“Westinghouse Brake & Signal, London & Chippenham” was proudly printed – or cast – on hundreds of thousands of parts throughout the history of the company. Whilst manufacturing and many of the engineering roles were moved out of London after the Second World War (for some this involved a brief return to London following evacuation ‘to the Country’, and then having to up sticks again), the final move of people out of the city happened in the early 1970s.
In the written archives there isn’t much to indicate what life was like in the York Way offices of the company in the first half of the 20th Century. Until just before Christmas 2016 when a document appeared out of the blue – the personal memoirs of Len Stilwell, who worked at the King’s Cross office from 1912 until 1958 (yes, really, 46 years!).
This is an astonishing and very personal document, recording everything from Stilwell’s war service through to the sort of work that was carried out by the company, the people that worked there, and all sorts of intrigue, crime, disease and politics! There is also a limited insight to the views and opinions of the day, and to the start of women taking their place in the workplace – complete with a particularly nasty industrial injury.
There will no doubt be errors in this transcript, but it’s a good, in fact gripping, read!