As work continues within the Ribble Steam Railway workshop on Peckett No.1999, lets travel back in time to the Southport gas company’s works where the locomotive was built for and worked, shunting coal wagons.
The Southport gas company’s works were known as Crowlands works, being situated at the eastern end of Crowland Street, Southport.
Crowlands first produced gas for public use on July 16th 1872. However, the gas company had been supplying coal gas from its first works in Eastbank Street, near the centre of town.
Two railway companies were involved with the works, the lines from which crossed the old estates of the Scarisbrick family, upon whose land the gas works was also situated. The family estate was quite large and extended northwards to meet the Hesketh estates, whose involvement with the West Lancashire Railway is legend.
The first company to draw up any agreements with the gas company was the L&Y which connected with the gas company at Blowick via the station goods yard. The second company, which was the Liverpool Southport and Preston Junction Railway, joined the gas works line at a point near Meols Cop goods yard. On 14th March 1871, the L&Y and Southport Corporation drew up and signed a joint agreement in which the railway company would plan and construct a siding at Blowick. This siding would connect the existing goods yard of Blowick station with the gas works, the line to run the length of Butts Lane and Crowland Street.
Upon completion the entire siding was sold to the gas company who were then responsible for its upkeep.
The area at Blowick was under consideration as a site for a new loco shed by the L&Y in 1887, as the one in Southport, which had only three tracks, was too small for the 24 locos stationed there. However, as some of us know only too well, the existing shed was rebuilt and six roads provided.
On December 31st 1891 an agreement was signed by the gas company and the LS&PJ railway. This allowed a siding and connecting curve, from a point south of Meols Cop station yard and meeting the existing gas company line at a point where Wennington Road joins Crowland Street, to be built. During the days of the LMS (1923-1948) the siding at Blowick was given the official siding number of 274.
From the time of building the original line up until the middle of 1916 the gas company used horse traction. The railway companies however, at the request of the gas company, shunted the wagons as far as possible on the sidings.
On January 28th 1916 a report was submitted by the companies engineer on the various merits of steam and electric traction of the time. The Gas Company’s neighbour to the north on Russell Road was the Southport Electricity Board who also used the lines for supply of wagons of coal, paying for this at a rate agreed by both companies.
The two companies entered into an agreement whereby the Electric Company would provide the electric traction, driver and brakeman as well as looking after the overhead and rail level wires and bonds. The Gas Company was to be responsible for the rails and per-way. However the Electric Company did not keep their side of the agreement and in 1920 the Gas Company bought the tramcar, wires, poles etc, from the Electric Company and worked the haulage for both. The first traction was a Travis tramcar which was sold to the Electric Company for the sum of £375 on 28th June 1917.
Later on the Gas Company purchased an electric tram from messers Dick Kerr Co of Preston, the same company who supplied the motors for the L&Y’s electric loco No.1, which was for a time stabled at Meols Cop car sheds. The electric tram gave excellent service up until 1940 when it was replaced by steam. However it was not scrapped but used on inside work until approximately 1954.
The electric trams were replaced by the first of the steam locomotives in 1940. This being built by Messers Peckett and Sons Ltd, Atlas works, Bristol. This was a four wheeled coupled outside cylinder saddletank loco of 1853, Blueprint z453. The locomotive weight was 19 tons empty, length 21ft 8 inches, width 7ft 9 inches, bunker capacity 6cwts, tank capacity 690 gallons.
The Peckett locomotive was completely overhauled by the builder and on return to Southport she looked resplendent in her newly painted, but original colours of a burgundy like brown, lined with black and gold. The only difference was the brass plate which was affixed on the side of the saddle tank. It originally read “Southport Corporation Gas Company”, now it read “North Western Gas Board”.
This new plate was a sort of note to move on, due to the fact that Manchester was now the N.W.G.B. head office and they also decided to transfer No.1999 to Darwen gas works which was also under their control. Southport, being what is often referred to as the supposed rich neighbour of the regional head office at Liverpool, was not only to lose its best locomotive, but quite a lot of its “brains” were transferred out to other gas works and offices. It reminds one of the old adage “Divide and Conquer”.
In 1966,the loco lay rotting in the yards at Darwen, very sad in the light of her glittering condition when back at Southport under the hand of driver Harry Brown and works engineer Bill Hammond. The gas works loco had to pass the front of the engineers house which was some fifteen feet above rail level. However the loco came under the eyes of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway preservation society who restored her from her bad state. In 1974 Steamport were lucky enough to see the locomotives return to Southport and then on to the Ribble Steam Railway at Preston where we all hope soon to see her steam once again.
In 1947 a further steam loco was purchased by the Gas Company being a Manning Wardle 0-4-0 saddle tank, purchased second-hand from the Royal Ordnance factory at Maltby, near Rotherham.
After the departure of the Peckett and the scrapping of the Manning-Wardle, the hauling of coal was done by a Rushton 165 d.s. type diesel which was an 0-4-0 with four forward and four reverse speeds.
Compiled by Chris Mills.
(extracts from the ‘Southport Gas Company Locomotives by A. Barlow, New York)