Charles Beyer

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Charles Frederick Beyer (orig. Carl Friedrich Beyer)
Born (1813-05-14)14 May 1813
Plauen, Saxony
Died 2 June 1876(1876-06-02) (aged 63)
Llangollen, Wales
Education Dresden Polytechnic
Engineering career
Institution memberships Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Charles Frederick Beyer (an anglicised form of his original German name Carl Friedrich Beyer) (14 May 1813 — 2 June 1876) was a German-British locomotive engineer, co-founder of the firm Beyer-Peacock.

Early life[edit]

Beyer was the son of a weaver, born in Plauen, Saxony. He was taught to draw by a student, convalescing in the district. Some of his pinned-up drawings were noticed by a local official, and a place was procured for him at Dresden Polytechnic, an institute of technical education. (It was said that his parents could not afford his education, but were afraid of giving offence to the civil servant.) Beyer supplemented a meagre state scholarship by doing odd jobs. (A philanthropic lady was in the habit of giving Sunday dinner to the student with the highest marks that week. Beyer relied on the meal, and consequently made sure that he out-performed everyone else.)


Upon graduation Beyer took a job in a machine works at Chemnitz, and he obtained a state grant from the Saxon Government to visit the United Kingdom to report on weaving machine technology. He visited Manchester, then considered the major centre in engineering technology. He returned to Dresden to file his report, but then returned to England in 1834. He wanted experience at a large foundry, but his youth and foreign origin seemed to tell against him. At one interview, he was offered some gold sovereigns to defray the costs of his journey. He angrily expostulated that it was work that he wanted, and this swayed the potential employer.

Sharp, Roberts and Company[edit]

Beyer began work with Sharp, Roberts and Company in Manchester, manufacturers of textile machinery, as a junior draughtsman[1] and developed a lifelong friendship with Richard Roberts. During the following years Sharp, Roberts and Company began to turn its main attention to the construction of locomotives, and Roberts soon delegated most of the locomotive design work to Beyer. The Sharp locomotives of the 1840s, particularly the 2-2-2 passenger and 0-4-2 goods, were almost completely Beyer's creations, and while he was careful to ensure that his designs were stout and long lasting, he also contrived to give his designs a distinctive and beautiful external appearance which became a tradition of Sharp locomotives. It almost certainly caught the attention of the King of Saxony, who visited the Sharp factory in 1844, and it was not long before the Saxon railways ordered Sharp locomotives.[1]

Beyer, Peacock and Company[edit]

In 1853, with Richard Peacock, Beyer founded Beyer, Peacock and Company in Gorton, Manchester. The new works, known as Gorton Foundry was built on the opposite side to the railway to Gorton locomotive works of the Manchester Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway. Beyer, Peacock became one of the most famous locomotive building companies, exporting engines all over the world and becoming famous after Beyer's death for the 'Beyer-Garratt' articulated locomotive.

He was a founding member and a prime mover in the foundation of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1847, but there is no truth in the long-standing report that the institution was founded in his house in Manchester (it was in fact founded at the Queens Hotel at Curzon Street railway station in Birmingham). He was a generous supporter of Owens College (predecessor of today's the University of Manchester) and endowed the Beyer Chair of Applied Mathematics. He bequeathed £114,000 (roughly £10 million today) to the college.

References and sources[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jones, Kevin. "Charles Beyer & other key engineers who worked at Beyer Peacock". Steam Index. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 


  • Hills, R. L.; Patrick, D. (1982). Beyer, Peacock, locomotive builders to the world. Glossop: Transport Publishing Co. ISBN 0-903839-41-5. 
  • Lang, Ernest F. (April 1927). "The Early History of our Firm" (PDF). Beyer-Peacock Quarterly Review (Beyer, Peacock & Co.) 1 (2): 13–24. 
  • Marshall, John (2003). Biographical dictionary of Railway Engineers. Oxford: Railway & Canal Historical Society. ISBN 0-901461-22-9.