H.A.V. Bulleid

Monday, August 17 2009


Master Builders of Steam, 2nd edition

I bought a remaindered copy of H.A.V. Bulleid’s Master Builder’s of Steam in the second hand bookshop at Finchley Road Underground Station during the long hot summer of 1964. The book was, not only a masterly critique of the locomotives built by six great mechanical engineers – Henry and George Ivatt, Gresley, Churchward, Stanier and Bulleid, but also an insightful study of the men who designed them.

Master Builder’s was a brilliant fusion of engineering and biographical detail. It illustrated how progress in engineering design is not just dependent on the intrinsic value of the proposed innovation, but also of the political climate within which the designer is working. Some great railway engineering ‘false starts’, such as O.V.S. Bulleid’s double deck coaches, were due to a failure to properly prepare the political ground beforehand. It was a valuable lesson which was to serve me well in my subsequent railway preservation activities.

H.A.V. Bulleid was the eldest son of Oliver V.S. Bulleid and Marjorie Ivatt (George Ivatt’s youngest daughter) was born in Doncaster in 1912. He was educated at Ampleforth College, In Yorkshire and at Pembroke College, Cambridge where he graduated with an engineering degree. In 1930, he was apprenticed at the Derby Works of the LMS. In 1936, he became a production assistant at Vickers Armstrong armaments factory, and later worked as the Chief Engineer at the Britsh Nylon Spinners plant in Pontypool. His great passion was film, he briefly considered a career in the film industry, and he became a leading authority on silent films, regularly contributing articles to Amateur Cine World.

He leaves a lasting legacy of three great books on railway engineering: Master Builders of Steam, 1963; The Aspinall Era, 1967; and Bulleid of the Southern, 1977.

Henry Anthony Vaughan Bulleid, railway engineer, writer and film historian born Doncaster 23 December 1912 died Ifold, Sussex 5 May 2009.




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