This locomotive was built by Hudswell Clarke in 1916 to work at the Ministry of Munitions at Gretna Green where it was given the name Mitchell (Mitchell was the Corporation’s engineer).
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/
1208 was bought by the Bradford Corporation in 1922 to work passenger and goods trains on the Nidd Valley Light Railway between Pateley Bridge and Lofthouse and up to the reservoir site at Scar House.
In 1930 it was renamed Illingworth (Councillor Illingworth was a member of the Waterworks committee).
When the Nidd Valley Light Railway closed in 1936 the locomotive was bought by Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd and renamed Harold. It worked at the Ebbw Vale steelworks until 1940 when it was sold to Mowlems where it was employed on war time duties at Swynnerton and Ruddington and carried the name Swynnerton.
In 1945 it worked on the Workington breakwater and then Mowlem’s Braehead power station before being consigned for scrap in 1957.
Surprisingly the locomotive survived intact under the ownership of several people but was never on public display.
It was discovered in a garden in a garden in Norfolk by the current owner (Stephen Middleton) and after a lengthy restoration the locomotive was finally steamed again on the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway in May 2017.
In May 2020 it was announced that the locomotive would be renamed Nightingale and Seacole to show support for the front line workers fighting the Coronavirus pandemic. The story of Florence Nightingale is well known but that of Mary Jane Seacole less so. Seacole was a British-Jamaican business woman and nurse who set up the “British Hotel” behind the lines during the Crimean War.
In April 2022 the locomotive was renamed Nightingale and Seacole in honour of the nursing pioneers Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole.