of bricks used for building purposes. Applied 18 June 1901. Accepted 28 September 1901.
Bricks, with upper and lower faces at an angle to prevent the passage of rain or moisture in the joints.
27090/1902 Improvements in apparatus for working railway points and signals by electric power, with Arthur Moore Thompson. Applied 9 December 1902. Accepted 18 June 1903.
Modifications and additions to British Patent 12128 (of 17th May 1897).

Applications abandoned from Spink
14342/1884. Securing and releasing railway carriage doors, with .E. A. Atkin. Applied 30 October 1884, but was abandoned.
2618/1885. Stair-rod. Applied 26 February 1885, but was abandoned.
14848/1888. Detecting flaws and defects in axles. Applied 16 October 1888, but abandoned.
16304/1890. Dust-guards for axles etc of railway rolling stock. Applied 14 October 1890, but abandoned.
19777/1890. Steam-valves for railway brakes.. Applied 4 December 1890, but abandoned.
361/1891. Dynamo electric machine. Applied 8 January 1891, but abandoned.
3694/1891 Electrical switches. Applied 2 April 1891, but abandoned.
19680/1891 Ball-valves for gas-reservoirs. Applied 13 November 1891, but abandoned.
20645/1891 Lubricating axleboxes and bearings. Applied 27 November 1891, but abandoned.
4344/1893 Expansion etc gear for locomotives. Applied 28 February 1893, but abandoned.
12087/1893 Railway carriage lavatories. Applied 20 June 1893, but abandoned.
14432/1894 Locomotives. Applied 27 July 1894, but abandoned.
13748/1895 Steam brake and coupling gear for locomotives. Applied 17 July 1895, but abandoned.
3259/1896 Propelling bicycle or tricycle. Applied 13 February 1896, but abandoned.
3993/1897 Piston valves. Applied 15 February 1897, but abandoned.
9610/1897 Handle bar. Applied 15 April 1897, but abandoned.
20903/1899 Railway points and signals. Applied 19 October 1899, but abandoned.
4320/1900. Railway points and signals. Applied 7 March 1900, but abandoned.

Problems from Spink
11321/1885. Improvements in the means of locking railway carriage doors. Applied 23 September 1885. Accepted 22 June, 1886.
This patent, covering the locking of carriage doors from the guard's van, was granted to one Fleetwood Walter Webb of Star Hotel, Newhall Street, Birmingham. The similarity of name and the appropriateness of the subject are striking, but it is difficult to establish whether this is a pseudonym or a hoax, or to find a reason for it. Webb's usual agent was Peter J. Livsey but the agent employed here was George Barker.


According to the DNB, Francis William Webb, "civil engineer" was born at Tixall Rectory, Staffordshire, on 21 May 1836, was the second son of William Webb, Rector of Tixall. Showing at an early age a liking for mechanical pursuits, he became at fifteen a pupil of Francis Trevithick, then locomotive superintendent of the London and North Western Raiway. His apprenticeship at Crewe lasted from 1851 to 7. He became Chief Draughtsman from 1859, but in 1861 became Chief Assistant to Ramsbottom and Works Manager at Crewe. In 1866 he left Crewe to become Manager and a Partner in the Bolton Iron & Steel Co. Rutherford suggests that this move may have been engineered by the LNWR Management for him to gain experience in steelmaking as he was invited back into the chief post by the Board without any form of competition..

On 1 October 1871 Webb became Locomotive Superintendent of the LNWR at an initial salary of £2000 per annum in the fisrt year and £3000 in the second and subesequent years. The LNWR was the largest joint stock company in the world. Webb must have been a man of vast vision for in 1872 he sent Aspinall, his former pupil, off to the USA to establish what was going on there, and in doing so ensured that Aspinall rose to the zenith of the engineering profession in due course (Bulleid's Apinall era). According to Weaver and to Rutherford his compound locomotives were far better than has been stated by many commentators, notably Cox. His salary latterly had risen to (including payment for patents) £7,000 per annum. According to Weaver he was a pioneer in the use and manufacture of steel, in compounding, in telephony, and in the application of electricity within Crewe Works—Webb was also aware that electricity was a suitable form of traction for the LNWR.

Neele Railway reminiscences notes that "Mr. Webb, of Crewe, entered thoroughly into the scrimmage" when it came to the 1888 Anglo-Scottish races.

Webb was a prolific inventor and took out many patents for improvements in the design and construction of locomotives and other machinery, but his name is chiefly associated with the compound locomotive, the steel sleeper, the electric train-staff for working single-line railways, and the electrical working of points and signals.

He died on 6 June 1906 after he had retired* (briefly to Bournemouth). He had been a Vice President of the Institutions of both the Civils and the Mechanicals. He was an Alderman on the Crewe Town Council and had been Mayor twice. He was also an Alderman on Cheshire County Council. He never married.

