It was preserved even as COVID-19 put the whole rail industry on the back foot, and now the Caledonia Works has been opened by its new owners, Brodie Engineering.
The Works date as far back as 1847, but March 2020 saw the site close — only to be bought months later by the rolling stock engineering business.
In fact, Brodie Engineering’s Caledonia Works and its Bonnyton Rail Depot — strategically placed as neighbours on either side of the Kilmarnock rail track — are Scotland’s last two dedicated rail engineering works.
So it was appropriate that the Caledonia Works official opening attracted some major names. These included the Scottish Government Minister for zero carbon buildings, active travel and tenants’ rights, Patrick Harvie; president of the Railway Benefit Fund, Pete Waterman, OBE; MSP for Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley, Willie Coffey; and provost Jim Todd of East Ayrshire Council.
Brodie Engineering’s owner and managing director, Gerry Hilferty, said: “I saved these works during a challenging time with the Covid pandemic, and despite us safeguarding this important rail asset we were immediately limited to concentrating our essential rail engineering work in our already established Bonnyton depot.
“As a business, and alongside my dedicated Team Brodie; the best in the class at rail engineering, I am excited to be announcing today’s opening of the Caledonia Works and I thank the Minister and Pete Waterman for supporting this announcement.
“As Scotland’s railway returns to public ownership and the rail industry across the UK respond to the renewal of the industry following on from Covid I am confident there is a bright future for both our Caledonia and Bonnyton Rail Works. In addition to our traditional rail repair work I look forward to working alongside and supporting rail industry leaders as we all navigate our way to delivering on future commitments on the development of the zero-emission railway.
“As a business we will evolve and increase our capability to work with the industry to support any new outputs and developments.”
Patrick Harvie, minister for zero carbon buildings, active travel and tenants’ rights said: “The Scottish Government welcomes the investment by Brodie Engineering in the Caledonia Rail Works particularly at a time when we are taking forward our ambitious plans to decarbonise the rail network in Scotland including the procurement by ScotRail of zero emission rolling stock.
“This investment is very good news for the rail manufacturing and supply industry in Scotland and supports the preservation and growth of high skilled rail engineering jobs in Scotland.
“It offers real benefits including supporting over 90 existing jobs while also creating the potential for new highly skilled roles.”
Pete Waterman OBE, president of the Railway Benefit Fund, said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been asked to conduct the official re-opening of the Caledonia Works. The Caledonia Works are steeped in history and tradition and it’s great that rail engineering will continue here, under Brodie Engineering’s ownership, for what I hope is for many years to come.”