Warships on the Rails is based on a talk to be presented to the Gloucester Branch of the World Ship Society in September 2016.
For almost two centuries now, the allure of British locomotives has been enhanced by names reflecting their strength and speed. The utility of the railways and the protection afforded to Britain’s overseas trade by the Royal Navy helped make the World’s first industrial nation possible – so it was natural that naval names should appear on engines. Indeed, by the time that George and Robert Stephenson were polishing the nameplate on their game-changing “Rocket” of 1829, the title had already been applied to a four-gun fireship in service from 1804 to 1807.
The next HMS Rocket would not be launched until 1842, being an iron paddle tender that was only to last until 1850, while the next example was a mortar vessel launched in 1855 and re-identified as MV20 within a year. An Albacore class wooden screw gunboat was launched in 1856 and broken up in 1864 while a Beacon class composite screw gunvessel was launched in 1868 but sold in 1888.
A destroyer named HMS Rocket was launched in 1894 and sold in 1912 while a Laforey class destroyer launched in 1913 was originally to have carried the name but was retitled HMS Lucifer while still under construction – something that was to afflict the Western Region Warship locomotives as we will see. The Rocket name did make it on to an R Class destroyer from 1916 to 1926 while the last HMS Rocket was a destroyer of another R class from 1942 to 1949 which was then converted to Type 15 Frigate F193 and in use from 1951 to 1967. Since then, the crest featuring Stephenson’s Rocket has been laid up. The seven 0-2-2 locomotives initially built for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830 at Robert Stephenson & Company’s Forth Street works in Newcastle were named “Meteor”, “Comet”, “Dart”. “Arrow”, “Phoenix”, “North Star” and “Northumbrian”. Arrow we will study in more depth later, but there had been previous examples of Royal Navy ships named Meteor, Comet, Dart, Phoenix and North Star. HMS North Star had first been a 20 gun ship of 1810 and the name was last used on an M Class destroyer sunk in 1918. The second HMS North Star however was an Atholl Class corvette used from 1824 to 1860 which, among other things, served in the First Maori War in New Zealand in 1845 and later had North Star Bay, Greenland, named after her.
Also running on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway from 1838 were freight locomotives number 57 Lion and 58 Tiger. We will be looking at the name Tiger in more depth later, but 57 Lion was to have a rolling career of twenty years and a seventy year career after that as a stationary engine with the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. After rediscovery in 1928, Lion was restored with a former Furness Railway tender and during the 1930s was displayed on a plinth at Liverpool Lime Street station. In 1952 Lion starred in the Ealing film “The Titfield Thunderbolt” and nowadays has pride of place in the Museum of Liverpool. Between November 1927 and May 1936, the London Midland and Scottish Railway – which could claim descent from the Liverpool and Manchester Railway – operated a Royal Scot Class 4-6-0 steam locomotive which they named Lion although this was subsequently renamed The York and Lancaster Regiment – one of a number of Royal Scots that lost their shorter naval names in favour of army units.
As we will see later, two large British Railways diesel locomotives in succession were to be named Lion, but Lion and Unicorn were also names applied to their six wheeled diesel shunters by the Guinness brewery at Park Royal in London. These ex British Railways Class 08 went on the booze in 1985 but today are recovering on the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway in Oxfordshire. Generally in this talk though I will be looking at British main line locomotives named after warships – foreign and industrial engines with naval links are a whole other topic! The very first warship that I can find with the name Lion was in fact a 36 gun vessel captured by the English Navy from that of the King of Scotland in 1511, at which time it would have flown the Scottish version of the Red Ensign. England and Scotland were united in 1707, and after this Lion was the name on a number of relatively minor British warships until 1910 when HMS Lion was the lead ship in a class of “Splendid Cat” battlecruisers. HMS Lion was Rear Admiral Beattie’s flagship during the Battle of Jutland and later flew Sopwith biplanes from its big guns although the final Lion – C34 – missed out on conversion to a helicopter cruiser unlike its sisters Blake and Tiger.
Obviously there were rockets, lions and tigers in existence long before there were railway locomotives and in preparing this talk I have had to be careful to only look at locomotives that had been named after warships themselves rather than the inspiration behind the naval names. One example of this is the monicker “Iron Duke” – originally a nickname for Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington and vanquisher of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Great Western Railway introduced its class of 4-2-2 Broad Gauge locomotives in 1847 while the Royal Navy’s first “Iron Duke” – an Audacious Class ironclad – was not commissioned until 1871. Later incarnations of HMS Iron Duke were the Grand Fleet flagship during the Battle of Jutland and most recently a Type 23 Frigate launched in 1991. As such, Class 87 ac electric locomotive 87 017 “Iron Duke” – built in 1974 and named in 1978 – can truly claim to be a warship on the rails along with fellow electrics Royal Sovereign, Britannia and Lord Nelson. In fact 87 017 is currently flying the flag as Iron Duke in Bulgaria.
Not wombling free but a Warship on the rails with an even stronger Naval connection is the 0-4-0 well tank engine which is currently preserved at Didcot as Wantage Tramway Company number 5. This was built by George England and Company of New Cross, London, in 1857 for Captain William Peel, third son of former British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel and founder of the Sandy and Potton Railway, and was first named Shannon after the frigate he had commanded in India. The HMS Shannon in question was a Liffey Class screw frigate completed on 29 December 1856, which landed a naval brigade commanded by Sir William Peel to counter the 1857 Mutiny. At the Siege of Lucknow, Captain Peel became one of five members of the crew of HMS Shannon to win Victoria Crosses, but was wounded in the leg and later died of smallpox at Cawnpore. The new Sandy and Potton Railway locomotive – which Captain Sir William never lived to see – was named by Lady Peel in honour of the courage of her late husband’s men. The Sandy and Potton Railway itself was inspired by the arrival of the Great Northern Railway in Sandy in 1850, forming part of what is today’s East Coast Main Line between Kings Cross and Doncaster. Running 3 miles 2 furlongs to Potton east of Sandy, itself located between Hitchin in the south and Huntingdon in the north, the S&PR was built entirely on Captain Peel’s land and so did not require an Act of Parliament.
The Sandy and Potton Railway soon paid for itself through fruit and vegetable traffic flowing outward with manure and fertilizer carried on eastward workings. In 1860, the line was taken over by the Bedford and Cambridge Railway and eventually became part of the Varsity Line between Oxford and Cambridge although the Sandy to Potton section – including Potton station seen here – closed in 1968. The locomotive “Shannon” was sold on to the London and North Western Railway in 1862 and then again to the Wantage Tramway Company in 1878 where she was unofficially renamed “Jane”. However, “Shannon” nameplates were re-applied in 1946 when the Wantage Tramway closed and the 0-4-0WT was put on static display at Wantage station by the Great Western Railway. After the closure of Wantage station in 1965, “Shannon” came to the Great Western Society at Didcot by way of the Atomic Energy Authority and was in steam from 1969 to 1975. After that unfortunately, cracks in the copper firebox prevented further operation although as a static exhibit she remains the only standard gauge George England locomotive left in the World, the other four George England engines being on the narrow gauge Festiniog Railway.
