Hornbuckle, Thomas 1880 - 1958

Hornbuckle began his career serving an apprenticeship in the general engineering works of R. Hornsby and Sons, Grantham. Here he worked on the Hornsby-Akroyd oil engine. Between 1901-1903 he studied mechanical and electrical engineering at University College, Nottingham and gained the City and Guilds qualification in engineering from the London Institute. From 1903 to 1911 he worked in the electrical and general engineering section of the locomotive department of Midland Railway, Derby. Here he was involved in designing electric motors, designing a new power station to supply power to the locomotive and carriage and wagon workshops. He was also involved in experimenting to test the possibilities of single phase traction for mainline electrification. In connection with this he toured Switzerland, Germany and Holland to inspect electric railways in operation. During this period he was an external student of the University of London, and in 1911 was awarded a BSc in engineering.

From 1911-1927 Hornbuckle worked in the works manager’s office of the locomotive department of Midland Railway, Derby. He supervised all general and electrical engineering work carried out on any part of the Midland Railway by staff attached to the locomotive works. Between 1911 and 1923 he also acted as liaison officer to the goods department. During World War One his responsibilities also covered the provision and installation of new machine tools of all descriptions and the improvement of production methods, and he was also involved in the manufacture of munitions, for which he was awarded an MBE in 1920. In 1919 he joined the Institution of Civil Engineers.

In 1923 he served on various committees for coordinating works practices and methods on the amalgamation of the railways. As part of this work he investigated and made recommendations for the more efficient operation of the railways’ fleet of ships. In 1927 he became the technical assistant to the carriage and wagons superintendent at the carriage and wagon department of the London, Midland and Scotland Railway (LMS) at Derby. His principal duties were the research and development in connection with rolling stock and the reorganization of factories.

Between 1931 and 1939 Hornbuckle was the chief technical assistant to the chief mechanical engineer at LMS in Euston. On his recommendations experimental work was carried out on the development of Diesel traction. This involved investigations and experiments with both mechanical and electrical diesel shunting engines, including models made by Armstrong-Whitworth and the English Electric Co. The main objective of the investigation was to reduce costs by introducing one-man operation of shunting engines. At the same time he experimented with diesel passenger units, especially the three-car diesel train. During this period he was a member of the electrification sub-committee and took an active part in the detailed investigation of the effects of electrifying the LMS mainlines between Euston-Carlisle and St Pancras-Leeds. In 1932 he toured Austria with General Mance to investigate the extent to which the Austrian State Railways had been rehabilitated as the result of a loan granted by the League of Nations. In 1934 he became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Between 1937-8 he was the president of the Diesel Engineers and Users Association. He retired from the railway service in 1939.

During World War Two he was the inspecting officer under the chief inspector of armaments, working at ROF Birtley. He gained experience in road and rail transport that clarified his ideas regarding the necessity for improvements in rail freight vehicles. From 1944-1948 Hornbuckle further developed his ideas on diesel traction and improved types of freight vehicle. Much of this work was carried out as consultancy for manufacturers of diesel engines, locomotives and railcars. From 1948-1955 he carried out advisory work for the government of New South Wales, this involved touring countries around Europe, especially Belgium, Austria and Germany where he placed contracts and arranged shipment for steam, electric and diesel electric locomotives and carriages and wagons. Hornbuckle died on 1st February 1958.