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Great Western Railway Caerphilly Locomotive Works

Caerphilly railway works in Caerphilly (Welsh: Caerffili) in the county of Glamorgan was the only main railway works in Wales. It was built for the Rhymney Railway in 1899 and taken over by the Great Western Railway at amalgamation in 1923.

Sited on the eastern borders of the town, the railway workshops at Caerphilly were opened by the Rhymney Railway in 1901. Principally known locally as 'The Sheds', the buildings at Caerphilly Works were sufficiently completed for an inspection by the directors on 20 July 1900, although it was not until December 1901 that they were finally in operation. Built in two widely separated sections, at the east end of the site being that for the locomotive shops and the west end for carnage and wagon.

The locomotive Works consisted of one main building 245ft 0in long which was divided into seven bays forming six individual workshops. Starting from the northern end these were as follows:

Machine Shop. One 42ft wide bay equipped with several heavy duty lathes including wheel and crank machines in addition to many more general purpose machine tools.

Erecting Shop. Two bays, totalling 86ft 0in wide, each bay having two rail tracks with engine pits. Each track was capable of stabling five engines, although in normal practice, only four per road were normally under repair.

Test Shop. One bay 35ft 0in wide where a variety of work including Westinghouse brake test and locomotive weighing took place. One rail track led into this shop from the Works yard on which the Works and Goods yard pilots were stabled and lit up each morning.

Smiths' Shop. One 42ft wide bay equipped with a l2cwt steam hammer, a large spring furnace, fourteen smiths' hearths and the usual run of anvils, surface plates and swage blocks.

Boiler Test Shop. One bay 35ft wide of which only one part was used for testing boilers, the remainder being used as a steel stores and for a short time as a toolroom.

Boiler Shop. One 42ft wide bay with a 10-ton capacity electric overhead gantry crane. Plant included large and small plate rolls, punching and shearing machine, radial driller, machine saw and tool grinder.

The Works at Caerphilly had replaced the Rhymney Railways' original workshops which were situated at Cardiff Docks. The only main railway workshops in South Wales, it served the 23-mile stretch of line from Rhymney to Cardiff. Although the Works did not actually construct locomotives, it undertook a large amount of repair work and also undertook the standardising and modernisation of existing locomotives. Before 1922 the Works undertook work only on Rhymney Railway locomotives, but after this time work was carried out for other railway companies, the site at Caerphilly being considerably expanded. At about that time the number of employees peaked at around 700 and after 1923 it became part of the Great Western Railway.

Much of its initial work was in refurbishing older locomotives with new boilers and covered cabs. In 1906, C.H. Riches who had been at Gorton locomotive works became Locomotive Superintendent and appointed J.H. Sellars as Works Foreman. Their policy was to modernise and standardise the locomotive stock, and Riches designed a standard boiler and cylinders for all the railway's tank engines.

He also designed a new class of 0-6-2 tank engine to be built by Robert Stephenson and Company who had provided six of their own design in 1903. In 1919 Sellars became the Works Manager. Until 1922 the works only repaired its own locomotives, but they began to be sent from the Barry Railway and in 1924 the first Swindon-built locomotive arrived. The works was enlarged with a new erecting shop in 1926.

The works also maintained a variety of wagons and passenger vehicles, building new mineral wagons and a few carriages, with a new workshop in 1901. However a new wagon works was built at Cardiff and, with work finishing its main work of converting Westinghouse air brakes to GWR vacuum brakes, the carriage and wagon works was phased out. However, in 1939 new workshops were built for carriage repairs only.

The amalgamation of the railways forming the Western group took place in stages, constituent companies being dealt with first, the smaller absorbed companies being dealt with later. It would be difficult to establish an actual date when the GWR took full working control, although in the case of the Rhymney Railway this was on 25 March 1922, and, as with other companies, financial transactions were backdated to 1 January.

Until August 1922 the Works at Caerphilly had dealt solely with Rhymney Railway locomotives, and on the 5th of that month, instructions were issued to the effect that henceforth engines passing through the factory were to be painted in GWR colours and renumbered. At that time GW numberplates were not available for all engines and in several cases the Rhymney number and RR initials were painted out and the GW number painted on in lieu, a piecework price of one penny a number or letter being allowed. Engines of the former Barry and Cardiff Railways began to arrive for repair at this time, the first Barry Railway locos being 0-6-2Ts, Class B No 23 and Class B1 No 116 which appeared on 7 September.

Until 1952 only tank engines had been repaired, but the efficiency of the works was such that they were asked to handle the smaller two-cylinder tender engines. They were so successful that larger engines were sent, the first being the 4-6-0 Number 5955 Garth Hall.

The most important change at Caerphilly in the post-war period was the nationalisation of the railways as from 1 January 1948. Initially the change had little impact at Caerphilly excepting the fact that the world famous initials GWR were passing into history after a period of over 110 years. On 2 February 1948, instructions were given that the words 'BRITISH RAILWAYS' should replace the GWR initials on engines passing through shops for repair, the letters to be 5 in high. At the same time instructions were given that the letter W, denoting Western Region, was to be painted below the moulding of GWR numberplates, this letter having to be 3in high with a space between the bottom rim of the plate and the top of the letter. Also at this time it was stated that in due course cast iron smokebox numberplates would be available, to replace the engine numbers that were painted on the front buffer beam.

