Posted by: wrha | May 16, 2020

Deltic Diversions – Richard Maclennan


Part 1

The Waverley Route and the Class 55s both had a life span far shorter than should have been the case. With the former closing 120 years after it opened and the latter having a life span of just over 20 years the British malaise of scrapping useful assets prematurely certainly applied.

Following a move to the Scottish Borders last year to see out my autumn years in the former railway cottage at Whitrope Summit an idea has been germinating in my brain to bring both passions together into one research project. What follows is an attempt to prove that every Deltic locomotive did at some point in its career work over at least some portion of the Waverley Route on a number of different types of service. In addition from using material from a number of trusted sources and publications I have also recreated a virtual cab ride over the route on a diverted Anglo Scottish express.

Evidence suggests that the Waverley route was not the stranger to Deltic power that some may think. The 98 miles between Edinburgh and Carlisle was shorter and less congested than the former Caledonian Railway route via Carstairs and was for many years the main diversionary route for the ECML, especially before the closure of the line to Tweedmouth via Kelso.

64B depot had a number of jobs to Carlisle including the prestigious through services to London St Pancras, still known colloquially as “The Pullmans”. So with route and traction knowledge not being a problem the stage was set for the occasional sound of 3300 horses unleashed on the 1:75 climb over Falahill, and up the 13 mile climb to the line’s summit at Whitrope.

The first recorded visit other than the prototype’s light engine run some years previously that I can find of a loco to the route was during the extremely hard winter of 1963 when during the month of January D9000 passed Whitrope heading south with an up diverted express. The last visit was by D9007 PINZA on the well documented and morbid final day rail tour on January 5th 1969.

Listed below is a fairly typical cross section of workings which would bring the class to the route. Data has been verified from a number of sources including the superb Chronicles of Napier website along with the archives of the Waverley Route Heritage Association.

D9000 March 14th 1967, 0124 Millerhill to Carlisle freight
D9001 May 6th 1966, 1000 ED-KX
D9002 Jan 4th 1969. Rail tour LDS to ED
D9003 Sep 16th 1967, 1200 KX-ED
D9004 June 8th 1968, 0X** HA-CAR
D9005 May 5th 1968, 2230 ED-KX
D9006 June 15th 1967, 3E09 parcels to CAR
D9007 January 5th 1969, Leeds to Edinburgh rail tour. Last north bound service to use the line throughout.
D9008 May 5th 1968, 2355 KX-ED
D9010 December 26th 1967, 0658 Hawick to Edinburgh
D9011 March 7th 1967, 0315 Millerhill to Hawick and 0658 return
D9012 July 16th 1967, 1400 KX-ED
D9013 July 16th 1967, 2230 ED-KX
D9015 July 16th 1967, 1940 KX-ED
D9016 July 16th 1967, 1215 ED-KX
D9017 July 16th 1967, 1000 ED-KX
D9018 July 16th 1967, 1000 KX-ED
D9019 July 16th 1967, 1400 ED-KX
D9020 December 31st 1966, 0658 Hawick to Edinburgh
D9021 December 23rd 1966, 0658 Hawick to Edinburgh

The above table offers the reader a reasonable representation of services worked by this iconic class over the Waverley Route. Most services were of course on diverted express services; however the 0658 Hawick to Edinburgh local service features on more than one occasion. This train would be a useful duty for a machine operating on only one power unit or requiring a test run following maintenance.

D9018_Longtown_160767 copy 2D9018 “BALLYMOSS” cruises through Longtown on Sunday 16th July 1967 working the diverted 1A16 service from Kings Cross. Photographer Keith Holt


22_21A little further on, D9018 “BALLYMOSS” crosses Shankend Viaduct with the diverted 1A16, 10:00 Kings Cross – Aberdeen ECML service on Sunday 16th July 1967. The diversion was a consequence of the derailment of the previous evening’s 12-coach Edinburgh – Leeds North Briton near Acklington (caused by a broken rail).

Photo Robin Barbour Collection (Courtesy Bruce McCartney)

The March 14th 1967 working for RSG is unusual and one can only speculate why the locomotive was used on a 45mph freight train and indeed what its back working from Carlisle would have been.

