|THE INDUSTRIAL RAILWAY RECORD
© APRIL 1968
A. D. SEMMENS
Interest in industrial railways and locomotives is increasing very rapidly, and many of those whose study has hitherto been confined to main line locomotives may find this article some help in recognising the loco under observation as the product of a particular locomotive builder. By including also notes on the locations of the works-plates, the individual locomotive's number may be established.
The most common location of the worksplate is on the cabside, and fully ninety per cent of steam locomotives have their plates at or just above eye-level. The most common variations are those of Hudswell Clarke who sometimes favoured the sandbox; Hawthorn Leslie and Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns who fixed the plate very high up on the cab side above the driver's look-out (some Peckett plates also appear in this position); and Yorkshire Engine Co, who often found room for plates on the cab steps. Other places at which plates are occasionally fixed are at the sides of the smokebox North British and Beyer Peacock), and the frames above the driving wheels (Sharp Stewart and Beyer Peacock), while the rear of the bunker has been used on odd occasions, as well as the inside of the rear cab sheet.
The above, of course, assumes that the loco carries a plate. Often, alas, this is not the case. The depredations of those who regard themselves as enthusiasts, but remove the plates from locomotives, have been condemned several times, and a plateless loco will often defy identification. The cause isn't lost, however. Most makers stamp the locomotive number on the motion, and although it is sometimes necessary to remove layers of grime with a knife to make the identification, it is usually possible. The wheel centres are usually stamped, similarly the connecting rods just above the wheel centres, and in some cases the slide bars.
To emphasise the possibilities two fairly recent experiences can be related. First, a Peckett, found plateless in T.W. Ward's scrap yard at Brindle Heath, Salford. The motion was found stacked in the cab, and willing hands went to work on getting one of the connecting rods out, whence the knife went to work. The number eventually was found to be 1770, identifying it as a loco from Partington Gas Works. A second instance concerns a locomotive frame found at Arnott Young's Dalmuir works. A look at the end established that it had been an inside cylindered loco, and although on four wheels at the time it was quite obvious that the centre pair had been removed. Working on all that was left - the wheel centres - eventually a number came up. Meaning nothing at the time, it enabled our Hon Records Officer to say that the locomotive had been at Admiralty, Peterhead, from where it was sent away for scrap in 1957. It might be mentioned that a similar frame, this time from a four coupled outside cylinder tank, defied our efforts. You're not always lucky!
Other points of possible identification are the pressure gauge in the cab, which sometimes bears the locomotive's individual number, and the regulator handle, which on occasions also gives the vital clue.
The foregoing notes refer mainly to steam locomotives, but may be taken as applying - in the main - to those makers who made both steam and diesel locos. However, some makers engaged themselves solely on internal combustion locos, whilst others made few steam locos before entering the internal combustion field, and notes on their quirks of identification will not come amiss.
Except for a few isolated cases I have noted, where the locomotive user has moved the plate outside the cab, the locomotives of Ruston Hornsby, both standard and narrow gauge, carry them within the cab. The place of fixing varies. On the standard gauge locomotives, it is invariably fitted on the front cab plate at the right hand side or the centre. Variations in siting occur in the narrow gauge locomotives with the plates being fitted, in some cases, on the short section of cabside on the right, immediately in front of the cab entrance, and on others, in a similar position on the left inside cab sheet - but in this case there is no cab entrance. It is perhaps typical of nature that the plates fitted in these two places are very often badly tarnished, often to the extent of being unreadable with a lamp. If this should prove to be the case, a clean piece of paper and a pencil, with which a rubbing can be made, will usually prise the information from the reluctant plate. This method proves exceptionally useful when one meets one of the fibre plates fitted during the war years - the letters are about 1/8th inch high, and one can go squint-eyed attempting a reading in a dim cab. If no plates are found in the cab, all is still not lost! Ruston & Hornsby fix another plate - not the loco number - to the engine unit. On the right hand side, usually plastered with dirt, this number if advised to the Hon Records Officer may help in identification, as the makers keep records of the engines fitted to each loco, and periodically, the information is made available to him.
Whilst engaged on steam locomotives, the normal cabside plate was used by Sentinel. Since the introduction of the diesel-hydraulics, the plate - only one per loco - is usually fixed at the front end on the left, immediately above the running plate where the steps are fitted. A recent refinement, noted on the eight-coupled locomotives at RTB Ebbw Vale - there may be others - is the fitting of the plate inside the cab, at almost roof level.
The Sentinel's half-brother, the Vanguard, has had the plate fitted in the cab always, just above the control panel. The number is suffixed by either "S" or "V", the former indicating a new locomotive, and the latter a conversion from steam or a re−engined diesel locomotive.
