Records of R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co, locomotive manufacturers, Newcastle upon Tyne (formerly R & W Hawthorn and subsequently Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Ltd)

Scope and Content

The records of R W Hawthorn Leslie and Co Ltd consist mainly of records concerning locomotive production – order books, drawing registers, miscellaneous manufacturing records, also included is photographic material contained in photograph albums and in principle dimension books. There is also a variety of publicity material including brochures and publications. Volumes such as order books and drawing registers follow through uninterruptedly despite amalgamations with other companies, changes in ownership, etc.

Administrative / Biographical History

The firm was founded by Robert Hawthorn at Forth Banks Works, Newcastle, 1817. Roberts’s brother William became a partner and in 1820 the company became R & W Hawthorn Ltd. Initially the firm concentrated on the building of marine engines, it incorporated locomotives later reportedly after the partners were inspired by witnessing the 1829 Rainhill Trials.

In 1831 their first steam locomotive ‘Coronation’ was produced for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The firm soon became successful as the British railway system expanded rapidly, supplying locomotives to a variety of British railway companies. R & W Hawthorn Ltd. began supplying locomotives to foreign railways in 1838, supplying locomotives to Europe, India, Australia, South America and South Africa. In 1846 a works at Leith was bought for the erection of locomotives that were intended for the Scottish railway; this was to prevent costly transportation by sea. By 1870 over 1,000 locomotives had been built by the company.

Robert Hawthorn died in 1867, and in 1870 William Hawthorn retired. The firm was sold for £60, 000 and was acquired by senior partner Benjamin Browne, his principle aide Francis Carr Marshall, William Hawthorn Junior and Joseph Scott.

The first intention of the new company was to confine themselves only to marine engines; however they found that their reputation meant that orders for locomotives were easy to secure and decided to continue with production. In 1870 the firm secured the shipyard of Messrs T and W Smith at St Peter’s, Newcastle and all marine engineering was moved away from Forth banks. It was subsequently decided to separate the business activities of the Forth Banks and St Peter’s sites.

In 1886 R and W Hawthorn was amalgamated with the shipbuilding company of Andrew Leslie, thus becoming R and W Hawthorn Leslie & Co. Ltd.

In 1937 Robert Stephenson & Co. Ltd purchased the locomotive department of R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co. Ltd. They became Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Ltd. The policy was to concentrate the building of main line locomotives at Robert Stephenson’s Darlington works and industrial locomotives at Forth Banks.

In 1944 Vulcan foundry acquired Robert Stephenson and Hawthorn Ltd, ending the Hawthorn’s 137 year connection with Forth Banks. In 1955 Vulcan foundry became full members of the English Electric group of companies, which became part of the GEC group of companies in 1968.


The original order of the archive has been difficult to ascertain. The archive has therefore been arranged into five series reflecting either the activities to which the records relate or the nature of the record.

  • Order books
  • Drawing Registers
  • Manufacturing Material
  • Photographic Material
  • Publications

The series within each sub fonds are identified in the catalogue description below.

Conditions Governing Access

Access is given in accordance with the NRM access policy. Material form this archive is available to researchers through the Search Engine reading room.

Opening times:

Search Engine is open to the public Wednesday to Saturday 10.00-5.30. You don't need an appointment to use the library collection but you will need to book at least a week ahead if you wish to look at archival material.

To make a booking, email: We recommend you contact us at least one week before your visit.

Contact details:

Address: Search Engine, National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, York, YO26 4XJ. Email:

Check full details on the website at:

Acquisition Information

The bulk of the archive originated from GEC Alsthom who inherited records of R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co. Ltd. The archive was split up and acquired by the NRM via separate routes from GEC Alsthom. The decision was made to reunite the material at the NRM.

List of Engines built by Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Ltd: Records acquired from GEC Alsthom and Constituent companies by National Railway Museum. Transferred from Trafford Park, Manchester c.1983.

Weight Book, Drawing Registers, order book, spare boilers built, particulars of industrial locomotives built: Records acquired from the Industrial Railway Society. These had been loaned to the society for a short period by GEC Traction and were intended for the NRM collection. Transferred to the NRM October 1984.

Order Books 1-5, photograph album, principle dimension books: Records acquired from GEC Alsthom and Constituent companies by National Railway Museum. Transferred from Trafford Park, Manchester 1992.

Brochures and publications: Four brochures came from the British Transport Commission for historical relics Euston, Westminster and Clapham. Six are an untraced find.

Other Finding Aids

There is an access database that records locations of material.

Alternative Form Available

Order Books 1-5 (HL 1/1): Photocopies of the original order books included in the NRM Hawthorn Leslie collection are kept at the NRM.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

The archive consists of hard backed volumes that are in a fair condition. Some items in series HL 3/1 and HL 4/2 are not fully backed and held together with archival tape.

Archivist's Note

The catalogue, inventory, administrative history and finding aids were compiled by Alison Kay, Visitor Services Assistant, April-August 2008.

Description created by Jane Ronson (Archives Hub team) using the Archives Hub EAD Editor, May 2015.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied of items in the archive, provided that the copying process used does not damage the item or is not detrimental to its preservation. Copies will be supplied in accordance with the NRM’s terms and conditions for the supply and reproduction of copies, and the provisions of any relevant copyright legislation.

Appraisal Information

The archive has been appraised. Secondary material has been removed. NRM Correspondence, transcripts of private researchers and NRM library material has been placed in the NRM registry files and the library collections respectively.


No accruals are expected to this archive, though items may be added to the inventory as further work is carried out on the wider GEC-Alsthom collection.

Related Material

Related units of description held at the National Railway Museum, listed by Inventory number:

1893-174: Three photographs of locomotive by F. C. Winby, 1893 made by R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co Ltd.

2000-7263: List, Doncaster, list of drawings for N2 0-6-2 engines hawthorn Leslie May 1928, one document.

2002-8356: Locomotive weight book, London and North Eastern Railway for locomotives built by R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co.

2005-7289: Photographs, approximately 300 black & white contact prints of various small sizes, of railways in Singapore (Federated Malay States Railways) and Sumatra (Deli Spoorweg Mij, operator of the railways around Medan in Northern Sumatra) from 1930 to circa 1933. The photographs are mainly of locomotives, including North British, Kitson, Baldwin, R. Stephenson & Co., Hawthorn Leslie and Beyer Peacock, and trains, but a few depict rolling stock, stations, sheds, turntables, construction, steam vessels etc.; Works list (transcript) Hawthorns of Leith 1850-1886; Works list R & W Hawthorn/ R & W Hawthorn Leslie and Co 2-3953 (end) 1831-1939.

1896-111: Model railway locomotive crane, 1:8 scale, 0-4-0 combined crane and locomotive, 'Little Elephant', as built by Messrs. R & W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co., c.1896.

1924-610: Model steam locomotive, Newcastle & Carlisle Railway, 1: 16 scale, 'Comet', 0-4-0, 1835, made for R.&W. Hawthorn, Leslie & Co. by Twinings Models. (See also 1924-611 with which it was originally displayed, and 1992-7253 for the nameplate).

1924-611: Model steam locomotive, 1:16 scale, Caledonian Railway 4-6-0 No 938, 1915, made for R.&W. Hawthorn, Leslie & Co. by Twinings. (See also 1924-610, with which it was originally displayed.)

1976-8129: Locomotive Worksplate, "R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co Ltd. Engineers, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, 2420, 1899", brass, oval, 2-4-0T outside cylinder locomotive, to Rother Valley Railway No. 1 "Tenterden", RVR renamed Kent & East Sussex Railway 5 May 1905.

1976-8133: Locomotive worksplate, R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co (Newcastle), No 3428, 1920, 2-6-2T outside cylinders, Alexandra (Newport & South Wales) Docks & Railway No. 37, renumbered Great Western Railway No. 1206, withdrawn January 1951.

1977-5225: Locomotive Worksplate, "R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co Ltd. Engineers, Newcastle-onTyne, 3059 - 1914", brass, oval, 0-6-0T Taff Vale Railway No. 10 December 1914, Great Western Railway No. 337, withdrawn February 1953.

1978-8134: Locomotive Worksplate, London & North Eastern Railway, "London & North Eastern Railway 69842, 1926", cast brass, oval, 4-6-2 tank locomotive Class 9N by Hawthorn Leslie (3628), re-numbered 9481 in 1946, British Railways 69842, withdrawn October 1958. [Last of class built].

1978-8143: Locomotive Worksplate, LNER, "London & North Eastern Railway 69114, Hawthorn Leslie & Co 1913", cast brass, oval, 0-6-2T to Hull & Barnsley Railway N13 F3, renumbered North Eastern Railway 3027, LNER 2419 August 1924, 9114 January 1946, British Railways 69114 September 1948, withdrawn October 1956.

1978-8165: Locomotive Worksplate, LNER, "London & North Eastern Railway 69838, Hawthorn Leslie & Co, 1925", cast brass, oval, A5/2 4-6-2T, LNER No. 1768, renumbered 9838 August 1946, British Railways 69838 March 1949, withdrawn November 1958.

1979-7389: Locomotive Worksplate, "R & W. Hawthorn Leslie & Co Ltd. Engineers, 3045, Built 1903, Newcastle on Tyne", brass, oval. [3095 is rebuild number].

1989-7173: Ship model, Sealink MV "Holyhead Ferry", large, sectioned, in service between Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire, model built by D.M. Bone of Hampton Wick, prototype built in 1965 by Messrs. Hawthorn leslie & Co, Hebburn-on-Tyne.

1989-7174: Model ship, Sealink, "MV Holyhead Ferry I", prototype built in 1965 by Messrs. Hawthorn Leslie & Co., Hebburn-on-Tyne, Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire route.

1994-8841: Locomotive worksplate, Hawthorn Leslie & Co, Newcastle, No. 2697 of 1907, 0-6-0T outside cylinders, ex Plymouth Devonport & South West Junction Railway locomotive "A S Harris", to Southern Railway No. 756 in January 1923, British Railways 30756, withdrawn October 1951.

1997-7765: Locomotive worksplate, brass, R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co, No 2146 of 1889, ex Newport and Alexandra Dock Railway 0-6-0ST No 16 (Great Western Railway No 671), withdrawn August 1937.

1997-7796: Locomotive worksplate, brass, R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co No 2419 of 1899, new to Glamorganshire Canal Co 0-4-0ST "Glamorgan", c 1931 to Partridge, Jones & John Paton , Machen, rebuilt A R Adams, Newport.

Related units of description elsewhere, listed by Repository:

Tyne and Wear Archives Service, Blanford House, Blanford Square, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 4JA, England. Tel: 01912 236789. Website:

1819-1976: board, share and financial records, contract, technical and staff records, drawings etc.

1819-1976: board, share and financial records, contract, technical and staff records, drawings etc.

1934-64: data sheets, notebook, certificate book.

1889-1911: letters to Sir Benjamin Browne and others.

1954-1962: directors minutes.

1876: plans for Calais Douvres ferry.

1953-60: specifications.

National Maritime Museum: Caird Library, Manuscript Section, Park Row, Greenwich, London, SE10 9NF, England. Tel: 020 8312 6750. Website:

1854-1921: ship plans

South Tyneside Central Library, Prince George Square, South Shields, NE33 2PE, England. Tel: 01914 271818. Website:

1877-1929: photographs

Discovery Museum, Blanford SquareNewcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 4JA, England. Tel: 01914 271818. Website:

1831-81: misc early drawings.

Location of Originals

Not applicable.


Useful Publications relating to this archive:

  • Allan C. Baker Ed. Black, Hawthorn & Co. (with Chapman & Furneaux) : works list : locomotive, stationary & marine engines. (Richmond: Industrial Locomotive Society, 1988).
  • Clarke, J. F., Power on land and sea: 160 years of industrial enterprise on Tyneside : a history of R. & W. Hawthorn Leslie & Co. Ltd, engineers and shipbuilders . (Newcastle upon Tyne : Hawthorn Leslie, 1979).
  • Engines built by R. & W. Hawthorn Leslie & Co . The locomotive magazine souvenir, No 16.
  • Bradley, Rodger P. Power for the world's railways : GEC Traction and its predecessors - 1823 to the present day . (Sparkford : Oxford Publishing, c1993).

Geographical Names