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Fireless locomotive

Shell damage to a goods waggon at West Hartlepool.

WW1 Railway Wagon Postcard

By Collections blog

This postcard (from the Museum’s collection) shows an explosion within a railway wagon during World War One.  Transporting munitions by rail was dangerous and at HM Factory Gretna (the factory which is the main focus of The Devil’s Porridge Museum) they took several precautions when transporting cordite including the use of fireless locomotives such as Sir James (now outside the Museum).



Although the railway stations were crowded at this time and both the West Hartlepool passenger station and goods station yard were hit, only rolling stock was damaged with no loss of life.


A fireless locomotive is a type of locomotive which uses reciprocating engines powered from a reservoir of compressed air or steam, which I filled at intervals from an external source. Typical usage was in industrial switching where a traditional locomotive was too noxious or risky, such as in a mine or a food or chemical factory (such as HM Factory Gretna). They were used at HM Factory Gretna as they were less likely to cause an explosion, this means that it was easier to transport the munitions across the Factory site without the risk of a huge chain explosion.




This photo is also from the Museum’s collection and shows HM Factory Gretna during its construction.  It has the title “Site 2 showing the scene of the accident” and is dated July 19th 1916.  It seems there may have been a railway accident at the Factory as well.


If you would like to know more about railways at HM Factory Gretna, you might find the following booklet of interest:

A plan of the National Filling Factory, Morecambe.

Explosion at World War One Shell Filling Factory

By News

A recent visitor to the Museum sent us this information.  She has spent time researching a World War One munitions factory which is local to her: the No13 Filling Factory on White Lund Morecambe.

When she visited, she spoke with Judith, the Museum Manager and told her about the ‘Power House’ near the Filling Factory which was demolished in June this year (despite a local campaign to save it).  It is shown, prior to its demolition, in the photograph below.

Our visitor has sent us the photograph above and also the map below.  The Power House is in the top left corner close to the entrance, by the railway sidings.  Four men won bravery awards (the Edward Medal in Silver) for their bravery in that building 1-3rd October 1917 when there was a large explosion at Morecambe Shell Filling Factory.

Photo copyright King’s Own Regimental Museum.

The Power House was where the steam was generated to run the ‘fireless’ engines.  We have an exampled of one such fireless locomotive outside The Devil’s Porridge Museum (see photo below).  In this clip, Steve Irwin is talking about the explosion and the important role the fireless engines played in helping save the area from disaster

Thanks to this visitor for sharing her research with us and for adding this comment in support of the Museum’s work:

“It’s just a shame that…Morecambe [has] not made the most of their heritage in relation to this site, that is why I am so supportive and in admiration of what you are doing at Eastriggs – very well done!”



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