St Rollox Works is a substantial range of adjoining and interconnected former railway locomotive workshops located in Springburn, Glasgow. The works were first constructed in 1854–6 for the Caledonian Railway Company and were enlarged and remodelled by the company between 1884 and 1886.
The current building consists of 12 adjoining workshops with pitched roof spans, dating largely from the 1880s, and covering approximately 5.5 acres. The workshops mainly run parallel with each other on an east-west axis, having an irregularly stepped plan form that diminishes in length from north to south. The three longest halls to the north, each being over 152 metres in length, are the former machine shop, wheel shop and locomotive erecting halls. Adjoining to the south are the former boiler and tender shops, coppersmiths, pattern shop and stores. A truncated section of the former forge and smith's shops (orientated north-south rather than east-west) runs to the west side of the building. Four shorter workshop ranges to the far south of the building housed the former brass and iron foundries.
The St Rollox Works building is largely of iron and brick construction. The walls are of red brick with rounded white brick dressings at the corners, windows, doors and cornices. The gable ends of each workshop span are shouldered, having round-arched doors and windows to the east gables, some having later modifications and apex roundel openings to the west gables. The side elevations have pilastered bays topped by a parapet with a dentil course and sandstone cornicing. The openings to the ground floor are predominantly round-headed arch, and there is a mix of round-arched and roundel windows at the upper level.
Window units are largely later 20th century replacements with some metal-frame windows with multi-pane glazing retained at the ground floor. The roof has a covering of metal sheet cladding (formerly grey slate in diminishing courses, interspersed with long horizontal glazed sections).
The interior was seen in 2021. An internal refit was carried out during the 1960s. The structural iron and steel elements of the building remain intact. The internal brick walls have piers to support the overhead cranes. There are several round-arch openings connecting the various workshop ranges. The roof valleys of the long workshop ranges are supported on wrought-iron girders and rows of two-stage, cast-iron circular columns with curved brackets supporting the steel I-beams and wrought iron rails of the high-level travelling crane system. The embedded tracks, engine inspection pits and wheel turning plate fixtures within the concrete floors demonstrate the continued use of the building for rail vehicle repair over a 160-year period and are therefore included as part of the listing. The roof structure is predominantly of wrought iron with narrow angle beam and tie rod support construction. The principal beams are covered by timber lining. There are also some sections of metal latticework within parts of the roof structure.
The former St Rollox Works Offices of 1887 occupies the northwest corner of the site and is listed separately at category B (LB33906).
A full description of the various workshops, construction methods and building materials used at the St Rollox Works is detailed in Peter Dunn's 1897 paper for the Institute of Civil Engineers (Dunn, 1897).
Incorporated in 1845, the Caledonian Railway Company became one of the most successful railway companies in Scotland. The former St Rollox locomotive works was established and constructed in the Springburn district of Glasgow in 1854–6 as the Caledonian's principal locomotive construction and repair works. Robert Sinclair (Superintendent of Works) constructed the new building alongside an older works belonging to the Glasgow and Garnkirk Railway company. The Garnkirk line was among the first mineral and passenger railways in Scotland, established in 1831 to bring produce from the Monklands coalfields into the city. Its first locomotive, called The St Rollox, was designed by railway pioneer, George Stephenson.
Rapid expansion of the rail network and advances in locomotive engineering, distribution and export meant a much larger works was required by the Caledonian Railway Company. Between 1882 and 1887 the St Rollox Works were remodelled by the Caledonian's newly appointed chief engineer Dugald Drummond to designs by district engineer, Robert Dundas. The surviving workshops at the St Rollox site incorporate fabric reused from the 1854–6 building. The north wall of the erecting shop, for example, was retained and raised in height during the remodeling, and a large quantity of red bricks from the old building were reused (Dunn, 1897).
The enlarged locomotive works consisted of around 12 acres of adjoining covered workshops (and a further 3 acres of detached workshops) employing around 3000 workers. The main locomotive engine erecting halls were over 165 metres in length with space to construct 90 locomotives at one time, while the carriage and wagon shops (consisting of 14 slightly lower workshop spans running at right angles to the main body of the building) had space for over 500 individual vehicles. Three miles of railway track ran throughout the St Rollox Works site (Dunn, 1897). Between 1886 and 1923 more than 550 locomotive engines and thousands of carriages and wagons were built at St Rollox.
