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Beyer Peacock 2474 at Crich Tramway Museum. (Copyright Clive Hardy).

Clives Curiosities

Railway Reflection No.4 – Beyer Peacock

This strange looking machine is a Wilkinson Patent 0-4-0 vertical boiler steam tram engine.

It was built by Beyer, Peacock., Gorton, in 1885 (works number 2474) and exported to Australia, where it would be competing in a series of trials against the American-built steam trams already in use on the Government of New South Wales Tramways, Sydney, where it ran as No.47 John Bull.

Beyer Peacock built over 200 steam tram engines between 1880 and 1910. Their biggest UK customer was Manchester, Bury, Rochdale & Oldham Tramways. Their biggest overseas customer was Java Tramways in the Dutch East Indies who ordered 97 units. Weighing in at around 16 tons, John Bull was much larger than the steam trams supplied by the company to its UK customers. 

The advantages steam tram engines had over horses was that they could pull more than one tramcar and carry on all day long as long as coal and water were available when required. Horses would usually work for a maximum of three hours before being replaced. This meant an average of ten horses for every car a tramway company kept in traffic. Farriers were kept busy as each horse needed to be reshod every fourteen days. 

However, the steam tram engine was noisy and extremely dirty. It would often belch out clouds of black smoke which covered the passengers on the upper deck of the open tramcar immediately behind it. Furthermore, there were showers of sparks, plenty of smuts, and it could scare the living daylights out of nearby horses. Steam to John Bull’s pair of vertical cylinders was supplied via its Wilkinson Patent Exhaust Superheater which though it reduced the engine’s smoke emissions, did nothing to stop it scaring horses.  

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Beyer Peacock 2474 at Crich Tramway Museum. (Copyright Clive Hardy).
Beyer Peacock 2474 at Crich Tramway Museum. – Clive Hardy

The New South Wales Government rejected John Bull, choosing instead to stick with its American steam trams. It appears John Bull was put to work on several railway construction projects in New South Wales, though it probably fell out of use some time during 1888. 

The next time John Bull gets a mention is in 1890 when it had been returned to Beyer Peacock. The company records simply state that it had been ‘salvaged’. Salvaged from what or where remains a mystery. Back at Gorton, it was converted for use around the works and renamed Beyer Peacock number 2. It was retired by Beyer Peacock in 1959.

The engine was restored to operational condition and ran at Crich Tramway Museum between 1978 and 1989 including going on loan to Blackpool during 1985 where it wore its New South Wales livery, name, and number.  

During 2009, the engine left Crich for a spell on loan to the Manchester Museum of Science & Technology.

Written By

Clive is our Transport and Railway writer, with years of experience he is a fount of knowledge on all things transport nostalgia.

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