The 1950s heralded a new age of diesel locomotives. In the Western region alone, 130 diesel hydraulics were required to replace over 200 steam locomotives. Fittingly Swindon received an order for 30 of these main line 2000hp engines.
Headed by Mr. J.A. Clarke, British Railways Western Region Diesel School opened in premises at the works in 1956, where training was given to drivers and maintenance staff.
‘Modernisation going on apace’ was one of the headlines in the British Railways Magazine of March 1958. When the D.800, the first of 33 of its type to be built at Swindon, was named the Sir Brian Robertson at Paddington on July 14, 1958, the future at the former GWR works looked promising.
In 1959 Swindon works received a share of the order for 2700hp diesel engines with hydraulic transmission for use on the Western Region. Swindon was to build 35 of the 74 engines with delivery due in 1961.
British Railways announced that Swindon was to be a centre for overhaul and repair of the new diesels – sound familiar?
Headlines in the January 1960 edition of the company magazine announced a further expansion of the new diesel fleet. ‘Inter-city diesel trains are to be introduced between Hull and Liverpool, serving other important points en route.’ Ran the report, ‘and the Swindon workshops are to build 51 vehicles for these services.’
This was also the year that the last steam locomotive, the Evening Star, was built at Swindon. Emotional times for those who had spent their career working on steam engines. The following year the Carriage and Wagon works, which had opened over 90 years earlier, was closed. But at least the future looked secure.
On Saturday September 22, 2012 former apprentices are gathering at STEAM Museum to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Swindon Works Training School.
More than 2000 apprentices passed through the school in Dean Street where Geoff Webber and Ken Dann were among the instructors who put them through their paces.
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