Blog : Remembering the Deltics…

Ian Nicholls

D9016 Gordon Highlander is departing Leeds Central past the signal box in 1965 with a West Riding express for King's Cross

Question: What does the Lamborghini Miura have in common with the British Rail Class 55 Deltic diesel locomotive?

Answer: They both appeared in the main title sequence of a classic Michael Caine film.

The Miura appeared in The Italian Job, the Deltic in Get Carter, depicting the journey of the main character from London to Newcastle on the East Coast Main Line as Roy Budd’s catchy theme plays over it. Although there may be questions marks over the Deltic’s reliability and availability, there was no questioning its acceleration and its pace.

With 3300hp on tap and a 105mph maximum speed, its ability to shrink journey times and improve on the times set by the outgoing steam locomotives made it a valuable tool in British Railways fight back against road and rail transport.

The English Electric company had, in co-operation with British Railways, pioneered the use of diesel traction in Britain, using their 16SVT engine. In the early 1950s, it suddenly occurred to the company’s senior management that their Napier subsidiary had a marine engine that could be adapted for railway use.

This was an 18 cylinder engine, known as the Deltic, which when fitted to minesweepers, produced 1750hp. English Electric de-rated the Deltic to 1650hp to prolong engine life and designed a locomotive around two of these engines to produce DP1, know to all as the prototype Deltic. And with a weight of only 106 tons, the DP1 had a power to weight ratio that embarrassed later designs.

DP1 entered British Railways service in 1955 on the Euston to Liverpool route, where its performance soon put everything else in the shade. And it was only initially geared for a maximum speed of 90mph. Hopes of rapid orders soon evaporated as the London Midland Region of British Railways took the official view that the Napier Deltic was a high-revving diesel and was unsuitable for railway use.

Railway politics could have, of course, played a part. In 1956, the British Transport Commission had announced a plan to electrify the Euston to Liverpool and Manchester route by 1959. LMR would have no need of a fleet of production DP1s in this eventuality – except, even allowing for the usual slippage, this was a woefully optimistic prediction. By 1960, the Department of Transport was putting the brakes on West Coast Main Line electrification on cost grounds and it would be 1966 before electric traction reached Liverpool and Manchester from the capital.

Meanwhile, the English Electric Type 4, later known as the Class 40, had made its debut on the Eastern Region. With 2000bhp and weighing in at 133 tons, it was inferior to DP1 in every area except price. However, Gerry Fiennes, the Line Traffic Manager on the former Great Northern route out of London King’s Cross station was dissatisfied with their performance. This was a line dominated by ex-LNER steam locomotives, including the A4 streamliners, now all fitted with double chimneys, and capable of sustained 100mph running.

An A4-hauled express could reach Edinburgh from the capital with a 12-13 coach train in 6 hours 30 minutes. Fiennes realised that, in order to compete with air and road transport, higher speeds were needed, and pushed for a fleet of Deltic locomotives. Opponents of the order argued that it might retard the electrification of the East Coast Main Line, but as it turned out, Fiennes was on the money, and it would be three decades before the wires were energized between the English and Scottish capitals.

And so an order was placed in 1959 for 22 production Deltics to replace 55 steam locomotives. Eastern Region then donated their allocation of Class 40 diesels to London Midland Region to tide them over until the electrification programme was up and running.

The 22 production Deltics were all delivered between 1961 and 1962. Once in service, British Railways only Type 5 locomotive began to demonstrate its prowess, and at only 99 tons, and with a 105mph top speed, soon impressed observers. With its rapid acceleration, the Deltic could wind up quickly to 100mph on parts of the East Coast Main Line even the A4s could not match. Gradually, more and more parts of the route were cleared for 100mph running. By the mid 1960s, Deltic-hauled trains were reaching Edinburgh from London in 5 hours 55 minutes, even faster than the pre-war ‘Coronation’, a lightweight A4-hauled train.

From 1966 the previously green Deltics began to be repainted in the new corporate Rail Blue with yellow ends and were reclassified as the Class 55. By the mid-1970s, track improvements had further reduced the London to Edinburgh time to 5 hours 30 minutes, but now the West Coast Main Line had been fully electrified, reducing London to Glasgow journey times to 5 hours, and demonstrating the superiority of electric traction over diesel, the West Coast Main Line is 9 miles longer.

