By Geoff Courtney
A leading European preservationist has turned to Heritage Railway for information about a veteran steam locomotive which has a strong British connection and is part of a growing collection at a new railway museum that opened last year.
The locomotive is a vertical-boilered 0-4-0T built by Cockerill, an iron, steel and manufacturing company founded by British industrialist William Cockerill in Belgium.
William, a blacksmith and mechanical engineer, had moved to the country in 1799 to set up a textile machinery factory in Verviers, and in 1807 he moved to Seraing, six miles from Liege, to set up another factory, at which point his family joined him from Lancashire.
William retired in 1813 and his son John took over the business, which became John Cockerill & Co in 1825, manufacturing steam engines, railway locomotives, traction engines and steam-powered blowers for blast furnaces, with other interests including coal mining.
Such was its success that it became Europe’s leading steel company, based in part on its involvement in the construction of Belgium’s railways, and in 1835 it built Belgium’s first steam locomotive, Le Belge. There were dark clouds on the horizon, however, in the form of a Belgian banking crisis, and in 1839 the company became bankrupt.
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