Preston Station - Past & Present

The 1960s was a decade of great change on Britain's railways. The well-documented death of steam in August 1968 was made possible by two things; the closure of large numbers of lines and stations, and the introduction of diesel traction. BR's Modernisation Plan is often mentioned in the same breath as the Beeching Cuts, but the former was really the pre-cursor to the infamous doctor's report on the railways. The Modernisation Plan was intended to restore the network to profitability after many years of decline which were amplified by the Second World War. The report called for several measures including the closure of a small number of lines, but more importantly called for the replacement of steam traction by diesel and electric locomotives. A huge range of locomotives were ordered from numerous builders in differing designs, many of which were hastily thrown together by companies with little or no experience in the field. The result was a very mixed bag of types, some of which proved very successful, while some were not. There were therefore some types of locomotive which only saw short careers on the main line, before being consigned to the scrap heap or perhaps finding further use in private ownership. It is ironic and perhaps indicative of the misguided nature of the Modernisation Plan that some of these locomotives failed to out-last the steam locos they were intended to replace.

In addition to the short-lived production types, there were also a small number of prototype locos which were intended to prove new designs before starting full production. This page is a home for photographs of these diesel oddities which at some point visited Preston. All were taken by Tony Gillett, a railwayman who carried his camera with him and captured these rare shots.

DP1 "Deltic"
Most famous of the prototype diesels was DELTIC or DP1 which was built by English Electric at their Dick Kerr works in Preston. That loco, which is now part of the National Collection (currently at the NRM's Shildon outpost), was successful enough to lead to the manufacture of 22 production locomotives, which took over from the Gresley A4s on the East Coast Main Line. Sadly, I don't have a photo of DELTIC at Preston, although there are some published photos which I can't reproduce for copyright reasons.



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Resembling a steam tender engine, this was perhaps the oddest of the diesel prototypes, but arguably the best-looking! The locomotive was built at the Vulcan Foundry, based on the chassis of a Black 5 steam loco, with a 4-6-0 wheel arrangement and a 2,700 HP gas turbine engine. The "tender" was the diesel fuel tank and completed the steam-engine look to the machine, which was finished in a striking red-oxide livery.

These photos show GT3 at Preston on 20th October 1961, probably during tests which were carried out over Shap. Ultimately, BR decided not to pursue gas-turbine technology and GT3 was returned to English Electric in 1962 just a year after it was built. It was finally scrapped 4 years later.

Photos : Tony Gillett 20/10/1961

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"Diesel Prototype 2" was the prototype for what became the Class 50s. The different body-side grilles are the giveaway that this isn't a production Deltic, but it is said that the body for DP2 was "stolen" straight off the Deltic production-line.

Photos : Tony Gillett 15/12/1962

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Metrovick (class 28)
Probably the oddest of all the pilot scheme diesels, the class 28s never had a good reputation for reliability. Neither were they the best-looking of locos, with their slab-fronted "face" and odd bogies - one 4-wheel and one 6-wheel (Bo-Co). For a short while these machines were quite common at Preston and to the north, but they were an early casualty and by 1969 all had been withdrawn after just 10 years of service. Miraculously, one of the class survived in departmental use long enough to be preserved, and is now undergoing restoration at the East Lancs Railway.

Photo : Tony Gillett 24/08/1962

Warship (class 43)
OK, this probably doesn't belong on this page, but by any measure, a "Warship" is a rare visitor to Preston no matter what year it is. This example, D845 Spritely looks to be in ex-works condition. The photo dates from March 1961, so it is probably on its way from the North British Locomotive Co. to its new home at Swindon.

Photo : Tony Gillett 2/3/1961