The Friends of the
National Railway Museum

South of England Group
Vice Presidents: Richard Hardy; Sir William McAlpine Bt, FRSE, FCIT, FRSA

Last Update

Talk Synopsis

5 January 2006

The Deltic locomotives in service on the ECML
Ray Ekins,
Deltic Preservation Society
10 November 2003

Ray started by explaining that the power plant was a development of the Junkers engine. The Deltic had a very high power to weight ratio and, in addition to propelling naval ships, were put to many uses e.g. the emergency regional seat of government at Tunbridge Wells was powered by Deltics and the New York Fire Brigade also had one. English Electric spent £¼ million, an enormous amount at the time, to develop a prototype locomotive to prove the engine for rail traction. The design brief for the production units called for a locomotive capable of 75 mph, low weight and high power. In all, 23 Deltics were built with top speed increased to 100 mph. They displaced 55 steam locomotives.

We then went on an illustrated tour down the East Coast Main Line with the production machines; in prototypical fashion this included the odd diversion. We started at Haymarket where D9000 was first delivered and went straight into passenger service. Our first "diversion" was to see D9007 at Riccarton Junction hauling the last train on the Waverley line. At Sunderland Bridge we saw a Deltic-hauled test train on a trial run in 1979. On such tests they produced up to 4000 hp in their later days. One, thankfully infrequent, reason to visit the Plant was after an accident, and we saw D9010 after a side swipe in its early days - as evidenced by the presence of sand boxes on the locomotive body.

Ray moved on to technical aspects. Engine noise was a problem producing complaints from York residents - surprisingly not from those living near the line, but those half a mile away! Exhaust smoke is also a problem, resulting from oil carryover; the oil comes from the sump, is pulled through the pistons and collects in the exhaust producing a fire risk. The original engines were rated at 2500hp for 1000 hours, but this was reduced to 1650hp to increase maintenance period to 6000 hours - in later days this was improved to 10000 hours. However, problems were numerous, with fractured cylinder linings, loose piston crowns, blower failures, flashovers, exhaust fires, and dephasing of the three crankshafts. The basic cause was the intermittent loading of the engine - average cycle time from full load to idle was 6 minutes, compared to constant- load marine use. Despite this, the locos reinvigorated the East Coast Main Line.

It was also a complex design, e.g. some 50 gears in the camshaft drive, these cause the clatter when shutting down. Only minor engine repairs could be done on depot, everything else was "back to works". Paxmans (now part of MAN) at Colchester was the original builder, but Doncaster developed an extensive maintenance system, even repairing crank cases by aluminium welding. They developed specialised tools, such as a turnover rig which temporally holds the three cylinder blocks while unscrewed. Doncaster staff were very specialised, with one group stripping, and one reassembling; each person specialising on one assembly item. All this resulted in highly efficient servicing, e.g. an engine exchange could be completed in one shift.
Ray finished his informative talk with the last BR Deltic service at the Kings Cross buffer stops in January 1982. He thanked Robin Gray and the others who had helped him to assemble the lecture.

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