The Deltic Preservation Society

In another shed at Barrow Hill, the remaining members of the wonderful class 55 are tended to and maintained.


The British Rail Class 55 was a class of diesel locomotive built in 1961 and 1962 by English Electric. They were designed for the high-speed express passenger services on the East Coast Main Line between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh. They gained the name "Deltic" from the prototype locomotive, British Railways DP1 DELTIC (the running number DP1 was never carried), which in turn was named after its Napier Deltic power units. Twenty-two locomotives were built, which dominated express passenger services on the East Coast Main Line (ECML), particularly London – Leeds and London – Edinburgh services, until 1978 when InterCity 125 ‘High Speed Trains’ were introduced. 1978–81 saw them gradually relegated to semi-fast or newspaper–parcel–sleeper services along the ECML (destinations including Cambridge, Cleethorpes, Harrogate, Hull, Scarborough and Aberdeen) plus occasional forays ‘offline’ such as York – Liverpool Lime Street semi-fast, and Edinburgh – Carlisle via Newcastle stoppers. The fleet was withdrawn from service between January 1980 and December 1981. Three locomotives were retained for a few days, until 2 January 1982, to work the farewell special, all being withdrawn immediately on arrival back at York. Six locomotives entered preservation during 1982 and 1983: one by the National Railway Museum, two by the Deltic Preservation Society, two by the Deltic 9000 Fund and one privately owned. Two cabs were also privately purchased

Following trials with the prototype DP1 Deltic locomotive, which was built at the Dick, Kerr & Co. works in Preston, an order was placed with English Electric for a production fleet of 22 units (reduced from the originally-planned 23[3]), replacing more than twice that number (55) of Gresley Pacifics. The locomotives were purchased under a service contract, English Electric agreeing to maintain them, including their engines and generators, for a fixed price; this was British Rail’s first such contract. Additional Deltic engines were produced to enable engines to be exchanged regularly for overhaul while keeping the locomotives in service.

The locomotives were assigned to three locomotive depots: Finsbury Park in London, Gateshead over the Tyne from Newcastle, and Haymarket in Edinburgh. They arrived from the manufacturer painted in two-tone green, the dark BR green on top, with a narrower strip of a lighter, lime green along the bottom. This helped to disguise the bulk of the locomotive body. The cab window surrounds were picked out in cream-white. Although delivered without it, they all soon sported the bright yellow warning panel at each end common to all British diesel and electric locomotives, to make them more conspicuous. Very soon, all were named; the Gateshead and Edinburgh Haymarket locomotives after regiments of the British Army from the North-East of England and from Scotland, respectively, while London Finsbury Park followed the LNER tradition of naming locomotives after winning racehorses.

By 1966 they began to be painted in corporate Rail Blue with yellow ends, the change generally coinciding with a works repair and the fitting of air brake equipment, the locomotives originally having only vacuum braking (the first so treated was D9002; the last to be painted blue was D9014). In the early 1970s they were fitted with Electric Train Heating (ETH) equipment to power the new generation of air-conditioned coaches, while a couple of years later, with the introduction of BR’s TOPS computer system, they were renumbered 55 001 to 55 022. In 1979, Finsbury Park restored the white cab window surrounds to their remaining six Deltics, making them distinctive, although these were later painted over when the locomotives were transferred to York during the rundown of the depot at Finsbury Park.

The introduction of the Deltics was a step change in locomotive performance on the East Coast Main Line. The recently introduced Class 40 diesels had an absolute maximum drawbar horsepower of 1,450[4] and this could be exceeded by a Pacific steam locomotive if worked hard. On one of O. S. Nock’s first Deltic runs (the down Heart of Midlothian loaded to 13 coaches, 530 tons gross) he states "once the tail of the train was over the 60 mph restriction the throttle was opened to the full, and the surge forward could be felt in the cab. Never previously had I felt a positive thrust in my back when in the second man’s seat!" Nock went on to estimate that at 80 mph the locomotive was producing about 2,750 drawbar horsepower.[5] As early as 1963 Deltics were recorded exceeding 100 mph, Nock recording 100 mph for 16 miles south of Thirsk with a maximum of 104 mph; he went on to say that such speeds in 1963 were "terrific".

By the mid 1960s, the Deltic-hauled Flying Scotsman was achieving a 5-hour 55-minute time from King’s Cross to Edinburgh with one stop at Newcastle[6] and this was the fastest ever timing, beating the pre-war A4-hauled "Coronation" service’s 6 hours, and without the priority over other traffic accorded to the earlier LNER train. As the East Coast Main Line was upgraded, times dropped still further and by the mid 1970s the Flying Scotsman was reaching Edinburgh in 5 hours 30 minutes, still with one stop at Newcastle.[7]

The ultimate Deltic performance came on 2 February 1978 with a run on the 07:25 from Newcastle to King’s Cross. In some respects the run was set up (the driver was about to retire) but the speeds were record breaking. The locomotive was 55 008 The Green Howards, it was hauling 10 coaches (343 tons gross), and on the leg from York to London it achieved a timing of 137 min 15 sec. This included various signal stops and other enforced speed reductions; the net time is estimated at 115 min 45 sec, an average of 97 mph start to stop. The train achieved 113 mph on the flat between Darlington and York, 114 mph at Offord and 125 mph whilst descending Stoke bank.[8]

The Railway Performance Society estimate that on modern infrastructure (the Selby Diversion etc.) a realistic Deltic-hauled schedule from King’s Cross to Edinburgh would be around 4 hours 57 minutes (a theoretical unchecked run being around 4 hours 40 minutes).[9] This would be for a train of 11 coaches and include a stop at Newcastle, the latter city being reached in a scheduled 3 hours 6 minutes.

