This year marks the 30th anniversary of the closure of the B.R.E.L Works (Great Western Railway Works) in Swindon. However the skills and expertise that the Works brought to the town still remains in daily use at Thamesdown Transport.
With the closure in March 1986, there was a wealth of people looking for jobs in the town with specific skills honed during years of work rebuilding and refurbishing trains.
Five of these found new roles at Thamesdown and thirty years later are still with the bus company. Former coach builders Nigel Peart and Adrian Curtis, former coach painter Paul Armstrong, former coach trimmer and head foreman Stan Scott and former fitters mate Trevor Savin have all spent the time in between putting the legacy of the Railway Works to good use at Thamesdown.
Paul and Stan are even doing the same jobs at Thamesdown that they did at the Railway Works. When the Works closed, Thamesdown saw this as an opportunity to start their own coach trimming department and so the bus company employed Stan Scott who brought equipment from the Railway Works. Over the years much of this has been replaced, however Thamesdown still use the same work benches today.
The skills and processes involved in trimming and coach painting today are the same as what was used when Swindon was still the centre of coachworks. Many of the buses are hand painted using brushes and the seats are cut and covered by hand.
Nigel Peart, now assistant engineering manager, first joined Thamesdown in 1975 to complete his apprenticeship as a coach builder before joining the B.R.E.L Works (Great Western Railway Works). When it closed 11 years later he returned to Thamesdown.
Nigel said: “Both my father and grandfather worked at the railway and so when I completed my apprenticeship and got a job there I thought I would be there for life. Working at Thamesdown is very similar as the workshops are run and organised in similar ways and the processes cross over so well. The main difference really is there where we would have had three months at the Railway Works to refurbish a coach, we have a shorter time at Thamesdown as the vehicles are needed daily.”
David Spencer head of engineering at Thamesdown said: “Thirty years ago these individuals plus many more left the Swindon Railway Works for the last time. Thirty years on Thamesdown continues to benefit from the skills these individuals brought with them from those former works. A lot of the skills needed back then are still very relevant today when it comes to keeping our buses on the road.”
Caroline Black, project manager of Swindon175 said: “This is testament to the workforce which was shaped within the Swindon railway works, and it proudly boasted a workforce recognised internationally for engineering excellence. Swindon continues to have a proud tradition of hardworking people and great business ethics which is another good reason to be celebrating this year, exactly 175 years after “New” Swindon began.”
Pictured above: Thamesdown Transport colleagues who joined from the Great Western Railway Works, left to right: Stan Scott – Coach Trimmer, Paul Armstrong – Coach Painter, Nigel Peart – Assistant Engineering Manager, Trevor Savin – Vehicle Refueler and Cleaner, Adrian Curtis – Late Shift Supervisor.