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Derby Carriage and Wagon Works

Litchurch Lane works in 2011.

Derby Litchurch Lane Works (formerly Derby Carriage and Wagon Works) was built by the Midland Railway in Derby, England, in the 19th century. The plant has produced rolling stock under the ownership of the Midland Railway, the LMS, British Railways, British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL), ABB, Adtranz and Bombardier Transportation.


  • History 1
    • Midland Railway (1876–1923) 1.1
    • London, Midland and Scottish Railway (1923-48) 1.2
    • British Railways and BREL (1948–89) 1.3
    • Post-privatisation (1989–) 1.4
  • See also 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
    • Bibliography 4.1
    • Further reading 4.2
  • External links 5


Midland Railway (1876–1923)

Annual dinner of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers held in the carriage works of the Midland Railway at Derby in 1898. Samuel Johnson, the railway's Chief Mechanical Engineer was the institution president.

Railway building began at Derby Works).

By the 1860s the works had expanded to such an extent that he was considering reorganising it and, in 1873, it separated into the Midland Railway Locomotive Works, known locally as "The Loco", and a new Carriage and Wagon Works further south, off Litchurch Lane, locally known as the "Carriage and Wagon". This was completed by his successor Samuel W. Johnson, under the control of Thomas Gethin Clayton[1] The Derby Carriage and Wagon works were built in 1876.[2][3]

The carriages of the time were generally less than 50 feet long but, possibly because the Midland had just taken delivery of its first Pullman car 56 feet 5 inches long, Clayton had the foresight to design the works to deal with vehicles up to 70 feet. This meant, for instance, that the traversers at the end of each shed were still in use a century later.

Production had begun in 1873 (at the original loco works) of carriages from kits supplied by the Pullman Company of Detroit in America. These were followed by Clayton's own design of 54-foot-long (16 m) coaches, which incorporated both first- and third-class accommodation, and ran on four- or six-wheeled bogies.[4] Initially claret or dark red, with dark green locomotives, the livery of both was changed to the well-known crimson in 1883. Five layers of undercoat were used, followed by a top coat and three coats of varnish.

A six-wheeled coach built in 1885 is in the National Railway Museum. In 1879 the first bogie coaches were built for the Midland's line to Glasgow over its newly opened Settle-Carlisle line. Clayton's successor in 1903 was David Bain., the works building sleeping cars and dining coaches. In 1904 two steam motor-carriages were fitted out for the Morecambe-Heysham service.

Ten- and twelve-ton wagons were produced in quantity, starting with a set of components in the morning, each would be assembled for painting by the end of the day. Reid and E.J.H.Lemon studied American mass production methods and introduced them around 1919, raising output to 200 wagons and 10 coaches a week. The sawmill was recognised as the most modern and largest in Europe, with over 2000 miles of timber being seasoned, of nearly sixty different varieties, from pine to lignum vitae.

In 1914 the works turned to producing supplies for the army of World War I, building ambulance trains and army wagons, plus parts for rifles.

London, Midland and Scottish Railway (1923-48)

In 1923 the Midland Railway became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and W. R. Reid was appointed Carriage & Wagon Superintendent. Together with the LNWR's Wolverton works, new coaches were built to the Midland design, corridor coaches with doors to each compartment - the so-called "all-doors". These were still in use until nearly 1960, particularly on the Liverpool and Newcastle to Bristol expresses.

Around 1929 the compartment doors, however, were replaced by two fixed lights, and later with single large windows. All-wood construction gave way to steel panels. In the next decade the Works Superintendent, Ernest Pugson, realised the potential of the new technology of metallic Liverpool and Southport electric service, the Class 502.

During World War II, Derby pioneered aeroplane wing production methods, by 1945 having produced over 4,000. With the loco works, wings and fuselages were repaired and sent to a private contractor at Nottingham for assembly, initially of Hampden bombers but later of other aircraft including Lancasters.

Although towards the end of the 'thirties a complete 'Coronation Scot' train was built for an exhibition tour in America and a streamlined all-welded three coach railcar, most of the all-steel carriages were made by outside manufacturers. After the war, the LMS began to produce its own, the so-called "porthole" stock with round windows to the lavatory compartment. After nationalisation in 1948, as the main carriage works of the London Midland Region, the first Mk I all-steel carriages were produced.

