A Brief History
The 1955 British Transport Commission’s Modernisation Plan, to replace steam locomotives with electric and diesel traction, was an early indication of the changes that would eventually sweep through Britain’s railways. In this section we will look at how, in the early 1960s, a new fleet of diesels, known as Deltics, took over from many of the steam hauled express passenger services on the East Coast Main Line through Grantham.
During the 1950s, as part of the above mentioned modernisation plan, British Railways carried out a series of main line tests with a prototype ‘Deltic’ that had been built by English Electric at a cost of around £250,000. The prototype locomotive was designated as DP1 (Diesel Prototype No.1) and the name Deltic (also known as the Ice Cream Van; being painted light blue and cream) was quickly picked up by many enthusiasts and railwaymen alike. This new loco weighed in at around 100 tons and with its two Napier Deltic engines and 3300 bhp available, it was an eye catching and formidable beast.
Initially, ‘Deltic’ had begun trials on BR’s London Midland Region but, having not impressed the powers that be, in 1959 the prototype moved to BR’s Eastern Region. Thereafter it became a fairly regular sight up and down the ECML through Grantham. The powerful locomotive performed very well on east coast metals. As a result an order was placed for 22 of the class, all were named after famous regiments or racehorses. With an official top speed of 100 mph the journey time between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh Waverley was considerably reduced to around 6 hours over the 392 miles.
The production versions came into operation from 1961 onwards and were allocated to Finsbury Park (London), Gateshead and Haymarket (Edinburgh). They first entered service with an attractive livery; dark green on top and a narrower strip of lime green along the bottom, taking over a variety of steam hauled services. Numbered D9000 to D9021 they worked express services to and from London King’s Cross along the ECML. The original two tone livery was eventually phased out and replaced with BR’s corporate blue and yellow ends in the mid 1960s.
With improvements to some sections of the ECML journey times on services were again reduced. When the High Speed Trains (HSTs) were introduced from 1978 the Deltics began to be used on secondary duties and the writing was on the wall for this classic fleet of locomotives.
Withdrawal began in January 1980 and by January 1982 the whole class was out of use. Over the previous 18 years the fleet had, day in day out, covered around 64,000,000 miles up and down the ECML through Grantham.
- The Deltics on the East Coast Main Line through Grantham (to follow)