Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd was a major British manufacturing company of the early years of the 20th century. With headquarters in Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne, Armstrong Whitworth built armaments, ships, locomotives, automobiles and aircraft.
|Predecessor||W.G. Armstrong & Mitchell Company|
|Founded||1847 (W.G. Armstrong Co.)|
|Founder||William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong |
|Headquarters||Newcastle upon Tyne, England|
|William George Armstrong (Founder)|
|Owner||William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong |
The company was founded by William Armstrong in 1847, becoming Armstrong Mitchell and then Armstrong Whitworth through mergers. In 1927, it merged with Vickers Limited to form Vickers-Armstrongs, with its automobile and aircraft interests purchased by J D Siddeley.
In 1847, the engineer William George Armstrong founded the Elswick works at Newcastle, to produce hydraulic machinery, cranes and bridges, soon to be followed by artillery, notably the Armstrong breech-loading gun, with which the British Army was re-equipped after the Crimean War. In 1882, it merged with the shipbuilding firm of Charles Mitchell to form Armstrong Mitchell & Company and at the time its works extended for over a mile (about 2 km) along the bank of the River Tyne. Armstrong Mitchell merged again with the engineering firm of Joseph Whitworth in 1897. The company expanded into the manufacture of cars and trucks in 1902, and created an "aerial department" in 1913, which became the Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft subsidiary in 1920.
The Armstrong Whitworth was manufactured from 1904, when the company decided to diversify to compensate for a fall in demand for artillery after the end of the Boer War. It took over construction of the Wilson-Pilcher, designed by Walter Gordon Wilson, and produced cars under the Armstrong Whitworth name until 1919, when the company merged with Siddeley-Deasy and to form Armstrong Siddeley.
The Wilson-Pilcher was an advanced car, originally with a 2.4-litre engine, that had been made in London from 1901 until 1904 when production moved to Newcastle. When Armstrong Whitworth took over production two models were made, a 2.7-litre flat four and a 4.1-litre flat six, the cylinders on both being identical with bore and stroke of 3.75in (95mm). The engines had the flywheel at the front of the engine, and the crankshaft had intermediate bearings between each pair of cylinders. Drive was to the rear wheels via a dual helical epicyclic gears and helical bevel axle. The cars were listed at £735 for the four and £900 for the six. They were still theoretically available until 1907. According to Automotor in 1904, "Even the first Wilson-Pilcher car that made its appearance created quite a sensation in automobile circles at the time on account of its remarkably silent and smooth running, and of the almost total absence of vibration".
The first Armstrong Whitworth car was the 28/36 of 1906 with a water-cooled, four-cylinder side-valve engine of 4.5 litres which unusually had "oversquare" dimensions of 120 mm (4.7 in) bore and 100 mm (3.9 in) stroke. Drive was via a four-speed gearbox and shaft to the rear wheels. A larger car was listed for 1908 with a choice of either 5-litre 30 or 7.6-litre 40 models sharing a 127 mm (5.0 in) bore but with strokes of 100 mm (3.9 in) and 152 mm (6.0 in) respectively. The 40 was listed at £798 in bare chassis form for supplying to coachbuilders. These large cars were joined in 1909 by the 4.3-litre 18/22 and in 1910 by the 3.7-litre 25, which seems to have shared the same chassis as the 30 and 40.
In 1911, a new small car appeared in the shape of the 2.4-litre 12/14, called the 15.9 in 1911, featuring a monobloc engine with pressure lubrication to the crankshaft bearings. This model had an 88-inch (2,200 mm) wheelbase compared with the 120 inches (3,000 mm) of the 40 range. This was joined by four larger cars ranging from the 2.7-litre 15/20 to the 3.7-litre 25.5.
The first six-cylinder model, the 30/50 with 5.1-litre 90 mm (3.5 in) bore by 135 mm (5.3 in) stroke engine came in 1912 with the option of electric lighting. This grew to 5.7 litres in 1913.
At the outbreak of war, as well as the 30/50, the range consisted of the 3-litre 17/25 and the 3.8-litre 30/40.
The cars were usually if not always bodied by external coachbuilders and had a reputation for reliability and solid workmanship. The company maintained a London sales outlet at New Bond Street. When Armstrong Whitworth and Vickers merged, Armstrong Whitworth's automotive interests were purchased by J D Siddeley as Armstrong Siddeley, based in Coventry.
