Tommy Hornbuckle Archive

Scope and Content

This collection consists of plans, drawings, blueprints, correspondence, notebooks and typed and handwritten notes. Also Reports, specifications, certificates, photographs and postcards and printed materials. It also includes printing blocks and 6 small pieces of track with two scaled skeleton models. The content of the collection relates to the life and career of Tommy Hornbuckle. There is very little material on Tommy Hornbuckle’s early career up to 1927. The collection also contains some notebooks on traction belonging to F. Lydall that were deposited as part of this collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

These papers relate to the career and personal life of the railway engineer Tommy Hornbuckle (25 May 1880-1 February 1958).

Hornbuckle began his career serving an apprenticeship in the general engineering works of R. Hornsby and Sons, Grantham. Here he worked on the Hornsby-Akroyd oil engine.

Between 1901-1903 he studied mechanical and electrical engineering at University College, Nottingham and gained the City and Guilds qualification in engineering from the London Institute.

From 1903 to 1911 he worked in the electrical and general engineering section of the locomotive department of Midland Railway, Derby. Here he was involved in designing electric motors, designing a new power station to supply power to the locomotive and carriage and wagon workshops. He was also involved in experimenting to test the possibilities of single phase traction for mainline electrification. In connection with this he toured Switzerland, Germany and Holland to inspect electric railways in operation. During this period he was an external student of the University of London, and in 1911 was awarded a BSc in engineering.

From 1911-1927 Hornbuckle worked in the works manager’s office of the locomotive department of Midland Railway, Derby. He supervised all general and electrical engineering work carried out on any part of the Midland Railway by staff attached to the locomotive works. Between 1911 and 1923 he also acted as liaison officer to the goods department. During World War One his responsibilities also covered the provision and installation of new machine tools of all descriptions and the improvement of production methods, and he was also involved in the manufacture of munitions, for which he was awarded an MBE in 1920. In 1919 he joined the Institute of Civil Engineers.

In 1923 he served on various committees for coordinating works practices and methods on the amalgamation of the railways. As part of this work he investigated and made recommendations for the more efficient operation of the railways’ fleet of ships.

In 1927 he became the technical assistant to the carriage and wagons superintendent at the carriage and wagon department of the London, Midland and Scotland Railway (LMS) at Derby. His principle duties were the research and development in connection with rolling stock and the reorganization of factories.

Between 1931 and 1939 Hornbuckle was the chief technical assistant to the chief mechanical engineer at LMS in Euston. On his recommendations experimental work was carried out on the development of Diesel traction. This involved investigations and experiments with both mechanical and electrical diesel shunting engines, including models made by Armstrong-Whitworth and the English Electric Co. The main objective of the investigation was to reduce costs by introducing one-man operation of shunting engines. At the same time he experimented with diesel passenger units, especially the three-car diesel train. During this period he was a member of the electrification sub-committee and took an active part in the detailed investigation of the effects of electrifying the LMS mainlines between Euston-Carlisle and St Pancras-Leeds. In 1932 he toured Austria with General Mance to investigate the extent to which the Austrian State Railways had been rehabilitated as the result of a loan granted by the League of Nations. In 1934 he became a member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. Between 1937-8 he was the president of the Diesel Engineers and Users Association.

He retired from the railway service in 1939.

During World War Two he was the inspecting officer under the chief inspector of armaments, working at ROF Birtley. He gained experience in road and rail transport that clarified his ideas regarding the necessity for improvements in rail freight vehicles.

From 1944-1948 Hornbuckle further developed his ideas on diesel traction and improved types of freight vehicle. Much of this work was carried out as consultancy for manufacturers of diesel engines, locomotives and railcars.

From 1948-1955 he carried out advisory work for the government of New South Wales, this involved touring countries around Europe, especially Belgium, Austria and Germany where he placed contracts and arranged shipment for steam, electric and diesel electric locomotives and carriages and wagons.

Hornbuckle died on 1st February 1958.

People mentioned in the Hornbuckle archive:

Lord E.J.H. Lemon

In 1911 he worked at Midland Railway as the chief wagon inspector.In 1917 he was works manager of the carriage and wagon department of Midland Railway.In 1923 he was divisional carriage and wagon superintendent for the LMS.In 1931 he was first chief mechanical engineer for the LMS, covering locomotives and carriages and wagons.Between 1932-1943 he was the operating and commercial vice-president of the LMS. During this period he was responsible for introducing improved methods of handling traffic both on the running lines and depots.He died in 1954.See the Railway Gazette, July- December 1954 for an obituary.