The Caledonian Railway Company was subsumed by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company in 1923. Locomotive engine manufacture largely ceased at St Rollox by 1928, although it remained heavily involved in railway vehicle repair and maintenance. At the time of the nationalisation of the railways in 1948, the St Rollox Works continued to employ more than 3300 workers (Larkin, 1998).
After nationalisation, the newly formed British Railways acquired the 18 principal (or Main) Locomotive Works across the UK as well as numerous smaller subsidiary works. Cuts and consolidation measures during the 1960s resulted in 6 Main Workshops remaining in operation. These were chosen on account of their favourable locations, size, existing facilities and adaptability. The retained workshops in England were at Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Eastleigh and Swindon, and in Scotland at St Rollox.
An overhaul of the St Rollox Works during the 1960s cost more than £1 million. Repair work was temporarily moved to the Main Works at nearby Cowlairs before that works was closed, in 1968, and later demolished (see also 3.2.1 Age and Rarity). By 1972 St Rollox had been renamed The Glasgow Railway Works.
A downsizing of operations took place at St Rollox (Glasgow Railway Works) prior to the privatisation of the rail network in 1988. The former carriage and wagon repair shops became redundant as a result and were largely demolished during the 1990s. A truncated, 8-span section of the former carriage and wagon workshops is retained on the north side of the present building. A supermarket was built on the cleared portion of the site in 2002.
The surviving 5.5 acres of covered workshops at the former St Rollox Works were retained in public ownership and continued to operate in service to the railway industry until 2019 when the works were closed and sold to a private owner in 2021.
Statement of Special Interest
The former St Rollox Works meets the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:
- As the largest and longest operational locomotive manufacture and repair works in Scotland.
- For its interconnected workshop design including high-quality ironwork and its intact over-head travelling crane system, which demonstrates the building's function.
- As a rare surviving example of a late 19th century locomotive works in Scotland, and the only surviving example in Springburn – once a global centre of locomotive construction.
- For its contribution to our understanding of railway history and to our understanding of Springburn as a major centre for rail manufacture and repair during the 19th and 20th centuries.
- For its role in the expansion of the railways on the landscape of Scotland, and its contribution to Scotland's economic growth as a former employer of one of the greatest concentrations of railway skills in the world.
In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing:
all other interior machinery and all detached outbuildings.
The design, construction and plan form of the surviving sections of the former St Rollox Works clearly demonstrate the intended function of the building.
The layout of the surviving 5.5 acres of workshops continues to convey the intended function, with the main processes involved in 19th-century locomotive engine construction represented by the surviving workshop ranges. The former locomotive erecting shops, machine shop, wheel shop, tender and boiler shop, forges, tinsmiths, coppersmiths, iron and brass foundries and pattern shops all survive.
The building was conceived and laid out so that the most practical sequence of operations minimized labour and lessened the cost of locomotive construction and repair. The interconnected plan form also allowed the process to be carried out almost entirely undercover, avoiding the worst extremes of the weather.
An interesting aspect of the 1880s design is the relatively open plan internal arrangement, with the ironwork columns acting as open arcades separating various component parts of the building. There are, for example, no solid partitions between the former smiths' shop, and the principal locomotive erecting shop. The scarcity of internal partitions was considered one of the striking features of the workshops when it was visited by civil engineers in 1897 (Dunn, 1897). The adaptability of this arrangement is one of the reasons St Rollox was chosen as Scotland's main workshop as part of British Railway's consolidation works of the 1960s.
A truncated, 8-span section of the former carriage works is incorporated into the north side of the present building. This section of the former carriage works has a different roof structure with latticework girders in the French style. Its survival adds to the interest of the plan form and design of the building.
The simple, classical architectural detailing used in the building's design is largely typical of large-scale industrial workshops of the period, although few examples remain on this scale. The repeating use of pilasters, parapets and arched opening and roundels lend a sense of regularity and order to the design, typical of industrial works and factory buildings during the second half of the 19th century.