*It should be noted that Webb's retirement was indeed a cause celebre: Reed comments that Webb's retirement, though long foreshadowed, brought a situation to which the LNWR Board had not forethought a constructive solution. Webb himself had not been able to guide matters in his last few years to give a smooth transition."  The Board in effect had to replace Webb by Whale before Webb had left office. Reed includes a portait of him in mayoral attire (page 139)..

Talbot's The LNWR recalled: collected writings and observations on the London & North Western Railway. 1987. Chap 3 entitled Francis William Webb is based on correspondence between W. Noel Davies (one of Webb's last pupils) and J.M. Dunn. Webb is called "Frankie", rather than the "Frank" adopted by Michael Rutherford. It also includes a strong refutation of Hamilton Ells.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Volume 57 (pp. 834-5) contains a biography of Webb by W.F. Spear, revised by Mike Chrimes.

Lake, Chas. S. Some C.M.E.s I have known. 1 — F.W. Webb. Rly Mag., 1942, 88, 159-64.
An important source as Author's father Henry handled Webb's patenting activity. It also shows how Webb moulded Lake's career in technical journalism. Charles Lake was well aware of the problems with Webb's compounds, but the personality of Webb in nurturing younger engineering talent comes over very well. Illustrated with LNWR Official photographs.

Assessments of compounding

In 1883, in a paper presented to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Webb said that he had two main objects in designing his first compound, the Experiment: firstly to obtain economy in fuel consumption, and secondly to do away with coupling rods whilst obtaining a greater weight for adhesion. There would be less grinding action in passing round curves and it would not even be necessary that one pair of driving wheels should be the same diameter as the other.

According to Rogers (Express steam) the effect of the ratio between the high pressure and low pressure cylinders of compound engines has been much exaggerated by several writers on the subject. Andre Chapelon, the great French locomotive engineer, told Rogers that the importance of cylinder ratios had been greatly overrated. In his book, La Locomotive à Vapeur of 1952, he produces, on p61, a table giving the cylinder ratios of twelve large modern compound locomotives (nine of them Pacifics) belonging to various French and German railways. These ratios vary between 1:2.55 and 1:2.1. It is interesting that these two extreme figures relate to Paris-Orleans Pacifies rebuilt by Chapelon himself. As Chapelon wrote: "In fact, the great importance which at one period was attached to the ratio between the volumes of the low pressure and high pressure cylinders was very far from being justified". Thus according to Rogers criticisms of Webb's compounds on this count can therefore be disregarded.

The 'Dreadnoughts' had a boiler with the best steaming qualities that Crewe had so far produced (Rogers). Some of their performances were noteworthy. Rous-Marten recorded a run with No. 643 Raven from Willesden to Rugby in 85 mm 20 sec (including one signal check) with a load of 180 tons, and then on over the 75+ miles from Rugby to Crewe in 78 min 56 sec, an average speed of 57.4mph. With No. 571 Achilles the 90 miles from Preston to Carlisle over Shap took 100 min 3 sec, the load behind the tender being 190 tons.

Reed noted that: a curious feature of Webb's quick rise to high position (he was only 35 years old when he became No 1 in the LNWR locomotive department) which has never been noticed in the numerous written accounts of the man and his work was the extent to which he was favoured by untoward events. The early death of William Williams led to Webb's appointment as chief draughtsman at the age of 22. Two-and-a-half years later the injudicious resignation of Hunt at the age of 45 led to Webb's being stepped-up to works manager. Finally, after he had been away from the LNWR for four years, the untimely death of Stubbs at the age of 33 and the concurrent decision of Ramsbottom to retire in a twelve-month brought something of a crisis for the future direction of the department. No one of sufficient status and experience being on hand, the possibility of getting Webb back appealed immediately to both Moon and Ramsbottom.

Webb is mentioned in Joy's Diaries concerning the application of Joy's valve gear: their initial meeting.

'Argus' revealed. E. Talbot.  Br. Rly J., 1987 (17) 344-5.
Argus was the pen-name of of Webb's critics (one letter from him is quoted in this article) which reveals that Argus was a LNWR shareholder, William H. Moss, who considered that tthe LNWR could have been operated more economicslly. Webb showed that he had a sharp sense of humour when he named Dreadnought 2-2-2-2 No. 2056 Argus in December 1885.

Spink, John E. F.W. Webb 1836 - 1906: a bibliography: Francis William Webb, Chief Mechanical Engineer, London & North Western Railway, 1871 - 1903 : a survey of material for a study of his life and work. Rothbury : London and North Western Railway Society, 2011. 30pp.
Thesis submitted for the Fellowship of the Library Association 1965. Extremely important for list of Webb's Patents.Ottley 12203: "An excellent bibliography"

See: C. H. Ellis, Twenty locomotive men (1958);
W. A. Tuplin, North Western Steam (1963);
Transport History, Vol. I, No.2;
Engineering, 10 Aug. 1883,

Nature of Webb's batchelor household from 1881 Census: Backtrack 14, 637.
Rutherford: Backtrack, 2002, 16, 695.

