Crampton, Thomas Russell (DNB01)

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CRAMPTON, THOMAS RUSSELL (1816–1888), railway engineer, was born at Broadstairs, Kent, on 6 Aug. 1816, and, after receiving a private school education, was articled on 21 May 1831 to John Hague, a well-known engineer of Cable Street, Wellclose Square, London, where he had Sir Frederick Bramwell as a fellow-student. After serving his time he acted from 1839 to 1844 as assistant to the elder Brunei, and subsequently to (Sir) Daniel Gooch, under whose directions he prepared the drawings for the first locomotive for the Great Western Railway. Four years were then spent under John and George Rennie, until, in 1848, Crampton commenced business on his own account as a civil engineer. In the battle of the gauges he took an active part in favour of the narrow gauge. Between 1842 and 1848 he made improvements in the details of locomotive machinery, and in 1843 he embodied his main ideas in the design of an engine, which he patented and which bears .his name. The characteristic features of the Crampton engine are a long boiler, outside .cylinders set in the middle of the engine's length, and large driving wheels placed quite in the rear of the firebox. His ideas were expounded at length in an important paper read before the Institution of Civil Engineers, 24 April 1849, 'Upon the Construction of Locomotive Engines, especially with respect to those Modifications which enable additional Power to be gained without materially increasing the Weight or unduly elevating the Centre of Gravity.' He stated that, owing to the extraordinary increase of traffic on some of the principal railways, it had been found necessary to employ engines of much greater power and consequently greater weight than those hitherto used ; while at the same time the adoption of large driving wheels rendered the engines very lofty and seriously impaired their stability. To obviate these defects Crampton designed an engine, the ' Liverpool,' which was built in 1848 by Bury, Curtis, & Kennedy for the London and North-Western line. The boiler had three hundred tubes, the driving wheels were eight feet in diameter, and the weight was thirty-five tons. The special features were a low centre of gravity, accessibility of working parts, and very liberal bearing surfaces. It hauled 180 tons at fifty miles an hour, and was without doubt the most powerful engine of its time, surpassing in this respect Trevithick's 'Cornwall' of 1847 [see Trevithick, Richard]. It was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and gained the gold medal. Unfortunately its weight was too great for the permanent way of the period, and on this account it was opposed by Stephenson and Brunei, and was with-drawn in 1852. The 'machine Crampton' was, however, adopted by the 'Compagnie du Nord' of France in 1848, and for forty years from this date the light express trains of the Northern and Eastern railways of France were worked by these engines. As a recognition of the value of his design Crampton was made an officer of the legion of honour by Napoleon III in 1855.

The most distinguished work of Crampton's professional life was perhaps the laying in 1851 of the first practical submarine cable between Dover and Calais. After the failure of a previous cable laid by Brett in 1850, a second cable was prepared in 1851 ; but the laying was surrounded by serious difficulties, pecuniary and otherwise. The period of concession was within seven weeks of expiration when Crampton, contributing with his friends the capital required, undertook the responsibility. He devised a new method of sheathing the cable, which was laid in the Blazer during the early part of September, and the operations were success- fully concluded before the time specified, the day of the closing of the Great Exhibition, 25 Sept. 1851.

Among other works carried out by Crampton were the Berlin waterworks, jointly with Sir Charles Fox; the Smyrna railway, the Varna railway, and various lines in Kent. These were merged into the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway, for which he designed six pioneer locomotives in 1857. The outside firebox shells used upon these and upon the majority of modern engines are still known as Crampton's.

He also invented a rotary dust-fuel furnace, which was used for some time in Woolwich arsenal (see Proc. Inst. Mechan. Engineers, 1876, p. 244), brick-making machinery, and an automatic hydraulic tunnel-boring machine. This last was designed with special reference to the Channel Tunnel project, and was described in a lecture given by Crampton to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers at Leeds in 1882 (ib. 1882, p. 440).

Crampton took a lively interest in the progress of his native place. In 1851 he started the Broadstairs gasworks, subscribing a large portion of the capital, and eventually constructing the works. He also originated and built the waterworks there, and presented the church with its clock. He died at 19 Ashley Place, Westminster, on 19 March 1888. and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. He was twice married, and left six sons and one daughter, who married Sir Horace Rumbold, ambassador at Vienna.

Crampton was elected an associate of the Institute of Civil Engineers on 3 March 1846, and was transferred to the roll of members on 7 March 1854, his nomination paper being signed by the greatest engineers of the day. He was an original member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1847, became a member of council in 1879, and a vice-president in 1883. He was on the council of the Society of Telegraph Engineers, and was an officer of the Prussian order of the Red Eagle.

[Engineering, 21 Aug. 1885, 19 Feb. 1886, 27 April 1888; Railway Engineer, April 1888; Engineer, 27 April 1888; Proc. Inst. Mechan. Engineers, July 1888; Iron, 27 April 1888; Proc. Inst. Civil Engineers, vols. viii. xvii. xlvi.; Pettigrew's Locomotive Engineering, pp. 21, 203; Stretton's Development of the Locomotive, p. 100; Grande Encyclopédie, s.v. 'Crampton;' Times, 25 April 1888.]

T. S.