by Phil Marsh

Two 21st Century engine sheds built 100 miles apart on former Great Western Railway territory

Published: 7th February 2015

Hitachi’s Stoke Gifford and Chinnor’s Train Maintenance buildings’ construction well underway

The Hitachi Inter Express trains are on their way to the UK and will be commencing tests by April. These trains need servicing and part of the multi-billion pound contract is the provision of a 27 year maintenance contract to be carried out in mainly purpose built depots.

The £80million Stoke Gifford (Bristol) depot held a topping out ceremony attended by It has been built on a 15 acre site of former railway lands used as an engineers’ tip surrounded by railways in the Filton triangle.

The site can just be seen from the western end of the platforms at Bristol Parkway and the new facility has been screened from the local community by seven-metre high earth bunds.

Million tons moved

The first site visit took place four years ago resulting in Planning permission being granted in February 2012 with actual construction commencing in August last year under the charge of Volker Fitzpatrick. It is a mind blowing project with 400,000 cubic metres of spoil weighing a million tons already moved with another 250,000 tons remaining to be moved!

The land has also been used as a recycling facility contained a lot of hazardous materials which have been carefully removed – a reminder of times when not much importance was given to industrial waste and its associated health dangers.

The earth moving activities had to be undertaken to construct a 500 metre long culvert designed to prevent the site flooding. This has a pair of tall buildings, the larger one is the maintenance facility and the smaller, a wheel lathe. The former is 310 metres long, 28 metres high and has two maintenance roads, a train washing road plus a third short section to be used for bogie changing.

The depot is not fitted with electric traction but has been designed to accommodate it should it be required. It may not be needed as the trains have been fitted with diesel engines which can be used for depot shunting and movements. Depot operations can be hindered by being electrified which also bring extra safety risks and expense.

Apprentice training scheme

The project has engaged with the local community and will continue to do so for the 27 year maintenance contract as students from local technology colleges have being recruited as part of an apprentice training scheme. It has now been recognised that the UK will not have enough engineers in a few years’ time as the existing ones’ age profile suggests that many will be retiring in the next decade or so. This is a vital part of the IEP and HS2 project.

The event was held to mark the completion of the external building shell which will now be fitted out with rails and associated train maintenance equipment by the end of the year ready to accept the new Hitachi Class 800/801 Great Western Main Line trains.

The maintenance building required 1406 foundation piles, each 14 metres deep and used 450 tons of steel being erected in seven weeks. The rail connection the main line was installed in November 2014 and faces Bristol Parkway.

A total of 200,000 tons of concrete has been laid and the Chemical Emission Toilet concrete slabs completed. When operational, the depot will have nine kilometres of track.

Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway Maintenance depot and Visitor Centre takes shape.

While construction of the massive multi-million pound maintenance depot at Stoke Gifford was underway, a hundred miles away in the Chilterns, volunteers at the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway (CPRR) had been preparing the ground for the erection of their maintenance building. This has cost just over £100,000 and was built in the same way, with a steel shell and deep foundation piles and associated drainage works.

Construction of the steel shell of the building commenced on January 13 but after a week had to stop as the ground was waterlogged with deep mud. Work recommenced at the end of January and is now progressing well despite a few logistics difficulties.

The preserved railway’s project has been split into two phases driven by funding with the erection of the building only commenced when it was fully funded. To keep costs down, Chinnor’s volunteers cleared the ground, installed drainage and laid the foundations for the 150foot long building which is 35 feet wide and 20 feet high.

The two-road steel frame shed has metal clad walls and 20% of the roof area is made up with translucent material allowing natural light inside. One road will be 140foot long and the other smaller but fitted with a pit for servicing locomotives and carriages.

It is located to the west of Chinnor station alongside the former branch line and will also house workshops and a mezzanine floor where the facilities and Education and Heritage Centre and offices will be located. The railway has been without covered accommodation since the cement works was demolished and has been made possible by the redevelopment of the cement works which also saw ownership of its associated sidings change to the preserved railway.

The second phase of fitting out the building will cost at least another £100,000 and the railways radiating from Princes Risborough, to Watlington, Thame and Oxford, and Aylesbury, Calvert and Verney Junction are likely to be featured in the Centre.

They said:

The railway says that if readers would like to donate towards the second phase, please visit or if you would like to help out as a volunteer, then please contact Justin at‏

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