British Railways D800 "Warship" Class John Speller's Web Pages British Railways D800 "Warship" Class2-6-2T

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The Western Region of British Railways fixed upon hydraulic transmission with lightweight alloy construction for its new diesel locomotives to replace the Great Western “Castle” and “King” classes of steam locomotives. They obtained a license to scale down the German Federal Railway's "V200" Class of 1953 to suit the smaller loading gauge of the British network. The body and frame of these locomotives were made of a heat-treated high strength alloy of aluminium produced by ICI under the brand name of Kynal. Intended primarily for aeroplane fusilages, the alloy consisted of 94.15% aluminium, 4% copper, 0.85% magnesium, 0.6% manganese and 0.5% silicon. Each locomotive was powered by two Maybach 1135 hp engines coupled to Mekeydro hydraulic transmissions. Although these diesel engines were of German Maybach design, as used in the "V200" Class, they were manufactured under licence by Bristol-Siddeley at their factory in Filton near Bristol. The Swindon-built locomotives were constructed between 1958 and 1961 and numbered D800 to D832. They had a maximum tractive effort of 52,400 lb. These locomotives were substantially lighter than previous diesel-electric designs weighing less than 80 tons compared with 138 tons for a “Peak” Class locomotive. This meant that they only needed 8 wheels to carry the weight within the permitted axle loading. The maximum speed of the D800 class was officially 90 mph, but speeds in excess of 100 mph were achieved, including regularly on the “Bristolian.” They eventually became British Rail Class 42, although they were scrapped before carrying their new numbers.

From 1960 onwards 33 additional locomotives, D833–865, were constructed by the North British Locomotive Company and became Class 43, but these proved less satisfactory than the Swindon engines and difficulty was experienced obtaining parts after the bankrupcty of the North British Locomotive Company, so they were mostly withdrawn earlier than the Swindon-built engines.

By the early 1970s the Western Region's diesel-hydraulic locomotives were deemed "non standard" by British Rail, and all were withdrawn by 1972. This is a shame because they were, in my opinion, much superior to the standard "Brush Type 4"/ Class 47 diesel-electrics, and could well have had a much longer life. Some of the equivalent "V200" locomotives remained in service on German Federal Railways until 1993, suggesting that the "Warship" Class might have done likewise.

A recent video of preserved D832 “Onslaught” may be seen here.

D829 'Magpie' waits at Paddington in 1961 Image © Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License
Preserved "Warship" Class locomotive D832 'Onslaught.' Image © Jamiem2001 and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons SA License
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