However, with the politicians reluctant to invest public money in electrifying the East Coast Main Line, how were the Deltics to be replaced? One solution was the one-off prototype, HS4000 Kestrel, a 133 ton diesel locomotive built by Brush Traction and evaluated by British Rail between 1968 and 1971.

Substituting for a Deltic, the ‘Kestrel’ did knock 14 minutes off a London to Newcastle diagram. However, the axle weight was deemed to be beyond the acceptable limit in order to maintain track integrity. British Rail baulked at buying production HS4000s. The solution was to divide the power between two power cars, resulting in the High Speed Train or InterCity 125. With two power cars producing 2250hp each, the HST had a combined output of 4500hp. The HST entered service on the East Coast Main Line in 1978, reducing the London to Edinburgh time further to 4 hours 45 minutes, and relegating the Deltics to less prestigious duties.

The end came in January 1982 when the class was withdrawn, its task completed. Six locomotives survived into preservation. Even during its active life the Deltic was popular with enthusiasts, fast machines are always shown favouritism. The Class 55 was an ingeneous solution to the problem of how to speed up Britain’s railways in the face of the Government’s reluctance to invest in electrification, and for that it should be remembered as a great piece of British engineering.

And now for the pictures: above is a green D9016 Gordon Highlander leaving Leeds Central in 1965, a time of Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Cliff Michelmore on the Tonight programme. Then we move on to 1974 and 55008 The Green Howards in Rail Blue blasts through Peterborough (below), when Britain had progressed to grooving to the poptastic sounds of the Wombles…



Ian Nicholls
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  1. It was always fun to go the the Cross and feel the platform vibrating under your feet when these magic machines revved up. Twin engines always create far more interesting sounds.

  2. Really enjoying these articles despite myself being a car man & never having a trainset or going train spotting!

    Many thanks, Adrian

  3. Shame that effing Thatcher flogged off BREL to the Canadians and we not buy trains from Hitachi, Alstrom, and Siemens. As the 7th largest manufacturing country in the world we need to take pride in engineering and manufacturing reather than allow politicians, bankres and the media to treat it as ‘trade’ or dumb it down. 60% are owned by non-UK companies. That shows that overseas companies value us. Also it seems that the media think that then Brompton bike, good as it is, is the zenith of UK engineering and manufacturing. Rant over…..for now.
    Deltics were fantastic btw.

    • I think the whole British Leyland saga had a catastrophic effect on confidence in British engineering and manufacturing, both in the corridors of power, with consumers and down the pub. The belief that Britain was no good at manufacturing was widespread, hence the assett stripping of what were percieved to be doomed industries and the emphasis on the service sector.
      I find it interesting that customer confidence has returned to the British motor industry in the decade since the demise of MG Rover. Could it be that without the negative publicity generated by its flagship problem child, the British motor industry will now genuinely move forward?
      By writing these diesel profiles I want to emphasise that British industry could build quality products, despite all the negative publicity elsewhere.

      • I agree I part. However engineering and manufacturing have always been treated as ‘trade’. Engineering has never been given the same kudos as the ‘traditional’ professions; law, medicine etc.. This has been the case for centuries. It is still the case in questionnaires, media reporting and the current intake of MPs. BL did indeed have an effect. However my father worked as Wolseley sales manager at BMC and saw effects of limited R&D budgets brought about by lack of investment. That lack of investment comes from the top and the lack value attributed to engineering.

        • Yes you are right. Everybody acknowledges we need more engineers. But you can’t make people take up engineering in further education if they want to be legal eagles, consultants, architects, and dare I say it, journalists. So the solution is to import them from abroad.

          • Until we treat engineers like the Germans and Japanese do we will not create that demand in education. There are not public figures who are from engineering and manufacturing in popular culture. We need to have role models and to educate the public.

