Summer of 1960 - Arrival of Diesel Power on the ECML

John Furnevel

The BR modernisation plan, announced in 1955, paved the way for the changeover from steam to diesel power on Britain's Railways. Three years after its publication, the English Electric Company duly delivered the first five mainline diesel locomotives intended for use on the ECML to BR Eastern Region.

Newcastle Central: D285 arriving at Newcastle with a train from Liverpool in September 1969. John Furnevel 30/09/1969

The locomotives in question were all EE Type 4s (later known as class 40s) numbered D201/6-9 and were allocated to the London area where they would operate out of Kings Cross.

The initial problem was where to put them, Kings Cross shed (34A) was out of the question, since it had never had enough space for its existing steam allocation.

No decision had yet been made on the construction of a new diesel depot for the area which, once such a decision had actually been reached, was still likely to take a year or more to complete.

After much deliberation and considerable shuffling of existing locomotive stock and diagrams, the five new EE type 4 diesels were eventually allocated to the old steam shed at Hornsey (34B) where they duly arrived in the early summer of 1958.

In addition, refuelling and other 'rapid turnaround' facilities were provided at the 'Kings Cross Loco' sidings at the northwest corner of the station.

Then, on Saturday 21st June 1958, to the delight of many (and the surprise of some), a gleaming D201 took the first diesel-hauled Flying Scotsman out of Kings Cross.

This quickly led to the first of the 'trial' ECML diesel diagrams, which were introduced as part of a revised 1958 summer timetable on Mondays to Fridays between 25 August and 12 September, when a Type 4 was diagrammed to work the 4pm 'Talisman' to Newcastle returning south with the overnight 'Aberdonian' sleeper.

D207 was the first example of the class I ever saw - I watched mesmerised along with 3 school pals, from the wall at the west end of Newcastle Central, as it brought the 'Talisman' off the King Edward Bridge and round the curve into Central station at the end of August that year.

By the start of the winter timetable regular diagrams had been introduced for all 5 of the Hornsey Type 4s covering the 'Tees-Tyne Pullman', the 2 daily Sheffield Pullman services and the 'Flying Scotsman' amongst others.

Deliveries of the new diesels continued steadily throughout 1959 but, during April of 1960, things really took off in the northeast, with no less than eighteen English Electric Type 4s (D237-49 and D270-74) arriving during the month at Gateshead shed (52A). The new arrivals would support the increasing number of London based examples appearing on ECML diagrams and enable further extension of diesel hauled services generally.

Meantime, another mainline diesel type operating on the ECML, the prototype Deltic, which had arrived 'on loan' from English Electric in February of 1959 was coming towards the end of its operational service.

She finally finished her stint at the end of 1960, just a few weeks prior to the first of the production Deltics (D9001) emerging from the Vulcan Foundry and being delivered to BR on 17 January 1961.

This first example retained the naming tradition applied to many of the top link steam locomotives it would subsequently replace and was named 'St Paddy' after the winner of the previous year's Derby. D9001 became the first of eight of the class to be allocated to the Kings Cross area's custom built, diesel depot at Finsbury Park which had been brought into service the previous April.

The changeover from steam to diesel had really started to gather pace on the ECML from the beginning of 1960 and, during the summer of that year, the balance finally tipped.

Gateshead Shed: Class K1 2-6-0 no 62024 on shed at 52A Gateshead in the early 1960s. Part of 'the new order' in the form of EE Type 4 and Type 2 diesels can be seen in the background. K A Gray //

For the record, (yes, I did keep my notes) on Wednesday 13th April 1960 a group of us cycled after school to Birtley, County Durham, where we observed the following passing on the ECML in a period of approximately two and a half hours.

No / Type Name Depot
D237 / EE Type4 Gateshead
D246 / EE Type4 Gateshead
D251 / EE Type4 Hornsey
60022 / A4 Mallard King's Cross
60038 / A3 Firdaussi Gateshead
60051 / A3 Blink Bonny Gateshead
60053 / A3 Sansovino Gateshead
60056 / A3 Centenary Grantham
60058 / A3 Blair Athol Gateshead
60065 / A3 Knight of Thistle Grantham
60077 / A3 The White Knight Heaton
60092 / A3 Fairway Heaton
60160 / A1 Auld Reekie Haymarket
60502 / A2 Earl Marischal York
60514 / A2 Chamoissaire New England
60522 / A2 Straight Deal York
60807 / V2 Gateshead
60811 / V2 Heaton
60847 / V2 St.Peter's School York
60941 / V2 York
61018 / B1 Gnu Darlington
62024 / K1 Blaydon (see photograph above)
63352 / Q6 Blaydon
63366 / Q6 Blaydon
63386 / Q6 Blaydon
63408 / Q6 Blaydon
63431 / Q6 Blaydon
63458 / Q6 Blaydon
64707 / J39 Gateshead
67657 / V3 Gateshead
92137 / 9F Saltley
92182 / 9F New England

Three months later (19 July 1960), during the school summer holidays, we spent a couple of hours noting traffic on the ECML in and around the Newcastle area. This produced the following

Passenger trains
D241 / EE Type4 Gateshead
D244 / EE Type4 Gateshead
D246 / EE Type4 Gateshead
D257 / EE Type4 Unknown
D262 / EE Type4 Unknown
D267 / EE Type4 Unknown
D279 / EE Type4 Unknown
D284 / EE Type4 Unknown
60024 / A4 Kingfisher Haymarket
60027 / A4 Merlin Haymarket
60127 / A1 Wilson Worsdell Heaton
60147 / A1 North Eastern Gateshead
60511 / A2 Airborne Heaton
D5098 / BR Type2 Unknown
D5099 / BR Type2 Unknown
D5326 / BRCW Type2 Haymarket
26500 / ES1 Heaton
60812 / V2 Heaton
60891 / V2 Heaton
60907 / V2 York
60926 / V2 Tweedmouth
60962 / V2 Heaton
61221 / B1 Sir Alex Eskine-Hill Haymarket
61224 / B1 Darlington
61245 / B1 Murray of Elibank Haymarket
61962 / K3 Heaton
63453 / Q6 Blaydon
64843 / J39 Tweedmouth
64978 / J39 West Auckland
65831 / J27 Percy Main
65869 / J27 Heaton
67691 / V3 Heaton
78049 / BR2 Hawick
92184 / 9F New England

The 18% of ECML express passenger trains that had been diesel hauled in April of that year had rapidly risen to 61% by July - not that we calculated the percentages at that time, we didn't need to.

Over a period of three months the diesels had taken over ... and they just kept on coming.

When you are 13 years old your perceptions of time, distance and the inevitability of change are different. The 6 week school summer holiday seemed forever, distance was no object providing you had a bike, steam would never totally disappear ...

But it was never the same after the summer of 1960.

John Furnevel
April 2006


Old notebooks
Railway Magazine
Kings Cross Lineside - David Percival