The Vulcan Foundry Newton-le-Willows


This Shand Mason Steam Driven Fire Engine was bought from Liverpool City Fire Brigade soon after the fire at Vulcan Foundry in January, 1907.
It was kept in first class condition and practised with by our fire brigade until 1938 when it was superseded by a new petrol driven pump.
The fireman with the engine is Harry Panter.

Reprinted from a Newspaper Account of 15th January, 1907


A fire broke out at the Vulcan Foundry Locomotive Works, Earlestown, early on Tuesday morning, and at one time appeared likely to prove a very serious affair. This happily was not the case, the damage being comparatively small, and the dislocation of labour insignificant. The most ridiculous and exaggerated reports appeared in the daily newspapers, and the consequence was that all day on Wednesday the Company were engaged in notifying their customers and merchants that the work of the firm had not been interfered with.

A watchman discovered the outbreak between one and two o'clock in the morning when he noticed flames issuing from the corner of a machine shop, known as the turning shop. The machinery in this particular department was mainly composed of slotting machines of new, up-to-date pattern. The shop itself was the last of the old bit of the Vulcan Foundry as it was in the days when Geo. Stephenson was associated with the undertaking, so that the value of the building-unless one considers historic value-would be much less than that built in modern times and at modern cost. The brigade connected with the Foundry got to work as soon as possible, but were powerless in pre­venting the spread of the fire. They had several jets connected with the firm's hydrants inside the yard, but they did not stay the progress of the fire owing to there being no pressure of water. At 1-30 a.m. the District Council's Brigade was warned by telephone. They reached the scene of the conflagration by two o'clock with their steamer, Superinten­dent J. T. Hoggard and Inspector E. P. Cleworth being in charge. They only arrived with three men, those who had missed the engine turning up very soon afterwards. Some time elapsed before there was a full complement of men at work. It was rather a dark night, and none of the men being acquainted with the plan of the buildings they were some time before they could find their way about with alacrity and get their appli­ances into working order. When the Council's Brigade started with their steamer on the main in the street outside they found the hydrants inside were robbing them of water at the steamer, and the full pressure was only obtained by stopping the hydrants. The report that this was due to lack of pressure in the Council mains was untrue, as a copious supply was obtained when Mr. Richards stopped the hydrants. On their arrival the turning shop roof was well alight and there was little or no hope of saving it. The end of the shop is bounded by a tool house and the electric power station said to be valued at £15,000, all of which is joined to the same roof and covered by means of bays with a gulley between. Mr. W. Collingwood (Managing Director) and Mr: P. R. Richards (Works Manager) were both most concerned as to the saving of the adjoining buildings and the brigade chiefly devoted their energies to that end. At intervals they poured water on to the end of the building, thus cen­tralising the fury of the fire and keeping it to the one building for which there was little hope from the start. This at any rate, prevented the fire from spread­ing, and completely saved the electric power house. A portion of the roof of the tool house was ignited, but. that was subdued after little damage was done. The firemen got between the building and fought the fire backwards. In this way it never got past them except for the slight attack just referred to. The roof of the machine shop was composed of large oak beams and supports. When these burnt out they fell with a crash on to the slotting machines below, and the splinters and glass flying about amid a shower of sparks and fire gave quite a lurid appearance. At very considerable risk the Council's firemen ventured underneath at frequent intervals in their endeavours to save the building. It was marvellous that no one was seriously hurt.

The Council Brigade had not been long at work when the Viaduct Works Brigade (under Supt. Cummings) and Messrs. McCorquodale's Brigade and manual (under Supt. Tomlinson) arrived, and they tackled the fire from the lodge, but were somewhat handicapped on account of the long distance they had to run their hose pipes. At the same time great praise is due for their efforts, which deserved better results. Supt. Tomlinson was rung up at 2-30 a.m., and after a considerable delay two horses were pro­cured and the brigade (10 strong) left for the Vulcan at 3. They were told to get water from the reservoir and Mr. W. Sutton (foreman fitter) led the way and showed where to pitch the suction pipe. They had to cross a ploughed -field and raise the engine to the top of a 7 ft. high bank, cutting a way through a stiff hedge, before they could draw water. In the meantime, sixteen 60 ft. lengths of hose was laid through the field, across the economisers over boilers and over the power house roof, and water was pouring on the fire in less than 25 minutes after arrival. Mr. Sutton was the first man to lead over the roofs and show 'the way. After working some time the Warrington steamer crossed the hose and-thus put the Newton brigade out of action,-as they had difficulty in getting water after.­wards. When the Warrington men had been working some time Mr. Tomlinson stopped pumping and with his men assisted the other firemen. The Newton men were the second brigade to get water from their engine on to the fire. The Warrington and St. Helens Brigades had been telephoned for and the latter arrived about, four o'clock with their steamer engine (under Supt. Lyon) followed by Warrington (under Deputy Supt. Turner) with the Corporations well-known steamer, " Major." After Mr. Lyon saw the fire and had examined the facilities for getting water he turned his horses heads and went back home. Supt. Turner very pluckily crossed over the garden land and a ploughed field belonging to Mr. Williams, backed towards the lodge, and after considerable difficulty started work. At this period the fire, which the local brigades had well in hand, was finally mastered by the joint efforts of all concerned. It was noticeable that owing to the distance to be covered, the Council brigade, whilst carrying probably twice as much hose as the other brigades, were still short, and a motor-car was despatched to the Fire Station for all the hose the Council possessed. Even then they had to borrow from the Viaduct Works Brigade.

Bv 5-30 the fire was subdued and only continued to smoulder. The Warrington Brigade then left the building in charge of the local brigade to watch for any further outbreak. They began to pack up at nine o'clock and left the firm's brigade in charge. At no time did the flames shoot up a very great height, and there was only a very moderate wind blowing in the direction of the power station. The District Council brigade had to put up their tackle wet to be in readiness for a further call, there not being a reserve supply. At the Vulcan Stores, Mr. Bent's staff had instructions to supply all the workers with coffee and solid refreshments, and the siege almost cleared the village out of bread, meat, pickles, etc.

It is satisfactory to find that the fire has not been so serious as it looked at one time owing to the generating power station being in such close proximity. If that had been destroyed without doubt the works would have been stopped throughout for some months. But the residents and work-people are thankful that there is practically no interference with the general work. The heat of the fire was mainly on the opposite side to the slotting machines, and when the machinery was cleared next day of the debris, and the rust caused by the water removed, they were nearly all 'found in good working order. On Wednesday evening we found them ready for the straps and some have been started work­ing.

The cause of the outbreak is unknown. The value of the building would be about £2,000 and it is a little remarkable how well the old walls stood the test of fire. About 50 men were temporarily thrown out of employment. The property was fullv insured.