No. 51 - p155-159





    Sid Barnes' excellent drawing of ROCKET on page 292 of RECORD 44 has prompted me to write in with some additional information. When new in 1829, ROCKET was sent in sections by road from Robert Stephenson's works at Newcastle across country to the canal basin at Carlisle from where it was shipped to Liverpool. After its success at the Rainhill trials, it took up work on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. By 1836 it was a very much altered ROCKET which was surplus to requirements, being too light and low‑powered for the traffic of the day. The cylinders were now almost horizontal, compared with their previous steeply inclined position. A smokebox had been fitted together with a new chimney and a much more substantial tender. Its association with Lord Carlisle and the Brampton Railway began in the autumn of 1836 when James Thompson, the Agent for Lord Carlisle's collieries and farms, suggested that a great saving would be made if a locomotive were to replace the horses used between the collieries and the head of the self‑acting incline at Hallbankgate. Letters in the Estate papers show that Lord Carlisle sent his Steward, John Ramshay, to the Bolton & Leigh and Liverpool & Manchester Railways to enquire whether they had any light locomotives for sale. The outcome was the purchase of ROCKET (in October 1836 according to L&MR records) which was shipped back in dismantled condition to Carlisle. From there it was taken to Lord Carlisle's Kirkhouse works for re‑erection and, according to recorded verbal statements made by the Thompson family, was set to work in April 1837. When James Thompson took over Lord Carlisle's collieries and railways in 1838, page 19 of the Lease listed "1 locomotive Enging [sic] at Mack Dolls Hole and Tender," the valuation being £150. (Mack Dolls Hole was near Tindale on the line between Hallbankgate and Midgeholme.) ROCKET worked until 1840 when traffic became too heavy for its limited hauling power. Sid Barnes records its subsequent movements, and I would echo his plea for information on its whereabouts between 1851 and 1862. I should also be pleased to have confirmation of my opinion that the Brampton Railway operated the first industrial long-boiler locomotive (built at Kirkhouse) for a drawing of such an engine, signed by James Thompson and dated February 1845, is in my possession.




    There are some discrepancies between the text and the illustrations to this article in RECORD 44, page 286. Leon Serpollet (1858 - 1907) did indeed produce a design of flash boiler in 1887, but this was a rather odd affair hardly suited to locomotive work. The Hydroleum boiler was almost certainly based on his later practice of building up a boiler from rectangular flat elements, each being bent up from a single tube. However, it would appear that the Hydroleum boiler was not a flash boiler but a semi-flash boiler consisting of a Serpollet tube layout connected to a small steam and water drum. Such an arrangement would possess the reserve of power absent in a true flash boiler without losing the considerable advantages of the latter over a conventional boiler.

    I have yet to see an illustration of a Hydroleum locomotive fitted with a single-acting engine as described in the text. The examples illustrated in the article are plainly fitted with two‑cylinder double-acting engines with Stephenson valve gear and slide valves, presumably similar to the engines used in Serpollet's steam trams. Serpollet did produce four‑cylinder single-acting engines, but these were intended for automotive applications where fluctuating steam demands on a flash boiler can result in excessive steam temperatures under certain conditions. With a semi‑flash boiler in a locomotive there would be no need for such engines. One can only assume that confusion has arisen between the single-acting design and the later double-acting poppet-valve engine which replaced all previous Serpollet designs and may therefore have been used in later Hydroleum locomotives. One good reason for avoiding the single-acting Serpollet engines was that they were only made in horizontally-opposed or V‑4 formation and would not fit into the chassis as neatly as a normal horizontal engine. Another possible explanation is that some of the smaller locomotives were fitted with an engine similar to that used in the Jung "Troll" compressed-air locomotive, which was a four‑cylinder poppet-valve unit of more normal design; again, however, photographic evidence appears to be lacking.

    Serpollet's untimely death in 1907 removed from the scene a gifted engineer who had made a great contribution to steam technology and might have achieved much more in an age when the developing petrol engine acted as a spur, rather than a muzzle, to established forms of power.




