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Garrett Long Shop Works, Leiston

The Richard Garrett & Sons works in Leiston, Suffolk, where Garrett steam traction engines, undertype lorries and trolley buses were manufactured.

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Long Shop Museum, Leiston Works, Main Street, Leiston, Suffolk IP16 4ES

IP16 4ES
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About Garrett Long Shop Works, Leiston

Richard Garrett & Sons was a manufacturer of agricultural machinery, steam engines and trolleybuses at their factory - Leiston Works in Leiston, Suffolk. The company began life in 1778,  joined the Agricultural & General Engineers (AGE) combine in 1919, and then entered receivership in 1932. The company was purchased by Beyer Peacock in 1932, continuing as Richard Garrett Engineering Works until the works finally closed in 1981.

By the 1840s, integrated engineering sites were constructing components, assembling them on site and erecting them in an Erecting Shop – an aisled building with a central area lit by a clearstory and containing an overhead travelling crane. Such workshops revolutionised production flow lines by providing comprehensive coverage over the entire floor for lifting and moving heavy components.
Agricultural engineering workshops – making traction, portable and stationary steam engines plus all sorts of implements for the domestic and world market – were concentrated in the towns of the east of England. A surviving good example is at the Garrett Works in Leiston, Suffolk, with its 1853 ‘Long Shop’ (listed Grade II*). Construction was started in 1852 of a new Erecting Shop for the construction of portable engines. The building consisted of 3 parallel bays with the central bay extending to the roof and equipped with two overhead travelling cranes. The side bays were strengthened by galleries. See black & white photo taken in 1963 (from B.J Finch Esq). The Erecting Shop remained a dominant engineering building, gaining in effectiveness from more sophisticated crane technology. Today, part of the factory is preserved as the Long Shop Steam Museum. The rest has been demolished and the land used for housing.

The majority of the steam engines produced by Garretts were portable engines - combined with their fixed steam engines and semi-portables, they represented 89% of the work's output. They also produced a wide range of traction engines and ploughing engines, 49% of which were exported. The construction of rollers was generally apportioned to Aveling & Porter by the AGE combine, limiting the production of these engines by Garretts.

90% of the rollers produced by Garretts were exported. Garrett rollers were produced under license under the name "Ansaldo-Garrett" by Gio. Ansaldo & C. of Italy. Garretts are perhaps best known for their steam tractors, the most popular design of which was the Number 4 compound tractor, commonly referred to as the "4CD".

The company produced steam wagons of both the undertype and overtype configurations. Their first steam wagons were three relatively unsuccessful undertypes constructed between 1904 and 1908. The failed undertype wagons were followed by a relatively successful line of overtypes, the first being constructed in 1909. These wagons developed using the experience Garrett's designers had gained produced the tractors. The majority of these wagons were fitted with superheaters, which was used as a marketing point against the unsuperheated Foden wagons. The overtype wagons were initially produced in a 5 ton capacity, with a 3 ton design following in 1911. By the early 1920s, the overtype wagon market was declining in the face of competition from undertype steam wagons and petrol wagons. In 1926 a last ditch attempt was made to produce an updated design of 6 ton capacity using components from the new undertype designs, but only 8 were produced. Overall 693 overtypes were produced to the firm's designs.

The final Aveling & Porter overtype wagons were assembled by Garretts, under the arrangements made at the formation of AGE. By 1920 the success of the Sentinel undertypes was evident, and Garretts decided to re-enter the undertype wagon market. Their first prototype was produced in 1921, driven by a two cylinder engine with piston valves actuated by Joy valve gear. Unusually for the time the wagon was fitted with Timken roller bearings on the crankshaft, countershaft and axles. This design was built under license as the "Adamov-Garrett" by Adamov of Czechoslovakia from 1925. In 1926 a prototype rigid six wheeled wagon was produced. In 1927 a poppet valve engine replaced the earlier design, this being used until the end of production in 1932. 310 wagons were produced in this second phase of undertype construction.

From 1916 Garretts produced a range of electric vehicles. Their first foray into the market was with a 3 1/2 ton battery powered vehicle, intended for local deliveries. They later produced trolleybuses and refuse collection vehicles.

Garretts were a pioneer in the construction of diesel engined road vehicles, and their two 1928 built experimental Crude Oil Wagons, known as COWS in the works, are believed to be the first British built wagons fitted with diesel engines from new. These vehicles were constructed using the chassis and running gear from the undertye wagon designs, one a four wheeler and the other a six wheeler, both fitted with a McLaren Benz engine. The COWS proved the concept of a diesel wagon, and in 1930 the company embarked on designing a production vehicle. Due to the company being part of the AGE combine, the engine chosen for the design was a Blackstone's design, the BHV6. The first vehicle, designated the GB6, was completed in 1931 and test programme was initiated. The venture was not successful, primarily due to the unreliability of the Blackstone engine, and the perilous economic state of the works at that time. After the company was bought by Beyer Peacock, a half hearted attempt was made to market the design with a Gardner engine fitted, but no wagon was ever produced.

The Leiston Works Railway claims to be preservation’s newest standard-gauge railway – and currently at 660 feet is also the shortest – celebrating the special relationship between steam on rails and on the road. For more information see “Steam Railway” no 554 for February 2024 - click here to download

By road: The museum is located in the centre of Leiston. Parking is free.


Burton, Anthony, Traction Engines: Two Centuries of Steam Power, Book Sales, ISBN-10: 0785811729 (2000)

Clark, Ronald, The development of the English Traction Engine, Goose & Son, ASIN: B0000CKPYE (1960)

Hughes, W. J., A Century of Traction Engines: Being an historical account of the rise and decline of an industry whose benefits to mankind were and are incalculable, P Marshall, ASIN: B0000CKGF0 (1959)

Kidner, R. W., Military Traction Engines and Lorries, 1858-1918, The Oakwood Press, ISBN-10: 0853611599 (1975)

Whitehead, R. A., Garretts of Leiston, P. Marshall, ASIN: B0007K64XU (1965)

Whitehead, R. A., Garrett Traction and Ploughing Engines, R.A.Whitehead & Partners, ISBN-10: 0950829889 (1997)

National Transport Trust, Old Bank House, 26 Station Approach, Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey KT10 0SR