          • The problem for anyone wishing to become an engineer in this country is the woeful investment by firms who claim there is a skill shortage. Engineering is a real job, you can’t just get a qualification in it or even a degree in it and do it. Compare that to better paid non-jobs, like management consultants, who can work after a weeks training.

            The problem for would be engineers is most British firms don’t want the cost of a trainee engineer. They will lose the company money initially. So companies all hire experienced staff.

            The result is, there are plenty of jobs for a pool of ageing engineers with the experience, and no way for less experienced young people to get into the profession.

            At which point under-investing British industry panics, and demands the right to import engineers from other countries.

        • A lot of truth is Engineering being “Trade”, However only in recent times, from more enlightened times the number of Engineers produced by the Public Schools, Nigel Gresley,Alex Moulton etc.

          A good- humoured summary of the world according to the beancounter by Jet Engineer Sir Stanley Hooker here:

    • Well Merlin the Irish Railways used to buy British..I think made by Vickers powered by Crossley diesels.( I am not a train spotter )
      They gave them no end of trouble. Eventually they re engined them with US Made General Motors diesels and bought GM Diesel locomotives in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
      For the Bus company they stopped buying Leyland buses and re engined that fleet with DAF engines.
      Also by reading the rest of the posts it seems these Deltics were unreliable and expensive.
      So I would say you should count yourself lucky that overseas companies have bought up some assets.
      And I think they did buy up assets to gain market share.More that some value notion.

      • Sorry Oz but it is 2015 not flipping 1960 or 1970. That is the point. We continue to think that any engineering is useless here now based upon heresay and truth of 40 years ago or more.
        Overseas companies NOW realise then rich talent here unlike what you imply in your post!!
        Just look at what Tata have done in then UK with JLR.

        • Metropolitan Vickers built a bizarre co-bo diesel with a Crossley engine for BR. Only 20 were built and they were pulled after only a decade of service. I can see that Irish railways made the wrong choice of British locomotive. Something from English Electric or Brush might have given better service.

          • IIRC the Co-Bo layout was to reduce axle loadings.

            There were some similar diesels built for Australia with an even odder wheel layout 2-Do-2.

            This was designed to run of lightly laid track.

          • The D57XX CoBo wheel arrangement, 3-axle bogie at one end with a 2-axle the other,is a very practical engineering solution, although rather odd to many eyes, the extra axle reduced the average axle loading to satisfy the Civil Engineers track restrictions, and all 5 axles were powered by a traction motor for better adhesion. The class 31 was a six axle locomotive, of which only 4 were powered, two axles were simply weight bearing idler axles.
            It is true the CoBos were unreliable due to their unproven Crosley engines, but otherwise they were said to be well-engineered Metro-Vckers products.
            Once banished to Barrow they flourished as the Drivers and Fitters adopted them and worked around their weaknesses.
            A story on the rounds from Barrow, An experienced Driver handling a CoBo in the way they kinew, when a Traction Inspector joined him in the cab and gave an order to run at full power, “Are you sure?” replied the Driver, and he promptly obeyed after which the Crosley engine expired within a few miles

          • I’ve often heard the Crossley engines had a habit of breaking valve springs, in spite of being slow revving units.

            IIRC they were based on a marine engine & were 2 stroke, but with 1 piston per cylinder.

    • The Deltics were nothing to do with BREL but Alstom did end up with English Electric (and Metro Cammell) and still make a lot of high value components here

      BREL was not sold to Bombardier but ABB but became part of them via complex pan European takeovers. the good news is that Derby is very busy at the moment.

      Siemens have high UK content with many components made in tyneside

      Finally Hitachi opened their UK factory this week. Their first in Europe.