Armstrong Whitworth established an Aerial Department in 1912. This later became the Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Company. When Vickers and Armstrong Whitworth merged in 1927 to form Vickers-Armstrongs, Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft was bought out by J. D. Siddeley and became a separate entity.
The Elswick Ordnance Company (sometimes referred to as Elswick Ordnance Works, but usually as "EOC") was originally created in 1859 to separate William Armstrong's armaments business from his other business interests, to avoid a conflict of interest as Armstrong was then Engineer of Rifled Ordnance for the War Office and the company's main customer was the British Government. Armstrong held no financial interest in the company until 1864 when he left Government service, and Elswick Ordnance was reunited with the main Armstrong businesses to form Sir W.G. Armstrong & Company. EOC was then the armaments branch of W.G. Armstrong & Company and later of Armstrong Whitworth.
Elswick Ordnance was a major arms developer before and during World War I. The ordnance and ammunition it manufactured for the British Government were stamped EOC, while guns made for export were usually marked "W.G. Armstrong".
After the Great War, Armstrong Whitworth converted its Scotswood Works to build railway locomotives. From 1919 it rapidly penetrated the locomotive market due to its modern plant. Its two largest contracts were 200 2-8-0s for the Belgian State Railways in 1920 and 327 Black 5 4-6-0s for the LMS in 1935/36.
AW also modified locomotives. In 1926 Palestine Railways sent six of its H class Baldwin 4-6-0 locomotives to AW for conversion into 4-6-2 tank locomotives to work the PR's steeply graded branch between Jaffa and Jerusalem. PR also sent another six H Class Baldwins for their defective steel fireboxes to be replaced with copper ones.
AW's well-equipped works included its own design department and enabled it to build large locomotives, including an order for 30 engines of three types for the modernisation of the South Australian Railways in 1926. These included ten "500" class 4-8-2 locomotives, which were the largest non-articulated locomotives built in Great Britain, and were based on Alco drawings modified by AW and SAR engineers. They were a sensation in Australia. AW went on to build 20 large three-cylinder "Pacific" type locomotives for the Central Argentine Railway (F.C.C.A) in 1930, with Caprotti valve gear and modern boilers. They were the most powerful locomotives on the F.C.C.A.
AW obtained the UK license for Sulzer diesels from 1919, and by the 1930s was building diesel locomotives and railcars. An early example is the Tanfield Railway's 0-4-0 diesel-electric shed pilot, No.2, which was built by AW as works number D22 in 1933. The UK's first mainline diesel locomotive, the 800 bhp 'Universal' locomotive, was built by them in 1933 and was successful in trials, but not repaired after an engine crankcase explosion a year later. A total of 1,464 locomotives were built at Scotswood Works before it was converted back to armaments manufacture in 1937.
The company can be credited with helping to create the town of Deer Lake in the Dominion of Newfoundland. Between 1922 and 1925, a hydroelectric station was built at Deer Lake by the Newfoundland Products Company and Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth and Company. The canal system used by the hydroelectric station helped to expand the forestry operations in the area. Some of the equipment used in the construction of the Panama Canal was shipped to Newfoundland island. Electricity from the project was used to power the pulp and paper mill in Corner Brook. Since the 1920s, Deer Lake has grown into a major area for the lumber industry, as well becoming a service-oriented centre.
The company built a hydroelectric station at Nymboida, New South Wales, near Grafton in 1923–1924. This is still in use and is substantially original. In 1925 the company tendered unsuccessfully to construct the South Brisbane-Richmond Gap (on the New-South Wales-Queensland border) section of the last stage of the standard gauge railway linking Sydney and Brisbane. This was a heavily engineered railway which includes a long tunnel under the Richmond Range forming the state border and a spiral just south of the border. Armstrong Whitworth's tender price was £1,333,940 compared with Queensland Railway's tender price of £1,130,142. In the mid-1920s the company clearly was trying to break into the booming Australian market, but was stymied by a preference for local companies.
Shipbuilding was the major division of the company. From 1879-1880 the predecessor shipbuilding company of Charles Mitchell laid down a cruiser for the Chilean Navy at Low Walker Yard. This vessel was later supplied to Japan as the 'Tsukushi' of 1883; the ship was launched as of Armstrong Mitchell build. Between 1885 and 1918 Armstrong built warships for the Royal Navy, Imperial Russian Navy, Imperial Japanese Navy, and the United States Navy. Amongst these were HMS Glatton which, due to bodged construction, suffered a magazine explosion in Dover Harbour less than one month after commissioning.
