Tag Archives: William Armstrong

A standard deception

The regular view of Goathland, with a twist, No.45344 is heading West on the East road – the eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted the dolly is off. No.45344 isn’t bound for Pickering but for the loop. No.45344 isn’t No.45344 either which opens a whole fresh can of worms – the identity swap debate.  This debate has several sub-plots, how much of the original engine is original being the leading contender. That’s the thing about standardisation all the bits are, as far as possible, interchangeable and boiler swaps were routine.

Standardisation and interchangeability were important factors in the success of the railway venture. When the locomotive building business began even the nuts, screws, washers and bolts were hand made, the locomotive, if not an actual ‘work of art’ was the work of artisans.  Until 1841 the nearest thing to standardised was in-house, and then, along came the British  Standard Whitworth Thread. Mr. Whitworth was also involved with another vital innovation, the boiler inspection system, drawn up by the Manchester Society for the Prevention of Boiler Explosions, of which he was a Vice-President.

In the 1890s Whitworth’s engineering business merged with that of William Armstrong to become Armstrong Whitworth, and they in turn built 327 of the 842 locomotives to the design of Sir W.A. Stanier, which we call Black 5s, Mickeys, etc.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:


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