Shropshire History


Waggon Works


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Horse and Cart


Heavy road haulage was originally carried out using carts pulled by horses. These began to be replaced from the 1860s onwards by steam traction engines which not only hauled the trailer but could also pull much heavier loads.


Traction Engine and Trailer


In the 1890s, experiments began on producing a steam driven vehicle that was self-contained (a lorry) that did not need to pull a separate cart. These steam wagons then began to take over road haulage.


Steam Waggon


The steam waggons came in two types. The Overtype design looked like a cross between a traction engine and a lorry. The front resembled a traction engine by having a cab built around a horizontal boiler with a round smokebox and chimney. The back resembled a lorry in having a load-carrying body and being built around a chassis. The Undertype design had the engine under the chassis with a vertical boiler in the cab. It had the benefit of a more enclosed cab and was much shorter in length for the same carrying capacity. The earliest models had steel or wooden wheels, later replaced by solid rubber tyres and then pneumatic tyres. The Sentinel waggons were based on the Undertype design.


By 1921, petrol lorries were being made that were quite efficient and could be purchased cheaply as war surplus. On a long journey a petrol lorry worked out cheaper than a steam waggon.


Early Petrol Lorry


Following the Salter Report in 1933, the government introduced new speed limits and a licensing system for commercial heavy goods vehicles and their operators. In 1934, tax on fuel oil was reduced while road tax on steam waggons rose to £100 a year. The costs and conditions attached to the new licences and vehicle duty were contentious as they were based on axle weight and could be very expensive. The new charges drove the heavier steam traction vehicles off the road in favour of the lighter internal combustion lorries.



Grace’s Guide to Sentinels


HMS Sultan Steam Lorry


Made in Shrewsbury


Sentinel Drivers Club


Sentinel Manufacturing Ltd


Sentinel Steam Railcars


Sentinel Waggon Works


Y1 and Y3 0-4-0T Sentinel Shunters


Y10 Super Sentinel Tram Engines












1875 -Stephen Alley and John Alexander MacLellan opened the Sentinel Engineering Works in Glasgow, producing a range of valves for industrial users. During this period, a firm called Simpson & Bibby were based at the Horsehay Ironworks in Shropshire and they had taken out several patents for road vehicles.


1903 - Alley & MacLellan acquired the business of Simpson & Bibby and transferred production to Glasgow, taking with them both Simpson and Bibby, together with their designer Daniel Simpson.


1905 - The first Sentinel steam waggon was produced, commonly called the Standard.


1914 - Solid rubber tyres became standard on all waggons. Lack of space in Glasgow then prompted the firm to move to Shrewsbury. In October the company started prefabricating a modular factory in Glasgow and erecting it on the new site at Shrewsbury.


1915 – In July the new factory in Shrewsbury was operational, with Daniel Simpson as General Manger and George Woodvine as Works Manager. As well as building a new factory, the company built model houses for their workforce where the factory provided hot water for domestic use including central heating. During the First World War, the company supplied about 200 steam vehicles for military use.

Sentinel Works at Shrewsbury


1917 - The company of Alley & MacLellan was acquired by William Beardmore & Co Ltd.


1918 - Stephen Alley sold all his shares in Alley & MacLellan and bought the complete manufacturing unit at Shrewsbury. He formed a new company called Sentinel Waggon Works Ltd and became its Chairman and Managing Director.


1920 - Following financial problems, the company was renamed the Sentinel Waggon Works (1920) Ltd.


1923 – A new assembly line was introduced, based on Henry Ford’s Model T factory in USA, producing the Sentinel Super waggon. A total of 1,550 of these vehicles were eventually produced.


1925 - A separate company called Sentinel Industrial Locomotives Ltd was established to produce steam railway locomotives and railcars.


1933 - Steam waggons were being replaced by diesel lorries and so the Sentinel stem waggon was phased out. The company bought Garner Motors, manufacturers of petrol and diesel lorries, and transferred production to Shrewsbury.


