Bring Me Sunshine – Lancaster to Morecambe & Heysham

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To me, the railway from Lancaster to Morecambe has always been linked to holidays by the sea. We would arrive from Lancaster Castle, by way of Lancaster Green Ayre, and on to Morecambe, almost never to Heysham.  We almost always travelled between Lancaster Castle, then down to Green Ayre on the electric trains, and across the Lune past Scale Hall to Morecambe Promenade station.  Right next door was the famed Winter Gardens, and directly opposite, the outstanding Midland Hotel.  On occasions we did arrive at Euston Road as well via a diesel multiple unit, and just that little bit further from the seafront.

The line was of course never intended to be a mere holiday branch line, and the route from industrial West Yorkshire, through Skipton was to connect to the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway at Low Park (Grayrigg / Dillicar) near Kendal, with a branch to Lancaster from Sedbergh.

Midland Hotel_July 2018 copyIn the 1840s a plan was hatched to build a railway from industrial West Yorkshire, through Skipton to a port at Lancaster – St George’s Quay – on top of which it was agreed by the businessmen involved, it would also connect with Hull on the East Coast. Over £1million in share capital was raised, with Charles Vignoles as the engineer in charge.

At the same time as the North Western Railway secured its Act, the Morecambe Harbour & Railway Company was planning to build its own line from the harbour at Poulton-le-Sands, (as Morecambe was then known) to Lancaster.   The Morecambe Act was approved on 16th June 1846, two weeks before the North Western Railway secured its own Act.

Morecambe Promenade from above 1920 EPW004078However, the Morecambe harbour company was more focussed on gaining increased revenue from harbour dues that coastal shipping and ferry trade offered, and its line was ‘handed over’ to the North Western Railway even before construction started. In addition to the line from Morecambe to Lancaster, the Harbour Company’s plan also included a proposed connection to the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway near Hest Bank, but this was dropped in 1849, only to be resurrected under the LNWR some 10 years later, and completed in 1864.

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1891 OS Map of approaches to Morecambe. “Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland”

The ‘Little’ North Western proposal from Leeds to Lancaster’s main purpose was to carry its produce from Leeds and Bradford to the west coast ports and main line railways, and unsurprisingly, the company’s head office was at 22 Commercial Street, Leeds. Here was the northern end of the North Midland Railway in the 1840s, and George Hudson’s territory for his grand plans for the York and North Midland, and expansion westwards to Liverpool and Manchester. However, the ‘Little’ North Western came to connect with the Leeds & Bradford Extension Railway, which was absorbed into the Midland Railway in 1851, and the ‘Little’ North Western leased by the Midland from January 1859.

Morecambe to Lancaster

The original terminus of the Morecambe Harbour & Railway Company was on the wooden jetty at Poulton-le-Sands, which was later replaced by a stone structure. The present day “Midland Hotel” was originally known as the “Morecambe Hotel”, and the stone jetty marked the western boundary of the harbour.

A more ‘conventional’ station, with an overall roof was built at Northumberland Street, as the railway’s passenger traffic grew, along with a hotel to serve travellers for Douglas and Belfast. The line did actually end on the jetty, with a long, low building designed and constructed to allow goods to be offloaded rapidly from ships on to the waiting trains, before setting off on their eastward journeys. The building actually lasted around 90 years – into the 1930s – although shipping had ceased after the loss of traffic to the Furness Railway, and from 1904, following the opening of the Midland Railway’s harbour at Heysham.

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Morecambe’s original passenger station at Northumberland Street boasted an overall roof.  Photo Courtesy: Ken Ludlam

One of the major problems with Morecambe’s harbour was the range of the tide, resulting in the Midland Railway transferring sailings to Piel, near Barrow, on the Furness Railway. In 1867, the direct connection with the Furness, from Wennington was completed, connecting with the Lancaster & Carlisle at Carnforth. The new ‘Furness & Midland Joint’ line allowed the Midland to transfer its ‘boat train’ traffic from Poulton to the Furness Railway jetty at Piel, which was independent of the tide, and provided a better option for the Midland Railway. The Midland and Furness companies, together with James Little & Co., as equal shareholders, jointly owned the IOM steamers. The Furness Railway began construction of its extensive docks at Barrow in 1867, and created a new station at Ramsden Dock, specifically for the steamer traffic to the IOM, Ireland, and even America. The Midland continued to operate all its Irish and other seaborne traffic from either Piel or Barrow until 1893, when it duly gave notice of its intention to cease that operation.

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1893 OS Map of Lancaster Green Ayre.      “Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland”

Heysham Harbour

The first mention of a harbour at Heysham was included in the Act of Parliament obtained by the ‘Little’ North Western in 1849, the same year that saw approval for the connection between Green Ayre and Castle stations in Lancaster.

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Interior of the original Heysham Harbour station, possibly around 1908.                                   Photo courtesy: Mandy Sharpe

However, it wasn’t until 1897 that the Midland Railway – by then effectively owners of the ‘Little’ North Western – bought the land to build a new deep water harbour, to provide greater reliability for their cross-sea traffic. The site chosen was at the southern end of Half Moon Bay, with a branch line connecting to the original line at Torrisholme, with access from both Morecambe Promenade and the lines to the harbour, as well as directly to Lancaster Green Ayre – in effect the ‘Torrisholme Triangle’.

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The impressive approaches to Heysham Harbour in later British Railways days.            Photo courtesy: David Wood

There was a 4 year delay after giving notice to the Furness of its intention to cease running boat trains to Barrow, but after spending £3 million on a new 350 acre site, construction was completed and the new harbour with its rail connection was opened in 1904.

Electrification

Just after the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, the original station at Northumberland Street was replaced by the impressive Morecambe Promenade station, and a curve linking the LNWR line to Morecambe via Bare Lane was completed. This longer route from Lancaster Castle provided the LNWR with access to its own station at Euston Road – only a very short branch from the Midland’s line. Yet another connecting curve was made from the LNWR’s Bare Lane route to the main line at Hest Bank, which enabled trains from the north to access Morecambe directly, these changes collectively known as forming the ‘Torrisholme Triangle’.

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Taken on Heysham old station’s No.2 platform in BR days, showing the final livery applied to the ex-LNWR stock, converted by Metropolitan-Vickers and brought into use on the M&H route in 1953.                        Photo courtesy: David Wood

By far the most far-reaching change was the announcement in 1906 that electrification of the line from Lancaster Castle, to Green Ayre, and on to Morecambe Promenade. At that time Richard Deeley was the Midland Railway’s Locomotive Superintendent, and this work would have been seen as we today look at the use of ‘new technology’ in industry. This work built on the successful use of electricity at the recently opened Heysham Harbour, where the Midland’s own power station was supplying power to dockside cranes and other equipment.

Traffic

Throughout its life, the ‘Little’ North Western arm of the Midland Railway, and well into BR days, passenger traffic was typically the holidaymakers from the east, and Yorkshire in particular, which together with day trippers and local traffic from North Lancashire was certainly popular. To a degree it was also quite cost effective. For example the new station at Scale Hall, which opened in June 1957, was expected to pay for itself in 7 years, but it achieved its target in half of that time, only 3 ½ years – even before the ‘Beeching Report’ was published.

