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Leeds Forge Company

The Leeds Forge Company manufactured corrugated furnaces for marine boilers and later, pressed steel railway vehicles, in Leeds, United Kingdom.


Early history

The company was founded by Samson Fox, who was born in Bradford in 1838. Fox had been apprenticed to Smith, Beacock and Tannett of Victoria Foundry, Leeds, successors to Fenton, Murray and Jackson, who were early builders of railway locomotives. During his time with Smith, Beacock and Tannett, Fox was appointed as their travelling representative and became acquainted with Scotts of Greenock, who were major shipbuilders on the Clyde. Scotts provided a substantial proportion of the finance to set up the Leeds Forge at Castleton Field, Armley in 1874. The initial products of the forge were straight and crank axles for locomotives.

The Corrugated Furnace

In 1877 Fox lodged a patent for his Corrugated Furnace. This was a tube (initially of iron but soon using steel) heated and swaged or rolled under pressure to form corrugations. This had the advantage of increasing the surface area of the tube thereby allowing more energy to transfer from the fire into the boiler. In addition, the corrugations provided additional strength to resist the boiler pressure that was trying to crush the tube. The first order was for James Humphreys of Barrow and consisted of six furnaces 3 ft 1 in diameter and 7 ft 6 in long. The following year Fox was successful in obtaining an order for two American ships and by 1880, after considerable effort, had secured US patents. Also in 1880, the German company Schulz, Knaudt of Essen started production of the Corrugated Furnace under license from the Leeds Forge. Others requested a license to manufacture the furnace, including Taylor Bros, Clarence Ironworks, Leeds and John Brown, Atlas Works, Sheffield, but these offers were rejected. After a slow start with many financial setbacks, Fox introduced the rolling process in 1882 and this was the start of the financial success of the furnace. From then on, steamships were routinely fitted with the Fox corrugated furnace on both sides of the Atlantic.

Pressed Steel Railway Vehicles

Once the corrugated furnace had been proven both technically and financially. Fox turned his attention to other products and in 1887 exhibited in Newcastle his flanged frame plate for railway rolling stock. At this time, and for a long time to come, traditional rolling stock was built of stout timber frames with timber superstructure. This produced a very heavy vehicle that required considerable power from the locomotive before any paying load was added. The pressed steel product was made from relatively lightweight flanged steel that gave comparable strength with considerable saving in dead weight. In addition, the constriction technique, using male and female dies in a hydraulic press, offered a considerable saving of labour when compared to the hand built timber product. With little interest shown in Britain, Fox took his ideas to the USA. In 1889 the Fox Solid Pressed Steel company was set up in Joliet, 30 miles south-west of Chicago under general manager Clem Hackney, who had previously worked for the Union Pacific Railroad. By 1893 the works employed 400 men and turned out 80 vehicles per day. This included tramcars as well as freight wagons. In 1896 a second larger plant was built in Pittsburgh, however, in 1899 Fox sold his American operation to rival C. T. Schoen to form the Pressed Steel Car Company. Schoen had tread a parallel path with the independent invention of the pressed steel car. The Leeds business continued until bought by Cammell Laird in 1923 and it was they who closed the Armley works in 1929.

Clients for Leeds Railway cars include:

  • KCR - First Class dining cars

Railway Locomotives

Whilst Leeds Forge were not locomotive manufacturers, they did produce in 1928, three Bo-Bo electric hopper cars on behalf of English Electric. These were used by British Portland Cement, Greenhithe, Kent.


  • Newby, G.A, (1992) Behind the Fire Doors: Fox’s Corrugated Furnace 1877 and the “High Pressure” Steamship. Transaction of the Newcomen Society Vol.64.
  • Newby, G.A, (1994) Samson Fox's American Venture and The Development of Pressed Steel Railway Vehicles. Transaction of the Newcomen Society Vol.66.
  • Bradley, R.P, (1993) GEC Traction, Oxford Publishing Co.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Leeds_Forge_Company". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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