The brand new N-gauge model of the English Electric Class 40, a transition-era diesel-electric locomotive, which worked alongside steam traction, is described by Nigel Burkin.
English Electric Class 40s are a symbol of the transition years when BR began to make a concerted effort to replace steam traction with diesel electric locomotives.
Introduced between 1958 and 1962, the Class 40 was constructed as an express passenger locomotive for use on top link routes including the Anglia, West Coast and East Coast main lines and is documented as the first BR main line diesel to be procured for such roles.
Ten pilot scheme locomotives were ordered numbered D200-D209 to assess their suitability as replacements for high-powered main line steam locomotives. A further order for 190 locomotives was placed numbered D211-D399, despite opposition from some managers who considered them under-powered for the role they were expected to fulfil.
Class 40s performed well for the most part. However, a 2000hp locomotive tipping the scales at more than 130 tons and riding on basic plate frame bogies was never going to be able to sustain the high-speed running with heavy trains over long distances that large steam locomotives were capable of.
The East Coast and Anglia main line soon saw the introduction of lighter, more powerful locomotives, (the ECML refusing further deliveries of Class 40s) allowing Class 40s to be concentrated on the West Coast main line where the line profile and generally lower speeds played to their strengths.
Class 40s are large locomotives, nearly 70ft long and with a 1Co-Co1 wheel arrangement – the figure 1 denoting load-bearing wheels, such was the weight of them.
They were soon displaced to secondary duties, primarily in the north and west of the UK. Passenger services in Scotland and North Wales continued to see them used on a regular basis.
Until the end of steam, Class 40s finished in plain green livery with grey painted roofs were to be found working alongside many older designs of steam locomotive on secondary and freight duties making the green-liveried versions of the new Graham Farish model particularly useful for late BR steam-era layout themes.
Withdrawal started in 1976, not that long after the last BR steam train ran. Problems with the bogies, the lack of spares and further introductions of lighter, more powerful locomotives, both diesel and electric, fitted with air brakes and electric train heating, saw the steam heat and often vacuum brake-only Class 40s sent to the breakers’ yard.
However, it remains a popular class of transition-era locomotive which had a large following of fans who chased them around the country where they could turn up unexpectedly (many parts of the Southern Region being the exception).
They appeared on almost any duty in the North West including mail and parcels trains; ballast workings, revenue freight and deputising for other locomotive classes.
Their popularity saw seven Class 40s preserved on heritage railways together with D200, which is part of the National Collection. One Class 40 sees regular main line use: No. 40 145 being a popular choice for rail tours and charter trains.
For the full article, see December’s edition of Modelling – available now!
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