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Eddie Rowe 1936-2024

It is with sadness that we share the news that Eddie Rowe died suddenly on 10th of March 2024 only a couple of weeks after receiving special recognition as the founder of Wessington Cryogenics Ltd, the leading global manufacturer of high quality cryogenic vessels, as they celebrated 40 years in business.

In his early years Eddie had started his working life as a mechanical fitter,  in traditional heavy engineering roles in the mining and ship building industries before his passion for engineering and his natural ambition to better himself saw him returning to education and achieving outstanding results, which fast tracked a career that began as a trainee draughtsman at Steels engineering then to being rapidly promoted to Chief Engineer and  other leadership roles in the engineering sector .

Eddie was a man that thrived on being an innovator, always keeping ahead of the technical developments, emerging new products and commercial opportunities that would come to his attention in the science and engineering sectors but after a period of time working for a leading industrial gas company, he became fascinated by Cryogenics at the time when there was a raft of new applications emerging, married with an endless demand for solutions from end users.

He first moved to a role of Technical Director at another cryogenic tank manufacturer,  but after a very successful period there, tasked with the design and commercialisation of a broad range of cryogenic dewars for the bio medical and scientific research sectors ,  he finally realised his long held personal ambition of establishing a manufacturing company of his own and Wessington Cryogenics Limited opened its doors in February 1984.

It all started in a small start-up unit in Crowther, Washington, Tyne and Wear with approximately 2500 sq feet of factory floor space and the capacity to build vessels up to 4000 ltr capacity (nitrogen) and 2000ltr (helium)

Other notable projects at this time included the design and development of a cryogenic power pack for the mining industry in partnership with BOC;  CLEOII, a complex liquid helium dewar / cryostat for a major US university (multiple neck entries, valve box design, side bayonet exit for an exciting particle physics application.

Further expansion was needed after Wessington won a large export tender requiring many 1000, 2000 and 6000ltr road transport tanks, and as the factory at Washington was no longer fit for purpose, Wessington Cryogenics moved from Washington to a former British Coal site at Philadelphia, Houghton -le-Spring.  The new facility was a beautiful, listed building which was famously once occupied by the Sir Nigel Gresley steam engine (sister to the Mallard, the world record breaking fastest steam train)

The engineering DNA of that building continued to inspire Eddie and the Wessington team to further innovate and diversify Wessington’s product range, and shortly after this time the company reached out to operators in the well service industry and they started repairing tanks and then developing their own products for oilfield and associated industrial gas applications.

Other products were developed which included RTVs , larger capacity liquid helium vessels for the Far East, but it was the well service tanks that were the focus of the most disruptive innovation.

Recognising that the industry go-to model at the time was a 16ft vessel, which was uneconomical for shipping as it was not a standard foot print, Wessington designed a brand new model, a 10ft ISO Pack, with two such units being capable of being locked together to form a standard 20ft  ISO dimension.

This inspired move transformed the Company’s fortunes as this rapidly became the product of choice for the worlds blue chip oil and gas companies and brought Wessington Cryogenics year on year growth and increased global market penetration.

Once again, the Company had moved to other, larger units on the Philadelphia site, to accommodate the ongoing growth of the business, but building upon the success of the well service sector sales, an opportunity came for Wessington to occupy the prestigious 70,000sq ft premises at Gadwall Road, Rainton Bridge South in Houghton le Spring, which is still home to the Company today.

It was a very proud moment for Eddie to take the keys to that facility and by the time that he retired , Wessington were building typically 20+ ISO tanks per month, as well as continuing to develop many innovative projects such as 2o,ooo ltr liquid helium vessels.

Not only was Eddie instrumental in producing the designs for almost all of the Companies product range, (and it is his original designs that are still used as the basis for the product innovation and development that still takes place every day within the business today), he also innovated plant and machinery to provide bespoke solutions wherever projects required them.  Finally, he was also known and appreciated by many for his superb engineering knowledge that could solve technical problems, no matter what was put before him.

Even in retirement he would continue to innovate and find design solutions to everyday challenges and he never lost his lifelong passion for engineering.  He continued to be a committed supporter from the sidelines of Wessington and took great pride in watching the transformation and scale up that is now taking place under the expert leadership of Wessington’s current owner Colin Robertson CBE, who acquired the business in 2022.

There is no doubt that Eddie did not just enjoy the many collaborations worldwide that his career afforded him, through the design projects that he led over so many years, but he also counted so many of his customers as valued business friends.

They say that you should find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.

Hats off to you Eddie, you chose well, and you certainly lived to work and loved every minute of it.  Through your efforts you have revolutionised so much within the Cryogenics Industry and the Industry has much to thank you for.

 “The deeds you do for yourself are gone when you pass away, but the deeds you do for others remain as your legacy”

R.I.P Edwin Marshall Rowe, aged 88 years.  You will be sorely missed.