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.
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.
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.
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.
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