The modern engineer can research and record engineering ideas using mobile devices and camera phones, as well as more traditional methods. In the 19th century engineers carried notebooks and a pencil to sketch designs on the move.  A man who exemplifies the image of the Victorian engineer as artist is David Joy, born in Leeds in 1825. 

A collection of his drawings and his diary are held by the IMechE archive and are a legacy to his talent. These are available online via our Virtual Archive.

As a child Joy spent his time developing his sketches into models of ships and engines and he later studied mechanical drawing at college. He spent his formative years studying all the locomotives he came across, sketching them, making notes, and interrogating their owners and crews and, if he could, getting rides on them. In 1843 he began work as a drawing office apprentice at the Railway Foundry Works of Shepherd and Todd.  His talent for drawing plans led to a quick promotion to Chief Draughtsman and it was in this capacity that he credited with designing the famous Jenny Lind locomotive.  He also worked for EB Wilson and Company. The railway he worked on include, Ambergate, Nottingham and Boston, and Eastern Junction Railway and Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway.

Constructed drawing of Jenny Lind.
Constructed drawing of Jenny Lind.

The Jenny Lind was built in 1847 for the London and Brighton Railway by Wilson’s. It was so successful that the name was used for a whole class of locomotives, seventy were built for various railway companies such as Midland Railway. It has frequently been cited as the first mass produced locomotive type. The Jenny steamed freely and was economical on fuel. It was to this that its success was attributed, along with its increased boiler pressure. Credit is often given to Joy’s suspension arrangements, these made it an extremely smooth-running and stable locomotive. It had a medium sized boiler, 800 sq ft (74 m2) heated surface area, with a pressure of 120 lbf/in2 (827 kPa) and concentrated on its steaming abilities. In this, James Fenton had particular expertise. The engine had 15-by-20-inch (380 mm × 510 mm) inside cylinders and 6-foot-0-inch-diameter (1.83 m) driving wheels. Gray’s ‘mixed’ frame had an inside frame for the cylinders and driving wheels, with inside bearings, and an outside frame for the 4-foot-0-inch-diameter (1.22 m) leading and trailing wheels, using outside bearings. The inside frame stopped at the firebox, so that the latter was as wide as the wheels would allow. By this means he minimised the overhang at each end.

Joy never stopped inventing, developing a compound marine engine, a steam reversing gear, a steam hammer and hydraulic organ blowers.  His organ blowers were fitted to the organ at Leeds Town Hall.  In the 1860s he started a business manufacturing steam hammers, and later a keen interest in marine engineering led to an appointment at the Barrow Shipbuilding Company. He developed a radial valve gear and assistant cylinders. The success of these was demonstrated by their widespread use on British and foreign ships. In 1880 he presented his paper on A New Reversing and Expansive Valve Gear at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Valve gear diagram
Valve gear diagram

In 1864 Joy was able to offer engineering assistance when, as a passenger on the SS Gladstone, headed south from Middlesbrough, the ship struck the SS London. Joy gives a vivid and detailed account of the incident in his diary. His illustrated account recalls the bravado of the ship’s captain as he declares that he is going to beat the SS London, regarded at that time as the fastest steamer on the East Coast.  Unfortunately a small boat crossed the bow of the Gladstone sent it off course and into the SS London. Joy describes the stunned fear of the passengers and the panic of the sailors as they scrambled to safety on to the other ship. It was possible to repair the ship as it was light but if it had been loaded it would have sunk within an hour. Joy offered his services to the Chief Engineer, finding that this helped him to keep his composure during the panic; he even took the time to sketch the ship’s damage.

Joy died at his home in Hampstead from congestion of the lungs in 1903.

Archive, Institution of Mechanical Engineers



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