Published: 9th October 2013
Siemens built and maintains a huge quantity of trains at depots around the UK and in 2009 started what has become a very popular series of ‘Whistle Stop Tours’ at these depots.
The first was held in October 2009, at the Manchester Ardwick Train Maintenance Depot, as part of Siemens sponsorship of the Manchester Science Festival. Since then, their other depots at King's Heath in Northampton and Northam in Southampton have been opened to the public raisning money for good causes.
This year’s event is to be held at the Northam Depot near Southampton where they maintain the SouthWest Trains’ fleet of class 444s and 450s. This depot was built in 2002 on the site of a former steam locomotive shed and this is being recognised with a visiting steam locomotive that used to work in this area. This is the Victorian built LSWR ‘M7’ tank engine No. 30053 that was based at nearby Eastleigh 50n years ago.
Whistle Stop Tours has gained a reputation for providing an unforgettable behind the scenes look at a modern state-of-the-art Siemens train maintenance facility. So, how to get to the depot? There will be a road Shuttle service available from Southampton Central station to the depot which will be open between 10am and 5pm on October 12. Southampton is served by Southwest Trains running between Waterloo and Weymouth and Cross Country Trains from the north and First Great Western from Cardiff and Bristol as well as Southern services.
This open day is free to enter and will be a bit special as it also celebrates the tenth anniversary of its partnership with Southwest Trains, the Depot opening in 2003. There will be activities and rail demonstrations throughout the day and events like these always try to raise funds for charity. (Please note that children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult).
This one is no different and there will be a raffle with some great prizes, a cake sale, a pin badge sale and steam train rides to raise money for this year's charity - Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association.
If you’ve ever wondered what its like to walk under a train or to sit in the driver’s seat, then this is your chance. Train wheels also have to be kept round and are turned on a wheel lathe, and this activity will be displayed at the event.
It is a family day out with Siemens employees hosting stalls and there will be steam train ride to sample all raising funds for the south east branch of the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association.
This was chosen following the diagnosis of one of the staff with the progressive disease earlier this year so is a charity close to the hearts of the rail technicians based at Northam.
The depot’s technology and maintenance team behind the 172-strong train fleet of South West Trains operated Siemens Desiro Class 444 and 450 trains based at Northam will be on view as will advance news of upcoming improvements to the fleet such as CCTV and Wi-Fi. Experts will be on hand to highlight different features on the trains, provide more technical insight and answer any questions.
Steve Walker, South West Trains Fleet Director at Siemens, said: “We opened our doors for the first time last year and received a great response from those that joined us. Our 10 year anniversary seemed like an excellent opportunity to invite even more people to see how much work and preparation goes into ensuring that our trains are safe, clean, well maintained and comfortable for rail passengers.”
He continued: “I’m sure that people frequently pass by and wonder what goes on behind the depot gates. Now they have a perfect opportunity to see for themselves, enjoy a great family day out and help raise money for a worthy cause close to our hearts at the same time.”
Christian Roth, Engineering Director for the South West Trains – Network Rail Alliance said: "We're pleased to be partnering with Siemens on this event. As we continue to invest and improve on our technology and trains, the work we do with Siemens at Northam – one of the major maintenance facilities on our network – is vital to helping us provide a better service to our passengers both now and in the future.”
Pamela Fry, Regional Fundraiser at the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association added “It’s great news that our charity has been chosen to benefit from the open day. We currently support around 40 people and their families affected by motor neurone disease in the south east, including a member of the maintenance staff for Siemens. We look forward to joining staff from Siemens and South West Trains to welcome as many people to this unique event as possible.”