History : Trains and Cars – Part Two

D5026 at Canley 16th April 1961

For our second instalment of this occasional series we have a photograph credited to Michael Mensing taken on 16 April 1961. It features Type 2 diesel electric locomotive D5026, and the location is Canley, in Coventry – seen in the background is the Standard-Triumph International (STI) assembly plant.

Only six days earlier STI had announced the Triumph Herald 1200. The company had just been purchased by Leyland Motors headed by Sir Henry Spurrier, and executives from its new masters were going through the books. How much influence Leyland had on the day-to-day running of STI at the time is difficult to assess as it appears that no senior Leyland executive attended a Board meeting until 16 May, and that was in the form of Donald Stokes.

Two days afterwards, it was announced that, in order to integrate the operation of the two companies, Sir Henry Spurrier had become Chairman of Standard-Triumph International, with Alick S. Dick, the former Chairman, continuing as Managing Director. Stanley Markland, Sidney Baybutt and Donald Stokes had also joined the Board.

In addition, Alick S. Dick and Frank Dixon had been invited to join the Board of Leyland Motors. Only three months later, on 21 August, the men from Leyland lost patience with the way STI was run.

Sir Henry Spurrier, Chairman and Managing Director of Leyland and Chairman of Standard-Triumph, said in a statement: ‘Leyland Motors have decided that they must streamline and integrate the Standard-Triumph organisation into the parent company at an early date. Mr A.S. Dick is to resign from the company, and Mr. S. Markland is appointed Managing Director of Standard-Triumph International from today.

‘Further, Leyland Motors have asked Messrs K. Aspland, E. Brimelow, M.J. Tustin, H.S. Weale, M. Whitfield, and L.A. Woodall to retire from the Board of Standard-Triumph International, some of whom will be retained with the company in an executive capacity.’

The three Directors who remained on the Board were all those appointed by Leyland in May.

The Canley plant survived as a car manufacturing plant until 1980. Part of it was transformed into the Austin Rover Design Studio, while the site also became the all-important engineering centre and office staff headquarters for Austin-Morris and Rover-Triumph as well as a parts storage area for Unipart. Technical staff were kept on until 1990.

The factory was demolished in 1996. The site is now occupied by shops, a hotel, offices and warehouses.

As for the image, the most prominent vehicle in the STI compound is the Standard Atlas van, later re-branded as the Leyland 15/20. After the Leyland/BMH merger, the tooling was transferred to India where production continued.

Further back appear to be more mundane vehicles such as the Standard 10 and at least one Triumph Mayflower. There appear to be several TR sports cars in amongst what could be described as mechanical stodge. In April 1961 the STI range lacked the customer appeal it would have later in the decade, following Leyland’s investment.

Now we come to the locomotive, which is a BR/Sulzer Type 2, which from 1968 was classified as a Class 24. When in 1955 British Railways (BR) announced its modernisation plan, it invited various private concerns to tender for orders. Although BR’s workshops could build locomotives, they did not build diesel engines, so any units they built in-house had to use equipment from outside suppliers. In the case of the Class 24, the engines were of a Sulzer design, while the electrical equipment was supplied by British Thomson Houston.

The Type 2 designation referred to the locomotives power band, which was in the 1000-1500bhp region. BR in its wisdom ordered a pilot batch of 20 locomotives of 14 different types. There were several rival designs from private industry, some of which proved to be lamentable, but BR’s own contender for Type 2 orders was what became known as the Class 24. The engine was a Sulzer 6LDA28A six cylinder, which produced 1160bhp at 750rpm.

The 12LDA28A was a twin bank 12-cylinder version, producing 2300bhp at 750rpm, demonstrating how engineering firms outside the automotive industry were willing to try modular construction.

Sulzer was and is a Swiss firm, so to circumnavigate trade barriers, the engine was built under licence by Vickers Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness.

The electrical equipment including the traction motors were the product of British Thomson Houston. BTH operated out of Rugby. Both BTH and rival Metropolitan Vickers were owned by Associated Electrical Industries, and were allowed to operate as rivals until 1960 when AEI took greater control. AEI later merged with GEC.

D5026 was built at Derby and was part of a second batch ordered in 1957, eventually 151 units were constructed. It entered service on 22 November 1959 at Ipswich depot. By the time this picture was taken it was based at Camden.

However, the working life of the Class 24 was relatively short, although not as short as some of its rivals. Sulzer revised the engine to extract a further 90bhp for no increase in engine speed, and this went into the upgraded BR/Sulzer Class 25 of which 327 were eventually built.

With the decline in freight traffic, BR began to withdraw what it regarded as non-standard locomotives and the less powerful Class 24s were on their list.

The last Class 24 succumbed in 1976. D5026 was repainted in the new corporate BR blue in June 1969 and renumbered as 24026 in May 1974. It was finally withdrawn from Crewe depot on 10 August 1975.

Keith Adams


  1. There is a tenuous link between the Train and the cars. John Barber, after leaving Ford worked for AEI, the owners of British Thomson Houston, until GEC bought AEI, and was then offered a job by one Donald Stokes!

  2. I lived about five minutes walk from the Canley site in 1990 and the assembly plant was long gone, part of the site becoming an MFI superstore and the rest a field, but the Rover offices, Unipart factory and the engineering centre still employed 3000 staff. Also there was a pub in Canley called The Herald.

  3. Class 24 I understand lasted to the end of the 70s as I recall them being around.

    I checked and found.

