Workers of Stratford Depot remembered at new high-speed station

Things in Stratford ain’t what they used to be - but a commemorative plaque at Stratford International station symbolises a rich history worth remembering.

Unveiled almost 50 years to the day steam locomotives stopped running at Stratford Depot, around 200 former train drivers gathered to see a campaign they devised to remember the industry excellence once operating there celebrated.

The plaque, erected on July 10 at the place the drivers used to sign in before the day’s work, bears the 30A shedcode used from 1970 to 1973, the depot’s ‘cockney sparrow’ mascot, and the date Stratford depot broke the world-record for the fastest build of a steam locomotive.

Unbeaten sincec December 1891, the works built Y14 class 0-6-0 No. 930 in nine hours and 47 minutes, including their hour’s lunch break, and the train ran for 40 years afterwards proving that speed was not a substitute for quality.

The plaque was the idea of a group of retired Stratford Depot train drivers who reminisce at The Grove pub every month and former union boss Lew Adams spearheaded a campaign to keep a slice of history at Stratford International Station - the new high-speed intercontinental rail link into St Pancras.

Funded by Network Rail, their Anglia route managing director Dave Ward said: “We are delighted to commemorate in this way the long history of Stratford Depot and works, and its footplate crews.”

The first railway came to Stratford in 1839 and grew until it became a major rail complex and the largest in the UK system with 763 locomotives shedded there and 434 as late as 1947 before steam ended at the depot in September 1962. Spanning a 60 acre site, Stratford Depot employed around 6,000 people in its heyday and the drivers’ efforts and memories now have their own special place at the heart of Stratford’s new transport infrastructure.

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In EWS Railways’ magazine, The News, fomer driver George Saville, who worked at the depot from 1944 to 1992, said: “As the last bastion of the historic old depot is raised to the ground this year, burying the remains of what was left from the great days of steam, we can still be proud.

“The clean, fast, and safe railway service to Europe that will run where it once stood is a fine monument to its memory.”