The first HMS Shannon had been a sixth rate 28 gun warship launched in 1757 while the last to bear the name was a Minotaur class cruiser in service from 1908 to 1919. Albion meanwhile is an archaic name for Britain first applied by the Royal Navy to a 74 gun third rate ship of the line in 1763 and then carried by a number of relatively unimportant warships through out the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1898 however, the seventh HMS Albion was a Canopus class pre-Dreadnought battleship, armed with four twelve inch guns and designed to pass through the Suez Canal to counter the threat of the expanding Japanese Navy. The Canopus class were also the first British battleships to be fitted with water tube boilers and fore and aft rather than side by side funnels. In 1892 meanwhile, the Great Western Railway had finally abandoned Brunel’s Broad Gauge and began building new shorter routes to the West Country, South Wales and Birmingham. The design of new locomotives for the trains on these routes fell to George Jackson Churchward, Chief Mechanical Engineer from 1902 to 1921, who experimented with new wheel arrangements, boilers and valve gear.
Among the experimental locomotives was an imported French de Glehn compound 4-4-0 and in October 1904 simple expansion 4-6-0 number 171 – then less than a year old – was rebuilt as a 4-4-0 for comparison and named “Albion”. 171 “Albion” was re-converted to a 4-6-0 – by then Churchward’s wheel arrangement of choice – in 1907 and renumbered 2971 as part of the “Saint” Class in 1912. It lasted until 1946 and is seen here passing a Hammersmith and City train in west London. As it happens, another of Churchward’s 4-6-0s, this time number 98, was in short order named “Persimmon”, “Vanguard” and then “Ernest Cunard” before renumbering as 2998 in 1913. Cunard is of course one of the great passenger liner companies of the world, while Vanguard had been a Royal Navy ship as far back as 1586 and remains in the fleet today. The HMS Vanguard commissioned in 1910 was part of a second wave of white ensign Dreadnoughts but was lost in a catastrophic accidental explosion at Scapa Flow in 1917.
In 1931 meanwhile, the Great Western Railway’s Swindon Works Manager William Stanier was headhunted by Sir Josiah Stamp of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway to replace Sir Henry Fowler as Chief Mechanical Engineer. Stanier, seen here in the bowler hat, had been born in Swindon in 1876 and spent one year of his education at Stroud’s Wycliffe College. He took many GWR ideas to the LMS and his Princess Royal and Princess Coronation pacifics have been described as the best locomotives that the Great Western never had. 1934 however saw Stanier develop Fowler’s Royal Scot and Patriot Classes into the Jubilee 4-6-0s, named in honour of the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935. Many of the individual locomotive names – such as 5609 “Gilbert and Ellice Islands” – celebrated the Empire while others such as 5687 Neptune and 5654 Hood recognised admirals and Royal Navy ships. Of particular interest within this group was 5700, built at Crewe works in April 1936 and carrying the name “Britannia” from then through renumbering as 45700 in 1948 until February 1951. The name was then removed so that the name Britannia could be applied to the first of Robert Riddles 999 Standard steam locomotives, which was a 4-6-2 numbered 70000 and is now preserved.
In fact a number of Britannia pacifics had naval connections. 70014 was another Iron Duke while as well as being taken from old Broad Gauge Great Western engines the names Apollo, Ariel, Arrow, Lightning, Mercury, Tornado, Venus and Vulcan were Royal Navy ships. HMS Lightning of 1877, for example, was the first vessel specifically designed to fire torpedoes while 70019 Lightning is seen here at Newton Heath, Manchester, in 1966. Although by this time allocated to Carlisle Upperby, Lightning’s Western Region heritage can be seen in the hand holds cut into the smoke deflectors. This followed the fatal 1955 Milton derailment when 70026 Polar Star took a crossover too fast – due in part to the driver’s view of signals being obscured by the smoke deflector handrails.
In September 1951 however, Jubilee 45700 was given a new name – Amethyst – honouring the Black Swan Class sloop first commissioned in 1943 with the pennant number U16 and after the Second World War redesignated as Frigate F116. After allocations to depots including Newton Heath, Blackpool, Bank Hall, Derby and Warrington, 45700 was withdrawn in August 1964. On 20 April 1949 however, F116 was steaming from Shanghai to Nanking when the Govan built vessel was hit by by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army shellfire. Badly damaged and with the captain mortally wounded, HMS Amethyst ran aground on the Yangtse River. At the time the Communist PLA were fighting – and would eventually win – a civil war against Chinese Nationalist forces who were initially able to help some of the British sailors escape. However, Communist artillery fire continued to thwart attempts by other Royal Navy vessels to tow HMS Amethyst to safety. On 30 April F116 effectively became besieged when the PLA insisted that the frigate had been in Chinese waters illegally and had fired on the Communists first. The British Government refused to admit this, and on 30 July 1949 HMS Amethyst made a successful dash for freedom to the mouth of the Yangtse River, after which she was escorted to Hong Kong by the cruiser Jamaica and the destroyer Cossack. As well as the 1951 naming of 45700, the daring escape of F116 was celebrated in the 1957 film “Yangtse Incident” starring Richard Todd and directed by Michael Anderson – both of whom had worked together on The Dambusters in 1955. Shot in Suffolk rather than China, the feature film used the real HMS Amethyst which was brought out of storage, although as by this time her engines no longer worked, fellow Black Swan class frigate HMS Magpie doubled for shots of the vessel moving. HMS Amethyst was scrapped in 1957 after filming wrapped but the name also lived on with Mark 2E First Open Pullman car 3228, just as Mark 2D First Open Pullman 3182 was named Sovereign – later applied to Swiftsure class nuclear hunter killer submersible S108 in service from 1974 to 2006.
The very first HMS Amethyst had been a 36 gun frigate captured from the French in 1793 and the name lived on until 2004 as the bridge simulator at the Royal Navy’s Maritime Warfare School, HMS Dryad. The first HMS Britannia meanwhile had been a first rate 100 gun ship of the line commissioned in 1682 while the last HMS Britannia that actually floated was a King Edward Class pre-Dreadnought battleship in service from 1906 to 9 November 1918 when she was torpedoed off Gibraltar – just two days before the First World War ended. In 1863 meanwhile an earlier wooden HMS Britannia was towed from Portland to Dartmouth as a training ship and formed the nucleus of what would become the Britannia Naval College, still known as HMS Britannia until being renamed HMS Dartmouth in 1953. In 1954 Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia was commissioned, the title His Majesty’s Yacht Britannia having previously been carried by a racing cutter built for the Prince of Wales in 1893. The 5 769 ton yellow funnelled vessel bearing the John Brown yard number 691 however sailed the world with the British Royal Family until being decommissioned and turned into a floating museum in 1997.
