If ever a line was ‘ the wrong side of the tracks’ it’s the Middleton Railway. There’s something rather obtuse about a city, with a locomotive building, and railway pioneering, pedigree second to none, choosing to ignore one of the most historic pieces of railway in the country / world – the first to be sanctioned, as such, by Parliament, in 1758.
If we move on from the claim of being home to the world’s oldest railway, to Leeds’ locomotive building credentials, there are some equally important historic and pioneering companies, along with the attendant engineers. David Joy was one such engineer – Joy, along with his boss at the Railway Foundry, James Fenton, designed ‘Jenny Lind’ for the London Brighton Railway, whilst working for Shepherd & Todd, who were successors to Todd, Kitson Laird. However, The names most people will know and recognise are those of the Hunslet Engine Co., Manning Wardle, Hudswell Clarke, and Fowler. Locomotives built by these companies, worked on railways of all gauges, in countries around the globe, in Asian jungles, African deserts and Caribbean plantations, little plates carried the legend ‘Built in Leeds’.
The old school bit is that, at Grammar school, I was allocated to ‘Murray’ house. Murray and Blenkinsop built the steam locomotives which were operating, commercially, on the Middleton Railway, aka Charles Brandlings’ Colliery Railway, in 1812. The large white tower in the left background of the picture is Leeds University and students and staff from there helped to save the Middleton from extinction in 1960 – they even (re)opened the line before the, ‘much more well known’ Bluebell Railway, who claim to be the first Standard gauge line in preservation.
The picture, a scan from one of my old colour photographs, shows Hartmann 0-4-0WTNo.385 – this engine isn’t from Leeds – it was built by a German company and worked in Denmark, however, the little 0-4-0ST banking, and making all the smoke, is Leeds built. The banking engine is Mirvale, a 1955 vintage 0-4-0ST from Hudswell Clarke, delivered, new, to the Mirvale Chemical Company, in Mirfield, where she worked until 1964.
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