AT one point Horwich Loco Works was the biggest railway engineering works in the North.

Its workers were skilled men whose labours were renowned the world over.

For a young Paul Salveson, who began his working life at the work’s spring smithy, the experience was to have a lasting impact - the Loco Works has become a recurring theme throughout his life ever since and he has spent his entire working life involved in the rail industry in one capacity or another.

Now Paul has published his debut novel, The Works, inspired by the men and the towns who relied upon the Loco Works for their livelihoods.

“It’s not autobiographical,” said Paul, “but it certainly based on my experiences.”

In real life Horwich Loco Works closed in 1983 in spite of a massive campaign to save it.

But Paul’s novel looks at what might have happened had the works been saved.

“It is fiction or course,” he said, “but I hope readers will find the premise very plausible. In the novel the workers form a co-operative to keep the works going which is based on what happened with the shipbuilders on the Clyde in Glasgow.

“I have also introduced a strong Chinese connection into the storyline because China is where rail is nowadays.”

As well as beginning his working life at Horwich, Paul was also part of the union delegation fighting to save the works in the early 1980s and the novel features more than 30 photographs he took inside the works from those days which have never been published before

“Horwich was a very special place,” he said. “It was something the people of the town were rightly proud of. It was world famous. Sir Nigel Gresley who became one of Britain’s most renowned railway engineers served his time there as did many others and the quality of work which came out of those engine sheds was outstanding.

“But although the novel has a rail element to it, it’s not just a book for train buffs. The more I worked on it, it was more of a love story that started to evolve and I also wanted to say something about living and working in the Seventies and Eighties and to compare that with what is happening today.”

Paul also consulted friends and colleagues both from his time at Horwich and more recently.

“The characters in the book may have some traits based on certain individuals who were at Horwich but they are really generic characters with something to say,” he said.

The Works is Paul’s first attempt at fiction although he has published a series of acclaimed non fiction books including Lancashire’s Romantic Radical: The Life and Work of Allen Clarke/Teddy Austen and With Walt Whitman in Bolton.

He currently chairs the community rail partnership for Bolton and South Lancashire.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak and current restrictions, a public launch of the book at Horwich Library had to be cancelled but The Works is now available through Paul’s website

“I have enjoyed writing it and I hope that people will find it both interesting and stimulating,” he said. “It tackles some challenging issues so it’s not what I’d describe as a light read but I think it will strike a chord with many people who grew up in the area when Horwich Loco Works played such an important role in so many families’ lives and it raises some interesting questions.”