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GEC Witton  20th May 1948:




Hearty welcome on behalf of the Chairman, Directors and my colleagues.

We are very glad that Members of a society like the Locomotive and Carriage Institution of Great Britain should visit us. I believe your Institution is nearly 40 years old (1911). Such a visit. enables you to see to some extent what kind of stuff we make and to promote that mutual understanding between manufacturers and users which is so helpful to all of us.

We are very glad to have with us today Mr. Kiloh, who has been, I understand, your Chairman for some ten years. But our friendship with Mr. Kiloh dates back much longer than that as he was a member of the Battersea Borough Council Electricity Committee for 30 years, and for 25 years he was their Chairman.  Now the Battersea Borough Council were very old friends and clients of ours.

I say were, because now that Electricity Committee have been swallowed up by the octopus of the B.E.A. which, for many reasons, we very much regret. Among much other electrical plant, we supplied to Battersea some 18 years ago (commissioned. 1931)  a 30,000 kW turbo alternator which ran at a speed of 3000 r.p.m.  Our records show that this machine had been started up and stopped upwards of 6000 times; probably by now many more times. As is well known, of course, it is the starting. up of such machines which imposes the greatest stress on them. That machine was the first one we supplied of that size, at the speed of 3000 r.p.m., id I can claim that the confidence which the Battersea Council gave us has not been misplaced; neither was it the case of the smaller machines, 10,000 kW and 5000 kW, running at the same speed and supplied between and 30 years ago.  We have to thank, to a considerable extent, the great success of these machines to a considerable extent, for the very high reputation we hold today for the manufacture of large turbo alternators, and we feel a deep debt of gratitude e Battersea Borough Council Electricity Committee for their help in assisting us to secure that reputation.

You might like me to tell you something about the history and constitution of the G.E.C.

The G.E.C., which is an entirely British concern, started in a very small way in London, some 60 years ago.

It has grown and expanded ever since then until today it is the largest manufacturer of electrical goods in the British Empire, and today employs between 50,000 and 60,000 workpeople and staff.  We have about 33 manufacturing Works in this country also various Factories in India, China, South Africa, Australia and elsewhere, and have selling Companies and Representatives in most of the markets of the world. Witton is the largest of our works, employing some 10,000 people and make electrical plant of all kinds, together with moulded insulation products, dry batteries, domestic electrical appliances and sundry other types of electrical goods.

Our main mechanical engineering Works are at Erith, Kent, where we manufacture steam turbines and many types of materials handling equipment and colliery and mining plant.

Other large Works I might mention are our very extensive Telephone and Radio Works at Coventry, and our Cable Works at Southampton.

You are naturally especially interested in what we do as regards electric traction work. While we cannot claim to have done, as much in this direction as some of the other large British firms, we have by no means neglected it, having produced equipment in all fields of traction. We can claim that as far as we have gone, we have attained a reputation second to none. The very many repeated orders we have received for traction motors from the London Passenger Transport Board, for example, confirms this, I think. We have made an intensive study of the whole field of electric traction. I might mention that the first 1500 volt multiple unit motor coach stock in this country, that is to say, the Manchester - Altrincham Railway, was supplied by us, a good many years ago now, and is still running satisfactorily.

Our trolley bus equipments are all over the world, and include one of the biggest trolley bus installations in the British Isles, viz., Belfast, which is almost exclusively G.E.C.

I mentioned the motors for the London Passenger Transport Board, or I perhaps ought to say now, the L.T.E.

We have supplied a considerable quantity of Tube Stock in London, including an experimental equipment for high speed work.

Previous to the recent war, we had, in fact, made preparations for building a special Traction Works here at Witton, but unfortunately the war put a stop to all that. When the war was over, we thought we would be able to proceed, but then we were met with the restriction on capital expenditure, and as a matter of fact, we have been engaged for the last two years in negotiations with the Government, to allow us to make considerable extensions here at Witton. I am pleased to say these have now been crowned with success, insofar as the Authorities have given us permission in principle and we have now got to get the building Licences and so forth from the Ministry of Works, which is no easy task, but we hope, by perseverance, that we shall before very long have the builders at work.

We have given much attention recently to the design of diesel electric locomotives and motor coaches and have made arrangements for active co-operation with the North British Locomotive Company in the design and manufacture of this and other types of electric locomotives. We have seized the opportunity this enforced hold-up in our plans, which I have mentioned, has given us, to thoroughly overhaul our designs.

We already have a number of locomotives running successfully, for example, in India, on express traffic, 1500 volts; battery locomotives for the London Passenger Transport Board; and industrial locomotives.

With the advent of electric traction on the main line Railways in this country, of course, there will be a big demand for such locomotives.

Other jobs in which we have made a good showing have included the Buenos Aires Central Terminal Multiple Unit Stock; the Euston-Watford Stock in London, and the Glasgow Sub-way Stock. Naturally we have done a good deal of Tramcar work, but this has, of course, largely gone out of fashion.

We believe there is an immense field, not only in this country but abroad, for electric traction, and we are very anxious to place ourselves in the position of being able to thoroughly exploit this field. This we intend to do.

.I am afraid I would bore you very much if I were to make any attempt to describe the many other fields of our activities here at Witton and elsewhere.  The best thing is for you to see for yourselves, but I am afraid a visit of a few hours will only enable you to get a fleeting idea of it all. Nevertheless I have a pleasant visit and when the time the time comes round, you will come again. Further, if at any time your individual members are in this district and would like to examine something more,  we shall only be to pleased to see them.