Early in the 20th century the Dick, Kerr Company was a major national business with a large plant in Preston. Later, various companies amalgamated, after WW I, to form English Electric. Next, they went into aircraft production. The old tram factory on Strand Road still made aircraft components until 1992.Advertisement
There was once another factory on the opposite side of Strand Road. Note, there is a lot of empty space that was once packed with railway sidings.
Dick, Kerr & Company opened in Preston in 1893. They also had operations in Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle and elsewhere.
The company was founded by W.B. Dick and John Kerr, who joined in 1883. Kerr was M.P. for Preston from 1903-1906. Consequently, they were early entrants in the street tramway business. Notably, they made steam tram engines, and later moved into electrical equipment.
In 1899 the English Electric Manufacturing Co was incorporated into the Dick, Kerr Company and a new factory was built opposite the earlier plant, off Strand Road.
The map below shows the Dick, Kerr works, on the left, and the now lost English Electric factory. Notice the enormous number of railway sidings. All of this has now gone. The map was drawn up in the 1950’s.
International tramway exhibition
By 1900 many towns were converting their tram networks to electricity and Dick, Kerr were a major exhibitor at the International Tramways And light Railways Exhibition, in London.
Additionally, the company always had a eye on the export market. In 1904, They supplied eleven alternators to The Municipal Council Of Sydney, for the cities lighting system. The Dick, Kerr factory was near Preston Docks, which assisted with exports.
Blackpool had one of the first electrical tramways in Britain. However, by the 1930’s the original trams were wearing out and Blackpool ordered a set of streamlined rail-coaches. These were made at the Dick, Kerr works in 1935.(See the header image).
Read more: See more nostalgia and history stories on Blog Preston
Dick, Kerr Electrifies Manchester
Below is one of the two cars made for the Holcombe Brook branch. Note the overhead wires and pantograph.
One of the first lines to be electrified in the Manchester area was the result of an experiment by the Dick, Kerr Company. This involved the Holcombe Brook branch, just to the north of Bury. The company wanted to test it’s traction supply and motive power equipment. Consequently, they paid for the line to be electrified with an overhead system.
Two cars were made, with only one being fitted with Dick, Kerr equipment. Later the line was converted to the three rail system, as used by the Bury to Manchester line. The Holcombe Brook branch closed in 1961.
Finally, the Metro took over in 1992, running trams back into Manchester from a new terminus in Bury.
English Electric later became the British Aircraft Corporation.
Read more: When the car of the future was made in Preston
Did you work at Dick Kerr? Or know someone who did? Let us know your memories in the comments below