Armstrong Mitchell and later Armstrong Whitworth built many merchant ships, freighters, tank-ships, and dredgers; notable among them was the ice-breaking train ferries SS Baikal in 1897 and SS Angara in 1900, built to connect the Trans-Siberian Railway across Lake Baikal. The company built the first polar icebreaker in the world: Yermak was a Russian and later Soviet icebreaker, having a strengthened hull shaped to ride over and crush pack ice.
Mergers and demergers
In 1927, the defence and engineering businesses merged with those of Vickers Limited to create a subsidiary company known as Vickers-Armstrongs. The aircraft and Armstrong Siddeley motors business were bought by J. D. Siddeley and became a separate entity. Production at the Scotswood Works ended in 1979 and the buildings were demolished in 1982.
Hydraulic engineering installations
The forerunner companies, W. G. Armstrong & Co. and later, from 1883 Sir WG Armstrong Mitchell & Company, were heavily involved in the construction of hydraulic engineering installations. Notable examples include:
- Development of the Hydraulic 'Jigger', and lifting apparatus, some exhibited at the 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, London.
- Hydraulic mains system, Limehouse Basin, London, 1850s
- Swing Bridge, River Tyne, 1873
- 120 ton hydraulic 'Sheer Leg' crane at Elswick Works, for transshipment to vessels.
- Tower Bridge, London, 1894
- A bascule bridge for the railway spanning over the River Bann, Coleraine, Ulster, Northern Ireland, 1921.
- A series of nine late-19th century 160-ton capacity hydraulic cranes for naval use. These were erected worldwide, in India (Bombay), Italy (La Spezia, Pozzuoli, Taranto and Venice), Liverpool, Malta and two more in Japan. The sole surviving example is undergoing partial restoration at Venice's Arsenale.
Between 1883 and 1925 they built a number of warships:
- 'Tsukushi' ordered by Chile, delivered to Japanese government.
Chilean Navy/ Imperial Japanese Navy, 1883
- Naniwa (浪速),
Imperial Japanese Navy, 1885
- HMS Victoria,
battleship built for the Royal Navy, delivered in 1891, she was accidentally rammed and sunk in 1893.
- Castore and Polluce, gunboats for the Italian Navy, 1888.
- Yoshino (吉野),
Imperial Japanese Navy, 1892
- USS New Orleans (CL-22), United States Navy, 1895
Chilean Navy, 1895
- Yashima (八島),
Imperial Japanese Navy, 1896
- Takasago (高砂),
Imperial Japanese Navy, 1897
Chilean Navy, 1897
Chilean Navy, 1898
- Asama (浅間),
Imperial Japanese Navy, 1898
- Tokiwa (常盤),
Imperial Japanese Navy, 1898
- USS Albany (CL-23), United States Navy, 1898
- Yermak (Ермак), Imperial Russian Navy, 1898
- Angara, Imperial Russian Navy, 1899
- HNoMS Norge,
Royal Norwegian Navy, 1899
- HNoMS Eidsvold,
Royal Norwegian Navy, 1899
- Hatsuse (初瀬),
Imperial Japanese Navy, 1899
- Izumo (出雲),
Imperial Japanese Navy, 1899
- Iwate (磐手),
Imperial Japanese Navy, 1900
- Southern Cross, Melanesian Mission Steamer, 1903
- HMS Swiftsure,
Royal Navy, 1903
- Kashima (鹿島),
Imperial Japanese Navy, 1905
- HMS Superb,
Royal Navy, 1907
- Minas Geraes,
Brazilian Navy, 1908
Brazilian Navy, 1909
- HMS Monarch,
Royal Navy, 1911
- HMS Canada,
Royal Navy, 1913
- HMS Agincourt, battleship built for Ottoman Navy but confiscated by British in July 1914
- HMS Malaya,
Royal Navy, 1915
- HMS Eagle,
Royal Navy, 1918
- HMS Nelson,
Royal Navy, 1925
- Isla de Luzón, Spanish Navy 1886-1887
They built oil tankers, including:
- British Emperor,
British Tanker Company, 1916
- British Endeavour
British Tanker Company, 1927
- British Ensign
British Tanker Company, 1917
- British Isles
British Tanker Company, 1917
- British Princess
British Tanker Company, 1917
- British Progress
British Tanker Company, 1927
- British Sovereign
British Tanker Company, 1917
Contracts were obtained for the construction and supply of steam and diesel locomotives to railway systems in Britain and overseas, including those detailed in the following table.
