Everard Richard Calthrop (1857 - 1927) was a British railway engineer and inventor. Calthrop was a notable promoter and builder of narrow gauge railways, especially of gauge, and was especially prominent in India. His most notable achievement was the Barsi Light Railway; however he is best known in his home country for the Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway. Later in life he took an interest in aviation, patenting some early designs for parachutes.
Calthrop was born on the 3rd March, 1857, the eldest son of farmer Everard Calthrop. He had 6 brothers, one of whom was later Sir Calthrop Guy Spencer Calthrop, 1st Baronet, general manager of the London & North Western Railway. The family lived at Deeping Fen, Lincolnshire,where Calthrop was born, and later at Sutton in the Isle of Ely. Calthrop was educated at Uppingham School.
Calthrop started work with Robert Stephenson & Co and then was apprenticed to the London & North Western Railway at Crewe in 1874. In 1879 he joined the Great Western Railway, where he rose to assistant manager of the Carriage and Wagon Works. In 1882 he went to India to join the Great Indian Peninsula Railway as a locomotive inspector.
Once in India, Calthrop came to see narrow gauge railways as a way to help develop the country. This led him to chairing a Government committee to investigate light railways throughout India. He then published a pamphlet entitled A System of Standard Details as applied to the Construction of Rolling Stock in India. As a result of this pamphlet, the Indian Government adopted systems of uniformity pf gauge and equipment throughout the country, and eventually adopted gauge as the standard narrow gauge throughout the country.
Calthrop requested leave in 1886 to investigate proposals for independent branchlines. He identified two schemes of particular interest, a 5 mile tramway connecting the Hindu religious centre of Nasik with the railway, and a 21 mile branchline to the town of Barsi. The Great Indian Peninsula Railway approved both schemes, and Calthrop undertook a survey of both lines. In 1887 he registered the Indian Railways Feeder Lines Company in London to promote the construction of feeders to the railway. The Great Indian Peninsula Railway suggested that he either return to his duties as a locomotive inspector, or, with their support, resign to further promote branch lines. His health was failing, and so in 1889 Calthrop resigned from the Great Indian Peninsula Railway. Working as a consultant he then supervised the construction of the gauge horse-powered Nasik Tramway, using his previous survey.
Returning to the United Kingdom in 1892 Calthrop established a railway engineering consulting practice in Liverpool, where three of his brothers had started a stockfeed company. Soon Calthrop had entered into a partnership with them and spent much of the next two years designing equipment for feed production. He took our a number of patents relating to the equipment and to refrigerated transport.
While Calthrop was resident in Liverpool the Chamber of Commerce was concerned future expansion was being limited by the railway companies that linked that city with Manchester, and invited proposals for alternative methods for moving goods. Calthrop proposed a system of narrow gauge railways linking the two cities, running along streets directly serving factories. His proposal was highly commended, but the proposed street running precluded it's adoption.
Calthrop was also interested in road transport. He was a member of the Self-Propelled Traffic Association and in May 1898 was a judge at their trials for "motor vehicles for heavy traffic", held in Liverpool. The winner was a Thornycroft 4-ton steam wagon. Latter he was a foundation member of the Royal Automobile Club.
During his time in India Calthrop developed his ideas on the construction of narrow gauge railways. He surmised that the axle load on the axles of all rolling stock, including locomotives, could be equal, allowing a maximum loading of goods wagons. He settled on a loading of 5 tons per axle, which was light enough to allow railway lines to be built with 30 pounds per yard (14.9kg/metre) rail. It also allowed the loading of one 20 ton capacity 4-wheel standard gauge wagon to be carried in a single bogie narrow gauge wagon. Further, he argued that using a track gauge of gave the greatest capacity as a percentage of capital cost. He estimated a 2'6" gauge railway could be built to four times the length of a standard gauge railway for the same capital cost.