It wasn’t just holidaymakers though, as businessmen from Leeds and Bradford were provided with a ‘Residential Express’ by the Midland to transport the wealthy wool merchants and manufacturers from Yorkshire to their homes at Poulton, and for a time, the service even included a ‘Club Car’.

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Carlisle Upperby based 45518 on a stopping passenger train on the “Little” North Western at Wennington in 1962, heading for Morecambe.        Photo courtesy: Mandy Sharpe

After nationalisation, passenger numbers remained largely unchanged, and Morecambe remained a popular holiday resort, but like most UK resorts was dramatically affected by the growth of foreign holidays, and cheaper flights to destinations with guaranteed sunshine.

In terms of pure passenger numbers, in 1962/63 Beeching records these as 50,000 per week on the Lancaster to Morecambe line, but only around 5,000 a week on the ‘Little’ North Western route, along with the line from Wennington to Carnforth.

Density of freight on the other hand was an interesting picture, with 50,000 tons a week for the Heysham, Lancaster to Skipton and Leeds – at least it was justification for the original reasons for the building of the ‘Little’ North Western line, with access to the port of Heysham. Tonnage by station on these routes was much more varied, and perhaps as expected, places like Halton, Wennington, etc. delivered between zero and 5,000 tons.

Again though, Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham generated between 5,000 and 25,000 tons a week. Heysham was listed on Map No. 11 of the Beeching Report as one of the terminals for the ‘Liner Train Routes’ being considered by BR at that time, and so perhaps its future was assured even during that dramatic period. In fact daily liner train services were operated between London, Birmingham and Heysham in 1968, as the national freight strategy was set to be expanded with a £12 million investment in new terminals and routes.

Beeching & Closure

In the infamous “Beeching Report” 13 stations were scheduled for closure, and the Lancaster Castle, Green Ayre, Morecambe and Heysham service was to be stopped, and the route closed completely. Green Ayre was perhaps the largest casualty, along with the electrified line, and Morecambe’s Euston Road station. The latter was in a derelict state for many years after the line closed, until the site was cleared and redeveloped.

There is little doubt that the decision to withdraw and modify the Leeds to Morecambe services contributed greatly to the once famous seaside town’s decline, although the freight services to Heysham continued, the economic prosperity of the area suffered badly.

On the 3rd January 1966 the passenger traffic ceased on the line, four months later the locomotive and goods depots closed, including boat trains to/from Manchester, Birmingham and London and ” The Ulster Express”. In May 1966 the locomotive and goods depots closed, and with the withdrawal of all traffic on the remnants of the eastbound track from Green Ayre in 1976, the station and remaining yards were demolished.

Further reading:

Click on the image below to load a more detailed review of the lines between Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham, services, locos and rolling stock.

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Useful Links:

rylands railway map 1950s extract

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Freight on Rail in the UK

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Back in October 2013, Network Rail published a report entitled “Long Term Planning Process: Freight Market Study”, and in the opening remarks of its summary stated:

“The Freight Network Study sets out the rail industry’s priorities for enhancing the rail freight network, so it is fit for the future. The dominant issue is the need to create capacity on the network. This will enable it to serve the future needs of the rail freight market, ensuring the sector remains competitive and expands.”

One of the objectives of this forward view seems to have been to “reduce road congestion” – great idea.  Given both the speed and weight (44 tonnes) of HGV lorries on Britain’s roads – especially trunk and ‘A’ class roads, that’s got to be included too – yes?

Some of the internal statistics from the DfT and ORR make interesting comparisons with figures produced by Eurostat too, and whilst in general, this is an optimistic view, strict comparisons are difficult.  More importantly perhaps it stated that the overriding need was to create more capacity in the network, to cope with the projected increased market share with the internal road network.  These priorities were defined as:

  • Increasing the future capacity of the network – to enable more trains to operate
  • Enhancing its capability – to make more efficient use of the rail freight network.

This interesting little graph shows the tonne-km of freight trains in the UK, showing the result after 30+ years, is that freight tonne-km, are slightly ahead of where they were in 1980:

Network Rail stats for freight moved

The second graph in comparison shows the volume of freight carried – no international through services, just internal workings.  However, compared to the previous chart, you could say this was less positive.

Longer distances, but lighter weights perhaps.

Tonnes Lifted

In 2015, the Government published its “Road Investment Strategy”, which included this interesting quote:

“It is, however, important that we continue to invest across the tranport system as a whole, with the aim of enabling more choice and smoother journeys for all.

Road and rail, for instance, can often offer different options for passengers and freight.”

In its introduction, the Executive Summary indicates that 70% of freight travels by road in the UK, on a handful of principal arterial routes and motorways, whilst at the same time indicating that road congestion is an enormous cost to hauliers.  Actually, the % share of net road freight tonne/kilometres is more than that, and taking the DfT/ORR/ONS statistics from https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/rai04-rail-freight#table-rai0401 and comparing road and rail with the total movements over the years from 1996 to 2016, it is 88%. The greatest share achieved by rail freight during that period occurred between 2013 and 2015, when the rail freight industry’s share reached the dizzy heights of 15%, or 22.7 billion net tonne/km.

At the same time, there has been little or no investment in rail freight, and intermodal services are essentially static, with little development beyond a comparison with the 1970s “Liner Train” concept and services. Of course, there will be isolated examples of improvements to intermodal services, such as that envisaged for the “Exeter Science Park”.  This extract from the Government strategy document makes an interesting observation:

“Improvements to the SRN are also designed to bring economic benefits to the local area and wider region. For instance, a new junction arrangement on the A30, near M5 Junction 29, substantially enlarged junction capacity and opened up access to the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point. This is a strategic development targeted at driving economic growth and prosperity in the area, which includes the Exeter Science Park and Skypark business developments. Taken together, these developments are expected to create more than 10,000 jobs and generate £450 million in private sector investment, as well as featuring an intermodal freight and distribution facility. The improvements to the A30 were delivered by Devon County council, in partnership with the Highways Agency.”

The “intermodal freight and distribution facility” mentioned is nowhere to be seen on the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point web site, and only referred to in a Devon Council briefing paper 8 years earlier.

But, a comparison, however rough, between freight carried by rail and the charts below – based on ORR/ONS data clearly show a wide disparity between rail and road, and an unsustainable future for road freight at these volumes.

On the basis of these two charts, it seems that freight lifted by road has increased at a greater rate than that lifted by rail, although the distance moved has perhaps not increased at the same rate. Are the roads just carrying heavier loads over the same distances?

Over the 10 years from 2006 to 2016, freight lifted by road peaked in 2007/8, as did the distance moved, and whilst it did pick up a little from 2009, it has never reached the previous levels. At the same time, rail freight has basically remained static, and even reduced significantly since 2014/15.

