Kerr, Stuart And Company

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 Kerr, Stuart & Company was established in 1883 when John Stuart joined James Kerr & Company which James Kerr had established two years earlier.

The business started in Glasgow, Scotland, but during this time they were only acting as agents ordering locomotives from established manufacturers, among them Falcon, John Fowler & Co. and Hartley, Arnoux and Fanning.

Kerr, Stuart & Company bought Hartley, Arnoux and Fanning in 1892 and moved into the California Works in Stoke to begin building all their own locomotives. Hartley, Arnoux and Fanning had also been building railway and tramway plant but this part of their business was sold to Dick, Kerr and Co. in Preston.

In 1894 the partnership was incorporated into a private limited company.

Kerr, Stuart were known for producing a number of standard designs with many engines being built for stock and sold ‘off the shelf’ to customers. The names of these locomotive types were often derived from the purchaser of the first of that type or from the name it was given.

The Kerr, Stuart designs are typified by having a single trailing truck (allowing a large firebox to be placed behind the driving wheels) and/or having a saddle tank. Several designs of side tank locomotive were produced that shared a chassis and boiler with a saddle tank design and it is not unknown for a standard chassis from one design to be used with a different design’s standard boiler to produce a locomotive to suit a customers special requirements.

Standard Gauge Designs

Name Wheel Arrangement Weight
Huxley 0-4-0ST 16
Witch 0-4-0ST 16
Moss Bay 0-4-0ST 29
Rugeley 0-6-0ST 31
Priestley 0-4-0WT 25.5
Argentina 0-6-0T 34
Victory 0-6-0T
La Manada 4-4-0

In addition to the company’s standard designs the company accepted many orders to build to the customers’ own designs in all gauges. The most impressive example for this certainly are the legendary 0-4-0LB locobreaks from 1900, strong and heavy tank engines designed to secure the trains through a cable claw on São Paulo Railway and later Estrada de Ferro Santos a Jundiaí’s 5 ft 3 in gauge mountain cable incline between Paranapiacaba and Piaçagüera. Six of them are preserved in Brazil.

An example of a narrow-gauge 0-4-0 tank engine, number 652 built in 1899, worked in the docks at Walvis Bay, Namibia, until the 1950s and is now preserved in a purpose-built glass-windowed display hut in the forecourt of Walvis Bay station.

In 1903/4 the California works a 4-6-0 design

  • For several Irish 3 ft gauge lines including a 4-6-2T version for the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway.
  • For Chile a very large 3 ft 6 in gauge double six-coupled bogie Meyer articulated locomotive.
  • Five American style bar-framed 2-8-0 tender engines for the 3 ft gauge Interocianic and Mexican Eastern Railways.

A truly remarkable standard gauge build of 1910 was a class of four 4-2-2 express passenger locomotives to the design of E. J. Dunstan for the Shanghai Nanking Railway. The order was received in April 1910 and the novel design required the production of totally new drawings and patterns for all parts. Even so, the first engine was steamed just seven weeks later in June 1910. In service these engines, probably the last, and the biggest, single driver engines ever built, proved to be fast (60 mph), smooth running, and very economical on fuel when compared with similar 4-4-0 engines on the same line.

Some locomotives were built in the later 1910s to designs produced by E Borrows & Sons. One of these is now preserved.

From the 2 ft (610 mm) gauge Gwalior Light Railway in India, the company received several orders for locomotives and a wide variety of rolling stock over the years, culminating in the construction of four large 2-8-2 tender engines in 1928. Six very powerful superheated 4-8-0 mixed traffic locomotives built in 1929 were the last of a series of 4-4-0 and 4-6-0 machines built for the Buenos Aires Central Railway of Argentina.

In common with most British locomotive builders, in the postwar era Kerr, Stuart received a number of large orders from the mainline companies who were seeking to replace obsolete inherited equipment with their own standard designs.

  • In 1920 the Metropolitan Railway ordered eight superheated 4-4-4 passenger tank engines for the Aylesbury service.
  • Between 1925 and 1927 the Stoke works built fifty 4F 0-6-0 goods engines (44082-44106 & 44332-44356) for the London Midland and Scottish Railway
  • In 1929 and 1930 they built a batch of 25 GWR 5700 Class 0-6-0PTs (7700-7724) were built for the Great Western Railway.
  • Kerr, Stuart & Company built 14 rail motors for the GWR

In the late 1920s a number of diesel locomotives were built. They were very successful even though technology moved on quickly. Further development was stopped when Kerr, Stuart’s went into receivership, but the Hunslet range of diesel locomotives was based on these designs

In April 1930 a petition calling for the company to be wound up compulsorily was presented in the High Court by the Midland Bank. At a hearing held the following month this petition was withdrawn on settlement of an £8,000 guarantee. However, the sale of the works to George Cohen, Sons & Co Ltd was announced in August 1930 and only a skeleton staff was employed to complete contracts in progress. The company did not survive long after this.

At the creditors’ meeting in November Herbert Langham Reed, the company’s chairman and managing director, attributed the failure of the company to the locking up of capital in the Peninsular Locomotive Company, registered in India in 1921 to build locomotives (Kerr, Stuart held 80% of the capital and loaned £78,000).

It has been alleged that the company secretary was discovered to have committed suicide in Kerr, Stuart’s London offices, and a large quantity of papers was found to have been burnt in the fireplace.

The firm’s goodwill (designs, spare parts, etc.) was bought by the Hunslet Engine Company.

Some locomotives were built by W. G. Bagnall to Kerr, Stuart designs, a result of the chief Kerr, Stuart draughtsman, F. H. B. Harris, and a number of other Kerr, Stuart staff being employed by Bagnall‘s. These locomotives include examples of the Haig and Matary classes.

Preserved Locomotives

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

None of the LMS 4F 0-6-0 locomotives built by Kerr, Stuart & Company have been preserved although three members of the class (44027, 44123 & 44422) have been preserved.

Of the 25 GWR 5700 Class 0-6-0PT locomotives built by Kerr, Stuart & Company two (7714 & 7715) have been preserved.

One GWR steam motor survives (Rail Motor 93) but this was not one of the ones built by Kerr, Stuart & Company.

In 1921 Kerr, Stuart & Company fitted a new boiler to a Dübs & Company locomotive (Works No 4101) built in 1901. This locomotive is now preserved.

Works No Built Name Type Location
3063 1918 D249    Willy 0-4-0WT The Flour Mill
4167 1920 Moss Bay 0-4-0ST Foxfield Railway
4388 1926 0-4-0ST Foxfield Railway

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