Crampton, Thomas Russell 1816 - 1888

English; British

(1816-1888) railway and civil engineer

Thomas Russell Crampton was born August 6 1816 in Broadstairs, Kent. He received a private education and from May 183 to 1839 he was articled to John Hauge, of Cable Street, Greenwich, London. He was a fellow pupil of Sir Fredrick Bramwell.

Between 1839 and 1844 Crampton was an assistant to the elder Brunel, Marc, and subsequently to Sir Daniel Gooch. It was under Gooch’s direction that he prepared the drawings for the first locomotive for the Great Western Railway. Crampton sought to improve current developments with the steam locomotive with regards to instability issues, and as a result he patented an engine in 1843.

Crampton spent four years (1844-1848) with John and George Rennie for whom he carried out several important works, and in 1848 he started his own business as a civil engineer.

Between 1842 and 1847 Crampton perfected the type locomotive bearing his name, in which a long boiler, outside cylinders and a low centre of gravity were the essential and distinguishing features. In 1846 two locomotives were constructed from Crampton’s designs for the Namur-Liege railway in Belgium.

In 1848 another of Crampton’s designs was constructed - named “Liverpool” - for the London and North Western Railway (LNWR). It was reputed to have been the most powerful locomotive of its day. It gained a gold medal at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Crampton’s ideas were successful in France in the late 19th century. Using La Machine, Crampton hauled many of the lighter express trains on the northern and eastern railways of France. His designs were also built in Belgium and Germany.

Besides his career as a locomotive engineer, he played a pivotal role in laying the first successful submarine telegraph cable in 1851 between Dover and Calais. He was also responsible for inventing a rotary powered-fuel furnace, brick-making machinery and a hydraulic tunnel-boring machine, which was designed with the channel tunnel in mind.

Crampton was a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers, as an associate in 1846 and as a member from 1854. He joined the Institution of Medical Engineers in 1847, was a member of the council in 1879, and vice president in 1883.

He died at the age of 71 on April 19 1888 at his home in Westminster.