Francis W Webb (1836–1906)


  • 1851 Started as Crewe Apprentice under Trevithick
  • 1856 Taken on as permanent employee in drawing office
  • 1859 Promoted to Chief Draughtsman
  • 1861 Became Works Manager
  • 1866 Left LNWR to become manager of Bolton Iron and Steel co
  • 1871 Returned to Crewe as CME or Locomotive Superintendent
  • 1903 Retired from company


A clergyman’s son – very much a designer, inventor and first-rate production engineer. At the age of 2X he was in charge of the draughtsman department having much to do with locomotives that would later be rebuilt under his direction as CME. After a few years as works manager he left Crewe and the LNWR, with the blessing of the chairman, to the Bolton Steel Works a company that was mainly involved with mill engines. There he became an expert in the manufacture and use of steel, knowledge that was used on his return to Crewe. He continued developing Crewe Works, and was very interested in the civic affairs of the town of Crewe, becoming mayor in Queen Victoria’s Jubilee year, 1887. He not only took an interest in the company hospital but instituted a separate hospital in the town He fell ill and retired in 1903, dying all too early in Bournemouth. In his will he was generous in founding the Webb Orphanage at Crewe; remembering nursing, church and educational institutions. Gardening was a fond interest.

He was much maligned after retirement, both by the company and many later writers. More attention having been paid to the sagas of chain brakes and compound locomotives than his many achievements.

Anyone who wishes to read a description of his time at Crewe in the context of the period is advised to read the excellent articles by Michael Rutherford in Backtrack – especially the series “Handing on the Baton: From Frank to George”, started November 2002, Volume 16 no.12.