The suggestion contained in the Government’s “Road Investment Strategy”, that 70% of freight is transported in and across the UK by road is a significant underestimate. Back at the beginning of November 2018, Stephen Glaister, chair of the Office of Rail and Road, was keen to outline that reform of the ORR, Highways England and Transport Focus is achieving success, going so far as to state:

“Broadly, I would judge that the reform has been a success. Crucially, the budget for RIS1 has fended off raids in a way it probably would not have done under the old regime.”

 

Under its latest plans, the road network has adopted the railways’ own 5-year planning methodology, but it does appear on the evidence so far, that there is, and will be little or no change in improving rail freight services in the UK. 2019 may be a watershed year for many reasons, but if the lack of expansion of intermodal, or investment and support for the rail freight industry, the outlook appears grim

By 2017/18, the total goods lifted by rail was down to only 75 million tonnes annually, and according to ORR estimates, represented less than 5% of total freight moved. On that basis, with little or no investment in the likes of intermodal and road-rail interchange facilities, whether at ports, or other locations, it seems that rail represents little by way of a economic options for growth.

Just 3 days into 2019, PD Ports issued a press statement with this eyecatching headline:

“Short sighted vision for Northern Freight Rail threatens UK economic growth”

As the Northern Powerhouse continues to wither on the vine, and rail improvements fail to materialise, the Government is being taken to task over its complete failure to include any rail freight proposition to connect Leeds and Manchester. So, two of the biggest economic centres in the north have little or no rail freight improvement in the pipeline.

Just over 4 years ago, a £3million+ intermodal facility was opened at Teesport, and PD Ports has seen its customers choosing to use intermodal platforms, with a “significant modal shift” continuing. Perhaps the most telling comment made by this port operator is this:

“There is a significant demand from our customers to be able to move freight east to west through this Northern corridor allowing shorter distances to be covered by rail. Without a viable alternative route for rail freight with the necessary capacity and gauge, the growth we are experiencing will be limited and at risk of reducing due to transport restrictions.”

In addition then to the lack of investment in rail freight generally, there is a very considerable difference in any economic strategy to enable the oft-quoted “Northern Powerhouse” to actually fulfil its aspirations. What is needed is action.

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Guards or Conductors?

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The role of the passenger guard on trains has been in the headlines over the past year, with the protracted dispute on Southern Rail, Northern Rail and changing the role of the driver, whilst the guard becomes a conductor with what appears to be less responsibility for the safety and security of the train. It is interesting to reflect what the old Southern Railway rulebook said about the role of both driver and guard in 1933:

Rule 138

“The Driver must afford such assistance with his engine as may be required for the formation, arrangement, and despatch of his train. Each train is under the control of the Guard, who must give the Driver any instructions that may be necessary as to the working of it.”

Fascinating – clear definitions of the role – but have the roles changed with changes in the technology of the train? The roles remained unchanged under early British Railways management, and in the BR Rule Book, the same Rule 138, has the same definition. Also in this book, an earlier rule has some additional information:

Rule 130 has 8 further sub-sections which clearly define the Guard’s responsibilities that cover making sure the doors are properly closed, and are responsible for securing the safety of passengers on the train, and if, or when an unusual situation arises.

Conductors are only referred to in the old Southern Railway rulebook when Drivers unfamiliar with a route were required to have a “Conductor” on the footplate/in the cab for guidance. This same rule (Rule 127) existed in the 1950s, in BR days too, so the only definition was for someone who knew the route to assist the train driver.

In the USA, ticket examination/inspection as well as the safety and security of the train was the role of the “Conductor” – the same role as the Guard in the UK.

Removing the Guard from his role on longer distance trains has always been controversial, but on short and very short operations, like the London Underground, it has been commonplace, and a degree of automated operation was introduced many years ago. In the late 1960s, as steam disappeared from the railway, the footplate staff reached a “Manning Agreement” which removed the need for 2 men on the footplate on certain types of train, and provided for amendments to grading, and reduced the impact on wages.

Later years, as ‘modernisation’ progressed, in the 1980s, the “Bedpan” line saw a protracted dispute between British Rail and the railway trades unions about DOO (Driver Only Operation). But this was tied in to a wider, earlier (1982) dispute with British Rail about “flexible rostering”, which resulted in a strike by ASLE&F. The “Bedpan” line trains were stored out of service for months, until agreement was reached with the train drivers.

The efforts to introduce DOO on the Southern in 2017 seem to have resulted in the usual mix of confrontation management and staff and the desire to protect revenue collection. The privatisation of the rail network in the UK has ensured that there is total focus on revenue collection – on-train Guard/Conductor inspecting and selling tickets – leaving the safe opening and closing of doors solely down to the Driver.

Whilst technology has moved on, and systems have been developed and implemented to reinforce, or provide operational support to train crews, is there an emerging conflict in the privatised railway between a focus on revenue collection and the safety and security of the travelling public? Events in the wider world, and incidents in the UK, whether in Manchester or London, have clearly demonstrated, with tragic effect, the need for more attention on the safety of passengers on a moving train, as well as at stations and access points.

But the disputes with the Train Operating Companies over the role of guards dates back to early 2016, and spread beyond Southern, to Greater Anglia, GTR, Northern and Merseyrail, amongst others. Towards the end of 2018 it shows no sign of being any closer to a resolution.

In early 2017, it was claimed that the Rail Safety & Standards Board had endorsed the view of operator “Southerm”, that DOO trains were safe, including this statement:

  • In a report published on Thursday, Ian Prosser, the HM Chief Inspector of Railways, confirmed that driver-only operation on trains on Southern are safe, with suitable equipment, proper procedures and competent staff in place.

The key phrase here seems to be “….with suitable equipment, proper procedures and competent staff in place.” That doesn’t sound like an absolute confirmation to go ahead – does it!

The announcement went further:

  • The ORR made some recommendations for further improvements, including ensuring that CCTV image quality is consistently high, which GTR-Southern has accepted and is in the process of implementing. The report also suggested some further minor improvements that are required before DOO is introduced at a small number of stations, for example improvements to station lighting.

I imagine that until the work is completed, operation of DOO services would not therefore be safe, and compliant with HM Chief Inspector of Railways requirements.

This was the report:

Even the next generation of high-speed trains – the Hitachi Inter-City Express trains have been ordered as DOO – so at least it will not be able to stop at unstaffed stations. So what is the role of the on-board Conductor – Customer Experience Person – just as on the Docklands Light Railway? On the DLR the Customer Experience Person is charged with responsibility for stopping the train if suspicious activity or an urgent/emergency incident is encountered.

But, are the Train Operating Companies using advances in technology for the benefit of the passenger – or just another way of treating their staff as commodities, or avoidable costs – human resources?

Other links:

 

 

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Standard Wagon and the SDT

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Heywood is a small town within the Greater Manchester region, and according to most recorded sources was home to railway wagon building since 1863, which is curious, since Companies House only have a record of the company’s formation in 1933. It may be that this was due to a simple change in the company’s status to become a ‘limited’ company, but if anyone out there can offer some additional advice I would be grateful.

