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Irish Mail is typical of many small engines built at Hunslet for use in quarries

The Hunslet Engine Company is a Britishmarker locomotive-building company founded in 1864 at Jack Lane, Hunsletmarker, Leedsmarker, West Yorkshire, Englandmarker by John Towlerton Leather, a civil engineering contractor, who appointed James Campbell (son of Alexander Campbell, a Leeds engineer) as his Works Manager.

In 1871, James Campbell bought the company for £25,000 (payable in five installments over two years) and the firm remained in the Campbell family ownership for many years. 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.


The early years 1864-1901

Standard gauge
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 'industrial' engine was to be the main-stay of Hunslet production for many years. From the start, Hunslet regularly sent fitters to carry out repairs to its engines on customers' premises and this is a service that the Hunslet Engine Company were still offering in 2006, over 140 years after their establishment.

Narrow gauge
In 1870, Hunslet constructed their first narrow gauge engine Dinorwic, a diminutive gauge 0-4-0 saddle tank for the Dinorwic Slate Quarrymarker at Llanberismarker. This engine later renamed Charlie was the first of twenty similar engines built for this quarry and did much to establish Hunslet as a major builder of quarry engines. This quarry was linked to Port Dinorwicmarker by a gauge line for which Hunslet built three 0-6-0T engines Dinorwic, Padarn and Velinheli. Much larger than the normal quarry type, gauge 0-4-0ST engines Charles, Blanche and Linda were built in 1882/3 for use on the Penrhyn Quarry Railway 'main line' between Bethesdamarker and Port Penrhynmarker in North Walesmarker. Two of these still operate on the Ffestiniog Railwaymarker while Charles is preserved in the Penrhyn Castle Railway Museummarker.

The first Hunslet engine built for export was their No. 10, an 0-4-0ST shipped via Hullmarker and Rotterdammarker to Javamarker. 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 tank locomotives (0-6-0) were supplied to the Manchester Ship Canal Company and one of these (No.686 of 1898 'St. John') still survives on the Severn Valley Railwaymarker and is still in regular use as a 'Thomas The Tank Engine' lookalike. By 1902, Hunslet had supplied engines to over thirty countries worldwide, 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 Listowelmarker & Ballybunionmarker Railway.

Beginning in 1873, a large number of Hunslet locomotives were exported to Australia for use on both main line and lesser lines.

Change and development in the Twentieth Century

Limited company
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. However in 1902, the company was reorganised as a private limited company with the name Hunslet Engine Company Ltd. but still a family business. Following the death of James Campbell in 1905, 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.

Africa and Wales
About this time Hunslet was building a series of 2-6-2 tank locomotives for the Sierra Leone Government Railway design elements of which were included in the construction of the famous Russell a gauge engine built for the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railwaymarker, which later became a constituent company of the Welsh Highland Railwaymarker.

Edgar Alcock
Following family disagreements both Will and the youngest brother Gordon soon left the company and a serious injury left Robert disabled and unable to continue as works manager. The post of works manager was advertised and Edgar Alcock, then assistant works manager at the Gorton Foundry of Beyer-Peacock, 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. One example was an order for two 86 ton 2-8-4 tank locomotives from the Antofagasta, Chile & Bolivia Railway.

However by 1914, Britain was at war and overseas orders had dried up. During World War I, the company, like many others, found itself employing women on the shop floor and engaged in the manufacture of munitions.

Post World War I
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 LMS Fowler Class 3F 'Jinty' 0-6-0T shunting engines. It was during the 1930s that Hunslet built their largest locomotives. These two 0-8-0 tank engines, built for a special train-ferry loading job in China (which they fulfilled for many years) were at that date the largest and most powerful tank engines ever built. A year or so later the same design formed the basis for an 0-8-0 tender engine for India. Many other 'large-engine' orders were received in these inter-war years.

Other independent British manufacturers failed to survive the depression and Hunslet with considerable foresight acquired the patterns, rights and designs of other builders notably Kerr Stuart and the Avonside Engine Co..

The internal combustion engine and the war effort

Diesel locomotives
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 1930s Hunslet worked on the perfecting of the diesel locomotive.

World War II
During the second world war, the company again served the country well in the manufacture of munitions. But they also built engines, both steam and diesel for the war effort and this continued with renewed vigour after the war. Important in post-war production was the Hunslet flame-proof diesel engine for use in the coal mines.

