Merryweather & Sons, steam tram locomotive builders

The sole surviving Merryweather steam tram locomotive, works no.110 of 1881, RSTM no.2, in the Nederlands Spoorweg Museum in Utrecht in December 2008. (Wikipedia)

Actually the title of this page is wrong. The major activity of the Merryweather company was always making fire fight equipment. As such it was founded in 1692, although originally with a different name. Over the next 144 years the name changed several times with new owners and associates joining or leaving the firm. Fire fight equipment and its history is very interesting, but this page is about the second product that made Merryweather famous: steam tram locomotives.

In 1836 Moses Merryweather took over the company he joined 29 years before as an apprentice. Later also his sons joined and the company became Merryweather & Sons. Moses died in 1872. In 1873 Merryweather made the machinery of a by John Grantham designed steam tramcar. The car went for several years on trials on different locations and moved in 1875 to the Wantage Tramway. This was the first tramline in the UK using steam traction. It triggered Merryweather to start building steam tram locomotives. In April 1875 Merryweather patented their own locomotive design. Merryweather wasn’t the first building steam tram locomotives, at the other side of the Atlantic Ocean they were already introduced before 1870, but the company was a pioneer in Europe.

Small Merryweather steam locomotive on trials with the North Metropolitan Tramways in London in 1878. It then went to Wantage and might be Merryweather works no.9.

Kinnear Clark1 said that Merryweather produced three sizes of locomotives:

  • Type 1: cyl-ø 6″ (152 mm); stroke 9″ (229 mm); weight in working condition about 31/2 tmetric
  • Type 2: cyl-ø 7″ (178 mm); stroke 11″ (279 mm); weight in working condition about 51/2 tmetric
  • Type 3: cyl-ø 71/2” (191 mm); stroke 12″ (305 mm); weight in working condition about 7 tmetric

With all types the wheel diameter was 2′ (610 mm). However Whitcombe2 said the engines were not standardised ranging the cylinder diameter from 6″ to 71/2” (152 to 191 mm) with stroke from 9″ to 12″ (229 to 305 mm) but a few had 81/2” (216 mm) or 10″ (254 mm) diameter with 14″ (356 mm) stroke. Wheels between 2′ (610 mm) and 2’4″ (712 mm) diameter, axle distance 4’6″ to 5′ (138 to 152 cm), horizontal boiler about 4′ (122 cm) long and 2’4″ (71 cm) diameter, firebox about 2’4″ (71 cm) in length, 64 to 85 brass flue tubes of 13/4” (44 mm) in diameter, average overall length 12′ (366 cm), width 6’4″ (193 cm), roof height over rails 8’6″ (295 cm), weight 6 to 71/2 tmetric.

Staatsspoorwegen, former Nederlandsche Rhijnspoorweg, steam tram locomotive no.11 in front of the Staatsspoorwegen railway station in Den Haag. This is Merryweather works no.99 of medium size type 2 and built in 1880.

Mr. G.P. Harding ordered on behalf of the Tramways du Sud in Paris in several batches a total of 46 locomotives from Merryweather. In France the Merryweather locomotives were called “Locomotives Harding”. The first went on service in November 1875. Their success in Paris was moderate and the “Sud” ended the use of steam locomotives already in 1878. Nevertheless the potential of steam trams was proven and the use of steam locomotives on tramways boomed. Also Merryweather profited from this for several years. But by the mid 1880’s Merryweather couldn’t keep pace anymore with the many competitors. The last two locomotives were built in 1892 for a railway company in Holland, not because that company considered the type better as those of the competitors, but because it had already 17 of the type and didn’t want two locomotives that differed too much. Merryweather returned to their core business: fire fight equipment. The history of the company during the last decades of the 20th century is somewhat obscure. But as of today there still exists a company with the name Merryweather & Sons with as business fire fight equipment. The tram locomotives were only a two decade side activity during its over three centuries of existence.

Merryweather works no.50 as no.5 of the Tranvias de Barcelona a San Andrés. This is a small type 1 locomotive built in 1877.

Works list

I have never found a complete works list of the Merryweather steam locomotives. Below is a reconstructed one. It contains gaps and errors. So additions and corrections are welcome.

