Leeds nostalgia: Trains that hit buffers even before they hit the track

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Multi million pound electric trains were being towed from a Leeds factory production line straight into storage because of mechanical faults.

The picture was taken in February 1993 at Hunslet TPL on Jack Lane.

The then ‘futuristic’ new Class 323 trains were destined for rail electrification schemes in two major cities. But gearbox and high speed vibration problems meant they could not be used.

Instead, they were stockpiled at a vandal-proof Ministry of Defence railway yard 200 miles away in Oxfordshire.

Train builder Hunslet TPL, in Jack Lane, Hunslet, was completing 43 of the trains at a cost of around £2.2m each. The order was worth more than £90m.

Hunslet has long had an association with trains - it is allegedly the birthplace of the railway, claiming to have the world’s first, in 1758, when the Middleton Railway ran across Hunslet Moor.

Hunslet Engine Co was established in 1864 on Jack Lane and made its first engine in 1865. Owner John Towlerton Leather agreed to sell the firm to John Campbell in 1871 for the grand sum of £25,000.

The company became famous throughout the world. In the 1930s, they anticipated the demand for diesels and during the Second World War they also made minutions.

Around two years after our picture was taken, the Jack Lane factory closed.

Today, the firm is part of L H Group Services, which is part of the Wabtec Group, which is the UK’s largest independent supplier of DMU passenger rail products and services.

Middleton Railway is still running today, manned by volunteers and with Christmas around the corner, there will be a number of ‘Santa Specials’ running on December 5, 6, 12, 10, 20, 23 and 24. Each child aged up to 12 years inclusive for whom a fare has been paid will be given a present by Santa whilst travelling on the train.

See www.middletonrailway.org.uk or call 0845 680 1758.

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