1936 - Stephen Alley sold all his shares in the company but the company suffered financial problems as a result so he bought the shares back. However, they had to sell off Garner Motors to survive.


1939 - During the Second World War, the factory was turned over to war work and made over 11,000 Bren guns, as well as making shell casings and carrying out repairs to military vehicles.


1941 - Stephen Alley sold all his shares again to Metal Industries Ltd, who had the capital to expand the factory.


1947 - the factory was already repairing and maintaining steam locomotives and diesel lorries and they decided to produce their own range of diesel lorries and buses, changing the name to Sentinel (Shrewsbury) Ltd.


1956 – Approximately 1,200 diesel lorries and 151 buses had been built between 1948-1956 but this was insufficient for the company to make a profit. Rolls Royce Ltd took over the company and continued to make steam locomotives but stopped production of all diesel engined vehicles.


1958 - The last two Sentinel steam locomotives were produced.


1959 – The factory started producing diesel powered shunting locomotives.


1971 – By this time the factory was just making diesel engines.


1975 - A separate military engine division was formed, with a new factory built across the railway.


1985 - The company was acquired by Perkins Engines Ltd.


1990 - Part of the old factory was demolished to make way for a new supermarket and the remainder sold to Doncaster Engineering.


1997 - Perkins sold their Shrewsbury division to Caterpillar, who now refurbish engines. The name of Sentinel was retained by Sentinel Manufacturing Ltd who produce machined components on site. Although many Sentinel vehicles have been scrapped, a significant number have been preserved in working order and are displayed at steam fairs and heritage railways.


Sentinel Steam Waggons

1905 - Standard 6 Ton Flat and Standard 5 Ton Tipper were produced. These had a two-cylinder double-acting engine with a vertical boiler.

Sentinel Standard


1911 - An overtype Sentinel waggon was produced but this proved unsuccessful and only 17 were built.

1907 - A 3 Ton Standard waggon was introduced.

1915 - The last Standard waggon (Works No.1010) was built in Glasgow and the first one (Works No.1102) in Shrewsbury.


Sentinel Super


1923 – The last Standard waggon (No 4426) was built. Since 1905, a total of 3,746 had been built. In the same year the first Super Sentinel waggon (5001) was produced. This was lighter in weight and cheaper than the Standard. It had a differential built into the engine crankshaft but retained the two-cylinder double-acting engine. A prototype Super Tractor (Works No.5044) was designed to tow trailers and an articulated 6-wheeled Super Sentinel (Works No.5020) was introduced, of which 20 were subsequently built.


Sentinel Super Tractor


1924 – A ploughing tractor (Works No.5457) was introduced but only 5 were built.



1925 - A two-speed Sentinel tractor unit (Works No.6168) was introduced for trailer towing, of which 34 were subsequently built.


Sentinel Two-Speed Tractor


The Sentinel Roadless Tractor (Works No.5794) was introduced, with a tracked rear end for grip but solid rubber wheels at the front for steering. Only 18 were built.



1927 - The first double geared waggon Sentinel DG6 (Works No.7162) was introduced.


Sentinel DG6


The Sentinel Rhino Tractor (Works No.6985) was introduced but only 8 were built.



1928 - The Sentinel DG4 waggon (Works No. 7277) was introduced.


Sentinel DG4


1929 - A rigid eight-wheeler Sentinel DG8 (Works No.8002) was introduced but only 8 were built.


Sentinel DG8


1930 - The Sentinel DG Tractor (Works No.8216) was introduced using the DG waggon engine. Only 9 were built.



1931 – A shaft drive double geared Sentinel SDDG4 (Works No.8448) was introduced with pneumatic tyres and a 4 cylinder single-acting engine but no more of these were built. A new lightweight DG6 on pneumatic tyres (Works No.8554) was introduced in response to the new Road Traffic Regulations which allowed a max speed of 20 mph. A pneumatic tyred version of the DG4 and trailers were also available. The last Super Sentinel (Works No.8608) was built, a total of 1,546 having been built since 1923. A shaft-driven double geared Sentinel SDDG6 (Works No.8667) was introduced, being 10% lighter than the chain-driven models. This had pneumatic tyres and steam brakes fitted to all six wheels. However, only one other SDDG6 was built.



