A Brief History of the Railway Foundry
Todd Kitson & Laird |
Shepherd & Todd |
Edward Brown Wilson |
Fenton & Craven |
Edward Brown Wilson |
Todd, Kitson & Laird
The early engine building industry in Leeds shifted about a mile from where it had first begun, in Holbeck, to the already industrialised Hunslet area in 1837. Charles Todd, apprentice to the railway industry�s founding father, Matthew Murray, set up the Todd, Kitson & Laird partnership. A new works in Hunslet was built and orders were received, beginning with Lion for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. The seeds were sown for a successful engine building company but the partnership didn�t last long and two new firms were formed. The story of Kitson is covered separately in the Kitson article, this page is about what Todd did next.
Shepherd & Todd
Todd brought in a new partner, John Shepherd Jr and the partnership with Kitson and Laird was dissolved. The new company "Shepherd & Todd" kept the Railway Foundry name and the two new firms began operating on either side of Pearson Street, Hunslet. A number of locomotive builders would be established in this area of Leeds. Early orders included three 0-4-2s produced for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, a follow on from the order for Lion. It seems that there was confusion at the time among the previous customers as the two firms both claimed to be the �successors� of Todd, Kitson & Laird. Legal notices in the papers suggest that all debts of the old company were to be settled and Shepherd and Todd were to continue the Railway Foundry without Kitson & Laird. Orders were soon received for the Leeds & Selby Railway, Hudson�s York & North Midland as well as a couple of locomotives exported to the Paris & Orleans Railway.
The picture above shows 'the Quadrangle' this building was used by a few of the engine making firms over the years. It is speculated that this was the first engine works in Hunslet where Lion was built. This can�t be verified, however maps of 1846 do show that this building was the Railway Foundry.  Around this time the firm were building a new works nearby on what would eventually become the Hunslet Engine Co�s works, part of which can be seen in the background. Once replaced by a more substantial works the condition of this old works building deteriorated over the years and little was left by 1969 when this picture was taken by Sheila Bye. Only the arch and a small piece of wall survive now.
The firm would always have close ties with the Round Foundry in Holbeck and there doesn't appear to have been much of a rivalry between the two companies. However in 1840, with both firms supplying the Hull & Selby Railway, it would seem that an almost inevitable engine trial comparing the two firms� locomotives hit a raw nerve. It was primarily to test the Railway Foundry�s use of Grey�s valve gear. Engine trials were popular at the time as many new manufacturers wanted to prove their designs and innovations and many railway companies wanted to ensure it invested wisely in its engines. The trials were reported in the Leeds Mercury. Grey�s patent valve gear, fitted to the Shepherd & Todd locomotives did indeed make the engines much more efficient. Matthew Murray Jackson of the Round Foundry naturally wasn�t happy at the negative press his engines had attracted. He wrote to the Leeds Mercury to point out that his slightly older engines, built as ordered to a design previously employed on the Leeds & Selby Railway, where at a technological disadvantage rather than being of inferior construction.
The Leeds Mercury�s reporting of the trials had actually seemed reasonably impartial compared with Hull paper �The Hull Packet�
"On looking at the two engines together, i.e. one of the patent construction, and one of Messrs. Fenton, Murray, and Jackson�s, the superior neatness, compactness, and simplicity of the former, are evident at a glance..." 
The Shepherd & Todd people were of course quite happy with the results of the tests and the way in which they were carried out, not least for the fact their engines won. They wrote to the Leeds Mercury, their letter printed on the 19th December 1840. They began by pointing out that they didn�t want to harm their relationship with the Holbeck people
"'With the utmost reluctance, arising as it really does from a good feeling towards our fellow-townsman, Mr Matthew Murray Jackson
The letter goes in to the facts and the procedures of the trials, however, the tone of the letter has changed a bit by the end
"'if, then, that firm feels at all dissatisfied with the facts of those experiments, which is evidently the case from the tone of the letter to which we now reply, we must conclude, that either the series of attesting witnesses have been most shockingly imposed upon and deceived or that the experiments in question were not carried out on the proper principle. Let them, therefore, be gone into again. The way is still open. We feel quite sure that none of the parties would like to have a fallacy imposed upon themselves, nor yet would they wish to impose upon the public. We are, gentlemen, yours very respectfully, SHEPHERD & TODD." 