Sir William Stanier

Between 1932-1934 he was the chief mechanical engineer for the LMS.In1942 he was the scientific advisor to the ministry of production.At the LMS he developed and improved traction power and supervised the production of engines at the works at Crewe and Derby. He also worked on improving steam locomotives and diesel shunters.He died September 1965.For an obituary see the Railway Gazette, July - December 1965, p. 758 and p. 764.

S. H. Fisher

From 1925 he worked as the operating assistant at Crewe to the chief general superintendent of the LMS.Between 1929-1932 he was the divisional superintendent of operations at Derby.In 1932 he was made the operating assistant to the chief general superintendent at Euston for the LMS. During this time he made a visit to Canada and America to study their railways.In 1934 he was the assistant chief operating manager and by 1944 he was the chief operating manager.He retired in 1950 at which time he was the deputy chief regional officer for the London Midlands region of British Railways. For more details of his career see the Railway Gazette, July – December 1949, p. 335.

F. Lydall

Lydall was a leading authority on railway electrification. First on the manufacturing side at Siemens Brothers & co. and from 1917 with the consulting engineering firm Mertz & Mclellan of which he became a partner in 1927.He was responsible for supervising and reporting on the main line electrifications of the Glencoe – Pietermaritzburg line in Natal and that from Bombay over the western Ghats.Just before his death he was advising British transport on the future of railway electrification in Britain. He died in February 1950.For an obituary see the Railway Gazette, July – December 1950, P. 340.


After his retirement in 1939 Tommy Hornbuckle organized many of his notes and research into numbered folders for reference purposes and included consultancy and advisory work and research carried out after his retirement. The original content of the numbered folders has been maintained. The collection is divided into eight series reflecting Tommy Hornbuckle’s career:

Works manager’s office, locomotive department, Midland railway 1911-1927: including: documents relating to the supervising of general and electrical engineering works of the locomotive department, world war one and the re-organisation of the fleet of ships.

Carriage and wagon department, LMS Derby 1927-1931: This contains documents relating to the development of rolling stock of the LMS railway.

Chief mechanical engineers department, LMS Euston 1931-1939: This series contains sub series on Tommy Hornbuckle’s experiments and research in diesel traction with regard to shunting engines and passenger units. It also includes sub series on Tommy Hornbuckle’s visit to Austria and the electrification sub-committee.

Work for the Government of New South Wales 1948-55.

Engineering Drawings and plans.

Personal: This series includes photographs and postcards of Tommy Hornbuckle both personal and work related. It also includes his personal papers, certificates of qualifications, his Bsc research and correspondence and documents for his houses in Studland, Dorset and Finchley, London. There are sub series relating to papers given by Tommy Hornbuckle and the Diesel Engineers User’s Association of which he was president in 1937-8.

F. Lydall’s Papers: Some papers by F. Lydall concerning traction were deposited as part of the Tommy Hornbuckle collection.


Access Information

Access is given in accordance with the NRM access policy. Material form this archive is available to researchers through the Search Engine reading room.

Opening times:

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Acquisition Information

Purchased from N. Hore, son of R.A. Hore, in 2002.

Other Finding Aids

A list of the contents of the collection is appended to this catalogue.

Alternative Form Available

Not applicable.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

The collection contains a wide variety of material, from hand–written notes and papers to printed pamphlets and plans. Some of the engineering drawing are made of tracing paper and are in a delicate condition. The printing blocks have been quarantined due to mould.

Archivist's Note

The draft handlist was prepared in January 2005 by Kate Tyte and Kate Hart, students on the post-graduate archives administration course at the Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies, as part of a work placement at the National Railway Museum.

Created by Jane Ronson (Archives Hub team) using the Archives Hub EAD Editor, May 2015.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied of items in the archive, provided that the copying process used does not damage the item or is not detrimental to its preservation. Copies will be supplied in accordance with the NRM’s terms and conditions for the supply and reproduction of copies, and the provisions of any relevant copyright legislation.

Appraisal Information

No appraisal of this collection has been undertaken.


No further accruals are expected.

Location of Originals

Not applicable.


E.V. Richards, LMS Diesel Locomotives and Railcars, (Norfolk: The Railway Correspondence and Travel Society, 1996).