NotesThe third class carriage was built by Joseph Wright & Sons of Saltley, Birmingham, England in 1854. Joseph Wright was born at Reading, England, in 1792 the third son of William and Susan Wright. He was apprenticed to a stage coach builder in London, showed great ability and in 1828 or 1829 became a coach proprietor and later an operator of Royal Mail coaches over many routes, including London to Birmingham. Wright soon became a partner in the London firm of Wright and Powell, which began to prosper after Powell left in 1834.
Joseph Wright commenced building railway carriages in 1835. He is credited with building the first coaches for the London and Birmingham railway, the predecessor of the London and North Western Railway (LNWR), which partially opened in 1837.
The need for expansion saw Wright purchase 5 acres of land in the village of Saltley, outside Birmingham. This was conveniently adjacent to both the Grand Union Canal and the then recently opened Birmingham to Derby railway line, allowing the efficient transport of both raw materials and finished products.
Production there began in 1845. The Saltley works appears to have been managed by Joseph's eldest son, Henry Wright, assisted by his youngest son, Joseph Wright junior, and the company became known as Joseph Wright & Sons. Joseph senior remained in London, where he managed the carriage works and various contracts he held to run railways. In 1848 an additional lease was taken for more land at Saltley, and by 1853 the works employed around 800 men. Such was the success of the Saltley establishment that the London works were closed by the early 1850s and production concentrated at Saltley.
By the 1850s the Wrights had developed a high reputation for workmanship and innovation. They developed eight-wheel carriages and were at the cutting edge of carriage design at the time. As British railway companies became larger, through extensions and amalgamations, many set up their own carriage and wagon works and became less reliant on private builders such as Joseph Wright & Sons. To offset this change, the Wrights turned to the fast growing overseas railways, many of them British-engineered and British-run, whose promoters looked to Britain for rolling stock. Consequently, Joseph Wright not only supplied the first railway carriages for New South Wales and Victoria but for Bulgaria, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, India, Norway, Paraguay, Spain and Sweden.
By the late 1850s rivals with newer works and more up-to-date plant had begun to compete with Joseph Wright & Sons. The firm expanded and became a limited company, attracting additional capital. Unfortunately, in 1859 Joseph Wright suffered an untimely and accidental death from gas poisoning; this was not an unusual cause of death in the early days of domestic gas supply. Nevertheless, the plans he had put in place were carried out by his sons, who formed the Metropolitan Railway Carriage & Wagon Co Ltd in 1862. The following year the registered office of the company was changed from London to Saltley, and in time the manufacturing base extended to horse trams and then steam trams.
The village of Saltley developed into the world's greatest concentration of railway carriage and wagon manufacturers, with the Metropolitan, Midland, and Brown & Marshall firms all within a 2-kilometre radius. By 1900 the Metropolitan Company's Saltley works had become the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom. It became the Metropolitan Cammell Carriage & Wagon Works in 1929 and was later part of the Metro-Cammel Group.
During the Second World War the company's record office was damaged and many of the records were lost. After the war the remaining records were donated to the Birmingham Central Library. The old Wright factory was closed in 1962 and production was concentrated at the nearby Midland works. The company traded under the Metropolitan-Cammell name until taken over by GEC-Alsthom in 1989; in 1998, after GEC withdrew from the partnership, it became Alstom (without the H) Transport. The building of carriages in Saltley eventually ceased after 159 years.