1st July 2021 · Wolverton Works and its Royal history – behind closed doors

Presenter: Phil Marsh

Phil Marsh, railway consultant, journalist and author delighted an audience of 61 with an inside look at Wolverton Works, its Royal visitors, and trains from 1842 to 2020. Phil gave us a behind the scenes look at the works over the decades with many historic and rare photographs giving us a sense of what the site would have been like in its heyday. A series of maps, aerial photographs and more recent ones taken by a drone, provided and appreciation of the scale and geography of the site and how the current operations occupy a very constrained location, unhappily squeezed between modern commercial and retail. The site remains busy and active today with overhauls, repaints and repairs undertaken. It is also currently receiving the withdrawn Class 442 EMUs from South Western Railway for component recovery.

Unfortunately, recent years have seen contraction and clearance of parts of the site, with the future of the whole Works still much in doubt. As we were reminded, many buildings date back to the Victorian age and it is the most complete example of a railway works of this age in the UK. The 175th anniversary in 2013 that should have been a celebration turned was a difficult year, when the very survival of Wolverton Works was threatened with the owners at the time entering administration.

The second half of the meeting was an overview of the Royal Train and its long association with Wolverton. Some of the photos we saw here were extremely rare indeed showing the comfy and cosy but not luxurious interiors. The present train, which was built at Wolverton in the 1970s, is very much a functional space, a workplace on rails as well as providing accommodation for the Royal Family. It was noted that the Queen has visited Wolverton Works three times, the first occasion in 1948 as the Duchess of Edinburgh, as she was then known.

A thoroughly interesting evening and a rare opportunity to see ‘over’ the brick wall into Wolverton Works and get an impression of its place and role in both our local and national railway history.