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Born in Brighton, he was apprenticed as a carpenter to the London Brighton and South Coast Railway Company. Saxby became interested in railway safety and lodged his first patents for a system of interlocking of points and signals in 1856. This innovation was designed to act at once upon all the points and signals at a railway junction. Not only were the points and signals activated, but all the other signals in the system were locked against improper use.
The first system was installed at the Bricklayers Arms junction, near the Old Kent Road in South London. It consisted of eight semaphore signals and six pairs of points controlling the routes in and out of London bridge Station and neighbouring goods yards, with linkages to a signal box.
In 1856 Saxby started his own business at Haywards Heath to manufacture signalling apparatus, and was joined in partnership by John Stinson Farmer in 1862. As Saxby and Farmer, they were leading railway signal manufacturers and established works at Kilburn.
In 1875 firm brought out its first mechanical brake, which gave more powerful braking by connecting each vehicle's brakes together.
Saxby's son James established a signal works at Creil near Paris in 1878. The partnership with Farmer ended in 1888 and the French works became part of John Saxby Ltd in 1889.
John Saxby died at Hassocks, Sussex on 22 April 1913. He is commemorated with a modern plaque in Brighton Station.
- Engineer list on steamindex.com
- The Disastrous Debut of the World’s First Traffic Lights, The Victorianist
- British industrial history, Graces Guide
- Memorial plaque, Brighton, at openplaques.org
- On the fixed signals of railways, Minutes of the Proceedings, 1 January 1874, Institution of Civil Engineers
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