British Railways and BREL (1948–89)

Preserved Derby Lightweight at Bewdley

The works became the principal rolling stock works of the London Midland Region of British Railways at nationalisation in 1948; the steel British Railways Mark 1 carriage was developed in the 1950s, and at the beginning of the 1950s the works employed over 5,000 people.[3]

In 1953 the works began production of Derby Lightweight DMUs;[3] units of aluminium construction. The use of glass fibre laminate was introduced for the roof ends.

Trailer cars were also built for the London Transport Executive as replacements on the London Underground Piccadilly line. In 1956, all-steel DMUs, the "Derby Heavyweights" were introduced, with over a thousand being built in that decade.

From 1958 the new Class 108 of Derby Lightweights was produced in quantity. A number of steel-bodied Class 107 DMUs were built in 1960 for lines in Scotland.

Litchurch Lane (1969–)
The prototype railbus LEV1

In 1969 the works were transferred to new subsidiary British Rail Engineering Ltd and renamed Derby Litchurch Lane Works. Wagon building and repairs ended, with a major re-organisation of the carriage and railcar work, and in 1979 container production finished.

In 1984, British Rail was under extreme financial pressure to close branch lines. At the same time a worldwide need was seen for a low-cost rail vehicle. The Research Division and British Leyland together produced a lightweight four-wheeled vehicle which they referred to as LEV-1. After proving trials, which included assessment on the Boston and Maine Railroad in America, it was developed into the Class 140 which led to a series of two-car "Pacer" units, and around 150 of various classes were built.

Post-privatisation (1989–)

Class 170 Turbostar at Peterborough

BREL was privatised in 1989 and became wholly owned by Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) in 1992, the works becoming part of Adtranz (1996), and in 2001 part of Bombardier Transportation.[2][5]

One of the first orders in 1993 was for Class 482 EMUs for the Waterloo and City Line. In 1995 a number of Class 325 parcels EMUs were built. However, this period was characterised by large contracts and rushes of work, interspersed with periods of relative idleness and layoffs. The works kept going by refurbishing ex-Southern Region slam-door stock.

Gautrain EMU in South Africa

In 1997 a contract was received to supply the new Class 168 "Clubman" DMU, which led to the various "Turbostar" DMUs and "Electrostar" EMUs, now the most widely used trains in Britain.

In 2004, the plant was retained as part of Bombardier's manufacturing capacity in Europe after restructuring by the company led to closure of seven of its European facilities.[note 1][6][7] The site had previously considered a possibility for closure, and had an order gap between the end of the Electrostar contract (for train operators SouthCentral and Southeastern) until 2008 when a major £3.4 billion contract of over 1,700 carriages for Metronet was to begin.[8] The order gap was bridged by an order for Electrostars for the Gautrain project in South Africa won in 2006;[9] the first 15 vehicles were delivered complete, and the remaining 81 in kit form for assembly at Union Carriage & Wagon's plant in Nigel, South Africa;[10] and by a £55 million order in 2007 for 38 Electrostars for the Gatwick Express service.[11]

After the closure of Alstom's Washwood Heath plant in 2005, Bombardier's Derby plant was the only passenger rolling stock manufacturer in the UK.[12][note 2]

In 2009 Bombardier received a contract to build thirty Class 379 EMUs for National Express services including Stansted Express.[14]

By mid-2011, Derby had completed construction of EMUs for the Victoria line and National Express East Anglia, and was completing an order of Class 172 'Turbostar' DMUs. The plant had a large order of 1,400 S stock trains for London Underground which was expected to be completed in 2014/5.[15]

In 2011 Bombardier was expecting to lay off approximately 1,200 workers at the plant, irrespective of future orders,[16] and the contract for the Thameslink Programme was seen by Bombardier's management as critical to the continued viability of the plant and related supply chain.[17] After Siemens was named preferred bidder in June 2011 to construct the new rolling stock for Thameslink services through London,[18] Bombardier announced it was to cut 1,400 out of the 3,000 jobs at Derby.[19][20] Colin Walton, Chairman of Bombardier Transportation in the UK, said the loss of the contract had forced the company to review its UK operations.[21] On 28 December 2011, Bombardier won a £188 million contract to produce 130 carriages for Southern.[22] By February 2012 the plant had reduced its workforce to approximately 1,600 and it revived again in 2014 with orders from Gatwick Express and Crossrail.[23]