      Rail in the UK is doing well but could be better

  4. Enjoy reading these articles of locos.
    As I live in the North West, it’s always been a rare event seeing a Deltic in the flesh.
    A couple of years ago, i visited Bury for a Diesel Gala.(East lancs railway)
    I think most (if not all) the preserved Deltics were there.
    Very popular engine too, judging by the huge number of people there.
    A really good place to visit if you’re into old railways etc.
    Really surprised by the distinctive noise the Deltics make. Like a very powerfull washing machine on high spin 🙂

  5. Actually West Coast Electrification wasn’t late. Under the modernisation plan proposals Euston/Birmingham/Manchester/Liverpool electrification was planned to complete in 1970 with East Coast Electrification to Doncaster/Leeds running in parallel. The West Coast project started first in 1956 on the Manchester to Crewe section. However escalating costs prompted the Government to “pause” both the West Coast and East Coast (by then in planning) whilst costs where reviewed. Just as the current government has done with the Transpennine and Midland mainline schemes. The result was East Coast Electrification was cancelled and all resources put behind the West Coast with a 1966 completion for the core route and 1967 for the Birmingham and Stoke loops.

    • I think BR would have liked the WCML electrification to take less than 15 years!
      My information was that BR wanted to electrify 29% of the rail network by 1980.
      I think we have reached that figure now, but of course thanks to the good Doctor and his cohorts, the network is now smaller.

        • Yeah HS4000 remains the highest powered diesel loco to run in this country.
          Last summer I did a number of stock moves between Norwich and Doncaster going mainline one way and the joint line for the other. Both these routes albeit to march were briefly routes of kestral. The loco I was using was the new Spanish built 3805bhp CAT engined vossloh. Although our new loco’s are well built with plenty of character (noise!) They still live in the shadow of HS4000

  6. “Really surprised by the distinctive noise the Deltics make. Like a very powerfull washing machine on high spin :)”

    They were a very distinctive engine – supercharged, two-stroke diesel, with an unusual layout. Easiest way to explain is to direct to Wikipedia, and watch an interesting little animation. Also shows the firing order, which must have been quite something to figure out.

    • Each Deltic had twin engines, at idle the engines the sounded like nuts and bolts being shaken in a metal pail, slightly off idle the noise would rise and fall in a low-frequency beat. Under mid-power the “nuts and bolts” changed to a smooth purposeful mellifluous tone and at high power like a circular saw cutting metal pipes.

      The 9 cylinder Baby Deltic engine (half the cylinders) is also distinctive, you may hear one under the BAby Deltic project on the web

  7. While the Deltics had a very good power to weight to ratio the running costs were high.

    A few years ago I asked on a rail site if there had been any consideration for converting them into freight locos & the reply was that they only paid their way on expresses

    With Class 56s in the pipeline I guess they would have been “non-standard” very quickly.

    • I was aware that the Deltics were not the best in terms of maintenance and servicability, but no other diesel could match their performance.

  8. The technology of the engine , to me, was reminiscent in many ways of the Commer opposed piston diesel, albeit about 15 times the size . I can still hear now the sound that both the Commer and the Deltics made, and both could be heard coming several miles away on a still night !

  9. Finsbury Park depot in north London,did have a very good reputation for the way they cared and maintained the Deltic fleet.
    Up to 1979 all the racehorse named Deltics were based at Finsbury Park,the north of England regiment named Deltics were allocated to Gateshead(Newcastle),and the Scottish regiment named Deltics were based at Haymarket(Edinburgh).
    From 1979 all remaining Deltics were allocated to York.

  10. What a lovely working scene in that second picture: a Deltic, complete with a rake of elegant, rock-solid Mark 3 stock, a Peak and a Rat. All 100% British from top to toe. We can do it when we try.

    Given the amount of respect the Deltics commanded, it’s surprising only half a dozen escaped the cutter’s torch.

    • To be pedantic they were air conditioned MK 2s.
      I started writing the ‘Peak’ profile yesterday.
      Help me I’m turning into a train anorak!

  11. There are some really great vids on Youtube of Deltics running on various heritage and main lines that capture the glorious sight and sound of these fabulous machines, even running on just one engine.

  12. It is fascinating to see the interest in these ancient British diesel locomotives.
    As related in one of the comments above many heritage railways hold diesel gala weekends.
    The popularity of these disproves the notion that diesel locomotives were austere pieces of functional engineering that had no personality. Many of us are fascinated by the engineering that goes into these locomotives, whether they are Deltics, Hymeks, Westerns, Peaks, tractors, rats or thuds. The alternate solutions to the same specification.
    Books on steam locomotives discuss superheating, cylinder size, wheel size,firebox grate size, tube size, valve gear type add infinitum. All these things only delayed the inevitable. Most diesels were superior to the steam locomotives they replaced and allowed accelerated timetables where weight restrictions had prevented the most powerful steam engines from being used.The veteran Class 47 is the prime example of this
    It is also interesting to see how many firms made diesel engines for no-road use.

