« Aftermath | Main | The Non-Slip Grape »

The Reyrolle Story: Twenty-Six - Losing The Initiative

The late Fifites found Reyrolle'ss engineers pondering over a major switchgear design change.

Robert Owen continues his history of the giant Tyneside engineering concern.

To read earlier chapters please click on

To purchase a copy of his book visit http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reyrolle-Story-History-Co-Ltd/dp/1905295073/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245678876&sr=1-1

During the late Fifties, Reyrolle's engineers pondered over a major switchgear design change. The question was whether to continue to use the old, proven, high pressure air or to invest in the new, unproven sulphur hexafluoride gas?

This was discussed at length at the RTC in 1961, where Reyrolle's mature representatives were possibly influenced by their traditional, conservative thinking. Some observers believe that by refusing to commit themselves to the early use of gas instead of air, Reyrolle lost the initiative in switchgear design.

Relays and Instruments had never been the most important part of Reyrolle's product range and in the opinion of some, never given the resources they deserved. This was evidenced by the lack of investment in the old Relay Shop at Hebburn. This was until 1953 when a major customer complained about quality and late deliveries. The short term answer was the subcontracting of work to another manufacturer.

The long term answer took a little more time. Finally the Board of Directors agreed to draw up plans for a new Light Engineering Shop and to send three engineers to the USA to study factory layout and modern production methods. From their feedback, a new, well resourced assembly shop for relays and instruments was built on the south side of Hebburn Works. Opened in 1957, it contrasted sharply with the older buildings of the Hebburn site.

Also, after nearly forty years of having to cross the dangerous and busy Newcastle to South Shields railway line, an underpass suitable for vehicles was built to connect the two sites.

Even the 'Rolls Royce' of switchgear manufacturers can have an off-day and the Reyrolle 24 Hour Emergency Service was created to minimise any customer inconvenience. It operated on land or sea and a senior engineer was always available at Hebburn to access any emergency and call out any specialist colleagues as required. A story is told about Maurice Curry - the Foreman of the Relay Shop, being called out one Saturday night just as he was entering the Theatre Royal at Newcastle!


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.