A FORMER David Brown apprentice who has risen to become a leading figure in engineering made a nostalgic visit to the Lockwood-based firm.
Prof Roderick Smith spent five years at David Brown as a student apprentice between 1966 and 1971 while studying engineering science at Oxford University.
And he was keen to re-visit the company which helped set him on his career path as he prepares to take up the key post of president of the Institute of Mechanical Engineering later this year.
Prof Smith said he would make special reference to the firm in his inauguration address on May 18 in London.
Prof Smith, who hails from Oldham, said: “I am very keen to say thank-you to my roots and do appreciate the training I had at David Brown. I had an excellent apprenticeship and I was reluctant to leave. It was a really fruitful time.”
During his apprenticeship, Prof Smith spent time at Brown’s Park Works in Lockwood, its Meltham Mills tractor factory and at Scholes, near Holmfirth, where the company had a research centre.
He said: “I wanted to work at the Aston Martin plant, which was owned by David Brown in those days, but I didn’t get the opportunity.
“However, although Aston Martin is no longer part of David Brown, it retains the DB designation, which is seen as a sign of quality.”
Prof Smith signed on as an apprentice at Durker Roods, Meltham, which was then the training headquarters. His first task was to write a history of the company. Later, he visited sites where David Brown gears were in use, including coal mines, power plants and the Jodrell Bank telescope.
Prof Smith went on to complete a PhD in metal fatigue, an area of particular interest and take up senior posts at Cambridge and Sheffield universities.
He is now Royal Academy of Engineering research professor in advanced railway engineering and chairman of the Future Rail Research Centre at Imperial College, London.
He has written more than 300 publications on fatigue and fracture of metals and latterly on many aspects of railway engineering.
He was a member of the British Rail Board’s Research and Technical Committee during the 1990s and was head of the advanced railway research centre at Sheffield University for seven years until 2000.
Graham Penning, group technology director at David Brown Gear Systems, said the visit was a chance to show Prof Smith how the company continues to invest in training through its Gear Academy to provide continuous learning opportunities for all employees and its work with Huddersfield University to set up a new MSc degree in gearing and technology.