Some of his new colleagues recorded their impressions of McConnell. David Stevenson, the Camden Goods Manager, described him as "a strong and determined man of the rough sort." Robert Benson Dockray, the LNWR Engineer wrote in his diary: "There is no doubt of his being intellectually a very clever man, full of energy, but he has some sad moral blemishes which will always prevent his occupying the position he otherwise could do. He is cunning and wants straightforwardness." Superintendent Bruyeres also said McConnell was not straighforward and "works for his own department as though it were not part of the general concern." The anonymous writer in the railway papers of the 1840s who signed himself 'Veritas Vincit' had some very caustic things to say about McConnell: "this youthful superintendent has an immeasurable conceit of his own talents" (April 1843); his "usual flurried manner in giving directions" (April 1845); there "is not a locomotive superintendent in the kingdom who has wasted more money or failed in his attempts at improvement ... pushing himself forward in the company of men of talent, hearing their opinions on scientific subjects, and advancing them in other quarters as his own. This is no secret, it is often alluded to." He "knows nothing but what he copies, and what he does copy is usually fallacious" (February 1847). The last outburst was prompted by hearing about McConnell's appointment to the LNWR, which had completely astonished 'Veritas Vincit'. He thought the appointment had to be because of some private motive - "it cannot have been based on the qualifications of McConnell." (Harry Jack. Locomotives of the LNWR Southern Division)Nevertheless he was a young man full of energy and determined to make changes. He recommended the scrapping of a lot of older engines and proposed that Wolverton should manufacture rather than simply repair engine. The Board agreed.
McConnell's energyand drive for efficiency created labour problems. In 1848 the footplatemen went on strike over reduced pay and McConnell replaced them with untrained blacklegs. He prevailed, but with a loss of goodwill and his deputy who publicly criticised him for his lack of concern about the safety hazards of employing unskilled drivers.
McConnell's lasting legacy was the building of bigger and faster engines, including the "bloomers", which I will discuss in the next post. He also presided over the locomotive building years - an activity which carried more glamour than the building of carriages, such as increasingly happened after he left. His nemesis was Richard Moon, who became Deputy Chairman after the death of McConnell's patron, Admiral Moorsom in 1861. Moon was strongly in favour of rationalising workshop activities between Wolverton and Crewe, and eventually got his way. A report submitted to the Board in 1862 was very critical of McConnell and on February 20th 1862 he submitted his resignation.
He then moved with his family to Great Missenden and rented an office in Westminster, from where he worked as a consulting engineer, producing designs for a number of railway companies.
Despite his confrontational beginnings in Wolverton he appears to have developed into a respected citizen. He promoted education and was probably responsible for ensuring that the Science and Art Institute was completed. He also fostered a savings bank and encouraged sporting activities.
In 1883, at the age of 68, he fell ill and died on 11th June from heart failure and pneumonia. he was by now a well-to-do man. His personal estate, according to is will, was valued at £28,097 9s 7d - a large sum of money in 1883