H. Vivian. Webb compound locomotives on foreign railways. Loco. Mag., 1933, 39, 332-5. 6 illus., diagr.
Sharp Stewart supplied Combermere to the Austrian State Railways in October 1884. The name reflected a visit of the Empress of Austria to Combermere near Nantwich (near Crewe). This was a three-cylinder compound with two 13 x 24in and one low pressure 26 x 24in cylinders with uncoupled driving wheels (6ft 7½in.) with a total heating surface of 1062ft2 total heating surface and 16.8ft2 grate area. Sharp Stewart supplied a similar locomotive to the Western Railway of France in 1884 and this was not withdrawn until 1901. Dubs supplied ten smaller Webb three cylinder compounds to the Oudh & Rohilkund Railway (illustrated in Loco. Mag., 1925, 31, (14 March), p. 76). Two were supplied to South American railways and were fitted with bogies. Mariano Hædo was supplied to the Buenos Ayres Western Ry: it had two 12 x 24in and one 26 x 24in cylinders; 1096ft2 total heating surface and 17ft2 grate area. Sharp Stewart supplied Dr. F.N. Prates to the Paulista Ry in Brazil. This had 5ft 6in driving wheels; 11½ x 22 high pressure cylinders and a single 26 x 24in low pressure cylinder. 972ft2 total heating surface and 16.7ft2 grate area and 155 psi boiler pressure. Robert Stephenson & Co. supplied a 2ft 6in gauge 4-2-4-2T to the Antofagasta & Bolivia Ry in 1884: this had 695ft2 total heating surface and 11.5ft2 grate area. Beyer Peacock supplied the Pennsylvania Railroad with  a lcomotive similar to the Dreadnought class with two 14 x 24in cylinders and one 30 x 24in cylinder; 6ft 3in coupled wheels, 1241ft2 total heating surface and 20.5ft2 grate area and 175 psi boiler pressure.

