Early Main Line Diesel Locomotives of British Railways

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Diesel traction was pioneered in Britain by the LMSR in the 1930s, with a variety of shunting locomotive types, and by the late 1940s steps had been taken towards the arrival of the first diesel locomotive intended for main line workUnder the guidance of the LMSR’s C.M.E., H.G.Ivatt, and the co-operation of English Electric Ltd.,1600hp diesel-electric No.10.000 took to the rails in December 1947. 

Here was the first of an entirely new breed – the 16-cylinder English Electric diesel engine operating a generator, supplying power to the six electric motors driving the road wheels of the two bogies.  English Electric had long been involved with non-steam design and build, mostly for overseas railways, and were at the forefront of most development and innovation around the world. 

The use of traction motor/gear drives had already replaced the jackshaft/side rod drives of the pioneer shunters, but No.10,000 was its ultimate development on the LMS.  Diesel power was also the first step towards the elimination of steam locomotives as the principal source of main line motive power. But nobody looked at it that way then; it was the train of the future, something for small boys to marvel at on station platforms. 

These first main line diesel types were perhaps considered along the lines of proposed ‘atomic trains’, a far-off concept in the post-war era.  Strangely enough, by the time BR came to embark on its dieselisation programme, diesel locomotives had become smelly tin boxes on wheels, and the seeds of steam nostalgia were sown.  It’s doubtful that steam era footplatemen were anything other than happy with improved conditions.

So much for the train of the future!

Click on the image below for more information on the ex-LMS projects on British Railways:

The Southern Railway too was progressing with main line diesel traction in the post-war era, but it was not to be for a further three years after nationalisation that their locomotive appeared.  Meanwhile the GWR had decided as usual to pursue an independent course, with plans for gas turbine types, although these too would not be completed until 1950.

This cartoon appeared in the April 1948 issue of the railway’s “Carry On” magazine, and reflected the new technology, and its need for heavy fuel oil to power the locomotive, and not coal.

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Preston to Mumbai

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The railway network of India is vast, and its cities have extensive suburban and metro networks, with Delhi seeing one of the most recent projects to build a 122 km double-track Orbital Rail Corridor. The route will run around the west of Delhi from Palwal in the south to Harsana Kalan in the north, and provide some relief for the severe congestion on the capital’s inner routes. The metro routes in and around Kolkata have also been expanded in recent years, with October seeing the first underground station on the East-West metro line opened for revenue service.

But the first electrification work for India was sanctioned by the government in August 1922, as the railway’s traffic continued to increase, and the escalating costs of coal for steam hauled services.  Contracts were let to the Tata Hydro Electric company to provide the power supplies, and English Electric for the supply of substation equipment including rotary converters, circuit breakers and control panels.    The 110,000V a.c. supply was delivered to three principal substations at Dharavi, Kalyan & Thane, where it was converted through the English Electric rotary converters to 1500V d.c. as the feed to the overhead catenary.

Each of the substations was equipped with a pair of 1,250 kW, 750V converters, connected in series – the total installed power was 15,000kW.  At Kalyan, three of these 2,500kW units were installed, and used English Electric’s own design of automatic switching equipment.  The line’s outdoor switchyard was located here too, and included electrically operated oil circuit breakers and the step up transformer for the 110,000V incoming supply, along with other control and auxiliary equipment.

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Hydrogen Power for Scottish Rail in 2021?

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First there was horse, and then steam followed by diesel and electric – and some of these concurrently – and now the future may be a hydrogen fuel cell powered train.  In a tenuous link back to the atomic trains proposals of the mid 20th century perhaps, the University of St Andrews is looking to design and test a power plant for rail vehicles, using hydrogen fuel cells, and fit this to an existing rail vehicle platform.

In September, the university published a ‘Prior Information Notice’, to indicate the key boundaries of this home grown project, with a power source that further reduces the rail industry’s dependence on fossil fuels for traction.  The idea itself has been around for some time – well since 2018 at least – and no doubt much earlier theoretically.

Back then Birmingham University’s Centre for Railway Research and Education  (BCRRE) began development of a project to utilise hydrogen fuel-cell technology on a railway vehicle – their test bed being a former British Rail Class 319 multiple unit. British Rail Engineering Ltd. originally built these electric multiple units, from 1987 onwards, and after privatisation, they were rented by various train operating companies.  A number of the class were modified, upgraded in various ways, including a number that were converted to bi-mode units in 2016.

Back in 2018, BCRRE demonstrated a 10 ¼ ins gauge locomotive “Hydrogen Hero” at the Quinton Rail Technology Centre, in Warwickshire, and in partnership with Porterbrook Leasing the Birmingham team went on to design and demonstrate the ‘HydroFLEX’ demonstrator.  This was based on Class 319 No. 319001 from Porterbrook, and successfully demonstrated at Quinton in June 2019.  Mainline testing followed, and the “HydroFLEX” project was awarded a £400,000 funding grant from a £9.4 million fund for innovative projects this month to develop the final, detailed design for the world’s first bi-mode electric hydrogen train.

The British are coming – Class 319 converted to hydrogen fuel cell operation – the ‘HydroFLEX’ – and one of many innovative ideas from Birmingham Centre for Rail Research and Education (BCRRE)
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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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”

Useful Links:

 

 

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.

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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.

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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: 

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Useful Links & References:

 

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.

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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 ….

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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