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Aberdeen Gasworks Railway

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Look in the Gallery section Aberdeen docks of GNSR Website.

 

As I recall some of the coal wagons ended up at Strathspey but were "too shot" so were burnt, but I managed one image pre demise. 

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I knew these would come in handy one day.

 

post-5471-0-32877600-1472500353.jpg

 

Aberdeen Gas Board No3, Mr Therm and Bon Accord, Aberdeen Ferryhill, Easter 1972.

 

HTH

 

Mike.

 

Edited to amend loco names as per the excellent post below of ag1266.

Edited by Enterprisingwestern
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Here are some I took at Ferryhill c1973. Didn't know about the fate of the wagons but there was a very cavalier attitude to older stock in earlier days. I suppose it was, and still is, too much decaying stuff and too few hands....

 

post-2642-0-49054400-1472517135_thumb.jpg

 

post-2642-0-98686700-1472517146_thumb.jpg

 

post-2642-0-77318800-1472517447_thumb.jpg

 

post-2642-0-66548500-1472517471_thumb.jpg

 

post-2642-0-09067000-1472517488_thumb.jpg

 

 

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Hello. I am a lurker. My father worked at Aberdeen Gas Works in the 60's and early 70's and was one of the main drivers in the restoration of the former Gas Works locomotive, Bon-Accord (now in operation at the Deeside railway) until a stroke put an end to his activities. I have a multitude of photos of the Gas Works and locomotives I'll dig out and share.

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Railways of Aberdeen published by GNSR Association has 4 photos including 1 of the gasworks. The Black Hawthorn loco City of Aberdeen is now at Tanfield Railway

 

Dava

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Have seperated out the relevant images and created a gallery here. Might be some duplicates in there and have left in a few (from the hundreds I have) of the restoration of the Bon-Accord locomotive as they may be of interest plus a couple of the other locomotives in more modern times.

 

The following was provided by my father and taken from the Bon-Accord restoration website (now offline) and gives info on the history of the Works and the railway. Hope this helps.

 

Aberdeen Gas Works and its Railway 1844-1975

 

Gas making in Aberdeen commenced in 1824 when the Aberdeen Gas Light Company established its works in Poynernook, close to the site of the current Railway Station. However in 1844, the Aberdeen New Gas Light Company was formed in opposition and erected its gas works at Sandilands. The two companies merged in 1846 and the Poynernook site was abandoned in favour of Sandilands. The gas company's undertakings were transferred to the Aberdeen Town Council in 1871 by Act of Parliament and gas manufacture on the Sandilands site continued till closure in 1975 when the oil reforming plant built in adjacent Miller Street took over from coal. The Miller Street plant was short lived, closing in 1979 bringing a final end to gas making in Aberdeen after 155 years as North Sea Gas replaced all the local gas works in the UK.

Coal Gas Manufacture

 

In the early 1820's, gas was manufactured from oil, but the cost was high (£2/1000 cu.ft). However, by 1828, the process of converting coal to gas was well established and the cost of manufacture at £0.75/1000 cu. Ft. made it an affordable fuel. As a result, gas usage rose steadily and the Aberdeen Gas works expanded steadily to meet the ever increasing demand. By 1900, the gas making plant consisted of 27 beds of 16 Horizontal retorts housed in the single 370ft long retort house. Supplemented by the "water gas" plant, coal was delivered into the retort house by rail where it was feed into the coal breakers before being fed into the retorts by the charging machines. As soon as the gas was driven off, the drawing machines removed the residual coke and the retorts were recharged with fresh coal on a batch basis. Much of the coke was used in the "producers" to make "producer gas", a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which was then burned to heat the retorts. The gas liberated was drawn off by the steam driven exhausters and passed to the condensers where the coal tar was separated. It was then passed through the scrubbers, which removed the ammonia gas, and through the "purifiers", beds of iron oxide and lime, which removed the sulphur compounds such as hydrogen sulphide. The purified gas was pumped to the gasholders and on to the gas distribution network.

In 1914, the first of the "Vertical" retort houses was built using the Woodall Duckham downward heated continuous vertical retort system. Whilst the fundamental principle of distilling off the coal gas in brick retorts heated by burning producer gas was essentially the same as in the horizontals, the Vertical retorts operated on a continuous basis, with coal being feed in at the top by gravity, and the coke being emptied out at the bottom. Being continuous, the plant was capable of producing more gas per hour, and of a more standard and controllable quality. In 1925, the No. II plant was built, entirely replacing the old horizontal retorts.

