This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "British Rail Engineering Limited" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (December 2009) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

British Rail Engineering Limited
IndustryTrain & carriage manufacturing & maintenance
PredecessorBritish Rail Workshops
Founded1 January 1970
DefunctSeptember 1992
HeadquartersDerby, England
ParentBritish Railways Board (1969–1989)

British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL) was the railway systems engineering subsidiary of British Rail. Established in 1970, the maintenance arm was split as British Rail Maintenance Limited in 1987 and the design and building of trains was privatised in 1989,[1] purchased by the Swiss-Swedish conglomerate Asea Brown Boveri (40%), Trafalgar House (40%), and a management-employee buy-out (20%). After ABB became the sole shareholder in September 1992 it was subsumed into ABB Transportation.


BREL's original logo
BREL's original logo
The InterCity 125 was formed from Class 43 powercars built at Crewe Works and Mark 3 carriages built at Derby Litchurch Lane Works
Mark 2 carriages  were built by BREL's Derby Litchurch Lane Works
Class 58 locomotives were built by BREL's Doncaster Works
Class 58 locomotives were built by BREL's Doncaster Works

BREL was established by the British Railways Board on 1 January 1970 to take over the management of its 14 rolling stock maintenance centres including Ashford, Crewe, Derby Litchurch Lane, Derby Locomotive, Doncaster, Eastleigh, Glasgow, Horwich, Shildon, Swindon, Wolverton, and York.[2][3] Ashford Works closed in 1981, Shildon in 1984, and Swindon in 1986.[4][5] In 1987, Doncaster, Eastleigh, Glasgow, and Wolverton were transferred to BR Maintenance.[6]

Not all British Rail rolling stock was built in-house: Brush Traction, Metro-Cammell, and Metropolitan-Vickers amongst others manufactured rolling stock, although in general it was built to BREL specifications. Latterly, BREL often acted as a subcontractor to a main contractor such as GEC, which supplied traction equipment. These contracts required BREL to build the frames, body shells, and bogies, and install the traction and ancillary equipment of the primary contractor. Much of the electric locomotive construction programme of the 1980s, such as Classes 89, 90, and 91, was carried out in this way.

As part of the privatisation of British Rail, BREL was sold in a management buyout, with management and employees owning 20% and Asea Brown Boveri and Trafalgar House 40% each.[7] In 1991 Derby Locomotive Works closed.[8] In March 1992, ABB bought out the other shareholders with BREL subsumed into ABB Transportation in September 1992.[9][10]




Multiple units

BREL also produced some railbuses.


Main products

The vast majority of BREL's output was rolling stock for British Rail, including Mark 2 and Mark 3 carriages, the latter for locomotive haulage and InterCity 125 diesel High Speed Trains. BREL built the NIR 80 Class diesel-electric multiple units for Northern Ireland Railways. Other Mark 3 derived vehicles included Class 150 diesel multiple units in the 1980s and numerous electric multiple units such as Classes 313 and 317.

BREL had success in the export market, notably with Mark 2 and Mark 3 carriages for Iarnród Éireann and the Taiwan Railway EMU100 series.[11] Rolling stock was also manufactured for Ghana, Kenya, Malaysia, and Tanzania.[12][13][14][15]

Other products

An APT-P at Crewe in October 2006
An APT-P at Crewe in October 2006

BREL built prototypes such as the Class 210 DEMU and the experimental high-speed Advanced Passenger Train (APT) tilting train during the 1970s and early 1980s.[16] The Class 210 were externally very similar to the first batch of Class 317 EMUs, but half of the forward carriage was taken up by the engine room, where an above-floor diesel engine drove a generator to power traction motors on the axles.


  1. ^ "British Rail Workshops". Archived from the original on 12 April 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
  2. ^ British Rail Engineering Limited formed Railway Gazette 5 December 1969 page 882
  3. ^ New BR workshops company Modern Railways issue 256 January 1970 page 41
  4. ^ Ashford Works to close this year The Railway Magazine issue 965 September 1981 page 407
  5. ^ Swindon to close Rail Enthusiast issue 46 July 1985 page 25
  6. ^ BREL divided The Railway Magazine issue 1034 June 1987 page 390
  7. ^ Buyer for BREL The Railway Magazine issue 1055 March 1989 page 143
  8. ^ Industry Railway Gazette International January 1991 page 13
  9. ^ ABB to control BREL The Railway Magazine issue 1093 May 1992 page 7
  10. ^ For BREL, read ABB Transportation Rail issue 183 16 September 1992 page 5
  11. ^ Taiwan emu delivery by BRE begins The Railway Magazine issue 921 January 1978 page 41
  12. ^ Wagons for Ghana The Railway Magazine issue 886 February 1975 page 55
  13. ^ Kenyan wagon contract shipment The Railway Magazine issue 923 March 1978 page 150
  14. ^ First contracts for BR Engineering The Railway Magazine issue 927 March 1970 page 125
  15. ^ Derby Coaches for Tanzania The Railway Magazine issue 952 August 1980 page 366
  16. ^ "This is British Rail (reproduction of the text of a British Rail leaflet)". Archived from the original on 18 July 2012.