Early broad-gauge engines, Brunel’s disastrous specification.

In 1836, I.K Brunel drew up a set of locomotive specifications for the fledgling GWR. These specifications proved to be a handicap to the designers who produced some bizarre and less than successful locomotives. Brunel ordered nineteen locomotives from six different manufacturers. The manufacturers were mostly from the North of England. Finally, the locomotives were of the 2-2-2 wheel arrangement and looked very similar to each other. Below we look at the best and worst of the builders.

The specification

Brunel specified that the maximum piston speed be too low, in fact, it was half the normal speed. Next, the specified boiler pressure was 50lb per square inch. This was the same as Rocket and out of date by 1836. Another problem was the weight, he recommended a very low weight of 10.5 tonnes resulting in two chassis being needed, see below.

The R & W Hawthorn & Co. designs

Some of the Early GWR engines were a total disaster, barely running 10,000 miles before being scrapped. As a result of Brunel’s eccentric specifications, the engines Hurricane and Thunderer had the engine and boiler mounted on separate chassis. Designed by T.E. Harrison, these bizarre locomotives were a complete failure. Hurricane was more like a mild breeze, being underpowered and with too small a boiler.

Charles Tayleur & Co., Vulcan Foundry, Newton-le-Willows.

The Tayleur engines were more successful, although they were overweight at 18.5 tons. In fact, these engines were the first to run on the GWR in 1837.

Typical of this series was Vulcan, a 2-2-2 locomotive with 8ft driving wheels. Consequently, these also suffered from too small a boiler. In this early form, Vulcan ran until 1843 when it was rebuilt as illustrated with smaller carrying wheels and a back tank. There were a further four engines of similar design, that ran until 1867.

Mather, Dixon & Co, North Foundry, Liverpool.

The Mather & Dixon locomotives had larger driving wheels but lower weight. Consequently, they proved to be useless and lasted only a few years. Gooch considered them to be too expensive to modify into something useable, and most were scrapped by 1840.

Sharp Roberts & Co, Atlas Works, Manchester

Sharp Roberts & co were initially based in Manchester and became one of the more successful Locomotive manufacturers.

The three locomotives made by Sharps more closely followed current practice and hence stayed in service the longest, without being modified. They were withdrawn in 1847. The 2-2-2 Sharp singles became ubiquitous and 600 were made.


In the 1830s a lot of engineering companies wanted a piece of railway action. They went into locomotive manufacture, some not knowing what they were doing. These companies lasted but a few years, while others survived for decades.

The locomotive designs looked very similar to each other, mainly because most engineers were following the current design paradigm. In this case, set by the Stephensons. Brunel was also using the same paradigm but to an extreme degree, rather odd for such an innovative genius! Locomotive design was not Brunel’s strong point and he soon handed over to Daniel Gooch who redesigned most of the early contenders.

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Historical treasures – Suggs railway locomotive lamps

Railway Locomotive lamps: During the whole of the steam era locomotives utilized oil lamps for headlights. These were generally fitted to lamp brackets just above the buffer beam, on express trains. Interestingly, the headlamp positions were used to indicate the type of train. These varied depending on the company involved. For example on the GWR, express freight trains had two lamps, one over and one under the smoke-box door.

The first railway lamps used oil. They were dim affairs designed not to interfere with the driver’s ability to see signal lamps. Consequently, they were of little use for lighting the way. Later, acetylene gas was utilized. This was often being used to light the train carriages.

The Suggs lamp company was known for producing gas fixtures. However, with an eye to existing customers, they also produced many oil lamps for the railways.

The Suggs light company is still in business

Parts of the lamp

Five main parts comprised the lamp. The outer shell had a hinged front door, to allow for lighting the wick. This also had holes at the bottom to create a safe passage for air. Additionally a handle was fitted at the back, this doubled as a fitting to attach the unit to the locomotive’s lamp bracket.

Next, the inner cylinder had two lenses and an empty section. The lenses were green and red, therefore, the lamp could double as a tail lamp. This turret could be rotated easily. Inside the cylinder sat the wick and oil container assembly.

A porcelain and brass wick holder screwed into the oil tank. This had a screw allowing the wick to be moved up and down. Finally, a reflector could be attached to the tank, behind the wick holder.

These lamps nominally ran on paraffin or rape seed oil. However, the manufacturer’s plate caused some confusion. Sometimes the word “petroleum” was thought to refer to petrol, with explosive consequences! Thereafter the wording was changed to “kerosene”.

