Sunday, May 6, 2012

Part One - Derby Day

The upside-down under frame of a London Underground Metropolitan Line train car being assembled at Bombardier's Litchurch Lane plant in Derby.

I promised more pictures and details of my day and night at Derby and Neasden, a little late, but here we are!

Bombardier's Derby plant is vast, covering 100 acres and, as is the way with the start of new projects, it was pouring with rain. Met by Bombardier's Internal Communication's Manager, Kathryn Lancaster, we dodged the showers and headed inside one of the many sheds where the production line for the London Underground's S Stock was.

What it's all about. The 'S Stock' train on the left is for the more spacious 'surface' underground lines, whilst the one of the right is for the deep 'tube' Victoria Line. Each train is capable of carrying over 1000 people.

The production stages I saw included the roof assembly (turned upside-down, making fitting of components easier), the underframe assembly (again, turned up-side down), then the body shell panels and at the north end of the building a completed underground car.

Work on the coupling at the north end of the production line.

Coming from Swindon, it was strange to actually get the chance to see trains being built. My mind kept wandering back to the Works site in Swindon and wondering if things had been different, where people were buying discount designer clothes in the Outlet Village that wet morning, trains could have been under construction.

Bright workshops with bold colours.

A couple of things struck me. Firstly, the workshop is clean and brightly coloured. The flooring is multicoloured, denoting safe areas to walk, areas vehicles can drive along, space for pallets and workspaces you need permission to walk into. All these colours mix with the yellow of the jigs and overhead cranes, the red panels of the trains and the plastic drawers with the smaller components behind. It reminded me of Lego, bright shiny colours bringing your attention to something being built. 

The Bombardier name is elusive, even on the finished trains.

The second thing was something you couldn't see (not great for a photographer you might think!). Everyone we spoke to and saw, even just walked passed was friendly and chatty. For a factory that employs 1,600 people, that's a great feel to have about the place. The atmosphere was old-fashioned, professional but welcoming, something you don't really think would exist in such a big place. The whole place exuded a pride. Pride in the work, what was being produced, the weight of history from all the building and generations that had gone before. Pride in who they were, where they were and what they were doing.

I left Derby with great admiration for train building and the city itself. 

The pipework for the underframe, partly assembled on a large board for each traincar. 

From the cab of a new train, being signed off by London Underground's representative at Derby, with the daylight peeping through the doors.

Heading back to Swindon on a Derby-built Voyager, I had a chance for a few hours rest and then it was onto London.

1 comment:

  1. Great photos and words, Derby has been building trains with pride since 1839, long may it last.