    This article and earlier correspondence in the RECORD suggest that very little is known of the Hydroleum Company, whose brave attempts at improving the industrial steam locomotive deserve to have been more fully recorded. It seems to be well established that the company did not build any locomotives itself, but sublet its orders to German firms. Nonetheless, it was a British Company, with an office in London. A fair amount of information about its activities during its brief life is available in the records of the Patent Office Library, the source of the following account.

    The Hydroleum Company seems to have been formed about 1901, for the first mention of it I have found is in patent 484 of 7th January 1902, awarded to P. Davies and the Hydroleum Company for a method for purifying tar. Davies was apparently one of the founders of the firm, for most of its patents were taken out jointly with him, but I do not know exactly what connection he had with the Company. Indeed, beyond his address (Spencer House, West Hill Road, Southfields, Wimbledon) I know nothing about him. The Hydroleum Company's address was given in all patents as 323, High Holborn.

    I have already mentioned that the Company does not appear to have manufactured anything. Its object appears to have been to exploit the inventions of Davies and as the name implies these were mainly concerned with oil‑fired steam engines. The patent mentioned above is well out of the main stream of the company's interests and was presumably taken out merely as a promising sideline. Davies's interest in oil‑fired engines dated back to 1898, when he took out two patents jointly with a couple of Yorkshiremen, B. Woodcock and E. Oddy, both of Cleckheaton. The first of these (6703 of 19th March) was for an oil burner consisting of concentric oil and steam pipes, and the other (14791 of 5th July) for a combustion chamber for use with this or other burners.

    The patents which most concern us were taken out between 1902 and 1904. After the formation of the Company, Davies first turned his attention to the design of high speed single-acting steam engines, for which he and the Company took out a patent in 1902 (8964 of 17th April). In this first design pistons were to be arranged radially around the crankshaft, the simplest form consisting of two diametrically opposed cylinders although a larger four cylinder version was shown in the specification. Steam was to be admitted by cam‑operated valves, the cams being moved along their shafts to bring an alternative contour against the valve rods for reversing. Exhaust was on the uniflow principle, through ports in the cylinder walls uncovered by the pistons. The pistons were much longer than usual and were to be an easy fit in the cylinders so that a film of steam would lubricate them.

    A more conventional design was patented in 1904 (14361 of 25th June), with four cylinders side by side supported above an enclosed crankcase. Steam was supplied to ports in the top cylinder covers, again by balls operated by sliding cams, and as before exhaust was through ports uncovered by the pistons. Arrangements were made for condensate to escape at the bottom of each cylinder, and for oil to be recovered. The specification described this engine as being suitable for road vehicles and locomotives, and it was presumably the form used in the Hydroleum locomotives although I doubt whether the tandem compound version also described was ever built.

    Davies was also interested in water-tube boilers, and took out a patent in 1902 (9053 of 18th April). In this instance a third party was involved, and in addition to Davies and the Hydroleum Company the patent was awarded to A. Ross of 98, High Street, Fulham. Ross had been an associate of Davies some years earlier and the two of them had taken out patent 12534 of 15th June 1899 for a water-tube boiler. In this design two headers, one vertically above the other, were connected by zig‑zag pipes arranged in banks and contained in a similarly-shaped passage through refractory material.

    A locomotive could clearly not carry about a great mass of firebrick, and the boiler of 1902 was far better suited to locomotive purposes. The patent specification implied that it was a development from the earlier type, but the relationship was distant. A flat-sided vertical header was divided into two compartments by a horizontal partition, and the two were connected externally by C‑shaped tubes. A horizontal steam drum above the tubes was connected to the upper end of the header and a return pipe joined the other end of this drum to the bottom of the header to improve circulation. Either liquid or solid fuel could be used but the Hydroleum Company would obviously recommend oil if possible.

