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F W Hawksworth – the frustrated innovator?

Hawksworth County Class pioneer No 1000 on test in 1954

Didcot Railway Centre’s Facebook page reminds me that F. W Hawksworth, were he alive today, would be 127.   Born in 1884, he was the last Chief Mechanical Engineer of the GWR before it was swallowed by British Railways in 1948.  To many people he was at least a little bit dodgy in terms of his adherence to ‘The GWR Way’.  His engines were GWR, all right, but his Saint upgrade Mk 3 engines, the Counties, had weird characteristics like extension frames that stuck out at the front and odd looking splashers and his 15xx and 94xx classes of Pannier tanks looked like Mr Bulleid had been messing about on the CME’s drawing board.

He was unlucky enough to have inherited the reins of locomotive design after the war, when there was no opportunity, given the financial restrictions imposed, to really find his niche in Locomotive design.  His engines are interesting variations on the tried and tested Swindon style and we are lucky to have a number of examples preserved but all this was merely tinkering and he knew full well that, really and truly, the days of steam were numbered.  This was clear from the iconic book, ‘The Great Western Railway’s Last Look Forward’, showing the growing railcar fleet, signalling the diesel revolution to come,  the experiments with things like Gas Turbines.

So, in his designs, we have a glimpse of someone who, in different circumstances, might have been as great an innovator as Churchward. Both were astrological Aquarians, very much the sign associated with new ideas and a break with tradition but whereas GJC found himself a little time niche before WW1 to create the famous designs that were to serve the GWR so well for over 50 years, FWH found himself swept away by nationalisation and the decline of the railways that started straight after WW2.

I wonder what would be running on GWR tracks today if the GWR Company had survived?

To learn more about Hawksworth and the last years of the GWR, see the right hand panel to see what books we have available.

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Discussion

One Response to “F W Hawksworth – the frustrated innovator?”

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