Wednesday 27 June 2007, by Roy Gasson
A Napier engined petrol-electric railcar was built for the North Eastern Railway in 1903 being a precursor of the 3300 hp Napier/ English Electric Deltic prototype diesel-electric locomotive of 1955.
The Napier Deltic powered locomotives represented a revolution in Rail tractive power when they were introduced for the East Coast main line working in the 1960’s. The twin 18 cylinder Deltic engines, developed and manufactured by D. Napier & Son, which gave the locomotives their name developed over 3,300 hp and at the time made the Deltics the worlds most powerful single unit diesel locomotive.
In time 22 of the 100mph Deltics replaced 35 of the Gresley’s streamlined A4 Pacifics and other top link steam locomotives. New records with average speeds in excess of 70mph were set for high speed running between Kings Cross and Edinburgh and points between. The graceful yet powerful profile of the Deltics combined with the distinctive thrumming of the engines and the white smoke of their exhausts guaranteed their immediate recognition and eventually their status as the finest icons of the British diesel age.
Named after regiments and racehorses the Deltic nameplates were as short as "Meld" as long as "The Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire". In their service lifetime the twenty two Deltics traveled more than 63 million miles, with the probability of several locomotives individually topping the 3 million miles mark.
This they continued to do for 20 years until replaced by Napier turbocharged Paxman diesel powered Inter City 125 train sets. Six Deltics are preserved.
The Deltic Preservation Society at Barrow Hill Notts, and The Napier Power Heritage Trust work to keep the locomotives and the records of the engineering which went into them available for present admirers and future enthusiasts.
We should otherwise never see the like of the Deltics again.