The Suggs lamp is a fine example of a simple technology that continued in use for over 150 years.

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More railway history here

Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, Vintage carriage trains set to return.

Keighley & Worth Valley Railway Vintage Trains return in July. As restrictions ease the Keighley and Worth Valley railway has a full programme on offer over the summer.

Image by the author

Keighley & Worth Valley Railway Vintage Trains

Starting on the 24th of July, Vintage train weekends will feature carriages from the Vintage Carriages Trust and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Carriages trust. These Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway carriages, have been beautifully restored and offer a unique Victorian experience

You can travel on a six wheeled carriage that dates from 1880. Because of extensive damage, the carriage cost £50,000 to restore.

Image from the LYR carriages trust

Railways around Keighley

The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway was formed in 1847, from several smaller companies. Furthermore, the amalgamation included the Leeds and Bradford Extension Railway. This line became the first rail connection to Keighley, opening in 1847. However, this line was operated by the Midland Railway who built the Settle to Carlisle line in 1876

Image by the author

Keighley station retains much of it’s original charm. Additionally, the station is still connected to the national network.

Get a Yorkshire style factory for your model railway

The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway’s class 25 from 1887.

Along with appropriate carriages, The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway owns a Lancashire and Yorkshire engine from 1887. Numbered 52044, this locomotive was one of the first to arrive on the preserved railway in the 1960s. It found fame in The 1970 Railway Children film, and has recently been put back in working order.

Image from the KWVR

Six wheeled coaches

In the mid Victorian period four and six wheeled carriages were common.

The carriages discussed here, were designed by Frederick Attock. Mr Attock was the carriage and wagon superintendent for the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway. The characteristic flush panelling and arched roof design were often seen well into the 20th century. The attractive tan and carmine lake livery, has been accurately reproduced. Additionally, the lettering was white outlined in gold.

Bogie coaches make an appearance

By 1900 bogie coaches were introduced. These were often wooden bodied and lit by gas, an explosive combination in an accident! If available no 1774 will be used for the vintage trains

Image from the LYR carriages trust

Check with the Keighley & Worth valley railway to see which carriages are running

The Early Bullied Diesels and their models


By the 1940’s various UK Railway companies were looking at Diesel traction as an alternative to steam. The LMS produced two prototypes just after the war. These were similar to US Locomotives with “noses”. The Southern Railway, under chief mechanical engineer Oliver Bulleid also built three prototype Diesel electric locomotives.

The three Bulleid designed Diesels were built at a rather leisurely pace and did not enter service until the early 50’s. They were numbered 10201 to 10203. The last produced in 1954 had a larger 2000 bhp engine and was used on the Royal Scott, Golden Arrow and Night Ferry in 1955.

Scan from the Ladybird book of British railway locomotives, Pub. 1958

The prototype

Pioneer Southern Railway electric locomotive at Eastleigh Works. At the Works Open Day in August 1964, the second of the SR’s 660 V 1,470hp Class CC Co-Co electric locomotives, No. 20002 built in 1942, is on display.

The D16/5 design owed a lot to Bulleid’s earlier electric locomotives from the 1940’s. Again only three were built. The electrics also survived longer into the BR blue era.

The first two D16’s had 1750 bhp 16SVT engines, by English Electric. This engine had improved considerably in the four years since Bulleid had ordered the design. Consequently no. 10201 entered service in 1951. The units weighed 135 tons and were 63′ long with a 1co – co1 wheel arrangement similar to the class 40’s.

No 10201 in 1951 at Dorchester South station, Note the Southern green coaches. S.C. Townroe/Colourail DE628, from Bulleid locomotives in colour. pub 1993.

The first two locomotives were designed to run as a pair and were fitted with gangway connections. Subsequently the third prototype, with the larger engine, could operate on its own. 10203 was the first locomotive of 2000bhp to run in Britain. The Bulleid influence is evident as they did not feature the characteristic English Electric “noses”.

This series of Prototypes greatly influenced the development of the class 40 and class 37.


BR chose a striking black and silver livery for the early diesels although they later ran in standard green as seen in the Ladybird book above.

Later operation and scrapping.

The three locomotives were withdrawn in 1962 and survived until 1968, sadly none were preserved.

The model

About the only model produced of the D16/2 was by the Kernow Model Centre in 2018. Unusually people are tending to hang on to these as they are very hard to find. The January 2018 edition of Model Rail Reviewed the model. At the time the model cost £169.99.

The Kernow models do occasionally turn up on Vectis auctions at what seems like a low estimate of £80 – £110 for as new.

