Vulcan Foundry Ltd – 120 Years On

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Yes, I know it actually pre-dates 1898, by almost 70 years, and was there as a driving force of Britain’s industrial revolution, and global industrialisation.  The railway workshops and foundries had been established some years earlier, in 1830, by Charles Tayleur of Liverpool, who was joined in 1832 by Robert Stephenson.  As Tayleur & Stephenson, working from the foundry at Newton-le-Willows, almost alongside the Liverpool to Manchester Railway.

 

 

0-4-0 Tayleur

The first steam locomotive to be built at the Vulcan Foundry, and intended for use on the North Union Railway.

Indian Railways 4-4-0 at Liverpool

An early Vulcan product destined for India – a 4-4-0 being loaded aboard ship at Liverpool (Photo: RPB Collection)

In 1847 the name was changed to the Vulcan Foundry Company, but Robert Stephenson had left, and Tayleur appointed another famous engineer – Henry Dubs – as Works Manager.  Charles Tayleur had also acquired a new partner, George Samuel Sanderson, and with Charles and Edward Tayleur they opened the Bank Quay Foundry, a stone’s throw from what is now one of Warrington’s railway stations.

The Bank Quay Foundry was equally as notable as the Vulcan works, and was responsible for building the world’s first iron tea clipper – the “Tayleur”, together with hydraulic presses used to construct the Stephenson designed ‘Britannia Tubular Bridge’.  As a separate undertaking, the Warrington foundry closed only 7 years later in 1854.

Vulcan Foundry family tree

The ‘organogram’ included in the GEC Diesels short publication describing the story of the Vulcan works at Newton-le-Willows

This world famous company was formally established as Vulcan Foundry Ltd in 1898, based at Newton-le-Willows, almost alongside the Liverpool to Manchester Railway, and within a short distance of  the principal Anglo-Scottish main railway line.  The diagram above shows some of the key connections between Vulcan, its acquistion – almost 60 years later – by English Electric of Preston, and on to form part of the GEC Traction empire.

 

By the time Vulcan Foundry Ltd was formed in 1898, the company had already built over 1500 steam locomotives, beginning with a pair of 0-4-0s (No.1 Tayleur, and No.2 Stephenson) for the North Union Railway, and a Mr Hargreaves.  The first locos built in 1898 were for the East Indian Railway – 16 x 0-6-0 types.  The same year saw another 4 orders for India, 1 for Uganda and 1 for Ireland.

 

From 1898 to the outbreak of the First World War Vulcan had supplied the same number of steam engines, as it had in its first 60 years of existence, clearly demonstrating the huge growth in both railways and locomotive building.  During hostilities – in both First and Second World Wars, Vulcans supplied military hardware, including tanks and munitions, demonstrating the ability and capability of its workforce.

Vulcan Foundry Advert - 1952 Rly Gazette

A typical advertisement for Vulcan Foundry from the 1958 edition of the “Directory of Railway Officials & Year Book”

The inter-war era – the 1920s and 1930s depression – saw a reversal of the country’s manufacturing growth, job losses and near commercial failure.  This was repeated with Vulcan’s competitor’s, such as the giant North British Loco. Co., although orders from the British Colonies – especially India – continued to be won.  This together with its early foray into non-steam traction, with A/S Frichs of Denmark, and a partnership with English Electric for diesel traction kept the company going.

That partnership with English Electric proved a major success and from 1945 onwards, the company’s construction of non-steam types continued to grow.  This was especially encouraged by the BR “Moderinsation & Re-Equipment Programme” of the 1950s, and the UK’s first 2000hp diesel type was built at Newton-le-Willows in 1958.

Vulcan Foundry - "wheeling" a Class 40

“Wheeling” an English Electric Type 4 (BR Class 40) at Vulcan Foundry, and slightly hidden to the right is one of the electric locos built for South African Railways during the 1950s.

At that time of course, Vulcan Foundry was becoming part of the EE Co. empire, and having been in at the start of the railway revolution and steam traction, it was also building ‘firsts’ towards the end of its independent existence.  The company’s last order was for a 500hp diesel shunter for ICI’s Northwich Works in Cheshire in 1980 – a long way from some of the most powerful  steam, diesel and electric locomotives that emerged from the Newton-le-Willows works and desptached around the world.

By 1980, the Vulcan works had been in the railway engineering business for 148 years – not a bad record!

Well Worth a watch:

These two films were made in 1954, and show the work in all areas of the Vulcan works at Newton-le-Willows – this was typical not just of Vulcan Foundry, but of the heavy engineering industry in Britain at that time.  Sadly all gone now.

 Vulcan ad logo

Vulcan Foundry 1954 (Part 1)

Vulcan Foundry 1954 (Part 2)

Useful Links:

Newton Heritage – Vulcan Foundry

 

 

Watch this space for more Vulcan info to come …..

-oOo-

 

 

 

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