Mysterious Hecate

Holman Stephens was partial to classical names and used the name 'Hecate' on at least three engines on his railways. He was also fond of contractors locomotives made by Manning Wardle of Leeds that could be picked up cheap to make good light railway locomotives. In the collection of photographs handed down from Stephens office, and now in the care of the Museum, is seemingly a works photograph of a Manning Wardle engine named Hecate. This is something of a mystery as otherwise the locomotive does not seem associated with him and never seems to have run on any of his lines.

The engine concerned was a standard 'old I' class 0-6-0ST (Works No 50) delivered new to J T Leather of Waterloo Main Colliery near Leeds in June 1862. It was sold in 1872 to Robert T Relf a contractor based at Okehampton for building of the Okehampton – Lydford. Named 'Alfred' it worked on construction of other lines in the area until the London & South Western Railway purchased it in December 1879. At some time it acquired the name 'Lady Portsmouth' and was employed on construction work and other light shunting work, with a short spell on the Bodmin and Wadebridge. For extended periods from 1897 to 1909, it appears to have been on loan to the independent Lee on Solent Light Railway. During this time, but at some time after 1902 when it acquired the duplicate number 0392, it acquired solid disc wheels, a rare feature in any locomotive and its only other known use by Manning Wardle was on Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway No 5 supplied to Colonel Stephen's specification in 1919.It probably left the Lee on Solent in 1909 when the LSWR took over its direct operation using railmotors.

LSWR Hecate

Old Hecate


LSWR Locomotives, D L Bradley

Manning Wardle & Company Locomotive Works List, F W Mabbott

Colonel Stephens Railway Archive

According to Bradley, 0392 was withdrawn by the LSWR in December 1913. Purchased in February 1914 for £100 by the Bute Works Supply Company Ltd (with whom Stephens made several deals around this time). It was immediately resold to the War Department in May 1914 for service at Tidworth Army Camp. It was at this stage it acquired the name 'Hecate' and in another echo of Stephens practice was painted royal blue with white and black lining. In January 1916 the Hunslet Engine Company Ltd fitted a new mild steel boiler with 160 lb. working pressure and Ramsbottom safety valves and acquired a short stovepipe chimney of a style favoured by Stephens in this period . This process transformed the Hecate's appearance and she became the relatively modern engine appearing in Stephens's photograph.

Bradley records that the engine was in continuous service until about mid-1928 but in October 1928 it was noted derelict in a siding at Tidworth station. In April 1929 it was apparently sold for scrap to George Cohen Sons & Company Ltd. of Neath. It was observed there in December 1933 and advertised for sale at this time but was probably scrapped soon thereafter.

The coincidences in naming, painting and appearance, and a note in the makers records which is now generally regarded as a clerical error, seems to have led several historians to suggested that at some period after 1914 Hecate saw service on the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Railway. However no evidence has been found that the engine ever ran on a Colonel Stephens line and the photo apart there is no documentary evidence of a Stephens connection.

So the Mystery remains