World famous St Rollox locomotive works site is given listed building status

A former railway locomotive workshop has been granted listed building status in recognition of its special architectural and historic interest.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) said the former St Rollox Locomotive Works in Springburn, Glasgow, is a rare surviving example of a late 19th century locomotive works in Scotland.

It has given Category B listing status to the works, which are the only surviving example in Springburn, once a global centre of locomotive construction.

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The depot served Scotland’s rail network for more than 160 years but closed in July 2019 despite protests from unions and politicians.

Workers with the wheel press in the wheelwrights workshop in the St Rollox Locomotive Works in Springburn, Glasgow Pic: HES

Today the building retains many features which demonstrate its previous function, including an interconnected workshop design featuring high-quality ironwork.

While steam and diesel engine works were its staple function for generations, during World War II St Rollox joined in the war effort, producing, among other things, Airspeed Horsa gliders for the Normandy landings airborne assault.

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Dara Parsons, head of designations at HES, said: “The former St Rollox Works is a significant piece of Scotland’s industrial and transport heritage, and a worthy addition to the list of Scotland’s special buildings.

“It made an important contribution to railway history and to Springburn’s role as a major centre for rail manufacture and repair in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

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The St Rollox Locomotive Works in Springburn, Glasgow Pic: HES

The designation of the St Rollox Works follows a consultation where members of the public were invited to share their views on the historic and architectural significance of the building.

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Mostly built in 1882, it was the largest and longest operational locomotive manufacture and repair works in Scotland.

It was established and constructed in the Springburn district of Glasgow by the Caledonian Railway Company as their principal locomotive construction and repair works.

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HES said the works played a significant role in the expansion of the railway on the landscape of Scotland.

They were remodelled by the Caledonian’s chief engineer Dugald Drummond to designs by district engineer Robert Dundas between 1882 and 1887, in response to Caledonian’s need for a much larger works as the rail network rapidly expanded and advances in locomotive engineering, distribution and export were made.

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The Caledonian Railway Company was subsumed by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company in 1923.

Locomotive engine manufacture largely ceased by 1928, although St Rollox remained heavily involved in railway vehicle repair and maintenance. At the time of the nationalisation of the railways in 1948, the works continued to employ more than 3,300 workers and each year saw hundreds of apprentices qualify in their trades.

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The works were retained in public ownership and continued to operate in service to the railway industry.

It was sold as part of the privatisation of British Rail in 1995 and after a number of ownership changes included Mutares-owned subsidiary Gemini Rail under a lease from the landlord, Hansteen Holdings. It was been closed and marketed for sale in July 201 sold to a private owner in 2021.

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HES said it lists buildings of special architectural or historic interest that help to create Scotland’s distinctive character, and tell stories of the country’s past.