British railways remain one of the safest forms of land travel. But it was not always the case, especially in the early days of railway development. The Shrewsbury & Hereford Railway was opened in 1853. These early railways relied on a motley collection of locomotives, carriages and wagons, track and signalling equipment from various manufacturers around the country. The Shrewsbury & Hereford Railway Co was no exception and had either purchased or leased a small number of little 2-4-0 engines from the locomotive engineers Hicks of Bolton Ltd.

In May 1874 one of these small engines was standing in the station at Leominster at the head a short freight train. The driver, luckily for himself had walked back down the platform to converse with the points man and signalman about when to start on its ponderous journey along the main line. There was one almighty bang as the boiler exploded demolishing a small goods shed and subjecting the station house to a heavy bombardment of flying shrapnel. Luckily the stationmaster and his family lived at the back of the house and the station was deserted of passengers.

Subsequent investigation found that a recent overhaul of the engine carried out by the Vulcan foundry of Newton Le Willows, Lancashire had included a defective and most peculiar piece of boiler repair work. The barrel had been patched and strengthened by means of a circular hoop of wrought iron as though it were a leaky beer cask.

Bolton Locomotive

Example of a Hicks Company of Bolton locomotive as supplied to early British railways