Stark contrast: when Victorian steam met modern-day diesel at faraway shed


By Geoff Courtney

A fascinating photograph of a brand-new Class 31 diesel more than 550 miles from home, wheel-to-wheel with a still operational 73-year-old steam loco, has been unearthed by former Stratford driver Dave Brennand, whose new book on London’s East End steam was featured in the June issue of Heritage Railway.

Ancient and modern: Class 0F No. 56011 poses beside brand-new Class 31 D5511 on Inverness shed during the summer of 1958. The diminutive 0-4-0ST was built at St Rollox in 1885 and withdrawn in early 1959, six months after the photograph, recently unearthed by retired BR driver Dave Brennand, was taken. The Class 31 diesel, which at 106 tons was four times heavier than the ‘Pug’, spent a largely unnoticed three months in Scotland on evaluation trials before travelling 560 miles south to its Stratford (30A) home. It became No. 31011 under the TOPs renumbering scheme in 1973, and was withdrawn in July 1976.

The photograph shows D5511 on Scotland’s Inverness shed (60A) in the summer of 1958, posing beside – and overshadowing – the diminutive No. 56011, an 0-4-0ST built by the Caledonian Railway at St Rollox works in Glasgow in 1885 to the design of Dugald Drummond.

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Dave, who during a 40-year railway career that included two decades at Stratford driving many Class 31s, has a dual fascination with the photograph – the stark contrast of the Victorian railway era illustrated by the ‘Pug’ compared with the modern era epitomised by D5511, and the reason for the Stratford-based diesel being at faraway Inverness.

Centre of attention: Class 31 D5512 is prepared at Stratford shed (30A) for its next call of duty on March 17, 1959. The A1A-A1A was built by Brush Traction in June 1958, the same month as the previously numbered class member, D5511, which spent the first three months of its service life on evaluation trials in Scotland. GEOFF COURTNEY

The answer to the conundrum of the diesel’s presence on 60A is one of the lesser-known, and even lesser photographed, episodes of the late-1950s, as BR got to grips with the new diesel generation as it adapted to life after steam.

Read more in Issue 232 of HR – on sale now!

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