There doesn't appear to have been the re-trial called for and the animosity was short lived. The two firms remained closely tied up to the end of the Holbeck firm�s existence. Rivalry with Kitson & Co across the road also doesn�t seem to have been much of an issue either, the Leeds Mercury of 17th August 1850 reports:
"A cricket match was played on Monday last between the Railway Foundry and the Airedale Foundry cricket clubs, on the Woodhouse-hill ground, Hunslet. The Railway Foundry men were the winners, with ten wickets to fall."
Questioning each other's loco building ability however clearly just 'isn't cricket.'
The firm attracted a number of experienced personnel from the Round Foundry, when the old Holbeck firm folded in 1843 apprentice David Joy moved to the Hunslet company. In 1846 he completed his apprentiship and got a berth as a draughtsman. Within months he was chief draughtsman. This was a key �signing� in the company�s development, having studied the developing engine designs across the country and spent much of his time observing various engines in operation he produced some particularly good designs of his own.
Charles Todd left the Railway Foundry in 1844 and set up another firm, the Sun Foundry. A couple of other managers attempted to fill his shoes with little success as Joy records in his diary.
"June 1844 - Mr. Todd came suddenly in to bid us good bye, leaving Mr. Shepherd sole master. He soon brought a manager, Mr. Buckle, who had a son whom we christened "Little Bottle," and we used to fight him. Buckle did not know a word about locomotives, and was always talking about the big marine engines he had had to do with in Russia, but he gave us a temporary taste for marine engines."
Edward Brown Wilson
After a brief spell under another manager, whose name Joy couldn't even remember, Edward Brown Wilson, of Hull's famous family of shipping magnates was brought in that November. By the 1900s Hull's Wilson Line had become the largest private ship owning company in the world.
Following Todd's departure there was quite a period of instability, though at the same time the orders were coming in and it was also a period of great expansion. There were just 40 staff in 1844, three years later there were 400. Despite the success they were seeing there were a number of changes amongst the management in this period. Wilson only stayed for a year, it is not certain why he departed, possibly to do with family business back in Hull. His departure wouldn't be permenant but it did result in yet another 'name on the door' of the Railway Foundry.
Fenton & Craven
James Fenton of Fenton, Murray & Jackson took his place, James Fenton being the son of Matthew Murray's business partner. The name of Fenton, Craven & Co was adopted, though not for long as this partnership also failed to last more than a year. Wilson returned and in partnership with Fenton the firm continued under the E.B.Wilson name once more. Joy's diaries describe a couple of occasions when he turned up to work in the morning to find the works under new management.
Edward Brown Wilson (again)
In 1847 the company produced their most famous engine, the Jenny Lind, named after a Swedish opera singer. Built for the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway it formed the basis of one of the company's most successful standard designs. Versions of these engines were sold to many of the early railway companies as well as several overseas railways. It is believed that the first train to run in India, on the construction of the Ganges Canal, was hauled by an E.B.Wilson Jenny Lind class loco or something very similar in design, by the name of Thomason, on the 22nd December 1851. Surviving works records don't confirm this however and it may be that the engine sent out was in fact second hand. At Roorkee. in India, a plinthed replica of Jenny Lind in original LB&SC livery has been erected as monument to the historic moment. The National Railway Museum in Delhi also has illustrations of a Jenny Lind with the name Thomason shown as the first locomotive to operate in India and even has a model available in the shop. Below is a photo of the replica of Jenny Lind in Roorkee, courtesy of Kota Shivaranjan,s Flickr gallery of travel photos
The use of standard designs was a great benefit, Britain was going through the 'Railway Mania' and everyone with enough capital wanted to get in on the action and build a railway line. This meant many businessmen needed to get their hands on new engines quickly. At the Railway Foundry they could be bought 'off the shelf'. The use of standard designs also made the works very efficient, at times when the works may have been quiet the workforce could be set to producing parts for standard designs which could be put in to stock and used at busier times, or even complete locomotives could be built to stock. Customers wanting something non-standard had to pay over the odds for it. This encouraged them to buy the standard designs. The standard designs pretty much sold themselves. There were many engines based on the Jenny Lind, though the design was progressively altered and the engines became larger as time went by. Also, particularly popular were the 0-6-0 goods engines and the 0-6-0 and 0-4-0 saddle tank engines. Railways were also being established all over the world and the company exported many of these engines.
Below ' Picture of "LA PORTENA" works number 570 of 1856, the 2-2-0ST preserved by order of General Juan Peron as being the first Argentinian locomotive, it now resides in the museum at Lucan. (Photo Ian Smith)
A very unusual engine was displayed by the Railway Foundry in the 1851 Great Exhibition, as described in the Leeds Mercury on the 12th April that year. There had been quite a disagreement between Joy and Wilson over their design for the Great Exhibition engine. It seems that in the end the company took a bit of a gamble on this new design. Prior to the Great Exhibition trials were arranged on the Leeds & Bradford Railway, comparing this new design with one of their Jennys.
"'As to the construction, it is a combination of several novel arrangements, having two separate boilers with internal fire-boxes. It is a tanck engine, carrying its own coke and water, thus dispensing with a tender. The advantage arising from the substitution of the two separate boilers and fire-boxes are increased safety for high-pressures, lightness, and by alternate firing, the generation of steam is more constant; one fire being in full force while fuel is being added to the other, thus economising the consumption of coke'"
This unusual design seems to have remained obscure, whereas across the road the people at Kitson's won a gold medal for the more conventional tank engine design they displayed.
The company became involved in road locomotive design and in collaboration with Willis, designer for Ransome & May (later Ransomes Sims & Jefferies), a prototype was produced.The Willis's Road Locomotive was a one off, however, within a short time of its construction, John Fowler had demonstrated how successfully similar engines could be applied to farming. Having close ties to Kitson, Fowler's own works would end up being established across the road from the Railway Foundry, this story is of course covered in the John Fowler article.
The Willis's Road Locomotive was not the only Railway Foundry product with the absence of a flanged railway wheel. Stationary engines were produced. The works plate at the top of this page is from a stationary engine used in a railway workshop in India. This engine no longer survives but apparently a replica has been built for instructional purposes, if anyone knows anything about this I'd love to hear more about it! The Railway Foundry produced some engines for steam ships. The Hull Packet of 12th September 1856 describes an engine having been demonstrated at the Leeds works in front of a government inspector and other scientific persons.
"'a novel application of locomotive high pressure machinery to marine purposes'" and "'Upon the whole it is not too much to say that this very admirable arrangement bids fair to supersede all other applications of steam power to marine purposes, especially of screw steamers'" 
Despite being so far in land the Leeds engine builders were occasionally involved in shipping. As far back as 1811 Matthew Murray had tested a steam ship on the canal near his works and in to the 1950s J&H McLaren was producing diesel engines for ships. In this instance the engine was due to be forwarded to Hull and fitted to a steamship constructed there. However the Leeds Mercury on the 18th September reports a fatal accident killing one worker instantly and with one later dying of his injuries.
The workers were "'engaged at a traverse crane lifting a marine engine (upon the locomotive principle) to a wherry, for the purpose of removal from the yard. The crane is, it is stated, capable of a straight lift of twenty tons, and the engine did not exceed nine tons; but owing to the lift being an oblique one, the beam gave way, and fell a distance of 18 to 20 feet, smashing to atoms everything in its way'"
At the inquest a verdict of accidental death was recorded, it being believed that the chains snatching led to the accident.
What is believed to have been the first locomotive put to military service was constructed in the Railway Foundry. 0-6-0ST Alliance was originally ordered for the Waterloo Colliery system in Leeds but was sent to the Crimea for use in the Balaklava Railway, an important troop supply line. The Leeds Mercury of 8th suggests another locomotive had served there before. This contradicts a number of sources that describe the railway as having used either horses or stationary engines and rope haulage for the steepest sections prior to the arrival of Alliance . Clive Hardy's works list suggests that one of the locomotives Wilson supplied to the Portland Breakwater might have been dispatched to the Crimea. 
"'The Government have decided to send out another locomotive engine of a make suitable for the heavy gradients on the above line'"
Though this could mean Alliance wasn't the first military locomotive after all it may have been the first to be armoured as the same report describes her as having been rebuilt despite being a new engine and makes note of her "iron sides."
