Death Knell Imminent for York Train Works as the Railway Industry Prepares for Privatisation, Historians and Innovators R Eflect on the Past and Argue the Way of the Future

Article excerpt

The future of transport, as it rolled out of York carriage works for George V's jubilee, seemed assuredly Blue Riband, technologically innovative and running on rails.

For want of some humble commuter trade, the great Holgate Road works was yesterday coming to terms with its closure.

The 750 employees, supported by local MPs, believe the viable potential of the works has been compromised by British Rail's decision that it could not justify an order for new commuter trains during its privatisation. Remaining work will last until October.

Sir Nigel Gresley, chief engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway, designed the 1935 Jubilee train as a confident harbinger of rail travel. The coaches, hauled by such locomotives as the 126mph Mallard, were coupled with a single articulated bogey. They offered a superbly comfortable air-conditioned ride on the long-distance east coast routes from Scotland to King's Cross.

As a token of what rail travel could offer, Gresley fitted the Jubilee train with an internal telephone system. "You sat in comfort that modern British Rail coaches cannot match, and you could phone fellow passengers, or call the restaurant car to reserve a table and discuss the menu," John Scott-Morgan, railway historian and author, said.

Coach building began in York 150 years ago, the industry attracting a working-class that was to develop a distinctive radicalism influenced by the Society of Friends.

Holgate Road works was completed in 1884, and covered by 1910 a 45-acre site. Its task was to build and maintain the entire coaching stock of the North Eastern Railway, and it was in the forefront of development of electric railways.

Stock for the North Tyneside suburban electrification scheme was built in 1904, and the works achieved a reputation for progressive construction of new vehicles, according to the rail historian Ken Appleby. …