Last British Steam for the Raj

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Over 70 years ago, the locomotive manufacturers in Britain began supplying its last main line steam locomotives for Indian Railways – steam traction was still in abundance at home and abroad, but diesel and electric traction was making rapid progress.  UK based manufacturers like English Electric and Metropolitan Vickers were early exploiters – mainly in what were then British colonies.  Prior to World War II, more than 95% of steam locomotives were built in Britain and exported to India, for use on the various railways – which were then a range of state/privately owned companies – and on top of this, with different gauges. 

During the steam era, both pre and post nationalisation, the North British Locomotive Co., in Glasgow, and Vulcan Foundry, in Newton-le-Willows, were heavily involved in the design, construction and export of steam locomotives to the Indian sub-continent. But the British builders had to contend with competition from other countries, including the USA, Canada and Europe before, during and after World War II.

New Indian Standard loco designs were developed in India, to cater for the poorer quality coal, which the previous British standards struggled with. That said, Vulcan Foundry, North British Loco and others built examples of these new designs, including some of the last for India after 1945, and the Indian Government’s rail nationalisation of 1951.

Britain secured a number of orders after the Second World War, and construction continued within India after 1951, with the opening of the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works, where many steam engines were built.

Click on the image below to read on ….

Useful Links & References:

Wikipedia Links

Merseyrail Trains’ Messy Graffiti

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Fascinating and sad story – the new Merseyrail electrics have not even entered service, but stored at Tonbridge in Kent, they’ve already received a repaint, courtesy of local vandals.  The trains from Stadler’s Wildenrath test track in Germany had been sent to Tonbridge on their way to Merseyside, and are now having the graffiti removed at the Merseyrail Kirkdale depot.

These are the new Class 777 units, and 52 of the 4-car articulated sets were ordered back in 2017 from the Swiss manufacturer, with an option to buy another 60. The present Class 507 and 508 will all of course ultimately disappear. The first of the new trains was delivered in January, but this latest arrival has resulted in the need to spend a significant amount of money making the new trains look new.

This video shows some shots, courtesy of the Railmen of Kent Twitter feed –  https://twitter.com/RailinKent

 

Merseyrail’s network features one of the oldest sections of electrified rail network in Britain, opened in May 1903, it was known as the Mersey Railway, running from Liverpool Central to Rock Ferry.  It was in fact the first steam railway to be converted to electric traction.  This was a complete electrification contract, awarded to the British Westinghouse Co. (later Metropolitan-Vickers Ltd) – although all of the electrical equipment was imported from Westinghouse USA.  British Westinghouse was set up in 1899 on the Trafford Park estate in Manchester by George Westinghouse, hopin g to continue to expand the electric railway and tramway markets in the UK.

 

 

The other early component of Merseyrail was the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Co.’s line from Liverpool Exchange to Southport, with the section from Exchange to Crossens (just north of Southport) opened in 1904, and on to Aintree in 1906, and then Ormskirk in 1913.  As with the Mersey Railway, 600V d.c. was the preferred supply, via the conductor rail, and the same supplier.  Also, as with the Wirral line, the railway had its own power station, based at Formby, and the generating equipment was also supplied by British Westinghouse.

New Merseyrail with original

The leading coach is one of the 1920s build from Metro-Vick, but still coupled to three of the original 1903 cars of Westinghouse USA design

Over the years, the network has been expanded, and with some of the most extensive work taking place long after World War 2, in the 1970s, and in effect creating “Merseyrail”, which used variants of the British Rail designs of 3rd rail trains. The Class 507s and 508s, which provide services today were refurbished by Alstom between 2002 and 2005, but the new Class 777s provide and implement some of the latest thinking for suburban and commuter train designs.

Such a shame that delivery of these latest sets have been marred by such mindless vandalism. I know, all trains – condemned or just stabled at the end of the working day – have been subject to the works of amateur Banksy’s, but this incident even made it to the BBC’s news services:

BBC News story image

Still, once they have been cleaned up and restored to new at Kirkdale, Merseyside will have some superb new trains to travel on – from Ormskirk and Southport, to Birkenhead and Rock Ferry. Still electric after 117 years.

This video shows the new trains arriving on Merseyside, and on Merseyrail lines for the first time in January 2020:

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Wellington to Paekakariki

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The Wellington Suburban Electrification

Well, not strictly suburban, but the second major electrification on New Zealand’s railway lines that involved English Electric; this time on the main line linking the capital, Wellington, with Auckland, 400 miles away to the north. This was the first stage in electrifying the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT), across some of the world’s most spectacular, and challenging terrain.

ED102 nlnzimage copy

This is an image of the first of the class built in New Zealand – No. 102 is seen here in 1938 ex-works, without the skirt applied to the very first of the class, built in Preston.                               Photo Courtesy: Ref: APG-0320-1/2-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22545501

 

English Electric were pioneers of electric traction, and were especially successful around the world, notably of course in former British colonies, whether India, Australia, and of course, New Zealand.  In the 1930s, increasing traffic around Wellington, and the success of the Arthur’s Pass project almost a decade earlier, the North Island electrification work led to an order for tnew main line electric locomotives.  These were the first heavyweight (my italics) locos in service on the route from Wellington to Paekakariki, which later became the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT).

At the same time, the fortmer Dick, Kerr Works of English Electric received an order for multiple units to provide faster, more efficient suburban passenger services.

EE Railcar nlnzimage copy 2

One of the “DM” series of multiple units, supplied by English Electric, here seen at Khandallah Station, on the opening day of the service – 4th July 1938.                                   Photo Courtesy: Ref: APG-1483-1/4-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23252719

The locomotives introduced a number of new, novel features, even by the emerging ‘new technology’ of the day, and yet oddly, their wheel arrangement was initially described as that of a steam loco – i.e. a 2-8-4 – but later a 1-Do-2.  It’s hard to know which sounds more compex.

