ERS 104 - Western Diesel Engines

ERS 104 - Western Diesel Engines - Fox

This is the second volume of the Winston trilogy, which looks back to the End of Steam and the spectre of Modernisation. This delves into not only Winston’s own history but the history of the D1000 / Class 52 ‘Westerns’ – and spotlights why Winston can be depressed or irritable. Unlike most accounts of this dreadful period however, it is not from the steam engine’s point of view – but from the perspective of the Western Region’s diesel-hydraulic fleet, who themselves were mavericks in the eyes of the British Railways Board and ultimately doomed...

Winston has been having a hard time recently, with a high failure rate tempered by a bleak spell of depression. Not even a new coat of paint – Western Region coaching stock maroon cheers him up and it is a despondent course he follows until one night Bear returns to the shed and gets through to Winston. Winston finally reveals that Bear did not fully see what happened to the Western Region’s diesels and begins his tale...

Winston begins his stories from the 1960s and 1970s. He starts out talking about the other types of diesel-hydraulics before going into depth on the important duties of the ‘Westerns’ – including the time that D1015 ‘Western Champion’ was rostered to haul the return leg of the funeral train of a Very Important Man. However, Champion is failed before he can take up his duty – and another temporarily painted golden ochre ‘Western’ is called up to serve in this solemn duty, disguised as ‘Western Champion’.
NB: Some artistic licence with history was taken here as ‘D1015 Western Champion’ was the only ‘Western’ to wear the trail Golden-Ochre livery, and it did not fail in its duty on this most solemn occasion.

James enters Tidmouth Shed only to cause a row. However Duck and Henry defend Winston, who finally answers the question as to why he is often so melancholy.
His next story starts in the mid-1960s when many of the Western Region diesels were stabled at Plymouth Laira. Many of the fine GWR and BR locomotives have vanished, never to be seen again and even the ‘Westerns’ are now growing concerned, wary of what really happened to them.
Here we meet a ‘Crewe built’ Western, who unfortunately is not a very pleasant character!

Winston is ordered to take a trio of three decrepit GWR ‘Prairie’ 2-6-2 engines to the breaking yards at Swindon. Like the Weird Sisters of Shakespeare, they groan and prophesise that the carnage will not stop when all the steam engines are gone. Winston breaks down in a futile attempt to save them but he – and they – are despatched to Swindon by a sneering class 47 diesel named Basil.
Upon arrival, Winston, seeing the breaking yards realises the sheer scale of what has been happening to the steam engines – and fears that the same may happen to his kind someday.
The trio’s prophecy seems to be coming true but Winston however, rallies the other engines with one of the most inspiring speeches ever heard on the railways...

After this, we return to Tidmouth in the present day and the engines resting for the night, humbled...

The next night the engines reassemble at Tidmouth to hear of how British Railways overcame the Western Region’s desire for independence – the final years of the diesel hydraulics.

It is a grim time as now BR ‘standard’ diesel-electrics are infiltrating the Western Region and whole classes of engine have been withdrawn and even the elegant D800 Warships have begun to be withdrawn. We see how BR standardised all engines into the blue livery and put the faithful Westerns more onto freight workings.
Personal tragedy strikes however, when an engine close to Winston is taken away from scrapping before his very eyes - and when a fellow Western is withdrawn, never to run again after causing a terrible accident near London.

In the bitter end, there are only twelve or so D1000 Westerns making a final stand for the diesel hydraulics one of these, Winston is rostered onto an enthusiast rail tour. It is here that Winston finally falls and is swiftly condemned to the scraplines at Swindon, following in the footsteps of his brothers – and the mighty Kings. He arrives at the yard only to find many of his closest friends there, all solemnly awaiting the torch...

The Westerns have sat, dormant in the scraplines for many months now. Christmas comes and goes, but the grim reality of what happens is brought to bear as each once-mighty Western is reduced to scrap metal.
Hope comes however when three of their ranks are saved – D1062 Western Courier, followed by D1013 Western Ranger are saved by preservationists – and D1015 Western Champion is unexpectedly set aside to act as a Works gate ornament!
After these, hope dies as more and more vanish from the Yard...until a Stout Gentleman comes and tries to purchase an engine. After being declined for his first choice, he turns to Winston...and so, in one last bittersweet move Winston is taken from that dreadful yard, saved but calling back to his brethren.

Returning to Sodor, Tidmouth Shed is changed forever, for now the Fat Controller’s Engines, always safe and happy and useful have met an engine who truly saw it all.