Written by: TrainSim-James
Coming soon to Train Simulator, the Western Hydraulics Pack propels the Riviera Line in the Fifties into the clag-filled and characterful 1960s!
Following the publication of the 1955 Modernisation Plan, all regions of British Railways were required to eventually abolish their steam locomotives in place for a whole new generation of rail traction, the diesel engine. Most of the network opted for diesel-electric technology for their locomotives, the Western Region however took a different approach with their early diesels, and turned towards hydraulic transmission…
One of the locomotives produced for the Western Region was the BR Class 35, which was built by Beyer Peacock (Hymek) Ltd between 1961 and 1964 as a single engine, mixed-traffic, diesel-hydraulic locomotive for use out of Bristol, Cardiff, and London. The Class 35 would fill the roles of secondary passenger and freight services left vacant by a disappearing fleet of steam locos.
A total of 101 Class 35 diesels were built, and were quickly put to work on local and semi-fast passenger services in the west of England and out of London Paddington. None of the locos built were named, so the Class 35s adopted Hymek as a suitable nickname. Despite only having a single Maybach engine, the Class 35s could rather effectively haul trains at upwards of 90mph, and it wasn’t long until they were trialled on main line expresses, which they could haul, but would soon be replaced by more powerful hydraulic locomotives.
After a few years of service, the Class 35s were taking care of inter-regional workings, however their unique diesel-hydraulic nature meant most other drivers in the rest of the country were not trained to handle them, so the 35s were timetabled to get out and back in the Western region with haste.
One location where the Class 35s both excelled and suffered was the Lickey Incline, 3 locomotives working in multiple (which required two drivers) would often serve as bankers helping other trains over the peak. A problem soon arose as 35s would constantly try to change gears on the incline, causing accelerated wear; BR fixed the issue by locking out first gear in the A cab and ensuring that cab was always in front when on the way up.
By the 1970s, the rush of modernisation had come to a slow, diesel locomotives were no longer needed so quickly, and more standardised designs were favoured over anything else. Diesel-Hydraulic traction was deemed non-standard, and the Class 35s were forced to retire after only 10 years of service. Of the 101 locomotives built, only 4 survived into preservation.
While the Hymeks were ideal for bulking out the medium power roles, BR’s Western Region also required locomotives that could perform on the main line, replacing the mighty King and Castle classes, and also be relatively light to save fuel on the ruling gradients between Exeter and Plymouth.
By the mid-1950s, diesel-hydraulic transmission was still in its earlier days, and the leading experts were of West Germany. At this time, buying in locomotives from abroad was unheard of, and attempting to do so from a German company, so soon after the Second World War, was an absolute no. Instead, a licence agreement between BR’s Western Region and German manufacturers was reached, where the Germans would design a scaled-down V200 type diesel locomotive, and the British would build it.
Therefore, the Western Region’s new locomotives started to take shape, Maybach engines of German design were constructed by Bristol Siddeley, and the final locos were brought to life at Swindon Works. The resulting locomotive bared uncanny resemblance to the German V200, but there was no denying, with 2 Maybach engines each, that these hydraulic 90mph leviathans would be able to dominate the hill-bound western expresses.
A total of 38 locomotives, which would be classified as the Class 42, were produced between 1958 and 1961. Each locomotive was named after a Royal Navy vessel, and so it was not long until they were collectively known as the Warship Class. In 1960, a second batch of Warships were built by North British Locomotives and featured differing equipment, the North British batch was to become the Class 43 (not to be confused with the more modern Class 43 ‘HST’).
Much like the Hymeks, the Warship fleet spent roughly 10 years working on trains in and out of Paddington, heading crack expresses such as the Cornish Riviera Express and The Bristolian. For a time, the Warships also worked out of London Waterloo, providing semi-fasts to Exeter. However, when all diesel-hydraulic locomotives were deemed non-standard, the Warships too fell to the cutters torch with only 2 surviving today.
Warships were not the only locomotives derived from a German design, when the Western Region required even more powerful traction for top-link services, a larger variant of the Warship was built. The new fleet of 74 locomotives featured a C-C wheel configuration, as opposed to the Warships’ B-B, and housed two engines of a higher combined horsepower, resulting in a much higher maximum tractive effort.
Each locomotive was named some heraldic term prefixed by the word ‘Western’, hence the given name for the fleet, the locomotives would also be classified as the Class 52. In service, the Westerns were able to provide the power that the Hymeks and Warships could not, and were the staple traction at London Paddington throughout the late 1960s and 1970s.
All diesel-hydraulic locomotives of the Western Region could obtain a maximum speed of 90mph, however reports of 102, and 110 mph were recorded from Western locomotives. There was no denying that the Westerns were among the most powerful hydraulic transmission locomotives, but they also began to show their shortfalls in comparison to the more widespread diesel-electric traction.
Out of all the Hymeks, Warships and Westerns, the latter would be the last to remain in service on the Western Region, lasting until 1977 when displaced Class 50s and the introduction of the High Speed Train sparked their final demise. A majority of the Westerns were scrapped, however they remain the most prolific British diesel-hydraulic locomotive in preservation with 7 examples either operational, undergoing overhaul or on static display to this day.
The BR Class 52 ‘Western, along with the BR Class 42 ‘Warship’ and BR Class 35 ‘Hymek’, will be coming soon to Train Simulator as they were in the 1960s, in a multitude of classic liveries, to bring the Riviera Line in the Fifties into the roaring diesel age! ■