Furness Railway its Rise and Development 1846 – 1923. By W. Mc.Gowan Gradon, BA. Self- published, 1946 [ebook]


Book, brown cloth boards,9.75”x 7.5”, pp.109, 59 B&W half tone photos of trains, locomotives , steamers, signals, stations , etc, Plus maps, plans and gradient profiles.

This is an interesting account of the history of one of Britain’s “Second Eleven” railways, which managed to survive through to Grouping despite having wealthy acquisitive neighbours who might have gobbled it up. Like the Cambrian Railways, that provided the Furness with its best General Manager, Alfred Aslett, there were times when it tottered on the verge of penury. Like the Hull and Barnsley, it missed few opportunities of exploiting wealthier neighbours by obtaining running powers, arranging through carriages and participating in some small but lucrative Joint Lines which are covered in this book.


In some respects, it was a railway of oddities. It was still running cabless 0-4-0 Bury type locomotives from the 1840s in the early years of the 20th.century, then in its closing year, Rutherford, the line’s Chief Engineer, who assumed the duties Locomotive Superintendent in addition on the retirement of W.F. Pettigrew had four enormous 4-6-4 tank engines built, which dwarfed everything else on rails  in N.W. England. Quite what the directors had in mind with this fit of indulgence just prior to Grouping, the author cannot tell us. Unlike the semi- official historians, Tomlinson (North Eastern Railway) or Grinling (Great Northern Railway) he had no access to official records like minute books. The only official documents he quotes from are half yearly and annual reports. He is very sound on locomotives and the development of train services. He is less good on personalities, like the Ramsdens who for many years ran the railway almost on a part time basis as a family business, amongst their other commercial interests.

All he can tell us about Frank Pettigrew who was appointed Loco Carriage and Wagon Supt. in 1896, was that he had been on the Great Eastern and London & South Western. Born in Glasgow in 1858, Pettigrew was 38, and as Manager of the LSWR Loco Carriage and Wagon Works was probably over qualified for the Furness job – a railway which did not even design its own locomotives, but bought them “off the peg” from private builders. He published a book in 1896 “A Manual of Locomotive Engineering” and the previous year he had joined his boss William Adams, Loco Supt. of the LSWR in presenting a paper to the Institution of Civil Engineers entitled “Trials of an Express Locomotive” noteworthy for two reasons. First, it contained the phrase describing the locomotive as “…one of 20 built to the designs of the authors” – this at a period when loco. Chiefs hardly ever gave credit to any of their staff. Secondly both authors were awarded a Telford Premium and a George Stephenson medal for the work. Adams thought highly of Pettigrew and grew increasingly reliant upon him as his memory began to fade, leading to his retirement in 1895. Although a little young, Pettigrew had reasonable expectations of succeeding Adams. He may even had hints that this would be the case. However it was not to be. The Genial, easy-going Adams was replaced by the volcanic Dugald Drummond, who made it quite clear that he wanted a former colleague from Scotland, Robert Urie, as Works Manager. Drummond was quite capable of making life so unpleasant for a subordinate that the individual would resign. This does not appear to be the case here, in that the Furness vacancy arose in 1896, and Pettigrew no doubt glad to leave, was the successful applicant.

With the best will in the world, he must have regarded Barrow as a bit of a come down from Nine Elms. This background information gives some indication of Pettigrew’s mindset on taking up his new appointment. It will be noted that he took early retirement at 60, and died at Redhill, Surrey in 1941, aged 82.

For all its minor faults (it badly needs an index) this book is packed with interesting information, and some fascinating old photos.




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