FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Deltic double-up at the Bluebell

Posted in East Grinstead, England, Horsted Keynes by folkestonejack on April 18, 2015

In the 1960s and 1970s class 55 diesels, better known as Deltics, ruled the East Coast main line, hauling express trains between King’s Cross and Edinburgh. The introduction of just 22 Deltics had been sufficient to see off 55 steam locomotives, including 35 streamlined A4 pacifics. Although some found it hard to forgive the Deltics for supplanting such majestic machines, many were soon won over by their impressive appearance and distinctive growl.

D9009 Alycidon amidst the primroses on the approach to Horsted Keynes

D9009 Alycidon amidst the primroses on the approach to Horsted Keynes

The last passenger services hauled by Deltics took place on December 31st 1981, followed by a farewell gathering at Doncaster Works that pulled in vast crowds. Thankfully, six Deltics were preserved and this has given ample opportunity for later generations to be wowed. This is something that I appreciate as I didn’t get much chance to see or appreciate them first time round!

It is surprising how often I have heard steam enthusiasts refer to the Deltics as ‘honorary steam locomotives’ and accord them a status that they wouldn’t dream of giving to any other diesel or electric locomotive, so it seems appropriate that two of these machines have visited the Bluebell Railway, until recently a steam-only bastion, for this weekend’s diesel gala.

Two of the locomotives owned by the Deltic Preservation Society, 55019 Royal Highland Fusilier and D9009 Alycidon, operated the entire weekend’s services between them. I took the first service out of East Grinstead today and enjoyed a good few hours photographing them in and around Horsted Keynes.

55019 Royal Highland Fusilier hauls a late morning service away from Horsted Keynes

55019 Royal Highland Fusilier hauls a late morning service away from Horsted Keynes

It was a great day to be out and about – blue sky, sun and an abundance of primroses at the lineside making for some interesting shots. Admittedly, the Deltics looked somewhat incongruous running through Horsted Keynes, a station which presents a scene plucked out of the 1920s, but it was fun to see nevertheless. I could even see the appeal of the sound too, particularly as it echoed around Sharpthorne Tunnel on my journey back to East Grinstead.

Thanks to everyone at the Bluebell Railway and the Deltic Preservation Society for bringing the Deltics back to Sussex for the first time in over a decade. The packed trains, some with standing room only, and encouraging conversations all around me suggested that it was a much appreciated event. The Deltics are now expected to leave the railway on Tuesday morning with a mid-morning run to the Severn Valley Railway.

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