Closure of Jack Lane Works
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 Extensionmarker of the London Underground.

Preserved Locomotives

Hunslet Engine Co locomotives can been seen operating on railways across Britain including:

Current Operations

Hunslet Engine Company

The Hunslet Engine Company, is now part of the LH Group of Companies. It now owns the right to use the following British locomotive names, as well as being able to service and repair them, and supply replacement parts:

In 2006 the company manufactured a batch of remote-controlled diesel electric shunters for John M. Henderson & Co. Ltd. to be supplied to POSCO's coking plant at steel plant in South Koreamarker. The same year saw the completion of several orders for underground and mining diesel locomotives. Hunslet is currently developing a new family of locomotives ranging from shunters to vehicles weighing up to 100 tons.

The company also operates a locomotive hire business, (including a British Rail Class 08 shunter acquired in 2006), mainly of industrial shunting locomotives.

Hunslet-Barclay Ltd

Hunslet-Barclay Ltd, a subsidiary of Jenbacher Holdings (UK) plc, chiefly undertook maintenance and refurbishment of diesel multiple unit passenger trains at the Andrew Barclay Caledonia Works in Kilmarnockmarker. However, in October 2007 Hunslet-Barclay went into receivership and in November was purchased by FKI (who also own Brush Tractionmarker at Loughboroughmarker), and renamed Brush-Barclay.

Graham Lee

Graham Lee, in business with an engineering works situated at Statfold Barn Railwaymarker near Tamworth in Staffordshire, constructed in 2005 and 2006 two new Quarry Hunslet locomotives (named Statfold and Jack Lane) similar in appearance to Irish Mail (see main picture). In January 2007 Jack Lane was offered for sale by the manufacturers for £152,750 (Railway Magazine, February 2007). The third of a series of four locomotives is currently under construction. Graham Lee is chairman of LH Group Services Ltd - which in 2005 bought what remained of the Hunslet Engine Company.

The Hunslet Steam Co.

Since the first two Quarry Hunslet locomotives were built, a Kerr Stuart Wren class has been built by the Hunslet Steam Co (also part of the LH Group) and was completed early in 2008 numbered 3905. This locomotive has been sold and is housed at the Amerton Railwaymarker and is the first steam locomotive built and sold by Hunslet in 37 years. The locomotive is privately owned but will form part of the regular service trains at Amerton.