Calthrop had been engaged in negotiations with the Indian government for concessions to build a railway from Barsi Road to Barsi since 1887. In 1895 negotiations reached a satisfactory conclusion, and Calthrop formed a new company to build the Barsi Light Railway, and employed himself as consulting engineer. The railway became a showcase for his ideas. Five 0-8-4T locomotives, with even distribution of axle load, were constructed to Calthrop's specification by Kitson & Co. The goods rolling stock was constructed on common 25 feet x 7 feet (7.62 metres by 2.13 metres) pressed steel underframes, reducing tare weight and maximising wagon loads. Calthrop recognised the importance of railways in warfare, and designed the rolling stock to facilitate the movement of troops and equipment. Rolling stock road on pressed-steel Fox bogies, using the Timmis system of double coiled springs. The line was constructed with rail inclination, then a new idea, which involves tilting the rail a few degrees to make its surface more nearly parallel with that of the tyre. Inclination is now applied universally to railways.
Prior to shipment of the rolling stock to India, Calthrop and the Leeds Forge Company, manufacturer of the rolling stock, conducted tests on a specially built test track located at Newlay, near Leeds. The line was opened for inspection by railway officials and journalists, and a number of reports were published in the technical railway press.
The Barsi Light Railway opened in 1897, and was extended on a number of occasions until it reached a total length of 202 miles (337 km) in 1927. The example of the Barsi Light Railway is regarded as having revolutionised the narrow gauge railway system of Indian subcontinent, and the railway was immensely successful, establishing Calthrop as one of the leading figures in the field. Calthrop remained Consulting Engineer until he retired due to ill health two years prior to his death. The Barsi Light Railway continued to be operated as a privately owned railway until 1954 when it was purchased by the Indian government, and continued to operate as a narrow gauge railway until conversion to broad gauge began in the late 1990s as part of Indian Railways conversion program for all metre and narrow gauge lines.
With the success of the Barsi Light Railway, Calthrop was in demand as a consultant for other narrow gauge railway projects.
The Barbados Railway opened in 1883 as a gauge railway from Bridgetown to St Andrew, Barbados. By 1897 the railway and its rolling stock was in very poor condition. Further much of the railway had been constructed with rail too light for the railway's locomotives. A new company was established in 1898 to rebuild and operate the railway. and Calthrop was engaged as consulting engineer. Calthrop arranged for the railway to be rebuilt in gauge, and had Baldwin Locomotive Works build four new locomotives, two 2-8-2T's, an 2-6-0T and an 0-6-0T.
Calthrop appeared at the Light Railway Inquiry for the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway on 3/4 August 1897 and spoke particularly on the proposed open level crossings and the use of transporter wagons. Calthrop claimed it only took 3 minutes to transfer wagons, based on his experience on the Barsi Light Railway. However the Order was not made until 8 September 1899 and in early 1900 the proprietors reached agreement with the Cambrian Railways to build the line. Their engineer, Alfred J. Collins, took charge of the engineering requirements, with consequent conservative 4-wheel wagon and other provisions.
In 1898 Calthrop corresponded with the government of the colony of Victoria, Australia, regarding proposals for the construction of narrow gauge lines in that colony. Subsequently on his advice the gauge of the railways as built was changed from to .
Calthrop was appointed to advise on engineering matters for this gauge Egyptian light railway, construction of which began in 1898. The railway comprised 7, mostly roadside, branch lines with a total length of 97 miles. The Fayoum Light Railway served an irrigation district south of Cairo, centred on the provincial capital of Medinet-el-Fayoum. Calthrop used pictures of rolling stock from the railway to illustrate a chapter he wrote for the book Pioneer Irrigation and Light Railways.
This light railway was a 12⅓ mile long standard gauge branch line linking the Great Western Railway at Cleobury Mortimer in Shropshire with mineral deposits in the Clee Hills. Calthrop was appointed Consulting Engineer in 1900, responsible for surveying the route and preparing the construction plans.
In the United Kingdom Calthrop is most associated with the Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway. The line had been promoted under the Light Railways Act, and the initial plan was to build a railway of gauge to be powered by electricity. Under the influence of one of the Light Railway Commissioners the company directors commissioned a report on the proposed line from Calthrop in mid-1900. In early December the railway's engineer died, and on the 19th of December the Directors sat down to consider both a replacement and Calthrop's report. Calthrop proposed specifications for the line which would result in substantial savings in construction costs, and so he was offered the position of engineer, which he promptly accepted.
