In 1843, Crampton took out a patent for a new design of locomotive. It is for the physical appearance of his locomotives that Crampton is remembered for today, with the driving wheel placed behind the firebox. But there were technical improvements that he made, which laid the foundations for future locomotive design. The three most important improvements were:-
- Wide steam passages
- Large heating surfaces
- Generous bearing surfaces on the wheels
In 1845, Crampton received his first order for a locomotive built to his patent. The Namur and Liege Railway in Belgium ordered three locomotives with 7 feet diameter driving wheels and a 14.5 square feet grate. They were built by the firm of Tulk and Ley of Whitehaven. One of the locomotives was tested in 1847 on the London and North Western Railway, who then built a “Crampton Patent” locomotive at Crewe. Another two locomotives were bought by the LNWR, including a 6-2-0 Liverpool built by Bury, Curtis and Kennedy in 1848 with 8 feet diameter driving wheels. A claim of 79 miles per hour being achieved was made, with an average of 53 miles per hour over 30 miles with a 60-ton load. Another claim was for a speed of hauling eight carriages over 16 miles at an average speed of 74 miles per hour.
Established on the Lowca site in 1800 as Heslops, Milward, Johnston & Co.- the engineering and ironfounding expertise coming from the brothers Adam, Thomas & Crosby Heslop, formerly associated with the Seaton ironworks – the firm was taken over by iron-mining firm Tulk, Ley & Co. about 1837. Ley was an absentee investor, the driving force behind the enterprise being engineer John Augustus Tulk. His decision to concentrate on finished goods rather than simple foundry products swiftly paid off, with orders for locomotives from the new Maryport and Carlisle Railway. The first two were a 2-2-2 and an 0-6-0, with a further 2-2-2 in 1843. They then built a number of 0-4-2 locos for various Northern railways. They also attempted to move into the shipbuilding business in 1842-3, producing Lowca, the first iron ship ever launched in Cumberland. Tulk’s engineering specialist, a Mr Matthewson from the Tay Ironworks at Dundee, invented an improved mechanism for loading coal onto ships at Whitehaven, and other products included boilers and a machine for cutting iron plates (used in construction of the Lowca).
One of Lowca’s most significant achievements was the construction of the first Crampton locomotive. From 1847 they built a number of engines to the Crampton pattern, the first three, Namur, Liege and another, being ordered in 1845 by G and J Rennie for the Namur and Liege Railway. The order was undelivered because the railway was not ready. Namur was tested by the LNWR in February – April 1847; the LNWR had ordered a similar but larger engine in June 1846 which was delivered in June 1847. It was named London and was reported to have reached 65mph. In the end the first three Crampton locomotives were all acquired by the South Eastern Railway. One was sold to the Dundee and Perth and Aberdeen Junction Railway, one to the Maryport and Carlisle Railway and two for the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway. The rough riding that was typical of Crampton locomotives, and difficulties with steaming, meant that they did not stay long in service, although they were more successful on the continent, and were an important step in the development of standard gauge railways.