Steam train operator bids to re-open historic Springburn rail works

The last train to be refurbished at the works leaves last July, marking the end of work at Springburn.
The last train to be refurbished at the works leaves last July, marking the end of work at Springburn.
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A steam locomotive collector and City financier has submitted an offer to buy the historic Springburn rail works in Glasgow which closed last July after 166 years.

Jeremy Hosking, best known for funding the Brexit cause, wants to use the site for expanding his heritage train operations in Scotland, he revealed to The Scotsman.

Current tenant Gemini Rail Services’ lease ends in March and owner Hansteen said it would be pleased to sell to Mr Hosking “at the right price”.

READ MORE: Historic Springburn rail works in Glasgow mothballed after 163 years
Gemini, which refurbished trains for operators like ScotRail, shut down the site with the loss of 67 jobs.

Mr Hosking said he was expanding operations by buying more trains, with his Crewe diesel depot filling up.

READ MORE: Electric buses to 'stress test' Glasgow's power supply next week
He has bought diesel locomotives and carriages, including some phased out last year by Caledonian Sleeper.

Springburn could be used for maintaining and storing the fleet as well as providing water for steam engines during cross-Border excursions.

The site was opened in 1854 by the Caledonian Railway as the St Rollox, later Caley works, and once employed up to 3,500 people.

Mr Hosking said: “A multi-million pound offer has been made, which is good news for rail and for Scotland. We are taking advantage of the turnover of rolling stock among train operators to increase our assets.

“We are excited about Springburn. If it comes off, it would be a shift to the north.”

On jobs, he said: “Employment to ramp up slowly”.

Nigel Harris, managing editor of leading industry magazine RAIL, said: “Jeremy has a long pedigree in really doing the job on the railway, and does nothing by halves. His Crewe depot is fabulous and one of the best anywhere for heritage rolling stock.”

Mr Hosking’s rail group, Locomotive Services, includes Icons of Steam, which owns 13 locomotives such as Royal Scot.

The group also includes Saphos Trains and Statesman Rail, which run steam and other heritage excursions, including to Scotland. Mr Hosking also owns model train maker Hornby’s head office building at Margate in Kent.

Locomotive services managing director Tony Bush said: “Springburn would serve as a Scottish operational hub and provide resilience for our services. Scottish operations could originate there rather than the 400-plus mile round trip carrying empty stock [from Crewe].”“We mean business – slow and steady development, but long-term commitment.”

Mr Bush said this would mean the site moving away from Gemini’s focus on refitting work for other operators.

He said there would be “no reliance on the volatile vehicle refurbishment business, which, with the [operators’] massive investment in brand new rolling stock, has sunk without trace”.

A spokesman for Hansteen said: “We are in early discussions. Hansteen will be very pleased to sell them the site at the right price.”