"'The engine which leaves here for Southampton to-day has had a thorough renovation and repainted at the Railway Foundry. Her "iron sides" are adorned with the English, French, Sardinian, and Turkish war flags, conspicuously painted thereon, and she is called the "Alliance"'"
The Balaklava Railway ran much more effectively with its more suitable locomotive and another engine of the same design was soon despatched there.
Above - RENFE 030-2013, EBW 607 of 1857, this locomotive saw over a century of work and is now preserved in Villanova I la Geltru, Spain (Photo Kris Ward)
Over the years large amounts of land were purchased around their old Quadrangle building and the works had become the largest railway workshop in the world. Clearly it was intended that the works would becoming bigger still though, however trouble amongst its shareholders would prevent this. Relations between the works management and the firm's shareholders fell apart and E.B.Wilson left the company. He would go on to work for a number of railway companies advising them on their locomotive requirements. David Joy followed a similar path and left the Railway Foundry to go freelance. Alexander Campbell took Wilson's place, however he took over knowing full well that the problem with the shareholders was far from resolved, Campbell began working on plan B. Land was purchased alongside the Railway Foundry and a works established with partners J Manning and C.W.Wardle. Initially it was set up as a general engineering facility but the works was just waiting for the end to come at the Railway Foundry next door. The end did come and the Railway Foundry's affairs were the subject of a Chancery case. The company was wound up in 1858, its designs, orders and goodwill were taken over by Manning, Wardle & Co. Most of the engines Manning Wardle built were based on the designs of E.B.Wilson's Railway Foundry and it says a lot about the firm's designs that engines clearly based on them were still being built into the 1930s. A century after the works had closed a few examples of tank engines based on the old E.B.Wilson designs still lingered on in industry.
Attempts to sell off the Railway Foundry failed and the land was divided in to separate lots. Over the next five years these would be bought by engine making firms Hudswell, Clarke, J&H McLaren and the Hunslet Engine Company.
Hudswell Clarke adopted the Railway Foundry name for its works, a good idea from a marketing point of view as the Railway Foundry had established a great reputation world-wide for the engines it built. The new Railway Foundry was however a completely new works and is covered it its own article.
Internal Website Links
With much of E.B.Wilson's output being being before cameras were in wide spread use we have little in the way of photographs of their engines on our site, however we do have photos of the two and a bit surviving Wilson engines
With over 150 years since the demise of E.B.Wilson there isn't a great deal left of them, just two and a bit engines. Most of the engines they built should be in our database however this has been largely put together from the records of the early railway companies and there may still be a few engines sent to smaller customers to track down.
External Website Links
Graces Guide page about Shepherd and Todd
Wikipedia page about E.B.Wilson and Company
The Ships List page about Wilson's Line
Jon Pridmore's page about E.B.Wilson and Company
Wikipedia page about the Balaklava Railway 
Steamindex's page about the Railway Foundry
Steamindex's reproduction of extracts of David Joy's diaries 
E.B.Wilson & Co. Locomotive Works List, Clive Hardy ISBN 0 906829 11 9
Old Ordinance Survey Maps, Leeds (Pottery Field) 1840, ISBN 1-847842267
The Hunslet Engine Works, D.H. Townsley, ISBN 1-871980-38-0 
Old Ordinance Survey Maps, South Leeds 1906, ISBN 0-85054-250-2
The Railway Foundry 1839-1969, Ronald Nelson Redman 
Indian Locomotives Part 1 - Broad Gauge 1851-1940, Hugh Hughes, ISBN 0-9503469-8-5 
The Locomotives Built by Manning Wardle & Co, Volume 1-3, Fred Harman 
Leeds Mercury 19th December 1840
Hull Packet of 27th November 1840 
Leeds Mercury 17th August 1850
Leeds Mercury on the 12th April 1851 
Hull Packet of 12th September 1856 
Leeds Mercury on the 18th September 1856 
Leeds Mercury of 8th September 1855 
With thanks to Sheila Bye for her research in to the early days of the Leeds engine building industry.
This article was produced by Kris Ward, any feedback or contributions about the Leeds engine making industry would be greatly appreciated.
Page last modified: 03 July 2021
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