The locos had a long life, and although only two survived to be preserved as static exhibits, they marked at least the start of electric traction progress in New Zealand.  The Preston company received further orders from ‘down under’ after the Second World War too, with a Bo-Bo-Bo design in the 1950s, as the “Ew” class, and as late as the 1980s English Electric – as GEC Traction – were still supplying electrical equipment.

Hopefully the overview of this design will whet your appetite further.

Please click on the image below:

Wellington Cover

 

The earlier project is described here: “Over The Southern Alps via Arthur’s Pass”

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CLASS 47 – ALMOST 60

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In 2022, BR’s most common – take that whichever way you like – diesel locomotive that started life in 1962, as the first of the 2nd generation of main line diesel-electric locomotives.  It came at a time when there was certainly competition between Britain’s locomotive manufacturers, and a fair degree of collaboration and partnership within the railway industry.  There was a considerable degree of collaboration between the private/commercial sector and the BR workshops, which only declined in the 1980s, until it almost completely disappeared by the turn of the century.

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27th August 1979, and Class 47 No. 47144 leaves Barrow-in-Furness, with the 17:30, bound for London Eueston.  (c) RPB Collection

So, the Class 47 – which to be precise, was announced in the railway press as a new, highly innovative design from Hawker Siddeley – who had only recently become owners of Brush Traction Ltd and Brush Electrical machines.

Falcon1a

Brush’s prototype “Falcon” was the model for the Brush Type 4, but with a completely different power plant.

The most widely used, most well known, longest surviving, successful – just some of the words you might use to describe the Brush Traction design ordered by British Railways in the early 1960s. Successful was not at one time a word you would have used to describe this locomotive – a bulk order, rushed through as BR’s debts were climbing, and the ‘Pilot Scheme’ diesels were still “on trial”. Brush too, was perhaps an unlikely choice as supplier, since the company did not have the same pedigree as English Electric, AEI, Birmingham RC&W Co., or Metropolitan-Vickers in the railway field. But, as Dylan said, the times they were “a-changin”.

The PDF file below, is not intended to be a fully detailed account, there are several other, very well written books and articles that cover the individual locomotives, and its design and operational history in detail.

1052 - Unidentified Class 47 Co-Co diesel on oil train at Hathersage 1975

An unidentified 47 at speed on a train of oil tanks approaching Hathersage in 1975.                  Photo: Dave Larkin

 

Perhaps this will whet your appetite to study further – just click on the image below:

Class 47 Cover

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47826 in InterCity livery, but playing tail end Charlie to the restored BR Standard Class 8P “Duke of Gloucester”, which has just entered the tunnel at the west end of Dalton-in-Furness station in March 2007. © RPBradley Collection

Useful Links & Further Reading

 

 

Non-Standard Shunters of BR – Part III

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To complete this little anthology, it seemed appropriate to include the least well known, and some pretty obscure examples of low-powered locomotives used on British Railways – many at small yards and depots, and dockyards.  Many locos of the sizes described here were adapted, or used for large industrial, engineering, quarries and mining operations, whilst one example remains unique from a major British manufacturer – Brush Traction.

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Ruston & Hornsby and its predecessors have a key place in the development of diesel traction, with the East Anglian company boasting one Richard Akroyd – a contemporary of Rudolf Diesel amongst its number. However, Ruston & Hornsby’s contributions to British Rail never fully extended beyond the shunting and service locomotive stock. PWM650 is seen here sporting the earliest BR livery style – used on running department stock too. This example was the first to appear in 1953 and, in common with the Brush design, an electric motor provided the drive to the wheels.                    (c) Lens of Sutton

This final selection of builders provided the least number of diesel shunters to BR in the 1950s and early 1960s, but a number of these have survived – including examples of the Rolls Royce powered shunters from Yorkshire Engine Co. Brush Traction on the other hand supplied only one diesel-electric prototype, which has long since disappeared, whilst many of the departmental varieties, included samples from John Fowler, Hibberd and even an aeroplane manufacturer from Bristol. Some of these were curious shunting types indeed for a nationalised railway, but were nonetheless an essential part of the organisation, whether on standard or narrow gauge tracks.

Clink on the image below to read on: 

Non-Std Part 3 Cover

 

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Non-Standard Shunters of BR – Part II

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In the first of these posts, I looked at the most widely built 0-6-0 shunters, based largely around the Gardner series of diesel engines, mostly the 204bhp rated design, which was applied to a mechaniucal transmission by a number of builders, and BR workshops.  But they were not the only small diesel shunters bought from manufacturers, and in this offering I took a look at the two most well known Scottish builders.

Adverts

Two of the builders – advertising in the 1950s – who supplied considerable numbers of narrow gauge and mining locomotives, along with number of the smaller BR diesel shunters.

Perhaps uniquely, the world renowned North British Loco Co had build many thousands of steam locomotives over the 50 years to 1953, but its initial forays into diesel traction were less than successful.  It had of course experimented with diesels around the time of nationalisation, and had built a collection of products for mine working – appropriately named the “Miner” series.  But their choice of diesel engine paired with hydraulic transmission – whether from Paxman or MAN – was a risky venture.

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Formerly D2420, and renumbered 06003 in the TOPS scheme, this North British built 0-4-0 is the only preserved Class 06 , and seen here at Bury, on the East Lancashire Railway in its final ‘rail blue’ colour scheme.         © Photo: Paul Miller, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4246599

Andrew Barclay, in nearby Kilmarnock had opted for a more conventional approach, and opted for the Gardner design of engine, with mechanical transmissions.

