British Railway History Item
London & North Eastern Railway Inverurie Locomotive Works
Serving what is known today as the Grampian Region, the Great North of Scotland Railway was a compact system which radiated north and west from Aberdeen where it formed an end on junction with the Caledonian and North British Railways. The same Grampian mountains which forced connections from the south into the coastal strip formed the southern boundary, and to the west it abutted the Highland Railway. The main line of the GNSR ran from Aberdeen to Elgin via Keith and the coast line, also to Elgin, ran via Portsoy and Buckie.
The first locomotive works of the Great North of Scotland Railway was established at Kittybrewster behind the Aberdeen terminus of the line, a decision that was later to prove a mistake. The cramped conditions at this location meant that a good deal of work was being carried out in the open in all weathers, this leading to requests by successive Locomotive Superintendents for more accommodation. While extensions were authorised in 1891, there were clearly second thoughts and work was suspended until the costs of complete removal were investigated. At a Board meeting on 18 May 1892, it was decided that an entirely new works was required. Following investigations both at Dyce and at Souterford Bridge, Inverurie, the latter site was chosen as the location for the new workshops. To establish the exact requirements a committee was formed, its members visiting the Works at Doncaster, Swindon, Wolverhampton, Stratford, Crewe (Loco), Kilmarnock and the Ashbury Carriage Co's factory at Openshaw.
Having asked advice from Mr Holden (GER) and Mr Dean (GWR), it was the latter gentleman who was consulted to advise on the buildings and machinery necessary to set up the workshops. Work commenced in 1898, the first block being ready for occupation by the Carriage & Wagon Dept some three years later. These were followed in 1902 by the Locomotive Department, the PW Department arriving in 1905.
When the works was still at the design stage, there were proposals to amalgamate the GNSR with the Highland Railway, and it has been suggested that the spacious layout at Inverurie was designed to accommodate the overhaul of both company's rolling stock. However, it was to be 1914 before the GNSR agreed to repair Highland Railway locomotives, an agreement which excluded heavy boiler repairs.
The opening of the Works at Inverurie meant an immediate increase in the population, previously estimated to be about 1,200, the company building a number of houses for occupation by their employees. This accommodation consisted of a block for the Locomotive Superintendent with a further four blocks with gardens for the office staff and foremen in addition to five blocks of three and four roomed houses for the workmen. All of these were supplied with electricity from the Works and in addition ground was made available for garden plots and a large park. With the provision of recreation rooms and a hall, a virtually new town had been created and while there was no doubt that this benefited the burgh, it was seen as an expensive luxury by the shareholders.
The locomotive list of the GNSR only ever came to about 180, most of these being constructed by independent locomotive builders, although two were built or assembled at Kittybrewster before the opening of Inverurie Works. Whilst several more were constructed at Inverurie, the main work was repairs. The most common and useful locomotives were the light 4-4-Os and were to be found in many forms; old, new, rebuilt with superheaters, with and without names. In addition to these there were also some 0-6-OTs, some attractive 0-4-4Ts and four 0-4-2Ts which were to be found shunting at Aberdeen Docks. The GNSR had experimented with railmotors on their St Combs and Lossiemouth branches, but they were found to be unsatisfactory and were split into open saloons and stationary boilers.
Carriage construction evolved similarly from spartan four and six-wheelers to comfortable corridor bogie stock by the tum of the century; by 1903 the GNSR could provide its own Royal Train. Freight wagons on the GNSR were fairly typical, being light to match the locomotives although goods brake vans were notable being fully enclosed.
Following the amalgamations of 1923, the Works passed into the ownership of the LNER and brought few changes only in that the patterns were moved to Cowlairs after which the Pattern Shop became the Works Canteen. To the LNER the GNSR contributed some 122 locomotives, and despite the fact that three of them were approaching 60 years of working life, no withdrawals were made before 28 June 1926. The first sign of new ownership was on 9 March 1923 when L & NER No 72 was 'Ex-Works', the ampersand continuing to appear for another four months. This practice was discontinued when No 108 left the shops without the ampersand and carrying its own GNSR number but with the suffix S to indicate to which section of the LNER it belonged. The cast brass numberplates of pre-Grouping origin were not disturbed or altered, a style which was continued for a further six months. At a meeting of the LNER Locomotive and Traffic Committee in the last week of January 1924, it was decided to cease the use of the suffix, and apart from the North Eastern stock, to add various thousands to those of other section's numbers, except for the GNSR which was to take the numbers at the end of the GC section. The result was the addition of 6800 to the original GNSR numbers, this becoming effective when No 6812 was 'Ex-Works' on 19 March 1924. As a result this meant that more than half the Northern Scottish Area locomotive stock went straight from GNSR livery to LNER lettering and augmented numbering.
By the mid-1950s the ability of Inverurie Works to carry out the repair of the heavier post-war locomotives was curtailed by the limited capacity of the existing overhead cranes, the plant's 60-ton crane having been in operation for 50 years. It was decided that the time had come for a new 100-ton capacity crane and gantry to be installed in the centre bay of the erecting shop and a further 40-ton crane be installed in the north bay, the existing 60-ton crane being altered to comply with modern standards.
By the early 1960s some 550 people were employed at Inverurie, the average weekly output being two locomotives with General or Intermediate repairs and one with Casual repairs while 25 carriages and 125 wagons being attended to.
With the arrival of diesel traction the west sides of the Boiler, Erecting and Carriage shops were set aside for their maintenance, this space sufficing for attention to 34 main line and 41 diesel multiple units. A battery electric railcar, which saw use on the Deeside line in BR days, is currently being restored in Lancashire.
Because of its good geographical location, Inverurie survived the re-organisations of 1962 although BR proposals in 1969 suggested that work at Inverurie be diverted to St Rollox. At that time almost half the town's population was employed at the Works. These proposals were discussed with representatives of the trade unions, the British Railways Board giving six months notice of their proposals, the Works gates closing for the last time at the end of December 1969.
Route: Go straight ahead outside the station into a lane and turn right on reaching the main street. Turn first right and the works entrance is on the right a short distance further on.
Walking time 10 minutes.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference - NJ77402190
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Map Scale 10000 : Map Scale 25000
Last Updated : Monday 23rd June 2003 16:57