    Davies already had his 1898 oil burner for use with this boiler, but he soon produced improved versions. On 17th September 1903 he patented (20059) a laminated combustion chamber made of refractory material and containing vertical L‑shaped bars resting on a fireclay base in which water tubes were embedded. He also took out two patents (27361 and 27362 of 14th December 1903) independently of the Hydroleum Company but in partnership with F.P. Davies of the same address in Southfields. The first of these described an improved oil burner and the second was concerned with arrangements for providing air or steam for use with oil burners.

    I have not found any reference to the Hydroleum Company after the patent of June 1904 and assume that it must have closed down shortly afterwards. At that time, however, it could have designed locomotives very largely covered by its patents, using high speed single-acting engines and water-tube boilers fired with the Davies oil burner.

    A complication arises from the patent records for 1903. Patent 19612 of 11th September was awarded to the Hydroleum Motor Company of 24, Holborn, and J. Badger of Hythe Road, Willesden Junction, for improvements to water tube boilers. This was evidently a quite separate company, for the Hydroleum Company was still at 323, High Holborn in the next year. (Badger was a prolific inventor who appears frequently in the patent records about that time.) However, it seems to have closed down about the same time as the Hydroleum Company itself, for the last mention I have found of the Motor Company is in patents 27877 (fluid pressure engines) and 27878 (metallic packing) of 20th December 1904, both of which were abandoned. Was it perhaps a subsidiary Company specialising in road vehicles?




    Frank Jones' list of well tank builders should include Sharp Stewart and Bagnall, the latter supplying two locomotives (2618 and 2662 of 1942) to Glasgow Corporation Gas Department which were similar to the Sharp Stewart well tank illustrated on page 305 of RECORD 45. They look like examples of their inverted saddle tanks (or wing tanks) but what appear to be the tanks are in fact large sandboxes! The well tank between the frames held 22 gallons of water, as on the Sharp Stewarts.





    The tip wagon body illustrated on page 314 of RECORD 45 is of Fowler manufacture. Reference to the catalogue recently reprinted by the Society will confirm that Fowler bodies had the distinctive turned lip and that Fowler's emblem was the rising sun. Owners of Burrell traction engines inform me that the device is actually the setting sun!




    Further to the article on page 316 of RECORD 45, Motor Rail 544 and 580 (built 1918) are reported as in the ownership of "Union Miniere, Athens" in October 1923. These were both 60cm gauge 40hp Protected Locomotives originally supplied to the War Department Light Railways and numbered LR 2265 and LR 2301 respectively. Baguley (Engineers) Ltd 1403 of 1924 was a 75cm gauge 8hp "Alpha" trolley built for the Drewry Car Company and despatched to the Societe Miniere Lokris" on 11th November 1924.




    As noted on page 324 of RECORD 45, the loco conversion by Chivers & Sons Ltd apparently was noteworthy as a pioneer in a field where the main line railway companies usually claimed the credit. The Tilling-Stevens drive was, I think, successful as used in motor-buses (at Maidstone, for example), but was heavy and expensive. East Anglian readers may be aware of similar units, utilising Ford parts, and made by Lake & Elliot Ltd of Braintree. One of these is stated to have replaced a steam locomotive (costing £2,500) in 1923. Development of this was continued by Ransomes & Rapier Ltd and the British Thomson-Houston Co Ltd about 1930 but was later suspended.



    (We shall be pleased to hear from anyone with information on the Lake & Elliot locomotives. Tilling's works were at Maidstone. - Hon Eds)

    Is it coincidental that the design of the chassis, running gear and canopy of the Chivers' locomotives illustrated on pages 324 and 325 of RECORD 45 is identical with that of Thomas Robinson's MARY illustrated on page 146 of RECORD 39? Did Charles Lack & Sons perhaps purchase the chassis of these locomotives from Robinson?



