British Railway History Item
London & North Eastern Railway Darlington Locomotive Works
One of Britain's premier locomotive workshops, Darlington North Road was opened by the Stockton & Darlington Railway and was subsequently owned by the NER, LNER and BR. Today, all that remains is the Locomotive Works clock, mounted on the wall of a supermarket erected on the site in 1980 - 14 years after after the Works closed.
When the Stockton & Darlington line was formally opened in 1825, the locomotive headquarters was at Shildon where Timothy Hackworth struggled to keep the primitive machines in working order. By the 1850s the workshops developed by Hackworth could not manage to keep pace with the locomotives needing repair. In 1854 consideration was given to the future location of improved facilities and by the end of 1857 the necessary land at Darlington had been acquired, plans being prepared by William Bouch, the company's Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent, in 1858.
After many visits to various locomotive workshops, Bouch estimated that by 1891 the Works would need a staff of 1,300 men and would occupy a space of approximately 16 acres. Work commenced on the site in 1860, the offices and workshops being ready for occupation on 1 January 1863, the final cost of land, buildings, offices and machinery being ?34,651 1s 8d. After eighteen months 278 were employed on the site, this figure rising to 339 after a further year, In the 1890s the figure remained constant at around 1,400, a number not too far from Bouch's estimate. Within a few months of opening, from 13 July 1863, the Stockton & Darlington Railway was taken over by its larger neighbour, the North Eastern Railway, the latter becoming part of the London & North Eastern Railway in 1923.
The first locomotive built at Darlington North Road Works was a short wheelbase 0-6-0 turned out in October 1864 with the number 175 and the name 'Contractor'. One of a type favoured by Bouch, engines of a similar design continued to be built until 1875, although attention had turned to 4-4-0 engines in 1871 when Nos 1238-1241 were built, these being followed by Nos 1265-1270 in 1874. Another new design which appeared in 1875 was a 2-4-0 passenger engine of which six were built, the last Bouch design being a batch of four six-coupled side-tanks - an unusual type for the northeast where saddle-tanks were more often found. Between 1871 and 1880, North Road Works built 25 'BTP' 0-4-4 well tanks to a design by Edward Fletcher (Bouch's successor), these being followed in 1877 by four Class 11 2-4-0s. Other designs by Fletcher included standard inside framed 0-6-0s of Class 603 and a six-coupled version of his earlier 'BTP' well-tanks.
Retiring in 1882, Edward Fletcher was succeeded by Alexander McDonnell whose first engines were neat 0-6-0s known as Class 59, their design including a smokebox with a sloping front and the unpopular left-hand drive, a type which lasted well into LNER days.
With the departure of McDonnell there was an urgent need for express passenger motive power and this need was addressed by the formation of a committee under the chairmanship of Harry Tennant, the General Manager. This committee supervised the construction of 20 engines, 10 being built at Gateshead and 10 at North Road, which were a great success although they were soon displaced by locomotives introduced by T.W. Worsdell, the new Locomotive Superintendent.
Worsdell introduced standards which were to serve the North Eastern Railway for the rest of its days - notably double-window cabs on tender engines, closed domes, and Ramsbottom safety valves enclosed in a brass trumpet. At this time, the older Locomotive Works at Gateshead built the most important engines, North Road being left to build only the smaller types, a situation which existed until 1904 when the first large boilered 0-6-0 appeared. These locomotives classified as Class P2 were followed in 1906 by the generally similar Class P3 (LNER Class J27), Darlington building all 35. The first 0-8-0s introduced on the NER were built at Gateshead in 1901 and it was not until 1907 that North Road built the first of 40 Class Tl (LNER Class Q5) engines.
With the run down of Gateshead Works in 1908, North Road built its first large passenger locomotive, the Class R1 (LNER Class D21), not particularly successful, they were followed by ten modified two-cylinder Atlantics which later became LNER Class C6. In 1913, the first of 70 Class T2 (LNER Q6) were turned out, followed in 1919 by the massive Class T3 (LNER Q7) 0-8-Os, the latter remaining in operation until 1962.
Under the superintendency of Raven, 20 large three-cylinder 4-6-2Ts were built of 1910-11, a reversion to two-cylinder propulsion being made with the 20 Class S2 (LNER Class B15) engines, the last locomotives in this series having Uniflow cylinders. Other designs including 35 three-cylinder 4-4-4Ts followed, but it was Raven's Pacifics, the first of which, No 2400, appearing in 1922, that were to be the NER's magnum opus. However, these were to be relatively short-lived, being eventually overshadowed by the Gresley engines of the same wheel arrangement.
At the Grouping in 1923, Class B16 4-6-0s were under construction at North Road Works, being closely followed by a batch of five Class Y7 0-4-0Ts. Concurrently superheated Class J27 0-6-0s were in hand in addition to three more Raven Pacifics which appeared in 1924. Except for five Class T1 4-8-0s, Darlington turned to building locomotives of Gresley design, the first of 60 Class K3 2-6-0s being outshopped in August 1924. Very similar to the 10 locomotives of the same class built at Doncaster, the fitting of a double-window cab considerably altered their appearance.
Other classes produced at Darlington at that time included the Class J38 and Class J39 Class 0-6-0s, but 1926 was the year which saw Darlington's busiest period in LNER days when a total of 52 new engines were constructed - an annual figure not exceeded until the 1950s when 0-6-0 diesel shunters were being built in quantity.
Darlington's first Gresley passenger engine was built in 1927 in the form of Class D49 4-4-0 No 234 Yorkshire, (those intended for use in England were named after the English counties).
In 1929 the unusual Class W1 4-6-4 was being built at North Road, the boiler being constructed and fitted by Yarrow & Co, the Clydeside shipbuilders. Built under much secrecy it was to be become known as the 'Hush-Hush', its most unusual feature being its water tube boiler.
1930s locomotive construction saw the appearance of a total of 23 Class B17 4-6-0s on which work began after the design of the first 10, built by the North British Locomotive Co, had been proven. Two new classes, which appeared in 1937, were the Class V2 2-6-2 and the Class V4 2-6-0s.
The years of World War 2 saw Darlington Works involved in the manufacture of 18-pounder shrapnel shells along with a variety of bombs. Also during the war'8F' 2-8-Os were built at Darlington.
After the war other classes built were Class L1 2-6-4Ts and 12 Peppercorn Class A1 Pacifics, LMS pattern '4MT' 2-6-0s, LMS and BR '2MT' 2-6-0s, BR 2-6-2Ts, the last of which was built in 1957.
The works closed in 1966.
Route: Leave Darlington Bank Top Station by the approach road running north. Turn left at the bottom into Parkgate and continue into Tubwell Row. Turn right at the top into Northgate and continue into North Road. The works entrance is on the left-hand side nearly a mile further on, just past Whessoe Road.
Walking time 20 minutes.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference - NZ28831604
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Map Scale 10000 : Map Scale 25000
Last Updated : Tuesday 24th June 2003 18:50