The Chassis Factory is an elegant, rational, industrial building, its mechanistic qualities reflected in its steel frame, patent glazing (part aluminium, part steel), capacity for extension by 50% (westwards, where the concrete standing was omitted for this reason), under-floor heating, compressed air hoses incorporated within the stanchion casings, the sleek, triple-height, east-end crane bay, and a memorable water tower supported on stilts. The football-pitch scale of the bright, flexible interior – measuring 330ft by 150ft with a single central row of columns at 30ft centres, and its 12-bay, saw-tooth roof and western gables sheeted in Big Six corrugated fibre cement – remains impressive. According to Scott, it was considered for the RIAI Gold Medal (which he would later win for Busáras) for the period 1947-49, although the building was not actually handed over to CIE until May 1950.
The contract had been awarded to G & T Crampton in June 1947. Although the initially unpopular project-management bar chart was first introduced on Irish sites at this time, the 92-week contract was ultimately extended by an improbable additional 64 weeks, “due to delays [particularly in importing materials] which were not, nor could have been, provided for in the original contract.” Meanwhile the exceptionally severe winter and fuel shortages of 1947 had required the cancellation of many rail and bus services, throwing CIE’s finances into such turmoil that the company was nationalised in 1950.
The building, which has been rated of Regional significance by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage on architectural and technical grounds as a “significant … [and] rare example of its type,” remains in use as the OPW’s Central Engineering Workshop, which is responsible for canals, drainage and flood relief. For those who would like to find out more, I can recommend Sinead Bourke’s 2015 thesis (Higher Diploma in Applied Building Repair and Conservation, TCD) which brings the story of the Chassis Factory right up to date, including one more twist in the tale: of how this wonderful, pioneering structure was nearly demolished for an affordable housing PPP in 2008-09.