Histories: Hunslet: Kerr Stuart

Kerr Stuart - a brief history

Kerr Stuart & Co were formed in 1883 by James Kerr, who had by that stage been in a few engineering partnerships (including with his brother John who would go on to form Dick, Kerr & Co) and banker John Stuart. They had offices in London and Glasgow and initially acted as agents rather than manufacturers. One of the firms that carried out a number of order for Kerr, Stuart & Co were Hartley & Arnox Bros of the California works in Stoke on Trent. By purchasing this company in 1892 Kerr, Stuart & Co became a locomotive manufacturer.

Like many of the independant locomotive manufacturers, Kerr Stuart favoured a series of standard designs. With their earlier experience being largely in supplying light railway material as agents, it was light railway locomotives that provided much of their business.

Type Description Photo
Argentina SG 0-6-0T
Brazil NG 0-4-2ST Click here to view photo representing this engine.
Buya NG 0-4-0T
Darwin NG 0-4-2ST Click here to view photo representing this engine.
Haig NG 0-6-0T
Huxley NG 0-4-2T
Joffre NG 0-6-0T Click here to view photo representing this engine.
La Manada SG 4-4-0
Matary / Barreto NG 0-6-2T
Moss Bay SG 0-4-0ST Click here to view photo representing this engine.
Priestley SG 0-4-0WT
Rugeley SG 0-6-0ST
Sirdar NG 0-4-0T Click here to view photo representing this engine.
Skylark NG 0-4-2T
Tatoo NG 0-4-2T Click here to view photo representing this engine.
Victory SG 0-6-0T
Waterloo NG 0-4-2T
Witch SG 0-4-0ST
Wren NG 0-4-0T Click here to view photo representing this engine.

Leeds based light railway equipment supplier Robert Hudson offered the Wren, Tattoo, Darwin, Haig, Brazil and Matary class locos in their catalogues following the end of a previous deal with Hudswell Clarke in 1929.[2]

With 163 examples built the little Wren class engines were Kerr Stuart's biggest seller. They were a development of the similar Buya class with the addition of a basic cab and taller chimney.[3]

Of course the company weren't going to turn work away if one of their standard designs didn't fit the bill and there are plenty of examples of orders being undertaken for main line railways. In the UK orders were received for 50 of the LMS's Class 4Fs and 25 of the GWR's 57XX class[4]. Narrow gauge locos were supplied to the Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway in Northern Ireland, the Gwalior Light Railway in India and several other systems that weren't amongst the industrial railways that formed the bulk of their works.

Above - South African NG4 class No 16, KS 1344 at Sandstone Estate in 2019 (Photo - Kris Ward)

A couple of examples of articulated engines were produced including a pair of permanently coupled 0-4-2T engines for Madras and a Meyer 0-6-0+0-6-0 for Chile. One of the largest designs produced was four 4-2-2 express passenger locos for the Shanghai Nanking Railway.

Experiments were made in to high pressure geared locomotives by Kyrle Willans who had previously worked on Sentinel locomotives. Subsequently early diesel locomotives were developed with the same chain driven chassis powered by a McLaren-Benz engine with 30, 60 and 90 HP versions offered. The first, 60 HP example KS 4415 of 1928, was tested on the Welsh Highland Railway.[4] After work in Ireland and Mauritius it ended up back on the adjoining Ffestiniog Railway.[5]

The company also ventured in to lorry design, also utilising McLaren engines. After thorough testing of a prototype the production examples were beginning to emerge.[4]

Kerr Stuart had been involved in a failed attempt to establish locomotive manufacturing in India under the name "Peninsular Locomotive Co Ltd" in a scheme by the Indian government to encourage local manufacturing. They were also involved in another failed scheme to develop a new type of door under the name Evo Doors Ltd. In 1930 their own bankers appointed receivers. With a downturn across the industry there were a number of firms collapsing at the time and no buyer to carry on the Kerr Stuart business.[1] The designs and goodwill were bought by the Hunslet Engine Co who undertook many repeat orders of Kerr Stuart designs but these were in their own works in Leeds, the Stoke site was sold on to other industrial uses and nothing remains of the works today.

Taking on the goodwill of Kerr Stuart saw Hunslet Engine Co supplying many locomotives through Robert Hudson, the Kerr Stuart designs remained in the Hudson catalogues together with Hunslet's own diesel designs. The last industrial steam locomotive built in Britain, Trangkil No 4, Hunslet 3902 of 1971 was built to Kerr Stuart's Brazil design.
Below - Kerr Stuart designed but Hunslet built, the last industrial steam loco built in Britain, HE 3902 of 1971 Trangkil No4 (Photo Andrew Johnson)

Altough outside the Leeds area we have looked through various sources for order details relating to Kerr Stuart given their connection to Leeds firms Hunslet and Robert Hudson.
Kerr Stuart order details in our database.
This produces a very long list of entries and it is advisable to narrow the search using the other fields in the search. Please note that if one of the boxed reads "Any Leeds built item" then "Any item (inc non Leeds)" should be selected instead to produce results of this firm or others outside Leeds with which local firms have a connection.
External Website Links
Industrial Railway Society article about the Wren class.[3]
Ffestipedia page about KS 4415[5]

Kerr Stuart & Co Ltd, Locomotive Works List, Frank Jux, Industrial Locomotive Society[1]
Robert Hudson catalogues[2]
Landscape With Machines, L.T.C.Rolt, ISBN 978 0 7509 7016 7[4]
If you would like any further details, have any comments on the above page or have any information I could use to improve this site please contact me by e-mail: K Ward your contributions will help us develop this site