Hudswell Clarke of Leeds first started to produce internal combustion engine designs in the 1920’s and No. 23 ‘Merlin’ was built by them in 1951 being delivered new to the Port of Bristol Authority. 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.
In common with many docks during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s freight being handled in the docks rapidly declined and in 1971 No.23 was sold to R. O. Hodgson Ltd. of the English China Clay Group where it was used at their general warehouse at Carnforth, Lancashire as a shunting locomotive on its siding there. In 1984 the locomotive had was replaced sold to KWVR in 1985 initially as a source of spare for No. 32 ‘Huskisson’. However 23 was reprieved after an alternative spares source was located and 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.
Featured image: Robin Lush