Sentinel SDDG4 and Sentinel SDDG6


1932 – A prototype Sentinel-Doble lorry was tested with a two-cylinder compound double acting engine in-situ on the back axle. At the same time, a new automatic stoker was fitted to certain DG waggons to make them one-man operated.


Sentinel-Doble Lorry


1933 - The first shaft drive 4-wheeler Sentinel S4 (Works No.8798) was introduced with an enlarged version of the SDDG4 four-cylinder single-acting engine with two speed gearbox. The S4 could be optionally fitted with four wheel brakes. The cab was redesigned, a new lighter boiler was located behind the driver and the bunkers were situated above the boiler for ease of stoking.


Sentinel S4


A tipper Sentinel S6 (Works No.8821) and a Sentinel S8 (Works No.8894) were introduced but only 8 of the latter were built.



Sentinel S6 and Sentinel S8


1934 - The Sentinel S-Type Tractor (Works No.8656) was introduced but only 5 were built.



1935 – A second Sentinel-Doble lorry was built with a V4 triple-expansion engine and coke fired boiler.

1937 – The last DG Sentinel was built for South Africa. A total of 851 DGs had been produced since 1927.

1938 – A total of 405 S type Sentinels had been built since 1933.

1950 – A total of 100 S6 tipper waggons was ordered by the Argentine Government to be exported to Patagonia.


Sentinel S6 in Patagonia


1951 - The last Shrewsbury built Sentinel waggon, the Pederyn Dumper (Works No.9502) was built.


Steam Railway Locomotives

1923 – The first Sentinel Steam Railway Locomotive (Works No.5156) was built using a Super Sentinel engine mounted vertically and a waggon boiler with chain drive to axles.

1925 – The Sentinel LNER Class Y1 0-4-0 geared steam locomotives were built for the London & North Eastern Railway, with the wheels driven by sprocket chain. They passed into British Railways ownership in 1948 and were numbered 68130-68153.


Sentinel LNER Class Y1 Locomotive


1926 – The Sentinel GWR 12 (Works No.6515) was a geared steam locomotive built for the Great Western Railway. It was equipped to work train vacuum brakes and to provide steam heat for passenger trains. Initially, it was based at Swindon and used to work trains on the Malmesbury branch but it later worked at Brentford Goods Yard. The trials were not a great success and the locomotive was withdrawn in December 1926 and returned to Sentinel in January 1927. The locomotive was rebuilt with a larger boiler then worked at the Sentinel works as a shunter until 1934, when it was sold to Thomas E. Grey Ltd in Northamptonshire. Here, it was given the number 2 and the name Isebrook. In 1958, the locomotive was withdrawn and the boiler and parts of the engine were removed. It was used as a brake van until 1972, when it was condemned and then sold to the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre at Quainton.


Sentinel GWR 12 Locomotive


1927 – The Sentinel LNER Class Y3 0-4-0 geared steam locomotives were built for the London & North Eastern Railway, with the wheels driven by sprocket chain. There was also a two-speed gearbox but gears could only be changed while the locomotive was stationary. They passed into British Railways ownership in 1948 and were numbered 68154-68185.


Sentinel LNER Class Y3 Locomotive


1929 - Two Sentinel shunting locomotives were built for the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway with small vertical boilers and the wheels driven by chain. They were given the S&DJR numbers 101 and 102 and were used for shunting coal wagons on the colliery branch lines around Radstock. They were built to a reduced loading gauge as they had to pass under the Tyning Arch, which had only 10 feet 10 inches clearance. The locomotives were taken into London Midland & Scottish Railway stock in 1930 and renumbered 7190–7191. After nationalisation in 1948, they became numbers 47190–47191 under British Railways. Number 47191 was scrapped in 1959 and number 47190 scrapped in 1961.


Sentinel S&DJR Locomotive


1929 - The Sentinel TR GSL locomotives had a gauge of 3ft 338 in and were 0-4-0T geared steam locomotives built for the Tanganyika Railway. Eight of these locomotives were supplied between 1929-31. From 1948, they were operated by the East African Railways until the middle 1950s.


Sentinel TR GSL Locomotive


1930 – The Sentinel LNER Class Y10 0-4-0T geared steam locomotives were built for the London & North Eastern Railway, with the wheels driven by sprocket chain. There was also a two-speed gearbox but gears could only be changed while the locomotive was stationary. The LNER numbered them 8403 and 8404 but they were later re-numbered to 8186 and 8187. They passed into British Railways ownership in 1948 but 8187 was withdrawn almost immediately. Number 8186 was allocated the BR number 68186 and was withdrawn in 1952


Sentinel LNER Class Y10 Locomotive


1930 – Four Sentinel shunting locomotives (Nos.8209-8212) were built for the London Midland & Scottish Railway with a small vertical boiler and the wheels driven by chain. They were numbered 7160–7163 but later renumbered to 7180–7183. They passed into British Railways ownership in 1948 and were renumbered 47180–47183. Number 47180 was scrapped in 1953, 47183 in 1955 and 47181-47182 in 1956.


Sentinel LMS Shunting Locomotive 7161


1931 – A Sentinel shunting geared locomotive (Works No.8593)) was built for the London Midland & Scottish Railway with a small vertical boiler. It was numbered 7164 but later renumbered to 7184. It passed into British Railways ownership in 1948 and was renumbered 47164. It was scrapped in 1955.


Sentinel LMS Shunting Locomotive 7164


1934 – A Sentinel shunting geared locomotive (Works No.8805) was built for the London Midland & Scottish Railway with an Abner Doble boiler combined with a 4-cylinder compound arrangement. It was numbered 7192 and scrapped in 1943.

Sentinel LMS Shunting Locomotive 7192


1945 – The Sentinel 100 horsepower single-engined tank locomotive with a vertical boiler (Works No.9363) was introduced and several of these were built over the next few years.


Sentinel 100 Horsepower Locomotive


1958 – The Sentinel double-engined locomotive (Works No.9622) was introduced and several were built, including some for Brazil. After this year no more steam locomotives were made by Sentinel.



A total of 505 steam railway locomotives were built between 1924-58.


Steam Railcars

1923 - The Sentinel-Cammell Railcar was introduced, using a waggon engine and boiler with a chain driven bogie unit.

Sentinel-Cammell Rail Coach


1925 - A Sentinel-Cammell Railcar was sold to the New Zealand Railways Department. The London & North Eastern Railway also bought 80 railcars over the next 7 years, as well as 4 for the LNER-controlled Cheshire Lines Committee.

1928 - A Sentinel-Cammell Railcar with six-cylinder single-acting engine (Works No.7275) was introduced with a shaft drive to the front bogie. Palestine Railways bought 2 Sentinel-Cammell articulated steam railcars for local services. Each unit had two cars articulated over three bogies.

1930 – A Sentinel Railcar with two six-cylinder engines (Works No.7824) was introduced and two were supplied to LNER.



1933 – A Doble-engined Sentinel Railbus (Works No.8740) was introduced and sold to Southern Railway for use on the Devil's Dyke branch in East Sussex. Only 4 of these were built.

Sentinel Railbus


1951 - Egyptian National Railways bought 10 articulated steam railcars (Nos.9411-9420). Each had three carriage bodies articulated over four bogies.


Sentinel Articulated Railcar


A total of 292 railcars were built between 1924-1951.


Petrol and Diesel Lorries

1933 – Following the acquisition of Garner Motors, production of their 3, 4 and 6 ton diesel and petrol lorries was transferred Shrewsbury.


Garner Lorry


1935 - A new range of 3, 4 and 5 ton Sentinel-Garner diesel and petrol lorries was introduced with Austin, Meadows or Perkins engines.


Sentinel-Garner Lorry


1938 - The Sentinel HSG 5 ton lorry was introduced but only 9 lorries were sold before the Second World War stopped all road vehicle production.


Sentinel HSG Lorry


1946 - The Sentinel 7-8 ton, 4 wheel, 4 cylinder, 5.78 litre diesel lorry DV44 was introduced.


Sentinel DV44 Lorry


1949 – The Sentinel six-cylinder, 9.12 litre diesel lorry DV46 was introduced, being designed to tow a trailer.


Sentinel DV46 Lorry


1950 - The six wheeled 4 cylinder DV46 and 6 cylinder DV66 with diesel engines were introduced.


Sentinel DV66 Lorry


Petrol and Diesel Buses

1924 – A Sentinel 32-seater single-decker bus (Works No.5102) was introduced but only 4 were built.


Sentinel 32 Seater Bus


1938 – The Sentinel HSG 35-seater bus was introduced but only 1 was sold before the Second World War stopped all road vehicle production.


Sentinel HSG Bus


1948 - The Sentinel SLC4 40-seater bus was introduced with a Beadle body and 4/4DV chassis.


Sentinel SLC4 Bus


1950 - A Sentinel STC6-44 44-seater diesel bus was introduced with a 6 cylinder engine.


Sentinel SLC6 Bus


1951 – The Sentinel SL 30ft coach chassis with a 6 cylinder, direct injection diesel engine was made available to coach builders.


Sentinel SL Coach Chassis


Diesel Railway Locomotives

1957 - Rolls-Royce agreed to design and build a diesel locomotive of similar weight and power to a 200 horsepower steam locomotive.

1959 - The prototype Sentinel diesel locomotive was built. It was a 34 ton chain drive 0-4-0 powered by a Rolls-Royce C6SFL six-cylinder engine of 233 bhp (later uprated to 255 bhp).


0-4-0 Sentinel with C6SFL Engine


Before the end of the year 17 of these locomotives had been sold and the company prepared to produce 4 locomotives a month.

1963 – A larger version of the Sentinel was introduced. It was a 48 ton rod coupled 0-6-0, powered by a Rolls-Royce C8SFL eight-cylinder engine of 311 bhp (later uprated to 325 bhp).


0-6-0 Sentinel with C8SFL Engine


Between 1963-66, eighteen of the 0-4-0s and five of the 0-6-0s were supplied to the Manchester Ship Canal Company for use on their private railway network. In the same year, the company developed two larger versions of the Sentinel. The first was a 40 ton 0-4-0 powered by a C8SFL engine.


Rolls-Royce Sentinel diesel locomotive, painted in the bright red livery of Esso petroleum

0-4-0 Sentinel with C8SFL Engine


The second was a 74 ton 0-8-0 powered by 2 C8SFL engines.

0-8-0 Sentinel with 2 C8SFL Engines


1967 - A shaft driven 600 horsepower 0-6-0 locomotive was developed at Shrewsbury to use the new DV8T engine. This new locomotive was called Steelman and the prototype was delivered to Stewart and Lloyds of Corby.


Sentinel Steelman with DV8T Engine


It proved satisfactory and 3 more were ordered by Stewart and Lloyds and 1 by Richard Thomas and Baldwins at Scunthorpe. They were going to order more but, unfortunately for the company, British Railways offered them 26 second hand Class 14 diesel hydraulic locomotives at a fraction of their original cost. As a result, the company did not get the expected order and production of Steelman locomotives ceased.


1979 - ICI Billingham ordered two updated versions of the Sentinel Steelman locomotive which were delivered in 1981. After this, production of diesel locomotives ceased at Shrewsbury.


Over 100 Sentinel steam waggons and tractors have been preserved in the UK and are often shown at steam fairs. There are several surviving Sentinel steam and diesel locomotives located at various heritage railways around the UK, including Chasewater Railway, Elsecar Heritage Railway, Foxfield Light Railway, Middleton Railway and Northamptonshire Ironstone Railway.