Hunslet Engine Company

Hunslet Engine Company
Industry Engineering
Founded 1864
Headquarters Leeds, United Kingdom
Products Shunting locomotives
Parent LH Group

The Hunslet Engine Company was founded in 1864 in Hunslet, Leeds, England. The company manufactured steam-powered shunting locomotives for over 100 years, and currently manufactures diesel-engined shunting locomotives.

As of 2012 the company is part of the LH Group, a subsidiary The Hunslet Steam Company maintains and manufactures build steam locomotives.

Irish Mail is typical of many small engines built at Hunslet for use in quarries


The early years 1864–1901

The Hunslet Engine Company was founded in 1864 at Jack Lane, Hunslet, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England by John Towlerton Leather, a civil engineering contractor, who appointed James Campbell (son of Alexander Campbell, a Leeds engineer) as his Works Manager.

The first engine built in 1865 was Linden, a standard gauge 0-6-0 saddle tank delivered to Brassey and Ballard, a railway civil engineering contractor as were several of the firm's early customers. Other customers included collieries. This basic standard gauge shunting and short haul 'industrial' engine was to be the main-stay of Hunslet production for many years.

In 1871, James Campbell bought the company for £25,000 (payable in five installments over two years) and the firm remained in the Campbell family ownership for many years. Between 1865 and 1870, production had averaged less than ten engines per year, but in 1871 this had risen to seventeen and was set to rise over the next thirty years to a modest maximum of thirty-four.

Dolbadarn built for the Dinorwic Slate Quarries in 1922 and now on the Llanberis Lake Railway

In 1870, Hunslet constructed their first narrow gauge engine Dinorwic, a diminutive 1 ft 10 34 in (578 mm) gauge 0-4-0 saddle tank for the Dinorwic Slate Quarry at Llanberis. This engine later renamed Charlie was the first of twenty similar engines built for this quarry and did much to establish Hunslet as a major builder of quarry engines. This quarry was linked to Port Dinorwic by a 4 ft (1,219 mm) gauge line for which Hunslet built three 0-6-0T engines Dinorwic, Padarn and Velinheli. Much larger than the normal quarry type, 1 ft 10 34 in gauge 0-4-0ST engines Charles, Blanche and Linda were built in 1882/3 for use on the Penrhyn Quarry Railway 'main line' between Bethesda and Port Penrhyn in North Wales.[note 1]

A large number of short wheelbase tank locomotives (0-6-0) were supplied to the Manchester Ship Canal Company in 1881.[1]

The first Hunslet engine built for export was their No. 10, an 0-4-0ST shipped via Hull and Rotterdam to Java. By 1902, Hunslet had supplied engines to over thirty countries worldwide, often opening up new markets. In Ireland, Hunslet supplied engines to several of the newly opened narrow gauge lines and also in 1887 built the three unorthodox engines for the Lartigue Monorail system used by the Listowel & Ballybunion Railway.

From 1873 onwards a large number of Hunslet locomotives were exported to Australia for use on both main line and lesser lines.[2]


In 1901, James Campbell was still in charge as proprietor and James's four sons were, by then all working for the company including the eldest son Alexander III who had taken over as Works Manager on the death of his Uncle George in 1890. In 1902, the company was reorganised as a private limited company with the name Hunslet Engine Company Ltd. but was still a family business. Following the death of James Campbell in 1905, the chairmanship passed to Alexander III and brother Robert became works manager, whilst brother Will retained the role of secretary and traveller with a seat on the board.

About this time Hunslet was building a series of 2-6-2 tank locomotives for the Sierra Leone Government Railway design elements of which were included in the construction of the famous Russell a 1 ft 11 12 in (597 mm) gauge engine built for the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway.

Following family disagreements both Will and the youngest brother Gordon soon left the company and a serious injury left Robert disabled and unable to continue as works manager. The post of works manager was advertised and Edgar Alcock, then assistant works manager at the Gorton Foundry of Beyer-Peacock, was appointed in 1912. Alcock came to Hunslet at a time of change when the industry was being asked for far larger and more powerful locomotives than had ever been required in the past. This was true at Hunslet which found its overseas customers asking for very large engines. One example was an order for two 86 ton 2-8-4 tank locomotives from the Antofagasta, Chile & Bolivia Railway.[3]

During World War IBy 1914, Britain was at war and overseas orders had dried up, the company, like many others, found itself employing women on the shop floor and engaged in the manufacture of munitions. It continued to produce limited numbers of locomotives, significant examples being lightweight narrow gauge 4-6-0T designs for the War Department Light Railways.

After WWI Hunslet were once more able to attract overseas orders and they also received a series of repeat orders from the London, Midland and Scottish Railway for 90 LMS Fowler Class 3F 'Jinty' 0-6-0T shunting engines. It was during the 1930s that Hunslet built their largest locomotives; two 0-8-0 tank engines, built for a special train-ferry loading job in China – they were at that date the largest and most powerful tank engines ever built. A year or so later the same design formed the basis for an 0-8-0 tender engine for India. Many other 'large-engine' orders were received in these inter-war years.

Other independent British manufacturers failed to survive the depression of the 1920s and 30s and Hunslet acquired the patterns, rights and designs of other builders including Kerr Stuart and the Avonside Engine Co..


John Alcock, who, following in his father's footsteps, became Managing Director of Hunslet in 1958, recalled his father telling him circa 1920, when he was still a schoolboy, that his main endeavour for the company would be in the application of the internal combustion engine to railway locomotion. Throughout the 1930s Hunslet worked on the perfecting of the diesel locomotive.

