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North British Locomotive Company Limited
Former type Private
Fate Assets Liquidated
Goodwill acquired by Andrew Barclay Sons & Co.
Founded 1903
Defunct 1962
Headquarters Springburn, Glasgow, UK
Key people William Lorimer (Chairman)
Sir Hugh Reid (Managing Director)
Industry Rail transport
Products Locomotives
Employees 8000 (1907)
2658 (1960)

Mainline Steam New Zealand locomotive, NZR J class No. 1211. (NBL 24534 of 1939)

NBL works plate on LNER B1 No. 1264 (NBL 26165 of 1947). The diamond shaped plate was fitted to locomotives built at the company's Queen's Park Works in Polmadie, a continuation of a tradition started by Dübs and Company.

The North British Locomotive Company (NBL or North British) was created in 1903 through the merger of three Glasgow locomotive manufacturing companies; Sharp, Stewart and Company (Atlas Works), Neilson, Reid and Company (Hyde Park Works) and Dübs and Company (Queens Park Works), creating the largest locomotive manufacturing company in Europe.

Its main factories were located at the neighbouring Atlas and Hyde Park Works in central Springburn, as well as the Queens Park Works in Polmadie. A new central Administration and Drawing Office for the combined company was completed across the road from the Hyde Park Works on Flemington Street by James Miller in 1909, later becoming the main campus of North Glasgow College.

The two other Railway works in Springburn were St. Rollox railway works, owned by the Caledonian Railway and Cowlairs railway works, owned by the North British Railway.

In 1918 NBL produced the first prototype of the Anglo-American Mark VIII battlefield tank for the Allied armies, but with the Armistice it did not go into production.

Steam locomotives

NBL built steam locomotives for countries all over the world. This included North America (Canada), South America (Argentina, Paraguay), Europe (France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Turkey), Africa (Angola, Eqypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe), Asia (China, India, Iraq, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Palestine, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Syria); and Oceania (Australia, New Zealand).

The Colony of New South Wales purchased numerous North British locomotives, as did the State of Victoria as late as 1951 (Oberg, Locomotives of Australia). Western Australia also purchased many North British Locomotives, such as the WAGR P Class.

Former headquarters of NBL in Springburn, Glasgow. During the First World War the building was temporarily converted into a hospital by the British Red Cross. It was latterly the campus of North Glasgow College.

Between 1903 and 1959 NB supplied many locomotives of various classes to Egyptian State Railways. They included 40 of the 545 class 2-6-0 in 1928.

Between 1921 and 1925, NBL supplied New Zealand Government Railways with 85 NZR AB class locomotives. The whole fleet of AB class engines numbered 143, as built, of which 141 entered service. Two were lost at sea (see below).

In 1935 NB supplied six Palestine Railways P class 4-6-0 locomotives to haul main line trains between Haifa and the Suez Canal.

In 1939 NB supplied 40 4-8-2 locomotives to the New Zealand Railways Department (NZR J class); some of which were later converted to JB class oilburners. In 1951 NB supplied another 16 JA class, though these did not have the American-style streamlining of the J class. Together with the NB predecessor firms, North British supplied about a quarter of the steam locomotives used by the NZR.

In 1949 South African Railways bought more than 100 2-8-4 locomotives from NBL and these became the Class 24; some operated tourist trains on the George-Knysna line until 2000. Additionally South Africa also purchased some of its Class 25, 4-8-4 engines from the company between 1953–55. These successful engines with various in-service modifications survived until the end of steam in South Africa in 1992. NB also introduced the Modified Fairlie locomotive in 1924. In total South Africa purchased over 2,000 locomotives from the North British Locomotive Company.

Umgeni Steam Railway 1486 "Maureen"

As of January 2010, Umgeni Steam Railway operates SAR Class 3BR engine 1486, (NBL 19690 of 1912) and now named "Maureen", on the line between Kloof and Inchanga, a distance of about 23.5 kilometres (14.6 mi). She hauls vintage sightseeing trains some coaches of which date back to 1908.

In 1953, RENFE in Spain acquired 25 2-8-2 locomotives from the North British Locomotive Company. One example, 141F 2111 (Works No. 26975 of 1952) is preserved in working order.

Locomotives made for railways in Ireland included the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) (Q Class); Great Southern and Western Railway (211 class); Midland Great Western Railway (Class B) and Northern Counties Committee (Class U2).

