Watercress Line

Diesel Gala returns with impressive line-up of historic locomotives

On 1-3 June we will be welcoming a huge array of historic diesel engines, as part of its annual Diesel Gala, including BR Class 20 Bo-Bo diesel-electric locomotives D8001 (20001), D8059 (20059), and Class 26 Bo-Bo diesel-electric locomotive D5343 (26043).

D8001 (20001) was built by English Electric (EE) in 1957 at the Vulcan Foundry in Newton le Willows and was one of a prototype batch of Class 20 locomotives which owed its origins to the 1955 modernisation plan, in which manufacturers were asked to produce trial builds for evaluation. The design was based on one which EE had designed for export and consequently proved extremely successful at home. The prototype batch was first allocated to Devons Road Depot in London (which was the first purpose built diesel depot in the UK) and the locomotives of this class were eventually used throughout almost the entire network. D8001 worked in the construction of the Channel Tunnel and was for some time at the Midland Railway Centre, Butterley. This loco also had a brief spell at Washwood Heath in 2011 for an engine overhaul.

D8059 (20059) was formerly known as an English Electric Type 1. Weighing 73 tonnes and delivering 1,000 horsepower, it was designed to work light mixed freight traffic at up to 75

mph. It has the well-used nickname of “Chopper”, due to the distinctive engine beat under load which resembles the sound of a helicopter. The locomotive became known as 20059, having been renumbered in 1973 under TOPS and is owned by the Somerset and Dorset Locomotive Company and currently based on the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway.

D5343 (26043) was one of a class of 47 locomotives built by the Birmingham Railway & Carriage Works in Smethwick, entering service in October 1959 numbered D5343 and painted in all over BR green livery with white waist level stripe and white window surrounds.

The loco weighs 75 tons and its Sulzer 6 cylinder 6LDA28 power unit develops 1160hp. An erstwhile Scottish locomotive, initially it was allocated to Haymarket depot and during its career spent periods at Dundee and Eastfield. However for the largest part of its working life it was allocated to Inverness depot, operating passenger and freight services over the far north lines to Wick, Thurso and Kyle of Lochalsh.

In January 1974, D5343, by now painted in BR blue livery, was renumbered 26043 under the TOPS (Total Operations Processing System) scheme. Then in May 1985 it received a Heavy General Overhaul and lost its steam heating boiler and water tanks in favour of air brakes and associated equipment.

The next few years were spent officially as a freight only machine and in 1990 it was painted in the Civil Engineers livery of ‘dutch’ grey and yellow. During January 1993, whilst allocated to snow clearance duties between Perth and Blair Atholl, 26043 suffered a power earth fault. Repairs were not authorised and it was withdrawn on 19th January 1993. Initially stored at Perth, it was then moved to MC Metals in Glasgow for asbestos insulation removal, which entailed major dismantling of the cab interiors. The loco was then purchased by the Cotswold Mainline Diesel Group in late 1993 and it arrived at Toddington, on the Gloucester & Warwickshire Railway in April 1994 where the locomotive is based.

This will be the first time a Class 26 has ever operated over the Mid Hants Railway!

The gala will also feature Home Fleet locomotives, including 03197, 08377, 33202 ‘Dennis G Robinson’, 47579 ‘James Nightall GC’ (operating its first passenger trains on the railway over the weekend), and 50027 ‘Lion’.

Tickets cost £25 for adults and £13 for children with discounted family packages available. To find out more, including diesel engine, parking and ticket information, please click here