Worksyearqtygaugetypecompany / location
1187311435Wantage Tramway Co. no.1 Grantham Steamcar
21874114351Wiener Tramway Gesellschaft (experimental July 1876)
3-81874/6614351Tramways de Paris – Réseau Sud nos.1-6
918761unknown, Wantage Tramway Co. no.2?
10-3118762214351Tramways de Paris – Réseau Sud nos.7-28
321877114351Wharncliffe National Rifle Association, Wimbledon
33-371877514353Cassel Tramways Co.Ltd. (London) nos.1-5
38-451876814351Tramways de Paris – Réseau Sud nos.29-36
46-501877510001Tranvias de Barcelona a San Andrés nos.1-5
51-6018771014352Tramways de Paris – Réseau Sud nos.37-46
60-641877510672Wellington City Tramways Company nos.1-5
65-6818774unknown
69-731878510002Tranvias de Barcelona a San Andrés nos.6-10
74187811435Novi Ligure no.1
75-8018786unknown
811878114353Cassel Tramways Co.Ltd. (London) no.6
821878114352Nederlandsche Rhijn Spoorweg mij. no.1
8318781unknown
84-851878214352Guernsey Steam Tramway
85-871878310672Wellington City Tramways Company nos.6, 8 & 7
88-931879614352Nederlandsche Rhijn Spoorweg mij. nos.2-7
9418801unknown
951880114352Companhia Carris de Ferro do Porto no.7
96-1001880514352Nederlandsche Rhijn Spoorweg mij. nos.8-12
101-10818808unknown
109-1121881414352Rhijnlandsche Stoomtramweg Maatschappij nos.1-4
113-11418812unknown
115-1191881514352Nederlandsche Rhijn Spoorweg mij. nos.13-17
120-130188111unknown
1311882114352Rhijnlandsche Stoomtramweg Maatschappij no.5
132-13318822unknown
134-137188241000Tranvias de Barcelona a San Andrés nos.11-14
138-17235unknown
173-1741892214352Staatsspoorwegen nos.18-19
9?187611435Wantage Tramway Co. no.2
?188011435NSWGT (Sydney) no.55, arrived April 1881.
?1880/1914352Dewsbury, Batley and Birstall Tramway nos.1-9
?1881612193Stockton and Darlington Steam Tramways Company
?1881/2412193North Staffordshire Tramways nos.3-4 & 10-11
?188211435Glenelg Railway Company (Adelaide)
?188211000Tranvias de Barcelona a San Andrés no.15
?1883151435Rangoon Steam Tramway Company
?18841760Alford & Sutton Tramway no.2
?1884/51514353North London Tramways nos.1-15,
?188921435Companhia Carris de Ferro de Lisboa
????Buenos Aires
????Brazil Dom Pedro Tramway
For 71 works numbers no locomotive is known. For two numbers (60 & 85) two locomotives are called, which means of both one is wrong. What the correct numbers of those four locomotives are is a bit guessing, but most likely the real no.60 was the Paris one. For 56 locomotives it’s not known what works number they had. It leaves 13 locomotives for which it’s unknown both the works number and their destination. The Buenos Aires and Brazil tramways couldn’t be identified. Except for the Wien locomotive, that likely was returned, also trials were done with unidentified Merryweather locomotives by the North Metropolitan Tramways (experimental in 1877), the Companhia Carris de Ferro de Lisboa (experimental February 1878) and the Haarlemse Tramway Mij. (experimental September-December 1878)

Tramways de Paris – Réseau Sud operated steam trams from November 1875 until February 1878. Laederich3 says these “petites locomotives d’origine anglaise” were not only used in Paris, but also in Rouen from December 1877 until 1896, and Béziers from July 1879 until September 1882. Baddeley4 says that the locomotives Sud nos.34-38 & 42 and four others went to Rouen. No details are known about the locomotives of Béziers. Baddeley says the Béziers locomotives were built by Corpet, but that contradicts their english origins.

Merryweather locomotive of the large type 3 of the Cassel Tramway company with a 3-axle trailer.

The Cassel Tramways Co.Ltd owned by Jay & Comp. in London started steam tram operations with two Merryweather locomotives on 9 July 1877. It was the first tram company in Germany using steam trams. Except for some more Merryweathers, soon also locomotives from the local firm Henschel & Sohn were acquired. The Kassel steam trams were replaced by electric trams on 10 May 1897.

Wellington City Tramways medium size type 2 steam locomotive “Victoria” with trailer no.8.

The Wellington City Tramways opened with the use of steam trams on 24 August 1878. The locomotives had the names: Florence, Hibernia, Wellington, Zealandia, Victoria, Cambria, Scotia and Anglia. Their success was limited and the system gradually converted to horse trams from January 1882. The last steam tram ran in 1892.

The Nederlandsche Rhijn Spoorweg Maatschappij. (NRS) was dissolved in 1890. The exploitation of it’s lines and the major part of the rolling stock, included all of the Merryweather locomotives, went to the Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van Staatsspoorwegen, commonly known as Staatsspoorwegen (SS).

Sources – books

Baddeley: “The Continental Steam Tram” by Geoffrey E. Baddeley, published by the LRTA (Light Rail Transit Association) 2nd edition 1982. ISBN 0900433787.
Remark 4: locomotives to Rouen pages 33 and 67.

Kinnear Clark: “Tramways, their construction and working” by D. Kinnear Clark, 2nd edition published 1894, republished by Adam Gordon in 1992. ISBN 1874422044.
Remark 1: locomotive types page 438

Laederich: “Les Tramways de chez nous” by Pierre Laederich, published by E.T.A.I. in 1998. ISBN 20003130557.
Remark 3: english locomotives page 15; use in Béziers page 103.

Overbosch: “De Stoomlocomotieven der Nederlandse Tramwegen” by S. Overbosch, 3rd edition published 1985 by De Bataafsche Leeuw. ISBN 9067070513.

Reed: “London Tramways” by John Reed, published 1997 by Capital Transport. ISBN 1854141791.

Robert: “Les Tramways Parisiens” by Jean Robert. 2nd edition published 1959.

Slezak: “Straßenbahn in Wien” by Walter Krobot (Typenskizzen), Josef Otto Slezak (Text) and Hans Sternhart (Listen Betriebs-, Strecken- Fahrparkgeschichte) 2nd edition published 1983 by Josef Otto Slezak. ISBN 3834160763.

Turner: “The Directory of British Tramways” by Keith Turner, published by Patrick Stephens Limited in 1996. ISBN 1852605499.

Whitcombe: “History of the Steam Tram” by H.A. Whitcombe, original published in 1937 and republished by Adam Gordon in 2000. ISBN 1874422281.
Remark 2: locomotive types page 346

Sources – internet

Grace’s Guide

Guernsey Steam Tramway (Wikipedia)

Wantage Tramway (Wikipedia)

Wellington Tramway Museum

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