D9000 (55 022) Royal Scots Grey was purchased by the Deltic 9000 Fund and, on 7 September 1983, was handed over in fully running condition after work and a repaint by BR.[15] Its first base was the Nene Valley Railway.[15] It was later accommodated by Network SouthEast at Selhurst and Old Oak Common depots, from where it regularly travelled to open days around the country. In 1996 it was overhauled by Railcare at Springburn, Glasgow and received main-line certification. The Deltic 9000 Fund became a limited company (Deltic 9000 Locomotives Limited) and both D9000 and D9016 passed into its care. Its initial return to service, on the "Deltic Deliverance" charter, on 30 November 1996, was cut short by an exhaust stack fire (a regular Deltic problem in service days). Following rectification work at Springburn it ran to King’s Cross on an empty stock train before resuming its second main-line career on 2 January 1997 on the "Deltic Reunion" charter to Hull and Harrogate, during which it visited the turntable within the National Railway Museum, where it stood alongside the prototype. It continued to work main line charter trains between 1997 and 2002 and was hired by both Anglia Railways and Virgin CrossCountry to operate service trains on their behalf, as cover for their locomotives. Following the demise of Deltic 9000 Locomotives Limited in 2004 the locomotive was sold to Beaver Sports (Yorks) Ltd. It completed an 18-month overhaul and was re-certified for running on the main line in August 2006.[16] Royal Scots Grey has been repainted into blue livery, carrying the markings of York (YK depot) and York City coat of arms crests above the numbers, as done in 1981. It is the first Class 55 to carry the York coat of arms crest since 1982. The locomotive continues to work charters and to be available for spot hire to national operators. In 2015 the locomotive was repainted with ‘Finsbury Park-style’ white cab window surrounds and at various times has carried the identities of scrapped sister locomotives 55 003 Meld, 55 007 Pinza and 55 018 Ballymoss[17]
D9002 (55 002) The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was donated to the National Railway Museum, York and was the first preserved Deltic to return to the main line when it worked light engine to York after participating in the Doncaster Works Open Day on 27 February 1982. 55 002 is one of three Deltics to hold mainline certification (along with D9000 Royal Scots Grey and D9009 Alycidon). 55 002 is rarely used on mainline charters and is mostly used to haul locomotives belonging to the National Railway Museum either between their two sites at York and Shildon or to other destinations such as Barrow Hill Roundhouse.
D9009 (55 009) Alycidon was purchased by the Deltic Preservation Society Ltd (DPS). It was initially based at the North York Moors Railway before undergoing an extensive overhaul and restoration and recertification for main-line use. Following the DPS withdrawal from main-line operations it was mostly based at the DPS depot at Barrow Hill. It was recertified for mainline use in July 2012 after a long absence stretching back to 2003.
D9015 (55 015) Tulyar was purchased by a private buyer, Peter Sansom; in 1986 it was sold on to the Deltic Preservation Society. It has led an nomadic existence on many preserved railways and was the favoured DPS locomotive for open days during the 1990s (where it was sometimes presented in the guise of a scrapped sister locomotive, for example during 1994 when it was appeared at various events numbered and named as 55 001 St Paddy[18]). It is currently under major overhaul at the Deltic Preservation Society depot at Barrow Hill.
D9016 (55 016) Gordon Highlander was purchased by the Deltic 9000 Fund, with the intention that it would be restored to running condition, whilst acting as a ‘twelve wheeled mobile source of spares’. It was moved to Wansford, on the Nene Valley Railway to join D9000, where the temptation to restore it to operational condition became too great to resist. Eventually, like D9000, the locomotive left the railway for the Network SouthEast depots at Selhurst and Old Oak Common. After D9000 had been operating on the main line for three years the decision was made to overhaul and recertify D9016, to provide cover for Royal Scots Grey, and the locomotive was moved to Brush Traction at Loughborough. Following overhaul it spent a short period on the main line, on charter work, its operation sponsored by Porterbrook Leasing, in recognition of which it was painted in their purple and grey house colours, based upon the original two-tone green style. It lasted in this livery until 2002, when the original two-tone green livery was reapplied. Following the demise of Deltic 9000 Locomotives Limited the locomotive was purchased and based at the Peak Rail (Heritage Railway), near Bakewell, Derbyshire. In July 2008, this locomotive was sold by the private owner to HNRC, as a business venture. In spite of previous announcements to the contrary, HNRC put the locomotive up for sale at the end of September 2008. Bids from the Gordon Highlander Preservation Group and Beaver Sports (Yorks) Ltd. (the owners of 55 022) were rejected by HNRC in favour of a higher offer from Direct Rail Services (DRS) Ltd. Direct Rail Services (DRS) Ltd kept D9016 at Barrow Hill for a year with the intention of a full overhaul but these plans never surfaced. The locomotive was sold one year later to Beaver Sports (Yorks) Ltd. and it was based at East Lancashire Railway with 55 022. The aim is to return D9016 to mainline condition once again. D9016 donated one of its two engines to 55 022 in April 2010 to replace one of 55 022’s engines, a former marine example that had been temporarily fitted to 55 022 following an earlier engine failure. During 2014 D9016 left the East Lancashire Railway for the Great Central Railway. In January 2015 the locomotive moved to the Washwood Heath site of Boden Rail, for bodywork repairs.
D9019 (55 019) Royal Highland Fusilier was purchased by the Deltic Preservation Society. Initially based at the North York Moors Railway, along with 55 009, the locomotive subsequently moved and spent several years at both the Great Central Railway and the East Lancashire Railway. It is now based at the Deltic Preservation Society depot at Barrow Hill. In April 2005 it became the first Deltic to be fitted with TPWS equipment