Locomotive Building in Wolverhampton
The Joseph Armstrong Era
Initially the GWR planned to build standard gauge engines at Swindon and transport them over the broad gauge on specially constructed wagons. 12 goods engines were built at Swindon and transported to Wolverhampton. There was no suitable track in the locomotive shop, and the engines were lifted onto wagons as they were erected. Trial running was carried out after delivery. The idea was found to be impracticable and so the decision was made to extend the works so that locomotive building could be carried out here.
When the Herbert Street goods station opened in 1858, the Stafford Road goods yard was closed to leave room for the new extension. A boiler shop and iron foundry was built in the former goods yard and a mechanics institute was built on Stafford Road. The original running shed was rebuilt. Behind it was a traverser with a number of repair roads for general maintenance work. 2 of the repair roads were set aside for building new engines, and the others were removed. In their place the turning shop was built. The new fitting shop was built above the traverser pit, and the pattern makers shop was located over the boiler and engine house. A forge and smithy was placed next to the main line with a tyre furnace and wheel shop. The work was completed before the end of 1858, and so Joseph Armstrong who was in charge of the department, soon set about designing the first locomotives to be built here.
The engines had a domeless boiler and a raised firebox. The driver wheels were later given thicker tyres to increase their diameter to 6ft 3", and the diameter of the cylinders was increased to 16inches. In the same year the withdrawal of broad gauge stock began, it was replaced by standard gauge stock. Until now standard gauge stock only operated to the north of Wolverhampton, but now standard gauge passenger and freight trains began to operate to the south.
In the late 1850's there were 56 engines in the Northern Division. They were a miscellaneous lot that were built by various manufacturers and were of many different designs and types. Many were unsatisfactory and it was inevitable that they would be scrapped in due course, when their fireboxes or cylinders had worn out. Many of these locomotive manufacturers were no longer in business and so spare parts could not be purchased, and had to be made at the works. This meant that maintenance work was time consuming, and it restricted the number of locomotives that could be built here. It was a mammoth task just keeping the existing stock running. This problem was made even worse in 1860 when the Birkenhead Railway was jointly taken over by the GWR and L&NWR. This added a further 21 similar locomotives to the stock.
Two more 2-2-2 single wheelers were built in 1862, numbered 30 and 32. Number 30 had 6ft 6" diameter driver wheels and 15" x 22" cylinders, whereas number 32 had 6ft 2" drivers and 14.5" x 22" cylinders. In the same year Joseph designed another 2-2-2 single, number 110. It had double plate frames with outside bearings for the 6ft diameter drivers, and 15" x 22" cylinders.
In 1863 the company took over the West Midland Railway and added a further 131 locomotives to the stock. This made the repair situation worse than ever, and so some of the running repair work was taken over by Worcester, and the Stafford Road Works was again extended. New erecting shops were built in the space between the broad gauge running shed and the stores. A fitting shop, a machine shop and another smithy was also added. The old broad gauge shed became the tender shop and half of this later became the paint shop. A wide footbridge was constructed over Stafford Road to connect the two halves of the works, and the old number 1 shed was greatly enlarged to house 120 engines. It was the largest shed on the railway at the time. When the new buildings were completed, locomotive building could begin again.
Joseph began with a new design of 2-4-0 tender engine. Six were built in 1863 and were numbered 111 to 114, 1004, and 1005. They had 16" x 24" cylinders, 6ft diameter driving wheels, domeless boilers and raised firebox.
The saddle tanks, numbered 302 to 309, had 16" x 24" cylinders, and 4ft 6" diameter wheels.
In 1864 Daniel Gooch who was the company's locomotive superintendent, resigned, aged 48, to undertake the laying of the first transatlantic cable. He was replaced by Joseph Armstrong who now moved to Swindon. Joseph was replaced at Wolverhampton by his brother George.