The Vulcan Foundry was founded in 1830 by Robert Stephenson in collaboration with Charles Tayleur, a Liverpool Engineer and owner of the Bank Quay foundry in Warrington. Robert Stephenson was managing a Locomotive Works in Newcastle-on-Tyne at this time, but finding it extremely difficult to transport heavy locomotives from Newcastle to Lancashire for use on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. To remedy this problem he went into partnership with Charles Tayleur and built a second factory, in Lancashire, exactly half-way between Liverpool & Manchester in Newton-le-Willows.
The first Locomotive to be built at the Vulcan Foundry was produced for a Mr Hargreaves of Bolton the founder of what was to become the North Union Railway. The Locomotive was named 'Tayleur' in tribute to the foundry's co-founder and was shortly followed by three more locomotives for the nearby Warrington & Newton Railway that opened in 1831.
In 1847 the Bank Quay Foundry was taken over by the Vulcan Foundry, and it was here that the materials for the Conway and Menai Straits Tubular Bridge were prepared. During this era the Vulcan was associated with many distinguished early locomotive engineers including William Kirtley, H. Dubs and Sir Daniel Gooch.
Locomotive building proceeded apace and in 1852 the foundry's long standing connection with India commenced with the export of eight 2-4-0 passenger locomotives for the Great Indian Peninsula Railway. These were the engines that opened the first public railway in India, from Bombay to Thana in 1853.
In 1871, the Vulcan built the first Locomotive to run in Japan, and from then onwards Vulcan Locomotives became more widely known due to the quality of materials and excellence of their construction with many examples outlasting the products of rival companies in service.
During the 1914-1918 War the foundry undertook a large amount of armament work and this was repeated again for a number of years prior to WW2 up to 1943 when the works was engaged to produce Tanks and other munitions for the War Department along with Torpedoes and Gun Mechanisms for the Admiralty.
In 1943 production again reverted to Locomotives and 390 'Austerity' 2-8-0 locomotives were constructed for the Ministry of Supply forr the use of the War Department. At the end of hostilities in 1945 Locomotives were again manufactured for export and home railways with the 'Liberation' class locomotives built and delivered in 1946 for the rebuilding of continental europe.
The foundry now started to advance its work in manufacturing Diesel Locomotives and a new Erecting Shop was built in 1948 for this specific purpose.