The visit of D9004 in June 1968 carries a clue in the head code as 0X usually signified a light engine move in connection with 1X01 the Royal Train, known in railway circles as “The Grove” although no further details can be found for number 4’s visit.

BM099D9002 “THE KING’S OWN YORKSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY” is seen between Hawick and Stobs on Sunday 16th July 1967 with the diverted 1A37 11:00 Edinburgh – King’s Cross.

Photographer Bruce McCartney

Readers may have noticed that missing from the above selection of workings are both D9009 and D9014. Thankfully records from the archive of the WRHA show that 14 worked through Hawick at least once on a diverted ECML service, however  no records exists for number 9. That of course does not mean it never did only no records appear to exist of it doing so.

22_23D9003 “MELD” is seen shortly after passing Hawick with the diverted 1A28 12:00 King’s Cross – Edinburgh on Sunday 16th July 1967.

Photo Robin Barbour Collection (Courtesy Bruce McCartney)

Regular diversions appear to have ceased after 1967 as the route was made ready for closure and as many of the line’s signal boxes had closed this reduced the line’s capacity to no more than a bare minimum.  Therefore it may be entirely possible that when ALYCIDON finally makes an appearance on the new Borders railway that it becomes the 23rd and final member of the class to have done so.

D9003_Kilnknowe_SquanceNot on a diversion but on a working logged as a training run for air brakes, D9012 “CREPELLO” with the 0815 ex-Hawick photographed north of Galashiels on a misty morning, Friday 12th April 1968.

Photographer Dougie Squance (Courtesy Bruce McCartney)

Note: Since Richard wrote this article D9009 ran to Tweedbank on the Borders Railway. Photos and article can be found at

Part 2

It’s a grey morning at Edinburgh Waverley station in the autumn of 1965. The east end of the station is its usual busy  self with much traffic passing through the platforms and shunting of carriages to form any number of departing services.  Our eyes and ears are drawn towards platform 1 where an immaculate two tone green Deltic locomotive waits for the arrival of coaching stock to form the famous 10 o’clock Flying Scotsman service to London Kings Cross.

We leave the impatient mumble of the idling Deltic behind us and walk down from our vantage point onto the concourse where we note that the passengers are beginning to board 1A23. By the time we arrive the Deltic is out by Carlton Tunnel as it begins to back down onto the stock.  The station tannoy is warning intending travellers that due to flooding between Grantshouse and Reston the service will today be diverted via Hawick and Carlisle adding almost 2 hours to the overall journey time.

We walk towards the front of the train counting 12 maroon carriages including a buffet and dining car, the whole lot weighing in at around 440 tons gross. Approaching the Deltic we note its name and number as D9018 BALLYMOSS one of the 8 London based machines based at 34G shed (later to become the famous Finsbury Park).

Escaping steam is beginning to hiss through the  pipe between loco and stock as the Deltics steam heating boiler begins to do its job by providing heat and hot water to the train. The right hand side door slides open and we are invited into the cab to enjoy our impromptu footplate trip as far as Carlisle. Looking round we take it the sights and sounds of our cramped surroundings, the row of lights above the driver’s desk shows that both engines are running and no faults with the locomotive exist, Main air pressure is a steady 140psi and the brake gauges show we have 21” of vacuum brake pressure throughout the train.

The loco’s straight air brake is applied with 30psi registering on each of the locomotive’s brake cylinders. Finally the Deltic is carrying circa 800 gallons of boiler water and a steady 40psi of steam is now being pumped through the train.

The friendly driver introduces himself as Jock McBride and informs us that whilst now based at 64B his career actually started as a locomotive cleaner at the small shed at Hawick way back in 1921 and therefore he has an intimate knowledge of the route we are about to travel over and will gladly share some of that knowledge with us during our time together.

The signal at the end of the platform winks to green as the leather sound deadening curtain is pulled over to keep out the worst but certainly not all of the noise and draughts from entering the cab.  For the next 2 hours or so we are now cocooned in our own little world.

Come the appointed hour the controller of our mighty steed is nudged open and slowly, agonising slowly we began to move away from the platform and into the north bore of Carlton Tunnel.  The first 3 miles are totally uneventful and typical of any number of Deltic runs, it is only when the brakes come on and the locomotive lurched to the right over Portobello Junction and onto the Carlisle route proper that the significance of the journey began to dawn.

