Railway History

RAILWAY HISTORY

Join us and delve into the archives to discover the stories of locomotive classes large and small, learn how the railway worked, and why it was built in this amalgamation of the popular Reality Check and Railway Realism sections from Hornby Magazine.

Feature Premium

Farewell to the ‘Bubbles’ Class 121 and 122 DMUs

On May 19 2017, the final examples of British Railway’s famous ‘bubble cars’ were withdrawn from mainline service after a remarkable career spanning 57 years, during which time they have gone through many modifications and changes to their duties. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES reflects on the story of the Class 121 and 122 DMUs.

Feature Premium

The East Coast Class 91s

Although a staple of the East Coast Main Line for the last three decades the Class electrics are now coming to the end of their illustrious careers, during which time each has covered more than seven million miles, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES reports.

Feature Premium

Great Central Railway Reborn

Although the Great Central Railway closed as a through route in 1966, the memory of this once ground-breaking line has been kept alive by what has become one of the country’s greatest preservation projects, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES describes.

Feature Premium

THE CLASS 86 ELECTRICS

Despite being the largest single class of electric locomotive in the country, the Class 86 has never attracted much attention from either enthusiasts or modellers, yet it was the workhorse of the West Coast route for more than 20 years, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES explains.

Feature Premium

Merry-go-round Trains

Doctor Beeching is more commonly known as the man who destroyed much of our railway system, but his time in office also produced initiatives that helped the railway to prosper, including the introduction of the ‘merry-go-round’ train for handling the transport of coal, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES describes.

Feature Premium

Final days of the diesel hydraulics

One of the shortest-lived initiatives of British Railways’ 1955 Modernisation Plan was the use of diesel-hydraulic traction on the Western Region. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES takes a look at the demise of these famous locomotives, and explains why they had such brief lives.

Feature Premium

The Class 14 - Swindon’s big misjudgement

Of all the diesels built during the modernisation of British Railways the Class 14s stand out as one of the shortest lived – not because they were a poor design but because they were built to the wrong specification at the wrong time. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks at the history of this small class.

Feature Premium

British Rail’s tiling test - the Class 370 APT

Perhaps one of the most spectacular failures of railway engineering that has ever taken place in this country was the tilting Advanced Passenger Train, a multi-million pound project that failed to enter reliable public passenger service, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES explains.

Feature Premium

The Vanwides - BR’s last vacuum-braked pallet van

The Vanwide or VEA van is the currently being developed as a new ready-to-run model in ‘OO’, ‘N’ and ‘O’ gauge by Bachmann, Sonic Models and Dapol respectively. DAVID RATCLIFFE explains how BR’s last vacuum-braked pallet van came to be.

Feature Premium

The Caledonian ‘812’

Functional and workmanlike goods engines were very much a feature of the late Victorian railway scene, but few matched the beauty and level of performance of the Caledonian Railway’s ‘812’ 0-6-0s, a real maid of all work, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES explains.

Feature Premium

Farewell to the 'Deltics'

London, a Saturday night 40 years ago. Hordes of fans mob the platforms at King’s Cross station cheering the star of the day while thousands of cameras record the remarkable scene. The occasion is not, however, the appearance of a Hollywood film star, but the final run of one of the most popular diesels – the ‘Deltics’. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks back to January 1982.

Feature Premium

Gresley’s experimental ‘Hush-Hush'

In the quest for ever more efficient steam engines there have been some remarkable designs produced, some of which have been more successful than others. One of those that showed great promise, yet which failed to deliver, was the LNER’s ‘Hush-Hush’ 10000, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES explains.

Feature Premium

Races to the North

Victorian era saw intense competition between rival companies for traffic between London and Scotland, which reached its zenith in a thrilling series of events that were to become known as the ‘Railway Races to the North’. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES relays the fascinating story from a forgotten era of rail travel.

Feature Premium

BR’s unique ‘Pacific’ Duke of Gloucester

Although it was a failure in service and lasted a mere eight years with BR, Duke of Gloucester has been transformed into a phenomenally powerful masterpiece in its preservation career. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks back at the history of this remarkable, and unique, engine.

