From Thursday 8th to Saturday 10th June, the West Somerset Railway will be staging another of its popular special events.
This one celebrates historic diesel locomotives and star of the show will be 62-year-old Deltic locomotive No 55009. The Deltic class of locomotives were designed for high speed running with express passenger trains, and operated mainly on the East Coast mainline, between London (King’s Cross), Newcastle and Edinburgh. When they were first introduced they had quite a lot to live up to because they replaced the A4 streamlined Pacific steam locomotives.
But over the years the diesel electric Deltic locomotives made a real name for themselves, running reliably at high speeds. Built by English Electric in 1961, 55009 was based at Finsbury Park depot in North London. Following East Coast tradition, 55009 is named after the racehorse Alycidon and the characteristic “Deltic roar” will be heard in West Somerset for those three days. 55009 will be working no less than two round trips each day during the festival and this will be the first chance to travel behind 55009 during 2023. She is normally based at Barrow Hill near Sheffield and can be seen on rail tours on the mainline from time to time.
Another mainline visitor will be Class 50 locomotive no. 50008 Thunderer. 50008 was built in 1968 by English Electric. 50008 was originally seen heading express passenger trains on the West Coast Mainline between Crewe and Glasgow. Following electrification of the West Coast mainline, most Class 50 locomotives (including 50008) moved to the Great Western main line and subsequently to the line from London (Waterloo) to Exeter. Although withdrawn from regular mainline service in 1992, 50008 is still active on the mainline occasionally today and can be seen on a variety of rail tours and other work.
Class 25 diesel locomotive No D7659 will be visiting from Peak Rail in Derbyshire. D7659 came back into service during the latter part of 2021 for the first time in more than 23 years following a comprehensive restoration that effectively saw the 1966 loco rebuilt. As the final locomotive built by Beyer Peacock at Gorton Works in Manchester, D7659 saw just over 20 years work with British Railways mostly in the Midlands and Northwest and also in Wales and Scotland.
Another visitor will be Class 33 No 33002. This is the oldest surviving Class 33 “Crompton” in preservation and currently resides at the South Devon Railway running between Buckfastleigh and Totnes. The locomotive was built at Smethwick in 1959 to be utilised for British Railways on the Southern region where it could be found on various passenger and freight workings. It was restored to working order in 2008 by the South Devon Diesel Traction group. This Class 33 will join the two West Somerset Railway resident Class 33 locomotives, D6566 and D6575.
Class 14 No. D9551 will be making a welcome return to the West Somerset Railway in memory of a DEPG Member and volunteer Simon Purvis who sadly passed away recently after a short illness.
D9551 entered service in September 1965 following the design of BR(W) and was based at Cardiff Canton. Following on from a move to Hull Dairycoates in 1967, the locomotive was withdrawn from service in 1968 after just 2 years and 7 months in service. In 1981 the locomotive was purchased for preservation by the 'Railway Power Services', a group formed from a consortium of West Somerset Railway and DEPG members. It arrived on the WSR from BSC Corby and entered service on 7 June 1981. While D9551 was based at the WSR it was used on works trains and passenger services, particularly the 'Quantock Belle' dining trains. Nowadays the locomotive is in ownership SVR Class 14 Company Limited and can be seen running on the Severn Valley Railway.
During the event the Class 14s will be carrying a wreath and special headboard in memory of Simon who was very well respected both within the DEPG and throughout the heritage railway sector for his vast and detailed knowledge of the Class 14s.
The visiting locomotives will be working alongside the various residents, which are maintained by the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group based at Williton. The DEPG works and depot at Williton will be open for visitors during the Festival, and there will also be a variety of display and shop stands maintained by various preservation groups.
Advanced tickets for the festival can be obtained at https://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/events/detail/summer-diesel-festival or by phoning 01643 704996.