The Woodall Duckham Vertical retort system continued with the expansion of the No2 retort house in 1941 and the building of the No.3 retort house in 1933,

The building of the No4 retort house in 1946 and No.5 in the 1950's further expanded the works. The building of the No5 retort house also saw the building of the massive coke screening plant. The coke removed from the No 3-5 retort houses was collected and conveyed to the plant by means of a narrow gauge railway using battery electric bogies. Prior to the building of the screening plant, an overhead Telfer crane system emptied the bogie cars into coke bunkers situated at the east end of the No3 Retort house. The same system was used in the No2 retort house but this was never connected to the screening plant.

The early 1960's saw gas sales drop as electricity took over in the domestic market and street lighting. This resulted in the No1 and No2 retort houses becoming surplus and these were mothballed. However, gas sales recovered in the 1970,s and the No2 retort house was again used to meet the peak demands during the winters of 1971 and 72.

The oil reforming plant built in Millar Street saw the end of coal gas manufacture, in 1975.

The Railway

 

The first mention of a railway to service the Sandilands works was in the "Aberdeen Extension and Improvement Act" of 1883 which made provision for a railway to be worked by locomotives and wagons, or wagons drawn by horses from Waterloo to the Corporation Gas Works in Cotton Street. In 1884, the Council set up a committee to consider the construction of the railway. The first estimate was £12,700 based on a direct access to the Great North of Scotland Railway Company's Waterloo station. However true to Aberdeen's reputation for thrift, an amended plan, based on a line up Church Street and Miller Street which was to cost £6,800, was proposed and recommended for construction. It was estimated that the railway would give a saving of £450 per year in cartage and increased efficiency.

The proposed railway was not without opposition. The ratepayers, the Church and others in the Footdee area lodged a petition against its construction. Considerable controversy arose and the final motion that construction should proceed was only passed by a one vote majority. In December 1885, the contract to build the railway was awarded to R. Gair, Contractor, Aberdeen at a cost of £1,713. The work took one year to complete and in December 1886 the railway was ready for testing.

When the railway was first proposed, the Town Council came to an agreement with the Great North of Scotland Railway (G.N.S.R.) under which the G.N.S.R agreed to carryout the all the haulage of coal, stores and products between the Gas Works and Guild Street, Deeside and Waterloo stations, and to the harbour, for six pence (old) per ton on all materials so carried. However, when the railway was completed, the G.N.S.R approached the harbour commissioners for permission to use a locomotive on the harbour rails from Guild street to Waterloo, permission was declined. The harbour commissioners did however indicated that they would be more favourably disposed to any proposal from the G.N.S.R to run locomotives over the whole harbour railway system provide the G.N.S.R would bear the entire cost of strengthening the rails. The G.N.S.R. were not prepared to do this and a legal dispute arose between the G.N.S.R. and the Town Council, the outcome of which was that the G.N.S.R. were allowed to withdraw from the agreement with the Council.

Following the withdrawal of the G.N.S.R., the Council decided to work the railway themselves and in 1887 letters were sent out requesting tenders for supplying a locomotive engine which had to meet the following requirements;

"The locomotive engine must be capable of drawing five loaded wagons weighing 75 tons, and be able to exert great power for starting and stropping easily on the incline in Church Street (gradient 1 in 40). It must be constructed to consume gas coke, condense exhaust steam and emit no visible smoke or steam. No noise from blast or machinery and all working parts to be concealed as far as possible so as to avoid frightening horses or annoying the public"

The tender from Messers Black, Hawthorn and Company for the supply of a 0-4-0 saddle tank locomotive at £875 was recommended for acceptance as "being simple in construction, having 30% excess power over that required, and a coke consumption of 14lbs per mile". In October 1887, the engine aptly named "City of Aberdeen" duly arrived at Aberdeen. Permission to run the locomotive over the harbour rails to and from Guild Street was obtained from the Harbour commissioners albeit only between the hours of 6-7AM and 2-3PM, and the Gas Works Railway became an operational entity.

In addition to the engine, the Council also purchased eight 8 Ton wagons from the Ashbury railway Carriage and Iron Co. Ltd Manchester at a cost of £352.

The Black Hawthorn drawings of "The City" do show both the steam condensing system and motion side skirts as per the tender specification but subsequent photographs would suggest the steam condensing system was either not fitted or removed early in the engine's life.

By 1888, permission for use of the engine was extended to cover the rails and sidings at Waterloo Quay including the rails joining to the G.N.S.R's Waterloo Station.

By 1896, "City of Aberdeen" was in need of a major overhaul, and although new wheels, axles, axle boxes and eccentrics were fitted at a cost of £95, the council declined to make repairs to the boiler which were estimated by the insurance company at £300. Instead the Council decided to purchase another locomotive and issued tenders to the exactly same specification as issued in 1887. The tender was awarded to Andrew Barclay & Sons, Kilmarnock for their 12" 0-4-0 ST engine at a cost of £795. The engine, Barclay's works Number 807, was delivered in the spring of 1897, and named "Bon-Accord".

