Alfred George de Glehn (1848 – 1936)

Alfred de Glehn contributed as much as any individual engineer to the development of the steam locomotive, the principal means of moving trains on Europe`s railways between the 1830s and the 1960s. He was born at Sydenham in south London. His father came from the Baltic states and his mother from Scotland. He studied engineering at King`s College, London, and was working on marine engines in France on the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. He then went to study at the polytechnic in Zurich, and subsequently to the Societe Alsacienne des Constructions Mecaniques at Mulhouse, which after the war was incorporated in Germany.

From an early stage in his career he was interested in applying the principle of compounding to locomotives. The basic de Glehn compound four-coupled locomotive had two outside high-pressure cylinders driving the rear driving wheels, with two low-pressure cylinders driving the forward axle. His most celebrated locomotives were the 4-4-2s (Atlantics) built for the Chemin de Fer du Nord from 1890, three of which were supplied to the Great Western Railway in England in 1903 and 1905, and had a great influence on the development of that company`s locomotive practice. De Glehn designed locomotives that were built in Alsace and employed on railways in Germany, France and Switzerland, and collaborated in the 1890s with Anatole Mallet, the pioneer of articulated steam locomotives.

After French forces briefly occupied Mulhouse early in the First World War, he organised an ambulance unit in the French army. He was taken prison, but when the German company Siemens & Halske protested to the German government, he was released, repatriated to England, and subsequently settled in Switzerland.

Examples of his locomotives are preserved at Mulhouse and elsewhere.