Heading picBack in 1988 – yes, 30 years ago, the then Standard Railway Wagon Co., built and delivered an innovative Self Discharging Train (SDT), for transporting and delivering aggregates from quarries to lineside locations.  The company remained successful in the 1980s, and the following year, it’s share capital had been increased and stood at £1,402 million, so despite the lack of investment in rail, for these wagon builders their approach looked confident.

The driver for this particular wagon design, and maybe the company’s confidence, was the Department of Transport’s identified need to build 650 new by-passes under its road building programme, which of course attracted the attention of aggregate suppliers.

Side tipping wagonCarrying bulk aggregates over long distance by road to a target site would obviously be expensive, both financially and environmentally, so why not bulk haulage to a nearby railhead? At the time, aggregates would typically be discharged from conventional hopper wagons into stockpiles, like a merry-go-round coal train – by way of undertrack structures, from which the aggregate would then be loaded onto lorries. Clearly, with the government’s road building plans going ahead, construction of several hundred temporary discharge points for stockpiles at the railheads was out of the question.

SDT Train showing discharge wagonThe answer, so far as Standard Wagon was concerned, and in partnership with Redland Aggregates, was of course the self-discharge train. The idea was a train of hopper wagons, using a built-in conveyor built to discharge the stone. Simple enough you might think. The wagons were grouped in sets of 5 or 10, with the conveyor belt running underneath and between all wagons, and at the end of each group, the system allowed the transfer of stone to another group of wagons, or onto a transfer / unloading wagon. The fixed section of wagons were connected to one another using British Rail’s standard Freightliner coupling gear, whilst the hopper wagons, designated type PHA were mounted on GFA pedestal axles, built by Gloucester Carriage & Wagon. The unloading wagon was fitted with a boom, mounted on a turntable, which could be rotated to discharge the stone to either side of the wagon, either onto a lineside stockpile, or even into a lorry.

SDT SpecStandard Wagon received an initial order for four 10-wagon sets, each having 8 wagons sandwiched between the two boom transfer wagons, one of which carried a 65hp diesel engine, and the other a belt tensioning device. The boom transfer cars were fitted with an adjustable swinging arm boom and conveyor, and stated to be capable of delivering 1,500 tonnes of aggregate from Redland’s quarry at Mountsorrel. When travelling to or from a site – quarry or lineside location – this rotating boom was supported on a steel frame on the outer wagons, and locked in position.

Initially they were formed into trains of 20 hoppers, and first entered service in April 1988. In the same year, a second order for five SDT trains, but connected as 8 wagon sets, and these went into service in 1989. Standard Wagon claimed that trains of almost any length could be formed with this system, given the modular nature of the design and build.

The idea had been developed in the USA, but on shorter trains than normally used in the UK. An early prototype was built at Heywood in 1982, to develop the concept using a standard ‘PGA’ hopper wagon, with a conveyor belt fitted beneath its twin hoppers, and discharge its contents over and above the solebars to either side of the vehicle. Sadly it was not a great success, but further work was carried out, and the SDT train was born six years later using and developing this principle.

First SDT at Heywood

SDT load transferAt the time of its introduction, the SDT was claimed to be achieving all it was designed for, after loading at conventional batch loading points, the 1,500 tonnes payload could be deposited at the trackside. The company also suggested the load could be delivered over a hedge into a field – certainly avoiding the need for costly offload site preparation or planning permission. The booms at either end allowed material to be offloaded, according to the manufacturer at a rate of 1,000 tonnes per hour, but it was this ‘rotating boom’ that was at the centre of one of the most serious accidents in which the SDT was involved.

In February 2016, an accident occurred at Barrow-upon-Soar, when an East Midlands Train – the 10:20 Leicester to York service – a Class 222 set, number 222005 collided with the discharge boom of the SDT, which was stationary in a siding next to the main line. A fault caused the boom to be rotated out over the main line, and it struck two cars of the train, which was travelling 102 mph (163 km/h), but thankfully it was not derailed. Sadly a fitter who had been working on the boom wagon was badly injured, although no one on the passing train was injured.

The RAIB (Rail Accident Investigation Board) made a number of recommendations, including for improvements needed to the SDT’s owners, operators and maintainers methods of assessing risks and hazards. The maintenance company, Wabtec, were required to improve their management processes, and the then owners, Tarmac, were required to improve processes for determining when to instigate interim safety measures, as wagon conditions deteriorated.

An SDT had suffered another accident some 9 years before, in June 2007, when the type PHA hopper wagons used in the SDT were involved in a serious derailment at Ely, in Cambridgeshire. This train was en route from Mountsorrel to Chelmsford, and consisted of three ten-wagon sets and one five-wagon set 
but derailed causing substantial damage to a bridge over the River Ouse. Thankfully no injuries resulted from the derailment, but both the section of line and part of the River Ouse were closed for 6 months.

Standard Wagon of Heywood was registered in November 1933, and 70 years later, following acquisition and integration with Cardiff based Powell Duffryn in 1989, the company had effectively ceased trading. Powell Duffryn itself, a general engineering business and ports operator, was sold to a venture capitalist in 2000. Currently, it is listed as a non-trading company, based in Bracknell, Berkshire, but classed as a builder of locomotives and rail vehicles.

Standard Wagon logo

Standard Wagon WorksOnce acquired by Powell Duffryn, they continued in the manufacture and repair of goods wagons, and bogies, but barely 2 years later in 1991/92, things had started to deteriorate, with orders drying up, and as Standard Wagon, the company made a loss of almost £1 ¼ million in 1992. The company still had its innovative wagon design, and was clearly hoping to sell the product to a wider customer base, than just Redland Aggregates, but the losses continued and all wagon-building operations ceased in 1993/94.

Today, as part of French construction materials company Lafarge, three SDT trains are still in use in the UK, each of course based at the Mountsorrel Quarry. A fascinating experiment with innovative ideas for the loading and unloading of aggregates in bulk, but one which, despite massive investment in road building in the UK has not been an outstanding success. At least the engineers, designers and wagon builders at Standard Wagon in Heywood can take some comfort for the fact that their innovation is still in operation today.

Further reading:

 

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Where Have All The Named Trains Gone?

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During the 1950s and into the 1960s, the romance of travelling by rail was still supported by the naming of many express trains, not just in Britain, but also around the world, from the USA, to India and Australia.

In Britain, the naming of principal express trains was reinstated after the end of the Second World War, and in the 1950s and 1960s some were added, and some withdrawn. In and around 1961 the London Midland Region listed these:

Main tableWhat happened to them – and do these services still exist in some form I wonder?

Notes:

(i) Started life as the “Thames Forth Express”, but when re-introduced in 1957, the name “Waverley” was deemed more appropriate.

(ii) Lasted only 4 years in BR days, but the service exists in a form today, under a private train operator: “East Midlands Trains”, operating on weekdays only.

