Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,352 pages of information and 245,904 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Kitson and Co

From Graces Guide
Hull steam tram. Exhibit at the Hull Street Life Museum.
1858. Locomotive for Chile
1869. Messrs. Steel, Rake and Co Engineers.
1867. Engine.
April 1870.
1882.Map of Leeds showing position of Engineering Works.
1897. Locomotives for the Waterford, Limerick and Western Railway
1925. Kitson-Meyer.
1927. Midland Railway of Western Australia - Eight Coupled Locomotive.
1927. Kitson-Meyer 3 foot guage Locomotive for the Girardot Railway, Columbia.
1928. The Kitson-Still locomotive.
1931. Road Haulage of a Locomotive for the Sudan.
1933. Kitson-Still Locomotive with Dynamometer Car and Train,


Mar 1957.

Kitson and Company was a locomotive manufacturer of Airedale Foundry and Monkbridge Iron Works, of Leeds.



1863 Kitson and Hewitson became Kitson and Co on the death of the partner William Watson Hewitson leaving James Kitson as sole owner

Built several broad-gauge metropolitan tank engines for the Great Western Railway[2]: Khan, Kaiser, Czar, Mogul, Shah, Bey.

From 1866 Kitson's produced a large proportion of the Midland Railway double-framed goods engines designed by Matthew Kirtley and from 1869 began building a series of engines for Russia.

1866 Building a cast iron lighthouse for Queensland, 75 ft high, weighing 180 tons, one of several produced for that coast by various firms. [3]

1871 Employing 900 men [4]

1876 Members of the Iron and Steel Institute visited their engineering works. Kitson and Co [5]

1877 James's son, James Kitson (1835-1911), assisted his father in managing the engineering factory at Hunslet

From 1876 to 1901 the company built a number of steam tramcars, along with a few rail-motor units

1881 Charles Algernon Parsons joined Kitson and Co. During his period at Kitsons he patented a four-cylinder high-speed epicycloidal steam engine. He left in 1883.

1885 Gold medal for invention for Parsons' high-speed engine

1886 The co-partnery was converted into a limited liability company; Lord Airedale continued to take an active part in its management. In addition to building locomotives they established other branches of business, notably stationary engines for rolling mills and blowing engines

By 1889 they were building 4-6-0s for South America.

Another innovation was the articulated locomotive design proposed by Robert Stirling based on the Meyer locomotive, later known as the Kitson-Meyer. The first three were built in 1894 for the Anglo-Chilean Nitrate and Railway Company in Chile, with two in 1903 for Rhodesia and three in 1904 for Jamaica. Over fifty were built, some 2-8-8-0 and 2-8-8-2, the last being in 1935. There were also some 0-8-6-0's designed for rack railway working in the Andes.

1911 Manufacturer of Locomotives for the Railways.[6]

1914 Listed as locomotive and general engineers. [7]

After a busy period during World War I trade dropped off in the 1920's During this period an experimental Steam diesel hybrid locomotive 2-6-2T design, combining steam power with internal combustion, was tested on the London and North Eastern Railway between York and Hull. This hauled revenue-earning trains for the LNER but Kitson's could not afford to develop this experimental locomotive into a commercially viable form. The Kitson-Still's high research and development costs contributed to Kitson's demise.

1924 The last large order in 1924 was for twelve London and North Eastern Railway Improved Director class locomotives.

1927 See Aberconway for information on the company and its history

In 1934 the receivers were called in. The company had built around 5,405 locomotives

1938 The company struggled on until 1938

The patterns, drawings and good will were acquired by Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns.

A History of The Firm

From 'Short Histories of Famous Firms' by Ernest Leopold Ahrons, The Engineer - 1923/11/23.

"After the retirement of Mr. Thompson in 1858, the name of the firm was simplified to Kitson and Hewitson, and continued in that form until 1863, when Mr. Hewitson died and the whole of the interests were taken over in 1865 by the Kitson family. The firm then became Kitson and Co, by which title it has since been known. Mr James Kitson was then joined in partnership by his two sons, Mr James Kitson, junior, and Mr John Hawthorn Kitson. The first named was subsequently better known as Sir James Kitson, Bart., and in 1908 was created a peer with the title of Lord Airedale..." Read more.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [2] Wikipedia
  • British Steam Locomotive Builders by James W. Lowe. Published in 1975. ISBN 0-905100-816
  1. The Engineer 1923/11/23
  2. The Engineer 1910/12/16 Supplement
  3. [1] Engineering, 16 Nov 1866, p.365
  4. 1871 Census
  5. The Engineer of 15th August 1876 p180
  6. Bradshaw’s Railway Manual 1911
  7. 1914 Whitakers Red Book