This locomotive is one of two ordered from Andrew Barclay by the War Department to work at the HM Factory at Gretna. They were fireless locomotives which means that it had a steam accumulator rather than a boiler and was charged up with steam from a stationary boiler. It also meant that there was no chance of it starting a fire.
Both locomotives (Works Nos 1476 delivered September 1916 and 1477 delivered the following month) had 15 inch x 20 inch outside cylinders and 3 feet diameter driving wheels. The tractive effort was 17,000lbf, the boiler pressure 160psi and they weighed 21tons 8 cwt.
There were fourteen fireless locomotives at Greta and 1477 carried the number GF No 3. A further twenty four locomotives were used to transport the cordite from the factory to the shell filling factory.
The Gretna site was the largest Cordite factory in the UK. The factory was located at north of Carlisle at Gretna on the Solway Firth. It was built in 1915 in response to the shortage of shells experienced in the First World War. The factory stretched for 12 miles and consisted of four large production sites and two purpose-built townships. The facility had its own independent transport network, power source, and water supply system.
A railway was used to move materials and supplies around the sites. The network, which had 125 miles of track, employed 34 engines. Electricity for the munitions manufacture and the townships was provided by a purpose-built coal-fired power station. The telephone exchange was handling up to 2.5 million calls in 1918. The townships had their own bakeries, a laundry and a police force. The laundry could clean 6,000 items daily and the bakeries made 14,000 meals a day.
Construction work started in November 1915. Two wooden townships were also built concurrently to house the workers. These were established at Gretna and Eastriggs. To prevent problems with the influx of labourers and munition workers, authorities curtailed alcohol sales through the nationalisation of pubs and breweries in the vicinity.
Munitions production started in April 1916. By 1917 the workforce comprised 11,576 women and 5,066 men. At its peak, the factories produced 800 tons of Cordite per week, more than all the other munitions plants in Britain combined. Cordite was known as the “Devil’s Porridge” after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in 1917 that the ingredients were “kneaded into a sort of a devil’s porridge”. There is now a Devil’s Porridge Museum near the site of the factory – https://www.devilsporridge.org.uk/
One Andrew Barclay fireless locomotive which was employed at Gretna (Works No 1550 Sir James) is on display at the at the Devil’s Porridge Museum. One other locomotive from Gretna is preserved – Hudswell Clarke Work No 1208 but this is not a fireless engine.
Locomotive 1477 was sold to G Cohen who was a dealer and subsequently sold it in 1936 to , Laporte chemical manufacturers of Luton. Here it became No1 although it is understood it still carried the GF 3 plate from Gretna.
The locomotive was surplus to Laporte requirements in 1971 and they donated it to the Quainton Railway Society at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre where it remains.