In the early 1990s I worked at Eastleigh Depot in Hampshire with some excellent railway engineers. One of them, Barry Stephens, was someone I hadn’t seen for over twenty-five years but lately social media kept us in touch. Eastleigh Depot is just across the road from Eastleigh Works. Barry is the Managing Director and was one of the prime movers for putting Eastleigh Works back on the railway map. I had seen him being interviewed in one of Michael Portillo’s Great Railway Journeys where he toured the vast workshops.
Barry kindly extended an invitation to visit him at the works. I took my friend Phil Jones from the Somerset and Dorset in Midsomer Norton and we travelled there in March 2017. We were met at the entrance to the Works offices by Director John Campbell with whom I’d also worked with at Eastleigh Depot. Walking up the steps of this fine old building brought back memories of my time in Crewe Works at the former General Offices there and those of the Chief Mechanical and Electrical Engineers London Midland Region headquarters at Nelson Street Derby.
We were shown into the Works Manager’s office and I needed no introduction to the boss, Barry Stevens. Twenty five years just disappeared as we talked about people we knew and where they are now. Barry talked enthusiastically about the work of Arlington Fleet Services at Eastleigh Works and many aspects of railway engineering.
Barry and John as professional engineers certainly know their subject. They have developed good business acumen that has brought Eastleigh Works back into the rail industry. They both have a passion for the Works to produce a quality product.
Phil and I were keen to see today’s products so Barry and John took us on a tour of the vast workshops.
One of the first vehicles we encountered was class thirty seven 37611 (formerly D6871 built in 1963). The locomotive had received repairs to the lower part of the nose and had been de-branded from its previous owners.
Moving into another workshop, we sighted a more familiar Eastleigh Works visitor in the shape of a class 438 4TC unit which is owned by London Underground. This was used in recent years with steam on the Metropolitan line.
Alongside it on another road was class 411 number 7105 a CEP unit. This is the subject of a preservation attempt to convert it back to its pre 1979 refurbishment condition including a return to incandescent bulbs and sliding rather than Hopper windows. Find out how to help with this historic project by visiting https://www.cep7105.co.uk/
The variety of vehicles handled by Arlington Fleet Services includes modifications to wagons in the type shown below used for carrying cars. A long standing issue on this type of wagon is the difficulty of fully opening car doors. There is a program to modify the vehicles by positioning grilled mesh on brackets welded to the sides of the vehicles. This takes into account the limit of industry tolerances or the kinematic envelope as those with a knowledge of railways will be familiar.
Numerous Class o8 shunting locomotives were in for work’s attention including Mendip Rail’s vehicle 08650 formally D3817.
For me a familiar sight in railway workshops is that of Sulzer engine cylinder heads on pallets awaiting overhaul. This demonstrated to me the variety of work undertaken in Eastleigh works.
Not far away a sight to gladden the heart of any Bulleid loco fan. A set of box pop driving wheels were present alongside a class 50 bogie awaiting overhaul. The wheel set was from 35005 Canadian Pacific and I could see its frames were nearby. This locomotive was built in Eastleigh works in December 1941.
Many of will have heard of the Swanage railways plans to operate into Wareham station using heritage DMUs. Class 117 vehicles are currently being worked on in Eastleigh Works. Modifications will include the fitting of secondary door locks to the slam doors. Unlike the normal bolt arrangement used on local hauled coaches, the secondary door locks on these Class 117 units is an electromagnet located behind a lower extension panel to the external doors.
Another reminder of my time at Crewe Works was a Class 47 in for overhaul in the massive workshop. 47810 is owned by Arlington Fleet Services and is no stranger to Southern metals. In its later years was it used on Cross Country services between the North and South coast resorts. This locomotive as D1924 also had the distinction of working the final up Bournemouth Belle train in July 1967. (reference Class47.co.uk)
Into the yard
Exiting the workshops, we noted a class 07 locomotive 07007, originally built for shunting in Southampton docks, moving a Class 455 unit.
In the bright sunshine there were also some Mark 1 coaches in immaculate crimson and cream livery – a superb sight.
The familiar sound of an electro diesel engine was heard. Class 73 Number 73201 Broadlands resplendent in its BR blue livery was receiving attention in the workshop yard by another former colleague form my Eastleigh days, Andy Keys, now Technical Manager for Arlington Fleet Services.
The final workshop we visited contained two class 50’s. One of them 50026 Indomitable was in immaculate Network South East livery. It contrasted sharply with its classmate 50021 Rodney which is being restored. During my time at Eastleigh depot with Barry, John and Andy, the Class 50’s worked the West of England Waterloo-Exeter services. Five of them would arrive on to the depot for servicing each night. In those days, I had a footplate pass and often I would ride in the cab of a Class 50 from Waterloo. I would talk to the driver about the performance of these locomotives in service and then I fed back the technical information I had received. This would help greatly in the maintenance of these fine machines.
With our talk concluded we thanked and said goodbye to our hosts Barry and John. We left feeling very positive about the future for Eastleigh Works and the team there to which we wish all the best and look forward to meeting you again in the near future.