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Joseph Locke (Hardback)

Civil Engineer and Railway Builder 1805 - 1860

Military > Biographies P&S History > British History Transport > Trains & Railways

By Anthony Burton
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 180
ISBN: 9781473872295
Published: 2nd November 2017



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Most historians recognise the work of three engineers as being the men who developed the railways from slow, lumbering colliery lines into fast, inter-city routes. Two are very well known: Robert Stephenson and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The third was Joseph Locke, who should be recognised for having made a contribution just as great as that of the other two.

The Locke family had been colliery managers and overseers for many generations and Joseph, once he had completed his very rudimentary education at Barnsley Grammar School at the age of thirteen, seemed set to follow in their footsteps. However, at the age of nineteen he was taken on as an apprentice by an old friend of his father, George Stephenson, and sent to the new locomotive works at Newcastle. His enthusiasm and willingness to learn soon brought promotion, and he became a highly valued assistant engineer on the prestigious Liverpool & Manchester Railway.

During his time there he wrote a pamphlet with Robert Stephenson, arguing the case for steam locomotives and had the embarrassing task of having to correct calculations for a tunnel being built under the direct supervision of George Stephenson. After its opening, he moved on to work on the Grand Junction Railway, at the start working alongside Stephenson rather than as his assistant. But before long, they had quarrelled and the directors handed the whole works over to Lockes control. It was the turning point of his life.

Locke was to continue as chief engineer on some of the most important lines in Britain, and his reputation grew to the point where he was also in demand for work in mainland Europe, building major routes in France, the Netherlands and Spain. He became a wealthy man, purchasing the manor of Honiton in Devon and sat in Parliament as the Liberal member for that constituency. He received many honours during his lifetime and died while on holiday at Scotland in 1860 at the age of fifty-five.

As featured by

BackTrack, November 2018

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NOTE: set cursor to 38:54

BBC Radio Sheffield with presenter Paulette Edwards, 10th August 2018

This book is an interesting read, offering a useful summary of Locke's career and attempting to 'rescue' him from relative obscurity.

Railway Correspondence and Travel Society


Barnsley Chronicle, 22nd June 2018

Anthony Burton gives us an easy-to-read insight into Barnsley-born Locke's professional and personal life, and his quite diverse loves of travel, shooting, and poetry.

Steam World, April 2018

Article: 'Author steams ahead with biography of railway pioneer' by Mike Cotton as featured by

Barnsley Chronicle, 18th May 2018

A readable introduction to the life of Joseph Locke who is a key individual recognised at the time of his death as one of the leaders of the engineering world with Stephenson and Brunel who died within two years of each other. His role deserves to be more widely recognised and his contribution to the project management of early main-line railway lines better understood.

Friends of the National Railway Museum

As featured in

RMT News April 2018

Anthony Burton always writes a readable book and, though offering little new in this biography, rightly ensures
that Joseph Locke is seen as one of the engineering greats. Strangely enough, the triumvirate of Robert
Stephenson, Isambard Brunel and Joseph Locke died within months of each other. Locke’s more modest
gravestone is in Kensal Green Cemetery not far from the larger monument to Brunel. Yet it was Locke who did
even more than Brunel to shape Britain’s railways.

York Model Engineer March 2018
 Anthony Burton

About Anthony Burton

Anthony Burton has been writing about the history of transport and technology for fifty years. His books include Remains of a Revolution, The Railway Builders, The Locomotive Pioneers and biographies of Thomas Telford, George and Robert Stephenson and a biography of Marc and Isambard Brunel (due to be published in 2022). He has worked extensively in TV and most recently as historical adviser to the Discovery Channel series Industrial Revelations, More Industrial Revelations and On the Rails.

Perfect Partner

George and Robert Stephenson Pioneer Inventors and Engineers (Hardback)

This is a new biography of two great British engineering pioneers, who did much to develop the world we now live in. George and Robert Stephenson were at the forefront of early railways and were at the cutting edge of modern engineering history. Industrial historian Anthony Burton looks into these two giants of the late Georgian and early Victorian age, who were responsible for the development of much of the early railway map in both Britain and other parts of the world. The work examines the lives of the two men and their ability to overcome some of the most pressing engineering problems of their…

By Anthony Burton

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