Present your case
If there’s a locomotive that you think needs to be offered ready-to-run, here’s the place to voice your opinion…
The place to voice your opinion on potential new models.
What is it?
All of the ‘Big Four’ looked to move away from steam for main line services after the Second World War. The LNER had made some progress with 1,500V DC electrification, and the LMS and the Southern, in co-operation with English Electric, were both testing the water with diesel-electrics. The GWR, however, had no experience with either, so following a factfinding mission to Europe, F.W. Hawksworth looked to the possibility of the gas turbine (the ‘jet’ engine) as a means of generating power for electric traction motors.
The GWR placed an order with leading specialists Brown-boveri in Winterthur, Switzerland, for a main line gas turbine locomotive. The result, not delivered until after nationalisation in 1949, was No. 18000, a gleaming black and silver locomotive of 2,500hp. In theory the single locomotive was as powerful as a ‘King’ and more powerful than the LMS and SR’S diesel-electrics. In practice it was capable of exceptional performance, but all too often it had to be run at less than full power, resulting in a build-up of ash which damaged the turbines. Also, the engine lacked a heat-resistant lining that would allow high temperatures to be sustained in the heat exchanger for long periods.
No. 18000 performed on expresses to Bristol and to the West of England before its withdrawal and sale for use in Austria.
What would make it viable
No. 18000 may have been a one-off and ultimately unsuccessful but it has an appeal which goes way beyond its actual achievement. It was much-featured in BR publicity at the time and was part of the GWR modernisation that was dubbed ‘the last look forward.’ Working among the ‘Kings’ and ‘Castles’ in the heyday of WR named expresses, it was unofficially named ‘Kerosene Castle’ and the fact that it is accorded a home in that temple of GWR steam, the Great Western Society at Didcot, shows how well regarded it is. Alongside ‘OO’ models of the Wath electrics (Heljan) the SR diesel-electrics (Kernow MRC) and the LMS ‘twins’ (Bachmann) No. 18000 would fill the gap for post-war modern motive power among WR modellers. And just imagine how good a DCC sound-equipped version would be!
Can I see the real one?
Repatriated in the 1990s, No. 18000 initially went to Tinsley Depot for cosmetic restoration before moving to Crewe for display. Though it is now only a shell and has received much modification, it is now on display at Didcot Railway Centre.
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