    (Peter Excell, author of the Histon Jam Factory article, has also remarked on the superficial resemblance of the Chivers' locomotives to MARY. - TJL)


    With reference to page 335 of RECORD 45, No.200 was not the first locomotive built by the Motor Rail & Tramcar Co Ltd. This is the earliest number in their current records, and probably represents the beginning of mass-production for the War Office, but there is plenty of evidence that locomotives had been built with lower works numbers. I have examined a drawing which refers to Nos. 147 and 148 and if the dimensions given thereon are to be believed these did not have the Dorman 2JO engine that was subsequently fitted as standard. Indeed, it seems that the 20hp Simplex did not reach its final form (with a strong steel buffer beam in place of the original wooden one and altered wheelbase and ballast weights) until the appearance of No.214 in mid‑1916. It is likely that several locomotives known to have been used in France by the ROD during 1916, and which carried running numbers that do not correspond to any official series, were in fact early deliveries numbered below 200.

    The early history of Motor Rail is still very mysterious, but having examined photographs taken outside the old Lewes works I think I can throw a bit more light on the subject. Vehicles built at Lewes carried a works plate with the same wording as those on WDLR locomotives, i.e. giving the Lombard Street, London, address, but with the addition of "SIMPLEX PATENTS" across the centre of the plate. I believe that the firm was associated with the builders of the Dutch "Simplex" inspection trollies before World War One and that the name "Simplex" was at first applied to railcars only. The locomotives were a private venture by Mr Abbott and may at first have been called "Dixon-Abbott" locomotives: a few Simplex locomotives so inscribed have been recorded (for example, at Jefford & Sons Ltd, Saltash) and these may have been the survivors of prototype batches numbered below 200. When the demand for locomotives outgrew the capacity of the Lewes works, assembly was sub‑contracted to the Bedford Engineering Co Ltd, manufacture of other components being undertaken by various firms in the Bedford area. Not until the placing of still larger orders at the end of 1917, in particular Indent LR 10674, did MR&T undertake their own assembly. An extension of this order refers specifically to the fact that the locomotives were to be built in their own works and not by Bedford Engineering, from which it appears that the Elstow Road premises were purchased in late 1917. A statistical plot of locomotive deliveries suggests that the first locomotive built at Elstow Road was Motor Rail 842, despatched on 28th March 1918. Technically, therefore, only a handful of locomotives built prior to that date were Motor Rail products and the majority would be correctly described as Bedford-Engineering locomotives.

    From the chain of events just described it seems that MR&T only leased the works at Lewes and relinquished them as soon as they received the large WDLR orders in 1916; Elstow Road being the first (and only) works ever owned by the company. I think that the unravelling of the origins of Motor Rail between 1909 and 1918 would be a valuable and important contribution to railway history.




    A list of locomotives built by Robert Stephenson & Co Ltd in my possession confirms part of the editorial footnote on page 348 of RECORD 46. The list, corrected in 1927 by the builders themselves, gives works number 2381 of 1880 as SODIUM, and 2554 of 1885 as ALFRED. Both were stated to have been built for the Newcastle Chemical Co Ltd. Also, slightly varying dimensions are quoted - 2381 had 3ft 6in wheels and 15in by 18in cylinders but 2554 had 3ft 5½in wheels and 13in by 18in cylinders. This would seem to confirm that the drawings on pages 346 and 347 do depict ALFRED, as suggested, and not SODIUM, as indicated on the original in the Society collection.




    On 3rd May 1973 during a visit to Pagottan factory (see page 93 of RECORD 49) I was able to examine locomotives 6 and 7 which had just been repainted green for the start of the campaign the following day. The gear casings were still intact between the inner and outer axles, and by intermeshing his fingers the engineer overcame the language difficulty in explaining to me the Luttermöller system of articulation employed. During my tour I noted a further Orenstein & Koppel Luttermöller 0‑10‑0 at Kebonagung factory, near Malang.

    Indonesia has 55 operational sugar factories, mostly with at least five steam locomotives, although Ngadiredjo factory has about thirty. The majority work only three months each year, so with nine months for maintenance and no money for replacements steam locos should last for some years. Not all cane railways, however, are steam operated. Bullocks are used at Krian factory, near Surabaja, where a pair of beasts is able to handle four loaded cane wagons.