See also Webb locomotive designs

Dunn, J.M. F.W. Webb, Crewe. Rly Mag., 1961, 107, 756-62; 840-4.
"MR. TREVITHICK reported that Frank Webb, draughtsman in his office, is out of his apprenticeship and that he is an exceedingly respectable young man and his services are very valuable. Resolved, that it be a recommendation to the Executive Committee to retain Webb's services at £2 a week wage."
So reads a Minute dated November 11, 1856*, of the London & North Western Railway Northern Division Sub-Committee, and it appears to be the first step on the ladder of fame for Francis William Webb, second son of the Rev. William Webb, Rector of Tixall, Staffordshire, for upwards of half-a-century, and his wife, Maria Morgan—natives, respectively of Castle Church and Lichfield, both in the county of Stafford. The son was to become one of the most interesting and probably most misunderstood figures in railway history. He was born at the Rectory (which is about three-quarters of a mile from the north end of Shugborough Tunnel, on the up side of the former L.N.W.R. main line from Euston to the North) on May 21, 1836, and baptised on the following day.
The son was educated privately, and it is believed that the nearby Trent Valley Railway, then under construction, attracted him to railway work and eventually led to him becomIng a pupil of Francis Trevithick, Locomotive Superintendent of the Northern Division of the L.N.W.R., on August 11, 1851. On the completion of his articles in 1856, his master rewarded his diligence by having him appointed one of his assistants. His promotion was rapid, and on March 1, 1859, he became Chief Draughtsman. On September 1, 1861, he took up the post of Works Manager, but for some unknown reason (though possibly to widen his experience) he resigned on June 30, 1866, to take over the management of the Bolton Iron & Steel Company, which was owned, or partly owned, by John Hick. There he remained for five years, at the end of which period he seems to have re-entered the service of the L.N.W.R., on whose behalf he visited several railways in America before being appointed head of the Locomotive Department in succession to John Ramsbottom on October 1, 1871, the same year, it may be noted, in which his previous employer, Hick, became a director. The latter remained a director of the L.N.W.R. until his death in 1894.
Webb was elected a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1862, and an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1865, becoming a full member in 1872. During his pupilage, Webb taught classes at the Crewe Mechanics' Institute and while thus engaged noticed the quality of the work of one of the students, C. Dick, who had shortly before tramped to Crewe in search of employment. He afterwards looked after him to such good purpose that Dick eventually became Webb's Signalling Assistant for the whole of the line. One of Webb's first jobs in the drawing office was to work out, under Ramsbottom, details of the design of the "Lady of the Lake" or "Problem" class 2-2-2 engines, the first of which, No. 184, Problem, appeared in November, 1859.
There are no clear indications as to why Webb was singled out for such rapid promotion to the senior position in the Locomotive Department apart from his evidently having been most a hardworking painstaking and industrious pupil. He was of a reserved disposition and not a keen participant in social activities, added to which it is believed that for highly creditable personal reasons, which had nothing to do with his job, he deliberately adopted the character of the overbearing and haughty autocrat which he was generally considered to be. As a result he had few friends but a number of enemies. Anyway, Richard Moon had been Chairman of the L.N.W.R. for ten years (since 1861) when Webb was appointed Locomotive Superintendent, and as he was always the latter's staunch supporter through good and ill, it seems reasonable to suppose that Moon had more than a little to do with the appointment.
There was one very important thing that Webb and Moon had in common, and that was a keen desire for economy in all things. Moon kept the speed of trains down to 40 m.p.h. to save fuel and wear and tear of rolling stock and track, while Webb saved money in his department in every possible way. A well-known example of this was the black livery for his engines which he is reported to have suggested while he was Chief Draughtsman but was not adopted until 1873, after he had become chief. Then there were his engine tenders which were probably the lightest and least costly of any in the country. One of the less spectacular economies was the individual cast-iron letters and numerals of different sizes which he produced in quantities at Crewe for station nameboards and seats, noticeboards, signalboxes, and so on. The letters were screwed on as desired to spell different words.
On his appointment as Locomotive Superintendent, Webb seems to have made up his mind to do his utmost to justify his selection by doing all that he possibly could for his employers, quite apart from his main job of building, repairing and running locomotives. He therefore endeavoured to make the L.N.W.R. self-supporting in respect of manufactured articles, and under his auspices the following side lines were conducted at Crewe Works :—-all signal work on termination of the L.N.W.R. agreement with Saxby & Farmer in 1873; lighting of railway premises all over the system; coal and water supplies; outdoor machinery for all departments; wash-house for cleaning sponge-cloths; soap factory using grease recovered at wash-house; manufacture of artificial limbs for disabled staff; gas works to supply the town of Crewe; rail mill to supply needs of the permanent way; Webb's patent steel sleepers (from 1880) ; metal-work for the Carriage Department at Wolverton and the Wagon Department at Earlestown; leather works; brick works; and carriage foot-warmers.
Apart from these activities Webb even started to compete with private locomotive building firms by manufacturing in Crewe Works between 1871 and 1874 a large number of engines for the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway. As a result of this, the private firms obtained an injunction in March, 1876, restraining the L.N.W.R. from building locomotives and rolling stock for either sale or hire!
Webb was no mere figure-head, and took a personal interest in the work of the drawing office to an extent that none of his successors -ever did. Neither the Chief Draughtsman nor the Senior Locomotive Draughtsman had their own way by any means. Webb would walk round and look at the work the different draughtsmen would have on their boards and criticise freely, even to the point of downright disagreement. He was very definite as to what he wanted, and equally determined to see that he got it, generally brushing to one side any mildly-offered suggestions from his subordinates. He took an equal interest in the shops and personally supervised the different foremen. His assistants generally had an arduous time.
