by Phil Marsh

Major rail event to mark 175 years of railways in Derby

Published: 23rd August 2014

East Midlands Trains’ open day at Etches Park depot

The railways arrived in Derby on June 4, 1839 when the Midland Counties Railway opened linking Derby and Nottingham. But the famous railway Works there opened for business much later in 1876 and what’s left of them is now owned and operated by Bombardier, a Canadian company.

Most of the original Derby Works now houses offices and can be seen from Derby station platforms while other areas remain in railway use by EMT and Network Rail whose engineering trains are based there.

A major public celebration will take place on September 13 to mark Derby’s 175 years of railways arranged by East Midlands Trains (EMT) at their Etches Park depot and is thought to be the first time this has opened its doors to the public. The event is open between 10am and 430pm and admission costs £11 for an adult, £7 concessions or £29 for a family. Derby station is served by EMT and Cross Country services from around the UK.

What’s on show?

Many exhibits have been booked to appear at the event and these include the Derby built HST Power Car prototype No. 41001 and a Derby lightweight railcar No. 79900 Iris. The Western Region ‘Western’ diesel no. D1015 Western Champion will attend along with EMT Class 153 No. 153376. Derby was famous for its compound arrangement steam engines and one will be at the event, No. 1000 along with 4F No. 43924 visiting from Keighley.

There will be several train or locomotive namings with an EMT Class 222 being named Derby Etches Park and Class 08 shunter No. 08899 Midland Counties Railway 1839-2014.

Another new-build locomotive project will be at the event, the Ivatt Diesel Recreation Society are constructing LMS Diesel No. 10000 which was the first BR diesel-electric locomotive. The group will be launching the new engine they have to build for the engine, at the event.

Derby Works’ trains

Derby is well known for its locomotives, carriages and wagon construction since 1876. Steam diesel and electric trains have been built. The first carriages built in Derby according to records, date from 1850 when Mr Kirtley the Loco and Carriage Superintendent was ordered to build a pair of second class carriages to replace some that had been scrapped. By 1873, it seems that around 1100 carriages had been built to replace earlier ones plus another 250 to cater for increased demand.

When Kirtley died in 1873, the Midland Railway decided to split locomotive and carriage construction and Mr Clayton, a new Carriage and Wagon supremo was recruited from Swindon Works at a salary of £700 pa.

Drawing on his experience from setting up Swindon Works, he built a new Works at Etches Park creating Derby Works. The Works employed 100 women at this time which brought opposition from the Trade Unions but despite protests, the women remained in jobs.

In 1908, the Works was fitted with electricity increasing productivity and for example, a 10 or 12 ton wagon could be built in a day! Derby had a few Royal carriages, one specially built and another converted from stock but Wolverton Works remained the base for the UK main Royal Train. The two Works were fierce rivals but operated by the same railway company from 1923.

Wartime Works

In the two world wars, Derby joined the other railway Works and built Ambulance Trains, road vehicles and produced guns, planes and munitions. Ten pairs of wings were turned out every week and by the end of WW2, 2878 pairs of wings had been made. Tank turrets were also built, Hampden plane spares were made and Lancaster fuselages were repaired at Derby

When the railways were amalgamated in 1923, carriage and wagon building was centred on Wolverton followed by Derby for the LMS. One highlight was the 1933 American visit by ‘The Royal Scot’ train and locomotive, the carriages were built at Derby, as were replicas of carriages used behind Rocket in the Liverpool and Manchester Railway centenary events in 1930.

Derby standards

Derby plated a huge part in the British Rail standardisation and modernisation project from the 1950s building steel carriages, new lightweight diesel trains and electric units. They built an experimental streamlined diesel railcar for use between Oxford and Cambridge in 1938.

Progress continued with the construction of Underground trains and then Mark 3 carriages in the 1970s. Thousands of carriages were built at Derby and many are still in use on High Speed Trains on the Great Western and Cross Country services 40 years on. Derby also built the ill-fated Advanced Passenger Train which led the way for tilting trains a few decades later on.


In 1970, British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL) was created to run all railway Works and was privatised in 1989. Derby was sold to ABB, TH & employees and three years later, ABB acquired a 100% share of BREL Ltd to form ABB Transportation. In 1996 ABB & Daimler-Benz rail activities merged creating Adtranz and five years later Bombardier became the owners.

Bombardier’s Litchfield Lane facility at Derby covers 338,440 m2 and has seen ‘Turbostar’ diesel units built for use across the UK which have been successful after a somewhat troubled introduction with issues related to windows and windscreens.

These trains have been operated by Anglia Railways, Central Trains, Chiltern Railways, Hull Trains, Midland Mainline, ScotRail, South West Trains, London Midland and on London Overground services.

Bombardier also builds electric trains branded as Electrostars and are used on overhead line equipped routes and third rail routes operated by Southern, South Eastern and c2c. Their Capitalstar electric units are operated by Transport for London and London Underground runs many Bombardier built trains. These trains are tested on a 1.8km long test track at the Works with a maximum speed of 60kph.

There were fears that Bombardier’s Derby Works would close a few years ago when Siemens won major rolling stock contracts such as Thameslink. However, closure fears receded when Bombardier won the Crossrail contract after Siemens pulled out of the bidding.

Bombardier will build 65 nine-car trains and build a new purpose-built depot at Old Oak Common in west London and will also maintain the trains there.

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