Horwich Loco Works

December 2013 - Explored with Kenni

Horwich works was built on 142 hectares of land bought in April 1884 for £36,000. Rivington House, the first of several workshops was 106.7m long by 16.8m wide and opened in February 1887. The long brick built workshops had full-height arched windows and were separated by tram and rail tracks. Work to construct the three bay, 463.3m long by 36m wide, erecting shop began in March 1885. Inside were 20 overhead cranes.

An 18-inch (460 mm) gauge railway, with approximately 7.5 miles (12.1 km) of track was built to carry materials around the works complex, modelled on a similar system at Crewe Works on the London and North Western Railway. Two small 0-4-0 tank locomotives were bought from Beyer Peacock in 1887 to haul stores trains around the site, and six more were acquired at intervals to 1901. The first of these was bought from Beyer Peacock, but the remainder were built at Horwich. From 1930 they were gradually withdrawn from service, the last, Wren, (a Beyer Peacock engine) was withdrawn in 1961 and is preserved at the National Railway Museum.

The first locomotive built by the LYR at Horwich was a 2-4-2 tank engine designed by John Aspinall. This locomotive was LYR No. 1008 and is now preserved at the National Railway Museum. By 1899 a further 677 locomotives had been built, and another 220 under Henry Hoy. Between 1891 and 1900, 230 0-6-0 tender engines designed by Barton Wright were rebuilt as 0-6-0ST saddle tanks, LYR Class F16. In 1899, the Aspinall-designed 'Atlantic' 4-4-2 express passenger locomotive was introduced and forty had been completed by 1902. Horwich works produced its thousandth engine in 1907, a four cylinder compound 0-8-0.

In 1923 when the railway became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, its Chief Mechanical Engineer was George Hughes. In 1926 he was responsible for the design of a 2-6-0 mixed traffic locomotive of unusual appearance, which became known as the "Horwich Crab." The class proved extremely successful, and 245 locomotives were built, 70 at Horwich, including the first 30 examples. The "Crabs" continued in service with British Railways London Midland and Scottish Regions until the last two survivors were withdrawn in early 1967.

Three of the four future Chief Mechanical Engineers of the post-grouping railways learned their craft at Horwich: Nigel Gresley, Henry Fowler and Richard Maunsell, as well as aviator Alliott Verdon-Roe who went on to found the Manchester-based Avro aeroplane company.
During World War II, the works built nearly 500 Cruiser, Centaur and Matilda tanks.

After nationalisation in 1948, locomotive construction at Horwich continued at a high level for ten years. During 1948 twenty LMS Ivatt Class 4 tender engines were completed, twenty-seven followed in 1949, with twenty-four in 1951, followed by a single locomotive in early 1952. 120 LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0 tender engines were built at Horwich by the LMS (53 locos) and British Railways (67 locos) between 1945 and 1950. The last BR Standard design steam engine to be built was outshopped in 1957.

BR continued to overhaul steam engines for several more years. The last steam locomotive (Stanier LMS 8F 2-8-0 48756) was despatched after overhaul on 4 May 1964.

Horwich continued in use as a works for other rolling stock up to 1983. The foundry and the spring shop continued in use after this date, although the work force was reduced from 1400 to 300. In an effort to publicise the redevelopment of the site into small industrial units on 20 June 1985 a BR locomotive (47 491) was named (at Horwich works) Horwich Enterprise by David Mitchell, who was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport at the time.[5] The site was sold by BREL to the Parkfield Group in 1988 and the rail connection to the works was removed in 1989. The site is now an industrial estate, appropriately named "Horwich Loco", with most of the buildings still in use.

The locomotive works site was designated a conservation area by Bolton Council in 2006.[7] The site was proposed for mixed-use development in 2010 to include 15 to 20 hectares (37 to 49 acres) of land for employment and up to 1600 houses within a timescale extending from 2013 to 2026. The proposal was adopted as council strategy in 2011, and supplementary planning guidance was released in 2012 designating part of the site for preservation.

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Horwich Loco Works contains 24 photos