|Class 23, D5906, is pictured on a down train at Belle Isle on March 18 1961.|
Photo: R C Riley
|Sporting the 2B65 headcode and two-tone green livery, D5900 prepares |
to leave King's Cross in February 1965. Photo: Jim Slater
It is generally accepted by both professional railwaymen and enthusiasts alike that the English Electric range of locomotives, from the humble but efficient Class 08 shunters to the high and mighty Class 55 "Deltics" were a pretty good investment for British Railways.
However, there was a "black sheep" in the family of EE locomotives - and that was the class of ten Type 2 diesel electric locomotives, otherwise known as Baby Deltics.
These locos were 1100 hp Bo-Bos, with BR Numbers D5900 - D5909 that were introduced in 1959.
Sadly, they were to be retained in BR revenue-earning service for less than 12 years, during which time there would be long periods when they were either out of service or back at the manufacturers.
The "Baby Deltics" were of conventional build with their superstructures being similar, in both construction and external appearance, to the Class 37 and Class 40 locomotives although, of course, the Type 2's were much shorter than their sisters.
When completed at Vulcan Foundry, in late 1958, the locomotives were found to be too heavy and BR subsequently refused to take delivery. Various measures were taken to reduce weight, including drilling holes in the bogie beams and frames as well as in some of the internal structural members. However, even when they were eventually accepted by the Eastern Region in 1959, the "Baby Deltics" were still too heavy and were banned from certain routes in the London area.
Once in traffic they were soon found wanting due, largely, to engine failures. They tended to throw their pistons and their cylinder liners would often work loose. Both defects that would lead to engine damage which, in turn, would require a change of power unit.
Most serious was a spate of fractured auxiliary drive shafts which caused an immediate loss of the fan, traction motor cooling and air pressure, which would lead to overheating.
The broken drive shafts would then flail around in the engine room, cutting through pipework, radiators and other components and cause complete engine seizure.
Their poor availability and frequent failures in traffic made them very unpopular with everyone; not least BR management.
One by one the locos seized up, with Stratford being the collecting point for the withdrawn members of the class. By the middle of 1962 only D5900, D5901, D5905 and D5907 had survived and each of these slowly succumbed until the last one, D5905, was finally withdrawn in June 1963.
All ten locos were duly returned to English Electric where they were parked in a siding together with the similarly ill-fated EE Gas Turbine 4-6-0 Nº GT3.
One by one the Baby Deltics were taken back into the shops and mechanically refurbished, re-engined. They also had their nose ends fitted with flush panels and a four-character route indicator. A new two-tone green livery was applied, which was similar to that worn by the big, twin engined "Deltics".
By the middle of 1965 all ten locos were back in use and, although some improvement in performance and availability was recorded, the "Baby Deltics" never lived down their previous bad reputation and local commuter workings, empty stock haulage and station pilot duties were their usual lot!
By 1967 they were considered to be non-standard, which was another way of saying that they were to be scrapped!
The first to go was D5906 in October 1968. D5907 followed later the same month and, by early 1969 D5900/3/4/8 had joined them on the scrap heap.
The remaining four locos were then a familiar sight outside of Finsbury Park depot, where they stood for several months in the company of a doomed Class 15.
D5902 was withdrawn towards the end of 1969 while D5901 was sent to Derby Research Centre for driving control experiments. D5905 was the next to go, in February 1971, while the blue liveried D5909 managed to linger on for just another few weeks.
Then there was one!
D5901 continued in traffic through the early 1970s, usually to be seen in charge of the mobile adhesion test laboratory train. However, it was eventually replaced by a Class 24 and was duly dumped at Doncaster Works in January 1977.
This time there was to be no escape for what was, by then, the remaining member of the class and it is sad to think that it met its end while the attention of enthusiasts and preservationists was diverted to what was happening to the diesel-hydraulics on the Western Region.
What a pity that there is not just one less Class 52 so that a Baby Deltic could have found its way into preservation.