Back in the reign of Edward the Caresser, the London & North Western Railway had introduced George Whale’s 4-4-0 Precursor Class in 1904 featuring such names as 5813 “Swiftsure” as well as Argus, Oberon, Medusa and Greyhound. Sixty years later however, steam was rapidly declining on British Railways. Following the 1955 Modernisation Plan at a time of increasing road traffic and nearly full employment, its replacement was diesel and electric traction. While most parts of British Railways opted for locomotives with slow or medium speed diesel engines transmitting power to the wheels by means of electric generators and motors – like D5500 seen here – Western Region – successors to the Great Western Railway – took a different path. The British Transport Commission’s 1955 Modernisation Plan set out to abolish both steam and loose-coupled freight trains- which had traditionally relied on the braking power of a heavy steam locomotive.
From the Railway Mania of the 1830s, moving freight by rail as opposed to barge or horse drawn cart had been a revelation. Trunk and branch railway lines were being built faster than canals and good quality roads and trains could move faster than their rivals. However, apart from dedicated vehicles moving swiftly together from point to point – such as fish vans between Cornish ports and London – loaded and empty individual wagons required re-marshalling into different trains between producer and consumer. Shunting individual wagons into new trains was a time consuming and labour intensive business which the railways could justify when wages were cheap, workers were plentiful and transport alternatives were slower. Similarly, because the railways were still faster than horses and more widespread than canals, trains of wagons without individual brakes relying on a heavy steam locomotive and brake van to stop them from 30 mph had no real competition for almost a century.
After the two World Wars of the 20th Century however, mature designs of internal combustion road vehicles were being mass produced and roads were being upgraded to serve them. More of the population knew how to drive, and a lorry – such as this 1950s Commer flatbed – could deliver a load direct from a factory to a shop without marshalling, breakage or theft on the way and to places that railway branch lines could not economically serve. In the face of increasing road haulage and many workers shunning coal powered steam traction for cleaner and better paid factory jobs though, the railways still had the advantage of delivering goods by the trainload rather than the lorry load and the possibility of those trains moving faster due to continuous air or vacuum brakes. In an ideal world, freight trains would run at the same speed as passenger workings and share the same tracks rather than having separate slow and fast lines.
Similarly, any wagon load shunting would be done in modern, semi-automated yards and the ideal traction would be electric. Remotely generated coal, oil, hydro or nuclear energy would flow along third rails or overhead wires to engine drivers controlling not only unlimited power but the power to stop the train using brake shoes on all the wheels. No guard’s van would be needed to keep couplings taut and with only rectifiers on board, an electric engine could be lightweight and minimise wear on the track. As it turned out, the only practical problems with electric traction were what system to use and how widely to apply it. Outside of London Transport’s four rail and the Southern Regions’s three rail dc electrification schemes, one of the most impressive early electrification projects was that linking Manchester with Sheffield via the Woodhead Tunnel under the Pennines. This was first considered by the Great Central Railway before the First World War but was only attempted by the LNER in the 1930s as a government backed job creation scheme. The Second World War then interrupted progress and the route was not officially opened for electric working until 1954.
Not long afterwards though, the Woodhead route’s 1 500 volts dc equipment was made obsolete by advances in the 25 000 volt ac overhead system that became a widespread standard in the 1960s. The Beeching cuts also removed passenger services from the line in 1970 and the route with its tired infrastructure was closed in 1981. However, apart from a prototype named “Tommy”, the seven twelve wheeled express passenger engines and twelve of the more humble Bo-Bos were given classical names that were, in most cases, also warships. The name HMS Diomede started its naval career with a 44 gun fourth rate two decker in 1781 and finished in 1988 with Leander Class frigate F16 being sold to Pakistan while HMS Hector ranged from 1656 to an armed merchant cruiser destroyed by Japanese aircraft in 1942. Jason began as a fire ship in 1673 and ended as a minesweeper in 1946 while the last HMS Mentor was a tender from 1981 to 1992. As it happens the first HMS Mentor had previously been the Liverpool privateer “Who’s Afraid” until 1780 when purchased by Sir Peter Parker, First Baronet and Admiral of the Fleet. An unrelated Sir Peter Parker was Chairman of the British Railways Board from 1976 to 1983. What are the odds on that happening? The first HMS Nestor was also a former privateer, based at Dunkirk but with an American captain, which was captured by His Majesty’s Ships Ramillies and Ulysses in 1781, Ramillies later being the name applied to diesels D837 and 50 019 while Ulysses was another EM1 Bo-Bo. The second HMS Nestor was a destroyer launched in 1915 and sunk at Jutland a year later while HMAS Nestor was both launched and sunk in 1942. HMS Ulysses fared little better, with a destroyer of 1913 being quickly renamed Lysander and a second destroyer of 1917 being sunk in a collision two years later. The final HMS Ulysses, R69, was commissioned in 1943 and served with the Arctic Convoys as well as off Normandy on D-Day. Placed in reserve after the war, she was rebuilt as a Type 15 anti-submarine frigate in 1955 and took part in Operations Musketeer and Grapple before being decommissioned in 1963. HMS Ulysses was also the fictional Arctic Convoy cruiser in Alastair McLean’s eponymous first novel of 1955.
To fill in the rest of the EM1s, HMS Perseus of 1776 was the first Royal Navy ship to be sheathed in copper while the last three were a cruiser, a submarine and a Vickers Armstrong built aircraft carrier, seen here testing an experimental steam catapult with De Havilland Sea Hornet and Short Sturgeon aircraft. The real HMS Pluto could trace its ancestry back to a fire ship of 1745 and was a minesweeper from 1944 to 1972 while a fictional HMS Pluto appears in the Horatio Hornblower novel A Ship of the Line. The first HMS Prometheus was launched in 1807 and finished its naval service as a cruiser in 1914 while HMS Triton spanned 1702 to 1940 when a T class submarine was lost to friendly fire. The more recent trimaran Triton was a Research Vessel and not commissioned. Moving on to the EM2s, the five incarnations of HMS Electra spanned 1806 to 1942 with Electra later being used as a generic name for the Class 91 ac electrics of the East Coast Main Line while Ariadne covered 1776 to 1992 with the Leander Class frigate F72 being sold to Chile. The first HMS Aurora was launched in 1757 and like Ariadne ended its naval association on a Leander Class frigate from 1962 until scrapping in 1990. Diana was first seen on a Royal Navy ship in 1757 and disappeared in 1969 when Daring Class destroyer D126 was sold to Peru. This vessel, launched in 1952, was to have been called Druid, a name later carried by diesel hydraulic D815. Juno was to bow out as another Leander Class frigate in 1992, bringing down the curtain on a story that had begun in 1757 while Minerva followed a similar trajectory from 1759 to 1993. The first HMS Pandora of 1779 was sent to capture the Bounty mutineers in 1790 while Parthian Class submarine N24 was sunk by Italian aircraft at Valetta, Malta in 1942.
Back on the rails however, under the 1955 Modernisation Plan, the Western – unlike the other four Regions – was not due to be electrified for the forseeable future. This left planners at Paddington with the next best option : the diesel locomotive. Like the electric, there was no fireman onboard, the driver worked in relatively clean conditions and with a cab at each end there was less need to turn locomotives. There was though the weight penalty of diesel fuel, the diesel engine itself and associated cooling equipment as well as a dc generator or alternator to make electricity for the motors connected to the axles. Western Region was also at a disadvantage as – unlike the Southern, Eastern and London Midland – it had little experience of electrification before 1948. The amount of power potentially generated by a diesel electric locomotive was also both a blessing and a curse. The green Southern Region diesel locomotive design we have seen above would ultimately be as powerful as the LMS Princess Coronation pacifics of 1936 but the amount of torque generated by the electric motors meant that more and smaller powered wheels were needed – hence the twin bogie arrangement.
