Hunslet Engine Company

The Hunslet Engine Company was founded in Leeds in 1864 by John Towlerton Leather who was a civil engineering contractor. James Campbell was appointed as the Works Manager.

In 1871 James Campbell and his brother George Campbell bought the company for £25,000.

Between 1865 and 1870, production had averaged less than ten engines per year but in 1871 this had risen to seventeen and was set to rise over the next thirty years to a modest maximum of thirty-four.

1865 The first engine built in 1865 was Linden a standard gauge 0-6-0 saddle tank delivered to Brassey and Ballard a railway civil engineering contractor as were several of the firm’s early customers. Other customers included collieries. This basic standard gauge shunting and short haul engine was the standard locomotive that the firm built for industrial use for many years.

From the start, Hunslet regularly sent fitters to carry out repairs to its engines on customer’s premises and this is a service that the Hunslet Engine Company were still offering in 2006, over 140 years after their establishment.

In 1870, Hunslet constructed their first narrow gauge engine (1ft 10¾in) which was a 0-4-0 saddle tank for the Dinorwic Slate Quarry at Llanberis. This was the first of twenty similar engines built for this quarry and did much to establish Hunslet as a major builder of quarry engines. Two of these still operate on the Ffestiniog Railway whilst a third is preserved in the Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum.

The first Hunslet engine built for export was their No. 10, an 0-4-0ST shipped via Hull and Rotterdam to Java. Remarkably, the last industrial steam engine built in Britain was also built at Hunslet in 1971 and also for export to Java. This engine later returned to Britain and is preserved in working order.

A large number of short wheelbase 0-6-0 tank locomotives were supplied to the Manchester Ship Canal Company and one of these (Works No.686 The Lady Armaghdale of 1898) still survives in the Engine House at Highley on the Severn Valley Railway.

By 1901, James Campbell was still in charge as proprietor and James’s four sons were, by then all working for the company including the eldest son Alexander III who had taken over as Works Manager on the death of his Uncle George in 1890.

In 1902, the company was reorganised as a private limited company with the name Hunslet Engine Company Ltd but still a family business. By this time the company had supplied engines to over thirty countries world-wide, often opening-up new markets. In Ireland, Hunslet supplied engines to several of the newly opened narrow gauge lines and also in 1887 built the three remarkably unorthodox engines for the Lartigue Monorail system used by the Listowel & Ballybunion Railway.

1905 Following the death of James Campbell, the chairmanship passed to Alexander III and brother Robert became works manager, whilst brother Will retained the role of secretary and traveller with a seat on the board.

Around 1905 this time Hunslet built a series of 2-6-2 tank locomotives for the Sierra Leone Government Railway and the famous narrow gauge version (Russell) for the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway, which later became a constituent company of the Welsh Highland Railway.

The 1,000th locomotive was completed in 1909.

The post of works manager was advertised and Edgar Alcock, then assistant works manager at the Gorton works of Beyer, Peacock and Co was appointed in 1912. Alcock came to Hunslet at a time of change when the industry was being asked for far larger and more powerful locomotives than had ever been required in the past. This was true at Hunslet which found its overseas customers asking for very large engines. However by 1914, Britain was at war and overseas orders had dried up.

After the war, trading conditions were very difficult but Hunslet were once more able to attract overseas orders and they also received a series of repeat orders from the London, Midland and Scottish Railway for a total of 90  (47295-309, 47427-51 & 47542-91)   LMS Fowler Class 3F ‘Jinty’ 0-6-0T shunting engines.These were supplied in the period 1925 – 1929. Two of the Hunslet built Jinty locomotives have been preserved – 47445 and 47564

In 1927 the company took over Boyne Engine Works after Manning, Wardle closed it and went into liquidation.

It was during the 1930s that Hunslet built their largest locomotives. They were two 0-8-0 tank engines, built for a special train-ferry loading job in China (which they fulfilled for many years). At that time they were the largest and most powerful tank engines builtt. A year or so later the same design formed the basis for an 0-8-0 tender engine for India. Many other orders for larger locomotives were received in these inter-war years.

In 1930 Kerr, Stuart and Co went in to liquidation and Hunslet purchased the goodwill of this company.

1935 Purchased the goodwill of the Avonside Engine Co.

John Alcock, who, following in his father’s footsteps, became Managing Director of Hunslet in 1958, recalled his father telling him circa 1920, when he was still a schoolboy, that his main endeavour for the company would be in the application of the internal combustion engine to railway locomotion. Throughout the 1930’s Hunslet worked on the perfecting of the diesel locomotive.

During the Second World War the company manufactured munitions as they had done during the First World War. During this period they continued to build steam and diesel locomotives for the war effort. The most notable locomotive design that Hunslet produced around this time was the 0-6-0ST Austerity of which 485 were built including 377 for the War Department. (Full details are included in the section on the LNER J94 class). Many of these have been preserved.

In the 1954-56 Hunslet built twenty (9490-99 & 3400-9) class 9400 0-6-0PT locomotives for the Western Region as a subcontractor to the Yorkshire Engine Company. None of these have been preserved.

In 1972 Hunslet purchased Andrew Barclay, Sons and Co.

The Jack Lane, Hunslet, Leeds works was closed in 1995, the last order being a batch of narrow gauge diesel locomotives for tunnelling on the Jubilee Line Extension of the London Underground.

The Hunslet Engine Company is now part of the LH Group of Companies and continues to trade from an address in Leeds and also claims ownership of “the intellectual property and design rights to the following British locomotive names, including the ability to service, repair and supply genuine replacement components:

Hunslet-Barclay Ltd, a subsidiary of Jenbacher Holdings (UK) plc, chiefly undertakes maintenance and refurbishment of diesel multiple unit passenger trains at the Andrew Barclay Caledonia Works in Kilmarnock.

In 2004 the Hunslet Engine Company was acquired by the LH Group and production was moved to Barton under Needwood in Staffordshire. The company trades in the UK as Wabtec Faiveley UK.

By 2017 the Hunslet Engine Company and its associated companies have produced over 19,000 steam, diesel and electric locomotives for destinations around the world and the company has always been at the forefront of technical development, a position it is proud to maintain now and into the future. The number of steam locomotives built by Hunslet is 2,236.

Preserved Locomotives

I have only included standard gauge locomotives which are preserved in Britain.

Industrial Locomotives

Works NoBuiltNameTypeLocation
287188389-94 Trym/Vigilant0-4-0STHunsbury Hill Industrial Museum
2991884Hodbarrow0-4-0STLeeds Industrial Museum
4691888No 15 Hastings0-6-0STMangapps Farm Railway Museum
6861898The Lady Armaghdale0-6-0TSevern Valley Railway
14401923Airedale No30-6-0STEmbsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
149319250-4-0STMiddleton Railway
15401927Picton2-6-2TMiddleton Railway
15891929Newstead0-6-0STNene Valley Railway
16841931Mendip Collier0-4-0TMiddleton Railway
1690193147160  Cunarder0-6-0STSomerset & Dorset Steam
18731937Jessie0-6-0STLlangollen Railway
19531939Jacks Green0-6-0STNene Valley Railway
19541939Kinsley0-6-0STRibble Steam Railway
19821940Ring Haw0-6-0STNorth Norfolk Railway
23871941Brookes No 10-6-0STMiddleton Railway
24091942King George0-6-0STDidcot Railway Centre
241119410-6-0STDean Forest Railway
24131941Gunby0-6-0ST Dean Forest Railway
2414194119430-6-0STEmbsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
27051945No 7 Beatrice0-6-0STEmbsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway

Preserved Austerity Locomotives built by Hunslet Engine Company

Works NoBuiltNameLocation
28551943WD75006   68081Nene Valley Railway
28571943WD75008  SwiftsureNene Valley Railway
28641943WD75015   48Aln Valley Railway
2868 & 38831943WD75019  WD 168  RRM 9 Coal Products  No 6  Lord PhilPeak Rail
28791943WD75030  Diana
28801943WD75031  WD 101   17Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway
2890 & 38821943WD75041   WD 107  10   DouglasRibble Steam Railway
31551944WD75105   WalkdenRibble Steam Railway
3163 & 38851944WD75113   WD132  SapperEast Lancs Railway / Avon Valley Railway
31681944WD75118    S134  WheldaleEmbsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
31801944WD75130  No 3180 AntwerpNorth Yorkshire Moors Railway
31831944WD75133   King Feisal of IraqNational Collection
3192 & 38881944WD75141   WD139  68006Barrow Hill Roundhouse
3193 & 38871944WD75142  WD 140 68012   Norfolk RegimentLavender Line
36861948NCB  No 60Strathspey Railway
36941950NCB  WhistonFoxfield Steam Railway
36961950NCB  RespiteRibble Steam Railway
36981950NCB 11 RepulseLakeside & Haverthwaite Railway
37151952S121 Primrose No 2Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
37701952NormaOswestry Cycle & Railway Museum
37761952NCB  8 Sir Robert Peel  WarspiteEmbsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
37771952NCB  68030  Josiah WedgwoodChurnet Valley Railway
37811952NCB   1 ThomasMid Hants Railway
37821953ArthurBuckinghamshire Railway Centre
37831953Darfield No 1  Holly Bank No 3Chasewater Railway
37851953NCB 69Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
37881953NCB Monckton No 1Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
37901952WD190Colne Valley Railway
37911952WD191   Black Knight   No23  Holman F StephensKent & East Sussex Railway
37921953WD192  WaggonerIsle of Wight Steam Railway
37931953WD193   ShropshireRibble Steam Railway
37941953WD194  No10 CumbriaRibble Steam Railway
37961953WD196   68011   Errol LonsdaleIn 2017 was in Belgium
37971953WD197 Sapper  No 25  NorthiamKent & East Sussex Railway
37981953WD 198  Royal EngineerIsle of Wight Steam Railway
38001953WD200   No 24 RolvendenColne Valley Railway
38061953Wilbert  G B Keeling   Rev W AwdryDean Forest Railway
380919543809  NCBGreat Central Railway
38101954GlendowerSouth Devon Railway
38181954NCB East Fife Area No 19  68019Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway
3823195463.000.432  Fred  WarriorDean Forest Railway
38251955NCB  No 9   68009Stainmore Railway Company
38291955NCBGwili Railway
38371955NCB No 5Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway
38391956WimbleburyFoxfield Steam Railway
38401956NCB  Pamela   68070Garw Valley Railway
3844 & 38461957Unitel Steel Company No 22Appleby Frodingham Railway
38501958JunoIsle of Wight Steam Railway – Locomotion Shildon
38511962Cadley Hill No1
38551954Glasshoughton No 4 Foxfield Steam Railway
38891964NCB 65Dean Forest Railway
38901964NCB 66Buckinghamshire Railway Centre

Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn Works No 7139 was rebuilt by the Hunslet Engine Company as Works No 3880.

Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn Work No 7136 was rebuilt by the Hunslet Engine Company as Works No 3892

Vulcan Foundry Works No 5272 was rebuilt by the Hunslet Engine Company as Works No 3879

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