Locomotives made for railways in Britain included the Barry Railway (Class F); Caledonian Railway (72, 113, 944, and Oban classes); Furness Railway (1, 3, 98, and 130 classes); Glasgow and South Western Railway (128 and 403 classes); Great Central Railway (Class 8B/8J); Great North of Scotland Railway (Class F); Great Northern Railway (Classes H3 and O2); Highland Railway (Loch, Ben, New Ben, Castle, K, and X classes); London and North Western Railway (Prince of Wales class); London, Tilbury and Southend Railway (51 and 69 classes); Maryport and Carlisle Railway, Midland and South Western Junction Railway, North British Railway (B, H, J, and L Classes); North Eastern Railway (Class Z); Taff Vale Railway (A class); War Department (ROD 2-8-0). After 1923, customers included the Great Western Railway (5700 class); London, Midland and Scottish Railway (Fowler 3F, Fowler 4F, 4P Compound, Stanier 2-cylinder 2-6-4T, Jubilee, Royal Scot, and Stanier 8F classes, and the experimental Fury); London and North Eastern Railway; (Classes A1, B17, K3, Thompson B1, and Thompson L1); Southern Railway (L1 and N15 King Arthur classes); War Department (Stanier 8F, WD Austerity 2-8-0 and WD Austerity 2-10-0 classes).

Locomotives 22878, 22879 and 22880

In 1922 the New Zealand Railways Department ordered a batch of its very successful AB class Pacifics from NBL, to be built and shipped as soon as possible. The trio 22878, 22879 and 22880 were built amidst this batch. 22878 and 22879 were loaded aboard SS Wiltshire and she sailed for Auckland, New Zealand, but she got into difficulty at Rosalie Bay, on the east coast of Great Barrier Island and sank.

22880 was dispatched on a subsequent sailing and was put into service in New Zealand as AB class number 745. This locomotive was in service for more than 30 years but then hit a washout near Hawera. It was then left in the mud for nearly 50 years but has now been exhumed with the intention of restoration. It is currently located in the nearby town of Stratford, New Zealand.[1][2]

Diesel locomotives

North British Class 22, D6343 (NBL 27916 of 1962), with Hymek D7072 at Old Oak Common, 1965.

Whilst highly successful as designers and builders of steam locomotives for both its domestic market and abroad, North British failed to make the jump to diesel locomotive production. It did build a Paxman engined diesel locomotive, British Rail 10800, originally ordered for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway before the 1948 nationalisation of British Railways, but not delivered until 1950. This was closely followed by eight 625-horsepower (466 kW) Bo-Bo diesel-electric locomotives for the Ceylon Government Railway (CGR class G2).[3]

Another Paxman engined locomotive was PVH1, built in 1953 as 'Paxman Voith Hydraulic 1' (hence the identity) for the Emu Bay Railway, Tasmania, and survives today preserved at the Derwent Valley Railway (Tasmania). Its wheel formation is -D- being a hydraulic transmission locomotive, so in appearance it looks like an 0-8-0. It also built eight Paxman engined shunters British Rail Class D2/1.

Later in the 1950s it signed a deal with the German company MAN to construct further diesel engines under licence. These power units appeared in the late 1950s' British Railways (BR) designs pre-TOPS British Rail Class D3/1 (later D3/4), and later designated Class 21, Class 22, Class 41, Class 43 (Warship) and Class 251 (Blue Pullman) None of these were particularly successful: constructional shortcomings with the MAN engines made them far less reliable than German-built examples. A typical example of this was the grade of steel used for exhaust manifolds in the Class 43s – frequent manifold failures led to loss of turbocharger drive gas pressure and hence loss of power. More importantly, the driving cabs of the locomotives would fill with poisonous exhaust fumes. BR returned many North British diesel locomotives to their builder for repair under warranty and they also insisted on a three-month guarantee on all repairs (a requirement not levied on its own workshops).

Electric locomotives

SAR 4E No. E238 in Cape Town, 1966

In the early 1950s, The General Electric Company (GEC) won a contract to build 40 electric locomotives for the South African Railways (SAR Class 4E) – NBL receiving the sub-contract to manufacture the locomotives with GEC-supplied electrical components.

Preserved North British AL4 / Class 84 84001, ex-E3036, (NBL 27793 of 1960) on display at Crewe Works in 2005.

GEC and NBL co-operated again in the construction of early 25 kV AC electric locomotives for the West Coast Main Line (WCML) electrification project of the early 1960s. GEC won a contract for ten locomotives and sub-contracted the mechanical design and construction to NBL: Class AL4 E3036–E3045 (later Class 84 84001–84010) entered traffic in 1960–61. As with its diesel locomotives, the class suffered poor reliability and spent long periods out of service. A partial reprieve came when money was made available to extend the electrification of the WCML north to Glasgow but no immediate funds were available for more electric locomotives. The Class 84s were refurbished in 1972 and pressed back into service, being finally withdrawn between 1978 to 1980 following delivery of Class 87 locomotives.


Perhaps unwisely, North British supplied many of its diesel and electric locomotives to BR at a loss, hoping to make up for this on massive future orders that never came.[citation needed] This and the continuing stream of warranty claims to cure design and workmanship faults proved fatal – North British declared bankruptcy on 19 April 1962. Because of the unreliability of its UK diesel and electric locomotives, all were withdrawn after comparatively short lifespans. The Atlas works site is now an industrial estate and the Hyde Park works site is now the campus of North Glasgow College.



