Industry - Horwich Locomotive Works

The loco-works at Horwich ensured that Blackrod retained its Junction status until about 1990 - something it would have otherwise lost in the 1960s when Horwich Station closed.

The previous locomotive works for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway were at Gorton in Manchester, but the site couldn't be expanded sufficiently for the rapid growth of the L&YR. The hunt for an alternative home ended in 1883 when a site was offered by the town of Horwich. In 1886, the new works opened and rapidly became the main employer in the town, growing as the works expanded.

Under the ownership of the L&YR and then the LMS, the loco works built a huge number of locomotives, the first of which was a L&Y 2-4-2 tank loco, completed in 1889. The final steam locomotive built at the works was a class 4 2-6-0 completed in November 1957, but Horwich did also build a number of class 08 diesel shunters between 1953 and 1962. After that, the works became a Wagon Repair Works which overhauled electric multiple units (EMUs) and a variety of goods wagons. Finally, in 1983, the works was closed having been gradually run-down by British Rail.

Here is a personal account of the Loco Works in the 1960s, through the eyes of Alex Black, who's own photos accompany the the text.

This was the first railway photograph that I took with my Kodak Brownie 127 which was a
present for my birthday that day.
LMS Fowler 3F 0-6-0T No 47402 at Horwich on June 18th, 1960.

At the time of this photograph, 47402 had just moved from Edge Hill (8A) to replace L&YR 0- 6-0ST No 11394 as one of the works shunters. It remained at Horwich until it was withdrawn when locomotive building and repairs at the works ceased in 1962. Horwich was an easy trip from Preston andwe used to visit every two to three months. This enabled us to see just about every locomotive in for repair and all the new builds. It was a spotter-friendly location and we were always made welcome, with the appropriate permits of course. It was also possible to go round Horwich in the morning and get back to Preston to watch North End in the afternoon The Ribble bus routes to Bolton and Manchester stopped outside the gates. However, a more interesting way of getting there was to take the Preston-Bolton stopping train to Blackrod Junction and catch the shuttle service to the station adjacent to the works.

The person in this (and several other photographs) was a 6th former from school. He was the token “responsible adult” (ie over 16) that the rest of us needed to get permits to visit sheds and works. We almost always got official written permits for the sheds in the areas we were visiting. These were quite easy to get hold of – the timetables had lists of addresses for each region – but all the arrangements had to be done by post.

This was the last of this class that I needed to “cop the lot” and was normally based at Birkenhead.

The works visit usually started with a guided tour round the buildings. After that, we were allowed to wander around the works by ourselves, often climbing on to footplates.
LMS Stanier 5MT 2-6-0 No 42977 waiting for repair at Horwich in June 1960.
.L&YR Class 37 0-6-0 No 52141 at Horwich on June 18th, 1960, shortly after withdrawal.   L&YR Class 23 0-6-0ST No 51336 at Horwich on October 28th, 1960.

A number of these engines, still with LMS numbers in the 11xxx series, were used as works shunters at Horwich. 51336 was withdrawn a month later.

Opened in 1886, Horwich had a long history of locomotive construction and built 1,840 steam locos, 2-4-2T No 1008 (see below) being the first. The last steam locomotive was built in 1957 - BR Standard Class 4 2-6-0 No 76099. After that, new build was limited to Class 08 0-6-0 Diesel shunters, ending with No D4157 in 1962.
BR Class 08 0-6-0 Diesel Shunters Nos D4023 and D4024 at Horwich on June 24th,
English Electric 0-6-0 Diesel Shunter No 12001, at Horwich around 1961.
12001 was probably another loco awaiting the scrap heap.
A Wirral & Mersey Class 503 EMU inside the Horwich paint shop in 1961.
The hooded woman is not with our group.
LMS Ivatt 4MT 2-6-0 No 43007 outside the Horwich erecting shop, minus its tender.
When visiting works, boilers, frames and wheel-sets were often scattered around, with numbers painted on. We often argued about how much of a locomotive you had to see for it to count - some people even counted dismantled chimneys!
L&YR 18" gauge 0-4-0PT Wren in the Paint Shop at
At one time, Horwich had eight narrow gauge pannier tanks for moving materials around the works. Only Wren survived in 1961, although she was rarely used. She was kept in good condition, and had been repainted in BR mixed traffic livery." gauge 0-4-0 Diesel locomotive, No ZM32 at
Horwich in 1961.
ZM32 took over Wren’s duties, but was obviously
having trouble when this photograph was taken.
ZM32 is now at the SLR in Cromford and has recently been voted “favourite nonsteam narrow gauge engine”. Hughes-Fowler 5MT 2-6-0 No 42711 at Horwich on June 24th, 1961.
The erecting shops in the background can still be seen to the east of the M61, north west of the Reebok Stadium. 8F 2-8-0 No 48322 Stanier 5MT 2-6-0 No 42982 photographed after overhaul at Horwich, on June 24th, 1961. Class 5 "Radial Tank" 2-4-2T No 1008, at the
Birmingham Railway Museum, Tyseley in the early 1970s.

Thanks to Alex Black for this article