This locomotive was built by Andrew Barclay for the War Department to work at the HM Factory at Gretna. It was delivered there in September 1917 along with Works No 1549. Works Nos 1551 – 1554 were delivered in October and November of 1917. All were fireless of the same design.
Being fireless locomotives they had a steam accumulator rather than a boiler and which was charged up with steam from a stationary boiler. It also meant that there was no chance of it starting a fire.
1550 became GF No 10.
It had 14½ inch x 18 inch outside cylinders and 3 feet diameter driving wheels. The tractive effort was 14,744lbf and it weighed 26 tons. It was capable of hauling ten loaded waggons at speeds up to 15mph.
There were fourteen fireless locomotives at Greta. A further twenty four locomotives were used to transport the cordite from the factory to the shell filling factory. Like the other 0-6-0F locomotives delivered to the Ministry of Munitions 1550 had rail washing gear fitted to its leading and trailing coupled wheels. This was reduce the risk of sparks by easing the travel over sharp radius curves within the confined spaces of the munitions factory. The brake blocks and buffers were fitted with feroda in order to prevent sparks and the headlamps on the engines were lit by electricity.
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.
The extensive railway system had 16 stations on it including three that connected with different railway companies – The Glasgow & South Western Railway which ran from Carlisle to Glasgow via Dumfries, the Caledonian Railway which ran from Carlisle to Glasgow via Lockerbie but also ran across the Annan viaduct to Cumbria and the North British Railway which ran from Carlisle to Edinburgh via Longtown. The volume of goods traffic which were received through the connections with the main line was recorded as being on average over 1,700 wagons in 1917 with a similar number leaving the site each week. The layout of the complex was designed in a way which generally resulted in raw materials arriving at the Dornock on the western edge of the site. The production process then resulted in the materials being processed through a number of facilities before the finished cordite left the site at Longtown on the North British Railway.
The extent of the passenger service within the site can be gauged from the fact that there were 87 six wheeled passenger coaches.
There were three engine sheds – Dornock, Gretna and Longtown. There were also three points where the fireless locomotives could be filled with steam.
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/
Following the closure of the Gretna site the locomotive was sold in 1924 to the Metropolitan Electric Power Supply Co, Brimsdown Generating Station, London. Here it was renumbered and named ED 1 Sir James. The power station became part of the Central Electricity Board organisation and when Brimsdown station closed it was transferred to Fleetwood Power station in 1975 and worked there until it closed in October 1981.
The locomotive then entered preservation as a static exhibit at the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway where it arrived in 1982.
In 2011 the locomotive returned to its home ground when it was acquired by the Devil’s Porridge Museum. The rusting locomotive was then restored and placed on display in 2014.
1550 Sir James is on display at the at the Devil’s Porridge Museum.