  • Several industrial shunters have been preserved, including PVH1 by the Derwent Valley Railway (Tasmania), and number 27654 by the Llanelli & Mynydd Mawr Railway. A number of steam locomotives still exist in Australia, including, some operational Victorian Railways R class 4-6-4 engines, several Dübs engines and Pmr Class 4-6-2 locomotives of Western Australia, a Rx Class engine in South Australia.
  • Ex South African Railways Class 24 No.3628 is in Cairns, owned by Mainline Steam.


  • The tender of one of six North British 4-6-0 steam locomotives built for Palestine Railways in 1935 is preserved at the Israel Railway Museum in Haifa.


  • Three North British steam locomotives are preserved: one in the Malaysian Army Museum in Port Dickson and one in Butterworth ("564.25 Kuala Lumpur") behind Butterwoth railway station. The locomotive that is in Port Dickson had its name and number changed between "564.21 Selama" and "564.12 Alor Gajah" until it is preserved using the second number and name.
  • The only surviving North British steam locomotive in Malaysia is "564.36 Termeloh" which has completed restoration works in Batu Gajah, however it is still inactive and currently preserved in the old Johor Bahru railway station as most of KTMB's driving crew have no training or experience on operating it.

New Zealand

Year Original operator Class Wheel
Location Owner Notes
22880 1922 New Zealand Railways AB 4-6-2 745 Stratford [1] See section for Locomotives 22878, 22879 and 22880, above.
23190 1925 New Zealand Railways AB 4-6-2 832 Glenbrook Vintage Railway MOTAT Stored at Glenbrook, pending restoration.
24534 1939 New Zealand Railways J 4-8-2 1211 Parnell Mainline Steam Preserved with streamlining.
24557 1939 New Zealand Railways J 4-8-2 1234 Glenbrook Vintage Railway Steam Incorporated Stored at Glenbrook awaiting overhaul.
24559 1939 New Zealand Railways JB 4-8-2 1236 Plimmerton Mainline Steam Undergoing overhaul. Converted to oil-burner, 2001.
27104 1951 New Zealand Railways JA 4-8-2 1275 Parnell Mainline Steam Certified for mainline running. Built as oil burner.
27368 1953 South African Railways 25NC 4-8-4 3508 Parnell Mainline Steam Shipped to New Zealand, 1997. In storage at Parnell.

South Africa

  • A 2-8-4 SAR Class 24, No. 3664 (North British build no. 26386 of 1949), affectionately called Jo-Anna, still does regular tourist trips in and around Pretoria[4] and one NBL built GEC Class 4E electric is being preserved at Bellville Depot in Cape Town.
    • The Outeniqua Choo Tjoe uses the Class 24
    • Atlantic Rail [2] does regular trips with SAR Class 24 No. 3655 in Cape Town
  • Mainline Steam have in storage in South Africa the following:
    • 26052, 19D 3332, stored at Bloemfontein.
    • 27787, GMAM 4135, stored at Reefsteamers, Germiston, South Africa.

United Kingdom

  • LMR 600 Gordon a 2-10-0 design for the War Department survives on the Severn Valley railway
  • About 21 North British diesel shunters are preserved, mostly by public museums or by preservation societies on heritage railways in the UK, e.g. the Scottish Railway Preservation Society [3] (SRPS) Diesel Group [4] owns D2767 and returned this to working order on 25 June 2008. A list of these with information and photos can be found on the World of Preserved Shunters web site [5].
  • The only surviving North British main-line electric locomotive is Class 84 84001.
  • A 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge North British 4-6-2 steam locomotive is preserved at the Phyllis Rampton Trust in Surrey, England.
  • SAR Class 15F 4-8-2 steam locomotive, No.3007 -is exhibited in Glasgow's Riverside museum,

See also


  1. Lloyd, W.G (1974). Register of New Zealand Railways Steam Locomotives 1863-1971. Otago Branch: New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society, 113&173. ISBN 0-9582072-1-6. 
  2. "New Zealand Divewrecks - dive the trail!!". Divewrecks NZ. Retrieved on 6 July 2012.
  3. Hughes 1996, p. 92.
  4. "Class 24, No 3664". Friends of the Rail. Retrieved on 2008-08-08.[dead link]
  • (1965) A Century Plus of Locomotives: New South Wales Railways 1855–1965. Sydney: ARHS. 
  • Hughes, Hugh (1996). Indian Locomotives: Part 4 – 1941–1990. Harrow, Middlesex: The Continental Railway Circle. ISBN 0-9521655-1-1. 
  • Lloyd, W. G. (1974). Register of New Zealand Railways Steam Locomotives 1863–1971. Otago: New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society. ISBN 0-9582072-1-6. 
  • Oberg, Leon. (1975). Locomotives of Australia. Sydney: Reed,. 
  • Reed, Brian (1974). Diesel Hydraulic Locomotives of the Western Region. London: David and Charles. ISBN 0-7153-6769-2. 

External links