William Adams (locomotive engineer)

William Adams (Locomotive Engineer)

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William Adams (locomotive engineer)

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William Adams (1823–1904) was the Locomotive Superintendent of the North London Railway from 1858 to 1873; the Great Eastern Railway from 1873 until 1878 and the London and South Western Railway from then until his retirement in 1895. He is best known for his locomotives featuring the Adams Bogie, a device with lateral centering springs (initially made of rubber) to improve high-speed stability. He should not be mistaken for William Bridges Adams (1797-1872) a locomotive engineer who, confusingly, invented the Adams Axle — a radial axle used on locomotives of William Adams's design.


Adams was born on 15 October 1823 in Mill Place, Limehouse, London, where his father was resident engineer of the nearby East and West India Docks Company. After private schooling in Margate, Kent he was apprenticed to his father's works. The railway surveyor Charles Vignoles had previously worked on the construction of the London dock basins and this association then secured a position for Adams as an assistant in his drawing office. The final years of apprenticeship were spent at the Orchard Wharf works of Miller & Ravenhill, builders of engines for steamships.

In 1848 Adams became assistant works manager for Philip Taylor, an ironfounder, millwright and former assistant to Marc Brunel, who had set up workshops in Marseilles and Genoa to build and install marine engines. Fluent in French and Italian, Adams soon found himself effectively the...
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