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.
Railway building began at Derby Works in 1840, when the North Midland Railway, the Midland Counties Railway and the Birmingham and Derby Railway set up engine sheds as part of their Tri Junct Station. When the three merged in 1844 to form the Midland Railway its first Locomotive and Carriage Superintendent Matthew Kirtley set out to organise their activities and persuaded the directors to build their own rolling stock, rather than buying it in (see 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 Waite Johnson, under the control of Thomas Gethin Clayton The Derby Carriage and Wagon works were built in 1876.
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 United States. 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. 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.
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 arc welding, replacing many forged and cast components. He introduced the first composite welded steel/timber bodies with standardised jig-built components. The first open carriages, referred to as "vestibule coaches", also appeared. From 1933, roofs were of steel rather than wood, with a simplified livery and a smoother external appearance, and, at the end of the 1930s all-welded steel vehicles were built for the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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] 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. The order gap was bridged by an order for Electrostars for the Gautrain project in South Africa won in 2006; 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; and by a £55 million order in 2007 for 38 Electrostars for the Gatwick Express service.
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 completed in 2017.
In 2011 Bombardier was expecting to lay off approximately 1,200 workers at the plant, irrespective of future orders, 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. After Siemens was named preferred bidder in June 2011 to construct the new rolling stock for Thameslink services through London, Bombardier announced it was to cut 1,400 out of the 3,000 jobs at Derby. Colin Walton, Chairman of Bombardier Transportation in the UK, said the loss of the contract had forced the company to review its UK operations. On 28 December 2011, Bombardier won a £188 million contract to produce 130 carriages for Southern. 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.
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.
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
The Crossrail contract is seen as crucial to securing the longer term future of the Derby plant