Rastrick, John Urpeth (DNB00)
RASTRICK, JOHN URPETH (1780–1856), civil engineer, eldest son of John Rastrick, engineer and machinist, was born at Morpeth, Northumberland on 26 Jan. 1780, and was at the age of fifteen articled to his father. About 1801 he entered the Ketley ironworks in Shropshire to gain experience in the use of cast iron for machinery. Soon after he became a partner with Mr. Hazeldine of Bridgnorth, as a mechanical engineer, taking special charge of the iron foundry. During the partnership he continued to practise independently as a civil engineer. In 1814 he took out a patent for a steam engine (No. 3799), and soon engaged in experiments on traction for railways. In 1815–16 he built a cast-iron bridge, with 112-ft. span, over the Wye at Chepstow. On the death of Hazeldine about 1817, he became the managing partner in the firm of Bradley, Foster, Rastrick & Co., ironfounders and manufacturers of machinery at Stourbridge, Worcestershire, taking the principal engineering part in the design and construction of rolling mills, steam-engines, and other large works. At this time he designed ironworks at Chillington, near Wolverhampton, and at Shut End, near Stourbridge. In January 1825 he was engaged by the promoters of the Liverpool and Manchester railway, along with George Stephenson and others, to visit collieries in the north of England and report on their tramroads and engines. In the following April he was the first witness called before the parliamentary committee in support of the railway company, which was opposed by the canal companies. The evidence he gave on the use of locomotive engines helped to secure a favourable report. From that time he was employed to support in parliament a large portion of the principal lines of railway in the United Kingdom. In 1826 and 1827 he constructed a line about sixteen miles long between Stratford-on-Avon and Moreton-in-the-Marsh, the first line laid with Birkenshaw's patent wrought-iron rails. On 2 June 1829 he completed and opened the Shutt End colliery railway from Kingswinford to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal, working it with a locomotive engine built under his own superintendence. This engine had three flues in the boiler, and in economy, speed, and accuracy of workmanship excelled any engine previously made.
When the directors of the Liverpool and Manchester railway offered a premium of 500l. for the best locomotive engine, Rastrick was appointed one of the judges. On 6 Oct. 1829 he and his colleagues decided in favour of George Stephenson's Rocket. In 1830, with Stephenson, he surveyed the line from Birmingham to join the Liverpool and Manchester railway, afterwards called the Grand Junction, and marked out a line from Manchester to Crewe. In 1835 the Manchester and Cheshire junction railway was brought forward, with Rastrick as the engineer. This line was opposed by a competing project called the South Union railway. After two years of parliamentary inquiry, the act was obtained for the original line. With Sir John Rennie [q. v.], in 1837, he carried the direct Brighton line against several competing projects. Towards the close of that year the active superintendence of the line, including a branch to Shoreham, was confided to him, and the heavy works, comprising the Merstham, Balcombe, and Clayton tunnels, and the Ouse viaduct of thirty-seven arches at an elevation of one hundred feet, were completed by the autumn of 1840. He afterwards constructed extensions which now form the series of lines known as the London, Brighton, and South Coast railway.
Of very resolute character, Rastrick always displayed as a witness the greatest shrewdness as well as coolness. He was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers from 1827, and a fellow of the Royal Society from 1837. With James Walker he published a ‘Report on the Comparative Merits of Locomotive and Fixed Engines as a moving Power,’ 1829.
He retired from active work in 1847, and died at his residence, Sayes Court, near Chertsey, Surrey, on 1 Nov. 1856; he was buried in the new cemetery at Brighton. A son Henry died at Woking on 1 Nov. 1893.[Minutes of Proceedings of Institution of Civil Engineers, 1857, xvi. 128–33.]