Sigh for A Deltic

This one was taken by Terry Foulger circa 1977, just to confuse you.

Today’s virtual lecture was put on by the North Eastern Railway Association. The Zoom session opened half an hour before the start of the actual presentation. This allowed the veteran members of the association to resolve technical issues, and also to trade jokes about Vladimir Putin. Neil Mackay, the association’s chairman, said that the upcoming Annual General Meeting would be held on Zoom due to the trustees’ lack of confidence in physical attendance, and asked if anyone would volunteer to be minutes secretary.

Our speaker was David Thomas. He had come to show off his photographs of the Class 55 diesel locomotives – popularly known as the Deltics, taken at various points along the East Coast Mainline in the period of 1977-1982, in anticipation of their displacement by the Class 43 High Speed Trains. Originally the photographs were taken with a Kodak Retinec 1B and the sound was captured by a Philips cassette tape recorder. Thomas’s original plan was to produce a tape-slide presentation, but this proved too costly at the time. Rather than settle for a less-than-professional presentation, he simply withheld the pictures until Microsoft Powerpoint came along to make things easier.

There followed a long stream of images. I will not attempt to describe them all. Thomas said that the Deltic engine was originally a marine concept, the admiralty having wanted a powerplant for its minesweepers. There were some technical diagrams included, and photographs of smashed engines undergoing repair. There were also insights into his personal life – he mentioned rushing to get a shot of No. 003 Meld at Holloway before going to see his wife give birth in York. He noted, too, where the environment in his photographs had changed, such as the “re-greening” around the viaduct at Leeds or the disappearance of poplar trees on the A64. Important moments in railway history were captured, such as the centenary of York Station in June 1978 and the final Deltic Scotsman service in February 1982.

The title of the lecture derived from Sigh for a Merlin by Alex Henshaw. The Rolls Royce Merlin engine had unofficially given its name to the Lancaster Bomber aeroplanes which used it, just as the Napier Deltic engine had done for the Class 55s. Thomas admitted that he didn’t like the locomotives originally but he grew to love them and he ended his talk by saluting all the volunteers who keep them working in preservation, the fleet between them having covered sixty-eight million miles.


UPDATE (8th March)

Chairman Mackay has accepted my offer to act as Minutes Secretary at the Annual General Meeting in May.

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