Carl Friedrich (Charles Frederick) Beyer (1813–76)

Carl Friedrich Beyer was the son of a weaver from Plauen in Saxony, and studied at the polytechnic in Dresden, before taking advantage of a travel grant in 1834 to study in England. He declined offers of employment in Germany and settled in Manchester, working in the drawing office of the mechanical engineers Sharp, Roberts & Co., who from 1837 were involved in building railway locomotives. He became Chief Engineer of the company in 1843, but a disappointment - whether relating to the company or to his personal life is uncertain - led him to leave in 1853 to set up in the following year a new company in partnership with Richard Peacock (1820-89), and Henry Robertson (1816-88), a Scot who had experience in building railways, and had acquired interests in ironworks in the Wrexham area of North Wales.

Peacock had a varied early career working with locomotives on several railways. In 1841 he was appointed locomotive superintendent of the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway, and laid out the company`s workshops and running sheds at Gorton on the east side of Manchester. The new partnership`s factory, designed by Beyer, was built alongside the company`s works. Most of the principal railway companies in Britain established their own locomotive-building facilities, and Beyer Peacock & Co relied on a substantial proportion of orders from overseas, as well as on supplying machine tools that could be used in the maintenance of locomotives. Some of the first orders were for locomotives for railways in Sweden, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands.

Beyer worked closed with Hermann Ludwig Lange (1837-92), also a native of Plauen, who moved to Manchester in 1861, became chief draughtsman in 1865, and chief engineer after Beyer`s death. The company built its first electric locomotives, for the City & South London Railway, in 1890, and from 1907 developed the articulated Beyer Garratt type of locomotive, developing a method of mounting artillery on railway bogies proposed by Herbert William Garratt (1864-1913), of the government of New South Wales. The capacity of Beyer Garratt locomotives to carry large quantities of water and fuel and their low axle loadings made them especially successful in Africa and in South America, but high speed versions were built for Spain and for the Algerian section of the Paris, Lyon & Mediterranean Railway. The last were built in 1958, and the factory closed in 1966.

Beyer was an outstanding engineer who developed a successful company in his adopted country, and the Beyer Peacock locomotives that are displayed in many of Europe`s railway museums testify to his influence.