Neilson & Company – Neilson Reid & Company


The company was started in 1836 at McAlpine Street by Walter Neilson and James Mitchell to manufacture marine and stationary engines. In 1837 the firm moved to Hyde Park Street and was known as Kerr, Mitchell and Neilson

In 1840 the organisation became Kerr, Neilson and Company and then three years later Neilson and Mitchell in 1843.

In 1840 the partnership known as Kerr, Mitchell and Neilson at Hyde Park Foundry was dissolved by the partners James B. Neilson, James Mitchell and Stewart Kerr. James Beaumont Neilson and Stewart Kerr formed a new company Kerr, Neilson and Co working from the Hyde Park Street works but it operated at a loss and was dissolved in 1843 with Neilson paying the debts.

After 1843 the organisation became Neilson and Mitchell with Mitchell running the financial side of the business.

Locomotive building began in 1843 with a 0-4-0 for the local railways.

In 1847 The partnership of Walter Neilson and James Mitchell was dissolved and the business carried on by Walter Neilson under the name Neilson and Co.

1858 James Reid, who had been works manager, was replaced by Heinrich Dübs who had more experience of designing and building locomotives. Reid went to work for Sharp, Stewart and Co in Manchester. Heinrich Dübs was made a partner in the Neilson business.

By 1861, business had increased to such an extent, that a new works was built at Springburn, also named Hyde Park Works.

In 1864, Heinrich Dübs set up in business on his own at Queens Park Works, as Dübs and Company, taking a number of key staff with him. James Reid, who had previously worked for Neilson, however, returned and became a partner.

When the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway was opened in 1842, it used a pair of Neilson & Mitchell beam engines to work the rope incline from Glasgow to Cowlairs station.

By 1855, the company was building four-coupled tank engines, along with 2-4-0 and 0-4-2 tender locomotives. Some of these were for Cowlairs and St. Rollox, but many more went to India.

Through the 1870s considerable numbers of 0-4-4 tank engines were built for the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, the Midland and the Great Eastern. Many other types were built for railways at home and abroad, including fifty 0-4-2s for India. The company’s first eight-coupled locomotives were built in 1872, also for India.

In 1879 the first 2-6-0s to run on British rails were built for William Adams of the Great Eastern.

More overseas orders followed, with engines for South Africa and South America.

In 1884, Neilson left to form a new company, the Clyde Locomotive Company; although Reid became the sole owner of Neilson & Co., it was not until 1898 that the company changed its name to Neilson, Reid and Company.

In 1898 the name changed to Neilson, Reid and Co

By 1900 an estimated 5,394 locomotives had been built and the firm employed 3,500 people and produced 300 locomotives per annum.

However, by this time, intense competition from United States meant that small companies were unable to survive. There was a need for amalgamation, and in 1903 Neilson Reid combined with Dübs and Company and Sharp Stewart and Company to form the North British Locomotive Company, the largest locomotive company in the world outside the United States.

Locomotives made for railways in Britain included-

Preserved Industrial Locomotives

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

Works No Built Name Type Location
Neilson & Co
1561 1870 Beckton No 1 0-4-0WT Penrhyn Castle Industrial Railway Museum.
2119 1876 Great Eastern Railway 229 0-4-0ST The Flour Mill
2203 1876 No 13  NCB 13 Kelton Fell 0-4-0ST Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway
2937 1882 Alfred Paget 0-4-0ST Chasewater Railway
4004 1890 Hodbarrow No 6  Snipey 0-4-0CT Helical Technology Ltd, Lytham Motive Power Museum
4444 1892 No 1 0-4-0T Preston Services, near Caterbury
6087 1896 No 25 0-4-0ST Bressingham Steam Museum
Neilson, Reid & Co
5710 1902 No 1 Lord Roberts 0-6-0T Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway
5907 1901 No 9 0-4-0ST National Brewery Centre

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