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.
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 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/
In 1924 the locomotive was purchased by the Metropolitan Electric Power Supply Co, Brimsdown Generating Station, London and 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. and worked there until it closed in October 1981.
The locomotive the entered preservation as a static exhibit at the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway.
In 2011 the locomotive returned to its home ground.
1550 Sir James is on display at the at the Devil’s Porridge Museum.