In the Spotlight… Hawthorn Leslie 0-6-0ST No 3931

Hawthorn Leslie 0-6-0ST Works No 3931 built in 1938 was one of 14 Hawthorn Leslie Standard 16in Locos built for the steel works of Stewarts and Lloyds at Corby and numbered 21, the final two, numbers 22 & 23, were built by RSH after the loco companies merged. No. 21 is joined in Preservation by Nos (3827) 14 & (3837) 16.
About the Makers….
R. & W. Hawthorn Leslie and Company Ltd, usually referred to as Hawthorn Leslie, were a shipbuilding and locomotive manufacturer in Newcastle on Tyne. The Company was founded when R and W Hawthorn, and Andrew Leslie and Co Ltd of Hebburn, were incorporated as a limited company in 1886 to acquire the businesses of R & W Hawthorn of Newcastle and Andrew Leslie and Co.
In 1817 Robert Hawthorn at the age of 21 began business as a general engineer and repairer of colliery machinery. With the assistance of his brother William and four workmen, his enterprise prospered and in 1820 under the trading name of R and W Hawthorn their first marine engine was built.
In 1831 they produced their first steam locomotive for the Stockton and Darlington Railway and as the country’s railway system rapidly expanded their locomotive construction soon became second only to that of their near neighbour, Robert Stephenson. By 1870 over 1,000 locomotives had already been built.
Robert Hawthorn died in 1866 and in 1870 his brother William retired. The firm was then sold for £60,000 to a group of four men. These were Benjamin Chapman Browne, aged 31, Civil Engineer, Francis Carr Marshall, William Hawthorn Junior and Joseph Scott. As senior partner Benjamin Browne had wanted the business to manufacture only marine engines. However, orders were buoyant for locomotives and so in 1870, the shipyard of Messrs T and W Smith at St Peter’s was acquired for the marine site. All marine engineering was then moved from the original works at Forth Banks to the new St Peter’s site. The marine engine side of the business prospered under the direction of Francis Carr Marshall.
In 1884 it was decided to separate the business activities of the Forth Banks and St Peter’s sites and thereafter they were run virtually as two separate businesses. Things prospered for the next 50 years but during the mid-1930s, when locomotive work was falling off throughout the country, the railway side of the business was sold to Robert Stephenson & Co. Ltd of Darlington and in June 1937 Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn (RSH) was formed.
Both factories were retained, building locomotive designs from their former separate ownership until RSH designs were evolved. In 1943 RSH became a subsidiary of the Vulcan Foundry and Hawthorn’s 137-year connection with Forth Banks ended when Locomotive building at the Newcastle upon Tyne works ended in 1961 and RSH at Darlington in 1964. Vulcan works were themselves taken over by English Electric in 1955. Vulcan foundry works kept the association with railways by a succession of owners until at the end of 2002 the works finally closed.

Just for those interested, the ship building and marine engines business became part of Swan Hunter and Tyne Shipbuilders Ltd when it came into existence in 1968. Hawthorn Leslie (Engineers) Ltd became a member company of British Shipbuilders in 1977, later merging with George Clark and NEM to form Clark Hawthorn Ltd in 1979. In its time the yards built numerous Merchant ships & 65 RN ships the biggest of which was HMS Triumph (R16) (1944-1981) a Royal Navy Colossus-class light fleet aircraft carrier of 13,350 tons. They finally ceased building ships in 1982 as part of the Nationalised British Shipbuilders.

Hawthorn Leslie 0-6-0ST 3931 in Service…..
Back to Hawthorn Leslie 0-6-0ST 3931 was Sent new to Stewarts and Lloyds Steelworks at Corby in 1938 it was numbered 21 and worked the large steelworks complex along with the rest of the fleet of loco’s, including Hunslets, Barclays & Hudswell Clarkes for over 30 years until replacement by the ex-BR Paxman diesel-hydraulics which then provided the main source of motive power for the iron ore trains. In the autumn of 1970, 21 received an overhaul involving the fitting of a new boiler which had been standing spare for a number of years. The axleboxes were renewed, attention given to the motion, etc. and presumably she was the last loco to have such repairs and renewals. It is interesting to note that from the 1950’s all locos, steam and diesel, were painted buttercup yellow, with red wheels and coupling rods and black fittings, and, in the case of the steam locomotives, had the letters S&L stenciled in black on the saddle tank.
The 16in locos as a class seem to be known as the “the S&L’s” by the enginemen, other locos not generally having been so adorned. There are variations in the detail of the painting, mostly with regard to the extent, or existence, of black and yellow dazzle striping. This livery was adopted to make them more easily visible in the works, but owing to the dirty conditions which eroded the paint, the colour gradually deteriorated to a “steelworks black”.
During its 1970 overhaul, 21 was repainted and lettered BSC, probably the only steam locomotive in British Steel Corporation ownership to achieve this distinction.

About the Corby Steel Works of Stewart & Lloyds.
Stewarts and Lloyds built their steelworks at Corby in 1933 to tap the locally abundant, if somewhat low grade iron ore. The first steel being made in 1935 with the works specializing in steel tube manufacture. A network of lines radiated out several miles into the surrounding countryside, to bring the ore from the quarries to the works – and a substantial fleet of steam locomotives were utilised. In 1967 the British steel industry was nationalised and the Stewarts & Lloyds steel tube works at Corby became part of British Steel. In 1973 the government approved a strategy of consolidating steel making in five main areas – South Wales, Sheffield, Scunthorpe, Teesside and Scotland – most of which are coastal sites with access to economic supplies of iron rich imported ores. Thus in 1975 the government agreed a programme that would lead to the phasing-out of steel making in Corby In November 1979 the end of iron and steel making in Corby was formally announced. On the internal railway system steam lingered at the works itself into the 1970s until, in June 1973, it was finally dispensed with. The IRS organised a “Farewell to Steam” special, using the last active steelworks locomotive, to haul a trainload of enthusiasts out to the quarries at Wakerley and back again. No 21 built by Hawthorn Leslie in 1938, works number 3931, stood in steam near the ironstone lines depot where, it being a Saturday, most of the ironstone fleet were at rest. The “passenger train” was a rake of wooden-sided open trucks, with a few bales of straw to provide seating! Accompanying the train was one of the ex-BR Paxmans, no. 28 (formerly Class 14 No. D9547).
So into a new life in the preservation era.

After the IRS farewell to Steam tour at Corby, 3931 went to the Battlefield line at Shackerstone / Market Bosworth. It was here that during its stay new tanks were fitted, the front cab spectacle plates were altered from square to round (compare the two early preservation pictures above). The loco was fitted with Vacuum brakes & steam heating. The buttercup yellow livery was replaced with lined pale blue and the letters MBLR appeared on the Saddle Tanks (Market Bosworth Light Railway). I have not been able to find out if this was where it was named Linda, or in fact who Linda is?
HL3931’s next move was to the Swanage Railway in Dorset in 1984 where it was put back into working order and steamed until 1988 operating their passenger service to Corfe Castle. At Swanage the loco carried a Prussian blue livery, (see above picture) with no tank markings. After falling out of use at Swanage requiring retyring, attention to the boiler & axleboxes, 3931 was sold in 1991 to a Mr. Drinkwater. 1Drinkwater had contracted Gwili railway (Camarthen) to overhaul the loco, incidentally, the road move was sponsored by fosters lager, virgin airways and legal & general. Nothing came of the contract and with unpaid bills, eventually, 3931 was advertised for sale in the railway press by a firm of liquidators acting on behalf of Haulier, Andrew Goodman, who had claimed the loco against costs outstanding to him by the then owner.

Compiled by Steve Boreham.

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