Brush Traction No More?

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According to the media today, Wabtec has announced it is to close its Brush Traction plant at Loughborough. So now the UK has lost just about all of its links with the industry that it began over 150 years ago.

Click on the image above to read about the Brush Type 4 (Class 47)

We have seen North British, Vulcan Foundry, English Electric AEI Traction, Metropolitan-Vickers, Hunslet, Andrew Barclay, Metro-Cammell, and many, many more companies disappear. Yes, I know about Hitachi and Siemens – and the irony that English Electric, and later GEC Traction traced their ancestry back to William Siemens, but really, is the name Brush Traction now about to disappear for good?

Wabtec bought Brush Traction just 10 years ago, and a press release at the time included this statement:

“With its focus on the locomotive aftermarket, Brush Traction is a strategic complement to our Wabtec Rail unit in Doncaster, England, which offers mainly transit car refurbishment. The company has expertise in high-speed rail, strong engineering capabilities, a highly skilled work force and a long-standing reputation for quality.”

Brush Electrical Engineering, and Brush Traction traces its ancestry back to 1889, when the Anglo American Brush Electric Light Corporation acquired the assets of the Falcon Engine and Car Works and merged their activities at Loughborough, England. The Falcon Works had been set up as a new business in 1882, which replaced the Hughes’s Locomotive and Tramway Engine Works Ltd, which started building vehicles from a seven acre site, including coaches, wagons and horse-drawn tramcars from around 1865.

One of the early BR diesels were the Brush Type 2 series, as seen here in its original colours at Blackpool Shed. Photo (c) Frank Dean

So, the Falcon Works in Loughborough had a long and distinctive history, and as Brush Electrical Machines the company designed and manufactured some of the most well known locomotives for main line passenger, freight, transfer and shunting duties and also supplied power and control equipment for all types of traction applications. In recent times these include a “who’s who” list of equipment for British Railways and British Rail, alongside the Euroshuttle locomotives used on the Channel Tunnel.

As a business, they survived from 1889 to 2011, with a brief period under the Hawker Siddeley Group – which has also now disappeared. This is a sad day in the life of the UK’s railway and manufacturing industry, as the site is being closed down. What remains of today’s activities, and the 80 staff will continue, just not at the old Falcon Works.

The original Euroshuttle locomotives were kitted out with Brush electrical equipment. Photo: RPBradley Collection

So what next for the Loughborough site? Or will this be the end of manufacturing for the railway industry in the area.

Well, actually, not according to the latest reports, the staff are moving out of town, to Ashby, a few miles away in north west Leicestershire, and there will be no redundancies. The Falcon Works site will close, and Brush Transformers will still continue in business at the Nottingham Road development, close to Loughborough’s mainland railway station.

Useful Links:

The iconic gable end of the Brush Falcon Works – a clearly visible landmark – but for how long? CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=762269

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