However, the pioneering diesels were still being assembled with all their equipment inside a casing on a heavy chassis because that was the way that railway engines always had been built. In turn, their weight meant that permanent way engineers insisted that the bogies of the more powerful diesels have extra carrying axles to spread the load Just as Brunel’s Great Western Railway had championed the Broad Gauge and lower quadrant semaphore signals, so British Railways Western Region had already begun its own unique approach to modernisation after 1948. Following experiments with gas turbine traction – while Great Western pattern steam locomotives were still being outshopped from Swindon Works – Western Region management argued that using hydraulic transmissions coupled to lightweight fast-running engines could give their diesel locomotives more power per given weight than heavy duty diesel electric designs. Their evidence lay in Deutsche Bundesbahn’s V200 class diesel hydraulics. Introduced in 1953, these could already offer 2 100 bhp for a weight of only 80 tons on a pair of four wheeled bogies: known as a B-B wheel arrangement. The V200s combined fast running Maybach engines (descendants of those used in German tanks and Zeppelins) with aircraft style stressed skin construction to offer far better power-to-weight ratios than the contemporary British diesel electric equivalents.
Also, the North British Locomotive Company of Glasgow had acquired licences to build Voith hydraulic transmissions in 1951 and Maschinenwerke Augsburg Nurnburg engines in 1945. As a result, Western Region’s Chief Mechanical Engineer, Mr R.A. Smeddle, persuaded the British Transport Commission – in overall charge of British Railways – to order a pilot batch of 2 000 horsepower diesel hydraulics from North British on 16 November 1955. Unfortunately North British – like the rest of the home locomotive building community – knew nothing of the stressed skin monocoque techniques that had allowed the light weight of the V 200s to be achieved. Consequently, despite the use of aluminium cabs, the first of these – numbered D600 – left Glasgow late in 1957 with heavy fabricated steel underframes and weighing over 117 tons. However, given that its rival 2 000 horsepower diesel electric design from English Electric – later Class 40 – weighed 133 tons, the 65′ long D600 with its distinctive spoked wheels looked promising. But Western Region were not happy that much of the hydraulic’s theoretical advantages had been lost. As a result they began their own design and building programme at Swindon which resulted in the stressed skin D800 series.
Despite being seen as an experimental hydraulic transmission alternative to English Electric’s Class 40 D200, seen here, D600 went into service a month and a day earlier on Monday 17 February 1958. D200 rolled on eight wheeled bogies with three axles powered by separate electric motors inside a non-powered carrying axle. This gave it a wheel arrangement of 1Co-Co1. The bogies of D600 meanwhile each had six wheels, the outer axles being powered on either side of a central carrying axle, thus giving it an A1A-A1A wheel arrangement. Above them, the Glasgow built locomotive had two engines rather than D200s one, which was just as well as on the return inaugural Press run from Bristol one of them failed leaving the other engine, normally running at 1445 rpm, to save the day. In June 1958 sister locomotive D601 became the first diesel to haul the Cornish Riviera Express, marking the start of a catalogue of fine running to the West of England at the decade’s end. Despite some 100 mph performances on crack trains the nominally 90 mph D600s were outmoded by Swindon built diesel hydraulics in the 1960s and moved to block oil and other freight trains. D600-D604 were also limited by their Orange Square multiple unit wiring to work only with NBL’s later and smaller diesel-hydraulics numbered D6300-D6305.
Finally fitted with clumsy looking four digit split-box headcode indicators, the five strong class – completed with D602 , D603 and D604 – finished their lives hauling clay traffic in Cornwall and then mineral traffic in South Wales. Finally condemned as non-standard by the 1967 National Traction Plan, they were withdrawn from their traditional home at Laira depot in December 1967. None of the North British Locomotive Company’s D600 series of diesel hydraulics were preserved, which is a shame as they were British Railway’s first production class of 2 000 horsepower diesel locomotive, the first diesel class to be named throughout and to one theme and one of the few classes to keep all their names throughout their lives. And luckily for the purposes of this talk, the theme was warships. D600 was named after HMS Active, the first Royal Navy manifestation of which was a 28 gun ship launched in 1758 and captured by two French frigates in 1778. The first steam powered Active was a Volange Class iron screw corvette in service from 1869 to 1906, followed by an Active Class scout cruiser from 1911 to 1920 and then H14, an A Class destroyer seen here, from 1928 to 1947. In light of D600s German designed engines, H14 was best known for sinking two German, one Italian and a Vichy French submarine during World War II. The Active name was next applied to Vosper Thorneycroft built Type 21 frigate F171 in 1977. One of the first Royal Navy ships to be armed with Exocet anti-ship missiles, HMS Active took part in the Falklands conflict and shelled Argentine positions during the Battle of Mount Tumbledown. After repairs to her cracked hull in the mid 1980s, F171 was sold to Pakistan in 1994 and continues to serve as the PNS Shah Jahan albeit with Chinese built surface to air missiles.
As the name of D601, Ark Royal really needs no introduction but just for the record the title began its Royal Navy career in 1587 as the flagship of the English fleet confronting the Spanish Armada. The second Ark Royal – of 1914 – was the World’s first purpose built seaplane carrier while the third – commissioned in 1938 – was “sunk” several times by Nazi propaganda before being torpedoed in November 1941. The fourth Ark Royal, seen here, carried the number R09 and served from 1951 to 1979, becoming the star of BBC TV’s “Sailor”, one of the pioneering reality television shows. The fifth Ark Royal, R07, operated its helicopters and Sea Harrier jets from 1985 to 2011.
Less directly well known in 1958 but equally as fascinating now was D602’s namesake HMS Bulldog. The name was first applied in 1794 to a four gun Hoy – a small sloop-rigged coaster as illustrated not a racing cyclist – while the second Bulldog was captured, recaptured and then set free from the French at Ancona in 1891. A wooden steam powered paddle sloop launched in 1845 ran aground in 1865 whilst attacking Haiti and was blown up when she could not be refloated while the fourth and fifth Bulldogs were destroyers spanning 1872 to 1920.
