Business continued to grow and the company moved in to building carriages. Work was of such a high standard that they regularly obtained contracts to build coaches for Pullman and several overseas Head’s of State. Customers included the King of Egypt and Juan Peron, President of Argentina, and his wife Eva, better known as Evita from the West End musical.
A large amount of the work was for export, including another expansion in making diesel and electric multiple unitsfor railways in Africa, South America and New Zealand. In 1954 the next step was to build 14 diesel locomotives for the Commonwealth Railway in South Australia for use on the famous Ghan Line. All 14 still exist at various sites. Work continued with identical locomotives for Sierra Leonne and orders for Ghana and Ireland. UK orders began with 1,160hp Type 2 locos, with follow on orders for an updated 1,250hp model and a 1,550hp Type 3 for Southern Region. 24 electric locos were built for electrification of the West Coast Main Line and the final loco was a prototype Type 4 loco called Lion. At the time work began it was the most powerful single engine diesel built in the country, but following a rather involved difference of opinion with the British Railways Board the loco made it’s debut in a brilliant white colour scheme that made sure it was noticed wherever it went.
By the early 60’s work for the Modernisation Program was begining to die off as the final contracts were signed to complete the replacement of steam. Competition became intense for the small contracts that were coming up and the decision was taken to put the company into administration. An employee, Colin Wheeler, was given the rights to the company name and custody of the surviving company archives. Colin later told the story of the company in a book.
In 2014 a plan was hatched to follow in the footsteps of the steam enthusiasts and use the original plans to build replicas of diesel locos that hadn’t survived into preservation. The initial list comprised of Falcon and Kestrel from Brush Traction in Loughborough and BRCW’s white Lion. As information was gathered we came into contact with Colin, who offered us the rights to use the BRCW name as long as Lion remained on the list.
From there the famous name came back to life. Plans expanded to include a museum dedicated to the original company planned to include many of the extensive collection of artifacts that Colin had amassed over the years. That has expanded to include a reference library covering as many drawings and publications as we can find covering the diesel and electric era of British Rail. Finally will come the works where we plan to build our replicas, with plans to take on apprentices to learn the metal bashing skills needed to produce these works of art. Modern production now follows the motor industry with kits of parts arriving on the production line just in time to take their place on the new item of rolling stock, so the skills are dying out. We hope to reverse that.
Please look through our projects pages to see what we have planned and if you are interested in taking part please let us know. You can also let us know about any projects you think we should look at, especially if you want to take charge of the project.
DONATE TO BRC&W
The Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Company is a not for profit dedicated to filling some of the gaps in the nations collection of diesel locomotives and other rolling stock. Your donations will help us continue our work and we are most grateful for your help.