THE Shildon Wagon Works packet in The Northern Echo’s photo-library is bulging with pictures showing the fight against closure of the works in the early 1980s.

The works were started in 1833, although Shildon’s connection with the railways went back further: on the opening day of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1925, the first train was connected to its engine, Locomotion No 1, outside the Masons’ Arms – the pub which stood at the entrance to the wagon works.

At its peak in the 1950s, it employed 2,800 men who repaired or modified 510 wagons a week – 25,000 a year. It covered 58 acres which contained 20 miles of track.

As privatisation loomed in the early 1980s, British Railways wanted to shed its loss-making manufacturing division – although Shildon itself was in profit.

But in 1981, BR axed 700 jobs in Shildon – about 25 per cent of the workforce – but pledged that the slimmed down works had a future. And in March 1982, Shildon won a multi-million pound order against foreign competition to build trucks for the Congo in Africa.

A fortnight later, BR announced that the whole works were to shut, and the bitterness the men felt at losing their jobs was compounded by a sense of betrayal. As the picture packet shows, a large campaign was mounted to save the works, but it ended on June 29, 1984, with closure and the loss of 1,750 jobs – a blow that left the local economy reeling for a decade and more.

If you have any further information about the pictures, or they stir any memories, please let us know.