A smooth and powerful runner, our sample hauled 14 coaches with ease on level track.

Model rail magazine jan. 2018
Model Rail magazine Jan. 2018

The Blackburn & Preston Railway of 1846 and the ELR

In this post we look at the early history of the East Lancashire Railway. Firstly, the Blackburn & Preston Railway barely had two years of independent existence. In 1848 it formed part of the East Lancashire Railway along with several other companies. Moreover the ELR had a fraught relationship with its neighbours often feuding with the North Union railway and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. Secondly this caused the building of duplicate routes and stations.

In 1843 a railway was proposed between Preston and Blackburn. There was already a railway entering Preston from Wigan. This line crossed the river Ribble via a stone viaduct. The railway was operated by the North Union Railway. Subsequently the viaduct became a point of contention for the fledgling Blackburn & Preston Railway. Because Preston corporation did not want another railway bridge built over the Ribble, the new line could not enter Preston directly. As a result the the route joined the existing line to the South, at Farrington. This also made the railway 3 miles longer than the road route.

Map by R.W.Rush , History of the ELR, Oakwood Press 1983

The route of the railway

The railway was built in two sections. Firstly the section from Farrington to Hoghton, contracted to John Stephenson and Secondly Hoghton to Blackburn, contracted to Nowell & Hattersley. Construction began near Hoghton Tower in August 1844. Most of the heavy engineering works were on the Hoghton to Blackburn section. Above all the River Darwen had to be crossed at Hoghton bottoms. This is a deep gorge and consequently a substantial stone viaduct had to be built. The three arch structure is 116ft high and took over eighteen months to build.

Hoghton viaduct, 116ft high, three arches, built 1844 / 45

A further bridge re-crossed the river near Pleasington. This was originally made of wood but was replaced by a stone bridge in 1865.

The stations on the railway

There were four intermediate stations at Lostock Hall, Bamber Bridge, Hoghton and Pleasington. Hoghton closed in 1960. Pleasington is still open as a request stop.

Hoghton station in 1950, closed in 1960.

The East Lancashire Railway Adds it’s own station

Importantly, feuding railway companies often built duplicate routes. Preston being a case in point. Within a few years the ELR had persuaded Preston Corporation to let them build a direct line, and new bridge into the town. This line diverged from the existing route at Bamber Bridge. Consequently the main reason for the Bamber Bridge to Preston line was so the ELR could avoid having to run over the North Union Railway’s tracks into the town, via Farrington. Because of the feud with the NUR an additional station was build by 1850, with an entrance on Butler street. This is now closed and the site of a supermarket.

THE ELR bridge, at Preston photo the author.

The ELR bridge is still in use as a footpath and the route of the line has large sections that can be walked.

The ELR crossed the Ribble via three 100ft iron spans. To the right, above. The ELR had its own platforms in the 1850 station enlargement.


To sum up the Preston to Blackburn line formed an important link in the East Lancashire network. By 1848 Accrington was connected to Blackburn and Manchester via Bury. Blackburn was a major textile town as was Accrington. The link to Manchester and Preston, a significant port, helped to cement the industrial revolution in the North of England..

Accrington’s railways ” a monstrous aberration”

Accrington has had a railway since 1848. The station is now vastly smaller than at its peak in the 1930’s and direct services to Manchester did not resume until 2016.

The Current Station at Accrington Photo G Whittaker

Origins – the Manchester Bury and Rossendale Railway

After the success of The Liverpool and Manchester railway, in the 1830’s, another group of Manchester business men eyed the potential of a line from Manchester to Bury and beyond, up the Rossendale valley.

1848 and all that

R.W. Rush has described the original layout of Accrington station as a “monstrous aberration” in his book on the East Lancashire Railway. Only one platform was provided with the booking office across four tracks, on the opposite side! Trains were arranged to arrive simultaneously from three directions. This resulted in a circus of shunting and pulling to get the trains into the solitary platform.

Map from The East Lancashire Railway by R.W.Rush

The Stubbins to Accrington extension, 1845, Building commences

The contract for building the line from Stubbins to Accrington was awarded to John Brogden. It was difficult to build with huge gradients and boggy land at Baxenden summit.

The original East Lancashire Railway buildings survived into the 1970’s. The curved viaduct can be seen heading towards Burnley in this mid 1960’s image. The line to Manchester has been singled at this time. It closed completely in 1966.

The 1960’s closures

The line to Manchester closed in 1966.

Goods train on Accrington viaduct 1965