Once clear of the mainline power is slowly applied to warm the engines thoroughly for the significant climbing ahead.  After passing the recently opened Millerhill Yard a hive of shunting activity with several loco classes of EE, Sulzer and  a brace of Clayton locomotives patiently waiting work , the power handle is pulled all the way open and the Napier’s really start to sing and cover the south end of the yard with a dusting of milky white exhaust.

Once clear of Glenesk Junction (the line to Dalkeith sadly closing the year before) we began to climb at an initial gradient of 1:200 away from the coast and into the hills. The speedo is creeping round to the lines limit of 60mph before the gradient stiffens to 1:70 at Hardengreen Junction the line to Penicuik curving away to the right. Even for a mighty Deltic Borthwick Bank begins to take its toll and speed balances at around 45mph for the final few miles to the first summit.

Falahill is but a shadow of its former self with goods loops and banking sidings in the process of being lifted and only the signal box remaining standing in isolation amid the hills. With the controller now closed we can once again hold a conversation without shouting as we drop down through Heriot and Fountainhall and into the wide glacial valley of the Eldon Hills.  Skilful use of the brake is needed to keep our speed checked between 45-55 mph round the switch back valley of the Gala water.

The 249 yard Bowshank Tunnel is passed in just under 40 minutes from leaving Edinburgh. Speed is reduced further with the vacuum brakes checking us nicely for the approach to Galashiels and Kilnknowe Junction where the line from Peebles trailed in from the right until closure in 1962. The first major centre of commerce at Galashiels and 33 miles from Edinburgh is passed in 44 minutes and 50 seconds. Hot cups of tea brewed on the Deltics hotplate is passed around as we glide through the station at a stately 30mph.

As we pass Netherdale the home of the famous Gala RFC and over the river tweed to Tweedbank BALLYMOSS is given her head and the mesmerising sound of hard working twin Napier’s  carries on the chill wind of a November morning.

A mile south of the station we pass Selkirk Junction and the now freight only line to the town of the same name.  With the gradients much easier we climb at 60mph towards the town of Melrose and its superb station and Abbey (reputed to be the resting place of some of the remains of Robert the Bruce).

Running on 60 foot jointed track the clickty clack sound is broken for a moment by Ravenswood Junction and another one time Borders line to Duns. After flashing through St Boswells at 65mph we pass the recently closed line to Kelso and Tweedmouth a line which almost certainly was used by Deltics prior to closure and scene of the time diversionary route before its severance as a through line by the almost apocalyptic floods in the summer of 1948.

Our driver recounts warmly of how his predecessors would run that way with the nonstop ‘Capitals Limited’ after thrashing their A4 over Falahill to avoid stopping for a banking engine.  These enterprising men were not going to allow a diversion to get in the way of a nonstop trip to London and the tender would be in desperate need of water as they approached the first water troughs at Lucker.

As we twist and turn through Sir Walter Scott countryside we pass Belses and Hassendene stations at close to 70mph the Deltic eating up the miles with ease. After almost 50 miles of running we encounter our first cautionary signal on the approach to the town of Hawick the brakes go on hard as D9018 glides to a halt with 2 columns of lazy exhaust climbing skywards over the town.

The station at Hawick was situated on a viaduct high over the River Teviot and a visitor today would find it almost impossible to visualise this scene such is the scale of change in the last 50 years.   Our driver is passed a message from the one remaining signal box that we have a light engine running in front of us and as soon as it had cleared the block section ahead we would be on our way. This impromptu stop allowed the driver to nip back into the first coach to answer a call of nature and for a few minutes we are left alone to enjoy the sights and sounds of the footplate.

The sliding open of the cab door is followed by a chill blast of wind as Jock returns to his office. The semaphore section signal at the end of the platform finally clears as a tuneless parp on the Deltics horn followed by a brief rise in engine tone signalled the start of the 10 mile climb to the summit at Whitrope.

The start away from Hawick is a tortious one and careful use of the power handle is needed to keep the amps under control and avoid wheel slip in the damp cutting up the 1:72 gradients towards Lynwood viaduct.  The locomotives flanges squealed around the tight curves as more amps are fed into our 6 traction motors.  Now hugging the west side of the Slitrig valley speed is held at 30 mph and it is only on the approach to the site of the former army camp at Stobs is the power handle fully pulled fully open.