Of the 24 named trains running in the 1950s and 1960s, 7 had been introduced by British Railways, whilst the two oldest – the Irish Mail and the Royal Scot eventually managed to clock up more than 75 years in operation. The shortest-lived service – the St Pancras to Nottingham Midland, the Robin Hood, still has the vestiges of the named train run in BR days, but only on weekdays. In addition it keeps the old HST / InterCity 125 sets in operation on the up run from London to Nottingham – some 45 years after their first introduction. The 7-car Class 222 multiple units operate the up service, whilst the 6-car sets with a pair of Class 43 HST power cars and Mark III coaches run in the down direction.

That said, on the London Midland Region of BR, this was definitely not the most well known, or popular express passenger service, and especially in the days of locomotive hauled trains, that honour went to the 10:00 from London Euston – known throughout its 70+ year working life as the “Royal Scot”. Although in later years, its northbound departure time was progressive put back, and by 1960, the train set off from Euston a 09:15, and scheduled to arrive in Glasgow at 16:15. Considering that 1960/61 was around the middle of the massive modernisation and re-equipment programme, a 7-hour timing was not bad – but, there were often delays.

This is what the timetable advertised:

Named Trains from 1961 2

Caledonian leaving Carlisle

View NW from London Road Bridge, towards Carlisle Citadel Station and Scotland. Citadel station is just visible in the right distance and the train is crossing the ‘Canal’ (Goods avoiding) line.  Photo Courtesy: Ben Booksbank under Creative Commons License 2.0

In fact, the West Coast Main Line, from LNWR and LMS days until the middle British Railways era was home to a number of famous trains. Of course it ran on Sundays too, but with extra stops.

No fewer than 10 of these named trains were introduced in 1927, as the LMS was competing with its East Coast rival, the LNER, for the Anglo-Scottish passenger traffic. The “Royal Scot” service was introduced in that year, and it was hoped that the new locomotives from the North British Loco Co would arrive in time for the new timetable. In late 1927, the new engines were available to work the long distance Anglo‑Scottish expresses, in particular, the London ‑ Glasgow “Royal Scot” service, and the “Mid-Day Scot”. The Mid-Day Scot was so named due to the departure of the southbound and arrival of northbound being within 30 minutes of 1 pm.

There were 6 named express services that provided links with the ports of Holyhead, Liverpool, Heysham and Stranraer for the cross Irish Sea ferry services. Of these, the “Irish Mail” was perhaps both the most well known, and the oldest named express passenger train. This was followed closely by the “Ulster Express”, which was originally launched as the Belfast Boat Train service by the Midland Railway, from St Pancras to Leeds, Lancaster, and on via Heysham. Before 1923 the LNWR operated a boat train service from Euston to Fleetwood, but following the amalgamations, the LMS moved its service to the more modern port facilities at Heysham, and from 1927 onwards it became the “Ulster Express”. The “Irish Mail” express operated out of Euston at 08:30, to reach Holyhead, where a connection was made with the LNWR steamer to Dublin, via Dun Laoghaire or Kingstown. A mid-day service from Euston at 13:20 connected with a Holyhead to Dublin (North Wall), whilst a dining car express from Euston left at 19:30 for Holyhead again, and connected with the LNWR’s steamer to Greenore. That was not the end of the story either, as the final service, the night “Irish Mail” left Euston at 20:45 for Holyhead, and connected with the ferry to Dublin via Kingstown, and was followed by another boat train service from Euston at 22:15, followed by a ferry to Dublin (North Wall).

So, the named expresses operated on the Irish Sea routes had a fairly long and varied history, with all still operational in BR days. It was added to in 1954, by the introduction of the “Emerald Isle Express”, also on the Euston to Holyhead route, which left Euston at 17:35, and allowed passengers to change to the cross-sea ferry at Holyhead well before midnight.

Interestingly at the peak of the years of the economic depression of the 1930s, the LMS introduced five new, named, express passenger trains. These were targeted at the passenger traffic to and from Manchester and Liverpool, alongside a more intriguing service from London Euston to Workington, by way of the old Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith line – the “Lakes Express”. It was a curious mix of year round, and summer only daily workings. The year round service was from Euston to Windermere, whilst in summer, the extension to Penrith, Keswick and Workington was added.

Some 1961 timetable extracts:

1961 timetable cover

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Lakes Express

City of Hereford with a Lakes Express at Preston Station in 1963.     Photo Courtesy: Edwin Williams

The “Lakes Express” left Euston at 12 noon, and at Wigan a stop was made to allow a connection to Southport, and detach through coaches for Preston and Blackpool. At Lancaster, through coaches for Barrow-in-Furness and the Cumberland coast to Workington were detached. With a stop at Oxenholme, the final coaches for Penrith, Keswick and Workington were sent on their way, and the last portions of the “Lakes Express” reached Workington at 19:26. However, in the extract from the timetable shown, the arrival at Workington was 19:53 for weekdays, with an 11:35 departure from Euston – over ½ an hour longer than its official pre-war schedule. That said, like many others, timings on the West Coast Main Line were impacted and considerably slowed by electrification work at the time, although this ultimately led to much shorter journey times after the work was completed.

1964 timetable coverBy the time the September 1964 to June 1965 timetable appeared, the only named trains listed on the London Midland Region were:

1964 trains

In the 1960s a new service carrying the name “The Night Limited”, left Euston at 21:50, for Glasgow, arriving at Central Station at 06:30, but carried first class passengers in sleeping berths only, and boasted a “Night Cap Bar” coach. This train was derived from the pre-war “Night Scot” service, which was a heavily used train, with 1st and 3rd class sleepers, but lost its name after WW2, and ran from Euston at 23:40. By the 1960s and the completion of electrification, the train was named again, and acquired its new departure time.

But by the mid 1960s, the 24 named express trains running in the late 1950s had shrunk to less than half, with just 11 express passenger workings retained from the original, but the overnight sleeper from London to Glasgow was formerly named. By the end of the decade, 14 named express services had gone, and 4 had been added.

British Railways in the 1970s was gradually becoming British Rail, with its corporate image, and double arrow logo. But the London Midland Region still offered 7 weekday named trains in the 1972/73 timetable. Although the number of workings was reduced still to 4 on a Saturday and Sunday, these did include the “Thames-Clyde Express” from St Pancras to Glasgow Central. The “Royal Scot” left Euston at 10:05, with a timed arrival in Glasgow at 16:42, and in the up direction, from Glasgow to London, the journey started at 09:25, arriving at Euston at 16:00. Just 8 years earlier, the same train was timed at 10:00 from Glasgow, with a 17:10 arrival at Euston – just 35 minutes longer. Quicker – yes – but only by just over half an hour.

1972 trains

BR LMR Passenger TT 1972:73

The “Night Caledonian” is included in the 1970s list above, but was a short lived sleeper service between London and Glasgow, and was discontinued in 1977, whilst the older “Night Limited” continued until 1987.