Railhead Treatment Train. Feature Premium

Railhead Treatment Trains

While leaves on the line have become a regular topic for those who wish to make fun of our railways, for train operators they represent a very real danger and one that has demanded the introduction of special counter measures, which include the Rail Head Treatment Train, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES describes.

Gresley 'P2' 2-8-2 Feature Premium

Gresley's 'P2' 2-8-2

One of the most spectacular designs of the steam era was Gresley’s huge semi-streamlined express ‘P2’ 2-8-2. However due to mechanical problems these locomotives never realised their full potential and saw less than 10 years service before they were extensively rebuilt, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES explains.

Class 52 Western D1000 Western Enterprise Feature Premium

The ‘Western’ diesel hydraulics

One of the most distinctive locomotives of the early modernisation era was the ‘Western’ diesel-hydraulic, a design which had a very short life on the main line and which was rendered obsolete almost as soon as it was built, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES reveals.

Hydraulic verses electric Feature Premium

British Railways’ War of the diesels

One of British Railways most controversial decisions was to standardise on electric, rather than hydraulic transmission for diesel locomotives. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks at the background to this choice and and assesses whether it was correct.

Feature Premium

Reality Check: The Double Fairlie

One of the most remarkable and recognisable locomotive designs of the Victorian era is the narrow gauge Double Fairlie, a type that became inexorably linked with the development of the Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales, but which also became world famous due to its incredible pulling power, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES describes.

English Electric Class 40 Feature Premium

Reality Check: 'Whistler' magic

It is hard to believe that 50 years have passed since the first of British Railways’ large diesel locomotives were introduced. The English Electric Type 4, or Class 40 as it later became, was one of the success stories of the modernisation plan. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks back at the design’s history.

Feature Premium

SWINDON WORKS

Swindon was amongst the railway towns and cities established in the 19th century. Its works came to personify efficiency and quality, a reputation lasting well into the diesel era. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES takes a look at this famous location and discovers how it came to occupy such an important pa rt in railway history.

Feature Premium

BRUNEL’S ‘BILLIARD TABLE’

Designed for speeds higher than ever envisaged by the Victorias, the Great Western Main Line from London Paddington to Bristol via Reading and Swindon has been continually updated since its construction. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES relates how this carefully engineered railway has gone from a broad gauge steam operated line to one which features state-of-the-art Hitachi Class 800 bi-mode trains.

APT-E Feature Premium

Reality Check: The Advanced Passenger Train - Experimental

One of the most revolutionary trains ever to take to the rails in the UK was the Advanced Passenger Train – Experimental, which was taken out of service 40 years ago this year. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks at the development of this pioneering machine.

Feature Premium

The first gas turbine

Designers have been down many blind alleys in the pursuit of greater power, speed and efficiency. The Great Western Railway’s efforts to apply the gas turbine to rail were amongst them. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES describes the ups and downs of 18000, the first locomotive that resulted from this experiment.

Class 47 Feature Premium

The Brush Type 4 – the first 10 years

The Brush Type 4 celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2022 and remains one of the most popular and successful locomotives ever, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES describes.

Class 47 at Dawlish Feature Premium

The eclectic Class 47s

Once British Railways most common mixed-traffic diesel, the Class 47s all looked much the same on the outside - but in fact there were many variations. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES explains all.

Feature Premium

London Midland Region history

Of all the regions formed after the railways were nationalised in 1948, the London Midland was one of the largest, and most important, and greatly influenced the way that the country’s railways developed, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES explains.

Feature Premium

Railways of South Wales

In just over 200 years, the South Wales Valleys have gone from being the birthplace of railways, through housing one of the most intense freight systems in the world to becoming the home of a suburban commuter railway system. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES takes a look at this fascinating area, which is bristling with modelling possibilities.

Feature Premium

The LMS Beyer-Garratts

The massive Beyer-Garratt articulated locomotives achieved a fair amount of success overseas but were never popular in Britain. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks at the history of the LMS variant and discovers why they never took off here.

Feature Premium

The English Electric 'Deltic'

One of the most evocative products of the Modernisation era was the 3,300hp ‘Deltic’, a class which was to revolutionise rail travel and in the process acquire an almost legendary status, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES relates.