Fireless Locomotives

A fireless steam locomotive is similar to a conventional steam locomotive, but has a reservoir, known as a steam accumulator, instead of a boiler. This reservoir is charged with superheated water under pressure from a stationary boiler. The engine works like a conventional steam engine using the high pressure steam above the water in the accumulator. As the steam is used and pressure drops, the superheated water boils, replacing the used steam. The locomotive can work like this until the pressure has dropped to a minimum useful level or the water runs out, after which it must be recharged.

Any factory which possessed a stationary boiler could use it to charge a fireless steam locomotive for internal shunting operations. As there is no risk of sparks the use of a fireless locomotive removes the chance of igniting flammable materials and as they do not emit any exhaust except steam, they can shunt into buildings without endangering the workforce with noxious fumes.

The 0-6-0F locomotives delivered to the Ministry of Munitions 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 sites.

They are also very economical as shunters when there is a good supply of steam available.

The first British manufacturer of fireless locomotives was Andrew Barclay Sons & Company, Ltd of Kilmarnock, Scotland, which started producing these engines in 1912. This was a narrow gauge engine (Works No 1212) which was converted to a standard steam tank engine – possibly before being delivered. 

The first one to be deployed was a narrow gauge engine (Works No 1307) which was delivered in November 1013 to the Admiralty for Bedenham at Portsmouth.

The first standard gauge fireless locomotive was delivered by Andrew Barclay in February 1916. This one (Works No 1434) was one of a batch of six locomotives built for the Ministry of Munitions.

The next five standard gauge engines were also ordered as part of the effort for the First World War. They were delivered between June 1916 and October 1916.  These (Works Nos 1471-73 and 1476-77) were supplied to Vickers to work at National Filling Factories and the Ministry of Munitions to work at Gretna. 1472, 1473 and 1477 have been preserved. Works Nos 1474-75 were narrow gauge locomotives built for the Royal Navy to work in a cordite plant in Dorset.

The first delivery to a none military establishment took place in July 1917 when two were delivered to British Dyers at Huddersfield.

Fireless locomotives are not really suited to running on heritage railways but two have operated in preservation in the 1990s. Andrew Barclay Works No 1989 Lord Ashfield at the Museum of Science and Industry at Manchester and Andrew Barclay Works No 2243 Laporte at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre. Andrew Barclay Works No 1952 has operated at the Doon Valley Railway since it was overhauled in July 2015.

Preserved Fireless Locomotives

BuilderWorks NoBuiltName
Andrew Barclay14721916Robert Kett
 14731916Sir Charles
 14771916GF No 3
 15501917Sir James  GF No 10
 15711917Irvine  No 1
 15721917Queensferry  No 10
 18151924Freemans Meadow  No 2
 18761925Northfleet Paper Mill
 19501928Heysham 2
 19521928Shell Mex No 8
 19841930Boots No 1
 19891930Lord Ashfield
 20081935Boots No 2
 21261942CEGB  No 1
 22381948Distillers Co Ltd  No 1
 22431948Laporte  No 2
 23731949Imperial No 1
W G Bagnall & Company23701929 
 24731932Huntlry & Palmer   No 2
R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Company37461929Huncoat No 3
Peckett & Sons21551955CWS Irlam
Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn78031954Beckton Gas Works No 35

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