Preston 1980

This view of Preston Station in 1980, with an unknown Class 87, hauling one of the northbound ‘Electric Scots’ was typical of the last days of these expresses.                         Photo: Rodger Bradley

In 1966, electrification had reached both Manchester and Liverpool, and two locomotive hauled express trains – “The Manchester Pullman” and “The Liverpool Pullman” were running from Euston. Manchester’s old London Road station had been rebuilt, remodelled and renamed Piccadilly, and the down Pullman was timed to reach Manchester in 2 hours 33 minutes, with an 07:55 departure from London. The equivalent service to Liverpool actually set off 5 minutes earlier at 07:50, arriving at Lime Street station by 10:24 – timed for 2 hours 34 minutes. At this time, with the exception of the “Thames-Clyde” express, the Anglo-Scottish services were electrically hauled to Crewe, and replaced by diesels – typically the English Electric Class 50 – for the rest of the journey north. Until of course, the electrification from Crewe to Glasgow was completed in 1974.

Lancaster 1979 with 86245

The all-pervading “Rail Blue” colours of the ‘British Rail’ era is sported by one of the last BR built AC electric locomotives – No. 86245 pauses at Lancaster on its way north to Glasgow in 1979.     Photo: Rodger Bradley

The very next year, 1975, saw the St Pancras to Edinburgh “Thames-Clyde” express disappear, whilst the “Irish Mail” lasted another decade or so, but it too went in the 1980s, together with the “Royal Highlander”, the Euston to Inverness sleeper service. A little ironically perhaps, Virgin Trains applied the name “The Irish Mail” to one of the HST/IC125 power cars it operated in 1998. The HST sets never operated on the West Coast Main Line, and not on the Holyhead bound service, so perhaps this was a reference to the similar service operated by the Great Western from Paddington to Fishguard.

In fact, no fewer than 5 named trains were ‘lost’ in 1975, including:

  1. Devonian
  2. Thames Clyde Express
  3. Ulster Express
  4. Emerald Isle
  5. Liverpool Pullman

During the British Rail era, named trains on the London Midland were still regular turns, albeit much fewer in number, but all were then run under the “Inter-City” brand, as the railway’s sectorisation strategy was implemented. Inter-City services made substantial profits for BR during those years and into the 1980s, with the “Royal Scot” and “Irish Mail” still in operation, alongside the “Royal Highlander”.

By 1988, another 5 named expresses had gone, including:

  1. Irish Mail
  2. Manchester Pullman
  3. Night Limited
  4. Royal Scot
  5. Royal Highlander

But by the end of the 1980s, they had all gone, as fixed formation train sets, and ultimately, the “Pendolino” trains took over the express passenger workings on the Anglo Scottish, West Coast Main Line.

40 years ago, an item in the October issue of ‘Railway Magazine’ lamented the loss of named services, with this introductory remark:

“SEVENTY-NINE in 1958; thirty-four in 1968; twenty-two in 1978: thus the thinning of the ranks of named British passenger trains continues.”

Of course, that covered all of BR’s five regions, and in this short piece it is just a reflection of what had happened on the London Midland Region, from it’s high of 24 formally named, down to just 6 in 1978. Only 4 of these remained in the 1980s, with the “Irish Mail” service that started in 1905 under the LNWR, coming to an end after 80 years, in 1985, at the same time, the relatively new “Manchester Pullman” also disappeared.

The final two named trains on British Railways’ London Midland Region – under the British Rail InterCity brand – were the daytime “Royal Scot” and “Royal Highlander” sleeper service, both of which started life in 1927 as an LMS service.

Oxenholme 2013

A Pendolino stopping at Oxenholme in 2013 on its way back to London. The station was used by the long since gone “Lakes Express”, to allow passengers to reach the South Lakes, before heading north to Penrith for the North Lakes.    Photo: Rodger Bradley

Such a shame that the names have all gone now, but then the appearance of the 21st century trains themselves – though fast and efficient – does not have the same appeal or glamour of the steam, diesel and early electric locomotive hauled services of previous years.

-oOo-

 

The 1980s – A Decade of Disaster for Railway Workshops

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In the UK, at the start of the 1980s, there were 13 major railway works, employing over 30,000 staff with extensive engineering design and construction skills, but by the end of the decade, only 4 works were left and staff numbers had fallen to just over 8,000. Following the 1968 Transport Act, BR’s Workshops Division was able to bid for non-BR work, including potential export orders internationally. On 1st January 1970 it became rebranded as British Rail Engineering Limited.

BR Workshops 1982There were a number of major workshop closures in the 1960s, with Glasgow Cowlairs being one of the last, and in the 1970s, only Barassie Wagon Works, near Troon shut its gates for the last time. That said, the impact of loss of jobs and engineering skills continued, but the pace of industrial demise in the 1980s would see a step change in the pace of that decline.

This was driven to a great extent by the government’s “Transport Act 1981”, which provided British Railways Board with the option to dispose of any part of its business, and subsidiary companies, amongst other activities related to components of the old British Transport Commission, and various road transport measures. The act did not specify which subsidiaries were, or could be offered for sale, but debates in parliament did contend that this would include BREL. The MP for Barrow-in-Furness, Albert Booth, made this observation in parliament in April 1981:

“The object of the amendment (“amendment No. 1”) is clear. It is to keep British Rail Engineering Ltd. strictly within the scope of British Railways and the British Railways Board and to remove the ability that the Bill would confer on the Minister to instruct the board to sell the engineering subsidiary or to prevent British Railways from seeking the consent of the Minister to sell the subsidiary.”

Unsurprisingly, the Transport Secretary, Norman Fowler, rejected this suggestion, with this reply on the same day:

“The future of BREL is currently a matter of discussion between the Government and British Rail. The British Railways Board certainly wants improvements in British Rail engineering. Frankly cannot remember at this stage whether we have discussed the issue of private investment.”

A kind of non-answer, and with hindsight this seems to be an inaccurate response.

During this time too, two Transport Acts (1981 and 1985), which privatised and deregulated sections of the road transport industry came into full effect. In 1980, the National Freight Corporation was privatised, and certain rail/shipping/road integration activities were abolished, with changes to regulations about public service vehicles (buses). This was a precursor to the full-blown privatisation of buses that occurred after the 1985 Transport Act, and which led to chaotic urban transport operations in many areas of the country. On top of this, there was the controversial “Serpell Report” of 1983, which aside from its other findings, seemed to consider BREL workshops as an odd asset to be owned and operated by the national rail industry.

But the impact of the changes that occurred in the 80s was more than just about numbers, and the tragic consequences for many families dependent on these engineering works – this was equally as much about the loss of skills, training programmes, and technical and technology development. Between 1980 and 1985 innovation had seen the end of projects such as the APT, where the technology was later adapted within the “Pendolino” series of trains, but produced under a combination of Fiat and Alstom.

The private sector had an extensive partnership with the railway workshops too, and during this time the last major innovations from Britain’s railway industry included heavy involvement in the original Eurostar trains, and of course the ‘Le Shuttle’ locomotives. It could be argued that the completion of the Channel Tunnel, and the arrival of the TMST (Trans Manche Super Trains) marked the final chapter in the UK’s railway engineering expertise. Closure of the railway workshops would affect the likes of GEC, Metro-Cammell, Brush and others.