In the main, the lack of sustained success was as much down to the changing nature of freight workings, especially after the pressure mounted on BR to reduce operating overheads, and competition from road hauliers.

Click on the image below to read on ….

Shunters Part 2 cover

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North British built D2903, paired with the NBL-MAN engine and hydraulic transmission, with a 335 bhp diesel engine it was almost as powerful as the BR Standard 0-6-0 shunter, the Class 08 from English Electric.            (c) Photo: Lens of Sutton

 

Useful Links & References:

 

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NON-STANDARD DIESEL SHUNTERS OF BRITISH RAILWAYS

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British Railways standard diesel shunter was the English Electric designed 0-6-0, with almost any number of variations of the ‘K’ series engine of 1930s vintage.  This was developed from the 1930s designs used on the LMS, and was the mainstay of goods, and train marshalling yard operations – it seemed almost forever.

However, in 1962 there were no fewer than 666 diesel shunting locomotives in operation on BR, of either 0-4-0 or 0-6-0 wheel arrangement and powered by engines of less than 350 hp.  These “non-standard” types performed a variety of the most mundane tasks, and their earliest appearance was from a pre-nationalisation order to the Hunslet Engine Co. of Leeds, also by the LMS.  Following the end of the Second World War, many more were ordered from various makers.

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Captured at Bo’Ness on the Bo’Ness & Kinneil Railway in the 1990s, by then Class 03 073 in its final ‘Rail Blue’ livery, this was one of the Drewry built 0-6-0s, with the ‘Flowerpot’ chimney.     (c) Rodger P. Bradley Collection

By the early 1980s there were only a handful left in service, mainly of the Class 03 0-6-0s built at Swindon, together with samples from Andrew Barclay, Ruston & Hornsby, Hunslet, Drewry Car Co., Hudswell-Clarke, etc.

During BR days, a motley collection of some 11 different designs were in service, carrying out shunting and many other light duties at yards the length and breadth of the country. Although some of the designs dated from the 1930s, the majority were constructed after 1948.

The particular types reviewed here were built at Swindon Works, Drewry/Vulcan Foundry, Hunslet and Hudswell-Clarke.  Each featured either a 204hp or 153hp Gardner diesel engine, and various forms of mechanical transmission.

Click on the image below to read on..

PDF Cover imageUseful Links & References

 

 

 

 

Diamonds Were Forever

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The Great Western Railway had, since its inception been the loner amongst the rai1ways of this country. Beginning with its adoption of Brunel’s broad gauge in the early nineteenth century, this tradition of individuality was carried on beyond the nationalisation of the railways in 1948 to the introduction on the Western Region ten years later of he first main-line diesel hydraulic locomotives. Ostensibly the idea was to assess the relative merits and demerits of the hydraulic transmission as compared with the electric variety. The diesel types with hydraulic transmission were restricted entirely to the Western Region; perhaps the ghost of Brunel and his advocates had something to do with this! Nevertheless, with the implementation of the National Traction Plan in 1967, the D600 class “Warships” days were numbered. But they deserve their place in the story of diesel traction on Britain’s railways, marking as they do, a milestone in the history of motive power development in this country.

D600 on test run - no number

Brand new, straight out of the box – an unnumbered “Warship” on a proving run from the North British Loco Co works.

Five locomotives of this type were ordered from the North British Locomotive Company in November 1955, eventually to become Western Region “Warships” numbers D600 to D604. These locomotives were built under the pilot scheme of the British Transport Commission’s Modernisation and Re-equipment programme for the rai1ways. It was proposed under this scheme to introduce specific types of diesel locomotives in four broad power groups, and to subject them to a period of intensive trials in order to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

This was, however, not to be, and shortly after the programme was launched a re-appraisal was carried out, following which, bulk orders were placed with contractors, in many cases hardly even before the first of the prototypes were outshopped. Some of these proved their worth, but not until after much re-work of major components, including for the many engines fitted to the Brush-Sulzer Type 4 locomotives was undertaken.

Back to the Pilot Scheme orders, the North British Company delivered the first locomotive of the D600 class in 1958.  These “Warship” class locomotives were powered by Anglo-German engines – two N.B.L./M.A.N. L12V 18/21S to be precise – each with a continuous output rating of 1000hp, at an engine speed of 1445 rpm. This placed the design in the category of locomotives with high-speed engines – another area for comparison and trials under the Pilot scheme – with many others sporting medium speed engines.

They were carried in a full width body over two three-axle bogies, and the central axle of each bogie was ‘free, with the engines driving the axles through a Voith/North British L306R hydraulic transmission. This was denoted as the A1A-A1A wheel arrangement, which could to a degree be seen as a disadvantage when it came to getting sufficient power to the wheels to start and haul a train.

When I first penned this article, I wrote:

“Contrary to popular opinion, diesel locomotives are not merely tin boxes on wheels, belching forth voluminous clouds of noxious fumes; these locomotives even had mainframes!”

The mainframe part of that comment was clearly true, but with the benefit of hindsight, the “clouds of noxious fumes” was a bit much. But this was at a time when you could see the pollution of steam trains, but we were yet to become more aware of the hidden dangers of the diesel exhaust.

D600 diagramStructural Details

The underframe was built up from mild steel plate and sections, covered with steel plate forming a continuous floor. The double plate frame 
bogies were fabricated from 7/16 in. thick plates, with cross-stretchers
and headstocks riveted to the side members. Double swing link bolsters provided support for the weight of the whole of the locomotive and
its contents. These were in turn fitted with four bearing pads on each bogie, with the final drive gear train, and wheels and axles fitted with “Timken” roller bearing axleboxes with a wheelbase of 15ft equally divided. The driven wheels were 3ft.7ins. in diameter, whilst the centre pair were 3ft. 3 ½ ins.

