Thursday, December 16, 2010

Baby Talk

Another in a veritable rash of new OO gauge locomotives that are due out in the near or very near future is Heljan's model of a Class 23. This model, I believe, was due for release in November of this year but has been delayed slightly. However, its arrival on the shelves is, I believe, imminent.
Just ten of this short-lived class of diesel were built by the English Electric Company in 1959. It was fitted a Napier Deltic T9-29, 9-cylinder engine of 1,100 bhp (820 kW), driving an EE generator which, in turn, powered the four traction motors. They were numbered from D5900 to D5909.
The T9-29 diesel engine was a single, half-sized version of the ones used in the Class 55 Deltics  and this, together with the similar overall design and external appearance of the Class 23 to that of the Class 55 led to their nickname of Baby Deltic.
The locos entered service between April and June 1959 and were primarily used to haul suburban services around Kings Cross.
Unfortunately, reliability problems plagued the fleet such that, in the early to mid 1960s, a programme of refurbishment and modification took place which improved reliability enormously - apart from, that is, continuing problems with the coolant system.
However, in the late 1960's, BR introduced its "National Traction Plan" in which the idea was to rationalize the types of diesel locomotives in traffic and, in so doing, reduce servicing costs. From this it was clear that a fleet of only ten locomotives, and problematic ones at that, would be a definite candidate for an early demise and so it was that, between 1968 and 1971, the entire fleet was withdrawn from traffic.
Sadly none of the fleet was saved for preservation and all were duly scrapped, the last (D5901) being cut up in 1977.
Fortunately, though, that is not the end of the story because the engine and generator from D5901 was saved and is with the Deltic Preservation Society who installed it into Class 37 37372. Then, in September of this year, the Baby Deltic Project announced that they intended to recreate a replica Class 23 by rebuilding the body of 37372 and mounting it on a set of bogies from a  Class 20.
So let us hope that the Class 23 will soon live again and we can once again be hauled by a Baby Deltic!

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