The ‘John Howe’ Story

JOHN HOWE was ordered by Howe’s Plaster Works in 1908 to operate between their private sidings (HOWES SIDINGS BOX) on the Settle & Carlisle near CUMWHINTON in Cumberland as it was then and their works at Cocklakes. The private branch contained quite a severe gradient up to the works of which little trace is left today. Howe’s Plaster Works became the CARLISLE PLASTER CO, (remember Carlite Plaster and Carlite Bonding?) it later became a part of British Gypsum.
In 1969 Graham Ellis was involved with a job in Kendal and also a volunteer at Steamtown and Dr Peter Beet who was the boss of Steamtown was anxious to obtain some locos that were more economical to steam than mainline locos for footplate rides that were possible in those days. Graham had heard that there were locos for sale at Cocklakes. So with Peter’s blessing he went to investigate and found a Barclay towing another dead Barclay that had come from Long Meg, another British Gypsum site on the Settle & Carlisle for which they had running rights to go back and forth between Howe’s Sidings and Long Meg. After talking to the driver, John Long, it transpired that there were locos for sale but they were all sold to another railway which had failed to produce the cash. Graham then saw the Works Manager, Mr. Sanderson and several meetings later a deal was struck and a clutch of Barclays left Cocklakes for Steamtown. None had seen much use for years and were stored in a shed covered in deep white gypsum dust. None had boiler certificates either. Included in the deal was current shedmate, J N DERBYSHIRE. This loco had a sex change and became Jane of that ilk when “she” reached Steamtown.
Work was needed to the boiler to get JOHN HOWE going and while at Carnforth the loco was vacuum fitted and new tyres obtained from Barclays in Kilmarnock. All the locos that came from Cocklakes had homes to go to in the sense that there were folk at Carnforth ready to pay for them and Graham gave John Howe to his late wife Libi on the basis if you can’t fight them then join ’em. Libi coming from North’ British country near Fort William dictated the new livery – a la North British & also Campbeltown & Machrihanish in Argyll where the family was living, not to mention Edinburgh Corporation Steamrollers.
The lum (chimney to us in Preston) lost its bell mouth early on in order to be able to access the sheds at Cocklakes. The loco never had a nameplate and the lettering reflects that shown on the official Barclay photo. The current boiler was fitted in the 1950’s. All the time the loco was at Cocklakes it was driven by members of the Long family and as far as we know John Long was the last. He subsequently visited Steamtown to have a drive.
If you look at the buffer beam you will see that there are holes below the existing buffers. These were there to take a set of secondary buffers that would match up with the wooden wagons that were used at Cocklakes and are of a type similar to those used by Victorian railway contractors.
As the opportunity to run trains at Carnforth has now ceased, a transfer to Ribble Steam Railway was arranged.
It was transported by road courtesy of Alan Atkinson Trailers Ltd on the 12 April 2006; it languished in our shed for a month whilst Boiler Insurance was sorted out. She then had her first run on the Preston Dock metals exactly one month later on 12 May. The loco is quite low-slung, and needed to be run along the full length of the line to check clearances.
A second run was made with two coaches to check her capability and she was then rostered for her first turn the next day, Saturday 13th May 2006, and has completed many more outings since then. As not fitted for carriage steam heating, she was only to be used during the summer months!

The article originally featured in
Ribble Pilot 16 / Summer 2006.

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.

A Great Day Out At The Ribble Steam Railway

Hidden away in the heart of Preston’s old Industrial Docklands, Ribble Steam Railway has been greeting visitors since 2005. Whatever the weather, you can expect a warm and friendly welcome from Ribble Steam’s team of committed volunteers. Whether you are a keen steam enthusiast, or just simply looking for a fun and relaxed day out, Ribble Steam offers a memorable experience of Lancashire’s world famous Industrial heritage. Visit the museum discover the history of Preston docks and the story of the first electrical trains. Did you know Preston once had a key role in designing and building trains, close to docks, that were then exported all over the World?

