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Report - L&NWR Wolverton Carriage Works, Wolverton, March 2010

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by layz, Mar 29, 2010.

  1. layz

    layz Conquistador d'Wolverton
    28DL Full Member

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    Introduction

    This place was amazing, if somewhat catalysed by my love of trains. I discovered it by good ol' fashioned 'walking around', and it's been mentioned in passing a couple of times on here. It’s a pity I visited alone, as the scale and enormity of the first shed is hard to gauge in my photos; it has to be the largest derelict room I’ve been in. It had been on my to-do list for a while and I wasn’t really expecting much, but the place was full of lots of little original features I know many of you love. The site is still partly in use so I didn't go in many of the sheds, and focused my explore on the buildings on the south-bank of the canal.

    A small word of warning, the construction of the floor above the basement in the back half of the building appears to be solid concrete, however it’s a resin/gravel mix laid over wooden joists and rotten in many places. The condition of the resin mix on-top gives little indication to the condition of the wooden floor below and I almost fell 3m into the basement!


    History

    During the construction of the London to Birmingham railway, the company was obliged by law to provide a depot halfway as it was considered unsafe for trains to run more than 50miles without examination. Wolverton is approximately halfway between London and Birmingham and was built around the grand union canal (still the highways of the day) so was seen as the ideal location for a service depot as parts could be shipped in by canal.

    When the railway was finally opened in 1838, it was necessary to expand the Wolverton works to accommodate the increased number of locomotives and so a new large engine shed was built. This early in railway history covered sheds were rare, even at terminal stations and the Wolverton depot was said to be ‘cathedral size’.
    Two locomotive classes were built at Wolverton a total of 165 locos, and the works was expanded in 1854 when 34 engines were transferred from Crewe.

    Further expansion took place in 1864 when Wolverton became the carriage works for the London and North Western Rly (L&NWR), and notably the place where Queen Victoria’s private train was built and in 1872 loco manufacture ceased and the works became dedicated solely to carriage manufacture. By 1877 Wolverton was the largest carriage works in the UK, employing over 3500 people. By 1897 the works had become so large, and on both sides of the railway, that the Birmingham to London railway was redirected around it forming a bulge now part of the West Coast Mainline.

    The works included:
    • Timber yard — where all wood was thoroughly seasoned for three years. Most construction was in mahogany, oak, walnut and teak, with sycamore and deal being used for partitions, roofs and floors.
    • Sawmills — complete with square-hole boring machine
    • Smith’s shop — 100 forges, 14 steam hammers, chiefly for steel carriage springs
    • Wheel shop — steel tyres from Crewe were built up onto teak wooden sections to make Mansell wheels .
    • Joiners’ shop — to produce components by skilled carpentry
    • Upholstery Dept. — for seats and covers
    • Four Paint shops — Sixteen coats of paint were needed, requiring sixteen days in the paint shops
    • Brake shop
    • Omnibus & Parcels cart repair shop

    During the Great War munitions and ambulance trains were made there, and in WW2 armoured vehicles, mobile kitchens, aircraft components and assault boats were built.

    In the 1960s Wolverton was highlighted in Dr Beeching’s report, and by 1962 the works had been slashed by 50%. In 1986 British Rail Engineering Ltd split and Wolverton became part of BR Maintenance leaving a workforce of 850, and by 1987 the works were slimmed down to depot status, with a large part of the works (on the opposite side of the road) being sold off for development.


    Today

    The site is still in use by the West Coast Main Line as an entrepot for white goods, but this is purely a road distribution centre. Railcare has consolidated its operations in the western end of the site and the operation is thriving.




    The site:
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    The Sewing Shop
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    Munnitions Work During the War
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    The Large 'Cathedral'
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    My Contribution:



    One of the 'Cathedral' sheds, the scale is hard to gauge in this pic:
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    From above:
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    The works had it's own narrow gauge railway, in places still visable:
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    The forge mold store, for making sand-cast molds:
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    Some BR MKI carriage doors:
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    Regards
     
    #1 layz, Mar 29, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2010

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  2. moto

    moto Guest
    Guest

    Great post - thanks for sharing! I took these in November 2005 when it was run by Alstom but couldn't get access to where you went (not sure why?!). Wish I'd taken more now :0(
    Rather new to forum posting so hopefully I've done it right - uploaded pics to a hosting site and pasted in the html code whatever that is into the reply.

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