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Coordinates: 52°12′28″N 1°34′33″E / 52.207800°N 1.575796°E / 52.207800; 1.575796

The Garrett Company logo detail on side of lorry cab
Garrett showman's engine The Rambler
R Garrett & Sons traction engine recorded at Fawley Hill, 18 May 2013.

Richard Garrett & Sons was a manufacturer of agricultural machinery, steam engines and trolleybuses. Their factory was Leiston Works, in Leiston, Suffolk, England. The company was founded by Richard Garrett in 1778.

The company was active under its original ownership between 1778 and 1932.

In the late 1840s, after cultivating a successful agricultural machine and implement business, the company began producing portable steam engines. The company grew to a major business employing around 2,500 people. Richard Garrett III, grandson of the company's founder, visited The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, where he saw some new American manufacturing ideas. Richard Garrett III introduced flow line production – a very early assembly line - and constructed a new workshop for the purpose in 1852. This was known as 'The Long Shop' on account of its length. A machine would start at one end of the Long Shop and as it progressed through the building it would stop at various stages where new parts would be added. There was also an upper level where other parts were made; they would be lowered over a balcony and then fixed onto the machine on the ground level. When the machine reached the end of the shop, it would be complete.

In 1914, following a major fire at the works, it was decided to build a new factory on land that had been owned as a demonstration farm next to the station. From then on the sites were always known as the "Old Works" and the "New Works".

The company joined the Agricultural & General Engineers (AGE) combine in 1919, and the combine entered receivership in 1932.

The company was purchased by Beyer Peacock in 1932 after the collapse of AGE. The business continued as Richard Garrett Engineering Works until the works finally closed in 1981.

Today, part of the old works is preserved as the Long Shop Museum. Some of the offices are used as flats but the rest of that site has been demolished and the land used for housing. Some of the New Works is still used as industrial units while the offices have been converted to flats and more built on the site, known as Colonial House.


Portable enginesEdit

The majority of the steam engines produced by Garrett were portable engines – combined with their fixed steam engines and semi-portables, they represented 89% of the works' output.

Traction enginesEdit

Richard Garrett & Sons No.4 showman's tractor 31193, built 1913

Garrett produced a wide range of traction engines and ploughing engines, 49% of which were exported.

Steam rollersEdit

The construction of steam rollers was generally apportioned to Aveling & Porter by the AGE combine, limiting the production of these engines by Garrett. 90% of the rollers produced by Garrett were exported. Garrett rollers were produced under licence under the name "Ansaldo-Garrett" by Gio. Ansaldo & C. of Italy.

Steam tractorsEdit

Richard Garrett and Sons are perhaps best known for their steam tractors, the most popular design of which was the Number 4 compound tractor, commonly referred to as the "4CD".

Steam wagonsEdit

Garrett Six Wheeled tipping wagon 35464 of 1931

The company produced steam wagons of both the undertype and overtype configurations. Their first steam wagons were three relatively unsuccessful undertypes constructed between 1904 and 1908.

The failed undertype wagons were followed by a relatively successful line of overtypes, the first being constructed in 1909. These wagons were developed using the experience Garrett's designers had gained producing the tractors. The majority of these wagons were fitted with superheaters, a feature used as a marketing point against the un-superheated Foden wagons. The overtype wagons were initially produced in a 5-ton capacity, with a 3-ton design following in 1911. By the early 1920s, the overtype wagon market was declining in the face of competition from undertype steam wagons and petrol wagons. In 1926 a last-ditch attempt was made to produce an updated design of 6-ton capacity using components from the new undertype designs, but only 8 were produced. Overall, 693 overtypes were produced to the firm's designs.

The final Aveling & Porter overtype wagons were assembled by Garrett, under the arrangements made at the formation of AGE.

By 1920 the success of the Sentinel undertypes was evident, and Garretts decided to re-enter the undertype wagon market. Their first prototype was produced in 1921, driven by a two-cylinder engine with piston valves actuated by Joy valve gear. Unusually for the time, the wagon was fitted with Timken roller bearings on the crankshaft, countershaft and axles. This design was built under licence as the "Adamov-Garrett" by Adamov of Czechoslovakia from 1925. In 1926 a prototype rigid six-wheeled wagon was produced. In 1927 a poppet valve engine replaced the earlier design, this being used until the end of production in 1932. 310 wagons were produced in this second phase of undertype construction.

Electric vehiclesEdit

From 1916 Garrett produced a range of electric vehicles. Their first foray into the market was with a 3½ ton battery-powered vehicle, intended for local deliveries. They later produced trolleybuses, beginning in 1925 and manufacturing over 100 such vehicles over the next five years,[1] and refuse collection vehicles. Notable amongst these was the GTZ, 54 of which were made for Glasgow Corporation.[2]

Diesel wagonsEdit

Garrett were a pioneer in the construction of diesel-engined road vehicles, and their two 1928-built experimental Crude Oil Wagons, known as COWS in the works, are believed to be the first British-built wagons fitted with diesel engines from new. These vehicles were constructed using the chassis and running gear from the undertype wagon designs, one a four-wheeler and the other a six-wheeler, both fitted with a McLaren Benz engine.

The COWS proved the concept of a diesel wagon, and in 1930 the company embarked on designing a production vehicle. Due to the company being part of the AGE combine, the engine chosen for the design was a Blackstone's design, the BHV6. The first vehicle, designated the GB6, was completed in 1931 and a test programme was initiated. The venture was not successful, primarily due to the unreliability of the Blackstone engine, and the perilous economic state of the works at that time. After the company was bought by Beyer Peacock, a half-hearted attempt was made to market the design with a Gardner engine fitted, but no wagon was ever produced.


  1. ^ C. Mulley and M. Higginson (eds), Companion to Road Passenger Transport History, Roads and Road Transport History Association, 2013
  2. ^ B.C. Woods, Municipal Refuse Collection Vehicles, Trans-Pennine Publishing, 1998.

Further readingEdit

  • Whitehead, R.A. (1994). Garrett Wagons – Part 1: Pioneers & Overtypes. R.A.Whitehead & Partners. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-9508298-5-2.
  • Whitehead, R.A. (1995). Garrett Wagons – Part 2: Undertypes. R.A.Whitehead & Partners. p. 144. ISBN 0-9508298-6-2.
  • Whitehead, R.A. (1996). Garrett Wagons – Part 3: Electrics & Motors. R.A.Whitehead & Partners. p. 144. ISBN 0-9508298-7-0.

External linksEdit