Leyland Class H Steam Wagons
Old Glory|February 2017

Well engineered and reliable, the Class H became the most numerous of the various types of steam wagons built by Leyland and arguably the most successful, although none made it to preservation, says Alan Barnes.

Alan Barnes

Having to contend with a 3.30 am wake-up call and a 4 am start to his working day, the correspondent for Commercial Motor could perhaps be forgiven if he thought he had drawn the short straw with this particular assignment.

Arrangements had been made for him to spend the working day with one of the Leyland steam wagons operated by H Viney & Co.The wagon would be delivering some 200 cases of Whitbread bottled stout to more than 20 different locations during the course of the day.The vehicle involved was Fleet No 6 – a Leyland H Class wagon and one of a fleet of similar steam wagons operated by the company.

The correspondent’s day out had been arranged in October 1909 and according to available details Fleet No 6 had only recently been added to the H Viney &Co fleet. However there are some additional references to this wagon in the report which are open to question. It is stated that the wagon was bought by the company in 1907, its condition at that time being described as ‘little better than scrap iron’. However the Class H is recorded as being built circa February 1907 and went new to Manchester Motor Transport and was probably only lightly used as this company failed in November 1908. It is likely that the wagon had been out of use for around 12 months by the time it was eventually bought by H Viney & Co in 1909. It does not seem possible that the wagon had ended its MMT days in the derelict condition mentioned by the correspondent.

Mention was also made of a considerable sum being expended on repairs and the replacement of broken and worn-out parts and again this seems unlikely for a two year-old wagon which had apparently seen little heavy use. It is quite possible that the wagon received a thorough overhaul and was certainly repainted into the Viney livery although the observation that ‘a good serviceable machine created out of the old wreck’ does seem a little wide of the mark. Apart from the inconsistencies with regard to the wagon’s history, the account does provide something of an insight into a typical working day for a steam wagon and its crew. As well as commenting on aspects of the day’s work and the performance of the wagon it was also noted in the report that ‘since the wagon was put into service and working with a loaded trailer it has maintained a weekly average of 161 miles’.

The company had bought three new Leyland Class H wagons in 1907 which had run as fleet numbers 3, 4 and 5 and been registered as B 2088, B 2101 and CK 444.These were followed by four more H Class wagons and which were all bought second-hand, most likely from  Transport.These wagons were allocated Fleet Numbers 6, 7, 8 and 9 and carried the registration numbers B 2080, B 2095, B 2103 and B 2105 respectively. Another H Class wagon, registered B 2132 and built in 1908, would be acquired in later years.

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