Sir Daniel Gooch - Encyclopedia

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SIR DANIEL GOOCH, Bart. (1816-1889), English mechanical engineer, was born at Bedlington, in Northumberland, on the 16th of August 1816. At the age of fifteen, having shown a taste for mechanics, he was put to work at the Tredegar Ironworks, Monmouthshire. In 1834 he went to Warrington, where, at the Vulcan foundry, under Robert Stephenson, he acquired the principles of locomotive design. Subsequently, after passing a year at Dundee, he was engaged by the Stephensons at their Gateshead works, where he seems to have conceived that predilection for the broad gauge for which he was afterwards distinguished, through having to design some engines for a 6-foot gauge in Russia and noticing the advantages it offered in allowing greater space for the machinery, &c., as compared with the standard gauge favoured by Stephenson. In 1837, on I. K. Brunel's recommendation, he was appointed locomotive superintendent to the Great Western railway at a time when the engines possessed by the railway were very poor and inefficient. Ile soon improved this state of affairs, and gradually provided his: employers with locomotives which were unsurpassed for general excellence and economy of working. One of the most famous, the "Lord of the Isles," was awarded a gold medal at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and when, thirty years afterwards, it was withdrawn from active service it had run more than three-quarters of a million miles, all with its original boiler. In 1864 he left the Great Western and interested himself in the problem of laying a telegraph cable across the Atlantic. At this time the "Great Eastern" was in the hands of the bondholders, of whom he himself was one of the most important, and it occurred to him that she might advantageously be utilized in the enterprise. Accordingly, at his instance she was chartered by the Telegraph Construction Company, of which also he was a director, and in 1865 was employed in the attempt to lay a cable, Gooch himself superintending operations. The cable, however, broke in mid-ocean, and the attempt was a failure. Next year it was renewed with more success, for not only was a new cable safely put in place, but the older one was picked up and spliced, so that there were two complete lines between England and America. For this achievement Gooch was created a baronet. Meanwhile the Great Western railway had fallen on evil days, being indeed on the verge of bankruptcy, when in 1866 the directors appealed to him to accept the chairmanship of the board and undertake the rehabilitation of the company. He agreed to the proposal, and was so successful in restoring its prosperity that in 1889, at the last meeting over which he presided, a dividend was declared at the rate of 7' 2 1%. Under his administration the system was greatly enlarged and consolidated by the absorption of various smaller lines, such as the Bristol and Exeter and the Cornwall railways; and his appreciation of its strategic value caused him to be a strenuous supporter of the construction of the Severn Tunnel. His death occurred on the 15th of October 1889 at his residence, Clewer Park, near Windsor.

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