Ribble Steam Railway knows just what keeps young minds entertained. Remember to grab your Thomas the Tank flag, before hopping aboard your steam train* for the day. Enjoy unlimited daily train rides along the 1 and a ½ mile dock and riverside line. Watch the twinkle grow in their eyes, both young and the old, as they experience the sheer delight of travelling by steam. Take time out to enjoy the journey, moving past a normally unseen part of Preston’s docklands. Travel across the Preston Marina and swing bridge. Surround yourself with the naturally relaxing landscape. Discover the wildlife and fauna that live & grow along the riverside railway.

Waiting for your next train? Take a break, at the popular Whistle Stop Café. Sample a refreshing drink, a tasty all day breakfast, or an afternoon treat. Dave the Engine Driver loves his bacon and egg barm, and says it always gives him “just enough fuel for his busy day”!

There is always much to explore in the “hands on” museum, complete with a fabulous indoor miniature railway for young hearts. You may be curious about the “engineering goings on” in the workshops. Watch treasured industrial engines and locomotives lovingly being restored, behind the scenes. Remember to check out the RSR shop to find that special visit memento, present, specialist publication or popular railway character memorabilia. Look out for art activities, special events and exhibitions including MADE IN PRESTON, Friendly Engines and Season Santa Specials.

There is FREE car parking adjacent to the Railway Centre entrance. The site is on one level and is accessible for prams, pushchairs and wheelchairs including boarding the train. Ribble Steam is a fully sensory experience with sights, smells and noises to stimulate, and invigorate the senses.

* The 1950’s Diesel Railbus Service runs on Wednesdays in the summer months and gives a panoramic view of the dock and riverside line.

Ribble Steam Railway is a registered charity, which is steadily growing driven by the tireless effort and energy of their committed team of volunteers. For more information about visiting call 01772 728 800 – Explore or visit @ribblesteam


Pilkington Brothers Ltd

The company that became Pilkington Brothers Ltd had its origins at the St Helens Crown Glass works which was founded in 1826 by William Pilkington, Peter Greenall and John William Bell. Following the death of Peter Greenall in 1845 William and Richard Pilkington acquired the company and Pilkington Brothers was born.

At this time the town of St Helens relied heavily on the Sankey Brook Navigation for the delivery of raw materials and finished product. Unfortunately the canal could be unreliable and slow and with the success of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway plans were made for St Helens to have its own direct line to a dock in the township of Widnes and with a connection to the L & M. With the Act of Parliament granted for the St Helens and Runcorn Gap Railway and a connection with the St Helens Crown Glass works work began.
From the small beginning of a single connection to the SH & RGR the company expanded its internal railway until at its peak in the 1950’s it was handling around 1,800 wagons per week. The company had connections with the LNWR on the site of the former SH & RGR St Helens station and at Cowley Hill on the Rainford branch also with the Great Central on the line into St Helens Central station. The despatch of goods via the former GC line ceased in January 1965 and the exchange sidings at the City Road site were taken out of use and lifted. The former LNWR exchange sidings were removed in the 1990’s in conjunction with the building of the St Helens Linkway road scheme. A new connection was laid from the former LNWR Huyton to Wigan line for the remaining delivery of heavy fuel oil which is also now out of use.
The company operated its own fleet of engines, an engine shed with repair facilities and a mass of sidings serving the different works.

Incoming flows consisted of coal and sand, with heavy oil replacing coal for the production process there was a marked decrease in traffic. The flow of sand and oil would continue until the 1980’s and 1990’s respectively. The company also purchased and operated the St Helens Colliery from 1857 which was initially to provide fuel for the glass making process, but production outstripped demand and excess coal was supplied to the St Helens Gas Works and further afield. Finished products were also despatched by rail on specially constructed wagons to carry large sheets of glass.
Many of the early engines were locally built by Edward Borrows Providence works at St Helens Junction but the company did purchase from other manufacturers.

Eventually steam was to be replaced by diesels and in turn road transport started to make in roads into the rail traffic. By 1990 only heavy fuel oil was being delivered to Pilkingtons by rail at the Greengate Works and Cowley Hill. The Pilkingtons internal system closed at the end of March 1984 with the remaining diesel shunters being sold for further use, preservation and scrap.