The diminutive Lister narrow gauge locos provide a wealth of information on the plate, which is situated on the centre of the chassis below the running plate on one side only. As well as the running number, the type number is included, and the gauge. This plate is often so begrimed as to take a good deal of finding. If it should be missing, there is a small brass plate about 3in by 3/4in affixed to the side of the bonnet, just above the removable inspection plate. The works number only is carried on this, and conversion to diesel usually means its removal. A third plate which can provide the number if it can be discerned, is a small raised portion of metal at the bonnet front, below the name "Lister". The number is stamped upon this portion, but is usually too weathered to be read.
The Drewry railcars are another type for which the would−be identifier has to bend his back very low. The plate, which is carried on the front "buffer beam" on the right hand side when facing the car, often receives a coat of paint when the loco does! The Drewry loco offers a more civilised type of cabside plate; in the case of a narrow gauge loco this is usually a cast iron plate with a stamped number.
Baguley locos are not numerous, and the early designs can often be mistaken for a "home-made" loco. Quite often in an inconspicuous corner of the cab will be found a plate with the legend "If requiring spares quote number xxxx".
Orenstein & Koppel locos (known to drivers and engineers as "Montanas") have the worksplate fixed at the rear. This shows only the number in German style figures, but the English agents, William Jones & Co Ltd, also fitted their own plates with the O&K number stamped on. If this fails, a third clue is the number stamped on the starting handle. This is, of course, not one hundred per cent foolproof identification.
Motor Rail have produced a range of designs of both standard and narrow gauge locomotives. Of the very earliest, some were used by the Army and were armour plated; some of these still exist at Knostrop Sewage Works, Leeds, and at Furness Brick & Tile Co Ltd. On these locos and on the early standard gauge locos, the works plate is usually found on the pedestal forming the driver's seat. On narrow gauge locos built in the 1920's and early 1930's, the works plate found its home on the flat plate immediately between the front buffer and the radiator, where it can still be found, although often not before the removal of accumulated clay, sand or whatever product is being quarried! The third, and still the standard place for the narrow gauge, is on the transverse girder immediately in front of the driving cab. The easiest way to read it is usually to enter the cab, but in some cases home-made screens - to exclude draughts - obscure the plate, and it is then necessary to lift up the bonnet covers to inspect the plate. On odd occasions plates are fixed in or outside the cab by users (or by dealer Bungey) and it is always worth inspecting the front girder to see if the plate has been fitted there. The standard gauge locos of more modern design have the plate inside the cab, near the driver's controls. On my latest visit to Motor Rail I found a number on the framing on the welded piece by the brake column of the narrow gauge locos being built.
I have purposely left until last the identification of F.C. Hibberd's "Planet" locos because of both the diversification of design and the multiplicity of different fittings. As mentioned in RECORD 14 the designs of J.F. Howard and Kent Construction Co were perpetuated by Hibberd, and narrow gauge locos were built which were different in only very minor details from Motor Rail "Simplexes" being in fact named "Planet Simplexes". Locos were also built which resembled closely the Orenstein & Koppel design. The earliest narrow gauge locos are easily recognised. They have bonnets just like the old cars of the period, and a rather wide running plate of non−slip metal in a criss-cross pattern. The works plate if still carried and still decipherable, is on the loco side. The "Simplexes" which followed were fitted with bronze plates on the side of the bonnet covers, but if these have gone there are two clues to help. The Hibberds were fitted with "National" engines, and the presence of one of these almost certainly indicates a "Planet". The second is the sand-box covers, which usually have "Hibberd" or "Motor Rail" cast on them. If uncertainty persists, the front girder can be inspected for the marks of screws which may indicate a Motor Rail.
The earliest Hibberd I have seen with a round cast plate with the number stamped on is 2306. These plates appear on bonnet covers, at the rear of the loco, inside the cab, or on the cabsides in the case of narrow gauge locos. On the standard gauge locos, the plates are usually on the cab sides but I can recall the acute frustration of attempting to identify one of Samuel William's locos at Dagenham Dock. The plate was fixed inside the locked cab, with the driver's overalls obscuring the number! Several locos had the plates fitted in the cab at this time.. It should be mentioned that the stampings on some of the earlier standard gauge locos are extremely faint and often appear to be nonexistent. After working on the plates of a loco at Admiralty Copperas Wood some years ago the number 2496 was found. A find of a loco in a similar state of plate at Sheerness more recently entailed the same sort of work, and turned out to be the same loco! Isolated examples exist where narrow gauge locos carry a cast plate marked "F.C.H. No....", and the examples I have seen have the plate fitted on the right of the rear cab surround on the inside.
Mention should also be made of the Hibberd Chassis number plates which are on the framing below the running plate. These are not identical with the loco numbers until late in the 39XX series, and this is a trap for the enthusiast to avoid.
It would be possible to spend more time on the subject, but the main problems with which the enthusiast in Great Britain is likely to be confronted have been covered. The true enthusiast who wishes to improve his own knowledge and those of fellow-interest will in future remember his "kit of tools". Steel tape for measurement of gauges, knife for scraping plates and motion, torch for dark corners, clean paper and pencil for rubbings, old rag or cotton waste for grime laden plates. His screwdriver and pliers stay at home.