David Hassard’s piece on the Kingston Aviation centenary brought back memories to Bryan Austin…

In 1960 I was based in the old factory at Canbury Park Road, Kingston. On completion of my training at 21 I was made up to capstan setter with a section of seven Ward 3 A capstan lathes and six operators, all on the bonus scheme. Two of the operators were women who had been employed since the war. The purpose of the spare capstan was to reduce the amount of 'waiting time' when operators had finished their current batch of work and were waiting whilst their next job was being set up. This of course only worked well if you could stagger the batch work so that no two operators finished at the same time; a situation rarely achieved. Life was quite busy then; starting at 8am and finishing at 6pm with overtime on Tuesday and Thursday evenings until 7.30pm, and also on Saturday mornings.

One day in, I believe, 1961 we were told that Canbury Park Road was closing and that we would be moving the whole plant into the factory at Richmond Road. What a mammoth task: the whole machine shop with some very large machines, the treatment plant, the fitting shop on the first floor, the auto shop, the tool room behind the Regal cinema, the design office, and all the stores.

An Amazing Move


Over the next few weeks an influx of very big Irishmen was noticeable. The maintenance ‘heavy gang’ of about six men, under Eddie Riley, was growing fast and for good reason. Firstly a whole corner of the factory was removed to allow low loaders to drive straight in off the road. The enlarged heavy gang began to break up the concrete floorings, jack up the large machines onto rollers, which were no more than 2" diameter steel bars, and with crowbars man-handle them to the low loaders where Hyabs lifted them onto the transport. The remaining machines were all still running during this process. My section of capstans came out quite early in the move so I didn't see much more at Kingston after that. It still remains a mystery to me how they removed the huge vertical borer!

Incredibly, I went home at 6pm on Friday from Canbury Park Road and when I arrived at Richmond Road at 8am on Monday my whole section was installed. All I had to do was run some test pieces to ensure that alignment was OK. All my machines were up and running by lunchtime with six happy operators earning bonus. An amazing achievement by our maintenance staff.

Richmond Road was a much cleaner and better environment than Canbury Park Road. However, the Hunter was still in full production and the noise from the riveting of the wings and fuselages took some getting used to; it made the hitherto noisy Kingston machine shop sound like a quiet retreat.