Webb first used steel for locomotive boilers in 1872, and in 1873 he sent a Crewe-built steel boller to the International Exhibition at Vienna. Steel has been used at Crewe for boilers ever since. In 1881 he suggested the use of flat rubber blocks between the carriage-bodies and the solebars to minimise vibration. He had electric light and telephones installed in his private office in 1879, about thirteen years before the general offices were so equipped.
Strangely enough one of Webb's greatest achievements was in the realms of civil engineering, when the stone viaduct at Llandulas, on the Chester ∓ Holyhead Railway, was washed-away by flood on August 17, 1879. He had 52 32-ft. steel girders, and the steel of which they were composed, manufactured and turned out of Crewe Works in the course of seven days, which enabled the Civil Engineer to have the new viaduct ready for use in 28 days after the mishap.
The L.N.W.R. was the patron of the living of St. Paul's Church, Crewe, and it was perhaps more than a coincidence that Webb's brother, the Rev. A. H. Webb, was instituted to the incumbency in 1879. It is recorded that after the appointment of the new vicar the church, which hitherto had been badly attended, was filled! Another brother, Colonel Walter G. Webb, was born too soon-before colonels were so highly-prized on the railway as they have been since the grouping--otherwise he, too, might have found a post on the L.N.W.R.
In 1880 the first of the "18-in." goods engines, or "Cauliflowers," No. 2365, was turned out of Crewe Works, and it was also the first locomotive to be fitted with Joy's motion which, according to his son, B.C. Joy, was most probably introduced to Webb in the form of a flat cardboard model. One can almost picture the great man playing with this "childish toy" which soon impressed him to such an extent that he adopted it for nearly all his future work. It is believed in some quarters that for many ye'ars after this Webb frequently consulted David Joy.
Through Webb's influence the railway company did much for Crewe, and in the year 1887, in which he was Mayor, and which was also the Jubilee Year of both Queen Victoria and the town, the directors presented the corporation with 30 acres of land for Queens Park (opened July 4, 1887) and £10,000 into the bargain for laying it out. It was little wonder that Webb was re-elected Mayor in 1888, and that Richard Moon got a baronetcy! Again, at Webb's instance, the directors gave a site for Crewe Cottage Hospital (opened August 7, 1895) and in 1903 he made a personal gift of £5,000 to its endowment fund.
Webb was a great inventor and had no less than 80 patents (only two of which were unconnected with railway work), but some of them were abandoned. During his regime at Crewe he maintained a private drawing office in which his confidential draughtsman worked on his schemes as and when required. The latter and the Chief Draughtsman were the only ones apart from Webb who possessed a key and no one else was allowed inside. His patents may be summarised as follows :-tools and appliances, 8; rails, 3; locomotives, 29; points and signals, 18; brake apparatus, 7; foot-warmers, 1; carriage door locks, 3; carriage lavatories, 1; dust shields for axleboxes, 1; electrical apparatus, 4; and miscellaneous 5.
Among the more interesting ones are rolls for re-rolling worn rails to lighter sections (No. 343 of 1864), and a combined rail-chair and fishplate (No. 25496 of 1896). The horizontally-divided smokebox with double blast-pipe and chimney fitted to the four-cylinder compound Black Prince and the "Jumbo" Hampden, was a patent (No. 29240 of 1896), as also was the arrangement whereby the four valves of the four-cylinder compounds were worked by two sets of valve-gear (No. 29239 of 1896).
A unique idea was that of reversing the cones of the centre wheels of engines having three or more pairs of wheels to reduce the strain on axles, wear and tear of rails and haulage power required (No. 3442 of 1871). This must have amounted almost to an outside or double flange! Then there was the famous Clark & Webb chain brake. This was actually the invention of John Clark in 1862, but in 1870, after the L.N.W.R. had obtained a licence to use it, Webb modified the brake-rigging to allow the use of two brake-blocks per wheel—one back and one front—to give increased brake power.
Probably the most extraordinary of all Webb's patents was that for what was in effect a sliding smokebox tubeplate (No. 7556 of 1893). This was intended to prevent the tubes moving in the tubeplate and thus leaking as they expanded and contracted. The tubeplate moved with the tubes, the former being supplied with a jointing-ring "of any suitable material or form for making a steam and watertight joint so that no steam or water may leak out of the boiler at that part."
Webb's name is chiefly associated with compound locomotives, of which he was a staunch advocate. First of all he favoured three-cylinder compounds, with two high- and one low-pressure cylinders, and then four-cylinder compounds, with two high- and low-pressure cylinders. The. writer has a friend with a good memory, backed by well-kept note-books, who rode on and behind three-cylinder compounds at the turn of the century. This gentleman assures him that, although there undoubtedly were starting difficulties, these have been greatly exaggerated by modern writers. The much-cherished story that these engines had to be started with pinch-bars had very little foundation in fact.
The late E. L. Ahrons, who was by no means "pro-L.N.W.R.," specifically stated on page 247 of  "The British Steam Railway Locomotive from 1825 to 1925 " that on a few occasions the high- and low-pressure driving wheels of those engines fitted with slip-eccentrics to the low-pressure valve gear revolved in opposite directions when startmg. There is no doubt at all that if this had been anything like a common occurrence he would have said so.
These engines were temperamental and a good deal depended on the personal element. If the high- and low-pressure motions got "out of-step" a keen driver would deliberately try to make the engine slip and this generally succeeded in restoring synchronism. Provided the high- and low-pressure motions were in harmony, a Webb three-cylinder compound would start and accelerate a train of equal tonnage far more rapidly than would a contemporary simple engine.
The three-cylinder compounds became the subject of strong criticism, and on the introduction of the "Dreadnought" class one of the correspondents in Engineering, who concealed his identity under the nom-de-plume of "Argus," and who was, in fact, the representative in India of the American firm of locomotive builders then known as Burnham, Parry, Williams & Company, though it has not been possible to ascertain his name, wrote a series of letters which has been described as one of the most remarkable ever published in any journal. Webb knew who he was, but did not take part in the correspondence, in which several others joined.