Calthrop constructed the line for £35,944, £11,000 less than the original estimate. He had Kitson & Co construct two 2-6-4T locomotives, similar in outline but smaller than the Barsi Light Railway locomotives. Goods rolling stock included four coaches, two bogie open wagons and one bogie van, once again similar to Barsi stock. He also introduced four transporter wagons, designed to transport standard gauge wagons. Each station on route had a short section of standard gauge track where the wagons could be placed. The use of transporter wagons eliminated transshipment, and removed the need for large numbers of goods wagons.
The Matheran Light Railway is a mountain railway near Mumbai, India, and opened in 1905. Unusually for a railway for which Caltrhrop was consulting engineer, it was of gauge, with tight curves and 1 in 20 (5%) grades. Calthrop designed a 0-6-0T with Klein-Linder articulated coupled axles to provide a flexible wheel base, and four were supplied by Orenstein & Koppel.
In 1910 Calthrop was engaged as consulting engineer by the promoters of a new railway between Buthidaung and Maungdaw in Burma, later known as the Arakan Light Railway. Calthrop had the gauge changed from to . For this railway Calthrop had built two 0-6-0+0-6-0 Garratt locomotives, to which he had attached plates reading "E.R.Calthrop's System of Narrow Gauge Mountain Railways". Calthrop was an early adopter of the Garratt type, this being the ninth order for Garratts taken by Beyer-Peacock, and the smallest Garratt design ever built by them.
In 1913 he patented his first parachute. As World War 1 progressed he continued to develop his parachute. In 1915 he offered it to the Royal Flying Corps, and successful tests were completed at the time. An unofficial report offered the opinion that parachutes "might impair the fighting spirit of pilots" and the offer was rejected. Calthrop was encouraged to remain quiet about his invention, but faced with increasing losses of pilots he publicised the parachute in 1917. Despite a campaign by some pilots, the Royal Flying Corps failed to introduce parachutes during World War One, although air forces of most other nations did so.
Calthrops "Guardian Angel" parachute received much praise and was used during the war to drop agents behind enemy lines. By 1918 it was known that the Germans were fully aware of Calthrops work, and supplied their pilots with a similar design. However when the Royal Air Force finally adopted parachutes after the war, they chose an American design.
During his time in India, Calthrop made occasional trips back to Britain. On one such trip he married Isabel Mary Earle, the daughter of the Reverend Walter Earle, a friend of his parents. The wedding took place on the 19th November 1890 at the Bilton Parish Church, Rugby. They had four children, Everard Earle (Tev, b. 1892), Keith de Suffield (b. 1894), Isabelle Iris (b. 1895), and Betty Marion (b. 1899). Tev joined the army and became a Colonel in the Royal Engineers, while Keith, after a stint in the Royal Engineers went on to become Assistant General Manager and Mechanical Engineer of the Barsi Light Railway, a post he held until 1932.
Calthrop had a great interest in breeding Arabian horses. Following the long-term rental of a villa in Goldings Road, Loughton, Essex, he purchased a home, Goldings, at Loughton, with stables and 40 acres of grounds. It was here that he bred his horses and developed his theories of horse training. Calthrop rejected the cruel methods of breaking horses common in that era, and practiced gentle methods. Such was the his concern for his horses that he had them humanely destroyed rather than have them commandeered by the British army at the start of the First World War. After the war he was able to return to his horses, and wrote an authoritative book, The Horse, as Comrade and Friend, published in 1920. Calthrop was a prominent member of the Arab Horse Society, and received commendations for his stallion, Fitz, at it's first show in 1919.
Developing and promoting his parachute had left Calthrop drained, both financially and physically. Failing health forced him to resign his position as consulting engineer for the Barsi Railway in 1925, although he remained a director. Calthrop passed away at his Paddington, London, home on the 30th March 1927, in the company of his son, Tev. He way seventy years old.
Calthrop is commemorated by a blue plaque on Goldings, unveiled in June 2008.