John Saxby

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John Saxby (1821-1913) was a British engineer from Brighton, noted for his work in railway signalling and the invention of the interlocking system of points and signals.

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.

Saxby interlocking Frame, preserved in France, Gare de Nîmes

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 1868 the company constructed the world's first traffic signal for road traffic in London's George Street, working to the designs of the South-Eastern Railway engineer John Peake Knight.

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.

In 1901 the British company that Saxby founded merged with several rivals to create the Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company Ltd. The French company is now part of United Technologies Corporation.

John Saxby died at Hassocks, Sussex on 22 April 1913. He is commemorated with a modern plaque in Brighton Station.

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