Herbert Garratt was born in London in 1864. He served an apprenticeship at the Locomotive Works of the North London Railway. After working for several years as an engineer and locomotive superintendent in Argentina, Cuba, West Africa and Peru, he returned to London and in July 1907 applied for a patent on the locomotive design that bears his name.
The patent describes it as a double bogie locomotive in which the boiler is carried on a frame slung between two self-driven bogies. The bogies carry the water tanks and fuel and the propelling engines. All the wheels of each bogie may be driven if required. The illustration is an early Garratt locomotive built for the Tasmanian Government Railways.
In August 1907 Garratt was appointed Inspecting Engineer for the New South Wales Government Railways which were having engines built by Beyer, Peacock. This was lucky because someone there saw the merits of his idea, and helped him develop it. Garratt filed his complete patent specification in January 1908. Beyer, Peacock acquired an exclusive U.K. licence to exploit his patent, and did so with remarkable success.
The first two Garratt locomotives were two for the 2 ft. gauge North East Dundas Tramway in Tasmania, ordered by the Tasmanian Government in 1909 and delivered by Beyer, Peacock that year. They hauled trains on 1 in 25 gradients and curve of 99 ft. radius until the line was closed in 1930.
By the end of 1909 Beyer, Peacock had prepared 45 schemes for the locomotives and was strenuously seeking orders for them. Garratt himself was able to interest other builders. He died in 1913. By that time, Beyer, Peacock had built four more Garratt locomotives for Tasmania and six for Western Australia. Société St.Léonard in Belgium, at that time the only other builder, had completed at least one for the Congo.
A total of 1,636 Garratts ran on 86 railways in 48 countries. Beyer, Peacock built 1,023. They included the largest steam locomotive built in Europe, a Beyer-Garratt sent to Russia in 1932. The Garratts delivered in 1957 to the New South Wales Government Railways were the last steam locomotives to be delivered to any of the Australian government railways, and were the most powerful steam locomotives in Australia.
This note is based mainly on a paper by R.L. Hills, presented to a joint meeting of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and The Newcomen Society in 1980 and published in Volume 51 of the Newcomen Society Transactions.