Hunslet Engine Company

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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 No Built Name Type Location
287 1883 89-94 Trym/Vigilant 0-4-0ST Hunsbury Hill Industrial Museum
299 1884 Hodbarrow 0-4-0ST Leeds Industrial Museum
469 1888 No 15 Hastings 0-6-0ST Mangapps Farm Railway Museum
686 1898 The Lady Armaghdale 0-6-0T Severn Valley Railway
1440 1923 Airedale No3 0-6-0ST Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
1493 1925 0-4-0ST Middleton Railway
1540 1927 Picton 2-6-2T Middleton Railway
1589 1929 Newstead 0-6-0ST Nene Valley Railway
1684 1931 Mendip Collier 0-4-0T Middleton Railway
1690 1931 47160  Cunarder 0-6-0ST Somerset & Dorset Steam
1873 1937 Jessie 0-6-0ST Llangollen Railway
1953 1939 Jacks Green 0-6-0ST Nene Valley Railway
1954 1939 Kinsley 0-6-0ST Ribble Steam Railway
1982 1940 Ring Haw 0-6-0ST North Norfolk Railway
2387 1941 Brookes No 1 0-6-0ST Middleton Railway
2409 1942 King George 0-6-0ST Didcot Railway Centre
2411 1941 0-6-0ST Swindon & Cricklade Railway
2413 1941 Gunby 0-6-0ST Swindon & Cricklade Railway
2414 1941 1943 0-6-0ST Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
2705 1945 No 7 Beatrice 0-6-0ST Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway


Preserved Austerity Locomotives built by Hunslet Engine Company


Works No Built Name Location
2855 1943 WD75006   68081 Nene Valley Railway
2857 1943 WD75008  Swiftsure Nene Valley Railway
2864 1943 WD75015   48 Aln Valley Railway
2868 & 3883 1943 WD75019  WD 168  RRM 9 Coal Products  No 6  Lord Phil Peak Rail
2879 1943 WD75030  Diana
2880 1943 WD75031  WD 101   17 Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway
2890 & 3882 1943 WD75041   WD 107  10   Douglas Ribble Steam Railway
3155 1944 WD75105   Walkden Ribble Steam Railway
3163 & 3885 1944 WD75113   WD132  Sapper East Lancs Railway / Avon Valley Railway
3168 1944 WD75118    S134  Wheldale Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
3180 1944 WD75130  No 3180 Antwerp North Yorkshire Moors Railway
3183 1944 WD75133   King Feisal of Iraq National Collection
3192 & 3888 1944 WD75141   WD139  68006 Barrow Hill Roundhouse
3193 & 3887 1944 WD75142  WD 140 68012   Norfolk Regiment Lavender Line
3686 1948 NCB  No 60 Strathspey Railway
3694 1950 NCB  Whiston Foxfield Steam Railway
3696 1950 NCB  Respite Ribble Steam Railway
3698 1950 NCB 11 Repulse Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway
3715 1952 S121 Primrose No 2 Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
3770 1952 Norma Oswestry Cycle & Railway Museum
3776 1952 NCB  8 Sir Robert Peel  Warspite Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
3777 1952 NCB  68030  Josiah Wedgwood Churnet Valley Railway
3781 1952 NCB   1 Thomas Mid Hants Railway
3782 1953 Arthur Buckinghamshire Railway Centre
3783 1953 Darfield No 1  Holly Bank No 3 Chasewater Railway
3785 1953 NCB 69 Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
3788 1953 NCB Monckton No 1 Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
3790 1952 WD190 Colne Valley Railway
3791 1952 WD191   Black Knight   No23  Holman F Stephens Kent & East Sussex Railway
3792 1953 WD192  Waggoner Isle of Wight Steam Railway
3793 1953 WD193   Shropshire Ribble Steam Railway
3794 1953 WD194  No10 Cumbria Ribble Steam Railway
3796 1953 WD196   68011   Errol Lonsdale In 2017 was in Belgium
3797 1953 WD197 Sapper  No 25  Northiam Kent & East Sussex Railway
3798 1953 WD 198  Royal Engineer Isle of Wight Steam Railway
3800 1953 WD200   No 24 Rolvenden Colne Valley Railway
3806 1953 Wilbert  G B Keeling   Rev W Awdry Dean Forest Railway
3809 1954 3809  NCB Great Central Railway
3810 1954 Glendower South Devon Railway
3818 1954 NCB East Fife Area No 19  68019 Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway
3823 1954 63.000.432  Fred  Warrior Dean Forest Railway
3825 1955 NCB  No 9   68009 Stainmore Railway Company
3829 1955 NCB Gwili Railway
3837 1955 NCB No 5 Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway
3839 1956 Wimblebury Foxfield Steam Railway
3840 1956 NCB  Pamela   68070 Garw Valley Railway
3844 & 3846 1957 Unitel Steel Company No 22 Appleby Frodingham Railway
3850 1958 Juno Isle of Wight Steam Railway – Locomotion Shildon
3851 1962 Cadley Hill No1
3855 1954 Glasshoughton No 4  Foxfield Steam Railway
3889 1964 NCB 65 Dean Forest Railway
3890 1964 NCB 66 Buckinghamshire 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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