The Welding School

When Dr Beeching advised the closure of a large portion of Britain’s rail network, his report made no recommendations about what to do with the land and buildings previously owned by British Rail. Much of the track, bridges and embankments were removed and the land sold for development. Some lines would be abandoned, later to be resurrected by steam enthusiasts as heritage railways such as the Northampton & Lamport Railway. Other lines would be converted into leisure paths for cyclists and walkers, such as the Monsal Trail in Derbyshire. Many of the stations and goods yards were either demolished or sold, as was the case of St John’s station. Some British Rail buildings survived however, because they could be put to another use.

This was the case in the Engine Shed. In 1969 British Rail replaced its Workshops Division with a subsidiary company named British Rail Engineering Ltd, to separate its engineering operations from its passenger services. This process involved the reorganisation of many of its workshops and the closure of some of the more dated facilities. As part of this programme the Engine Shed was converted into the Regional Civil Engineers Welding School for the London Midland Region.


The welding school, front and rear (1990s)

This involved significant alterations to the building and the addition of several ancillary buildings. Three of the windows to the rear of the shed were bricked up whilst others had ventilators added to them. An internal storeroom was constructed from breeze-blocks in the north east corner. Six welding booths, also constructed of breeze-blocks were added to the south-west bays, and a raised platform added along the rest of the southern wall. A port-a-cabin office was also constructed inside the shed for the administration of the school, and a new electrical system added. The welding school operated until 1998, when it was taken out of commission by Railtrack, the successor to British Rail Engineering Ltd after the rail network was privatised.

The interior of the welding school (1997)