Subsequent to the purchase of Bon-Accord, the necessary boiler repairs to City of Aberdeen were carried out and the engine returned to service. By 1908, the wear on the sunken rails in the entire Miller-Church Street section was such as to be a hazard to other wheeled vehicles and replacement of the street section was undertaken.

With the ever-increasing demand for gas by 1914, railway handling had doubled since starting operation in 1887 and it proved necessary to purchase a third locomotive. The tender was again awarded to Andrew Barclay for the supply of a 14inch 0-4-0 saddle tank engine at a cost of £1140. This engine was named "Aberdeen Gas Works No. 3"

 

The life of "No3" at Aberdeen Gas Works proved short-lived, as in 1918, the Director of Railway materials approached the Council as to the availability of a locomotive for the construction of aerodromes and shipyards. The Council agreed to the sale of the recently purchased "No3" for £1800. This locomotive was subsequently sold to the ironworks at Dalmellington and at some later date found its way into the ownership of the National Coal Board where it was used in the Dalmellington area. (Can anyone give further details on the fate of this locomotive???)

1919 saw a major reconstruction of the railway network within the Gas Works site. Much of the track was bought second hand from the Caledonian Railway. By 1925, again the railway activity was such that a third engine was required and the tender was awarded to Andrew Barclay for a 12inch 0-4-0 saddle-tank engine, which took the same name as its predecessor "Aberdeen Corporation Gas Works No3" The same activity lead to the purchase of a new boiler and saddle-tank for "City of Aberdeen", these being supplied by William Arnott & Co, Coatbridge for a cost of £460.

The Town Council took over the ground between Miller Street and Canal Terrace in 1940 for use as coal storage, but it is not believes any changes took place until the end of the Second World War. (Can anyone clarify this?) This saw the demolition of the housing on the south side of Miller Street, Gavock Wynd. The siding immediately to the west of the railway entrance to the works was extended across Miller Street to form a line into the coal storage area. At the same time a spur line was built in Miller Street to give rail access to the Sandilands Chemical Works.

In 1946, the increased activity was such that the withdrawal of any of the three engines for maintenance caused problems and a forth engine was purchased. The tender was again awarded to Andrew Barclay for a 12inch 0-4-0 Saddle Tank locomotive at a cost of £3225. At this time, nationalisation of the Gas industry was in progress and when the fourth engine was subsequently delivered, it was named "Mr Therm". On nationalisation in 1948, all the locomotives were converted from their distinctive lined out Aberdeen Corporation Green livery to blue with white lining incorporating the "flaming torch" symbol of the Scottish Gas Board. No.3 was subsequently renamed from "Aberdeen Corporation Gas Works No3" to "Aberdeen Gas Works No. 3"

The last major changes in the railway network were carried out in the period 1947-1950 with the building of the No. 5 retort house and the coke screening plant, both of which required additional sidings.

In 1961, again the track in the Miller Street-Church Street sections was in need of renewal at an estimated cost of £12,000. An alternative plan to build the new track through the coal storage area on the south side of Millar Street to join the existing track at the foot of Church Street was estimated at £11,600, which included the provision of additional sidings. However, the saving was not considered sufficient and renewal of the existing street rails was carried out in 1963.

1964 saw the end of steam hauled railway traffic. The arrival of a Simplex 0-4-0 diesel engine (known as No.1 Diesel) transferred from the Greenock Gas Works saw "Bon-Accord" withdrawn from service. Shortly afterward, the arrival of a Rushton 0-4-0 diesel from Dundee Gas Works saw "No3" and "Mr Therm" also withdrawn from service. At this time, use of the railway was in decline with an ever-increasing amount of coal being delivered from the docks by lorry. However the railway was still used for the transport of coal tar by rail tanker to Scottish Tar Distillers at Falkirk, coke, and ammonia tanks to and from the Sandilands Chemical Works.

In 1967, the "City of Aberdeen", which had for many years only been kept as a standby engine, was restored and made its first public appearance since the 1950's on a Great North of Scotland Railway Preservation Society trip to the Gas Works in 1968. The engine was subsequently used operationally for a few weeks in 1970 when both diesels were out of action, and on a number of enthusiast trips round the harbour railway system. Its last excursion was in 1972 when it hauled the last train to use the harbour rails in Market Street to Jamieson Quay.

With the closure of the coal gas plant, three of the locomotives (Bon-Accord, Mr. Therm and No. 3) were transferred to Aberdeen Council for preservation and relocated to Ferryhill. Bon-Accord and No. 3 were loaned to the Preservation Society set up at the time and Mr. Therm was placed in Aberdeen's Seaton Park as part of a children's play area. However ongoing problems with lack of covered storage and vandalism saw No. 3 transferred to the Ayrshire Railway Preservation Group at Dalmellington in 1979, and Bon-Accord to the Brechin Railway Society in 1980. The 'City of Aberdeen' was gifted by The Scottish Gas Board to The Scottish Railway Preservation Society in 1975 and is currently in static storage at Bo'ness. 'No.3' is now being restored as a static exhibit at Grampian Transport Museum in Alford, Aberdeenshire. Bon-Accord, of course, has now returned to Aberdeen and restoration to full working order is in hand. No. 1 and No. 2 Diesels were gifted to the Strathspey Railway. No. 1 Diesel is non-operational, but still in the care of the Strathspey Railway, however No. 2 Diesel has since been scrapped.

Whilst the track within the Gas Works was lifted in 1975, the section from Waterloo Goods Yard to the Sandilands Chemical Works was retained and operated by a rushton diesel owned by Scottish Agricultural Industries (SAI). However despite the track being renewed, it finally fell out of use with the closure of the chemical works in 1985.

Major quay renovation work in late 1980's saw the end of the entire harbour railway network on the north side of the harbour, and the loss of the track access to the Waterloo Goods yard.

In 2000, the old Gas Works site was acquired by The ScotOil Group and redevelopment of the site commenced.

Edited by ag1266

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One thing I'm trying to work out- The wagons in most of the photos I've seen are marked as internal use only- Given that, where would they be taken within the harbour? I'm assuming that the coal was loaded into these wagons somewhere within the docks, since they can't travel on the main line. Where in the harbour would these wagons have been taken?

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The book I mentioned in #6 shows  mainline wagons being used for deliveries - wooden PO coal in the 1900's, then steel 16T minerals, also chemical tank wagons for Scottish Agricultural Industries. I expect tar tanks would have been used to ship this by-product out. 

 

Incidentally 'City of Aberdeen' is at the Tanfield Railway: http://www.tanfield-railway.co.uk/locos.php

 

CITY OF ABERDEEN, Black Hawthorn & Co. Works No.912
Works History:
CITY OF ABERDEEN is an 0-4-0ST with 12 x 18″ outside cylinders and 2ft 11in diameter wheels. She was works number 912, built by Black Hawthorn and Company (BH), and was ex-works on 24th August 1887.
Working History:
As CITY OF ABERDEEN, BH No.912 was sent to the Corporation of Aberdeen Gas Department, Aberdeen Works, Aberdeenshire. As she had to work along public roads in the docks, she was fitted with tramway skirts, enclosing her outside valve gear. The Scottish Gas Board took over the works in May 1949 and British Gas Corporation, Scottish Region in December 1972.

Preservation History:
CITY OF ABERDEEN was first preserved at the Gasworks, before moving to the Scottish Railway Preservation Society′s (SRPS) Falkirk Depot, Stirlingshire in July 1977.

By January 1989 CITY OF ABERDEEN had moved to the SRPS′s site at Bo′ness, Lothian and on 4th May 2006, she arrived at Marley Hill, where she is stored in the five road shed, alongside sister locomotive WELLINGTON, both of which can be viewed on Special Event days and on request.

Status: Restored, Stored in 5-Road Shed

 

I have a photo of the loco at Bo'ness somewhere.

 

Dava

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Finally found the image to go with my earlier comment 3 wagons made it to Strathspey 

post-16796-0-10981300-1475438820_thumb.jpeg

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One thing I'm trying to work out- The wagons in most of the photos I've seen are marked as internal use only- Given that, where would they be taken within the harbour? I'm assuming that the coal was loaded into these wagons somewhere within the docks, since they can't travel on the main line. Where in the harbour would these wagons have been taken?

 

You'll get a pretty good idea from the photos on the GNoS website. The harbour has changed it bit these days but coal boats came into the Trinity Dock and I remember them berthing on the Market Street side, which was convenient for the Guild Street Goods Yard just across the road. Most coal came in by rail and some of it was taken across the road using the dock railway link and loaded on to the weekly Co-op coal boat for Orkney and Shetland. Why the gas works got its coal in by boat I don't know, but it was unloaded on the same dock and carried round to the gasworks using the puggies and those internal user wagons which Hornby very kindly modelled last year.

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Hello. I am a lurker. My father worked at Aberdeen Gas Works in the 60's and early 70's and was one of the main drivers in the restoration of the former Gas Works locomotive, Bon-Accord (now in operation at the Deeside railway) until a stroke put an end to his activities. I have a multitude of photos of the Gas Works and locomotives I'll dig out and share.

 

.. Hi there - I'd be fascinated to see any photos of the Aberdeen Gas Works as I'm in the early stages of planning a model based on this location. It would be great to see any views of the works - there are some photos online but it's a big site and doesn't seem to be very well documented. I contacted the Aberdeen Historical Archive and they're not able to help at the moment as the harbour collection is being taken to a new home.

 

I'm following this thread so anything you post here I'll be looking out for!

 

Cheers .. Brian

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