The 19th-century structural ironwork at St Rollox is an important part of its design interest. The heavy circular cast iron columns throughout the building have brackets at around two thirds their height capable of supporting the high-level travelling crane rails and the weight of an entire locomotive engine as well the roof structure. The wrought iron stanchions, girders and roof structure demonstrate advances in large-scale industrial workshop design on Clydeside during the late 19th century.
Significantly, the columns also serve as rainwater conductors. Rainwater from the roofs is led along cast-iron valley gutters and down through the building, inside the columns, into underground pipes leading to a purpose-built egg-shaped brick sewer (Dunn, 1897) which may still survive.
All the cast-iron work was made of the finest Scottish grey iron to ensure strength. The lattice girders, roof-trusses, and other wrought-iron work were made of quality Glasgow plates, angle- and T-bars to withstand a tensile stress of 22 tons. An inspector in the Company's service was tasked full-time to overlook the ironwork produced in the contractor's shops (Dunn, 1897). This indicates the level of importance placed on the quality and structural integrity of the iron subjected to the repeated strain and stresses of lifting tons of locomotive weight. The contractor for some if not all the cast iron work is believed to be the 1871 Dalziel (Dalyell) Iron Works in Motherwell.
Some of the early steel for the building was imported from Belgium. The name 'La Belge Providence' and triangular eye of providence symbol is rolled into the steel I-beams supporting the travelling crane rails within the former locomotive erecting hall. This indicates the steel derived from the Forges de la Providence steel company in Belgium, one of the world's largest producers of steel by 1870, and before the use of steel had become widespread in the design and manufacture of industrial buildings.
The high-level travelling cranes are supported by 19th century iron work. The large cranes follow a similar design to the original wrought iron cranes of the 1880s (shown in late 19th century photographs) and are key components that add to the integrity of the building. They reflect the continued use of the building for locomotive construction and repair over a period of more than 160 years.
The roof structure and integrated glazing is a further interesting aspect of the design, contributing to our understanding of the buildings function and its date. The trussed and horizontal elements are of a relatively thin and lightweight wrought iron tie-rod and angle-iron ceiling structure. St Rollox demonstrates an early and particularly extensive use of this type of relatively innovative roof construction on Clydeside during the 1880s.
Caledonian Railway's district engineer after 1880 was Robert Dundas, an experienced engineer who worked for several important rail companies during his career and was president of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland between 1891–93. As well as being closely involved in the design and expansion of the St Rollox Works during the 1880s, Dundas was responsible for the running of more than 500 miles of track belonging to the southern division of the company. The in-house, bespoke design of the St Rollox Works illustrates the confidence and expertise within the Caledonian Railway Company by 1880.
Sections of embedded and raised rail track providing rail access to each of the covered workshops within the yard to the immediate south and east of the building, all merge to a single track to the east of the St Rollox Works site. The line was part of the route of the early 1831 Glasgow and Garnkirk railway. While no early 19th century 'fish-belly' style rails are known to survive, the surviving standard gauge track within the building and railyard are functional elements that have been in-situ since the 1880s, making an important contribution to understanding the building type.
The loss of a substantial proportion of the carriage repair workshops, later recladding of the roof and some walls with metal, and alteration to some openings are not considered to lessen the interest to the extent the intended function of the building can no longer be understood. The interiors have some additional supporting lattice steel columns added during the early 20th century, but the changes do not limit the ability of the surviving building to convey its significance in an historical industrial context.
The simple yet practical structure and design of the building, characterised by a partly open-plan network of interconnected interior spaces supported by cast-iron columns, has has not altered significantly since the 1880s. Changes to the former works have been largely in keeping with the original design intent and reflect the continued use of the building as a railway repair workshop. There is special design interest under this heading.
The St Rollox Works is located in the Springburn and St Rollox district of Glasgow, just north of the M8 motorway at the Royston Interchange. The railway spur entering the St Rollox yard extends around 600 metres east ward before joining the Kirkintilloch to East Kilbride main line.
