A lifetime on Merseyside, the first diesel on Liverpool docks

No. 32 was bought to replace a fireless locomotive destroyed in a German bombing raid. For 26 years the engine plied its trade around the dockyards of Liverpool, handling freight in and out of the docks’ railway system.

From the coast to the backbone of England

The diesels in Liverpool docks outlasted steam by some years but even their term of office was to end as the dock system declined, no. 32, the first to arrive, was one of the first to be withdrawn.

Data File

Built: 1944 Hunslet Engine Co. Leeds
Engine: Gardner 813 204 hp
Transmission: Foot Operated Friction Clutch
Tractive Effort: 14,500 lbf.

46 years on the Mersey

The docks estates at Liverpool and Birkenhead were for many years controlled by the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board which operated a fleet of steam locomotives for shunting the sidings and transferring wagons between sites. In hazardous areas of the docks (i.e. oil terminals) the Docks Board owned and operated a number of fireless locomotives to prevent sparks from causing fires. During the Second World War, however, one of these fireless locomotives was destroyed by enemy action.

To replace this engine the Harbour Board approached the Hunslet Engine Co., Leeds, which resulted in the purchase of a Diesel Mechanical Diesel Shunter. This was works number 2699 and on delivery became Mersey Docks & Harbour Board Fleet No. 32. The engine was named “Huskisson” in memory of the eminent Liverpool politician who died on the opening day of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830.

No. 32 was the first diesel locomotive purchased by the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board giving the engine a unique place in the history of Merseyside. The whole of this engine’s working life was spent hauling freight in and out of the docks, warehouses and goods yard on the Liverpool waterfront.

By 1965 the amount of freight handled by the docks system had declined to such an extent that the two steam locomotives held in reserve were sold off and the system was left in the hands of the 10 diesel locomotives which were in daily operation. Faced with the continuing decline in docks traffic, it was decided in 1970 that the older locomotives in the diesel fleet should be sold off and ‘Huskisson’ was the first to be offered for sale.

46 years beside the Mersey Estuary to the banks of the River Worth

The locomotive was purchased by a private member of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (Mr. Ben Wade) and arrived on the Worth Valley under its own power in January 1971. It initially saw much useful service on the Railway, primarily acting as shunter in one of the Railway’s yards and saw occasional use on the main branch line on works-trains and hauling short passenger services during special events.

However like all aging machines, a work-worn 32 was finally withdrawn and the long process of overhaul was begun by its owner. At the diesel gala in June 2014, 32’s long journey back to health was completed and the locomotive was able to take its place in the line-up for the weekend and has since seen occasional passenger use on two coach Keighley – Ingrow shuttles at diesel galas and special events.