A Brief History of the Railway Foundry
Todd Kitson & Laird |
Shepherd & Todd |
Edward Brown Wilson |
Fenton & Craven |
Edward Brown Wilson |
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."
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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