During the 1980s, some of the most well known, indeed world famous railway works were scheduled for closure, including: Ashford (1980); Derby Locomotive Works (1990); Horwich (1985); Swindon (1986); Wolverton Carriage Works (1980) – better know today perhaps for a nearby town with concrete cows. In addition to these major works, that disappeared completely, others were reduced to a mere fraction of their former size, and none were permitted to compete for other engineering work beyond British Rail orders.

They had the skills, but the official policy of the day did not permit those skills to be used.

Doncaster - Class 58RPB COLLECTION-4

Inside Doncaster Works, on the day the first of the Class 58 locomotives was presented to the public and media.   Photo: Rodger Bradley

The last orders for British Railways workshops to build new locomotives, was for the ill-fated Class 58, constructed at Doncaster Works from 1982 until the last of the class was completed in 1987. The works took on a role as the national locomotive stores in 1986, and parts of the site demolished, with other areas sold to Bombardier, and the US company Wabtec. For the next 20 years the remnants of the works remained in use with small orders for repairs and maintenance, and parts for train equipment, including braking systems until it was finally closed in 2007. On the 20th December that year, plans were reported in the press “ … to turn the land into a massive housing, retail and business complex …”.

Read more at: https://www.doncasterfreepress.co.uk/news/closure-at-plant-works-means-end-of-the-line-for-150-years-of-history-1-509529

A sad end to a 153-years-old engineering history. But these stories were repeated elsewhere, and perhaps one of the most well known and reported was that of Swindon Works, originally over 360 acres in extent, it closed in 1986, and the site put up for sale. Following a reorganisation begun in 1962, it was planned that the loco works would continue, but with a reducing workforce – as steam power disappeared. By 1966, the old carriage and wagon works had been closed, and a new apprentice training school was built, and Swindon had a total workforce of 5,320 at that time. That was despite the loss of over 2,000 men in 1963 and 1964.

Swindon too had built up skills in the new technology of diesel traction – with both hydraulic and electric transmission – from the new “Warship” and “Western” class main line diesels, to refurbishing multiple units, including electric multiple units for other regions. In March 1960, Britain’s last steam locomotive “Evening Star” was completed at Swindon, and 20 years later at the start of the 1980s, Swindon built twenty 0-8-0 diesel-hydraulic locos for the metre gauge railways of Kenya. Of course, the skills developed to support hydraulic transmission was rendered unnecessary, since British Railways had decided that all future traction would be fitted with electric transmission. A similar problem befell the North British Loco Co in Glasgow, who had built BR’s first main line diesels for the Western Region.

Swindon - first Hymek 26391534468_e2d2807eb1_o

D7000 at Swindon Works in May 1961. Original livery with white cabs, black buffer beam surrounds and no horns on the cab roof.           Photo Courtesy: Historical Railway Images

During the early 1980s less and less repair and maintenance work was undertaken at Swindon as part of the recently formed British Rail Engineering Limited, which was seen mostly to be awarded to Crewe or Derby, and with the embargo on bidding for non-railway work, the decline of the works was perhaps inevitable. The loss of engineering skills, and the loss of engineering apprenticeship opportunities was clearly bad for future prospects. It is well known, that like many “engineering towns” across the country, from Birmingham to Barrow-in-Furness, or Doncaster to Derby, the railway works at Swindon employed generations of the same families.

Ironically perhaps, some of the coach building skills were transferable to bus companies, and some of the men employed at Swindon were able to use those skills in the road transport industry.

The year after closure, in 1987, when 1500 people lost their jobs, the works were bought by Tarmac Swindon Ltd, with the intention of building a complete new community – housing, retail, etc. – which it thought to name ‘Churchward’. A few years later plans were approved to include a new railway museum in the remaining buildings, ‘R Shop’, which today is known as the “Steam Museum of the Great Western Railway” (https://www.steam-museum.org.uk/Pages/Home.aspx ).

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElNi5fQ2W-A

Erecting shop large_1997_7059_HOR_G_1

This view shows the interior of the Horwich Works erecting shop in 1890, barely 3 years after the works was opened. A traditional view perhaps, but the works lasted until BR days, and after steam also developed some innovative engineering techniques for fabricating components.                    Photo Courtesy: Science Museum Collection – https://collection.sciencemuseum.org.uk/objects/co417786

Another railway town hit hard by the dramatic loss of jobs and skills from the railway workshops in the 1980s was Horwich in Lancashire. There was both a locomotive works and a wagon works in Horwich – the loco works was established by the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, in the Victorian Era, whilst wagon building only started in 1963, when the work was transferred from the nearby Earlestown Wagon Works.

Horwich Works covered some 81 acres, and was begun in 1887, lasting just about a century until 1985, when it too closed. It had been expanded during its life, and in the post WW2 era had a covered area of over 150 acres, and had churned out artillery pieces, tanks, aeroplane parts and shells during the war.   As a locomotive works it was closed in 1963/4, but had turned out 35 of the new BR Standard Class 4 2-6-0s in 1952 and 1956, and continued to repair and maintain many other loco types until closure. The last steam type to be overhauled at Horwich was a Stanier 8F 2-8-0 No. 48756, completed on 4th May 1964.

At the end of 1966, 2492 people were directly employed in the works, on wagon building but by 1983 this had been reduced to 1400, and 3 years later the works closed finally with the loss of 300 jobs. Some small-scale engineering activity continued for a time, when BREL sold the site to the Parkfield Group in 1988, and the following year the rail connection was removed. The site became broken down into numerous industrial units on what was named the “Horwich Loco Industrial Estate”, and many of the buildings are still in use today.

Horwich Railway Works heritage is not forgotten either, and the Horwich Heritage Centre (http://www.horwichheritage.co.uk/index.php ), located nearby, remains committed to telling the story of the men and women who worked at Horwich and their engineering achievements over the years.

Unsurprisingly, the ongoing run down of the railway workshops in the 1980s, despite suggested opportunities to win export orders, to a degree considered possible by the government, the impact of the changes was greeted with much scepticism by MPs.

This was a typical view recorded in Hansard in February 1986, by Peter Snape MP for East Bromwich:

“Mr. Snape: Does the Secretary of State accept that since the Conservative party took office, the railway works at Shildon, Stratford and most of Horwich have closed? Does he accept that Swindon is scheduled shortly to close and that the works at Glasgow are also under threat? Does he accept that up to 12,000 further redundancies in BREL are threatened and that it will take more than the disgraceful slur from his creeping hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) to alter that?

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that it is the Government’s intention to run down BREL even further prior to privatisation and that the public sector will again pick up the bill, while the private sector picks up the orders? Railwaymen will not forget the right hon. Gentleman’s role in that.”

At that time, Nicholas Ridley was the Transport Minister, and offered this response:

“Mr. Ridley: The hon. Gentleman has been told—again he does not seem to take it in—that his pressure for increased investment in the railways, which has been met, as I said earlier, has resulted in rolling stock that does not require so much repair, maintenance and reconstruction because it is new and of a higher quality. That has been the cause of the rundown in BREL’s work force. To try to increase employment in the railway engineering industry I have agreed with the chairman of British Rail the new arrangements whereby BREL’s activities will be split into repair and new build. The new build part will, therefore, at least have the opportunity to gain export orders. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome that. He never seems to welcome good news.”

