Locomotive Building in Wolverhampton
The George Armstrong Era
In 1864 George Armstrong took over from his brother Joseph as Northern Division Locomotive Superintendent. His assistant and Works Manager was William Dean. George joined the GWR in 1854 and was associated with William Dean in the take over of the locomotives from the Birkenhead, Lancashire, & Cheshire Junction Railway, when it was jointly taken over by the GWR and L&NWR.
George carried on with, and accelerated the locomotive building program, which was becoming ever more important because of the difficulties of keeping the large number of miscellaneous locomotives running. Throughout George’s reign, Stafford Road Works was very independent from Swindon. George’s designs were quite different to the Swindon designed locomotives of the day.
In 1868 Joseph Armstrong called William Dean to Swindon and appointed him as his chief assistant, so putting him in the position to become his successor. This greatly annoyed George as he considered the post to be his. In 1869 thirty three locomotives were built.
This would all hang on the ability to obtain cheap land in Wolverhampton to allow the works to be extended. The plan was to level the top of Dunstall Hill and use the excavated material to build up the lower slopes, to form an extensive plateau. Negotiations with the landlord failed, and so it was decided to enlarge the locomotive building part Swindon works instead.
George personally superintended the running of Queen Victoria’s special train from Windsor to the junction with the L&NWR at Bushbury, whenever her majesty travelled to and from Scotland. He performed this duty over 120 times.
George was a very generous and likeable character. He was no family man and remained a bachelor all his days. He was a strong Presbyterian and ardent Liberal. He retired in 1897 at the age of 75. On his retirement he was presented with a silver tea and coffee service, a gold watch and chain, and an illuminated address. The presentation was made by William Dean and a number of dignitaries were present, including George Whale of the L&NWR, and T. G. Clayton of the Midland Railway. A horse drawn brougham and liveried coachman were placed at George’s disposal, and he spent a few years of quiet retirement at his home, occasionally visiting the works. He died on 11th July 1901 after a stroke.