Earlestown Wagon Works
The L&NWR Earlestown wagon works were situated at Newtown
Junction where the line north from Warrington met the Liverpool to Manchester line. The
Company had leased a factory, known as the Viaduct Foundry, in 1853 and shortly afterwards
named the area Earlestown in honour of the then senior director of the Company, Hardman
Earle. It must have proved a successful venture because the Board authorised the outright
purchase of the factory in 1860. Originally, the works provided additional facilities for
the manufacture of wagons for the rapidly expanding railway, but eventually rationalisations
at Crewe, Wolverton and Saltley resulted in the manufacture of all LNWR wagons being
concentrated at Earlestown. The works passed to the LM&SR in 1923 and to British Railways
in 1948. After a long and distinguished life closure came in 1964, but even today many of
the buildings remain in use as part of an Industrial Estate.
During the L&NWR period the works had just five Superintendents:
- Mr Owen Owens : 1853 - 1867
- Mr J. W. Emmett : 1867 - 1903
- Mr H. D. Earl : 1903 - 1910
- Mr A. R. Trevithick : 1910 - 1916
- Mr W. W. H. Warneford : 1916 - 1924
Mr Owens found it increasingly difficult to rise to the challenge of the growing demand for
wagons to meet the needs of ever increasing goods traffic. Consequently, by the mid -1860's
an increasing proportion of wagons were held up in the works awaiting repair, thus causing a
shortage of wagons throughout the system. In 1867 the Board decided to replace him with
Mr Emmett who, at the time, was the Wagon Superintendent of the L&Y Rly where he had served
his apprenticeship under his father and his uncle.
Mr Emmett's reign was synonymous with a small wagon policy in which the standard length was
15ft. 6in, later increased to 16ft, together with a wheelbase of 9ft. 0in. He built new
facilities and introduced modern machinery to cope successfully with the increased demands
placed on the factory by the goods department. By 1900, towards the end of his tenure, the
factory employed 2000 men, with a further 750 working at repair shops around the system.
Surviving data shows that between 1898 and 1902 the factory was capable of building 4000
new wagons a year together with 13,000 heavy repairs. By the time of his retirement in 1903
Mr Emmett had faithfully served the Company for 36 years. In the last few years of his office
he recognised the need for larger wagons and experimented with small groups of larger wagons,
but this line of development was only brought to fruition by his successor Mr H. D. Earl.
It was Mr Earl who introduced a new design standard for 18ft long wagons with a 9ft 9in.
wheelbase. Although the carrying capacity remained at 10tons the size capacity of the standard
covered vans, for example, was raised from 600 to 958 cubic feet. Also during his tenure oil
filled axleboxes replaced the traditional grease lubricated boxes of Mr Emmett's time together
with improved braking systems and even the fitting up of a fleet of vacuum braked wagons for
express traffic. Details of these wagons and their significance in the development of L&NWR
goods vehicle are addressed later.
In 1910 Mr Earl moved to Wolverton to become Carriage Superintendent and his place at
Earlestown was taken by Mr A. R. Trevithick. This line of succession continued when in
1916 Mr Earl retired and Mr Trevithick took over as manager of the Carriage Works at
Wolverton. Mr W. W. H. Warneford, also from the works manager stable at Crewe, succeeded
Mr Trevithick at Earlestown and remained there until shortly after the formation of the
LM&SR. No major changes in goods wagon design and development arose during the tenure of
Mr Trevithick or Mr Warneford at Earlestown. Indeed the rate of construction tailed-off
and the factory was concerned mainly with the repair of the existing fleet of some 80,000