Coordinates: 53°57′25″N 1°06′17″W / 53.9569°N
1.1046°W / 53.9569; -1.1046 (Holgate Road carriage works)
West end of carriage works' 1900 extension, and 1930s traverser (2014)
The Holgate Road carriage works was a railway carriage manufacturing
factory in the Holgate area of York, England.
The factory began production in 1884 as a planned expansion and
replacement of the North Eastern Railway's Queen Street site; the
works was substantially expanded in 1897–1900, and saw further
modernisations through the 20th century.
The works passed to the ownership of the London and North Eastern
British Railways (1948); British Rail Engineering
Limited, known as BREL
York (1970); and privatised and acquired by ABB
in 1989 (ABB York).
The works closed in 1996, due to lack of orders caused by uncertainty
in the post-privatisation of British Rail period. Thrall Car
Manufacturing Company used the works to manufacture freight wagons for
English Welsh and Scottish Railway
English Welsh and Scottish Railway from 1998 to 2002, after which the
factory closed again. As of 2014 part of the site is in maintenance
related rail use.
As a consequence of manufacturing work using asbestos during the 20th
century more than a hundred people associated from the works have died
from illness caused by exposure to the material, with asbestos related
illnesses still occurring and causing death into the 21st century.
1.1 NER (1884–1923)
1.2 LNER period (1923–1948)
1.3 BR period (1948–1989)
1.4 Post-privatisation (1989–)
3.2 Further reading
4 External links
After the transfer of wagon building from
York Queen Street in 1867,
in 1880 the North Eastern Railway took the decision to move carriage
building to a new site, and the first contracts let for its
construction in 1880. The works was designed as an integrated
carriage building factory, with separate buildings for each process.
The main buildings were of brick construction, with stone and coloured
brick detailing. The internal construction was of cast iron columns
with wrought iron beams. Carriage building started in 1884.
By the late 1890s capacity had been reached, exacerbated by the
increase in length of carriages, and from 1897 contracts were let for
the construction of expansion of the works, primarily west, plus a
large lifting shop adjacent south of the main works building. Electric
and gas shops were also added and additional stores, plus servicing
and washing sheds to the west. The expansion of buildings was mostly
complete by 1900, excluding a wagon (rulley) shop built 1904. A
large wood drying store allowed a ready supply of seasoned woods for
In 1903 two 53.5 feet (16.3 m), 35 long tons (36 t) Petrol
Electric Autocars were built, numbers 3170 and 3171, early examples of
electric transmission in rail vehicles; the works produced rolling
stock for the North Tyneside electrification in the same period.
During the First World War, the
York works produced material for the
war effort, mostly logistics equipment – existing carriage rolling
stock was converted into an ambulance train and a complete train with
was produced for the Director General of Transportation.
In 1920 the carriage works had 13.5 acres (5.5 ha) of buildings
on a site of 45 acres (18 ha). The works built all of the
coaching stock of the NER, plus much of the
East Coast Joint Stock and
Great Northern and North-Eastern Joint Stock, as well as undertaking
most of the NER's carriage repairs. The site consisted of two main
buildings on the east end of the site; the northern most one was used
for building and painting vehicles, the southern one included the
sawmill, frame and cabinet building, machine and brake shops. There
were also offices, a smithy and cat shop, and gas and electric shops.
West of the main works was a large timber drying building, and
carriage washing facilities. The 0.6 acres (0.24 ha) 1871
building was still in use as, mainly as a glass store and paintshop.
Overall the carriage works employed 1,500 persons.
LNER period (1923–1948)
London and North Eastern Railway
London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) added traversers
(c. 1930s) at the west and east end of the main works building on
the south side; to accommodate the east traverser the buildings were
Second World War
Second World War the carriages works produced parts for
Horsa Gliders. In 1944 part of the north building (building shop)
which had been manufacturing launches for the Royal navy was destroyed
by an accidental fire. The building was rebuilt with a new roof with
clerestory lighting. During the war period time many of the
workers were women, who worked shifts up to 69 hours in a week.
BR period (1948–1989)
At nationalisation (see Transport Act 1947) the works employed around
During the 1950s there were over 3,000 staff employed by the works and
early Diesel Multiple Units were maintained on the site. Some early
Electric Multiple Unit
Electric Multiple Unit trains were built at York, such as British Rail
In the 1960s the BR workshops were re-organised : regional
workshops were abolished and control centralised with excess works
closing. York, together with Derby was retained and assigned to
carriage production, and £976,000 authorised for investment at the
In 1970 the rolling stock workshops division of British Rail
(excluding repair works) became British Rail Engineering Limited
From the 1970s to 1989 the works manufactured much of British Rail's
electric multiple unit passenger stock, including: Class 313 (64 three
car trains, 1976/7); Class 314 (16 three car trains, 1979);
Class 315 (61 four car, 1980/1); Class 317 (72 four car, 1981-2
& 1985-7); Class 319 (86 four car, 1987–1990); Class 318
(21 three car, 1984–1986);, Class 321 (117 four car,
1988–1991). and Class 455 (137 four car, 1982-4). The works
continued producing vehicles for British Rail after privatisation.
BREL introduced some modern manufacturing methods at the works,
installations included: five sheet metal machining centres, one with
an automatic tool change, used to manufacture body shells and bolster
parts for EMUs; test facilities for air-conditioning units; and clean
rooms for electronics repair. The works also had a short test track
electrified at 750 V DC or 25 kV AC. Experiments
were carried out into robotic welding machines in the early 1980s, but
the technique was not used for production at that time.
BREL was privatised in 1987, as BREL (1988) Ltd., and acquired by a
consortium including management, Trafalgar House and ABB acquired the
company including the
York works in 1989. Procurement contracts on
British Rail began being put to public tender in the 1980s; the fate
of the works was linked primarily to the number of orders for Network
SouthEast for electric passenger stock – failure to win the contract
for electric multiple units for the
Heathrow Express service (awarded
to Siemens/CAF, see Class 332) resulted in the loss of 289 jobs.
The works obtained contracts to build: Class 320 (22 three car,
1990); Class 322 (five and four car trains, 1990); Class 365
(41 four car, 1994/5); Class 456 (24 two car. 1991–92) and
Class 465 (97 four car, 1991–1994). Additionally Eurotrams were
built for the Strasbourg tramways at the site, and at ABB's Derby
Litchurch Lane works c. 1994–95.
In 1995 ABB announced that the factory would close due to lack of
orders; the cause was widely recognised as being due to a gap in train
orders caused by uncertainties following the privatisation of British
Rail: Union officials, ABB management, and Conservative and Labour
members of parliament all expressed similar views on the cause of the
closure. The carriage works closed in 1996 with 750
redundancies; ABB blamed the closure on the privatisation of British
Rail, stating that the privatisation had delayed orders, causing a gap
in the company's order books.
Wagon manufacturer Thrall (USA) reopened the plant as wagon works in
1997, having obtained about a £200 million order from EWS for
2,500 wagons. First production was the BYA type covered steel
coil carriers. The first wagon was formally presented in July
1998. Nearly half of the order was for 1145 HTA coal hoppers.
Other wagon types produced included 300 MBA 'monster box', 260 BYA
(covered steel coil), 100+400+300 FAA; FCA and FKA container flat
wagons, and 60 BRA steel wagons. Prototype MRA ballast wagons were
also manufactured for
Railtrack at the site c. 2000.
No further orders were received, and in 2002 the factory was closed by
Trinity Industries with 260 redundancies.
Network Rail acquired the main building in 2009 for storage and
maintenance of Rail Head Treatment Train wagons.
Asbestos was used in rolling stock manufacture as thermal, and sound
insulation; in carriages asbestos would be applied between inner and
outer bodywork layers as well as in flooring and radiator insulation.
