John Chester Craven
John Chester Craven was a British locomotive engineer born at Hunslet near Leeds in 1813. He was the locomotive, carriage and wagon superintendent of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway from 1847 until his resignation in 1870. He died in 1887.
Little is known of Craven's parentage and there is also some confusion over his early career, but all sources agree that he was born 11 September 1813 at Hunslet a suburb of Leeds. According to John Marshall, Craven began an apprenticeship with Robert Stephenson and Company of Newcastle, later transferring to Fenton, Murray and Jackson of Leeds at the age of fourteen. Bradley states that he began his apprenticeship Fenton Murray and Jackson. He appears to have left Fenton, Murray and Jackson in 1837, and worked briefly for Carrett, Marshall and Company of the Sun Foundry, followed by a year working for Maudslay and Company of Westminster. He then returned to Leeds to become works manager either for Todd, Kitson & Laird followed by Shepherd and Todd or else Shepherd and Todd. He spent three years at Leeds working with David Joy and John Gray, before he was appointed Locomotive Foreman of the Manchester and Leeds Railway. In 1845 he became Locomotive Engineer for the Eastern Counties Railway at Stratford Works but little is known of his work there. In December 1847 he took up his principal post as Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Superintendent of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway following the dismissal of John Gray.
Craven re-organised and greatly enlarged Brighton railway works, and recruited skilled engineers from Leeds thereby enabling locomotives to be built there for the first time. He built useful and reliable locomotives but believed that standardisation of locomotive design held back progress. Instead he followed a policy of producing classes of one or two locomotives designed for specific duties. This proved to be expensive and eventually created a chaotic maintenance situation on the railway. By the time he left office there were seventy-two different designs of locomotive in use. When the directors pressed him to reduce the number of new classes in 1869, Craven offered his resignation. This was accepted by the directors and he was superseded by William Stroudley.
Following his resignation Craven was frequently employed as a consultant on engineering projects. He was also active in local politics. He died at Brighton in 1887.
- Marshall, John (1978). A biographical dictionary of railway engineers. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. pp. 8–9.
- Bradley, D.L. (1969). Locomotives of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway Part 1. Lichfield: Railway Correspondence and Travel Society. p. 59. ISBN 0 7153 7489 3.
- Bradley (1969), p.8 and Marshall (1978), p.59.
- Marshall (1978), p.59.
- Bradley (1969), p.8.
- Bradley (1969), p.9.
- Acworth, W.M. (1888). "The London and Brighton railway". Murray's Magazine 4 (19): 91–107, p.98.
|Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Superintendent of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway