Crovans Gate Works - A History

A History of Crovan's Gate Works

The North Western Railway established it’s repair shops at Crovans Gate in 1915.  From 1925 onward, the Works were expanded as and when required to meet with the operational needs of the railway.  In the early days of operation, larger repair and overhaul requirements (such as Henry’s rebuild following the incident with the Flying Kipper) had to be sent to larger and more capable Workshops.


However, as the North Western Railway grew and steam began to decline on the Mainland, Charles Topham Hatt took an opportunity to expand Crovan’s Gate Works.  Realising that outsourcing work to other Workshops on the British Mainland would soon be impossible, he opted to make his own workshops a renowned example of what could be achieved.


Charles worked in conjunction with a number of other railways on the Island to develop Crovan’s Gate as a multi-purpose outfit that all could benefit from.  When rebuilding of the Culdee Fell Mountain Railway’s original locomotive fleet required a long trip to Switzerland and back, a deal was brokered between the Mountain Railway’s management and the NWR to develop facilities which would allow for their engines to be overhauled or rebuilt at Crovan’s Gate instead.


Crovans Gate has also carried out contract work for several of the railways and museums on Sodor, the first notable project was the construction the boiler, cylinders and firebox for the Arlesdale Railway’s Jock.  In 1980, they also overhauled the boiler of the Arlesdale Railway’s Mike (ERS #45).


In 1996 when the NWR privatised, Crovan’s Gate Works became a hive of activity with the restoration of several locomotives from the railway’s Steam Trust being brought back to Sodor to meet with the rising demands placed on the railway.  Engines such as Sodor Castle, Brad, Ted, Kaiser and Rosie were all brought to the railway and placed on fast-track overhauls to prepare them for service on the Main Line and Branch Lines before 2000, and more quickly followed.  Engines such as Squaddie, who had been out of work for nearly 50 years, required heavier work before they could run again (ERS #120).


The privatisation of the North Western Railway allowed Crovan’s Gate Works to expand into the area of locomotive construction.  The first was the assembly of a Black 5 in the Works, using a set of frames and an assortment of other parts, including a boiler, from defunct locomotives.  The final result was Aturo, which after many years of work was turned out from Crovan’s Gate Works in the summer of 2005 (ERS #112).  Aturo was later placed on permanent loan to a Heritage Railway in the UK.


In 2003, the Works were contracted to build the Mid Sodor Heritage Railway’s No.4 Rognvald, work for which was designed by David Hugh, CME of the Skarloey Railway and Joanna Farrier, CME of the Arlesdale Railway.  under the oversight of the NWR’s CME, Caradoc ‘Strongarm’ Qualtrough, the locomotive was constructed over three years and finalised in 2006 for delivery (ERS #119).


The successful completion of the narrow gauge locomotive and the construction of Aturo led the NWR to begin exploring other opportunities.  Plans soon began to develop for the construction of a full-scale new-build project to be carried out by the Works, carried out in complete secrecy from the press and the rest of the railway.  The railway’s first new-build project, Pegasus, a Gresley V4 tender engine, was turned out in the Spring of 2010, filling a gap in railway preservation and the railway’s motive power roster, built for mixed traffic duties (ERS #171).


The sidings at Crovan’s Gate have also proven quite enlightening over the years with the discovery of engines such as Parker , restored for the Vicarstown Railway Museum; Emmeleia (ERS #155), restored for work banking at Wellsworth and Zelda, a NBL Type D600 Express diesel-hydraulic, who was stripped of components and put on display in the Vicarstown Railway Musuem (ERS #169).