The Walking Horse, Lancashire’s first steam locomotive, was built by Robert DaglishRobert Daglish (1779–1865) was a colliery manager, mining, mechanical and civil engineer at the start of the railway era. in 1812 at the Haigh FoundryIronworks and foundry in Haigh near Wigan that was notable for the manufacture of steam engines. for the colliery owner John Clarke, entering service the following year. It was the first of three engines that hauled coal wagons from Clarke’s collieries in the Orrell Coalfield to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Crooke.


drawing of locomotive
Blenkinsop and Murray’s Middleton Railway locomotive, Salamanca
Wikimedia Commons

Horse-drawn wagons on wooden wagonways were used to transport coal from pits in the Wigan area to the River Douglas in the 18th century. Coal was transported downhill from the Orrell Coalfield to the Douglas Navigation in the 1770s and to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal after 1784. Empty wagons were pulled up hill to the pits by teams of horses.[1]

Robert Daglish started work for Lord Balcarres at his Haigh Foundry in about 1804. The foundry built stationary steam engines to pump water from coal mines. In 1812 the Middleton Railway opened connecting the Middleton pits with the River Aire in Leeds. John BlenkinsopMining engineer at Charles Brandling’s Middleton Collieries who patented a rack and pinion system for a steam locomotive and commissioned the first practical railway locomotive from Fenton, Murray and Wood’s Round Foundry in Holbeck, Leeds in 1811. had patented a rack and pinion system for a locomotive in 1811 and he commissioned a locomotive that was designed and built by Matthew Murray of Fenton, Murray and Wood in Holbeck. The track on which the rack steam locomotives operated was laid on level ground. In about 1810 or 1811, Robert Daglish moved from Haigh to manage Clarke’s expanding coal mining operations.[1]


Daglish built the Walking Horse under license from Blenkinsop at the Haigh Foundry in 1812 and it entered service in 1813.[2] The Lancashire engine was built so that it could negotiate an incline on the line over the Arches Viaduct that crossed the Smithy Brook at Pingot.[2] Daglish had converted the wooden wagonway to iron rails on stone sleepers of 4-foot gauge. The Walking Horse (sometimes called the Yorkshire Horse) was based on the Blenkinsop patent with a toothed driving wheel on the left side of the engine to engage with cogged rails installed on stone sleepers.[3] The locomotive had a wrought iron boiler and chimney and worked for thirty-six years.[4] The Walking Horse was two tons heavier than the Middleton locomotives and could haul loaded wagons up a four per cent incline. Two more locomotives were built to Daglish’s design for Clarke’s railway. At any one time, two locomotives were working and one was kept as  a spare for when the others were serviced or broke down.[5]

Daglish’s Walking Horse was more powerful and more reliable than the Middleton locomotives. The improvements made by Daglish and others on the early mineral railways foreshadowed the development of the mainline public railways.[1]


A notebook dated 1825 and preserved at the Lancashire Records Office reveals details of the locomotive and railway supplied as Dagish’s answers to questions from the notebook’s unknown author.[6]

  • The boiler was 9 feet long, oval in section, 4 feet 3 inches high and 3 feet 2 inches wide made out of ½ inch plate. It was filled usung a brass pump.
  • The chimney was made of wrought iron, 14 feet high, 20 inches in diameter at the bottom tapering to 16 inches at the top.
  • The locomotive had two 8-inch diameter cylinders with a 2-foot stroke. The locomotive’s wheels were 3 feet in diameter.
  • The oak frame was 16 feet long and 5½ inches thick.
  • The engine weighed 5 tons 4 hundredweights.
  • The cost of an engine was 400 guineas.
  • The engine burned 15 hundredweights of coal and evaporated 420 gallons of water in 12 hours.
  • The locomotive was capable of 4 miles per hour and could generate 8 horsepower although it did the work of 14 horses.
  • The savings compared to using horses varied according to the cost of feed but were from £300 to £400 per engine per year.