William Bouch

William Bouch is famous for his Stockton & Darlington Railway locomotive designs. Before this, he was Chief Engineer of Butterley Iron Works. During his tenure at Butterley, he visited Russia in 1837 taking a ship load of machinery to the Black Sea Navigation Company.

William Bouch took over the running of the Stockton & Darlington Railway's Shildon workshops in 1840. Bouch is noted for designing the first British locomotives with a true 4-4-0 ('American') design in 1860. At about the same time, he invented a feedwater heater which became known as 'Bouch's Coffee Can'. This consisted of a water sleeve around the chimney to act as a preheater.

Some of these developments pushed too far, and his outside cylinder 4-4-0 "238" class from the 1870s included too many novel developments. The "238" Class was an eclectic mixture of developments, combining good ideas that were poorly executed, and ideas that were simply bad from the outset. They were greatly ridiculed and given the name of "Ginx's Babies", before being eventually rebuilt by Fletcher.

Bouch is also known for designing many of the Stockton & Darlington's "long boiler" locomotives. These were successful, and they were built and used over a long period of time. This was also a period of rapid locomotive development and they looked very outdated with their small fireboxes and large boilers. However, typical mineral operations on the Stockton & Darlington involved relatively short runs with lots of stopping and waiting. As such, a small grate actually proved beneficial due to the resulting improved coal consumption. Whilst stopped, a 'long boiler' could build up boiler pressure ready for the next run. These locomotives would be poorly suited to long sustained running, but were ideal and economic for these short runs. One of Bouch's 'long boiler' locomotives survives, in the form of the No. 1275 (NER '1001' Class).

Bouch continued to operate the Shildon Works until his death in 1876. The Stockton & Darlington merged with the North Eastern Railway (NER) in 1863. Operations were slowly merged, and the Stockton & Darlington operations maintained a high degree of independence. Primarily freight, Bouch continued to be responsible for most of the locomotives on the former S&D lines. Eventually Shildon stopped building locomotives and under Bouch's management, Shildon was transformed into one of Britain's largest wagon works.

William Bouch should not be confused with his brother Sir Thomas Bouch (1822-1880). Thomas Bouch is infamous (rightly or wrongly) as the designer of the original Tay Bridge. This collapsed in 1879 with the loss of 79 lives.