After the beginning of the
British Rail Modernisation Plan
British Rail Modernisation Plan in the
1950s blue asbestos came into increasing use, until its health dangers
In 1975 an inquest into the death of former railway work Frank Summers
recorded that he had died from an industrial disease; he had previous
been employed in asbestos spraying at
York Carriage works. At the
inquest it was claimed that the use of asbestos at the works ended in
1964; initially the dangers of asbestos were not known and
employees worked without facemasks or other protection; workers
continued to be exposed to asbestos into the 1970s, relatives of
workers also developed asbestos related diseases through contact with
dust on workers clothing.
Many scores of former
York Carriageworks employees have died over the
last two or three decades from exposure to deadly asbestos dust at the
Holgate Road factory in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and even 80s.
— The Press, May 2008.
The Holgate Road site was still contaminated with asbestos in some
areas in the 1990s. By 2012 it was estimated that over 140 workers
had died as a result of exposure to asbestos.
Most of the buildings auxiliary to the main works have been demolished
post closure. West of the main works the area was cleared and
partially developed for housing, and the gas and electric shops were
demolished; the stores building in the northeast corner was reused as
a small business premises.
^ a b Fawcett 2005, p. 126.
^ Burman, Peter; Stratton, Michael, eds. (1997). Conserving the
Railway Heritage. pp. 103–104.
^ Fawcett 2005, pp. 126–7.
^ Ordnance Survey 1:2500 1892, 1909
^ Lambert, Anthony (2010). Lambert's Railway Miscellany.
^ "North Eastern Railway Petrol-Electric Autocar No.3170". Embsay
& Bolton Abbey Steam Railway. Archived from the original on 24
October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
^ Foster, Jonathan (12 January 1995). "Death knell imminent for York
train works As the railway industry prepares for privatisation,
historians and innovators reflect on the past and argue the way of the
future". The Independent. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
^ a b c Hoole 1976, p. 50.
^ "Visit to the North-Eastern Railway Carriage and Wagon Works at
York, 13th July, 1920". Journal of the Institution of Locomotive
Engineers. 10 (44): 308–310. 1920.
^ Fawcett 2005, p. 127.
^ Ordnance Survey 1:2500 1931, 1937
^ a b Fawcett 2005, p. 128.
^ a b The
York Press & 21 November 2013.
^ Railway Magazine January 1961 p. 11
^ "The Reorganisation of
British Railways Workshops". Journal of the
Institution of Locomotive Engineers. 57 (315): 91–146. 1967.
^ "British Rail Workshops". Railway Britain. Archived from the
original on 12 April 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
^ Larkin, Edgar (2009) . An Illustrated History of British
Railways' Workshops. p. 126. ISBN 978-1-906974-02-2.
^ "Class 313". The Railway Centre. TRC. Retrieved 3 December
^ "Class 314". The Railway Centre. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
^ "Class 315". The Railway Centre. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
^ "Class 317". The Railway Centre. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
^ "Class 319". The Railway Centre. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
^ "Class 318". The Railway Centre. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
^ "Class 321". The Railway Centre. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
^ "Class 455 – The Railway Centre". Retrieved 13 February
^ "Use of Modern Technology in Brel Workshops". Proceedings of the
Institution of Mechanical Engineers. 194 (1): 321–330. 1980.
^ Parker, David (2012). The Official History of Privatisation. 2.
^ "Class 320". The Railway Centre. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
^ "Class 322". The Railway Centre. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
^ "Class 365". The Railway Centre. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
^ "Class 456 – The Railway Centre". Retrieved 13 February
^ "Class 465". The Railway Centre. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
^ Wansbeek, C.J. (March 2003). "Strasbourg: Interurban tram strategy
strengthens city system". Tramways and Urban Transit. Archived from
the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
^ Smithers, Rebecca (11 May 1995). "Unions fear that train builder ABB
is to close
York works". The Guardian. p. 17.
^ Wainwright, Martin (11 January 1995). "
York to lose train carriage
works at cost of 750 jobs as orders dry up". The Guardian.
^ a b Tieman, Ross (12 May 1995). "ABB blames
York plant closure on
rail sell-off". The Times (65265). p. 24.
