Yorkshire Engine Company


The Yorkshire Engine Company (YEC) was formed in 1865 as a small independent locomotive manufacturer at Meadowhall in Sheffield.

The first order received was for three 2-2-2 locomotives for the Great Northern Railway. The specification was changed and they were supplied with a 2-4-0 wheel arrangement in 1967. Despite delivering the locomotives late and making a loss on the transaction they gained an order for a further ten locomotives which were also delivered late – the last one eight months overdue in 1869.

Despite gaining an order for fifty locomotives for delivery to India demand reduced. In order to keep the workforce employed the company undertook other general engineering work.

In 1871 the company built locomotives to the Robert Fairlie’s patent and between 1872 and 1883 thirteen locomotives were supplied to Mexico to this design. Further deliveries were made to other counties including Peru and Sweden.

When there was insufficient work, the company built 0-4-0 saddle tanks for stock, which enabled collieries and engineering works to buy locomotives off the shelf. This practice continued throughout the life of the company.

By 1880, the company was in serious financial difficulties. The Russian debts were never paid, and a dubious method was used to write off the loss made on the marine engines. Despite a successful call to shareholders for more money, the company chose voluntary liquidation as the best option in July 1880. Liquidators ran the business for three and a half years, during which time turnover increased and profits of £9,419 were made. In September 1883, the second Yorkshire Engine Company was launched, by issuing 2,400 shares valued at £25, giving a capital of £60,000.

It should be noted that few locomotive manufacturers were profitable at the time.

Early Yorkshire Engine Company locomotives produced for the UK market consisted mainly of 0-4-0ST and 0-6-0ST types. The collieries and steelworks of Yorkshire were regular customers, with five narrow gauge locomotives going to the Chattenden and Upnor Railway, a military railway in Kent.

In 1901 four locomotives were built for use on the Metropolitan Railway main line to Aylesbury. These were F Class 0-6-2Ts and survived for around 60 years, the first being scrapped on 1957 and the last in 1964. More orders from the Metropolitan Railway followed in 1915 and 1916 for larger G Class 0-6-4Ts. Unlike the F Class, the G Class locomotives passed to the LNER in November 1937, when that company became responsible for providing motive power for trains north of Rickmansworth, and the locomotives only lasted in service for 30 years.

In 1928 the company built nine locomotives (69588-69596) of the LNER class N2 for working suburban trains. The only member of the class to be preserved (69523) was built by North British Locomotive Co Ltd.

In 1930 the company built twenty-five GWR class 5700 locomotives (6725-6749). Despite Sixteen members of the class being preserved none were built by the Yorkshire Engine Company.

The company was absorbed in June 1945 by the United Steel Company. This was because the United Steel Company wanted to build its own locomotives and establish a central maintenance centre for its local steelworks at Rotherham and Stocksbridge.

Between 1949 and 1952 the Yorkshire Engine Company built thirty GWR class 9400 locomotives (8450-8479 and further ten (3400-3409) in 1955-and 1956. These last ten were built as a sub-contractor to the Hunslet Engine Company. 3409 was the last steam locomotive built at Meadowhall and the last BR locomotive to be built to a pre-nationalisation design. Two locomotives of the class have been preserved but these were not built by the YEC.

The largest locomotives the company built were 2-8-2 and 4-8-2 tender locomotives for South America.

The Yorkshire Engine Company was sold off to Rolls Royce in 1965 when the work was transferred to the Sentinel site at Shrewsbury and the Sheffield plant closed.

Industrial Locomotives Preserved

Works No Built Name Type Location
2474 1949 York  No 1 0-4-0ST Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
2498 1951 No 9    Chislet 0-6-0ST Buckinghamshire Railway Centre
2521 1952 No 9 0-6-0ST Rocks by Rail

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