|1–50||1919–1921||50||North Eastern Railway||T2||0-8-0||2253–2302||to LNER (same numbers) in 1923, class Q6; renumbered 3410–3459 in 1946 scheme.|
|69–93||1921||25||Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway||G|
|2-8-0||122–146||later all-India 26528–26552.|
|94–110||1920||17||Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway||M|
|2-8-0||483–499||later all-India 26610–26626.|
|111–120||1921||10||Caledonian Railway||72||4-4-0||82–91||to LMS 14487–14496 in 1923|
|137–159||1922||23||North Western Railway||SGS||0-6-0||2484–2506||all except one to Pakistan at Partition; 2500 to Eastern Punjab Railway; later all-India 36889.|
|161–170||1922||10||Buenos Aires Western Railway||4F||2-6-2T||824–833|
|175–179||1922–23||5||Midland Great Western Railway||Fa||0-6-0||44–48||to GSR 641–645 in 1925.|
|185–190||1923||6||Great Southern and Western Railway||400||4-6-0||407–409|
|to GSR (same numbers) in 1925.|
|17 May 1921|
|200||Belgian State Railways||Type 37||2-8-0||5001–5200||renumbered Type 31 in 1931. 162 upgraded between 1936 and 1947, unrebuilt engines renumbered Type 30|
|391–415||1922||25||North Eastern Railway||E1||0-6-0T||2313–2339||to LNER (same numbers) in 1923, class J72; renumbered 8721–8745 in 1946 scheme.|
|416–465||1921–22||50||Midland Railway||3835 / 4F||0-6-0||3937–3986||to LMS (same numbers) in 1923|
|466–467||Cancelled||(2)||Northern Counties Committee||(U)||4-4-0||—||Order cancelled; locomotives built at Derby Works instead.|
|468–472||1922||5||Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway||3835 / 4F||0-6-0||57–61||to LMS 4557–4561 in 1930|
|479–487||1923||9||North Western Railway||SGS||0-6-0||2536–2544||; to Eastern Bengal Railway 312–318/66/20 in 1929/39; four survivors became all-India 34265–67/73.|
|488–499||1923||12||North Western Railway||SPS||4-4-0||2989–2996, 3006–3009||three to Pakistan at Partition; remainder to Eastern Punjab Railway, later all-India 24481–28889.|
|500–515||1923||16||Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway||A|
|2-6-4T||265–280||to North Western Railway 517–532 (not in order) in 1929; most to Pakistan at Partition; seven to Eastern Punjab Railway, later all-India 27106–27112.|
|516–535||1923||20||Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway||SGS||0-6-0||505–524||to East Indian Railway 1448–1457 in 1925; split between Eastern and Northern Railways, later all-India in range 34236–34243, 36804–36818.|
|536–552||1923||17||East Indian Railway||SGS||0-6-0||1390–1406||split between Eastern and Northern Railways, later all-India in range 34163–34164, 34218–34224, 36792–36811.|
|565–566||1924||2||Ferrocarril Pacífico de Colombia||4-6-0+0-6-4||29–30|
|567–591||1923||25||Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway||11C||4-8-0||4201–4225|
|605–616||1924||12||London and North Eastern Railway||D11/2||4-4-0||6388–6399||Renumbered 2683–2694 in 1946 scheme.|
|623–632||1926||10||South Australian Railways||600||4-6-2||600–609|
|633–642||1926||10||South Australian Railways||500||4-8-2||500–509|
|643–652||1926||10||South Australian Railways||700||2-8-2||700–709|
|655–701||1924||47||Bengal Nagpur Railway||HSM||2-8-0||700–729, 744–760||later all-India 26174–26220.|
|702–707||1924||6||Metropolitan Railway||K||2-6-4T||111–116||to London and North Eastern Railway 6158–6163, class L2, in 1937; survivors allocated 9070–9073 in 1946 scheme.|
|714–725||1925||12||Buenos Aires and Pacific Railway||2101||4-6-2||2101–2112|
|726–760||1925||35||Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway||11D||2-8-0||4301–4335|
|761–769||1925||9||Southern Railway||K||2-6-4T||A791–A799||Rebuilt to U class 2-6-0|
|771–801||1925||31||Bengal Nagpur Railway||HSM||2-8-0||761–791||later all-India 26220–26251.|