The letters from "Argus" appeared in issues of Engineering between September 11, 1885, and January 22, 1886. They averaged 3,000 words each. "Argus" was particularly emphatic in his views, even to the point of being offensive. Some of his comments are worth recalling:—"Another of Mr. Webb's little delusions"; "I have yet to learn that Mr. Webb has any prescriptive right to immunity from adverse criticism "; "The 12.10 p.m. Euston to Liverpool, starting from rest up a bank of 1 in 113, displayed what a Yankee would call a circus!" "I have no quarrel with Mr. Webb, but in the interests of the L.N.W.R. shareholders a full enquiry into Mr. Webb's policy is not only desirable but imperative"; "Dreadnought is a monstrosity."
There were editorial footnotes printed at the ends of some of these letters, and one in the issue for January 1, 1886, read —"It may interest our correspondent to know that Mr. Webb has named one of his latest compounds Argus." This was No. 2056, which was turned out from Crewe Works in December, 1885, and was Webb's only reply. As has been said before, Webb made enemies who delighted in any chance to belittle and disparage his achievments. Another locomotive chief on another line, the appearance of whose engines captured the public imagination although they did not in fact live up to their looks completely, was a charming personality as a result of which blind eyes were turned on the shortcomings of his products.
Engines on Webb's three-cylinder compound system were constructed for the following railways:— Western of France; Paulista; Antofagasta; Oudh & Rohilkund; Austrian State; San Paulo; Western of Buenos Ayres; and Pennsylvania. The last named was built by Beyer, Peacock & Company to drawings supplied by Webb, but the tender was the makers' own design. The engine was placed in traffic in February, 1889, and withdrawn in January, 1897. In 1893 Webb sent his 2-2-2-2 three-cylinder compound engine Queen Empress, accompanied by two 42-ft. passenger coaches, to the World's Columbia Exposition at Chicago, where they received the highest award and ran as a "British Special Train" from Chicago to New York.
So far as the four-cylinder compounds were concerned, Rous Marten, who accompanied the members of the Institution of Civil Engineers on their well-known trip from Euston to Crewe on June 8, 1899, has related how the four-cylinder compound No. 1903, Iron Duke, took a load of 339 tons straight out of the terminus and up the 1 in 70 of Camden bank without any assistance, much to the interest of many of the passengers who looked backwards out of the windows to see if any banking was going on.
Bowen Cooke, then Assistant Running Superintendent of the L.N.W.R., who had the job of keeping them at work, said explicitly when writing in 1901-2 that "There are at present 40 four-cylinder compound engines at work on the L.N.W.R., everyone of which is double-manned, is in steam six days of every week, and has a minimum of 316 miles cut-out for its daily work. These compound engines are daily, without assistance, taking loads of 300 tons and running at an average speed of 52 m.p.h."  This is a statement which must be accepted and treated with the greatest respect.
The ratios of the high- and low-pressure cylinders were incorrect, and to overcome this No. 1952, Benbow, was fitted, in 1903, with four separate sets of valve-gear, so that the high- and low-pressure cut-offs could be varied independently of each other. The driver, who had this engine to himself, had been heard to declare that the improvement brought about was remarkable, and that on trains such as the 11.50 p.m. Scottish Express from Euston, the difference between Webb's Benbow and Whale's Precursor was so slight as not to be worth notice. Shortly after this by an odd coincidence—or perhaps something else—Benbow had its boiler-pressure reduced from 200 to 175 lb. per sq. in., thus making a wide gap between the performance of the two engines. It is worthy of note that, although George Whale was given the credit for the improvement to the valve-gear on Benbow, the idea had been formulated by Webb, and the drawings completed before he retired in May, 1903. The official date of Whale's succession was July 1, following.
That Webb successively adopted the Clark & Webb chain brake, the simple vacuum, and finally the automatic vacuum brake as standard on the L.N.W.R. is well-known. For these obviously costly changes Webb has often been blamed, but it seeems more than likely that Richard Moon, the Chairman and Webb's ally, discouraged what he considered unnecessary expenditure on new-fangled devices until he was forced by circumstances to adopt them and was thus equally responsible.
Part 2
A FEW briefly-related incidents in Webb's life give some idea of his character. The representative of a certain firm of brake manufacturers, having called on him and impressed him to such an extent that he agreed to recommend to the directors that the brake should be given a trial, so far forgot himself as to tell Webb that there would be a commission of {20,OOO for him if the London & N orth Western Railway adopted the apparatus. Webb flew into a violent rage and had the man and his brake unceremoniously shown the door. That was the end of that brake's chances on the L.N.W.R. !
Just in case it might be thought that Webb was scrupulous in large things and not in small, on one occasion when he needed some repairs to the conservatory heating system at his house, Chester Place, Crewe, the property of the railway company and for which he paid rent, he instructed the man who came from the works to make sure that all time and material spent on the job was to be charged to him personally and not to the company.
For mariy years before he retired Webb kept a country seat, Stanway Manor, about 5½ miles south-east of Church Stretton, and was in the habit of going there at weekends. This journey involved changing at Shrewsbury. In those days there was a ramp in the middle of the platform, giving access to a level-crossing to the opposite platform. One Saturday there was a small crowd waiting for an approaching engine to pass, before making use of the crossing when up marched Webb, who raised his umbrella, at which the engine (was it a Great Western one?) obediently stopped. The driver motioned the people waiting to cross the line, much to the astonishment of those who did not know who Webb was.
When changing trains at Shrewsbury, Webb was escorted by an elderly porter who carried his bag and saw that he was generally comfortable, usually getting a 2s. tip for his pains. On one occasion he had gone to some extra trouble and received 2s. 6d., Webb asking him at the same time, obviously as a leg-pull, if he knew that he was breaking the rules in accepting tips from passengers? The porter is said to have replied "Oh yes, Sir. I knew it was forbidden to accept tips from passengers but I didn't know it applied to fellow-servants of the railway company. Good morning, Sir!" He then shut the door and walked off before Webb had time to say anything. The pair continued to meet at weekends for a very long time afterwards, so there was evidently no sort of resentment felt. This story is believed to be true, but unlike the others cannot be authenticated.