^ Halsall, Martyn (17 July 1997). "
York back on the track". The
Guardian. p. 20.
^ a b c "UK wagon works to close". Railway Gazette. 1 August 2002.
Retrieved 20 July 2014.
^ "Thrall Europa rolls out first EWS wagon". Railway Gazette. 1
September 1998. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
^ "BRA/BYA Covered Steel Wagons". London Transport Service Vehicles. 2
July 2007. History. Retrieved 20 July 2014. The first design to appear
was a bogie covered steel wagon, given TOPS code BYA.
^ "MRA Side-Tipping Ballast Wagons". London Transport Service
Vehicles. 2 July 2007. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
^ "Leaves on the Line". www.rail.co.uk. 2012. Retrieved 21 July
^ "Scan2BIM – Holgate Depot". Severn Partnership. Retrieved 21 July
2014. Network Rail bought the facility in April 2009 and has used its
12 railway bays for maintenance and overhaul of various rail fleets
focusing on the extensive Seasonal Treatment and Rail Delivery Fleet.
The facility covers 344,000 sq.ft of covered space and sits on 18
acres of land.
^ Simmons, Jack; Biddle, Gordon, eds. (1997). The Oxford Companion to
British Railway History. Asbestos.
^ a b "Lawsuit after asbestos death". The Guardian. 10 October 1975.
Asbestos timebomb claims lives of Alf Sturdy and Dennis Healy". The
York Press. 13 May 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2014. in a statement
written after he was diagnosed: “We were not provided with face
masks and undoubtedly breathed in the dust. I didn’t know that
asbestos was dangerous at that time.”
Asbestos caused death of former carriageworks employee". The York
Press. 12 June 2014. Retrieved 20 July 2014. A retired electrical
technician has died as a result of inhaling asbestos during 15 years'
York Carriageworks, an inquest has heard. [..] A post
mortem revealed he had asbestos fibres in his body and had died from
malignant mesothelioma .. coroner Donald Coverdale concluded he had
died from an industrial disease .. caused by inhaling asbestos dust
during his work at the carriageworks.
^ Laycock, Mike (22 November 2008). "
Asbestos claims another victim".
York Press. Retrieved 20 July 2014. Scores of
York people have
been killed by mesothelioma over recent decades, many of whom worked
at the former carriageworks in Holgate Road, where there was
widespread exposure to asbestos dust. There have also been cases in
which the wives of former carriageworks employees have contracted the
disease years later, because of asbestos dust which they breathed in
when washing their husband’s discarded overalls.
^ "New victims of asbestos time bomb". The
York Press. 17 May 2008.
Retrieved 20 July 2014.
Asbestos outrage". The
York Press. 5 June 2006. Retrieved 20 July
2014. as the sheds were being refurbished for occupation by the
wagon-makers Thrall, dust which had been found on all level surfaces
was sent for analysis [..] this analysis revealed that the dust was
contaminated with a cocktail of contaminants, including asbestos,
although greater concerns were raised by the presence of heavy metals
such as arsenic and lead.
^ Laycock, Mike (2 March 2012). "
York carriageworks' asbestos death
toll now at 141". The
York Press. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
^ Ordnance Survey 1:10000 1992 1:25000 2006
"Unlocking the future of York's former carriageworks site". The York
Press. 21 November 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
Fawcett, Bill (2005). A History of North Eastern Railway Architecture.
Hoole, Ken (1976). The Railways of York. Dalesman Books.
The Life and Times of
York Carriage Works: 1884–1995. ABB Rail
Vehicles Ltd. 1995.
Harris, Nigel (30 July – 12 August 1997). "USA's Thrall reopens York
Works to build up to 5,000 EWS wagons". RAIL. No. 310. EMAP Apex
Publications. pp. 6–7. ISSN 0953-4563.
Harris, Nigel (25 March – 7 April 1998). "York's new £5m Wagon
Works is on-time and on-budget, says Thrall Europa". RAIL.
No. 327. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 48–49.
ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
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