Dick Kerr & Co Works

A site on the east side of Strand Road had been intermittently used for railway work since the 1840’s. In 1898 the Electric Railway and Tramway Carriage Works Ltd (ER&TCW) took over the site. This company had strong links with Dick Kerr & Co. The building of Preston Dock in the 1880’s had involved the diversion of the river Ribble and associates of Dick Kerr & Co built the factory building which still stands on the west side of Strand Road in 1900. This site occupies the space between the road and the original river bank. The two sites became a major centre of tram building and electrical equipment manufacture. Dick Kerr & Co took over the West works in 1903 and ER&TCW became the United Electric Car Company in 1905. A major early railway contract was for the electrification of the Liverpool Southport line of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1904. The two factories continued in close association until they merged into English Electric in 1918. Military equipment and Seaplanes were built during the First World War and the Dick Kerr & Co Work’s Ladies became a famous football team at that time.

Non railway electrical work was gradually transferred to other English Electric factories in the 1920’s. Besides continuing tramway business, major orders for Japan and France helped to establish electric traction industries in those countries, the Tarbes factory continues as a main unit in the Alstom group. A complete electrification scheme was supplied for the Arthur’s Pass line in New Zealand.

1930 saw the transfer of the traction electrical work to Phoenix, Bradford and the closure of West works until the late 30’s. East works continued making buses and trams including a large order for Blackpool. Early diesel electrics became a speciality and shunter contracts with the Willans built 6K engine for the LMS and others were very successful and formed the basis of large orders after the Second World War. In the late 30’s East works open yards and some surrounding properties were built over to form a large aircraft manufacturing site and with West works produced over 3000 Handley Page bombers during the war and just post war, DeHavilland ‘Vampire’ jet fighters.

After the war most traction electrical equipment manufacture (but not the offices) was moved from Bradford to East works and ‘K’, ‘RK’ and ‘V’ engine manufacture moved from Willans, Rugby to the West works which also took on diesel and electric locomotive manufacture. Aircraft manufacture continued in both works with large orders for Canberra bombers and Lightning fighters. Final assembly was at Salmesbury and Warton aerodromes. Some locomotive manufacture was subcontracted to Vulcan from the late forties. Notable orders included large Electric locomotives for Spain and the ‘5E’ for South Africa. This locomotive was the basis of subsequent large orders for ‘5E1’ and ‘6E’ equipments produced by or in conjunction with AEI and GEC Traction. The prototype ‘Deltic’ was produced before the takeover of Vulcan and Robert Stephensons in 1955, when all locomotive production was quickly moved to those sites. Most of the diesel engines for the large number of locomotives supplied under the British Rail modernisation plan were made in West works.

Aircraft production continued in both works until the formation of the British Aircraft Corporation in the mid-sixties. East works was transferred to BAC and diesel engines moved to Vulcan. The full range of traction equipment manufacture then took over West works and the offices moved in from Bradford in 1967. BAC closed East works in the early nineties and the factory was demolished. Four years after the merger with GEC in 1968 the former English Electric and AEI traction offices were reorganised with commercial and control gear at Trafford Park and machines at Preston. Production locations remained unaltered until the closure of Attercliffe, Sheffield in 1985. Semi-conductor technology gradually changed the product range in the 1980’s with GTO’s and IGBT’s enabling ac induction motors to take over from dc in the 90’s. Over 5000 EE507 dc motors were made for BR Southern region over a period of nearly 50 years.

After the merger with Alsthom in 1989 the Trafford Park operation was gradually closed down and all offices and production were moved to Preston in the mid-nineties. Some buildings were demolished and others refurbished. Major orders for ac motor equipments included BR classes 465 and 365, ‘Eurostar’ motors and ‘common’ blocks, Korea, London Underground ‘Jubilee’ and ‘Northern’ lines and Virgin ’Pendolino’ and ‘Voyager’ trains. Most of the motors for these last two were made at Ornans, France after the closure of new motor manufacture in 1999. After 2003 only a small design and drawing facility remained, concentrating on repairs and modifications to existing rolling stock

The site remains open as part of Alstom Transport’s Train Life Service business for the manufacture, repair and overhaul of traction control equipment and rotating machines, and as a spare parts distribution centre. BAE systems have occupied some offices on the site since 2006 as tenants of Alstom. Today, the factory is still operating on a reduced scale, only employing about 200.