August 2018 News

Plenty of things changing on the Chippenham Westinghouse site this summer. One thing’s for sure, there certainly aren’t any yellow and blue HSTs whizzing past the White House and blue-painted factory buildings!

The site redevelopment continues, with construction of a new supermarket under way, and plenty of houses and a hotel to come before more light industrial units are created on the site.

The major Westinghouse businesses continue to thrive in the area though, with Siemens Rail Automation based in the same 1940s buildings that were created for the signals division of WB&S, and with Knorr Bremse, the former brakes division, continuing to do well from its purpose-built Melksham factory. The business cycle associated with Network Rail Control Periods (the five-yearly cycle that the state infrastructure owner operates in) introduces uncertainty for the UK industry, but there is a vast amount of work planned for the future. Both companies continue to innovate and to invest in new technologies, which align with the UK’s aspiration to create a ‘digital railway’ in coming years.

Polunnio is now in its fifth year, and we are proud that both the commercial and not-for-profit sides of the business continue to do what we set the company up to achieve! We were delighted in July to be able to send royalties cheques to both Chippenham Museum & Heritage Centre and the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. These payments were made possible by the continuing sales of ‘Speed with Safety’, which of course was published to support the institutions that are still committed to protecting the heritage of Westinghouse Brake & Signal.

We continue to work with both institutions, and look forward to confirming when a large number of the historical signalling drawings of WB&S and its constituent companies have moved to the History Centre, at which point they will be available to a much wider audience than every before – with the continuing proviso that they are only used for research and non-commercial activities.

At the Museum a stalwart group of volunteers is working with current Siemens employees to work their way through thousands of photographs of WB&S activities in Chippenham – and much further afield. The team is doing sterling work in order to make the photos more than just photographs of ‘stuff’, relating what’s in the pictures to projects, people and products to bring them to life. As ever, the continuing contribution in time and effort of Siemens Rail Automation and a number of its employees is hugely appreciated.

Over the coming winter we plan a number of activities to improve the availability of information about WB&S and its constituent companies. We have already upgraded the www.polunnio.co.uk website to make use of secure connections (SSL certificates) to get ready for a more interactive world, ensuring that information that you send to us, or we sent to you, is encrypted and much harder to pinch as it wings its way through the ether. We intend to refresh the website, making it a little more modern and exciting.

More importantly we intend to make the collection of Westinghouse Reviews, the invaluable historical record made up of the in-house magazine of the 1940s and 1950s, available publicly on the website. We will also investigate the feasibility of making the Sykes and McKenzie & Holland drawings available too. In the meantime a copy of the magazines is held at both Chippenham Museum and the History Centre, and we are always happy to help with quick searches and enquiries for those wanting to find out more about family members who appeared in the magazines – just use the ‘Contact us’ link to drop us a line.

There are a number of further projects in the pipeline, especially with the museum, and we hope very much to share information with you on those in the coming weeks and months.

We continue to do our best to celebrate not only the proud heritage of WB&S in Wiltshire, the UK and far, far beyond – but also to celebrate the continuing companies that are proud to trace their roots back to this astonishing organisation.

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