Springburn is an urban area once dominated by the rail industry in the 19th century (Ordnance Survey, 1892). The area was transformed completely from the second half of the 20th century, with the demolition of more than two thirds of its historic buildings, and is now largely redeveloped with housing, commercial and industrial estates. To the immediate north of the St Rollox Works site, there is a large supermarket and car park occupying what was part of the footprint of the 1880s site.
While the immediate surroundings of St Rollox Works have changed, some significant elements of its historic setting survive and contribute to the special interest of the building.
The six adjoining gable ends of the workshop ranges at the southwest, formerly containing the boiler works and the brass and iron foundries, have particular prominence on Springburn Road.
To the north of the site, on Springburn Road, the former St Rollox Works Offices of 1887 by Robert Dundas for Caledonian Railway Company (listed separately as 130-132 Springburn Road, Office to St Rollox Railway Works, LB33906) is an important and prominent surviving part of the works complex. This building has the same red brick with pale brick dressings, round-arched windows and pilastered bays. The two buildings share a functional associative relationship that has a group value.
While the surrounding setting has been altered, the location of St Rollox Works (see also Social Historical Interest) and its survival into the 21st century reflects the important position of Springburn in the global historical context of railway locomotive construction during the 19th century and beyond.
Age and rarity
By 1900 St Rollox had become Scotland's largest locomotive manufacturing and repair works. The surviving portion of the works is among the last and most complete examples of the building type in the country, and a now rare example of a 19th century industrial works on this scale.
At its peak the Springburn area of Glasgow had four large-scale locomotive and carriage works (see also Social Historical Interest 3.2.2). The Hyde Park Loco Works (1870s), Cowlairs Engine Works (from 1841) and the Atlas Works (1888) were all located a short distance to the north of St Rollox Works. These three works have all been demolished, making St Rollox an important surviving representative component of Glasgow's industrial railway heritage.
The largest of the demolished works was the Cowlairs Engine Works. It was taken over by the North British Railway Company in 1865 and greatly extended. By 1900 it had around 12 acres of workshops, broadly divided between two closely adjacent buildings. Cowlairs closed in 1969 following a restructuring programme on behalf of British Rail Engineering Limited, and the site was cleared for redevelopment during the 1970s. A single gatepier currently remains at the entrance to the site.
The former Administration and Drawing Office of the North British Locomotive Company by James Millar (1908–09, LB33612, Category A) is also located in Springburn. The North British Locomotive Company was created in 1903 when three of Glasgow's locomotive manufacturers (owning the Atlas Works, the Hyde Park Works and the Queens Park Works) merged to create what at the time was the largest locomotive manufacturing company in Europe.
The former locomotive workshops at St Rollox along with its former offices (LB33906, category B) on Springburn Road, and the former North British Locomotive Company offices (LB33612) are among the last surviving buildings relating directly to Glasgow's locomotive manufacturing industry.
Elsewhere in Scotland there are three former locomotive works whose surviving buildings remain identifiable as such, and all of which are listed buildings:
The Caledonia Works (LB35973, category B) in Kilmarnock was begun in 1851 and remodelled in 1876 and again in 1906. Its cast iron travelling crane apparatus has been fixed in place outside the works as a monument. The different design of each part of the former Caledonia Works illustrates its evolution in three or four stages. By comparison, the St Rollox Works has a more unified design throughout its complex of adjoining workshops and detached former offices (LB33906).
A surviving section of the former Lochgorm Works (LB50928, category B), from 1860 with later additions, at Inverness Railway Station consists of a double-span workshop of tooled masonry construction.
The surviving elements of the former Inverurie Locomotive and Carriage Works (LB49301, category C) of 1903 are representative of the later generation of locomotive works. The erecting shop has been demolished but the foundry, drawing office and the saw-tooth roofed carriage works are now converted to residential use (incorporating a railway heritage centre component).
Among the best surviving examples of industrial workshops along similar design principles to St Rollox is the former Fairfield Shipbuilding Engine Works in Govan (LB33357, category A, 1860–80). Its main halls feature a larger span than the St Rollox Works, with distinctive forked stanchions. The former Dundee Foundry Engine Shop (LB25236, category B, 1872) was converted to retail premises in 2001, retaining its cast iron framework, timber roof trusses and 20th century replacement steel travelling crane by Babcock Marine.
