Leeds Engine:Today: Hunslet

Hunslet – the Engine Building Neighbourhood

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Shepherd & Todd / E. B.Wilson’s Railway Foundry
The Shepherd & Todd partership also didn’t last very long as Todd departed to set up another firm, The Sun Foundry on Dewsbury road. Todd's place at the Railway Foundry was then taken by Edward Brown Wilson.
E. B.Wilson recruited David Joy, another apprentice from Fenton, Murray and Jackson. With Joy's skills as designer The Railway Foundry produced successful, fairly standardised designs of engines for many early railways, most notably the famous Jenny Lind class. Their method of producing engines speculatively meant they were able to supply locos quickly, just what was needed as the railways went through their greatest boom of ‘the railway mania’. The old mill buildings had very soon proved inadequate and the Railway Foundry expanded considerably. At one time E.B Wilson’s plant was the largest engine builders in the country. The firm closed in 1858 after a dispute between E.B.Wilson and his stockholders resulted in chancery action. Plans to sell off the whole site failed and in the end the site was split up in to smaller lots and sold off separately, this lead to a number of separate companies building locos in and around E.B Wilson’s site. Hunslet became a neighbourhood of engine builders and a scene of sometimes bitter and sometimes friendly competition. The map below shows the area in 1906

Compare this map with more recent ariel photography from Google Maps
The first Railway Foundry works which can be seen in the centre of the map, the quadrangle as it became known, survived as stores for many years after it had been superseded by newer buildings, though it was in a very dilapidated state. All that remains to this day is an archway on Pearson Street through which locomotives would have emerged from the old Railway Foundry.

Several books have been published about the Leeds engine building industry, a list is displayed in the Links and Further Reading section.

External Website Links
This site features a comprehensive list of loco manufacturers and includes greater detail about the history of the local firms
Hunslet Remembered's section about the locomotive building industry and about steam road vehicle manufacture
The current Hunslet Engine Company website

This article was produced by Kris Ward, any feedback or contributions about the Leeds engine making industry would be greatly appreciated.

Page last modified: 20 June 2021

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