Francis Webb (engineer)

Francis Webb (engineer)

Francis William Webb (21 May 1836–4 June 1906) was a British engineer responsible for the design and manufacture of locomotives for the London and North Western Railway (LNWR).


Webb was born in Tixall Rectory, near Stafford, Staffordshire, the second son of William Webb, Rector of Tixall. Showing early interest in mechanical engineering, in 1851 at fifteen years he became an apprentice at Crewe Works under Francis Trevithick until 1857.

He returned to Crewe in 1859, becoming Chief Draughtsman and in 1861 was appointed Works Manager at Crewe and Chief Assistant to John Ramsbottom.

In 1866 he moved to the Bolton Iron and Steel Co. It has been suggested that this move was arranged by the LNWR management to enable him to gain experience of steel making.In 1871 Francis Webb became Locomotive Superintendent of the L.N.W.R. He was responsible throughout his career for some highly successful standard locomotive classes, all built at Crewe in considerable numbers. Notable amongst these is the Precedent class of 2-4-0 (known as "Jumbos"), an 0-6-0 general purpose freight design, ("Coal Engine") and its 0-6-2 ("Coal tank") variant, a celebrated 0-6-0 mixed traffic design ("Cauliflowers"), and an 0-8-0 freight locomotive with two compound variants and a simple expansion version produced in parallel, The last-mentioned was continuously developed and built down to LMS days, most earlier locomotives being rebuilt to conform. There does however remain some controversy over Webb's own two distinct compound systems applied to a number of locomotive designs, which are reputed to have given considerable trouble in service. He was also responsible for the remodelling of Crewe station which involved the building of four tracks in underpasses on the west side of the station to carry freight trains. These are still in use today

He made numerous inventions and received many patents. He was Vice-President of the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Webb took a great interest in local politics and was an Alderman on the Crewe Town Council and had been Mayor twice. He was also an Alderman on Cheshire County Council. He retired in 1903 to Bournemouth, being replaced as CME by George Whale. He died in 1906 aged 70. He had never married. In Crewe he was for very many years remembered as a major benefactor of the "Webb Orphanage", a beautiful red-brick building with extensive playing fields behind the railway works and fronting on Victoria Avenue. Together with Richard Moon, Chairman of the LNWR, he presented, to the Crewe Corporation, on behalf of the railway company, Queen's Park, a large and beautifully landscaped park with attractive entrance gates and lodges (complete with inscribed decoration mentioning both Moon and Webb) and also fronting on Victoria Avenue. "Frank Webb Avenue", a much later Crewe residential street, also recalls his name.

Notes and references

*cite book|first=J.E.|last=Chacksfield|title=F.W. Webb: in the right place at the right time|location=Usk|publisher=Oakwood Press|date=2007

External links

* [ Steam Index]
* [ London and North Western Railway Society]

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