Dimensions

At least one item that stands out in the list of particulars given is the weight of the locomotive.

At over 117 tons, these were really heavy machines, especially when compared with designs that appeared less than a decade later, and typically delivered around 2800 h p, for less than 100 tons of locomotive. This power-weight challenge faced by the first “Warships” stands out even more when compared with the D800 series of Locomotives, which for the same power weighed a mere
 78 tons. Nearly 40 tons less! The D600’ s were certainly very solidly bui1t!

D600 NBL-MAN Engine

The NBL/MAN V12 engine on a stand, waiting to be installed in the locomotive. One of the earliest high-speed diesels, but it did prove to be less reliable in service than hoped, and BR had adopted medium speed designs for the majority of locomotives.

Theory has it (or possibly had it, theories may have changed!) that the less
 of its own weight a locomotive has to haul, the greater the weight of the train that can be hauled, for the same engine power. With a power/weight ratio of 17.1 hp/ton this certainly compares unfavourably with the D800 series, which for the same power had a power/weight ratio of slightly more than
 25.6 hp/ton. A further comparison with the most recent freight locomotives in use on Britain’s rail network – the Class 70 – shows that they have a power to weight ratio of over 29hp/ton.

The pressure charged NBL/MAN 12 cylinder ‘vee’ engines were flexibly mounted on fabricated steel section underframes, which was intended to mitigate stress placed on the engine from shock loading under accelerating and braking conditions. The engine crankcase and cylinder blocks were built up from steel plate, the former incorporating cast steel bulkheads carrying the main bearing housings, the crankshafts being hardened and ground alloy steel forgings.

D600 bogie

A bogie being assembled in the works of the North British Loco Co

The hydraulic transmission installed by Voith/NBL included three separate torque converters, each of which was designed to cover three separate speed ranges, with each one arranged to take over at the appropriate road speed automatically.  The final drive to the outer axles on each bogie was completed through a pair of Hardy Spicer cardan shafts.

Braking equipment was provided by Westinghouse air brakes for the locomotive, with four brake cylinders (10ins x 8ins) on each bogie operating clasp brakes to each wheel. A separate air brake handle was provided, which operated the locomotive brakes only, whilst a proportional valve ensured that application of the train vacuum brake gave a proportionate application of the locomotive’s air brake.

Also noted in the list of particulars is a water tank having a capacity for 1000 gallons of water. The reason for this was that since the locomotive were introduced at a time when only steam heating of locomotive hauled stock was available, all diesel Locomotives designed under the modernisation plan were provided with steam heating boilers. In this case they were “Spanner” boilers, operating at a pressure of 80lbs/sq.in. This latter item contributed a great deal to early diesel types weight, and occupied a not inconsiderable amount of space.

D600 Cab and nose

In an attempt to reduce the overall weight, the cab and nose of the “Warships” was constructed from lightweight aluminium sheet and sections.

Another feature that added greatly to the weight, particularly in this case, was the use of heavy steel fabricated construction techniques. The British Transport Commission’s insistence on using thicker plate than necessary was the principal reason for using these techniques, resulting in a sturdy but unnecessarily heavy structure. This was also the first product from the North British Loco. Co. for the home market, other than shunting types previously built. As such, no doubt there was some experimentation in the design of such a totally new locomotive type to the British railway scene.

External design was left to the manufacturer, and as a result the locomotive types produced under the ‘Pilot Scheme’ all differed in appearance, and unlike the range of ‘Standard’ steam locomotives there was no ‘family likeness’. The D600 series ‘Warships’ were perhaps one of the more attractive designs. The stressed skin framework of the bodysides was punctuated with a honeycomb of grilles, covering the various vents 
and air intake points.

NBL Advert

NBL’s advert in the 1958/59 railway official’s directory, with the D600 series shown in the top sketch.

In addition to the doors providing entry to the driving cabs at either end, windowed access doors were provided
adjacent to the engine compartments, and sections of the roof were made detachable for installation and removal of equipment. The cabs themselves were provided with two large flat windscreens, each having independently operated wipers.

It should be noted here that the majority of diesel types introduced at that time had three windscreens. In fact, apart from the ‘Deltics’, the twin windscreen arrangement was for a long time restricted entirely to the Western Region’s diesel-hydraulics. Another feature peculiar to the ‘Pilot Scheme’ types, was the provision in each nose end of a flexible bellows connection, for use when through passage was required between locomotives when worked in multiple.

Two fans mounted in the roof were arranged to draw cooling air through the twin bank ‘Serck’ radiators mounted just to the rear of each cab. A third grille, positioned mid-way along the roof, served as an engine room vent. The only other apertures were the exhaust outlets, and the output from the ‘Napier’ pressure charger.

Since the train classification headcode panels were not introduced until I962, these “Warships” were provided with train classification discs, and head/tail lamp brackets, as per the then standard steam traction practice. Twin air-operated warning horns were provided in each nose end. Standard side buffers and screw coupling draw-gear were also fitted at each end. Other nose connections were provided for vacuum brake and steam heating pipes, and jumper sockets for control connections when worked in multiple.

Numbering and livery

This series of locomotives, as already mentioned, was ordered from the North British Locomotive Co. at the time of introduction of the re-equipment programme, on I6th November I955. Delivery was due to take place fifteen months after the order was placed, which should have been completed by late I957. As often happened, delays in delivery caused their introduction to be put back to 1958.