RSR has two locomotives that worked at Pilkington’s ‘Daphne’ and ‘Windle’

Ribble Pilot 36

Industrial Railways


Ever since mankind settled in one place there has been a need to move large objects such as stone or wood for building, or later to move commodities, for example coal, or ironstone, in bulk, sometimes over long distances. Naturally the wheel, the horse drawn cart, and the boat, played an important part in transportation across land, and via rivers and waterways.

It is known from old manuscripts and prints from the 16th century that in Germany metal miners used crude wagons pulled by men or horses to bring ore to the surface, and when coal began to become exploited for its mineral value, then improved methods of transport became essential for this bulky commodity. Wooden tramways were known in Elizabethan times; simple wagons based on carts ran on crude timber rails. Increasing demand lead to further experiment, and in 1804 Trevithick’s locomotive ran on cast iron rails on the industrial tram road at Penydarran in South Wales. In 1813 Hedley’s “Puffing Billy” was in use at a colliery at Wylam in Northumberland. As he watched these engines at work George Stephenson was inspired to develop the locomotive to move increasing loads over longer distances reliably. Others pioneered steam, George Stephenson made it work; with his son Robert he laid the foundations of practical rail transport.

By displacing horse-drawn transport and the canal the industrial railway was the parent of the freight and passenger carrying trains we know today.



During the 19th century the pace of development of industry, commerce, mechanisation, and exports increased rapidly. The aim of Victorian entrepreneurs was to move goods at a profit; main line railways were built by private companies, and during that century the railways of Britain replaced the canals and developed into a interconnected network of main lines joining towns and cities, and branch lines connecting the sidings of factories and works to the main network. The notion of passenger transport was secondary to the profit of moving goods to market. Britain became “the workshop of the world.” At the end of the 19th century when Britain’s railways were at their greatest extent it is said that nowhere in the whole of the mainland of the British Isles was more than 18 miles from a railway line.

Ribble Steam Railway has a locomotive collection based on the industrial locos which worked in the sidings of factories, warehouses, and docks, usually away from the public eye.  The locos on display in the museum and those in steam were developed to work as economically and as efficiently as possible, just as their more distinguished passenger brethren were built for speed and style. Many of the locos had very long working lives, for example those made by Barclays of Kilmarnock and Hunslet at Leeds. Thousands were made both for the home and overseas markets. Many can still be steamed and perform useful work nearly 100 years after they were made, although most of the mechanical working parts will have been renewed or replaced over time.



The development of industrial railways generally followed that of the main lines. Larger, heavier, more economical locos appeared, together with many adapted by the makers for specific purposes or locations. The first flame-free fireless design for industrial use was produced by Borsig of Berlin in 1901 and quickly copied. Electric locos appeared in the early years of the 20th century, and the first practical diesel shunters in the 1930s.

Some industrial complexes were very large. For example the railway at the Beckton Gas Works in east London, which supplied gas to the Greater London area, had 70 miles of tracks in 360 acres, its own signalling system, 34 locos, and 1000 privately owned wagons to cope with the enormous input of coal to produce town gas. Closer to home the Manchester Ship Canal Co had an extensive network to service and maintain the canal; in Preston the Preston Dock Co had 28 miles of tracks and up to 8 locomotives in operation.


Unseen and uncelebrated industrial locomotives spent unglamorous years trundling up and down pushing or pulling wagons, making up outgoing, or dividing down incoming trains, or just standing about waiting to be told about the next job. They were usually quite well maintained, mostly by the driver and fireman; their crews often took great pride in their appearance, although the occasional neglected loco that was allowed to run down was, and is, a sorry spectacle. A 1989 survey revealed 11 steam locos still at work in private industry; 7 Barclays – one fireless, 1 Hunslet, 1 Peckett, and 2 by Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns. The fireless Barclay was built in 1917. A tribute to good design and sound workmanship; we hear more than 100 examples of locos from this famous Scottish maker are in preservation today. Engine makers were proud of their locos and often attached handsome works plates to the cab sides to proclaim their origin.


