Shields Depot in Glasgow is a busy place. Home to five classes of electric trains from the First ScotRail fleet, its 104 sets keep the workforce busy around the clock. Also here is ScotRail’s only wheel lathe so other classes often pay visits.
Properly known as Shields Electric Traction Depot, it is built on a diamond-shaped parcel of land on the south side of the Glasgow Central to Paisley line at Shields Junction, where the short spur to Corkerhill Depot and the Paisley Canal leaves the main line. Close to the site of the former Shields Road Station, it was opened by the then-Transport Minister Barbara Castle in 1967 to look after the Class 303 trains that were used on the Inverclyde services. The main shed was extended in 1980-81 to act as the base for the Advanced Passenger Train during its testing between Glasgow and London. The wheel lathe was updated in 1985 and replaced in 2009 as part of the current development.
Looking after classes 314, 318, 320, 322 and 334 uses all the available capacity at Shields so when Siemens was awarded the contract to supply 38 Class 380 trains for use in Ayrshire, something had to be done.
Traditionally, Siemens has undertaken all the servicing on its UK fleets at dedicated depots. However, in this case, it would have had to share the Shields site with the existing classes. So as not to lose the flexibility of being able to work on all types of train throughout the depot, ScotRail decided to do its own maintenance although Siemens was asked to fulfil the necessary upgrades to the depot facilities.
Plans were drawn up to build a second maintenance shed. The only available space was the location of the wheel lathe building so this would have to be removed. At the same time, the site’s various storage roads would be extended to accommodate longer trains.
Siemens came up with a three-road design for the new shed, similar to its existing Class 350 depot at Northampton. The design was therefore proven and Ken Docherty, First ScotRail’s fleet manager for the Class 380, could be satisfied that it would work. Stewart MacVicar was appointed as ScotRail’s manager for the project whilst Andy Morton from Mott MacDonald was brought in to oversee the construction phase.
Contracts were signed in December 2008 and work started on site a month later. The first task was to build a completely new wheel lathe at the other end of the site, adjacent to the main access from the Corkerhill line. This was completed by November 2009 with an electronically-controlled Hegenscheidt bogie wheel lathe installed. The old lathe could only machine one wheelset at once.
Due to power supply limitations across the site, it wasn’t possible to run both the old and new lathes at the same time. So the new installation was tested using a generator supply and, when everyone was satisfied, the old lathe was turned off (it has since been returned to Network Rail for redeployment elsewhere) and the new one switched over to mains supply. As all this was taking place at the busiest time of the year – the middle of leaf-fall season – it was important that wheel lathe facilities were available at all times and this goal was achieved.
Four days later, the old building was no more, allowing work to start on the new maintenance shed. Time was of the essence as the Class 380s were due to enter passenger service in December 2010.
The wheel lathe facility, track and train shed are being built by Siemens who procured the major specialist equipment of wheel lathe, controlled emission toilet (CET) servicing equipment, depot personnel protection system, train jacks and bogie drop. The company’s project manager is Jim Double. Construction is subcontracted to Clough Smith Rail.
Before the new shed was built, work was underway to upgrade the three main roads that would run into it and extend the site’s storage sidings. At the same time, Border Rail carried out the associated OLE work.
ScotRail appointed Mott MacDonald to manage the project on its behalf. As Andy Morton explained, his company’s involvement brought added benefits. He explained that “Although we were there in the capacity of the client’s project manager, it meant that if any problem cropped up in almost any discipline, I had an expert available that I could bring in to solve it almost immediately.”
The shed, which runs east-west with access from the western side, was soon up and the detailed fit-out could begin. The only slight delay was caused by ground conditions being worse than expected, requiring additional spoil to be removed.
The two northern roads are set up for light maintenance with pits down the centre. Although they terminate inside the building, the tracks actually run through the far wall beneath knock-out panels, with the buffer stops situated 5 metres beyond. For the last few metres, the rails are embedded in a flat work area so that supplies and heavy components can easily be moved from one track to the next. There is a hoist over each of these roads which can traverse the length of the shop, enabling the removal of roof-mounted air conditioning units.
The southern road is for heavy maintenance. It has a full set of Mechan jacks capable of lifting a complete train. This road does pass through the end wall so that any bogie can be positioned over the bogie drop, also supplied by Mechan and the only one in Scotland.
As an electric depot with an overhead catenary system in a live default state, safety is of course paramount. A complete Zonegreen electronic depot protection system is installed to provide security for anyone working on top of a vehicle. The gates to all access steps and gantries are interlocked so it is impossible for a fitter to enter a danger zone while the overhead line is energised.
To the south side of the new shed are two floors of offices and parts storage facilities.
While the building will be mainly used for the Class 380, others will come in from time to time, particularly to access the bogie drop. Similarly it won’t be unheard of for a 380 to be worked on within the old shed. For this reason, ScotRail will rotate maintenance staff between both buildings so that everyone is familiar with the whole fleet. Only the heavy road, with its bogie drop and associated jack, is considered a specialist area with its own dedicated team. Siemens will have around a dozen engineers based at the depot to advise ScotRail’s staff.
With some Class 380s already commissioning at Polmadie Depot – just two miles away on the West Coast Main Line – and stored at nearby Corkerhill, Shields has already had several sets into the old shed for training purposes. Everything is in good shape for the new facilities to be fully operational before the end of the year.