The sixth HMS Bulldog, H91, was in service from 1931 to 1945 and helped impose Britain’s blockade on the Spanish Civil War before escorting Atlantic convoys after 1939. On 9 May 1941, Swan Hunter built HMS Bulldog joined HMS Broadway in approaching U-110 which had been forced to the surface by depth charges fired from the corvette Aubretia. Sub Lieutenant David Balme then led a boarding party from HMS Bulldog to capture German code books and an Enigma coding machine. Although U-110 later sank while under tow by H91, we now know how valuable the Enigma machine and code books were to the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. The capture of U-110 and its strategic secrets was the basis for the film U-571, made in Hollywood in 2000 which claimed the Enigma was captured by an American submarine crew. David Balme, who led the boarding party aboard U-110, called U-571, “a great film“ and said that the film would not have been financially viable without being “Americanised”. However, the film’s producers did not agree to his request for a statement that the film was a work of fiction. The most recent HMS Bulldog – H for hydrographic survey – 317 was in service from 1968 to 2001. In contrast to many other Royal Navy names applied to the original North British Warships, D603’s Conquest only applied to three vessels, the first being a 12 gun vessel between 1794 and 1817. A screw corvette followed between 1878 and 1899 but the most substantial Conquest was a C-Class cruiser built at Chatham and commissioned in June 1915. This vessel was part of the force covering the attack on the airship hangars at Tondern – now in Denmark – by Sopwith Camels launched from HMS Furious on 19 July 1918 and had previously opened fire – unsuccessfully – on Zeppelin L13. HMS Conquest was finally decommissioned in 1930. Apart from D601 “Ark Royal”, D604 “Cossack” was the only other member of the A1A-A1A Warships to be named after a serving rather than former Royal Navy vessel. Bearing the pennant number R57, “Cossack” had been launched by Vickers Armstrong on 10 May 1944 and later found saw action defending the Pusan Perimeter in the early part of the Korean War. On 18 May 1951, HMS Cossack intercepted the cargo ship Nancy Moller and escorted her back to Singapore with a cargo of rubber that had been heading for communist China in contravention of a United Nations embargo. R57 spent 14 years in the Far East and returned to Devonport for decommissioning and eventual scrap in 1959.
As the narrow British loading gauge – even on the former Broad Gauge lines of Western Region – precluded the direct evaluation of German built V200s, Swindon Works had to redesign the original Krauss-Maffei V200 concept for their D800 series with licence built components at the same time as learning monocoque construction techniques. Unlike the D600 Warships which relied on a heavy fabricated steel underframe for strength, the D800 series would use thin metal plate strategically stiffened to bear loads. The side walls and roof of the locomotive would carry deadweight, buffing and drawing loads as well as the floor above the bogies. This meant that drawing office staff at the Wiltshire facility had to translate imported plans from German to English and metric to imperial as well as creating a new 2 200 bhp locomotive and the first unit was hand built from a pair of cross-membered steel tubes on the floor of the Erecting Shop. Given these challenges it is to the credit of all concerned that D800 “Sir Brian Robertson” was outshopped from Swindon in June 1958 and ready for traffic that August when the first blueprints only arrived in the spring of 1956. “Sir Brian Robertson” was the only non-Naval name in the D800-D870 range – which continued the Warship theme from D604 – honouring the British Transport Commission chairman of the time who lived at Far Oakridge near Stroud in Gloucestershire. As might be expected, WR’s new bulbous fronted diesel had a strong family likeness to its Teutonic forbears and was powered by two Maybach MD650 engines ( of 1 056 bhp at 1 400 rpm and licence built by Bristol Siddeley ) allied to four speed Mekydro K10411 transmissions. As such, Sir Brian Robertson, 2nd Baronet (Baron Robertson of Oakridge after 1961) was a very apt choice for the first of the named class. Before becoming BTC chairman in 1953, General Robertson had been Governor General of the British zone of Germany from 1947 and so presided over the reconstruction of much of the industry of what was to become West Germany.
This specification continued on the other two pilot scheme locomotives – D801 “Vanguard” and D802 “Formidable” but was uprated on the 30 production machines ordered in February 1957. Built from 1959 – 1961, D803-829 and D831-D832 featured Bristol Siddeley Maybach prime movers of 1 135 bhp at 1 530 rpm (ten of which were assembled in Britain by Bristol Siddeley at their Ansty Works) and from D813 “Diadem” onwards four digit route indicators replaced the original discs and number board frames. These four digit route indicators were later retro-fitted to D800 – D812. Although D803-D812 could at first only work in multiple unit with each other, D803 -D870 were eventually fitted with White Diamond multiple unit wiring – common also to the North British D6306-D6357 series B-Bs although D800 – D802 were not multiple unit fitted. 2 200 bhp of quick running engine was installed inside the stressed skin of a D800 series “Warship” locomotives which only weighed 79 tons. In contrast a Peak of what would become Class 45 produced 2 500 bhp from its single medium speed Sulzer 12LDA 28B engine but tipped the scales at 138 tons. A final five Warships – D866-D871 ( with D870 “Zulu” having cab top air horns ) – were outshopped from Swindon in 1961 but the last of the Warships chronologically left North British Locomotive’s Springburn Works in 1962.
Like their D600 diesels, North British Locomotive built D833 – D865 with German designed MAN engines and Voith transmissions. These 33 locomotives had been ordered in July 1959 but construction only began in 1960 when NBL staff had been trained in stressed skin monocoque construction and sets of plans had been dispatched from Swindon. However, these locomotives – identifiable by square rather than circular rooftop exhaust ports – were often seen as less reliable than the Swindon built D800 series by the operating departments of Western Region and were usually to be found on freight rather than passenger duties as a result. Toward the end of their careers, the NBL built Warships could also sometimes be distinguished by two small round holes cut under the route indicator panels to ventilate the cab and reduce fumes from the Voith transmissions. Although retaining their original numbers to the end of their lives ( but losing the D prefix after 1968 ), the Swindon built D800 -D832 and D866-D871 became Class 42 under British Rail’s Total Operations Processing System (TOPS) and the North British built D833-D865 likewise became Class 43: both Class identities being transferred to streamlined single-cab prototype and production High Speed Train locomotives during the latter part of the 1970s. The joker in the warship pack was D830 “Majestic” – Swindon built with Mekydro transmission allied to a pair of all-British Davey Paxman 12YJXL Ventura powerplants as an alternative to Maybachs.
From their introduction on the 100 minute scheduled Bristolian in June 1959 until the withdrawal of D832 “Onslaught” in December 1972 the D800 Warships served their railway well in spite of teething troubles with their paintwork, multiple unit wiring and inside-framed spring-and-link suspended Krauss-Maffei bogies. The latter needed a complete redesign for the somewhat top heavy D800s which ran at considerably faster speeds than their V200 ancestors. Data obtained from tests with D813 “Diadem” during 1960 was then applied to all other class members and also to the later Westerns, starting with D1000 “Western Enterprise” seen here. The D800 Warships were supplanted by D1000 series Westerns on top link duties as the 1960s progressed. Double headed runs to Cornwall and services from Waterloo to Exeter were among their final duties although D821 “Greyhound” and D832 “Onslaught” have been preserved. Indeed, both the D800 Warships – and later C-C bogied D1000 Westerns – were later to prove that the compact lightweight construction offered by stressed skin techniques could be a double edged sword. The D800 Warships were not fitted with air ( as opposed to vacuum ) braking or electric train heat (ETH) and as such were not compatible with British Railway’s later Mark II coaching stock. More to the point, the Bristol Siddeley Maybach prime movers were already near the limit of their output. Warships pictured hard at work nearly always have their roof vents firmly open to let out the surplus heat! Despite this, a scheme was drawn up to apply charge air cooling ( later successfully used on the English Electric Class 50s ) to the Maybach engines so that they could be uprated to drive an electric train heat generator and D870 “Zulu” was to have carried this as an experiment. Some parts were ordered, including the jumper cables, but the engine went into traffic without the generator.
As I mentioned earlier, although D800 Sir Brian Robertson was the only non-Naval Warship name not all Warships were strictly Warships! D812, seen here, was originally to have been called “Despatch” but was in fact named “The Royal Naval Reserve 1859-1959” – starting the trend for naming diesel and electric locomotives after organisational anniversaries. There have in fact been seventeen Royal Navy ships with various spellings of the name “Despatch” from 1691 to 1946, the last being a Danae Class cruiser in service from 1922 to 1946. Meanwhile D864 Zambesi was originally to have been called Zealous, a name which went to D865 which was originally going to have been called Zenith which in turn went to D867. At sea, only one ship carried the name HMS Zambesi: a Z-Class destroyer with the pennant number R66 in service from 1944 to 1959 while fellow Z-Class HMS Zealous had four incarnations. The first, a 74 gun ship, began in 1785 while the last – R39 – was sold by the Royal Navy to the Israeli Navy in 1955. As the INS Eliat in 1967, she became the first conventional warship to be sunk by surface to surface missiles when attacked by the much smaller Egyptian boats, pictured – a milestone in naval warfare. Incredibly, HMS Zenith, another Z Class, built by William Denny and Brothers of Dumbarton, was originally going to be called HMS Wessex while HMS Wessex was going to be called HMS Zenith, the names being transposed while the two vessels were under construction. In 1955, HMS Zenith –R95- transferred to the Egyptian Navy as the El Fatah, where she remains as a training vessel. Govan built HMS Wessex – R78 – meanwhile joined the South African Navy in 1950 as Jan van Riebeeck and was finally sunk as a missile target in 1980.
While the 1950s saw the first Warship names attached to diesel hydraulics, the 1960s saw some of London Midland Region’s Class 40 diesel electric named after ocean liners associated with the Port of Liverpool. These were in turn displaced from their prestigious West Coast Main Line duties after this was electrified from 1966 but at first the wires at Weaver Junction, just north of Crewe, diverged to either Liverpool or Manchester. The northern section of the West Coast Main Line, through Warrington and Preston to Glasgow, would not be fully energised until 1974. Following 25 000 volts flowing through the overhead catenary between Euston and Weaver Junction on 18 April 1966 the quickest Euston to Glasgow journey was 6 hours 35 minutes. The section between the capital and Crewe had witnessed a travelling time reduction of at least a third since the commencement of the electric timetable but there was still a strong desire to speed up services north of Crewe.
British Rail was unsure whether its existing 2 580 bhp Brush Class 47 diesel electrics would be reliable enough to work Crewe-Glasgow expresses and so fifty 2 700 horsepower English Electric Class 50 locomotives – numbered from 400 to 449 – were ordered and built in 1967 and 1968. Like the Brush Class 47s but unlike English Electric’s earlier Class 40s, the Class 50s had a flat front with a two piece windscreen. The 100 mph Class 50s were based around a single well-proven 16 cylinder engine, although British Rail also insisted that they be fitted with a clean air electrical compartment, which was responsible for the ‘’hoover’’ noise from which the Class 50s were nicknamed. When the northern WCML from Crewe to Glasgow was electrified in 1974, the Class 50 fleet – now numbered 50 001 to 50 050 – moved to Western Region to replace Class 52 “Western” diesel hydraulics on mainline passenger services west of Paddington and between Birmingham New Street and Bristol Temple Meads. Following the earlier withdrawal of the Class 41, 42 and 43 diesel hydraulic “Warships”, BR decided to continue this naming policy on the Class 50s from 1977. However, while avoiding names that could be confused with existing Class 47 and 87 locomotives and also with Royal or Imperial connections, the Class 50s were to be named in the most part with the names of Warships from the two World Wars.
Namings began with “Ark Royal” being applied to 50035 on 19 January 1978 with 50 008 becoming “Thunderer” in September 1978 and 50 011 receiving the name “Centurion” in August 1979. Last to be given nameplates was 50 006 “Neptune” in September 1979. Of the 50 warship names chosen: 30 had previously been carried by ex-LMS ‘Jubilee’ class locomotives, one – “Illustrious“ – by ex-LMS re-built ‘Patriot’ class locomotive 5532, and 13 by the diesel hydraulic ‘Warship’ classes. “Lion” had been carried in 1962/3 by the BRCW/AEI/Sulzer prototype locomotive D0260, – seen here – although strictly speaking this was in a non-naval context. There were five names that seem to have not been previously used by main line locomotives: “Agincourt”, “Bulwark”, “Centurion”, “Eagle”, and “Exeter“. The first HMS Agincourt had previously been the East India Company’s Earl Talbot when first flying the white ensign in 1796 while the last example – D86 -was launched in 1945 as a Battle Class destroyer, converted to a radar picket in 1959 and scrapped in 1974. HMS Bulwark was a 74 gun third rate ship of 1807 while the most famous incarnation was the Harland and Wolff built Centaur Class light fleet carrier numbered R08 and commissioned in 1954. By the early 1960s, both Bulwark and sister ship Albion had been recommissioned as Commando carriers while Bulwark was converted for a second time to an anti-submarine role from 1979 to 1981. Today, Her Majesty’s Ships Bulwark and Albion are once again assault ships with rear flight decks for helicopters and stern docks for landing craft, both having been built in Barrow in Furness.
The year 1650 saw a 34 gun warship join the Royal Navy as HMS Centurion while the last one that actually floated was a 1911 vintage King George V class batleship finally sunk as a breakwater for the D-Day Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches. A shore establishment of the same name existed from 1964 to 1994, later becoming a part of HMS Sultan at Gosport. Eighteen ships from 1592 until 1976 carried the name Eagle, the most famous being the last – the aircraft carrier with the number R05. However, there was also a steam powered London and North Eastern Railway Sentinel rail car called Eagle. Numbered 2140 and a classmate to 273 Trafalgar, the 2 cylinder 100 bhp rail car was in fact part of a fleet named after fast stagecoaches – although it was not to be the last powered railway passenger vehicle to carry a naval name. In 2005 diesel hydraulic multiple unit 150 213 was called Lord Nelson – also recalling the Southern Railway steam 4-6-0 class – while other recent multiple unit names have included London, Brighton, Victory and Mary Rose. In 2005, Eagle was also applied to shunter 08 631.
Finally among the new Class 50 names, Exeter was attached to a Royal Navy ship five times between 1680 and 2009 and continued into the 21st Century on the High Speed Train power car 43025. Arguably the most famous Exeter was the York Class heavy cruiser with pennant number 68, commissioned in 1931 and taking part in the Battle of the River Plate in 1939 before being sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1942. Meanwhile, Type 42 destroyer D89 was commissioned in 1980 and served in both the 1982 Falklands conflict and 1991 Gulf War as a missile armed air defence ship. Her bell now hangs in Exeter Cathedral.
50 040 has the distinction of being the only Class 50 to carry the name of more than one warship. “Leviathan” from September 1978 to June 1987 , then “Centurion” from July 1987 as 50 011, pictured here, had been withdrawn on 24 February 1987 due to accident damage. 50 011 was the first of the class to be scrapped. Furthermore, Doncaster Works fitted 50 033’s “Glorious” nameplates to 50 040 in error, following a major overhaul in July 1987, and sent it on a test run to Peterborough and back. So, 50 040 has the additional distinction of being the only Class 50 to carry three different names whilst in BR service. However, the all-time record is held by 50 002 which, in addition to “Superb”, has carried SEVEN other nameplates on various occasions during its time as a ‘heritage’ machine!
From 1976 however, InterCity 125 trains had begun to take over the fastest passenger turns between London, South Wales and the West Country allowing the Class 50s to take over Waterloo-Exeter workings formerly hauled by Class 33 Bo-Bos which had themselves replaced Class 42 and 43 diesel hydraulic “Warships” in the early 1970s. The Class 50 fleet were heavily refurbished at British Rail Engineering Doncaster between 1979 and 1983 and emerged with high intensity spotlights recessed under their windscreens. Starting with 50006 “Neptune”, the first six locomotives were outshopped in the standard BR Blue livery but in 1980, 50 023 “Howe” became the first to be outshopped in Large Logo livery with wrap around yellow cabs, large bodyside numerals and BR logo. The final loco to be refurbished was 50 014 “Warspite”, released to traffic in the latter half of 1983. Following refurbishment, the fleet was concentrated at Plymouth Laira and Old Oak Common depots.
In 1984, 50 007 “Hercules” was repainted into lined Brunswick Green livery and renamed Sir Edward Elgar – a GWR Castle name – to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Great Western Railway along with four Class 47 locomotives. This broke rank with what had been a solid block of warship names ten times the size of that achieved by the D600s in 1958. In 1986 the West of England Main Line came under the control of the Network South East (NSE) sector of British Rail, which saw the introduction of a new livery with upswept red and white stripes on blue with a white cab surround. The first locomotive in this livery was again 50 023 “Howe”. In 1988 the NSE livery changed with the red and white stripes continuing to the body ends with a blue cab surround. In the revised livery the overall blue became a darker shade.
50 008 “Thunderer” meanwhile was one of several English Electric Class 50s that featured the relevant warship crest above the nameplate whilst allocated to Western Region. These indicated that the locomotive had been officially twinned with the ship or shore establishment of their name, HMS Thunderer being the Keynsham based Royal Navy Engineering College. D408 itself was outshopped from Vulcan Foundry in March 1968 as 3778 / D1149 and was first allocated to the Western Lines division of London Midland Region. It was renumbered as 50 008 in February 1974 and named “Thunderer” in September 1978. Before then however the name “Thunderer” had been attached to LMS Jubilee 5703 and before that to a strange, short lived design of articulated single locomotive on the Great Western Railway.
Its predecessor “Hurricane” had been built by R. & W. Hawthorn of Newcastle upon Tyne using the 1836 patents of Thomas Harrison and featured cylinders and running gear on one frame and the boiler on a six wheeled trailer, relying on ball-joint connectors to convey steam from one vehicle to another. The “locomotive” was thus a 2-2-2 with record setting 10′ diameter driving wheels but although the design of “Hurricane” succeeded in minimising axle load its lack of adhesive weight doomed it to failure. Similarly unsuccessful was “Thunderer”, a locomotive of the same pattern but with four 6′ diameter geared driving wheels. The first HMS Thunderer was launched in 1760 and the fourth in 1872, being a sister ship to HMS Devastation, the ship on the England’s Glory match box. The fifth Thunderer was an Orion class battleship launched in 1911 and scrapped in 1927 after fighting at the Battle of Jutland while there has only ever been one HMS Hurricane, an H Class destroyer originally destined for Brazil before serving with the Royal Navy from 1940 to 1943.
While hydraulic warship D803 was connected to Great Western Saint 2971 by the name “Albion” – and the titles selected for the Class 50s harked back to both their diesel antecedents and the steam 4-6-0s of the London Midland and Scottish Railway – Swiftsure was a Webb Precursor name recycled for 50 047. Another LNWR Precursor Class engine shared the name Greyhound with D821, one of two D800 Warships now preserved, while “Cossack” had been Precursor 5192 before being attached to D604. Also linking the D800 Warships and the Class 50s was “Tiger” – D854 and 50 028 respectively – something of a topical name in the Western Region hydraulic epoch as the John Brown built cruiser – pennant number C20 – was issued as a 1/600 scale Airfix kit in 1960.
Laid down in 1941 as HMS “Bellerophon”, “Tiger was finally commissioned in 1959 with a range of semi automatic 6 inch and fully automatic 3 inch guns. C20 hit the headlines again during the Indonesian Confrontation and as a floating venue for talks between British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Ian Smith, leader of the Rhodesian regime which had unilaterally declared independence from Britain rather than give up white minority rule.Between 1968 and 1972, HMS Tiger was heavily rebuilt as a helicopter cruiser and in its new guise was moulded first by Matchbox and then Revell in 1/700 scale. Unfortunately it lasted just six years in service, but this was more than its sister ship, the last incarnation of HMS Lion, which only lasted from 1960 to 1964. In contrast, most of the D800 series Warship names, including North British built D848 “Sultan” seen here, sported Royal Navy names not used by either the earlier LMS 4-6-0s or the later Class 50 diesel electrics. However, the name “Sultan” was later to be used on Class 33 diesel electric Bo-Bos 33 025 and then 33 114, which brings us on to the subject of Warship naming after the Class 50 era.
Warships of Modern Times
Although never getting its hull wet, HMS Seahawk has been playing an important part in British naval aviation since 1947 and the name Seahawk – also a naval jet fighter built by Armstrong Whitworth – was noted in the spotting books of 1995 and 2000 attached to HST power car 43191. The actual title HMS Penzance – as opposed to just Penzance – was listed next to 43157 in 2000 and commemorated M106, the Vosper Thorneycroft built Sandown class minehunter commissioned in 1998. Some curiosities among the warship names were implemented by train operating company Midland Mainline from May 2003 until September 2004 when it operated an hourly service from London St Pancras to Manchester Piccadilly. This service – using former Virgin Cross Country High Speed Trains – was at the request of the Strategic Rail Authority while the West Coast Main Line from Euston to Manchester was being rebuilt. As footballer Rio Ferdinand had recently transferred from Leeds to Manchester United, the temporary service was called project Rio. Among the names applied to the Class 43 power cars involved were Rio Thunderer, Rio Warrior, Rio Triumph and Rio Victorious.
In 1995 diesel electric locomotive 47 832 Tamar shared its name with the Royal Navy’s shore station in Hong Kong from 1897 to 1997 while from 2000 to 2007, 47 703 was named Hermes, having previously carried the names Saint Mungo, The Queen Mother and Lewis Carroll: proving that on today’s railways a name is not for life, just as long as it is expedient and definitely no longer than an operating franchise. Back in the 1960s though, Western Region followed the previous practice of recycling Broad Gauge names on Britannia Pacifics by recycling them on brand new Brush Type 4s. Among the set that were also warships were Odin, seen here, Atlas, Orion, Colossus, Cyclops, Samson, Amazon and Vulcan.
