A whole life spent on the dock system of the Manchester Ship Canal

The Manchester Docks system, in Salford, now occupied by Media City, home of the BBC, was once an extensive railway operation running over 200 miles of track and a large fleet of steam locomotives.

No. 31 served the dock system for over 60 years before entering preservation on the KWVR.

For over 60 years, 31 busied themselves around the Salford docks of the Manchester Ship Canal but with the demise of the canal, came the demise of the docks and 31 fell out of use, only to be rescued and ‘shipped’ to Haworth in 1967.

Data File

Built: 1903 Leeds
Boiler Pressure: 140 psi
Tractive Effort: 14,660 lbf
Weight 32 tons 14 cwt
Valve Gear: Stephenson
Cylinders: 15½” x 20″ inside
Numbers carried during working career: Hudswell Clarke 679, MSC Hamburg, MSC 31

The Manchester Ship Canal Railway was the largest privately-owned railway in Britain, with over 200 track miles. Even in 1959 when the inevitable process of dieselisation began, the Company still had no fewer than 70 steam locomotives. Most of the engines were one of two versions of the standard industrial tank-type built by Hudswell, Clarke & Co. Ltd., of Leeds. Known to M.S.C.R. enginemen as “short tanks” and “long tanks”, the difference was mainly in the capacity of the water tanks, which were 580 and 840 gallons respectively.

Initially, an example of each type was preserved on the KWVR but No. 67, the long tank version, has moved on to pastures new. No. 31 arrived on the Worth Valley in June 1967 and was fitted with vacuum brake equipment to work passenger services and steam heating equipment to allow for winter duties. Due to the gradients on the Worth Valley line, however, the engine is usually limited to 2 or 3 coaches which means that it has limited use in current operations.

No. 31 was originally named ‘Hamburg’ but after demonstrations by dockworkers at the start of the First World War, the nameplates were removed and the engine received its number. It was not until March 1972 that the engine was renamed “Hamburg” in a ceremony performed by Herr Uwe Jens-Jansen of Hamburg, who was the publicity officer of the Austrian narrow-gauge Zillertalbahn. A whistle from a DB ‘082’ class locomotive formerly used in Hamburg Docks has been fitted to the engine.

As KWVR traffic increased, passenger work suitable for this locomotive became scarce so the engine was switched to filming work. No. 31 has featured in the television series “The Railway Children”, the forerunner to the well known EMI film of the same name. It was used in several episodes of Sherlock Holmes, one of which involved transferring this locomotive along with two Metropolitan coaches to the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway at Windermere.