Another incident which throws a light on Webb's disposition is the case of the Shrewsbury driver who considered he had been unjustly suspended as the result of an enquiry into a derailment in which he was involved. Meeting Webb on the platform one day, he asked if he might speak to him, and getting a reply in the affirmative told his tale. Webb listened attentively and then told the driver to make out a written statement of all he had just said, and give it to the Locomotive Foreman at the shed with the request that it be forwarded to him, Webb, at Crewe marked "Personal." This was done, and the driver was reprieved and paid for the period of his suspension from duty. Further, the locomotive department's representative, who was quite a "big-wig" himself, was "carpeted" by Webb, who told him to take more care of the department and the and men in it at any future enquiry he might be concerned in.
Once when a night-shift was being worked in the millwrights' shop at Crewe, two of the men thought there was a chance to cut one another's hair, so just after midnight they rigged-up a canvas screen and got to work. All was going well and the job nearly completed when a deep, gruff voice sounded over the sacking—"I knew we had many shops on the ground but never before that there was a barber's shop among them!" Then the owner of the voice, who was none other than F.W. Webb, stalked off down the shop and out of it without another word. Both barber and customer were scared out of their wits and fully expected to be discharged the next day, but no one heard another word about the incident.
An example of Webb's insistence on discipline is revealed by the outcome of Edith having taken over from Jeanie Deans. One day the famous three cylinder compound No. 1304, Jeanie Deans, with Driver John Button of Camden, took an assistant engine, No. 1427, Edith, with Driver Sam Wood of Crewe, from Crewe to Euston. However, at Nuneaton Jeanie failed to start and was taken off the train. No other engine was handy, so Wood said that he and Edith could manage alone, but he was told to stop at Rugby where another engine would be available and in readiness. They got away from Nuneaton alright and, as things were going well with all signals "off" at Rugby, Wood decided not to stop and he went right through, arriving at Euston on time. The surprising sequel to this was that Webb suspended Wood for two weeks for having disobeyed instructions to stop at Rugby for assistance, thomgh it was generally thought that the real reason was that Wood had shown that a Ramsbottom 2-2-2 could do the work of a Webb 2-2-2-0 !
Nevertheless, the writer, as a running (now motive power) department man, feels that Webb's attitude—though perhaps not the severity of the punishment—was justified by an unnecessary risk having been taken in view of the seven miles of 1 in 370 from Rugby to the south end of Kilsby Tunnel and the other seven miles of 1 in 333 from. Sears Crossing to Tring, both against the engine. It would not have been unreasonable to expect a "single" with a heavy train to lose time or even stick on such gradients and, if the engine had failed in either of these localities, far greater upset to mainline traffic would have been caused than by the four or five minutes delay (which might have been regained) due to taking pre-arranged assistance at Rugby.
Ben Robinson, of Hardwicke fame, had a similar experience, as within ten days or so of having been invited to take wine with Webb on the occasion of one of his outstanding runs, he was given one day's suspension for getting a hot-axle on his engine. This was undoubtedly intended by Webb to show that he administered strict justice and was no respecter of persons!
Mr. G. L. Darbyshire, who became one of the chief officers of the L.M.S.R., used to relate that when he was a boy in the booking-office at Crewe he was one day put "on the gate," and asked Webb for, his ticket. The latter complained to the Stationmaster and said "This boy does not know who I am. Sack him! "
Rosling Bennett recorded that he found Webb "somewhat sharp of speech and a bit dictatorial" when he was canvassing the locomotive superintendents of the various railways for locomotives and other rolling-stock exhibits for the Edinburgh International Exhibition of 1890, and that Webb alone of all the people he interviewed said he would send an engine, and other equipment, without the formality of making the promise subject to the approval of his directors! This was how the 7-ft. compound engine No. 1304 came to be named Jeanie Deans, after the heroine in Scott's "Heart of Midlothian." It was a very good engine and worked the 2 p.m. Anglo-Scottish express from Euston to Crewe regularly for 8½ years, during which period its cost for maintenance was estimated at only 1.34 pence per mile.
Webb, who was an able business man, reigned as undisputed King of Crewe during the time Sir Richard Moon was Chairman (until 1891) and Sir George Findlay was General Manager (until 1893). Moon's policy, as has been stated before, was economy in all things. However, just at the period when Moon was succeeded by Lord Stalbridge and Findlay by Frederick Harrison, traffic was beginning to increase and it became necessary to "ginger-up" things all round in order to keep up with rivals, even at the expense of the long-cherished economy.
Accordingly a Passenger Traffic Committee was set up with Alfred Fletcher, one of the directors, in the chair to see what could be done to meet the changing conditions. With Harrison as General Manager and "the new broom sweeping clean," things began to move and not unnaturally one of the first matters that came under notice was the capability of the locomotive stock. Criticism in this direction was somewhat severe, the more so perhaps because Webb's salary as Chief Mechanical Engineer (as he had by that time been redesignated) was higher than Harrison's as General Manager. Of course, Webb did not take this lying down. Although his chief supporter, Moon, had gone, he still had plenty of influential friends, including Lord Stalbridge, who was Chairman until 1911, and rightly or wrongly was able to keep Harrison more or less at arm's length. Webb had been heard to say that "no d----d, jumped-up ex-clerk was going to show him his business!" Webb stuck to his guns and would not allow anyone (with the possible exception of Lord Stalbridge, a personal friend of long standing) to visit Crewe Works without permission being first sought and obtained. Consequently Harrison never got inside while Webb was in charge, but within a fortnight of Whale having taken over the reins he came on a tour of inspection!
As an example of what went on: the Passenger Traffic Committee told Webb that the 1 a.m. train from Carlisle to Euston had, during 26 consecutive trips, lost an average of 13 min. per trip due to locomotive causes and requested his explanation. This train was due at Crewe at.3.46 a.m., the booked average speed bemg 51.05 m.p.h., with Shap Summit, more than 900 ft. above sea-level to get over on the way. Webb looked closely mto the matter and replied that the average figures per trip taken from the engmemen's tickets and the guards' statements were as follow:

Time lost by locomotive


Late starts not dne to locomotive


Station delays


Signals, etc.


Unexplained delays


Total lost time, all canses, say


Out of all this delay, the locomotive regained on an average 5 min. per trip, or more than the time it had lost!
Another method of attack was the issue by the General Manager of an instruction (Circular No. 3050 of October 16, 1901) to the effect that the maximum number of vehicles for one engine was to be l7—eight-wheeled bogie vehicles counting as 1½ and 12-wheeled as two. If the number of vehicles exceeded 17 as thus calculated, an extra engine was to be attached. Webb commented on this that it would lead to an unnecessary increase of expenditure and added that the six four-cylinder engines stationed at Rugby had practically kept time for 16 months. Assistance these engines would now have to take would increase locomotive costs by about £2,500 a year.
Around this time (Webb being about 65 years of age) a notice was issued from the General Manager's office to the effect that all members of the staff of the L.N.W.R. would be retired on attaining the age of 65 years, and many considered that this was intended as a broad hint to Webb, who, however, ignored it. Webb's health was beginning to trouble him and causing him to have varying spells of sick-leave (his last illness commenced about May 19, 1903) and advantage was taken even of this. On January 24, 1902, at least two different printed notices were issued from Webb's office, "Locomotive Department, Crewe," in his absence over the name of George Whale,** although the former had not retired. This, no doubt, was done deliberately to try and goad him still further, and notices issued the following day were signed "F.W. 'Webb" as usual.
At last Webb retired, in 1903, and went to live at the Red Lodge, Parsonage Road, Bournemouth. He did not survive long to enjoy his retirement (it may be wondered whether such an intensely active man would have enjoyed it) and died at Bournemouth on June 6, 1906; he was buried in the main Bournemouth Cemetery at Cemetery Junction, where the grave is well-maintained by the Corporation. He left an estate of £211,543, of which the following sums were bequeathed: for charitable purposes in Crewe, £87,000; churches in Crewe, £9,000; charitable purposes elsewhere, £9,000; and Webb scholarships, £4,000. Today there is a Frank Webb Avenue in Crewe (the friendly, diminutive "Frank" seems significant), and in 1910 the second of the L.N.W.R. "Queen Mary" class 4-4-0 engines (works number 4981), No. 268, was named F. W. Webb.
Whatever may be said about Webb's peculiarities it is refreshing, in these days when railways are run by committees and not by individuals, to read of a man who had enough faith in himself and influence with his employers to carry out his life's work as he thought it should be performed and also enough courage to take the responsibility for his actions. He was certainly an autocrat, but a good specimen of the breed, with a kind heart under a gruff exterior.
In conclusion the writer wishes to record his thanks to Messrs. W. Noel Davies, F.B. Roberts, G. Royde Smith, D.T. Vaisey, H.F. Tucker, the Rev. P.D. Vaughan and many others too numerous to mention individually but without whose help this record could not have been compiled.

*In The Railway Magazine for February, 1900, Webb is reported as having said "I completed my pupilage in August, 1857, on the very day that Mr, Trevithick retired." The Locomotive Magazine for July, 1941, gives the date of this as August 1, 1857

**Whale, the Running Superintendent, was held in high esteem by the Traffic Department, as, among other things, he "made no attempt to screen his men when at fault," and presumably was not over-keen on contesting "traffic" bookings against "loco," as evidenced by the case of the 1 a.m. Carlisle to Euston. Whale and Harrison appear to have been on good terms which may have accounted, in part at least, for many subsequent happenings!

Dunn, J.M. Letter: F.W. Webb, Crewe. Rly Mag., 1962, 108, 281.
Had been informed that Webb had a high-pitched voice.

Harris, Brian. Frank Webb's friends at Bolton. LNWR Society Journal, 2012
Considers the relationship between Webb and John Hick and his predecessors as Bolton industrialists and their involvement in the Bolton Iron & Steel Company and in locomotive building.

Nock, O.S. Railway enthusuast's encyclopedia

Updated: 2012-11-09

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