A list of numbers, names and building dates is given below:

Numbers & Names

Livery styles for British Railways diesel locomotive Livery
prior to I956 followed basically that scheme applied to the former LMSR diesel-electric units 10000/10001 – black with aluminium lining and raised numerals. Bogie sideframes and sundry details were also picked out in aluminium. Commensurate perhaps with the new era about to begin, all new diesel locomotives were turned out in the new ‘standard’ green livery. This was applied to the nose, body side panels, and that section of the roof extending over each cab and the entrance doors. The roof was medium grey between cantrails. The bogie and underframe details were black, with buffer stocks and the beam itself in the vicinity of the coupling hook picked out in red.   Handrails and the aluminium beadings to the cab windows, windscreens and warning horn mountings were bright polished. Nameplates and the new style B.R. crests were carried on the lower and upper bodysides respectively, and on the same centreline between the engine room access doors on either side. The nameplates themselves were similar to ex GWR locomotive nameplates; cast in brass with raised lettering on a red background.

NRM_D601_Ark_Royal_nameplate

The nameplate of D601 Ark Royal on display at the National Railway Museum. This was the original style, but if a member of the class was painted ‘Rail Blue’, the background was changed to black.            Photo: Geof Sheppard – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9680512

The scheme of numbering diesel locomotives introduced at this time, including the use of the prefix ‘D’, was developed in order to avoid any confusion which might have arisen using six figure unit numbers. Also it was considered desirable to allocate a block of numbers to individual classes or types, and the problems were thus overcome by use of the ‘D’ prefix. The unit numbers for the D600 series were Gill San transfers applied to the cabsides, under each of the four droplights. Directly under each number, were the North British works plates, and the WR route restriction colour discs, which in this case were single red. They were of course already scrapped when British Rail introduced the TOPS renumbering, which had been first been considered by BR in 1968, following work done in the USA by IBM and the Southern Pacific Railroad. The system was purchased by BR – including the source code – together with an IBM System 360 mainframe computer, and its implementation was supported by Southern Pacific personnel.

Lens of Sutton D600 'Warship'

D600 “Active” on one of the class’s main roles, hauling expresses over the South Devon Banks. A key service for a short time was the “Cornish Riviera Express”.                           Photo: Lens of Sutton/RPBradley Collection

The oddest aspect for the North British Warships was perhaps that they were allocated the new classification – Class 41 – but which was never carried.

In later years, ½ and full height yellow warning panels were applied, which did nothing for their appearance, and the same might be said of the ubiquitous ‘Rail Blue’ livery, and the double arrow symbol seen on D600 whilst awaiting the breakers torch at Barry. Headcode boxes had also been fitted in their mid to late years, since in 1960, the train class, route and reporting number were combined into a single four character display. So, the old style discs were dispensed with and all new locos built after that were fitted with a roller-blind display that could display the full reporting number. Of course this meant for some – such as the North British “Warships” a pair of two character boxes were fitted to either side of the loco front.

Performance


These locomotives were the first 2000hp main line types to be placed in service on the Western Region, and were intended for express Passenger and other top link duties. A demonstration run on Monday I7th February I958 was made by No.D600, hauling a nine coach train from Paddington to Bristol and back. It is interesting to note, in connection with this run, that in order to demonstrate the locomotive’s ability, on the return journey from Bristol, soon after leaving, one of the engines
was shut down, and the remainder of the trip completed on a single engine.

The first regular top link passenger work for the class commenced in June I958, with the ‘Cornish Riviera’ express. Also during this month, a series of comparative tests was made, with the second of the class D60I, and various classes of 4-6-0 steam locomotives. The trials took place between Newton Abbot and Plymouth. It was thought that summer Saturday services in particular would need piloting over this route, and since there would not be enough diesel locomotives available double heading trials were carried out with steam locomotives in order to determine optimum loads and timings over this route. Unfortunately for the North British “Warships”, the D8XX series Swindon “Warships” was appearing in ever increasing numbers.

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‘Warship’ Diesel-hydraulic at Reading (General) on an Up express, looking west towards Reading West Junction, Swindon, Bristol, Taunton and the West; ex-Great Western main lines from Paddington. The train, running through on the Up Slow line, is the Summer 08.15 Perranporth – Paddington, headed by 2,000 hp Type 4 A1A-A1A ‘Warship’ No. D600 ‘Active’                                     Photo: Ben Brooksbank, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15149523

This fact, coupled with somewhat varied standards of engine performance, notwithstanding a lack of confidence by maintenance staff in their reliability, gradually forced this class out of the principal duties. The overall performance of the first two, D600-1 was rather better than D602-4. This difference has been attributed largely to the fact that the engines for the first two were actually built in Germany, whereas North British made those for D602-4 under licence. No doubt, there is more than an element of truth in that statement, but perhaps it could also explain the reason for the long gap between the delivery of D600/1, and D602-4.

North_British_Type_4_D601_(8392564224)

A sad end for this pioneering class of diesel locomotives – here D601 “Ark Royal”, and an unidentified sister, are seen at Woodham’s Barry scrapyard in October 1968. The second loco is in rail blue, complete with full yellow ends, and the double arrow symbol, whilst D601 still retains green livery and ½ height warning panels. Both have been transformed with the roller blind headcode boxes stuck to the nose.                                                                 Photo: Hugh Llewelyn – D601Uploaded by Oxyman, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24382933

All five were based for the most part, at Plymouth Laira
 depot, and in their latter years restricted entirely to Cornwall. In 1967 their demise was foreshadowed by the implementation of the National Traction Plan. With this scheme, it was proposed to ‘phase out’ classes of locomotive coming under one of the following three headings:

  1. Elimination of types that had given trouble
  2. Those having excessive maintenance cost
  3. Those classes of low numerical strength

Once again, unfortunately these “Warships” came under all three headings. In 1967 they were transferred to South Wales for a short time, working mineral trains, in place of English Electric type 3’s. This proved to be their final duty, since they were returned to Laira in December 1967 for withdrawal. In July 1968, after being stored for seven months, D600/1 were sold to Woodhams, of Barry and D602-4 to Cashmeres at Newport for scrap.

Sadly, despite its pioneering status, not one of this class of diesel-hydraulic locomotives was rescued for preservation – although the nameplate of D601 “Ark Royal” survives in the NRM at York. But, hydraulic transmission was not a complete failure for BR, since the second “Warship” class locomotives, the Class 42, were very successful, and in turn, they were followed by a final design, the Class 52 “Western” series. But by the time these appeared, the decision to use diesels engines with electric transmission had been made, and these too were to suffer a similar fate to the diesel-hydraulic pioneers.

Useful Links & References

  • “Diesel-Hydraulic Locomotives of the Western Region”;  Brian Reed, pub; David & Charles 1974; ISBN 0715367692
  • “Diesels Western Style”;  Keith Montague; Pub; Oxford Pub. Co. 1974; ISBN 0902888390
  • “Giants of Steam – Story of the North British Locomotive Co.”;  Rodger Bradley; Pub; Oxford Pub. Co., 1995; ISBN; 0860935051

 

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Rails from Cumbria To The World

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Railpower June 1989 CoverExactly 30 years ago, British Steel Corporation received a £12 million order from India, to supply Grade A wear- resistant rails for the modernisation of a number of high-density urban and high speed inter-urban routes.  The rails would account for around 20% of BSC’s Workington Rolling Mill’s output in a year.  The contract was won against international competition, particularly from companies in Western Europe, Japan and Canada.  In 1989 Workington was one of the world’s leading producers of high quality, wear-resistant rail products.

As part of the United Steel Companies of Sheffield – and later British Steel – Workington ceased making new steel, but operated primarily as a rolling mill, taking in steel ingots from other United Steel sites, and rolling into various sections. BSC Track Products coverFrom 1974, the Moss Bay site began to specialise in permanent way products – such as rails and fish-plates. Continued investment, together with their acquired know-how, ensured that they became the largest British producer of these products.  Whilst further south, in Barrow-in-Furness, the plant that had been the world’s pioneering supplier of steel railway rails, by volume, the works concentrated on even more innovative steelmaking ideas.

In fact, the Workington plant had taken over rail production after the end of World War II, from nearby Barrow-in-Furness, where the world’s largest integrated steel and iron works once stood.  Barrow was the major supplier of railway rails to the world, and only lost that position following the post war economic challenges, and steel industry restructuring in the UK.  Workington took on the mantle and remained one of the world’s leading suppliers until its final closure only 13 or so years ago.

Barrow Steelworks Rail bank

Barrow steelworks rail bank around 1900

Like Barrow, Workington was an innovator in steelmaking technology, and despite the dramatic decline of the industry in the 1980s, was deploying technological innovation, with new techniques and processes until its final demise. In British Steel days, the business had been successful in the world market for wear-resistant high-grade steels, and consolidated this lead with a £7 million investment programme at Workington in 1987, just a couple of years before landing the Indian order.

The modernization at Workington included the world’s first mill-hardened rail production unit at a cost of nearly £4 million, alongside this another £1 million was invested in the second stage of a computerised automated inspection system, to provide ever closer control of dimensional tolerances on finished rail products.

Workington rail bank

Workington rail bank – 1980s

In addition, in 1987, Track Products won a multi-million pound, three-year contract to meet all British Rail’s requirements for rails until 1990. Under the contract, Workington was committed to supplying some 150,000 tonnes of rail to BR.  At the time this was stated to be about ¼ of the capacity of the Workington plant, and with British Rail as the site’s biggest single customer. The collaboration in research effort between British Rail and BSC Track Products on developing rail steel technology maintained the northwest’s reputation for innovation, and was an important factor in generating export sales, from Southend to Singapore.

Workington’s rolling mills had been producing some 1/4 million tonnes of rail, fishplates, baseplates and steel sleepers annually during the mid to late 1980s, and from that total, Workington was actually exporting 50 to 60% of total output.  The West Cumbria (Cumberland) site produced rails from feedstock of 330 x 254mm cross section blooms supplied from other BSC Works, mostly the Lackenby Works on Teeside.  Barrow had also supplied Workington with steel until it took on, developed, and perfected the now commonplace continuous casting process.

Homg Kong MRT

Workington supplied rails for the Hong Kong and numerous other metro systems.

The role of the BSC Track Products mill in the overall manufacturing process was just that – the supplier – and (at least in the 1980s) British Steel had little part in the design, and virtually none at all with the installation.  The greater part of the output was for replacement and/or maintenance purposes, they had been supplying small quantities of the specialist ‘conductor rails’ at home and for some overseas metro systems.

Other exports to – for example – African countries were rare, and even countries such as Nigeria, with sufficient wealth to promote rail expansion proved to be slow to implement projects, leaving British Steel Track Products in a difficult position.  So, the order from India in 1989 was certainly a great, if brief success for the UK steel industry as a whole.

RIA Journal extract June 1989

BSC Track Products map

 

Today, there is nothing left of the steelworks or rolling mills in England’s North West, where it had once led the world, in both the quality and quantity of global rail exports.