  13. Ah, the usual British engineering that isn’t actually British..

    The Deltic engine was, to be blunt, nicked (licensed) from Germany (where it was found as the Jumo 20x straight six series of diesel Aero engines and was later shoe horned into boats). In its aero variants its main drawback was it didn’t do well at the variable throttle settings used in military aircraft. Napier built knockoff versions called the Culverin (named after a small cannon, apt for when they spat out pistons) making the first “deltic” by to paraphrase Dowding “bolting three of them together and praying to God”.
    They as has been said were one of the better earlier diesels but were complicated with the opposed piston and geared double crank design (1 1/2 crank per bank in Deltic configuration, two banks sharing one of the three).

  14. Apparently they also tried turbo compounding on Deltic engine using a turbine in the exhaust to regain some of the lost power. When used in the American Duplex-Cyclone these were known by engineers as Parts Recovery Turbines as the increased heat caused by back pressure from the turbine cooked the exhaust valves which the engine promptly spat out. I would imagine the sound resulting was something like a box of spanners in a spin dryer and did the engine no good at all. In the case of the Deltic-TP it’s party trick was throwing rods through the block, a talent it shared with another German engine, the DB610, which also did a fine line on frying its electrics or setting itself on fire or all three at once often within 10 minutes of starting.

  15. Many years ago I had a book out from the library of “What If” locomotives that were planned but never built.

    Most were steam but there were a few diesels & electrics.

    One being a “Super Deltic” looking like a big Class 50.

  16. A shame the Deltics only lasted 20 years, but their role was quite limited, being confined to the ECML, and once HSTs took over on most diesel routes by the early eighties, there was little scope for them elsewhere.

  17. The 88 litre Napier Deltic was a powerful if highly strung unit that provided in its day an unmatched power to weight ratio for its primary purpose as a marine prime mover. The first unit ran in 1950 and a peak power of 2500hp at 2000rpm was achieved. The railway locomotives were much fitted with much derated units to 1650hp at 1500rpm.

    It must be remembered that most fast naval craft at the time Deltic was designed used petrol engines and fuel fires were very common, so a powerful diesel engine was much safer to operate.

    The engines were manufactured in the former Napier shadow factory on the East Lancs road in Liverpool. English Electric built the famous blue prototype locomotive as a private venture in 1955 to tout around the world. In the end, only the Eastern Region were convinced and for 20 years, the 22 class 55 locomotives enabled the ECML to compete with electric WCML. A small class number, complexity and very high maintenance costs throughout their lives meant that withdrawal was inevitable once the 125 arrived in the late 70s. Funny to think that the remaining locomotives have been in preservation for far longer than in BR service.

    Being primarily of aluminium construction, it was ideally suited to use in minesweepers owing to the low ferrous signature. The Royal Navy did and I think still do use Deltic powered mine vessels.

    During the 1960s and 70s, New York Fire Department utilised a Napier Deltic as the prime mover in their “Super Pumper” system mounted on a Mack Chassis and a number of satellite pumps where large amounts of water were required.

  18. The Deltics were victims of circumstances. They were a small class, unlike the class 47, its nearest diesel rival, and had little role to fulfill after 1982. They could have been used on London- Norwich services, but would have only had a six year lifespan due to electrification, and Cross Country had largely moved to HST and Class 47 traction on their diesel routes.Also the high revving and expensive to maintain Napier engines would probably have been useless on Transpennine services where stops were frequent and line speeds down to 60 mph in places.

    • Even with electrification of the London – Norwich route, trains are little faster than the Britannia steam locos in the 50s.There is a campaign called’Norwich in 90′ aimed at getting the line upgraded.

