NEXT month, it will be 20 years since York Carriageworks finally closed for good, bringing to an end a very special chapter in York’s manufacturing history.
There had been desperate efforts to save the ABB Carriageworks, and the 750 workers employed there.
York’s then Labour MP Hugh Bayley and his Conservative counterpart in Ryedale, John Greenway, sought a meeting with Transport Minister John Watts, while The Press launched a petition against the closure.
But though the MPs, union representatives and the paper’s then editor, David Nicholson, did get to meet Mr Watts, their efforts were to no avail.
The works closed at the end of July, 1996, marking the end of more than 100 years of carriage and coach-building in York.
Train-building had begun on the site, then owned by the North Eastern Railway, in 1884. The site passed to the ownership of the London and North Eastern Railway, British Rail, and then British Rail Engineering Ltd (BREL).
Inside the carriageworks in 1910
By the 1950s the sprawling works employed more than 3,000 workers, and down the years hundreds of apprentices from all over Yorkshire came to gain skills and expertise at the plant.
But dark clouds were gathering, even as BREL was privatised in 1987 and site was bought by ABB in 1989. British Rail contracts started being put out to public tender in the 1980s. The failure to gain specific orders led to job losses at York, culminating in eventual closure in 1996. Notoriously, the carriageworks are associated with what has come to be known as the York ‘asbestos timebomb’. Scores of people are known to have died of mesothelioma and other lung conditions such as asbestosis caused by breathing in asbestos dust.
But the works also provided gainful employment for many generations of York people and by the time they closed, the risk of asbestosis had been greatly reduced.
September 1974: A carriage on the way by road from the York works to Belfast
Closure of the works came as a huge blow to the hundreds of skilled workers employed there, not to mention to the economy of York as a whole. We’ll be marking the anniversary of that closure next month in The Press. So we would love to hear from anyone who worked at the carriageworks and who has interesting memories or old photographs of their time there. Contact Stephen Lewis at the Press on 01904 567263 or email email@example.com
In the meantime, here are a few photographs from our archives showing the works mainly in the 1970s and 80s. We hope they bring back a few memories, happy as well as sad...
The British Rail engineering works, November 1976
March 1980: a skeleton is all that remains of the 50-year-old carriage cleaning depot in Kingsland Terrace, which was being replaced by a new cleaning depot
1981: The York traction maintenance depot
January 1983: Inside the York carriage shed
September 1984: Evening Star, the last steam locomotive built for British Rail, under steam at a York Carriageworks open day