Skip to content

By Tania Parker on

From Glasgow Around the Globe

Records of the North British Locomotive Company Ltd. & Constituent Companies are now published—here's what's inside.
This map shows the global reach of the North British Locomotive Company. It comes from a brochure that was produced ‘On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the Company. Also the 120th Anniversary of the completion of the first locomotive built by the oldest incorporated firm.’ NBL/4/4/7

The catalogue for the Records of the North British Locomotive Company Ltd. & Constituent Companies has recently been published onto our online archive catalogue and is now available to search and browse.

The collection contains engineering drawings, production and promotional records of the three constituent companies—Sharp Stewart, Neilson and Dübs—that amalgamated in 1903 to become North British Locomotive Co. The company was at one point Britain’s largest locomotive manufacturer and supplied railways on every continent except Antarctica. The collection also contains some material produced by the North Locomotive Co. itself, but most of the post-1903 records are held by the Glasgow University Archive Services and the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.

The engineering drawings are general arrangements, elevations and outlines that show an overall layout of the locomotive or tender. They are splendid examples of draughtsmanship and many have been coloured.

The draughtsman has used almost a rainbow of colours on this drawing. NBL/2/2/9435

Among the thousands of engines that these companies produced there are some more unusual examples of railway engineering. The drawing above shows a 0-6-6-0 Double Fairlie locomotive built for the Mexican Railway by Neilson & Co. in 1882.

Alongside the engineering drawings, order books, photographic material and brochures, the collection also contains a wooden box full of hundreds of trade cards. It is thought that North British Locomotive’s salesmen took it with them on their travels to far-flung railways to show potential customers the vast range of locomotives that the company and its constituents were able to produce.

Whilst archive material is usually thought of as two-dimensional, the box is an integral part of this item. NBL/4/3/13

The collection contains records created by the predecessors of Sharp Stewart that date from 1835 and the most recent items, brochures from North British Locomotive Co., were created in the 1950s. The collection therefore mostly spans the era when the British private railway manufacturing industry was most active.

If you would like to access the collection in-person then you are more than welcome to visit Search Engine, our archive and library centre. You can contact Search Engine at:

Reproductions from the collection can be obtained through our Copy Service.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *