Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

“Exploring the Past to build a Better Future”

Posted in Great Britain, Infrastructure, Other general stuff about railways, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 1 November 2010

I’ve spoken before of the railway heritage sector, and the important role it plays. Not only is it a conservator of the past, but it has the potential to play a role in the continuing improvement of the railway network throughout the country. Two seperate projects have recently come to light that illustrate well both of these roles.

The Greater Central Railway
The Great Central Railway is the name given to two seperate heritage railways in the East Midlands, along part of the route of the old Great Central main line. The Great Central Railway runs for just under 8 miles between Loughborough and Leicester, including over 5 miles of working double track, making it the only heritage railway in Britain that is a genuine double track route (the others have passing loops, but are mainly single track). The Great Central Railway (Nottingham) forms part of the Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre which has a total route length of 9 miles between Loughborough and the town of Ruddington, just outside Nottingham. Between the two stretches of route is a gap of about 500m, which came about when pieces of infrastructure (specifically an embankment and three bridges) were removed following the closure of the Great Central main line. The missing section carries the Great Central over the Midland Main Line at Loughborough, and is the major expense facing the Great Central Railway in completing its plan to join together both sections. So, the two have formed a new company, GCR Development Ltd, with the intention of driving forward with this development, as well as extending the existing route north to the outskirts of Nottingham, where it is planned to interchange with the NET Phase 2 extension to Clifton. In addition, the plan is also to double track the sections that are still single and construct a new train maintenance depot, thus bringing into operation an essentially brand new, privately owned main line route between Nottingham and Leicester, which already has a connection to the national network (the GCR(N) retains a junction at Loughborough to the MML). The owners envisage continuing and enhancing the existing heritage operations, offering a major freight route, and a live, operational testing run for the rail industry. The total cost for the main piece of work of filling in the gap is estimated at just £15m, which is a fairly small price for what could turn out to be a major enhancement to the rail infrastructure.

“£15m reunification plan announced to connect both Great Central Railways”
Bridging the Gap

The Baby Deltic
You’ll have heard me speak before of the Napier Deltic, an opposed piston, two-stroke diesel engine, so named because it resembles the uppercase letter Δ (delta). The engine was used in just two classes of British locomotive. The Class 55, doyenne of the East Coast Main Line for 20 years until the early 1980s, is unquestionably the more famous. But, six out of the total of 22 locomotives built survive in preservation. The other type, the Class 23, suffered to the extent that none of the 10 locomotives were spared the cutters torch. The Class 23 differed in that it had a single, 9-cylinder engine generating 1,100 bhp, whereas the Class 55 had a pair of 18-cylinder engines worth more than 3,000 bhp. For this reason, the Class 23s came to be known as Baby Deltics. Well, following the success of 60163 Tornado, the first mainline steam locomotive built in Britain since 1960, other people have taken the idea to raise from the ashes other lost elements of Britain’s railway heritage. So, a group calling itself The Baby Deltic Project, which owns the last remaining T9-29 engine, is raising money to build a Class 23. But rather than do it from scratch, as was the case with Tornado, the Baby Deltic Project has obtained an existing Class 37 which it will convert. This will see the locomotive’s bodyshell altered to resemble a Class 23, the bogies replaced with examples from a Class 20 (which more closely resemble those of a Class 23) and the Napier T9 engine installed. This work, entirely funded by donation, is a mommoth undertaking, but shows railway heritage at its best, rebuilding the past so that the future can see and enjoy it.

The Baby Deltic Project

37372 marked up with all the work required for its conversion into a Class 23


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