|875–884||1927||10||Ferrocarril Central Argentino||MS6A||4-8-4T||501–510|
|885–904||1928||20||Egyptian State Railways||545||2-6-0||five appropriated by Israel Railways after the 1956 Israeli invasion of Sinai|
|905–934||1927||30||Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway||11C||4-8-0||4226–4255|
|938–987||1928||50||Great Western Railway||5600||0-6-2T||6650–6699|
|1005–1015||1929||11||Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway||XD||2-8-2||853–863||later all-India 22397–22407.|
|1024–1025||1929||2||Great Western of Brazil Railway||2-6-2+2-6-2||238–239|
|1026–1037||1929||12||Ceylon Government Railway||B1||4-6-0||279–290|
|1038–1057||1930||20||Ferrocarril Central Argentino||MS6A||4-8-4T||511–530|
|1058–1068||1930||11||Eastern Bengal Railway||XB||4-6-2||443–453||to Pakistan at Partition.|
|1069–1080||1930||12||Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway||XB||4-6-2||200–211||later all-India 22131–22142.|
|1081–1100||1930||20||Ferrocarril Central Argentino||PS11||4-6-2||1101–1120||3-cylinder with Caprotti valve gear.|
|1105–1110||1931||6||Buenos Aires Western Railway||15||4-8-0||1500–1505|
|1111–1130||1931||20||London and North Eastern Railway||K3/2||2-6-0||1100/01/02/06|
|Renumbered 1899–1918 in 1946 scheme.|
|1131–1155||1930–31||25||Great Western Railway||5700||0-6-0PT||7775–7799|
|1156–1165||1934–35||10||London and North Eastern Railway||K3/2||2-6-0||1302/04/08|
|Renumbered 1919–1928 in 1946 scheme.|
|1166–1265||1935||100||London, Midland and Scottish Railway||Stanier 5||4-6-0||5125–5224|
|1266–1269||1935||4||Yue Han Railway, China||ET6||0-8-0||501–504|
|1270–1279||1936||10||London and North Eastern Railway||K3/2||2-6-0||2417/29/45/46|
|Renumbered 1959–1968 in 1946 scheme.|
|1280–1506||1936–37||227||London, Midland and Scottish Railway||Stanier 5||4-6-0||5225–5451|
|D8||1||Preston Docks||0-6-0de||Duchess||250 hp shunter|
|D9||1||Demonstrator||1-Co-1de||800 hp mixed-traffic diesel-electric|
|1931||1||London and North Eastern Railway||Railcar||25||One Sulzer 6-cylinder engine of 250 hp.|
|1932||2||London and North Eastern Railway||Railcar||224, 232||One Sulzer 6-cylinder engine of 250 hp.|
|1933||1||London and North Eastern Railway||Railbus||294||One Saurer engine of 95 hp.|
|1933||1||Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway||1A-Bo+Bo-A1||CM210||Two Sulzer 8LV34 engines of 850 hp.|
|D20||1933||1||London, Midland and Scottish Railway||0-6-0de||7408||250 hp shunter; renumbered 7058 in 1934; to have been renumbered 13000 by British Railways in 1948, but withdrawn before number applied.|
|D21–D26||6||0-4-0de||85 hp shunter|
|D27–D28||1934||2||Demonstrator||1-Co-1de||Sulzer 8LD28 engine, 800 hp, 66-inch gauge; trialled on Ceylon Government Railway; returned; to Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway in 1937.|
|D43||1934||1||Ceylon Government Railway||G1||0-4-0de||500||122 hp shunter.|
|D46–D51||1934||6||Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway||YZZT||Railcar||1–6||160 hp diesel-electric.|
|D54–D63||1936||10||London, Midland and Scottish Railway||—||0-6-0de||7059–7068||350 hp shunter; to War Department in 1942 (4) and 1944 (6).|
|D64||1936||1||Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway||DE||0-6-0de||800||360 hp shunter.|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Armstrong Whitworth.|
- Tyne and Wear Archives Service, for records of the company
- Armstrong Whitworth diesel locomotives and railcars
- Brian Webb: Armstrong Whitworth: A World Diesel Pioneer - list of diesel locos ISBN 9781899889457]
- Documents and clippings about Armstrong Whitworth in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW