Records of Neilson, Reid & Co, locomotive builders, Springburn, Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Building and tools inventory books 1875-1900
  • Inventory and valuation of stock books 1874-1902
  • Fittings and materials order books 1880-1881
  • Cost and weight books 1889-1890
  • Autobiographical notes etc 1843-1856

Administrative / Biographical History

The company was first established as Mitchell & Neilson by William Neilson and James Mitchell in 1836  , financed, in large part, by William Neilson's brother, James Beaumont Neilson. In 1837  , engineering works were founded in Hydepark Street, Glasgow, Scotland, but, in about 1840  , William Neilson and James Mitchell both left the company. James B Neilson then formed a new company with Stewart Kerr, called Kerr, Neilson & Co , but it ran into financial difficulties. In 1843  , James Neilson's son, Walter Montgomerie Neilson , aged only 24, took over the running of the firm. At this point, James Mitchell returned from Liverpool, England, in order to manage the financial side of the business, becoming a partner. The new partnership was known as Neilson & Mitchell until 1855  . In 1845  , the firm had recovered enough to be able to expand, purchasing land in Finneston Street, Glasgow for a new foundry. The first locomotive built by the company for use in Britain was delivered to the Glasgow, Garnkirk & Coatbridge Railway Co , but well into the 1850s  , the firm continued to be engaged in a variety of general engineering projects as well as locomotive building. Eventually this work became its speciality, and, by 1862  , demand for locomotive engines had increased to such an extent that the firm, now known as Neilson & Co , was able to lay out new, specially adapted works on a site in Springburn, Glasgow, which was known as the Hyde Park Locomotive works. The name of the firm was changed, yet again, to Neilson, Reid & Co , when, on the retirement of Walter Montgomerie Neilson in 1876  , James Reid became sole partner.

James Reid had a long association with the company. During the 1850s  , he had been Neilson's works manager, but he had been replaced by the German born, Henry Dubs ( 1816-1876  ), who had the experience with locomotives that Reid lacked at that time. Reid went to Manchester to work for Sharp, Stewart & Co , locomotive builders, but returned to Glasgow, to be Neilson's managing partner after the departure of Henry Dubs from the firm to set up his own company in 1864  . There was a final breach in the relationship between Reid and Neilson, however, when Neilson gave Reid opportunity to buy him out of the firm. Neilson was aggrieved at the treatment he received from Reid, which deprived him, as he saw it, of his rightful share in the business. Since only Neilson's account of events survives it is difficult to make a final judgement on the situation. In 1893  , James Reid's four sons became partners, the eldest son, Hugh Reid, becoming senior partner on his father's death.

Although the demand for locomotive engines continued, Neilson, Reid & Co had some strong local competitors in the shape of Dubs & Co and Sharp, Stewart & Co , a firm which had moved its Atlas works to Glasgow from Manchester in 1888.  Hugh Reid became convinced of the advantages of industrial concentration and helped to negotiate the amalgamation of Neilson, Reid & Co with its major Glasgow competitors, Sharp, Stewart & Co and Dubs & Co in 1903  . The resulting limited company was known as the North British Locomotive Co Ltd and was the biggest locomotive builder in Europe at the time, with 60 acres of works and up to 7,570 employees. Although its first chairman was William Lorimer, from Dubs & Co , Hugh Reid became deputy chairman and chief managing director with overall responsibility for the organisation and management of the new company.


This material is arranged into five series as described in the scope and content note

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Despoit : private deposit : (GB 248 UGD 10/5/4 only)

Gift : North British Locomotive Co Ltd, Glasgow : prior to 1966

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom.

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)1632) and London (NRA10858)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

Records deposited with Economic History Department, Glasgow University, prior to 1966. Management of the collection transferred to Glasgow University Archives in 1975.


None expected

Related Material

GB 248 GD 329 Records of Andrew Barclay Sons & Co Ltd

GB 248 UGD 008 The Scottish Railways Collection

GB 0248 UGD 009 Records of Dubs & Co

GB 0248 UGD 011 Records of North British Locomotive Co Ltd

Material in other repositories:

National Railway Museum Library and Archives (GB 756) c1863-1903 Order books and drawings

GB 246 Weight diagram books, photographs and papers 1864-1903 (City of Glasgow, Mitchell Library)

For contact details of all repositories with a GB code, see the Archon repository search page


Nicolson, Murdoch and O'Neill, Mark,Glasgow: Locomotive Builder to the World(Glasgow: Polygon Books/Glasgow District Libraries, 1987)

Additional Information

This material is original

Updated by Jenny Cooknell , Assistant Archivist, 25 October 1999

Updated by Lesley Richmond , Acting Director, 3 March 2000