  19. @ Ian Nicholls, the electric trains on the London- Norwich route are only ten minutes faster than diesel services were thirty years ago. I’m sure with East Anglia being a growing area of the country, and class 91s being made redundant in three years time on the ECML, an upgrade from Ipswich to Norwich to 125 mph should be considered.
    Indeed little progress has been made with improving line speeds since the seventies. The fastest you can go on any domestic service is 125 mph, if you discount some short sections of the Javelin route from Kent to St Pancras which have 140 mph running. We have 140 mph trains like the Pendolino and Class 91s de rated to 125 mph due to successive governments dithering over relatively inexpensive improvements to signalling and no doubt the ICE, which has a 140 mph capability, will be restricted to the same speed.
    Meanwhile we have the massively expensive HS2 going ahead, a possible white elephant whose costs are rising all the time and will probably end up like the rail version of Concorde,a very fast train limited to one route( rising costs will mean it will end near Birmingham).

  20. Going back to the Stanley Hooker film , it is salutary to think that 30 years after his death, his influence is still near paramount in transport engine technology, with the RB211 essentially still providing the core of the Trent variants which power so many of the world’s airline fleets of widebody aircraft . If evidence were needed that the UK is still a major player in high technology engineering , this is it

  21. Interesting article, and some very interesting comments.

    You might be interested to know that the cinematographer behind the opening titles to Get Carter is still alive, at the grand old age of 103. Wolfgang Suschitzky was an Austrian-Jewish exile whose career stretched from before the second world war until the 1980s. He is the father of Peter Suschitzky, a multi award-winning cinematographer who was DP on Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back and most recent stuff by David Croenenberg.

    Wolfgang was also the cameraman/ DP on one of the best short documentaries made by the BFI – ‘Snow’, with a similarly rail-heavy theme. You can see some similarities to the Get Carter titles!


    The Get Carter opener made extensive use of small cine cameras and – I think – an early steadicam; the logistics of getting some of the shots within the tight confines of BR rolling stock would have been a serious challenge! See it here:

  22. For anyone interested in the reality of operating the Deltics, other than the various myths that have grown up around them, I heartily recommend trying to get hold of a copy of ‘Deltics at Work’ by Allan Baker and Gavin Morrison, which is a vastly more in-depth look at the subject than the usual picture-and-caption railway books. Allan Baker had been in charge of Finsbury Park depot during the late 1970s and Gavin Morrison is one of the finest and most prolific railway photographers. Baker describes how ‘pre-emptive’ maintenance pretty much started with trying to keep the Deltic fleet moving, including such aviation-led innovations as metallurgical analysis of waste oil to monitor wear rates on the engines and also ‘hot swapping’ power units with spare engine and generator sets that were kept at Doncaster.

    The result was that the Deltics enjoyed remarkable availability rates and ran some diagrams that required them to cover nearly as many miles as the later HST sets, but at the cost of a complicated and expensive maintenance regime. No serious thought was given to re-using them beyond the end of ECML service, although they did get to cover a few Trans-Pennine workings in the late 1970s alongside semi-fasts and sleepers on the ECML (after the HSTs were introduced). I can remember seeing a Deltic starting up Miles Platting Bank out of Manchester Victoria after standing idling for 10 minutes. There was so much smoke that I couldn’t see the other side of the platform!)

    They were one of the most ‘followed’ locomotives among the proto-basher movement in the 1970s and early 1980s, with their popularity clear in this footage from the the final day of working in 1982. Very few of us guessed that they would ever return to the mainline!

  23. The problem with British Engineering is British Management. Thats why some of the world’s best engineering designers are actually still British. If you look at Honda, Nissan and Toyota they have proven that British Engineering is excellent with the right structures in place. British management try to take short cuts and hide mistakes. Germans and Japanese dont do this. An example is from the 80s when my father visited Ford’s Cologne plant as part of a work exchange. When something was found to be wrong, Cologne shut the line down, fixed the problem and started it back up. Dagenham just shunted the cars into a repair area and continued the line. The line only stopped and the problem fixed when the repair area was full!

    • Toyota called this system “Kanban”, something gets flagged up by ANY employee, they stop the line, they review what has gone wrong, address it.

      They have a “Kaizen” to figure out what improvements can be made.

