Sunday, December 05, 2010

Thoroughbred locomotives

As any self-respecting trainspotter of a certain age will tell you, eight of the 22 Class 55 Deltic locomotives that provided the horsepower on British Railways' East Coast main line service during the 60s and 70s were named after racehorses; apparently this practice continued a tradition originally started at Finsbury Park by the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER). The racehorse names chosen weren't those of platers that managed the odd win here and there in lowly Newton Abbot claimers - several were Derby winners. In time most of these railway workhorses were carted off to the knacker's yard but a couple of examples have been preserved and a number of nameplates survive.

Those nameplates appear to be worth a penny or two today, going by an article in the most recent edition of Railways Illustrated magazine (January 2011). Andrew Watts reports that at a recent auction in Hampshire, despite strong interest, Crepello (1954 Derby winner) failed to make its (rather ambitious?) reserve price of £24,000. The highest price obtained for any Deltic nameplate is £31,400 for The Duke of Wellington's Regiment in 2002; the most paid to date for a racehorse nameplate is £11,000 for Nimbus (1949 Derby winner) in 1998.

For the sake of completeness (and because, with the racing programme severely curtailed, I don't know what to do and desperately need to avoid Christmas shopping) here's a list of the eight racehorse Deltics:

9001 / 55001 St Paddy (1960 Derby winner)
9003 / 55003 Meld (1955 1000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger winner)
9007 / 55007 Pinza (1953 Derby winner)
9009 / 55009 Alycidon (1949 Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Doncaster Cup winner)
9012 / 55012 Crepello (1954 Derby winner)
9015 / 55015 Tulyar (1952 Derby winner)
9018 / 55018 Ballymoss (1957 Irish Derby winner)
9020 / 55020 Nimbus (1949 Derby winner)

Let's hope racing resumes soon - otherwise I'm likely to end up going off the rails.

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