Our visit to Allerton Depot ….

Posted on October 19th, 2012, by The Chairman

Last March following an invitation, a number of us visited Northern’s Newton Heath depot in north Manchester.

At the conclusion of that visit, Paul Grimes asked us if we’d like to visit Northern’s new Allerton Depot in South Liverpool. Yes, please!!

We visited on 26 June last, with Dave Collins and the staff there very proudly spending around 2 hours showing us around.

We met at Liverpool South Parkway station (LSP), the party being our Community Rail Officer, Sally Buttifant, together with Harry Boardman, our committee member from Barnton, Northwich, and as we had space, also two friends of mine from Chester Model Railway Club, Robert Griffiths and Laurence Wheeler.

It’s just a few minutes walk along a local access road to the depot.

After signing in at the gatehouse, it was off to the depot to meet our host, Dave Collins.

Whilst a Northern class 150 passed on the line from Warrington Central to LSP on its way to Lime Street.

Then in for a comprehensive and very informative brief lasting almost an hour, followed by donning of high visibility (HV) vests and visitor labels, then into the depot as an East Midlands Trains class 158 passed on a Norwich-Liverpool service.

Northern have reallocated all 28 of the “Northern West” class 156s to Allerton, freeing up desperately needed space at Newton Heath. Allerton is busy at night. During the day there’s normally only 1 unit there as was the case when we visited. Today it was 156426.

I’m not an engineer, so I’m not adding a technical commentary. If there’s something I’ve not explained, pleased ask as a comment and hopefully someone will tell us.

Northern worked closely with Network Rail, converting the derelict depot back into operational use within only 6 months. That’s incredibly fast given how long many projects seem to take on the railway. Allerton had previously been used as a wagon and shunter repair depot by EWS, now DB Schenker, whilst the wheel lathe had been used by Merseyrail until they acquired their own a few years ago.

The overhead wires have been left in place so they can be used if Allerton becomes the depot for the electrics used on the forthcoming North West electrification programme. Already, Northern have taken on an extra 50 staff to work at Allerton, most being recruited locally.

In an industry-wide initiative, all Sprinters and Pacers are having sanding equipment fitted.

We look forward to slightly less slipping and sliding through Delamere Forest this leaf fall season!

Outside of the depot at the eastern end a TPE class 185 on a Scarborough to Lime Street service was passing.

The sidings that were used for storing wagons have been left in place, possibly for use in future for stabling electric units in between duties.

Looking in from the eastern end, you can see how proud the staff are to keep the place clean and tidy. The depot had been open for over 6 months at this stage.

There’s a new washing plant, too, though this to me was the only disappointment of the visit, as it’s hardly high tech and cannot be used below a temperature of 2 degrees celsius. Considering the one in Chester depot can and was installed in the late 1990s, this is pretty poor! At least it goes below that temperature a lot less at Allerton compared to Netwton Heath given Allerton’s proximity to the Irish Sea.

Here’s an innovation I’d not seen before. This certainly appeals to the accountant in me! ….

It’s a “vending machine” holding consumable stores. When a fitter needs a consumable part for a job, things like screws, washers, bolts, etc., he/she inputs the job number, the machine dispenses the part, and the cost is automatically allocated to the job being carried out. Very useful!

The wheel drop is going here ….

The other side of the stores, all the waste oil and lubricants are carefully collected prior to removal for grading, cleaning and reuse.

In an innovation for Northern, the stores are outsourced to parts supplier, Unipart. Unipart has a contract to keep the stores replenished, Northern only paying for the parts as they’re needed.

The stores were some of the tidiest I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been in a lot over the years variously in my roles as auditor and then systems accountant. No Northern staff are allowed in the stores. Items have to be requested at the counter, retrieved by the storehand, handed over and charged to the job. No more taking items from stores, then forgetting to log them afterwards, leading to innacurate costings and items going out of stock and this not being noticed until afterwards when they’re needed, often in a hurry!

Then over to the wheel lathe building, where both the building and the wheel lathe are being refurbished for future use.

This is where Robert Griffiths started getting really excited, seeing some quality older equipment ….

Yes, it’s a genuine, original …. !!

Overall an excellent and fascinating visit.

It’s great to see investment now going into the railways again in our part of the UK after so many years of all the main projects being elsewhere.

Very many thanks to Northern, to Paul Grimes at Newton Heath for inviting us, to Dave Collins for showing us round and giving such comprehensive explanations, and to Stuart Draper, Northern’s Engineering Director.

It’s great to see what will be an excellent facility, the increased quality employment in South Liverpool and staff that are clearly very proud of looking after their facility.

Thanks again, folks!

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