Austerity 68081

During the second world war, the company again served the country well in the manufacture of munitions, but they also built engines, both steam and diesel for the war effort. Noteworthy is their role in the production of the "Austerity" 0-6-0ST shunting locomotive. This was an austerity revision of the 50550 shunter design, itself a development of the Hunslet 48150 shunter design, of which 16 had been built pre-war.[4] Hunslet produced 149 Austerities during the hostilities, and sub-contracted construction of almost 200 more. A total of 485 Austerities being built by Hunslet (and other builders) between 1943 and 1964 of which over 70 examples have entered preservation.

Locomotive construction resumed after the war. Important in post-war production was the Hunslet flame-proof diesel engine for use in the coal mines, as well as further batches of Austerity shunters for the National Coal Board and the Army, and rebuilding of some older Austerities; work which continued into the early 1960s. The last three Austerities were sold in 1970; one directly to preservation, one for scrap and one to the NCB.[5]

The last industrial steam engine built in Britain was built at Hunslet in 1971 for export to Trangkil sugar mill in Central Java, Indonesia.[note 2]

The "Jack Lane, Hunslet, Leeds" works was closed in 1995, the last order being a batch of narrow gauge diesel locomotives for tunnelling on the Jubilee Line Extension of the London Underground.

2000– present

The former Hunslet works in 2009.

The Hunslet Engine Company, is now part of the LH Group of Companies.[7] The company owns the right to the names and designs of a number of former British locomotive manufacturers including Andrew Barclay, Avonside Engine Company, North British Locomotive Company, Greenwood and Batley, Hudswell Clarke, John Fowler & Co., Kerr Stuart, Kitson & Co., and Manning Wardle – it also maintains, and supplies spare parts for these brands.[8]

In 2004 the company was acquired by the LH Group – production was moved to Barton under Needwood; whilst other operations remained in Leeds.[9]

In 2006 the company manufactured remote-controlled diesel electric shunters for John M. Henderson & Co. Ltd.[10] to be supplied to POSCO's coking plant in South Korea.[11] The same year saw the completion of several orders for underground and mining diesel locomotives.

In 2007 Hunslet began developing a new family of locomotives ranging from shunters to vehicles weighing up to 100 tons.[12] The first locomotive of the new class, the DH60C, a 3 axle C diesel hydraulic shunting locomotive, was unveiled in July 2010.[13][14]

The company also operates a locomotive hire business, (including a British Rail Class 08 shunter acquired in 2006[15]), mainly of industrial shunting locomotives.

The Hunslet Steam Co.

The Hunslet Steam Co. is part of the LH Group. The company is involved in new build steam locomotives (including two Quarry Hunslet 0-4-0 saddle tank locomotives), boiler making and locomotive maintenance.[16]

Hunslet-Barclay Ltd

Main article: Hunslet-Barclay

Hunslet-Barclay was acquired by the Hunslet group in 1972, it chiefly undertook maintenance and refurbishment of diesel multiple unit passenger trains at the Andrew Barclay Caledonia Works in Kilmarnock. In 2003 the LH Group acquired the locomotive interests of the company. In October 2007 Hunslet-Barclay went into receivership and in November was purchased by FKI (the owner of Brush Traction) and renamed Brush-Barclay.

Preserved locomotives

For a complete list of preserved locomotives of the Austerity design, see List of preserved Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST locomotives.
For a complete list of preserved Hunslet narrow gauge steam locomotives and links to the railways they work on, see List of preserved Hunslet narrow gauge locomotives.
Much-rebuilt Hunslet Blanche running on the Ffestiniog Railway

United Kingdom

Hunslet Engine Co locomotives can been seen operating on heritage railways across Britain including:

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Railways Class Y, No 681 working in Galle, Sri Lanka

New Zealand

See also


  1. Two of these still operate on the Ffestiniog Railway while Charles is preserved in the Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum
  2. This engine was acquired by the Statfold Barn Railway in 2004 and returned to Britain, being regauged and named "Trangkil".[6]


  1. "Locomotive Sale". Canal Archive. 17 May 2004. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  2. Bob McKillop (December 1982), "Hunslet Locomotives in Australia", Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin: 266–279
  3. Rolt, p. 69
  4. Spare Parts List, Austerity Locomotive, Camden Miniature Steam Services, 2006 [1946], p. 31, ISBN 978-0-9547131-4-0
  5. Austerity Spares List, p. 32
  6. "TRANGKIL No.4",, retrieved 25 February 2012
  7. "LH Group",, LH Group, retrieved 2011-09-24
  8. "Hunslet Engine Company",, retrieved 14 January 2012
  9. "Turning the clock back". 28 July 2010. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  10. "Locomotives – Mechanical Engineers – John M Henderson & Co Ltd",
  11. "Hunslet Builds New 50 tonne Locomotive for Korea",, 18 April 2007, retrieved 12 January 2012
  12. "Hunslet Developing New Shunter",, 27 April 2007, retrieved 14 January 2012
  13. "Hunslet launch new locomotive on open days 6th & 7th and 8th July",, retrieved 14 January 2012
  14. Paul Abell (September 2010), "A New Shunter from Hunslet", Today's Railways (105): 54–56
  15. "Hunslet Adds 08 to Fleet",,, 25 January 2006, retrieved 2011-09-24
  16. "Hunslet Steam Co",, retrieved 14 January 2012


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