      It is a model that a number of software companies have adopted.

      Whereas the old “shove it in a corner and address it later” is more the traditional waterfall development.

      • Kanban is more the whole process, from making sure the parts needed arrive at the right time to the delivery of the end product. Many companies try to follow this method but fail. A perfect example is CNH. If you drive past their factory in Basildon you will see a load of tractors siting next to the road. Many believe that they are awaiting delivery but the truth is their Kanban management systems do not work a large amount of the time so essential parts do not arrive in time – hence the parked up tractors!

        • Yep, Kanban is JIT (Just In Time) but it also incorporates the Kaizen improvements / stop the line on defects, which is why it is also a powerful process for software.

          The tutorials sell it as “This is how Toyota became so powerful”, just before the major recalls of a few years ago, and I owned a gen7 Celica which had huge quality issues (including the VVTi oil sludge catastrophic defect!)

  24. Sir Stanley Hooker was largely reponsible for most of the major British jet engines produced since the war when Sir Frank Whittle went in with Rolls Royce.

    The former Hawker test pilot, Squadron Leader Bill Bedford was quoted as saying that he rated Hooker as of higher significance to this country than even Brunel.

    Hooker came out of retirement in February 1971 with former colleagues Arthur Rubbra, Cyril Lovesey and Lionel Howarth when Rolls went bankrupt developing the RB211 bypass turbofan. Their efforts put RR back on a secure technical footing after the Heath government nationalised the company to ensure its survival.

    Hooker’s bigraphy “Not much of an Engineer” is well recommended. We could do with a few more like him today.

  25. Another classic case of the shortcuts British engineering took was when Rank( manufacturers of Bush televisions) sold their television factory to Toshiba in 1981. Rank would simply throw away a poor component and replace it, with no investigation into why the component was so poor, and hope for the best, meaning their televisions had such a poor reputation among consumers and repairmen. Toshiba would analyse why the component, or slack practices in the factory, were causing such big problems and either improve it or replace it. The result was the televisions produced by Toshiba in the factory were of far higher quality and having owned two, these seemed to be extremely durable and didn’t involve a call to Radio Rentals every month.

    OTOH Toshiba moved all the production from Plymouth to Eastern Europe seven years ago as the labour rates were cheaper. Possibly a sign of the times, but I wonder if Toshiba’s quality will be any better.

  26. VW had quite a few ads in the USA during the 1960s making a big point of how much effort they put into QC.

    Checking every component rather than spot-checking 1 in batch was one, along with having more QC testers than cars made in a day (3000+).

    As this around the time of Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe At Any Speed” I guess the “Big 3” didn’t go into anything as intense.

  27. @ Richard Davies, but could a Beetle survive a collision with the vast majority of cars in America at the time, which were generally huge with V8 engines? Also the Beetle was withdrawn in the early seventies due to its problems with emissions and being unsafe. It might have been a cheap, no frills car, but by the seventies it was terribly old fashioned and Volkswagen’s dependence on it nearly put them out of business. I’d much rather have a crash in a 1970 Chevrolet than a Beetle.

  28. I’m not really a railway fanatic, but I have worked all my life in and around engineering design. The Deltic seems to me, like many other British engineering developments (yes, the original engine design came from Junkers), to be something of a flawed genius – in this case the need for almost aerospace levels of maintenance. Having lived in North London for a while at the end of the 70s whilst attending university, I well remember standing on Oakleigh Park station platform when Deltic-hauled trains would burst from from the Bounds Green tunnel some 800 metres away and throttle up as they did so. The memory of that haunting howl still makes the hairs on my neck stand up nearly 40 years later….

  29. The Deltics revolutionised travel on the ECML when the line was facing increased competition from the M1 and a vastly improved A1 and cheaper coach travel( air travel wasn’t such a big deal in the sixties). They took over an hour off Newcastle to London journeys compared with steam and later on were used in conjunction with Mark 2 carriages with air conditioning, something most cars and coaches lacked.

  30. Hello, can anyone tell me the specific pitch (musical note) that a deltic makes iddling? I used to stand next to then as a child and feel their vibration through my body. I’d like to replicate that in music.

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