See also


  1. ^ Plants closed in the UK included a Derby Pride Park (bogies), Doncaster (maintenance), and Bombardier Prorail, Wakefield (refurbishment).[6]
  2. ^ An assembly plant in Newton Aycliffe is planned by Hitachi which will construct trains for the Intercity Express Programme[13]


  1. ^ Billson, P., (1996) Derby and the Midland Railway, Breedon Books
  2. ^ a b "Site Fact Sheet: Derby Litchurch Lane, United Kingdom" (PDF), ( 
  3. ^ a b c "ENGINEERING DRAWINGS FROM THE DERBY CARRIAGE AND WAGON WORKS" (PDF), (Trustees of the National Museum of Science & Industry), April 2007, Administrative/Biographical History 
  4. ^ Vaughan, A., (1997) Railwaymen, Politics and Money, London: John Murray
  5. ^ "Bombardier's Acquisition of Adtranz Now Completed". Business Wire. 30 April 2001. 
  6. ^ a b Christopher Hope (18 March 2004), "Bombardier to axe 1,362 jobs in UK", ( 
  7. ^ David Briginshaw (June 2004), "Bombardier addresses overcapacity", (Railway Age) 
  8. ^ "Bombardier to cut 1,000 UK jobs to keep Derby rail factory working", ( 
  9. ^ "Bombardier signe des contrats d'une valeur de 1,650 millions US$ pour le réseau Rapid Rail en Afrique du Sud", (Bombardier), 28 September 2006 
  10. ^ "First Gautrain EMU unveiled".  
  11. ^ Duncan Tift (5 April 2007), "Gatwick order saves Bombadier", (Birmingham Post, Trinity Mirror Midlands Limited) 
  12. ^ "Crossrail rolling stock contract delayed pending procurement review".  
  13. ^ "Great Western electrification and IEP approved".  
  14. ^ "Bombardier signs Stansted airport train order".  
  15. ^ "Bombardier to shed 1400 jobs at Derby".  
  16. ^ Pierre Beaudoin; Andre Navarri (16 May 2011), Employment Levels at the Bombardier Transportation UK Limited Train Manufacturing Facility in Derby (PDF), Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd., However, even if the Thameslink contract is awarded to us in the immediate future, the culmination and successful delivery of existing projects means it is already inevitable that Bombardier will experience a dip in workload, the scale of which will mean laying off around 1,200 employees. 
  17. ^ Pierre Beaudoin; Andre Navarri (16 May 2011), Employment Levels at the Bombardier Transportation UK Limited Train Manufacturing Facility in Derby (PDF), Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd., The loss of such a major order as Thameslink would also have significant long term consequences on the UK railway supply industry as a whole. In today's difficult economic climate, many suppliers to the rail industry are already in an extremely vulnerable position. Downsizing to meet reduced demand is not an easy option. Many have reached the stage where the loss of orders or significant delays between orders will result in their closure 
  18. ^ "Siemens beats Bombardier to Thameslink train order".  
  19. ^ Dan Milmo (5 July 2011). "Bombardier: 1,400 Derby jobs are gone four months after PM's pledge to help".  
  20. ^ Brian Denny (6 July 2011). "Con/Dems collude with the EU to destroy last train building jobs in Britain". The Online Society. 
  21. ^ Robert Wright (5 July 2011). "Bombardier announces UK lay-offs".  
  22. ^ "Bombardier handed £188 million Southern contract".  
  23. ^ Sources:
    • "Bombardier jobs believed safe", ( 
    • "Bombardier confirms 'short-term future' of Derby plant", ( 


  • Larkin, E.J., Larkin, J.G., (1988) The Railway Workshops of Great Britain 1823-1986, Macmillan Press
  • Billson, P., (1996) Derby and the Midland Railway, Breedon Books

Further reading

  • Robertson, K., (2004) First Generation DMUs, Ian Allan Publishing
  • Marsden, C.J., (1989) Twenty Five Years of Railway Research, Haynes Publishing Co.

External links

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