A lifetime in Bristol docks

The KWVR has three locomotives, one steam and two diesel that have served docks in England. No. 23 ‘Merlin’ saw service from 1951 at the Port of Bristol Authority before moving on.

Bristol to Carnforth to Haworth

Starting life on Bristol docks, D23 was sold into a new life in Carnforth before being bought by the KWVR as a source of spares in 1984. ‘Merlin’ was reprieved and started a new and active life in West Yorkshire until being laid aside once again..

Data File

Built: 1951 Leeds, Hudswell Clarke
Engine: Gardner 8L3 204 hp at 1,200 rpm
Gearbox: 3 Speed S.S.S built by Bostock and Bramley
Weight: 30 Tons
Tractive Effort: 16,250 lbf.
Max Speed: 16 mph

Starting life in Bristol followed by a move to Lancashire

Hudswell Clarke of Leeds first started to produce internal combustion engine designs in the 1920’s and by the 1950’s the sale of this new type of traction started out-selling the more traditional steam types which had been the company’s main locomotive production for many years. It was during this time that the Port of Bristol Authority placed an order for a new diesel locomotive.

No. 23 is unmistakably a product of Hudswell Clarke with its steam outline type chimney and the Jackshaft drive system being at the front, rather than the system adopted more commonly by other private builders, in having this at the rear. The design is capable of alteration to allow a wider customer choice of options and, in this respect, ‘Merlin’ was produced with an extended engine compartment to enable the fitting of an auxiliary engine and exhauster which allowed vacuum brakes to be fitted. The original vacuum braking system, powered by a Coventry Victor engine, was removed for use on another locomotive in 1955.

No. 23 first worked alongside steam locomotives on arrival, shunting the dock system, but by 1970 the Port of Bristol Authority had purchased enough diesel locomotives to have dispensed with the use of steam traction. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s freight being handled in the docks was rapidly declining and, in 1971, No.23 was sold to R. O. Hodgson Ltd. of the English China Clay Group use at their general warehouse at Carnforth, Lancashire as a shunting locomotive on its siding there.

In 1984 the locomotive had a number of mechanical problems and it was deemed more cost efficient to replace ‘Merlin’ with an ex-British Railways Class 03 shunter than to have it overhauled. So it was that the locomotive was retired from active service.

Sold for spares but another locomotive reprieve

In 1984 the Worth Valley made a bid to purchase the engine from ‘Merlin’ as a spare for Mersey Docks & Harbour Board no. 32 ‘Huskisson’. The owners, however, offered the entire locomotive in return for a nominal sum and the locomotive arrived on the Railway in 1985 to be cannibalised for spare parts for use on no. 32. However, no. 23, like a number of its Haworth shed-mates, was reprieved after an alternative source was located for the spares required for no. 32. Thus ‘Merlin’ was overhauled and returned to active service on the Worth Valley, including the replacement of the missing vacuum brake system.

The engine performed many roles on the Worth Valley from general shunting in one of our yards through to the occasional passenger train during special events. However the engine is now laid aside in Haworth Yard with no plans for a return to active service.