D1669 Python could also possibly be included on the list as this was the original name of Parthian Class submarine N42. However, the Barrow built diesel electric was eventually commissioned in 1930 as Pandora due to a Royal Navy dislike of serpent related names. Incredibly Western Region’s D1677 Thor was another almost diesel electric submarine. HMS Thor – P349 – would have been the first Royal Navy vessel named after the Norse god of thunder but having been launched on 18 April 1944 the T Class boat was deemed surplus to requirements when the war ended and was scrapped. Finally on the subject of diesel electrics and ill fated submarines, Colas Rail’s 56 312 was, in 2010, named Artemis – with one of the largest legends ever painted on the side of a locomotive. The Class 56 – a more powerful development of the Brush built Class 47 – was named after one of only two Amphion class submarines built by Scotts of Greenock and was the only Royal Navy vessel of that name. P449, later to carry the pennant number S49, sank at its moorings while being refuelled in 1971 and was subsequently scrapped. In 2016 meanwhile, 56 312 has been acquired by American owned Devon and Cornwall Railways and carries one of the longest names – “Jeremiah Dixon Son of County Durham Surveyor of the Mason-Dixon Line USA” – although there is currently no locomotive tribute to his colleague the astronomer Charles Mason, who was born in Bisley, Gloucestershire. Mason’s naval connection was his work The Lunar Tables which used the phases of the Moon as a way of determining a ship’s longitude at the same time that John Harrison was perfecting his marine chronometer.
Among the Class 90 ac electrics dating from the late 1980s, 90 005 is now named Vice Admiral Lord Nelson having previously named The Financial Times while 90 020 has the title Collingwood, as had LMS Jubilee 5645 and English Electric Hoover 50 005. Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood was a contemporary and friend of Horatio Nelson and the first ship named after him was launched in 1841. This second rate battleship was converted to steam propulsion in 1861 and sold in 1867 while two more modern turret battleships served from 1882 to 1922. Since 1940, HMS Collingwood has been a stone frigate based at Fareham, Hampshire. While the electric Class 90s can each deliver 7 860 bhp to the rail the 1999 vintage Class 67s are powered by a two stroke General Motors diesel prime mover of 3 200 brake horsepower – an impressive figure for a locomotive running on four wheeled bogies.
Of the 30 Spanish built machines, 67 017 has remained longest with the naval name Arrow while 67 018 once carried on the title “Rapid” from D838 and 67 006 now joins 87 002 in being called Royal Sovereign. F173 is the seventh Royal Navy ship to be named HMS Arrow and served from 1974 to 1994 before being sold to Pakistan and renamed PNS Khaibar. During the 1982 Falklands conflict, HMS Arrow had the distinction of being both the first British ship to fire on enemy positions and the first to be hit by enemy fire. The previous six Arrows stretched from 1796 to 1949 and also loyal to Her Majesty the Queen was the Royal Australian Navy patrol boat HMAS Arrow, carrying the pennant number P88 between 1968 and its destruction in Cyclone Tracy on 25 December 1974.
The very latest class to carry Warship names however are the Class 68s, known officially by the makers Vossloh / Stadler of Valencia, Spain as UK Lights – being derived from their earlier continental Eurolights – and by trainspotters as Warskips, a riff on the Class 67s being known as Skips due to their angular styling. Introduced in 2012, the Class 68s are powered by a 3 750 bhp Caterpillar diesel engine making them the most powerful Bo-Bos in Britain and some are fitted with push-pull equipment to allow them to work on Chiltern Railways trains between Marylebone and Birmingham Moor Street. Of the 25 examples delivered by April 2016, only six have not been named with most of the named examples being warships. As far as I can tell there was no ship to match 68 001 “Evolution” – although Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution developed on his voyage aboard HMS Beagle – but there is a familiarity about the names Rapid, Daring, seen here, Fearless and Superb. I must admit I did look twice at 68 017 Hornet, thinking of the American aircraft carrier, but this too has been a Royal Navy name from the first 14 gun sloop of 1745 to the stone frigate disbanded in 1956.
Perhaps the most intriguing class name however was 68 019 Brutus. This was applied not to a true Royal Navy warship but to a Royal Fleet Auxilliary – or to be precise to an armed merchantman Q ship pretending to be a Royal Fleet Auxiliary on entering and leaving port. Officially known as Special Service Freighters, these vessels only operated from the start of World War 2 until 1941, by which time their small size and speed was found to be unsuitable for tackling unsuspecting Nazi commerce raiders. The Ellerman Lines vessel City of Durban was launched in Hull in 1920 but became HMS City of Durban aka RFA Brutus in 1939. Armed with 9 hidden 4 inch guns, 21” torpedoes and depth charges on active service, it was returned to civilian life after the war and was named City of Gloucester from 1952 until scrapping in 1957.
Talking of names close to the Royal Navy, Type 3 Bo-Bo 33 027 was named Earl Mountbatten of Burma and his nephew HRH Prince Philip became the first member of the Royal Family to travel behind a diesel locomotive. On 28 October 1959 English Electric Type 4 D219 hauled carriages of the Royal Train at the rear of the 11 40 from Euston to Glasgow. These were detached at Crewe for steam haulage to Manchester – but on 12 May 1961 The Duke of Edinburgh attended an exhibition of motive power at Marylebone Goods Yard to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Institute of Locomotive Engineers.
Just after noon on that day, His Royal Highness was invited to name D829 Magpie by unveiling a curtain of flags – the Swindon built diesel hydraulic sharing its name with U82, the modified Black Swan class sloop that the Duke had commanded from 1950 to 1952. This was the seventh of eight Royal Navy ships to bear the name ranging from a four gun schooner of 1806 to a former trawler used as target practice from 1982 until 1996.
In a letter to Western Region General Manager John Hammond before the Marylebone exhibition, the Duke had expressed an interest in driving “his” locomotive – perhaps not least as his wife had driven the last Castle Class locomotive built at Swindon some eleven years before. Before entering the cab and being shown the controls, he was offered a diesel drivers cap and white coat by Western Region Running and Maintenance Officer HEA White. While accepting the cap, His Royal Highness declined the coat with his usual tact and charm saying that he didn’t want to look like a bloody milkman! With the cranial apparel attached, at 1210 Prince Philip drove D829 at the front of a train of five carriages from Marylebone number 2 siding to Windsor. The journey – supervised by the Western Region’s Chief Traction Inspector – went via the North London Line and the sloping junction at Acton Wells down to the Great Western just east of Acton Main Line station. On the incline, His Royal Highness carefully brought the train to a halt at a stop signal, only to notice a permanent way ganger ahead of him with one foot on the rail. The Duke apparently stuck his head out of the cabside window and shouted “That’s a bloody stupid place to stand with me driving , isn’t it?”. But now I will get out of your way. Thank you very much!