    The final recorded passenger duty of a Class 24 was on 2 August 1979 when 24081 rescued 40129 at Colwyn Bay on the 18:05 Holyhead – Euston, hauling the train as far as Crewe. 24081 was finally withdrawn in October 1980 having worked its last revenue earning train, the 05.43 Grange – Shotwick freight on 7 January 1980.

  4. Daveh is correct. John Barber did work for AEI after Ford, joining Leyland in December 1967, after the last AEI equipped Class 25 was delivered.
    Aronline has in the pipeline an article on BR’s dash for diesel. It will focus on the various manufacturers that tended for contracts. How did they compare with the UK automotive industry?
    It will feature English Electric, AEI, Brush, Paxman, BRCW, North British, Napier, Beyer Peacock and Crossley.
    In addition to this MAN engines were licence built by North British, Maybach by Bristol Siddely and Sulzer were built by Vickers Armstrong.
    Some of you will be aware that some of these products were less than satisfactory, and the article describes what happened in all its gory details…..

    • Sounds interesting, I’ve got the impression that BR made a mistake by ordering too many small batches of new classes of locomotives rather than trial single prototypes.

      While enthusiasts might have enjoyed the variety of classes, eventually BR had to thin down the numbers of diesels & electrics, even before the last steam locomotives had been withdrawn.

      My (sadly late) Dad wrote a very good talk about one-off locomotives, some of which proved some designs were unsuitable while only a single example, though many lead to successful designs.

  5. A couple of years later and electrification works would have been in place as the WCML was being electrified to Wolverhampton, but in 1961, steam and diesel still reigned supreme in this part of the Midlands. Also the following year, two major buildings would signify Coventry’s recovery from the wreckage of the Blitz: a new modernist station to replace the cramped and bomb damaged 1840s original and the city’s new cathedral, which replaced the one devastated in the 1940 air raid.

  6. It was a HUGE mistake ( the first of many ) to fire Alick Dick , who ( probably unbeknownst to the Leyland shower ) had been virtually single handedly responsible for STI’s survival in the 1960-1963 period , and that was the start of the slippery slope down which Leyland and later BL steadily slid into oblivion. There is an element of Greek tragedy about it all and it always leaves me with a sick feeling

    • Had Alick Dick retained his position how would he have differed from what Stanley Markland done? Additionally given the link to Hillman via his uncle, would he have played a role when the government offered Rootes to Leyland to avoid the takeover by Chrysler?

  7. Did the “Leyland shower” achieve anything notable and smart in the car business, either during their stewardship of Standard-Triumph or their period of dominance at British Leyland? Serious question, obviously “selling buses to Cuba” isn’t part of the answer!

    • There is often a misunderstanding in various businesses – people look to a huge company and say, they are successful and they are huge, therefore to be successful you must be huge. So they go about gobbling up various specialists, cutting out everything that made them special and failing miserably – scale doesn’t make for success and that was everything wrong with Leyland. Mercedes took Chrysler to build “scale” while BMW focused on making cars people wanted and ended up better off for it. I’m pretty sure Stellantis will be on a shrinking trajectory in the years to come as well.

  8. @ Philip, I would think the Triumph 2000 was a huge achievement for the Leyland shower, a car which, alongside the Rover 2000, redefined the market for executive cars. Also the front wheel drive 1300 provided a decent alternative to the ADO16 and begat the successful 1500/Dolomite range of the seventies. Ditching Standard, whose cars were dated mechanical stodge, meant money could be freed up to develop Triumph and to acquire Rover later in the sixties. So basically they did rather a lot to move Triumph on from the TR range of sports cars and the Herald.

    • The Triumph 2000 had been planned long before Leyland came on the scene , and it and the Herald were both great successes, and were there thanks to the foresight of Dick

  9. @Glenn, I take your point regarding the 1300, a good car that got progressively better over the years, and was clearly a Leyland initiative. The 2000 though was surely well on the way to production before Leyland came along, and I’m guessing that, with the Herald and 2000, the “ditch Standard” strategy was well under way before Leyland came along?
    The Rover takeover was all theirs, of course, and alternate historians can continue to ponder how history might have unfolded if the merger with BMH hadn’t happened. Properly capitalised and unsentimentally managed, a combination of Britain’s BMW (Triumph) with Britain’s MB (Rover) could have been world-beating (and certainly Jaguar-beating).

  10. @ Philip, Rover’s reputation was very high in the sixties, they made cars that were reliable and durable and well loved by affluent owners in the same way Mercs are now, and Triumph’s range of cars was getting better and the 2000 was the BMW 5 series of its day. Sadly we all know what happened in 1968 and the reputation of Rover sunk in the morass of British Leyland and Triumph underwent a slow death.

      • Rover was referred to as the poor man’s Rolls Royce and the quality certainly stood out among its rivals like big Fords and Vauxhalls. The quality was slipping in the last years of the P6, when cost cutting took place, but the SD1 was plagued with faults, rust and poor paintwork that saw loyal Rover buyers move over to German and Swedish cars, often never to return.

  11. Coventry in 1961 was very much a boom town with almost no unemployment and high wages, and the huge post war Broadgate shopping centre represented the rebirth of the city after the destruction of the Blitz and the city’s post war affluence. The motor industry was the major part of Coventry’s boom, employing 50,000 workers at the time, but thousands of workers were employed in aerospace, coal mining, chemicals, electrical engineering, and machine tool manufacture. Coventry really was an industrial powerhouse then and would remain so until a decline set in 50 years ago.

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