Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Ashford Works

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1901. Engine 737. Exhibit at the National Railway Museum.
Late 1970’s. Map of The Works.
Late 1970’s. Tool Room.
Late 1970’s. A Craft Trainee.
Late 1970’s. Kenya Covered Wagon.
Late 1970’s. Railfreight Wagon.
Late 1970’s. Wagon Repair Shop.
Late 1970’s. Class 56 Locomotive.
Late 1970’s. A Construction Shop.
Late 1970’s. Wheel Shop.
Late 1970’s. Fitting timber floor to an open wagon.
Late 1970’s. Kenya wagons.
Late 1970’s. Wagon conversion for Leyland Cars.
Late 1970’s. Bogie low-sided wagon for Kenya.
Late 1970’s. Railfreight open wagons.
Late 1970’s. Aerial view of the works.

Ashford Railway Works was in the town of Ashford in the county of Kent

1846 Ashford works was built by the South Eastern Railway on a new site replacing an earlier locomotive repair facility at New Cross in London.

By 1850 over 130 houses had been built for staff (called Alfred Town by the railway but New Town by everybody else), The works employed about 600 people in 1851 increasing to about 950 by 1861, and around 1,300 by 1882.

In 1853 the Locomotive Superintendent James I. Cudworth built the first of ten 'Hastings' class 2-4-0 locomotives there.

In 1855 these were followed by two freight engines. (An unusual feature of these was a dual firebox, each side fired alternately.) Over the next twenty years, Cudworth built 53 freight locomotives at Ashford and around 80 larger ones with six foot driving wheels, plus the first eight of his sixteen express passenger locos, the 'Mails', with seven foot drivers. He also produced four classes of 0-6-0 tank locomotives.

In 1878 James Stirling, the brother of Patrick Stirling took over and introduced a deal of standardisation. He believed in the benefits of the pony truck and produced a class of 4-4-0 with six foot drivers and his '0' class freight with five foot drivers. He also produced over a hundred 0-4-4 tank engines, and in 1898 the 'F' Class.

In 1898 the railway amalgamated with the London, Chatham and Dover Railway to become the South Eastern and Chatham Railway each of which had its own locomotive works. Ashford rather than Longhedge Works became the principal locomotive works for the new company, and the latter facility was gradually run down. The Locomotive, Carriage & Wagon Superintendent for the new company was Harry H. S. Wainwright who produced a series of successful and elegant designs at Ashford. Wainwright's tender engines built at Ashford included 0-6-0 freight locomotives of the 'C' class, and the 4-4-0 passenger engines of the 'D' and 'E' classes. His tank engines built at the works included the versatile and long-lived 0-4-4 'H' class, the larger 0-6-4 'J' class and the diminutive 0-6-0 tank engines of the 'P' class.

Wainwright was followed by R. E. L. Maunsell, who introduced the ultimately unsuccessful 'K' class 2-6-4 mixed traffic tank locomotives (which were later rebuilt into 2-6-0 tender locomotives), and the useful 'N' class 2-6-0 mixed traffic locomotives in 1917.

Following the amalgamation of the SECR into the Southern Railway on 1 January 1923, most new locomotive design and construction was transferred to Eastleigh Works. However, more of the 'N' class locomotives were produced at the works, and parts for 'K' class locos that were assembled by Armstrong Whitworth of Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1942 the works also built twenty of the Bulleid 'Q1' class 0-6-0, the remainder being built at Brighton Works.

Ashford works continued producing new steam locomotives until 1944, but in 1937 it was involved with in the English Electric company in the construction of three experimental diesel-electric shunters. After the war, the works began manufacturing a further series of 350h.p. 0-6-0 diesel-electric shunters.

Between 1951 and 1954 the works also built three diesel-electric passenger locomotives numbered 10201-3. In 1962 all locomotive production and repairs were moved to Eastleigh.

The Carriage and Wagon Works: From 1850, it had provided all the company's new carriages and wagons. This continued with continental ferry vans, Freightliner vehicles, merry-go-round coal hopper wagons and the Cartic4 articulated car transporter.

It was one of BREL's main wagon works, but as trade declined it operated on an ever-decreasing scale until June 1981 when British Rail closed the works with a loss of 950 jobs.[1]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1981/06/18