John Ericsson

Resource Type: Image | Posted on 24th October 2011 by Liam Physick

One of the images donated to Metal by Eric Shenton. Here we see John Ericsson, co-designer of the Novelty. Ericsson was born in Langbanshyttan, Sweden, in 1803. He established himself as a skilled mechanic, and moved to England in 1826. In 1829, together with John Braithwaite, he built the Novelty for the Rainhill Trials, and after Rainhill, two more locomotives built to the same design, the William IV and the Queen Adelaide, named after the King and Queen. Both these two locomotives were tried out for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, but rejected. The pair was more successful in inventing the steam fire engine, which helped quell the famous Argyll Rooms fire on 5th February 1830, continuing to work for five hours after the other engines had frozen up. Ericsson later built an engine to be used by John Franklin on his expedition to Antarctica, but it failed as Franklin had concealed his destination, and it was thus not suited to the harsh conditions. Many of Ericsson’s inventions were commercial failures, and he spent some time in a debtors’ prison. In 1839, he moved to the United States, where he built the USS Princeton, the most advanced warship of its time, but fell out with its captain, Robert Stockton. Following victory in a speed competition with the Great Western on 20th October 1843, the breech of Stockton’s gun broke during a firing demonstration, killing eight people, including Secretary of State Abel P Upshur and Navy Secretary Thomas Gilmer: Stockton successsfully blamed Ericsson for the disaster, even though it was his own gun which was responsible, and denied the engineer the pay he was due. In the American Civil War, Ericsson designed the Monitor, a warship which successfully neutralised the threat to the US Navy posed by the CSS Virginia, formerly the USS Merrimack: the two ships fought each other to a stalemate at Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 9th March 1862, and following this other monitors were built by the Union, contributing to its ultimate naval victory. He died in 1899

John Ericsson

Tagged under: steam locomotives, liverpool and manchester railway, eric shenton, rainhill trials, novelty, john braithwaite, john ericsson

Categorised under: The Station & Railway Pioneers

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