Deltic Finale 35 years on…

An un-dated view of Deltic 55019 ‘Royal Highland Fusilier as it heads north through Retford with a train from London King’s Cross.

An un-dated view of Deltic 55019 ‘Royal Highland Fusilier as it heads north through Retford with a train from London King’s Cross.

The Deltic Finale

January 2nd 1982 was the final day of Deltic haulage for British Rail. Much has been written about the ‘Deltic Scotsman Farewell’ railtour and the last service trains, none of which I managed to see because of illness…

The ‘Deltic Scotsman Farewell’ railtour was hauled from King’s Cross to Edinburgh by 55015 ‘Tulyar’, and the return by 55022 ‘Royal Scots Grey’. The arrival at King’s Cross made the national news, probably due to scenes reminiscent of the end of steam.

The last service trains had run on 31st December. 55017 ‘The Durham Light Infantry’ worked 1L44 16.03 King’s Cross – York service and would be the final Deltic to depart King’s Cross in BR service. A special headboard (“Deltic City Tribute & 20 Years Service”) was carried by the locomotive. Unfortunately the train was terminated at Grantham due to a broken rail. The headboard was removed and was driven north to meet 55019 ‘Royal Highland Fusilier’ which was working 1E26 16.30 Aberdeen – York (from Edinburgh).

55017 returned with the 18:58 Grantham – King’s Cross, running in the path of 1A26 15:50 ex York, but the locomotive failed at Knebworth. 47426 hauled 55017 and its train, now designated ECS, back to London.

With the headboard fitted, 55019 arrived in York at 23.06, before going on shed at York MPD.

An opportunity missed, or sound economics?

So was the withdrawal of the Deltics an opportunity missed, or sound economics. With the introduction of the High Speed Train by British Rail, they heralded a new era of rolling stock on Britain’s railway network. Multiple Units were the way forward (apparently), and nothing was going to stop the mass withdrawal of coaching stock in favour of smaller units that could be run in multiple.

I always thought that they could have been switched to other services on a particular route, just like the A4s were, but with a heavy heart I always knew they needed to be run for long periods at high speed, and that really was the East Coast Main Line.

Twenty years, even for a complex piece of machinery, is hardly a lengthy lifetime; just look at the classes of locomotives that were introduced before the Deltics. Did they ever recoup their investment?

Just like other ‘cult’ classes of locomotives, such as the Westerns, the Deltics developed a huge following just as they were about to be withdrawn. Thankfully, and unlike the larger class of ‘Westerns’, 6 of the class were preserved by enthusiasts and the NRM.

Thankfully, the Napier roar is still alive 35 years on from their last days in service with British Rail….


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