aerial of a plant depot

80 years of standing out from the crowd

Over the years we have evolved to become a leading railway infrastructure contractor, building a long legacy of success.

A timeline of VolkerRail's history

2 August 1935 - Where it all began 

John Spafford and Ellis Berman launched a new construction firm Bowins & Spafford. Located at Halifax Chambers, Scunthorpe, the core business was based around building semi-detached houses in and around Lincoln.

1940 - 1945

In April 1940, John Spafford decided there was no longer enough money in the building trade and moved into farming, after purchasing Cornley Farm; a 100 acre farm near Misterton.

John farmed throughout World War ll. In 1945, once the war was over, John put the farm on the market and reinvested in his old building firm of Spafford Estates Limited, which had remained dormant since 1940.

1946 - 1948

On 10 July 1946, following his reinvestment into Spafford Estates, John Spafford took the business into a new direction and entered the rail industry under a new name - The Eagre Construction Company. The company was based on East Common Lane, Scunthorpe, and specialised in railway engineering. In 1947 and 1948, respectively, David Grant and Leslie Lyon joined the board of directors at Eagre construction company.


In February 1951, David Grant and Leslie Lyon left Eagre Construction and branched out into the rail industry, forming their own railway contracting company - Grant Lyon & Co. Ltd. 

Eagre Construction Company remained a separate entity and continued its track laying business on East Common Lane, Scunthorpe, under the ownership of John Spafford.

1973 - 1989

On 11 November 1973, Boskalis Westminster Group bought the total share capital in Eagre Ltd (previously Eagre Construction Company) from the Spafford family and amalgamated the company with Grant Lyon & Co. Ltd to form Grant Lyon Eagre Ltd. Bringing both companies together strengthened their presence in the UK railway engineering market.

On 31 March 1989 Grant Lyon Eagre Ltd was sold by Boskalis Westminster group and became a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Steel Group.

1996 - 2009

On 29 August 1996, The British Steel Group sold 50 percent of its shares in Grant Lyon Eagre Ltd to Dutch company VolkerStevin. Grant Lyon Eagre Ltd was re-branded to GrantRail Ltd. On 2 March 2009, GrantRail was rebranded to VolkerRail Ltd and became part of VolkerWessels UK


We continue to operate in the rail engineering sector, for both public and private sector clients. We have helped to transform the UK's national network, building new lines and upgrading existing infrastructure. We have helped to bring in new machines, lead on the first pure alliance, and sit on several industry bodies to help shape the industry into a safe, responsible, forward thinking sector.