George Westinghouse was an American entrepreneur and engineer who invented the railway air brake and was a pioneer of the electrical industry. Westinghouse was one of Thomas Edison’s main rivals in the early implementation of the American electricity system. Westinghouse’s system, which used alternating current (AC), ultimately prevailed over Edison’s which used direct current.
In 1872 George Westinghouse patented his air brake for railways; by 1880 37,000 sets of the brake apparatus had been supplied to railways around the world.
Seeing the opportunities in the UK, Westinghouse established the Westinghouse Brake Co. in London in 1881.
In 1899 the company was the first to introduce power signalling into Britain with the installation at Bishopsgate Street station on the Great Eastern Railyway.
In 1920 the Westinghouse Brake Co. absorbed two rival firms, Saxby & Farmer Ltd. and Consolidated Signal Co., to become the Westinghouse Brake & Saxby Signal Co. Ltd.
The company’s main works were at Chippenham, Wiltshire, which produced air braking, signalling, mining and colliery equipment. The company was very innovative in its field, pioneering the use of spheroidal graphite for crank shafts and being the first to produce an all-electric control and monitoring system for the railways.
In 1935 the company name was shortened to the Westinghouse Brake & Signal Co.
In 1992 the business became part of BTR plc., a British multinational industrial conglomerate company in London. Following a series of mergers, the business became part of Siemens in 2013 and the Westinghouse name disappeared from the railway signalling industry.