When one thinks of the history of railways it is inevitable to begin with the Industrial Revolution and the long lasting and profound effect this period had on human advancement, the railways of course being instrumental during almost the entirety of this time.

Robert Forester Mushet was a metallurgist and businessman who in 1857, was the first person to create durable rails of steel having addressed the issues of brittleness.  At the time, wrought iron was more commonly in use for rails but creating the iron rails was a labour intensive process whilst the steel was stronger and less expensive.

The steel that Robert Mushet produced was sent to the rather familiar, as it was then known, Derby Midland Railway Station due to the large number of trains that passed through the station at the time, which required the iron rails to be replaced at least every six months. Six years later, having endured some 700 trains per day, the rails were still in fine condition. This successful trial in Derby then led to the global expansion of railways throughout the nineteenth century giving the city a proud achievement in spurring innovation.

Some 21 years after Robert Mushnet’s steel was laid in Derby, a young pioneer by the name of William Swindell set up a patent attorney firm in the city and he almost immediately got to work on helping the firms of the day to protect their rail innovations.

Fast forward to the present day and in checking our record books from the 19th Century, it was a privilege to find that in 1890 we filed patents for Railway Cabin Stoves, Railway Milk Cans and Railway Carriage Locks.  In 1891 we filed patent applications for Axle Boxes for Railway Carriages, Railway Signalling, Railway Signals, a Railway Chair (2 cases!), Railway Carriages, and a device to provide improved communication between passengers and guards on railway trains.

This history of working alongside the innovators of the early rail industry is something we’re very proud of and is one of the reasons why Swindell & Pearson today supports the Rail Forum Midlands and its members with intellectual property matters.

The rail industry has for centuries been at the forefront of global innovation, creating technologies that become widespread in everyday use. From the steam engine to the first time use of steel rails right here in Derby. From the APT and HST, developed in Derby, to Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train to Crossrail and in the future, SpaceX’s proposed Hyperloop tube system for connecting the US and eventually even Mars. The industry will no doubt continue to innovate and we will remain committed to helping firms who spend their time, effort and resources in creating new technologies protect and defend their fantastic ideas.

Share this page: