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March 05, 2009

When you next go to buy a train

If you had to buy a train, you know Ė had to, what would be your train of choice?

All that steam stuff if great and romantic but very complicated, what with watching all the valves, maintaining pressure and blowing down to reduce priming. Not to mention constantly stopping for water and coal. So give me a good diesel locomotive if itís tons you need shifting.

And what better than a Class 55 ďDelticĒ


In 1943 the Admiralty was looking for a high-powered diesel engine to replace the petrol engines used in their fast lightweight motor-torpedo boats. [Petrol was generally considered too flammable to have onboard boats when other boats were wont to fire at them]. In 1946 they commissioned D. Napier and Son of London to develop a diesel engine with a high power to weight ratio. They came up with the Deltic, an 18 cylinder opposed-piston engine.

Napierís Deltic engine

There were three pistons working in opposition, the trick being that the third crankshaft rotated contrary to the other two.


This crankshaft phasing enabled the cylinder gas flow to operate in one direction, with,as you might imagine, the assistance of a bit of supercharging to help the exhaust scavenging.

The engines were so successful that, in 1955, English Electric decided to put two of them in their first prototype diesel locomotive [not unreasonably called the Diesel Prototype No.1]. This locomotive proved a hit, largely due to Napierís superb Deltic engines and it went into production. They originally wanted to call it the Enterprise, so beating Gene Rodenberry by 11 years, but everyone was already calling it the Deltic.

Now why, I hear you cry, understandably, this sudden diversion into the world of tartan bags, Thermos flasks, little notebooks and standing at the end of mainline station platforms?

Well I guess my memory is imprinted. The Deltic was the locomotive of choice for the British Rail East Coast Mainline, and so, in my formative years, this was the power-house at the head of the trains I would catch to London, and itís deep throaty rumble as it powered up before pulling off, echoed through these northern stations and itís stuck in my mind.

The severe lines of the high front and swept back windows seem to make it a much more serious machine than say the Class 40 which also hauled the East Coast Mainline trains.

Class 40, built by English Electric at their Vulcan Foundry, between 1958 and 1962, close, but doesn't hold a candle to the mighty Deltic.

When a Class 55 Deltic rolled through the station, hauling seemingly endless rolling-stock stacked with coal or roadstone, the whole platform trembled.

Class 55 Deltic

Posted by john at March 5, 2009 12:32 PM


Well, it has to be steam for me you can't beat "The Scotsman" fantastic.ramsbottom station on a Sunday you can ride to Bury & back and in amongst the excitement have a cup of Black Peas while you wait for your train. I'm easy pleased Lol,but I don't have an anorak,now that would be just going a bit to far.

But the NEW Bullet train 500,now the fastest train in the world,holds up to 1,000 passengers and has a top speed of 400 kph. Blimey !

Would have liked to have taken a ride on the Hersey Train in Cuba but didn't have the time,its a bit old & slow and unreliable these days apparently. Made in 1917 I believe by America,called the Hersey due to the chocolate connection.

Posted by: paula at March 5, 2009 03:12 PM