Just as important as the locos that moved them were the goods wagons and vans that earned the revenue to keep industry in business. The first crude wagons were modelled on horse-drawn carts; these were replaced over time by higher capacity wagons when steam loco power replaced the horse. For many years the industrial scene was dominated by the 4 wheeled wagon, built of timber on a timber or steel frame and with a carrying capacity of 10-12 tons. As demand increased wagons became larger and heavier to carry greater loads and specialised wagons were developed for specific purposes, for example the bottom discharge hopper wagons which can be seen on our sidings. Plain grease lubricated axle bearings gave way to oil-filled boxes, and to roller bearings in the most sophisticated wagons. Simple hand applied brakes on each individual wagon became compulsory after 1887, but, incredibly, continuous train brakes applied from the loco were not generally adopted until after 1948 – hence the guard’s brake van.

Produced for Visitors To The Museum, Ribble Steam Railway.

The Port Of Preston

The new dock at Preston was opened in 1892. There had been discussion from the beginning of the century about expanding the quays that lay along the River Ribble. The work would include diverting the river away from Strand Road and digging a main dock and an outer basin. Also the river is tidal only for a few miles beyond Preston, so it would fluctuate greatly in depth and require constant dredging. Tides at Lytham vary from 20 to 30 feet and Preston is some 9 miles upstream so at high tide there is deep water and dredging can enable fairly large ships reach Preston. People spoke of the ships that appear to be crossing fields as they pass Freckleton Marsh.

The main dock was called the Albert Edward Dock after Queen Victoria’s husband. It was one of the largest single docks in the country, and still is. When visiting such places as Albert Dock in Liverpool it makes Preston look massive as a single dock.

When the electricity power station was built on the other side of the river a coal conveyor belt was built from the dock over the river to the power station. Also a pipe was laid under the river to enable the dock to be used as a cooling source. Every now and then steam would rise from the dock water at the south east corner.

Other features were the railway line that went under the town from the main station to the dock and then by level crossing over Strand Road. This line is still there now re-opened for tar trains to the tar works and of course the Ribble Steam Railway.

The dock was always a financial problem for the town as it never made money in its own right although as a greater entity it brought jobs and outside money into the area. In particular the many public houses near the port.

The port competed with Liverpool for trade mainly to Ireland. Nearby there were also Lancaster and Fleetwood ports at various times. There was also fruit from the West Indies and woodpulp and timber from Scandinavia and Russia. A small Fina oil depot was at the port and oil was imported. In later years Preston experimented with Roll-on and Roll-off traffic and was a pioneer in that field. However it brought in other difficulties such as labour disputes about how much manning was needed. A large crane was bought for container traffic and was never efficiently utilised. Before that time dockers had been treated as casual workers and had recently earned the right to guaranteed work, coupled with the general explosion in worker power, managements incapability to deal with this new phenomenon, high levels of inflation and a lack of industrial stability became a national feature. The building of the motorways enabled traffic from Scandinavia and Europe to dock on the east coast and lorries to quickly reach the west, also there was a move to larger ships and problems with maintaining the river depth. The Port of Preston was unable to survive these events and the council pulled the plug in the early 1980’s.

After its closure many grand plans were laid including a proposal to fill the dock. A long term development plan evolved and today the dock is surrounded by modern apartments, supermarkets, multi-plex cinemas, a large gymnasium, drive in fast food outlets,offices and contains a marina. Its large expanse of water and high quays doesn’t exactly make it appear cosy. Over to the east the Pennines can be seen, to the west the flatness of the Fylde creates a big sky. A dual carriageway enables easy access west towards Lytham and Blackpool and a southerly by-pass enables faster access south to the M6, M61 and M65 without travelling through Preston.

Although never a major port, Preston pioneered roll on roll off ferry transport. Albert Edward Dock opened in 1892 – at that time it was the largest single dock in the country. In 1948 the dock was the first to introduce roll on roll off traffic. By the 1960s the port held the record for the handling the largest amount of container and ferry traffic. Traffic reached a peak in 1968, when 500 dockers were employed and 1,437,000 tons of unit load trade passed through the port (16% of the UK total).

Cotton and wood pulp were the most important cargoes landed here. As the size of ships increased, fewer could use the dock. At the same time, the import of traditional cargoes decreased, and the cost of dredging silt from the channel increased. The early post-war advantage of being the pioneer in roll on roll off operations was lost to competing ports which could offer faster turn round time. In the 90 year history of the port, it only made a profit in 17 years.