Judging by what we know occurred in the 1980s, Peter Snape’s estimate of 12,000 further redundancies was about ½ way through this “slimming down” of BREL.

The emergence of BREL Ltd as a separate business under the British Railways Board was a clear indication of the government’s desire to sell off the workshops. Not just the traditional heavy locomotive engineering side, but the wagon works where the railway’s freight vehicles were built and maintained, with a smaller number of specialist vehicles supplied by private industry. One of the most well known of the ‘wagon works’ was at Shildon, in County Durham – a town of 14,000 in 1982, and where around 1/7th of the population were employed in the works. BREL had scheduled it for closure, and in May 1982, the local MP, Derek Foster made this observation:

“Only a short time ago British Rail Engineering announced that it was to close the works in Shildon. It is a profitable works. This works has been described as the most efficient wagon works in the whole of Europe—not by me, not by the workers at the plant, but by the managing director of BREL. Not more than 14 months ago it was described as the jewel in the crown of British Rail Engineering, and now British Rail is saying that it is obsolete.”

 

Part of the government minister’s reply was interesting too:The works did close in 1984, and 1,750 jobs were lost – jobs and skills – and in the debate, the local MP referred to the many jobs and livelihoods that were at stake, and indeed would be lost when the works closed. At that time too, the economic recession had hit industry hard, and it was cited that British Rail had given as a justification for closure the over valued pound, “….the tight financial limits that have been imposed by the Government….” the failure to win export orders, and the recession.

“The Shildon works lie in the Bishop Auckland employment office area, which is part of the Darlington and south-west Durham travel-to-work area. It is the effect on unemployment in that area that must be considered. The latest available figures for Darlington and south-west Durham indicate that 11,500 people are without work—a rate of 13.9 per cent. Thus, as the House can see, if the addition of 2,500 people to this list over the two-year period involved in closure took place, although much to be regretted, it would not increase those figures to the rates that the hon. Gentleman suggested. They would be about 161⁄2 per cent.”

Four more wagon and coach building works also closed in the early 1980s – Ashford, Temple Mills (W. London)Townhill (Dunfermline), and Wolverton – leaving York as BREL’s only remaining rolling stock workshop, and a dependence on private contractors for new vehicles.

BR Workshops 1990Another notable loss of the decade was the St Rollox works in Glasgow. Here, the existence of both Cowlairs and St Rollox in the same area had led to the concentration of activity at St Rollox, when work was transferred from Cowlairs after its closure in 1968, and the loss of more than 1,000 jobs. In 1988, as BREL was being put up for sale – which was something that the government had indicated was not included in its earlier Transport Act – St Rollox was also closed, with a loss of 1,206 jobs. Seen against the background of the run down of other engineering industries in and around Glasgow, especially shipbuilding, this was a dramatic blow to the economy, and with little by way of other industry to absorb these changes.

Looking back at the 1980s, the decade had seen immense change in the railway industry, and manufacturing, which left Britain poorly prepared for any growth in rail transport, and yet, in that same decade, British Rail had proposed an investment programme for the building of hundreds of items of rolling stock and locos. An optimistic view to say the least, as the closures continued. This, despite the sale of BREL to a consortium of ABB, a MEBO (Management Employee Buy Out), and Trafalgar House (a finance company).

Overall, yes the world of work was changing, and the lack of investment and development of core industrial strategies, together with the economic recession of the 1980s would prove to be a turning point. The continued loss of the skills and technological development over many decades would ultimately prove the final nail in the coffin of the UK’s railway engineering industry, and the technical lead it had established over its competitors.

It could equally be argued that these had little impact on the railway manufacturing businesses, and the workshops in particular, but the general trend was towards fragmentation and disassembly of a national industry, and the loss of skills and opportunities for economic development in those fields. Of course, the UK did still have a fairly extensive private sector railway manufacturing industry, with the likes of GEC Traction, Brush Electrical Engineering, Ruston Paxman, and Metropolitan Cammell, amongst others still winning orders – mainly for export it may be said, but there was little growth. Job losses from the railway workshops would not be absorbed by the private sector, and the long-term prospects were poor.

Between 1980 and 1989 the total jobs lost directly reached more than 8,000, so if you factor in the jobs lost in the supply chain, on simple statistics alone, that could be in excess of 30,000. Whilst the last diesel locomotives built for British Rail came from Brush, at Loughborough, following the completion of the East Coast electrification, Crewe Works of BREL built the final locomotives, the Class 91, to an order from GEC-Alsthom.

In the end, before the railways were privatised, former British Railways workshops played their part in delivering innovative technology, before the wilderness years of the 1990s.

-oOo-

Further reading and useful links:

The Race for a Free Seat

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According to a report in the “I” newspaper at the beginning of November, and several others, the London North Eastern Railway has fitted free seat sensors in its entire rolling stock fleet. The entry in the paper stated:

“Sensors which detect whether a seat is free have been rolled out ….”

Back in August, the Daily Telegraph carried this exciting headline:

“Seat sensors on trains will end scramble for spare places, railway firm announces”

Hmmm – the August announcement was for a trial -this trial was apparently a success, so all the stock has now been kitted out.

Why, and how will that help if there is still 50% of the seating free because it’s in first class, and few people choose to pay the extra for a first class seat?

With the system passengers – or intending passengers – will of course need access to a smartphone or tablet, to connect to the on-board Wi-Fi network to see where the seats are located. This will show as a location map on their devices.

But of course seats that have been reserved, have always been shown on Virgin Pendolinos – the LNER system differs only in that you have to have a smart device, and then wait 5 minutes on board, before interrogating the system to see if there is a seat available. It’s even more useful than that, seats shown in amber (aka a traffic light system), have only been reserved for part of the journey. This means that you will be able to sit for some of the time, and then stand for the rest …. unless of course someone else on the train has nabbed the seat before you.

It’s the genuinely ‘free’ seats I think are a potential launchpad for conflict. Let’s say two passengers – neither having a seat reservation – find the same free seat, would it then be a foot race to see who gets there first. Then, once at the seat, how do you decide who should then occupy this seat, so that the on-board system can update itself, as it scans the physical space to see if someone has sat down, and updates its database before the next station stop.

Picture if you will the scene on a station platform as the train rolls in – the passengers with reservations are OK – but then there are the last minute passengers, who just buy a ticket to travel. People now have their phones at the ready waiting to board, and impatient to access the on-board Wi-Fi to access the ‘free seats’ map, and the scramble for best position begins near the door. The complex mess of passengers trying to get off, with others trying to board, and access the Wi-Fi, or just clogging up the vestibules at the coach ends, along with copious amounts of luggage.

It was announced back in August 2018 as a trial, but I’m sure it will all go swimmingly, now that they’ve rolled it out fully, and the need for passenger angst, or guards on trains will be diminished still further. Falling back on technology just because you can develop an app may not be the best way, but still, at least nobody will actually need to speak to a fellow traveller at all.

Here are a couple of interesting links.

 

 

-oOo-