List of narrow gauge locomotive types

Type name Wheelarrangement Gauges Weight Notes
Bedert 0-6-4ST 17 tons (17.3 t) Beddgelert supplied to the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways
Murta 4-4-0 tender 31 tons 10 cwt (32.0 t)
Champ 0-4-0ST 6 tons 7 cwt (6.5 t)
Helva 0-4-0ST 6 tons 12 cwt (6.7 t) Similar design to the Quarry Hunslet supplied to several north Wales slate quarries
Santal 0-4-0ST 8 tons 10 cwt (8.6 t)
Abeja 0-6-0T 12 tons 10 cwt (12.7 t)
Rafla 0-6-0T 41 tons 19 cwt (42.6 t)
Drybo 0-4-2T 9 tons 17 cwt (10.0 t)
Carbo 0-6-2T 17 tons 13 cwt (17.9 t)
Honkon 0-6-0ST 20 tons 16 cwt (21.1 t)
Nalon 0-6-0T 26 tons 11 cwt (27.0 t)
Bowes 0-6-0T 2 ft; 4 in 10 tons 5 cwt (10.4 t)
Larti 0-3-0T Lartigue monorail 10 tons (10.2 t) Locomotives supplied to the Listowel and Ballybunion Railway
Seral 0-6-0T 11 tons 11 cwt (11.7 t)
Basat 0-4-2T 14 tons 9 cwt (14.7 t)
Marj 0-4-0ST 12 tons 5 cwt (12.4 t)
Masha 0-6-2T 18 tons 10 cwt (18.8 t) Locomotive Leeds No. 1 supplied to the Mashammarker Brewery Railway
Natgov 4-6-2T 25 tons 5 cwt (25.7 t) Large side tank class supplied to the Natal Government Railways
Eva 0-4-2T 15 tons (15.2 t)
Jumna 2-6-2T 25 tons 19 cwt (26.4 t)
Diana 2-8-0 tender 74 tons 2 cwt (75.3 t)
Cenchu 0-6-0ST 18 tons 14 cwt (19.0 t)
Grobi 0-6-0ST 9 tons 17 cwt (10.0 t) Supplied to the Grobymarker Granite Quarry railway
Beng 0-4-0T 4 tons 14 cwt (4.8 t)
Micro 0-4-0T 8 tons 14 cwt (8.8 t)
Arras 0-6-0T 9 tons 18 cwt (10.1 t)
Fortu 0-4-0T 9 tons 15 cwt (9.9 t)
Kystim 0-4-0ST 8 tons 19 cwt (9.1 t)
Johor 0-6-0 tender 13 tons 11 cwt (13.8 t)
Boliv 0-6-4T 26 tons 7 cwt (26.8 t)
Briho 0-6-0T 20 tons 19 cwt (21.3 t)
Sanmar 2-6-0 tender 54 tons 11 cwt (55.4 t)
Bodry 0-4-2T 10 tons 16 cwt (11.0 t)
Sanlu 0-4-2ST 14 tons 19 cwt (15.2 t)
Waril 0-4-0T 5 tons 19 cwt (6.0 t)
Shada 2-6-4T 31 tons 9 cwt (32.0 t)
Waroff 4-6-0T 14 tons 1 cwt (14.3 t) Supplied to the War Department Light Railways
Hamil 0-4-0ST 12 tons 8 cwt (12.6 t)
Dinor 0-4-0ST 6 tons 14 cwt (6.8 t) Quarry Hunslet class supplied to Dinorwic slate quarry and many other quarries in the United Kingdom
Tymon 4-6-0T 39 tons 10 cwt (40.1 t)
Stocs 4-6-0T 13 tons 1 cwt (13.3 t)
Miro 2-8-0 tender 46 tons 16 cwt (47.1 t)
Sntma 4-4-0T 17 tons 6 cwt (17.6 t)
Benag 2-6-2T 22 tons 12½ cwt (23.0 t)
Kbeng 0-6-4T 19 tons 15 cwt (20.1 t)
Afzeb 0-6-0T 11 tons 6 cwt (11.5 t)
Sleon 2-6-2T 21 tons 5 cwt (21.6 t) Supplied to the Sierra Leone Government Railway. One example survives on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railwaymarker
Nalta 0-6-2T 20 tons 11 cwt (20.9 t)
Dolph 2-8-4T 37 tons 8 cwt (38.0 t)
Nepal 0-6-2T 24 tons 5 cwt (24.6 t)
Dawin 0-4-2ST 10 tons 2 cwt (10.3 t) Kerr Stuart design
Matry 0-6-2T 16 tons 15 cwt (17.0 t)
Afour 0-4-0+0-4-0T 25 tons 1 cwt (25.5 t) Avonside Engine Company design
Anhej 0-4-2T 15 tons 7 cwt (15.6 t)
Andie 0-4-2T 8 tons 12 cwt (8.7 t)
Artic 4wDM+4wDM 13 tons 5 cwt (13.5 t) Supplied to the Royal Arsenal Railwaymarker; one example is preserved (See Note 1)
Brand 6wDM 15 tons (15.2 t) Supplied to the National Coal Board; several examples survive
Pitpo 4wDM 1 tons 16 cwt (1.8 t) Supplied to the National Coal Board; several examples survive
Cloister 0-4-0st ? Cloister was built for the Dinorwic Slate Quarry in 1891, and is now a resident at Amberley Museum Railwaymarker hauling passenger trains up and down the traditional cliff side line.
Lilla 0-4-0ST ? At Ffestiniog Railwaymarker. Currently out of use.
Blanche 2-4-0ST tender ? Currently at the Ffestiniog Railwaymarker. In working order.
Linda 2-4-0ST tender ? Same design as Blanche. Currently out of service at the Ffestiniog Railwaymarker
Britomart 0-4-0ST ? Currently at the Ffestiniog Railwaymarker

Notes on the above table
1. Two articulated Hunslet Engine 0-4-4-0 diesel locomotives were supplied to the Royal Arsenalmarker: Albert in 1934 (scrapped in 1961) and Carnegie in 1954. Carnegie was later sold, subsequently rescued and moved to the Bicton Woodland Railwaymarker in 1966 (Clarke and Veitch, 1986). She is now at the Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Millsmarker.

See also



  • Railway Magazine (2007). Second new Hunslet just £152,750!, IPC Media, February, No. 1270, Vol.153, p. 57

External links

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