In the first half of the 19th century Ayrshire's loom makers were hit hard by Thomas Morton's invention of the barrel loom and the monopoly on the industry that he gained from it. One such manufacturer was Andrew Barclay. As a route away from loom-making, Barclay turned to the production of steam engines and in 1840 his engine works opened in Kilmarnock - just as the great railway boom was taking hold in the country. His ability to manufacture locomotives to suit varying conditions and functions enabled the company to expand rapidly from the local area and were soon exporting their engines across the world and the company's products can still be found today working away as good as new everywhere from across Asia to South America. Even today Kilmarnock is referred to as the 'Railway Town'.

The company (now renamed  Andrew Barclay and Company) grew and grew from it's small original workyard, establishing first the Caledonian Foundry and Engineering Works, again in  Kilmarnock, creating a vibrant local industry which attracted other company's to the town. The first of these was established in 1859 - The Glasgow and South Western Railway's locomotive and wagon building works at Bonnyton, in the north of the town. These were moved to Barassie, a few miles away, in 1921 when GSWR merged with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, the old site being taken over by Barclays as a plant for the manufacture of engines, pumping gear and boilers. 

This ability to act ensured Barclays survival through the years of  World War II, when they produced a variety of products to aid the war effort including substantial parts for the army's Churchill and Valentine tanks and subsequently the company came out of the war with full order books, a specialised and experienced workforce and an enhanced reputation. They changed in the 1950's from steam locomotive production to diesel engines. 

In the early 70's Barclays became part of the Hunslet group which enabled them to further adapt and continue their tradition of diversifying, turning their hand to meeting the needs of a changing engineering climate and thus stayed strongly competitive through the next few years and even in 1983 entered the maritime sector and began manufacturing machine tools for shipbuilding. In 1989 the company became 'Hunslet-Barclay Ltd' and today remains as the sole railway manufacturing business in Scotland.  In 2007 Brush Traction, which is part of the FKI Group, has been successful in acquiring the business of Hunslet Barclay in Kilmarnock. 

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