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British Railway History Item


London & North Eastern Railway Gorton Locomotive Works

Constructed for the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway Company in 1848, the Locomotive Works at Gorton, Manchester covered a total of 30 acres. In their early years the Works were kept too busy with repairs for the construction of new locomotives to be considered and by1854 the motive power requirements of some railways temporarily exceeded the capacity of builders to complete all their orders. At that time the MS&L urgently needed capital to extend its capacity at Gorton so the company decided to sell off five of its newest goods locomotives to raise the necessary funds. During the last six months of 1863 repairs were completed on 103 locomotives, 281 carriages, 2,988 wagons and 2 steamboats and it was not until 1865 that the annual output of new locomotives reached double figures.

Bounding the western side of the site at Gorton were the carriage and wagon shops which were capable of taking 38 carriages on the upper floor and 50 wagons on the ground floor, the former being raised and lowered by a self-acting hoist powered by a stationary engine. Adjacent to these were the trimming and saddlery room and parallelling the main line was the paint shop which also contained accommodation for reserve rolling stock. The four sections used as the locomotive workshops were served by a transverser which also served the carnage and wagon shops.

From 1897 the premises came under the auspices of the Great Central Railway, which in 1899 had begun to operate express passenger services on its newly opened extension to London. Initially the principal expresses were light, some operating with only four bogie coaches. The GCR's then Locomotive Superintendent, Harry Pollitt, was succeeded in 1900 by J.G. Robinson, a Great Western Railway trained engineer, who soon realised that more powerful motive power would be needed. In 1901 he introduced the first of his Class 11B 4-4-Os which were similar to Pollitt's earlier Class 11A, having a slightly longer firebox and larger boiler. These locomotives, becoming Class D9 under the LNER, operated much of the passenger traffic over the former Cheshire Lines Committee routes, for which the GCR, and later the LNER, provided motive power.

The next express passenger locomotive types to emerge from Gorton Works in 1903 were the Robinson Atlantic and 4-6-0 locomotives with outside cylinders and outside slide valves worked by Stephenson's link motion, as used on all of his locomotives. Both classes gave good results, a further 25 Atlantics being constructed by 1906. Nicknamed 'Jersey Lilies' after a celebrated Edwardian beauty, they were elegant machines in their Brunswick green livery with claret coloured splashers. Four additional Atlantics, this time three-cylinder compounds were built at the end of 1905. These machines, both simple and compound, were for many years the mainstay of passenger working from Leicester motive power depot, where they were used on expresses to London, Sheffield and Manchester.

The next new passenger type to emerge from Gorton was the 'Sir Sam Fay' locomotive, six being constructed between 1912-13. These large inside-cylindered 4-6-0s were powerful and impressive and having 50% more adhesive weight than the Atlantics, they were more at home climbing severe grades with heavy trains. However, not all was well with these machines. The relatively short connecting rods transmitting thrust from their inclined cylinders, resulting in heavy wear on the driving axleboxes. This problem was later overcome by reducing the diameter of the cylinders from 21 ii2in to 20in. Another problem encountered on this class was the limited clearance of only 7in between the bottom of the firegrate and a sleeve which carried the trailing coupled axle where it passed through the ashpan. On continuous long runs this feature meant that part of the ashpan could become blocked with the knock on effect of reducing the area through which air for combustion was drawn.

While the works were still constructing the last of the 'Sir Sam Fay' 4-6-Os, the design department was completing the drawings for the celebrated Class 11E, the 'Director' class 4-4-Os. These superheated 4-4-Os were a shortened version of the 'Sir Sam Fay' type with the boiler diameter reduced by 3in and its length by 5ft. The problems of ashpan blockage were reduced and gave a virtually unrestricted ashpan for the full length of the firegrate. As with all Robinson designed locomotives, the short valve-travel and steam lap with large diameter piston valves and steam ports made the 'Directors' free running. After the Grouping Gresley was so impressed with the performance of the 'Directors' that he ordered a further 24 of the later Class D11 series for use on the former North British routes in Scotland.

To meet the demands of heavy wartime passenger traffic in 1917, Robinson introduced the prototype four-cylinder 4-6-0 Class 9P 'Lord Faringdon'. With a maximum tractive effort which was 10% greater than the 'Sir Sam Fays', this was in effect a four-cylinder version of that class. However, the rear ashpan constriction remained, although in the 38 similar 4-6-0 locomotives built between 1921 and 1924 the problem was resolved by reducing the coupled wheels to 5ft 8in, a feature which enabled the clearance over the trailing coupled axle sleeve in a deeper ashpan to be doubled. Five more 'Lord Faringdons' were built in 1920, including the GC Memorial Locomotive Valour. These machines did some extremely good work in the 1930s between Marylebone and Leicester on the tightly timed 'Newspaper Express'. Between 1929 and 1938, Gresley converted four members of the class to Craprotti poppet valve gear, a feature which greatly reduced their coal consumption.

With the arrival of newer Gresley machines on former GCR lines between 1936 and 1939 many of the Robinson types were displaced from most principal expresses and the arrival of Thompson 'B1' 4-6-Os between 1948 and 1950 marked the end of the GCR Atlantic and 4-6-0 classes. At the time the LNER was formed, Gorton Works had constructed a total of 921 locomotives, which, in addition to the aforementioned classes, included the Class A5' Pacific Tanks, Class J11 0-6-Os, Class 04 2-8-Os and Class N5 0-6-2Ts.

The last steam locomotive constructed at Gorton was Class B1 4-6-0 No 61349 in 1949. This engine brought the total number of locomotives built to 1,006.

During the early 1950s, Gorton had a total workforce of 2,724 who were mainly employed on locomotive repairs and the manufacture of a variety of new parts. In addition to the repair of steam locomotives, Gorton manufactured and assembled the mechanical parts for a total of 64 electric locomotives for the Pennine route from Manchester to Sheffield, via Woodhead Tunnel, electrification of which had been finally completed in 1952. These were the Class EM2 27XXX passenger and Class EM1 26XXX freight locomotives, the last to be constructed, No 27006, leaving the works in 1954. Upon the formation of the BR Workshops Division in 1962 much of Gorton's workload was transferred to Doncaster and by 1963 the works had closed.

In 1965 followed the closure of the Carriage & Wagon works and today a supermarket stands on the site.

Route: Turn left outside Gorton and Openshaw station into Lees Street, left into Ogden Lane and left again into Cornwall Street. The works entrance is on the right-hand side.

Walking time 10 minutes.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference - SJ88609700
View Location with Multimap

Map Scale 10000 : Map Scale 25000

Last Updated : Tuesday 5th July 2011 12:29

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