Deltic and Vulcan Works

Walking around a 2000hp Type 4 (class 40) at the mouth of the Woodhead tunnel, checking to see that it’s bearing were not overheating was for a 20 year old apprentice a privileged experience.
As a young member of the Vulcan Foundry Locomotive Test Department asked to accompany such a formidable machine on its first run from the factory to delivery to British Rail was indeed a privilege.
My association with this particular locomotive had been several weeks earlier, when during a night shift I had carried out a “ringing out” of the electrical system. (using a fairly primitive bell to check that the electrics had been connected correctly). My next encounter with the loco was when it was delivered into the test department, a complete build except for its final paintwork but still requiring all it’s functions testing. The loco test teams consisted of 5 or 6 team members headed by a senior tester with each team responsible for a particular locomotive.
The engine was checked, oiled and moving parts rotated, all other components tested and when finally satisfactory results were achieved the locomotive was fired up. At this stage the driving motors had been disconnected to enable the testing of all electrical and mechanical components. The resultant performance figures were essential for verification purposes.
A particular memory remains of the number of ear plugs and various items sucked out of overall pockets whilst taking fan tachometer readings.
This procedure was carried out on every locomotive prior to movement on the factory railway system but special arrangements were carried out on every new model.
Together with the aforementioned each new model was put through severe endurance test procedures. The test team were literally locked in the locomotive with all windows, air vents and doors sealed and the machine was run on top load for 4 hours (known as the heat run).
Reading were taken every minute for temperatures, electrical outputs and machine oscillations. This was then followed by a 200 hour test whereby the engine load was taken from idle through to full load every minute for the duration of the test. One can possibly imagine doing a 12 hour shift going home and throughout ones sleep hearing the constant rise and dwell of the engine.
Finally of, course, the locomotive was driven out of the test shed and having passed it’s objectives was finally painted and prepared for delivery.
Hence the honour of delivering one of these beauties to British Rail, or rather accompanying since the machine had to driven by a British Rail driver.
Type 4s (class 40) were my particular favourite because I worked on so many of them and whenever I see a picture of one I instantly recognise a particular part that I manufactured.
The Deltic, probably, one of the most recognised of diesel electrics locomotives always plucks the heart strings. Whilst it was housed at Vulcan prior to its dispatch to the Science Museum it was the forerunner of the Type 5s (class 55).
I was quite privileged to work on every one of them from helping to manufacture some of the subsections to working on test. The ultimate experience surely for any apprentice was reaching across a Napier engine taking readings only to see the same engine returned to the works with a piston failure. It doesn’t really bear thinking about.
The “Deltic’s”, however, were most formidable machines and it is especially pleasing to see so many of them being preserved.
A good variety of locos were manufactured while I was there, Type 3s (class 37), locomotives for Rhodesia and Poland and with the beginning of the era of electric locomotives British Rail type 86 and 87. The Polish locos were particularly difficult to work on with aluminium brake pipes which I remember were hard to make satisfactory joints.
My apprenticeship started in September of 1958, four months in the training school, making the tools that would be required as I passed through my Vulcan working life. From there to a lengthy stint in the fitting shop, the marking out and fabricating section where I made scores of Type 4 buffer beams (my recognised item mentioned previously). On passing my ONC in mechanical engineering I was rewarded with a technical apprenticeship and a programme of work in many of the departments of the works.
Again a special memory of a couple of months spent in the Standards Department checking machine tools and using a variety of techniques to very exacting tolerances.
My time in the test department was, however, the highlight of my 5 years at Vulcan Foundry.
Deltic was always a legend at Vulcan Foundry. Whilst the engine had been built at The Preston factory, Vulcan was a renowned locomotive manufacturer and as the works became part of English Electric Group it was natural that DP1 would be attached to Vulcan. The locomotive had served on British Rail for a number of years but engine failure eventually resulted in withdrawal from service.
The powder blue paintwork with cream strips had been a clear indication of here is something different, something unusual, something not to be missed and a real stab at freshness of thought.
Deltic was housed in one of the paint booths and for some time it was thought that it would be sent to America for promotional purposes.
It was in this location that I first encountered Deltic and some work went on to preserve the locomotive.
Eventually it was decided that a return to some sort of service was out of the question and the decision to donate the locomotive was given. Some cosmetic work was carried out and maintenance with safety in mind so that the engine could be presented in a proper manner.
The locomotive was duly loaded on to a vehicle for transportation to London and it was dispatched from the works by a very large crowd with great sadness.
Deltic, with its 3300 hp engines was too good a thing to miss for British Rail, the locomotive could do the work of several steam engines, was more efficient and therefore a cheaper option.
Hence the decision to build 22 similar machines, albeit with a more effective power unit more suited to railways.
The headlight used on the DP1 was removed (the headlight had been on Deltic because it was thought that America would be a market).
The use of 2 engines and therefore 2 power generators together with a steam generator for train heating meant that the body of the locomotive was going to be extremely compact. This, of course, proved to be the point, movement in the engine room was precarious at times.
It was very hot when on test especially when performing for long periods under heavy load conditions. The Napier engine had been, perhaps, problematic, it was revolutionary with its complicated opposing piston movement, new but you could say inspirational.
Deltic had been inspirational, a locomotive that encouraged rail people to look out for it, to plan to visit wherever it appeared. Here were 22 of them, exciting beasts of machines with their own particular heartbeat their own strong presence and what power.
To be part of the manufacture, to be part of testing them was exciting, especially for an apprenticed engineer. There could have been no more exciting diesel electric locomotive on British Rail at that time as is quite apparent by the number of preserved models. Long may they reign and long may Deltic be admired and coveted.
Apprenticeships in engineering are surely worth their weight in gold, a path I am glad I took and one I would recommend heartily to any aspiring teenager.
Vernon BroadhurstDELTIC PRESTON 2