Andrew Barclay - a brief history
The engineer who founded this company was born in Dalry in 1814. In 1828 he was an apprentice to a plumber, tin and coppersmith in Kilmarnock. During 1840 he set up his own business in partnership to manufacture shafting for the mills and printing industries.
Prior to 1859 he was employing about 150 men mainly employed in the manufacture of winding engines. Logical progression was to construct the first locomotive for the Portland Iron Co. In the 1860's the Caledonia works expanded to cope with the success of building railway locomotives.
During March 1869 another site became available in Kilmarnock that Andrew had his four sons and brother set up a partnership to build locomotives as the Barclays & Co. Another company to associated is the Grant, Ritchie & Co as this was founded by a former works manager Thomas Maxwell Grant and William Ritchie. Grant, Ritchie business failed in the economic depression of the 1920's, Barclays had closed in 1886 following on from the bankruptcy of Andrew Barclay.
Above - AB 1219 Caledonia Works at Washford on the West Somerset Railway. Small tank engines like this formed much of Barclay's output. (Photo Kris Ward)
Towards the end of the 1880's business picked up and the engineering firm was revived with the increased demand for railway locomotives. By 1892 the company was restructured as £15000 worth of nominal £1 shares. During October 1899 was the last time that any of the Braclay family were shareholders within the company. Output from the works by 1903 had risen to £95k of which 54% was locomotive work, 35% general engineering and 11% sundry items. 1902 saw the connection of the Caledonia works to the Glasgow & South Western Railway.
From 1912 until 1961 a total of 114 fireless locomotives were supplied as Andrew Barclays had become a specialist in this field of engineering. Capacity for building locomotives up to 1910 was on average 28 per annum however during the great war this was increased considerably.
Trading conditions improved from 1934 onwards with the order book getting fatter. Discussions took place with the Locomotive Manufacturers' Association about the possibility of the rationalisation of the business. An approach was made to Robert Stephensons & Hawthorns Ltd in 1938 however nothing became of the possible merger.
Herr H Orenstein, who was in 1938 living in Liverpool, asked the company if they would be interested in his services for the export trade plus possibility of sub contracting work for the company that he had founded in Berlin Orenstein & Koppel. Nothing became of this due to the advent of war with Germany. During the war consideration was taken towards manufacturing of parts for Blackburn aircraft however the machines in the works were deemed unsuitable.
Post war from the 1950's the number of steam locomotives being ordered was falling however these were offset to a certain extent by the number of diesel locomotives on the order book. The British Transport Commission placed an order in 1954 for 10 diesels for British Railways. 1962 saw the production of the last steam locomotive which was destined to be delivered to Indonesia.
Above - AB 435, better known by it's BR number 06003, at Rowsley South, home of the Heritage Shunter Trust in 2008 (Photo Kris Ward)
The late 1960s and early 1970s saw quite a contraction of the locomotive building industry. Exports were declining and sales at home were hit by downturns in manufacturing, the declining use of railways and the fact that many firms using industrial locomotives had in recent years replaced steam locomotives and didn't need new locomotives at the time. The goodwill from North British Ltd was acquired by Andrew Barclay in 1963 along with drawings, patterns and a few staff from this once large Glasgow engine builder moved to Kilmarnock. Into 1968 and the goodwill for the locomotive business of John Fowler was also acquired. Andrew Barclay however only built 6 locomotives in 1970 and 3 in 1971. In a meeting in a hotel in Temple Sowerby, about half way between Leeds and Kilmarnock, the Barclay directors accepted a take over offer from Hunslet and the firm was taken over in August 1972.
1984 saw the assembly of 25 two car class 143 diesel units for British Rail. Various components were made by Hunslet in Leeds and the bodies by Walter Alexander, well known road coach body builder from Falkirk, before final assembly and tested were carried out at Kilmarnock. 1987 saw a project to rebuild the similar class 141 units. Later most of the class 155 two car units were rebuilt by the works to form the class 153 single car units.
In 1987 Hunslet (Holdings) Ltd was taken over by Telfos Holdings PLC, in 1988 it was decided to re organise the group of companies with Hunslet undertaking underground locomotive work in Leeds and Barclay undertaking orders and maintenence work for surface shunters. In 1989 the name of the company was changed to Hunslet - Barclay
Telfos updated the works at both Leeds and Kilmarnock with several new buildings constructed at both sites. Much of the Hunslet works site was turned over to construction of main line trains under the Hunslet TPL name and production of Class 323 electric units for Birmingham and Manchester suburban services. A number of teething problems were experienced with these units and further orders were not forthcoming. The Leeds works closed in 1995 and Kilmarnock completed work on the final class 323 vehicles.
With Hunslet themselves gone (though the name later revived by LH Group near Tamworth purchasing the locomotive part of the Hunslet Barclay business) Hunslet Barclay carried on until bankruptcy in 2007. The firm was bought by Loughborough engineering firm Brush Traction, becoming titled Brush - Barclay. In 2011 Brush Barclay was taken over by American company Wabtec, a firm that went on to buy LH Group and with it the rest of the Hunslet group of companies the following year. In 2020 Wabtec announced that the Kilmarnock works would close and future work would be undertaken at their Doncaster site, however the works was taken over by Brodie Engineering, another Kilmarnock based railway engineering company.
The works survives to this day with the modern buildings built in the Hunslet Barclay era continuing in use for train refurbishment work. Some of the earlier buildings have been put to residential use and part of the site, including the railbus shop that built the Pacers, have been redeveloped as a Morrisons supermarket.
Above - Part of the original works site. AB 2068 is on display in the window next to the entrance (Photo Kris Ward)
Below - The new buildings built as part of Hunslet Barclay's modernisation of the works in the 1980s while in use by Wabtec for train refurbishment. (Photo Kris Ward)
Particularly with the close links between Leeds and Kilmarnock in the later years we decided to include records of Andrew Barclay locos on our site.
Andrew Barclay order details in our database.
This produces a very long list of entries and it is advisable to narrow the search using the other fields in the search. Please note that if one of the boxes reads "Any Leeds built item" then "Any item (inc non Leeds)" should be selected instead to produce results of this firm or others outside Leeds with which local firms have a connection.
We haven't gone through the order details of North British and its constituent companies, however these can be found in the National Railway Museum. Details of records of North British and other constituent companies
External Website Links
Railway Gazette article about purchase of Hunslet Barclay by Brush
Railway Gazette article about purchase of Brush Barclay by Wabtec
Barclay 150, 1840 - 1990, Russell Wear
The Hunslet Engine Works, D.H. Townsley, ISBN 1-871980-38-0 Look for this book on Amazon*
* These links are provided to help readers search for often rare books on the subject and to promote any books available, we are under no commercial incentives for this
British Steam Locomotive Builders, James W. Lowe
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Page last modified: 27 March 2021
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