The next decorative change came in late 1949 when the first British Railways coat of arms were available. These came in two sizes, initially with a 16 inch diameter circle, the first loco at Caerphilly to receive this being 0-6-2T No 5682 on 18 October, followed by a larger version with 28 inch diameter circle, the first engines to receive these being 2-8-OT No 4255 and 0-6-2T No 5649 on 8 December.

Another directive from 1 January 1949 concerned a new system of classification for locomotive repairs. Heavy repairs were divided into three categories: Heavy General (H/G), Heavy Intermediate (H/I) and Heavy Casual (H/C). The main difference between H/G and H/I was the extent of the repair carried out to the boiler being re-fitted, not to the boiler being removed, both categories covering the complete overhaul of engine components. Light repairs were classified in two sub-divisions, Light Intermediate (L/I) and Light Casual (L/C). In practice the L/I was a classification rarely used at Caerphilly and the category formerly known as Running repairs was renamed Unclassified (UN).

During 1955 the dislocation caused by the ASLEF strike was felt at the works, as it was throughout the rest of the country. Starting at midnight on Saturday 28 May, it meant that no movement of engines to or from the factory was possible for the duration of the strike. Neither was it possible for the Enparts Van, which brought certain repaired articles and spare components from Swindon, to visit the yard. Also curtailed at this time was the works train bringing employees to the factory, although for the first few days a spasmodic service was maintained in the Cardiff Valleys, the bulk of the staff managing to get to work at a reasonable time. By 5 June these passenger services were totally suspended and were not resumed until 15 June following a settlement of the strike on the previous evening.

Around 1958 Swindon was committed to diesel locomotives and Caerphilly was sent Castle class and BR Standard locomotives.


With the withdrawal of steam on British Railways, the works closed in 1963 and the site converted into an industrial estate.


Following the departure of 2-8-2T No 5203, (the last locomotive to receive a repair) from the Works yard on Tuesday 16 April 1963 operations at Caerphilly had come to an end, the works formally closing after Friday 28 June 1963, its last day of operation. On that day, 0-6-OPT No 9480 was at the head of the last works train, which at that time had been reduced to three coaches, detonators being placed on the track from beyond the Goods Yard, to the junction of the main lines approaching Caerphilly station.




Historical Directions to Works



Route: Go straight ahead out of the north side of Caerphilly station into White Street. Turn right at the end into Van Road. Continue along this road (which gradually turns into a lane) for some distance. Go under a railway bridge, and the works entrance is at the end of an opening on the right-hand side a short distance further on.

Walking time 20 minutes.



Loco Notes - Repairs



5203 was the last loco to be repaired at Caerphilly works, while 6672 was the last loco to be painted green at Caerphilly being outshopped on 02 April 1963 and leaving on Wednesday 03 April.

7228 was the last Heavy Casual repair outshopped at Caerphilly on Monday 8 April after 5203.
5203 (Light Casual)was outshoped on the morning of the same day but went back into the shop later the same day and came out again on the Wednesday. However after leaving Caerphily as 'the last loco to be repaired by the works' it developed a safety valve fault and arrived back in the factory on Thursday 10 April, (which was Maundy Thursday) so after the Easter weekend 5203 was finally outshopped - and had a second leaving party - on Tuesday 16 April.

The last tender engine to leave the works was 6813 which was outshopped off a Light Casual repair during week ending 29 March and which left into traffic on Monday 1 April.



Loco Notes - Scrappings



Locos cut up at Caerphilly works from 1948 to closure of the works in June 1963 - Information from Huw Evans

RR 0-6-2T 54 April 48
AD 0-6-2ST 190 April 48
Barry Rly 0-6-2T 248 July 48
RR 0-6-2T 51 Oct 48
TV 0-6-2T 28 3 March 49
RR 0-6-2T 32 Feb50 Ex GWR 2-6-2T 5129 July 51
BPGV 0-6-0T 2197 Pioneer Oct 52
P&M 0-4-0ST 1153 Oct 55
Ex GWR 0-4-2T 1404 Feb 56

All the above locos were received at works for repair, but when examined were found to be beyond repair, mostly down to cracked frames.I well remember seeing Pioneer shunting in Crwys Road sidings enroute to the works and duly underlined it in my ABC only for my father to inform me a few days later that it had been cut up.

A few other items regarding scrapings at Caerphilly Works

0-4-0ST numbers 1145 scrapped July 59
1143 scrapped November 60
1152 scrapped March 63. This loco was withdrawn in Dec 61 but did not arrive at the works until March 63 and was cut immediately and the boiler and driving axels were dispatched to Swindon for further use

Locos numbered 7744, 8438, 8453 and 8478 were all sent in to works already condemned and were cut up on site and not at Swindon as reported. A final batch of locos were received at the works in Feb 63 these being 4266, 2209, 2849, 6647 and 8780. Only 4266 was actually cut up there, the others were sent on to Swindon between 3rd and 13th May 63 after the works had closed. Hope this helps to clear some unknown listings Kind Regards Huw Evans

Incidentally 8780 was not cut up at Caerphilly but was one of the above 5 locos sent on to Swindon when the works closed. My dad stayed till the end being made redundant in March 63 but stayed on to help dismantle the machinery, I was earmarked for an apprenticeship at the Sheds as we called the Works but I had set my heart on a life at sea so joined the Merchant Navy in 1958.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference - ST16408650
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Map Scale 10000 : Map Scale 25000


Last Updated : Friday 31st January 2014 02:58

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