Planes, trains, automobiles... and sledges: Derby's manufacturing history

  • 6 February 2014
  • From the section Derby
Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts under construction, Derby, c1912. Rows of these hand-built cars at various levels of completion.
Image caption Rolls-Royce moved to Derby in 1908 to build its successful Silver Ghost car

The announcement that Bombardier has won a £1bn contract to build Crossrail trains in Derby has been welcomed as a "great boost" for the East Midlands.

The deal, to build 65 trains, is the latest chapter in Derby's proud manufacturing history which can be traced back to the world's first fully-mechanised factory - a silk mill built in 1724.

Here is a selection of what the city has helped give to the world's rails, roads... and slopes.

Tilting trains

The Advanced Passenger Train was one of the most celebrated innovations to emerge from the former British Rail Research Division in Derby.

Bob Gwynne, associate curator of rail vehicles at the National Railway Museum, said Derby was "the last man standing" among towns and cities with proud train building pasts and had always strived to innovate.

"Round the country there are places that have long associations with building railways but Derby is really the last survivor," he said.

The Shanghai Maglev

The Maglev was another concept born at the research division.

Mr Gwynne said the centre's legacy was "virtually every train that goes over 125mph anywhere in the world".

The first Maglev ran in Birmingham, Mr Gwynne said. The high-speed version now rattles through Shanghai.

Racing to the chequered flag

Talking of speed, Derbyshire's EPM Technology supplies parts for five Formula One teams, including Force India.

EPM Technology managing director Graham Mulholland said manufacturing and engineering was "in the city's DNA".

"There is about 300 years of engineering history in the city and you can really feel that," he said.

"I think here in the East Midlands we are particularly good at making things happen and in Derby, we make things that make things happen."

Rolls-Royce comes to town

In 1908, luxury car maker Rolls-Royce moved to Derby to a custom-built factory.

Its Silver Ghost car proved so successful it expanded from its Manchester base, paving the way for a lengthy partnership with the city.

The classic vehicle was dubbed "the greatest car in the world" at the time and proved enormously successful for the firm.

Derby dreams

Today, think of Derby and many people think of Rolls-Royce. Its plant in Sinfin employs thousands of people and supplies engines to the world's plane industry.

The latest project includes the Trent 1000 engine manufactured in the city, used to power about half of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet.

To say thanks to the people at Rolls-Royce, a flypast of the state-of-the-art liner was arranged alongside a Spitfire - with a Griffon engine also built in Derby.

Chocks away

Well before the luxury passenger plane, another Rolls-Royce aviation landmark played a key role in World War Two.

The Derby-designed Merlin engine powered Royal Air Force planes including the Lancaster Bomber, the Spitfire and the Mustang.

Almost 170,000 engines were produced for 40 different aircraft and the design has been credited with helping to win the war.

Future industries

Derby is not just at the cutting edge of public transport. EPM Technology, in a showcase of its skills with carbon fibre, built the world's fastest sledge.

Piloted by Guy Martin, it reached a top speed of 83.49mph on the steep slopes of Andorra.

The firm, currently based in Draycott near the city, is building a new headquarters, next to Rolls-Royce where it can double its workforce of 75 staff.

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