Both these buildings have high-level travelling crane beams similar to those at St Rollox but the workshops are significantly shorter in length than those required for locomotive construction. Both also have predominantly timber roof structures which is in keeping with their earlier construction date. Wrought iron roofs of the type seen at St Rollox were a recent innovation, introduced in earnest after 1875. By 1920 most engineering works were built with standardised steel roofs, so the wrought iron roof at St Rollox is a relatively uncommon survival on this scale.
The former locomotive workshops at St Rollox are of special interest under this heading. The site forms the last surviving example of this important industrial building type in the Springburn area (with all other important locomotive works in the area largely or completely demolished). The site is also of interest more generally as a survival of a rare building type in Scotland.
Social historical interest
Locomotive construction was a major contributor to Scotland's economic growth during the 19th century. The former St Rollox Locomotive Works has special interest under this heading for its contribution to our understanding of Scotland's railway history and to our understanding of Springburn as a major centre for rail manufacture and repair in the 19th and 20th centuries. The St Rollox site employed a huge workforce over a long period of time, and the building has particular interest for this aspect of its social history.
Springburn was ideally placed for rail and canal access to and from the coal fields surrounding Glasgow. This transport network helped power Scotland's Industrial Revolution during the 19th century. The Caledonian's locomotive works was located close to where the Monkland Canal, the Forth and Clyde Canal and the early Glasgow and Garnkirk Railway line all terminated. The Caledonian Railway Company had officially acquired both the Garnkirk Railway and the Forth and Clyde Shipping Canal by 1867. The commercial opportunities for trade and distribution explains why around one square mile of Springburn became one of the greatest concentrations of railway interests and railway skills in the world during the middle to late 19th century.
Locomotives and other rolling stock from Springburn were exported to India, Europe, the Americas, South Africa and Asia. At its peak of operations between 1890–1930 Springburn had a 25% market share of the global locomotive industry, employing more than 10,000 workers. The St Rollox site alone manufactured more than 550 locomotives, 3000 carriages and wagons and employed over 3000 workers (Dunn, 1897).
Caledonian Railway engines built at St Rollox include the renowned McIntosh Dunalastair and Cardean class passenger and freight locomotives. Only two Caledonian locomotives are understood to currently remain in operation in the UK. The Dunalastair 'CR 828' (1899) operates on the preserved Strathspey Railway, Aviemore while the 'CR 419' (1907) is at the Bo'ness & Kinneil Heritage Railway, West Lothian.
Increasing international competition coupled with the world-wide economic depression after the First World War weakened the position of industrial Clydebank. There were many mergers in the iron, steel, shipbuilding and locomotive manufacturing industries. A range of further issues relating directly to the locomotive industry included the impact of the Second World War, a reluctance to move from steam to diesel and electric, and the rise in car ownership. Between the nationalisation of the railway in 1948 and its privatisation in 1988, the number of locomotives and other rolling stock operating in Britain plummeted by 95% from 1,220,000 vehicles to just over 60,000 (Larkin, 1998).
The St Rollox Works was Scotland's longest surviving railway manufacturing and repair facility (1856–2019). Its continued existence over a 160-year period reflects the quality and practicality of the building's design as well as its superior strategic location among the railway locomotive construction sites at Springburn. While not owned by The Caledonian Railway Company after 1923, the St Rollox workshops continued to be known by its workforce as 'The Caley' until its closure in 2019.
The former St Rollox Works is an important survivor of Scotland's railway industry and a monument to the rise and fall of locomotive engineering in Glasgow. The building in its present form contributes to our understanding of Springburn's historic economic and social significance and its place in the story of Glasgow's industrial and commercial development.
Association with people or events of national importance
Railway workshops across Britain were utilised by the Government for military manufacture during the Second World War. Both St Rollox and the nearby Cowlairs Locomotive Works are known to have constructed parts for Horsa Gliders that played a role in the Normandy Landings of June 1944 (information courtesy of a member of the public; Grace's Guide: St Rollox - https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/St._Rollox_Works). There is a 1921 war memorial to Caledonian Railway Company workers located at Glasgow Central Station (https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/13356).