On 22nd August we went for a long day out to Co. Durham, firstly to the specially built factory (in my day it was known as a ‘Works’) to see where Hitachi Rail EU is building electric and diesel bi-mode trains for Scotrail and other UK rail franchisees – presently GWR and LNER (see how the old names are being re-born!). At a presentation we learned about the Hitachi work ethic which has been introduced to the Geordie workforce, who have several weeks training after a long recruitment process. Not a matter nowadays of grabbing a spanner and getting on with the assembly process.
And what a process that is! In a huge, clean, quiet environment, men and women go about their appointed tasks of creating brand new trains, starting with body shells which arrive from Japan or Italy. We were amazed at the miles of copper piping and electric cabling which is carefully added to each coach – then the interiors can be completed. We even had to add overshoes to our safety footwear (all our gear can be seen in the group photo) in order to enter a completed GWR coach where we tried the seats and walked the carpeted floor towards the driver’s cab. We won’t get into another of those!
After an excellent lunch at the County Inn in the actual old village of Newton Aycliffe, we carried on to the historic railway town of Darlington. First off we spent an hour in the Head of Steam Museum, originally the Stockton & Darlington Railway station. Lots of rolling stock, artifacts and displays to enjoy and absorb. Then another highlight of the day – access to an historic carriage & wagon Works built in the mid 19th century, and where now a new build steam locomotive, an LNER design of the 1930s for heavy Scottish traffic, is being recreated by a small and highly skilled team of engineers (including a young lady from Europe). This is traditional heavy engineering – thick steel plates, lots of heavy lifting, cutting and drilling, but with modern day refinements not available to the builders those years ago. The original plans have even been computer scanned to allow the work to be as accurate as possible.
A tired but happy group of us returned to Market Rasen at the end of a twelve hour day, having seen much that members of the public could not see. A U3A learning day – and enjoyable.