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The city of Leeds was one of the earliest centres of locomotive building; Matthew Murray built the first commercially successful steam locomotive, Salamanca, in Holbeck, Leeds, in 1812. By 1856, a number of manufacturers had sprung up in the city, perhaps the most notable being the firm of E. B. Wilson and Company in Pearson Street, Hunslet.
E.B.Wilson and Company founded in 1858. The company’s designs were purchased by Manning Wardle & Company, who located their Boyne Engine Works (established in 1840) in Jack Lane in the Hunslet district of the city. Within the next few years, two other companies, the Hunslet Engine Company and Hudswell, Clarke & Company also opened premises in Jack Lane. There was a good deal of staff movement between the three firms, leading to similar designs leaving all three works. Whilst Hudswell Clarke and Hunslet Engine Company built a wide variety of locomotive types, Manning Wardle concentrated on specialised locomotives for contractor’s use, building up a range of locomotives suitable for all types of contracting work.
Many Manning Wardle locomotives – of standard gauge and various narrow gauges – were exported to Europe, Africa, the Middle East (e.g. the Palestine Railways Class M), the Indian sub-continent, Australasia (e.g. NZR Wh class) and South America.
Decline and closure
The company employed traditional construction throughout its existence, and failed to take advantage of the more efficient mass production techniques becoming available. As a result, Manning Wardle became more uncompetitive. The company ceased trading in 1927, after producing more than 2,000 steam locomotives.
The last complete locomotive was No. 2047, a standard gauge 0-6-0ST delivered to Rugby Cement Works in August 1926. This locomotive was preserved at Kidderminster Railway Museum on static display, but has now been moved to Bridgnorth to be dismantled and assessed for a return to working order. It will need a new boiler at least. Dismantling started in September 2011 and the old boiler is now in the SVR Boiler Shop so design work on a new boiler can begin.
The first Argentine locomotive (1857) "La Portena", was a Manning Wardle and it is currently being refurbished. It was scheduled to make a final 200 metre[clarification needed] trip by 17 October 2007, for the 150th anniversary of its maiden trip.
Following closure in 1926, the company's drawings, designs, equipment and customers were acquired by Kitsons who made twenty three locos of Manning Wardle designs until they also closed in 1938. The patterns were passed to Robert Stephenson and Hawthorne who built a further five locos of Manning Wardle design. Today the Manning Wardle designs are owned by the Hunslet-Barclay, who are still a provider of services to the rail industry, based in Kilmarnock, Scotland. The intellectual property rights for historic locomotive designs are held by the Hunslet Engine Company.
The trademark name Manning Wardle is owned by a company formed in 1999 to preserve the name for the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway, which from 1898 to 1935 operated what have become some of the company's most famous products, narrow gauge 2-6-2 Tank engines: Exe, Taw, Yeo and later Lew.