The bell tolls for Britain’s largest locomotive class


By Geoff Courtney

Nostalgia takes many forms, and at its core are many subjects. It may be memories of family or friends, perhaps a long-remembered incident, a former family home, or a beloved pet. It is about recalling what once was, but may never be again.

One of the many and of the few: D3991, one of nearly 1000 Class 08 diesel shunters in operation on the BR network, at Gloucester Horton Road (85B) on November 26, 1961. The 0-6-0 was built at Derby in September 1960 and is one of the few still commercially operational today. NORMAN PREEDY

For many railway enthusiasts, at its heart is the steam locomotive, coupled with the so-called ‘golden age’ of steam. Kings, Merchant Navies, Princess Coronations or A4s will feature strongly – their sight, sound and smell being the essential fabric of trainspotting. Lesser classes will also resonate, workhorses often away from the main line and on the byways of the national network at the head of a freight or resort-bound branch line holiday service.

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To most, diesels don’t have the same ring nor tug at the heartstrings with the mighty pull of a steam engine. They are usually remembered with a certain fondness rather than misty-eyed nostalgia, although I readily recall my awe when King’s Cross began to echo to the sound of the Deltics as they started their reign on the East Coast Main Line.

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