The twin Napier’s scream in defiance as we crossed Barnes viaduct and onto the steepest part of the climb at 1:65. Stobs was once the location of a huge military camp and had one of the largest fans of sidings on the whole route.   We continue to climb in a southerly direction and follow the course of the Slitrig water still on a rising gradient of 1:65.

The gradient finally eases over the magnificent 15 arch Shankend viaduct and allows our Deltic to gain a little speed before the final slog through the wild and windswept uplands. The valley opens up for the last few miles to Sandy Edge and the 1206 yard long Whitrope Tunnel.  The handle remains wide open for the whole length of the tunnel and right up until the line briefly ran level before passing the famous Summit box and remote cottages.

With the climbing now finished for this leg of the journey it is all downhill for the next 13 miles or so to the English Border at Kershopefoot. With speed still limited to 45mph careful and frequent use of the vacuum brake is needed as the long train snakes round the reverse curves towards Riccarton Junction.

This totally unique community totally depended on the railways for its existence and with no road access until 1963 everything had to be brought in or out by train, even the local Doctor in Hawick would travel up on a specially commandeered light engine if needed. Although by the time BALLYMOSS rumbled through in 1965 many of the houses are empty and the writing was on the wall for those hardy souls who had yet to leave.

We glide through the Junction at 15mph before passing the remains of the Border Counties branch to Hexham closed in 1956 with some of the line to be submerged under the huge Keilder Dam. We are now heading southwards under the shadow of Arnton Fell and still on a falling gradient of 1:75. The small wayside station at Steele Road flashed by as a short burst of power saw us over the small hump passed the ballast quarry at Mains and onto the magnificent Sandholm Viaduct and the approach to Newcastleton station (scene of the infamous last day protests involving outraged residents led by Reverend Brydon Maybon who at one point was taken briefly into custody by the local police).

We are now following the course of the Liddel Water as the train twisted and turned at 60mph ever nearer to the Border City of Carlisle.  After a further 2 mile descent this time at 1:200 we pass through Riddings Junction, the junction station for the recently closed Langholm branch and where we would have emerged had the railway had followed its original planned route from Hawick via Langholm.

The gradient continued to fall as we flew through Scotch Dyke exactly 86.5 miles from Edinburgh. We are now deep in the debatable lands and Border Reiver country and our driver tells us tales of the murderous feuds between Border families such as the Grahams,  Armstrongs and the Elliots.

The last major centre of note is Longtown with its town on the east side of the River Esk and the station on the West. It is now virtually level all the way to Carlisle and after clearing a 20mph engineering slack on the towns level crossing our Deltic is opened up to clear its throat and accelerate its train up to 70mph the ruling line speed for the remaining 10miles.

Lynside and Harker stations pass by at speed along with the small wayside halt at Parkhouse built to serve the large military presence in the area. In fact Parkhouse would continue to see a daily workers DMU service for some time after the line had closed as a through route.

The brakes now came on hard for the climb over the WCML at Kingmoor and onto the Eden Viaduct. With flanges squealing in protest and made our final approach to Carlisle passed the five story Canal box and the junction for the Silloth branch. Finally we rumble over Port Carlisle Junction and into Citadel station.

We arrive at our journeys end in platform 4 a few minutes over 2 hours and 20 minutes since leaving the Scottish capital. Carlisle was once home to no fewer than 7 railway companies and its station stands between the Citadel (prison and court house in one building, very convenient) from which it gets its name. We thanks Jock for his hospitality and jump down onto the platform to allow the relieving Newcastle crew access to the cab for the next leg over the 60 mile Tyne Valley route to Newcastle.

Walking past the impressive bulk of an idling BALLYMOSS we climb into the train to undertake the final leg of our journey to Newcastle by the more conventional means of a BR Mark 1 coach.

This article was originally published in The Waverley Issue 29, Spring 2017. It has been reproduced here as part of our historical articles series during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Written by Richard Maclennan.

Please see the excellent Whitrope Siding blog for more of Richard’s work and how to help rebuild Whitrope Siding Signal Box:

Copyright WRHA 2017 & 2020. No part of this article may be reproduced without express permission.