Film ID:
NEFA 9832



Visitor Tabs


This filmed segment of an edition of the Tyne Tees Television current affairs series  Briefing investigates the Shildon Wagon Works as it battles against closure by British Rail. Includes interviews with trades union officials and a worker as a large campaign is mounted to save the works. It ended on 29 June, 1984 with closure and the loss of 1,750 jobs. The edition was first broadcast on 24 January 1983.

The segment opens with a panoramic shot of Shildon showing the wagon works and general view of the town. A union official, probably John Priestly, chairman of the Shildon shop stewards action committee, gives an outline of the current campaign to prevent Shildon works from closing. Shots follow of crowds gathering on a local football field. Many of the protestors carry placards with slogans protesting against threatened closure. Another shot is a rear view of the crowd listening to a speech on a stage in the distance. The union official says that up to 10,000 local people have been involved in the protests.

Shots follow of container units being loaded on to a train. The increasing use of these containers has affected the demand for railway wagons.

Further shots show motorways and lorries carrying freight along the A19. The commentary states that more freight goes by road in Britain than any other country in Europe.

New wagons emerge from the workshops at Shildon. The commentary states that the Shildon Wagon Works has been building railway vehicles for about 150 years, and is possibly the oldest railway works in the world. An interviewee who has worked at Shildon for many years gives a brief history. He talks to the reporter as they walk through the works yard.

Inside the works men manoeuvre an ingot under a drop hammer for shaping. Reporter piece to camera outlining the consequences for the town of Shildon should the works close completely. Train wheels are turned inside the works and are 'parked' with other newly finished wheel sets. A crane towers over the work as wagons are welded. A shot follows of a new type of wagon manufactured at Shildon using a sliding door.

New technology advances the production at Shildon with numerically controlled machines making the works more efficient. Shot of electronic displays and lathes under computer control. An interviewee states that the Shildon works also does general engineering work for other local industries.

Footage follows of the marshalling yards on Teesside, which has in the past handled most of the products form the Shildon works. An interviewee from the yard talks about declining freight traffic through the yard, from 5000 wagons a day in 1965 to around 500 currently. General view of the A19 flyover which crosses the marshalling yards, with Middlesbrough in the distance. The commentary informs that there has also been a reduction of the available wagon fleet at the yard because of the transport competition from road, shipping and pipeline. Also, through modernisation, more product is transported using bigger wagons. There follows shots of rail freight traffic moving through the Newcastle rail network. An interviewee at Newcastle suggests that the practice of using fewer but larger vehicles to transport freight will mean that Shildon might survive on reduced capacity. John Priestly suggests that continued lobbying of British Rail could achieve the best result for the Shildon works.

[Shildon Works was built for the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1833, and although initially used for locomotive construction was later converted to a wagon works. Following an extensive modernisation programme in the 1960s, Shildon, British Rail's largest wagon works, constructed a range of new designs for British and overseas orders, including cement wagons and 'Merry-go-round' coal hoppers. However, increasing competition from road transport meant that orders dwindled, and the works closed in 1984.]