Old Industries in Wickford

McEwan, Pratt

Advert for McEwan Pratt's engines

McEwan Pratt was founded in 1905, or shortly afterwards, as a private engineering company, by engineer Robert Henry McEwan, draughtsman Arthur Wellesley Pratt and Robert Davison – who provided financial backing. The company’s headquarters was at Wick Lane in Wickford.
In May 1907, they purchased the 6 acre former Darby Digger factory in Wickford, Essex, and started production of small locomotives. The first built was for a rubber plantation in Java. By December they were exporting vehicles to South Africa and South America
McEwan Pratt was noted for its production of railcars, and by 1913 were supplying both finished cars and powered chassis to various government railways.
The company produced a wide range of locomotives but struggled financially. In 1909, they were forced to mortgage their works at Wickford. The matter deteriorated in the next few years, and the company went into liquidation in March 1912
Baguley Cars Ltd approached the liquidator and purchased the Wickford works, stock, order book and patents. Baguley set up a new subsidiary called McEwan Pratt (1912) Ltd. which resumed production at the Wickford works to fulfil the remaining orders. Leonard Bentall, the McEwan Pratt draughtsman, became the chief draughtsman of Baguley and led the design of future Baguley and McEwan Pratt designs, which shared many common features. Robert McEwan also joined Baguley where he worked until 1921. He then left to form Light Railways Ltd which operated until 1929, and was an agent for Baguley locomotives.
During the First World War, The War Department made extensive use of railways to supply the trenches and used 2 ft (610 mm) gauge railways to move munitions, food and other goods from supply depots to the front lines. In 1915, the WD put out a tender for the supply of lightweight “rail tractors” to operate these lines. Leonard Benhall designed a locomotive based on a 1914 design supplied to a mine in Japan. The new locomotive was water-cooled and had a large tank to carry the water. More than 50 locomotives of this new design were supplied to military railways during the conflict, though they were only a limited success, being too light for many duties. These locomotives were sold under the Baguley name.

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