 

 

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Further reading and useful links:

  1. Barrow Hematite Steel Co (Grace’s Guide)
  2. Barrow Hematite Steel Company (Wikipedia)
  3. Workington Steelworks 2003 shortly before closure – Showing Rail Rolling Process
  4. Steel Rail Rolling Line at Workington (Corus video)

 

 

Petrol Electric Railcars

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When researching material for my book on the history of GEC Traction, I came across a description of the “British Westinghouse” petrol-electric railcars, which were of course the design developed for the Great Central Railway, and which took to the rails in 1912. The British Westinghouse Co. became Metropolitan-Vickers, and ultimately part of the GEC Traction empire.

Britisah Westinghouse - cover imageThe development of an effective internal combustion engine had been going on for centuries, but the true petrol engine was ‘invented’ in the later 19th Century, developed from gas engines then in use, but the most successful was of course the engine designed by Nikolaus Otto. This ‘free piston’ design arrived in an 1864 patent, in England, and 12 years later, in 1876, in partnership with Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, the 4-stroke, compressed charge engine. The 4-stroke arrangement has also been described as the “Otto Cycle”.

Leaving aside the patenting in England of the first 2-stroke internal combustion engine in 1881, the earliest recorded use of the word ‘petrol’ appeared in 1884, when Edward Butler designed and built the first engine to use spark plugs, magneto/ignition coil, and spray jet carburettor. Butler had invented these last essential components of the 4-stroke petrol engine.

Still waiting in the wings was Rudolf Diesel and the compression-ignition engine, but for the years between 1884 and the First World War, petrol-electric transmission was attracting the attention of the transport industry, and especially some railways.

Why petrol-electric, and why railcars?

In essence, the railcar idea had been around since before the turn of the 19th to 20th Century – commonly known as steam railmotors, and were set to work on the railway companies’ lightly loaded, and rural branch lines. The economics of self-propelled rolling stock was all well and good for urban and intra/inter-urban operations had been long proven before the start of the First World War, but of course, these were electrically powered, both overhead and by conductor rails. On top of this, urban and suburban tramways had seen considerable expansion, with the electrical technology and vehicles manufactured by the likes of Dick, Kerr & Co., another GEC Traction business as English Electric in later years.

Acsev14

Railcar n°. 14 of ACsEV (United Arad and Csanád Railway Comapny) in Hungary (since 1919 in Romania). One of the first petrol-electric railcars, which were built since 1903, serially since 1905/6, by Johann Weitzer Company (Arad). The internal combustion engine came from De Dion-Bouton, the electric equipment from Siemens-Schuckert        Photo: Original author unknown – http://villamosok.hu/bhev/jarmuvek/mavatvett/acsev14.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23108680  

 

Benzin-elektr_Weitzer(DeDion-Bouton)1906

Petrol-electric railcar of ACsEV (Arad & Csanád United Railways), built 1903/1906 ff. by Johann Weitzer AG in Arad with an internaml combustion engine from De Dion-Bouton and electric equipment from Siemens-Schuckert

Overseas railways were more enthusiastic to the development of non-steam motive power, and the British Westinghouse railcar design had been supplied to Hungary, where 16 such vehicles were in service on the Arad to Caanad Railway Co. On top of this another 18 were running on the Ooster Stoomtram Mattschappij in Holland, and smaller numbers of similar types at work in France, Germany and Sweden.

The North East Railway Autocar

Autocar_at_Filey_Station

NER 1903 Autocar at Filey Station Photo: Ken Hoole Study Centre – http://www.electricautocar.co.uk, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15891980

Back in the UK, the Great Central Railway railcar was not the first – although it was, at that time the biggest – in service in Britain. The honour of being the first non-steam railcar goes to the old North Eastern Railway company, when in 1903 it introduced a pair of what the company described as “autocars”. The idea to look at this form of traction for the NER was said to have been attributed to Vincent Raven, then the railway’s Assistant Chief
 Mechanical Engineer, who was drawn to the technology, and its advantages by expanding use on tramcars and tramways in the early 1900s.

The magazine “Automotor” (now “Commercial Motor”) published an article in 1909 that included this comment on those “autocars”:

“The North-Eastern Railway Company—one of the most progressive in this country—attempted such a solution a few years ago, and, largely owing to the persistence and the considerable genius of the district mechanical engineer, Mr. W. Murray, who had charge of the experiments, a couple of self-contained petrol-electric 50-ton coaches were successfully evolved and were running until quite recently in regular service with every satisfaction. That, however, was a fight against long odds. It was a mistake to attempt to convert heavy bogie passenger coaches of standard design.”

Whilst this was certainly the first such example in regular commercial service, other countries were making much more rapid progress, and by the time this story appeared in the press, Hungarian State Railways had no fewer than 150 petrol-electric railcars in operation. They were, like the NER design, lightweight vehicles, typically weighing a mere 19 tons, with 100hp deDion power technology.

The NER railcar (https://www.lner.info/locos/IC/ner_petrolelectric.php )was initially fitted with an 85hp Napier engine, but this was replaced in 1904 with engines from Wolseley Motors Ltd, initially of 100hp, in a flat four layout. In turn, the petrol engine was connected directly to the main generator from British Westinghouse, which supplied the electrical power to a pair of 64hp d.c. traction motors carried on the bogie under the ‘engine room’.

1904WolseleyFlat4Engine

The Wolseley Motors Flat 4 Engine for NER railcar

The fact that Westinghouse was involved is interesting, and demonstrates perhaps the enthusiasm that some engineers were pressing in the rail industry for non-steam traction, built on the considerable success that Westinghouse, Dick, Kerr and others had gained with tramways. However, it was the lack of enthusiasm and speed of the take-up of electric, or non-steam traction, by the railway companies, and equally in the slow progress of tramway growth in Britain that ultimately led to Westinghouse leaving the market before 1920.

The NER railcars survived in service in North East England, in particular on services to and from Scarborough, Harrogate and Selby until they were withdrawn in 1931. The body of No. 3170 was used as a holiday home at Kirbymoorside until it was rescued by an enthusiast in 2003, and is now fully restored and operational at the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway.

Whilst the NER can justly claim to have built the first petrol-electric railcar, with support from British Westinghouse, it wasn’t long before others became interested in the technology. Working with the Great Central Railway, the British Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co., designed and built the company’s first petrol-electric railcar, which took to the rails in 1912. According to the makers, this was a straightforward attempt to overcome some of the drawbacks of steam rail motors in urban and branch line workings.

In their publication of 1912, the company made this florid assertion about the benefits of their new railcar for the Great Central:

“The solution of this problem, offered by the British Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co., Ltd., is the petrol-electric car. All of the disadvantages peculiar to the steam auto-car are done away with, and, at the same time, a great number of the advantages, which result when suburban railway systems are electrified, are also secured. The principal among these advantages are smooth and rapid acceleration and the absence of smoke and dirt.”

It has been stated that Sam Fay, General Manager of the Great Central Railway (GCR), had been impressed by the performance of petrol-electric railcars in Hungary and the rest of Europe, which opened the door to another example of this emerging technology. In this new example, the vehicle was ordered from British Westinghouse, as prime contractor, with the car body built by the United Electric Car Co., in Preston.   The United Electric company’s workshops were just across the road from Dick, Kerr & Co., which later formed the core of English Electric, and the competition for rail traction equipment orders between the Preston and Manchester based companies continued until long after their absorption into GEC Traction.

The GCR – Westinghouse Railcar

This could have been described as the first petrol-electric railcar designed and built by a private company, and sold to a British railway – clearly both the Great Central and British Westinghouse wanted this to be a success that would generate sales. In general layout, this was a saloon coach, fitted with two bogies, one of which carried a pair of dc traction motors.

1912-great-central-railway-petrol-electric-railcarPlan and elevation of railcar

Main Dimensions

Main Dimensions Table

Westinghouse engineThe power unit itself was a six-cylinder 90hp unit, and included 140mm bore x 156mm stroke cylinders, cast as three pairs, and running at 1,150 rpm. The engine was, like any conventional petrol engine, water cooled, and directly coupled to a d.c. generator rated at 60 kW, through a flexible coupling. The whole assembly was then mounted on a ‘bent channel iron bedplate’, making it as compact and rigid as possible. Given that steel was also available, it is a wonder that, given this new technology, a new, stronger material was not used.

Exhaust and engine cooling made use of the car’s roof, where the engine silencer and radiator were mounted.

Westinghouse generator in GCR carThe engine and generator unit was fitted at the leading end of the coach, and as the manufacturer stated: “ … all parts are in easy view and readily accessible for inspection and adjustment.”.   The generator supplied power to a pair of 64hp axle-hung d.c. traction motors carried on the bogie in what became the classic arrangement for diesel electric traction for the following decades. The Westinghouse traction motors were totally to provide protection from dirt and moisture.

Control, unsurprisingly, made use of the company’s standard series-parallel controller, as used on tramcars, and light rail vehicles already in service. The single driver’s handle managed both the excitation of the generator field coils, and the petrol engine speed – and two control positions at either end of the vehicle were provided.   In an early adoption of the “dead man’s device”, if a driver released his hold on the handle, power to the traction motors was automatically cut.

Interior of Westinghouse GCR coachThe coach body was of course built in wood on a metal underframe, with the outside finish being “teak painted, lined with gold”, and the interior in a mixture of polished oak and American ash, all it was stated in accordance with GCR practice.

Operations

On completion, trials took place in and around Manchester, near the British Westinghouse (Metropolitan-Vickers) factory where the railcar was built, and followed by a press trip on 28th March 1912 between Marylebone and South Harrow.   A practice continued to this day, when new trains are delivered, or new technology is deployed.

Much the same as happens today, with new trains, over a century later.

The GCR-Westinghouse railcar has received little attention in the press, and in the first couple of years was likely operating some rush hour services out of Marylebone, as London’s suburban empoire grew. By the outbreak of the First World War it was based at Dinting and operated the Glossop branch. By all accounts it was unreliable too, and during severe winter weather, and periods of hard frosts, meant that the radiator had to be drained and emptied each night.

Following the end of the hostilities, the company introduced a new service from Macclesfield Central to Bollington, which later became known as the “Bollington Shuttle”.   This service was begun in August 1921, and the railcar earned the affectionate (?) nickname, the “Bollington Bug”. An interesting photo was published in ‘Cheshire Live” in May 2019, showing the “Bollington Bug” at Macclesfield Station in 1925 (see link below). The railcar continued to operate this service until its final withdrawal on 6th July 1935.

Westinghouse_Petrol-Electric_Railcar_1914_(10467965833) copy

The Westinghouse petrol-electric railcar as supplied to New Zealand in 1914, just a couple of years after the GCR prototype in England.       Photo: Archives New Zealand from New Zealand – Westinghouse Petrol-Electric Railcar 1914, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51251174

Undeterred, Westinghouse made what it described as ‘tropical versions’ of this design, some of which ended up operating in Australia and New Zealand. In appearance they were the same as the Great Central Railway versions, but with a number of detail differences, as shown in the image below.

Ironically perhaps, the ex-GCR railcar on that service was replaced by a Sentinel steam railcar. Steam and coal were still king in the 1930s, 40s and 50s in the UK, but the inter-war years also saw one or two other diesel powered railcar developments, including on the GWR, and the LMS, where “Bluebird” appeared. But no other petrol-electric railcars appeared in passenger carrying service after these isolated examples.

Useful Links & Further Reading:

 

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