Why Alycidon?


D9009 departing from Bradford


This website takes it name, at second hand, from a racehorse - Alycidon whose offspring included Meld, (who as a filly won the Oaks, the 1000 Guineas and the St Leger (the triple crown for fillies). http://www.racinginfo.uk.com/horses/meld.htm ). But as you will have noticed the website logo is not a horse but a locomotive name plate.

In 1955 English Electric, the company I was to join two years later as a student apprentice, rolled out the world's most powerful diesel locomotive at its Preston works. The locomotive packed an unprecedented 3,300hp into a 106 tonne all up weight on six axles thanks to the use of a revolutionary diesel engine built by Napiers - an English Electric subsidiary.

Technically, this 18 cylinder engine was an opposed piston two stroke designed to power fast patrol boats. Its three banks of six cylinders formed a triangle or Delta - hence the name Deltic. Actually, when you see an engine the triangle has its apex downward. This resembles the Arabic character Nabla leading some wit to suggest that the engine should have been called the Nablic.

Two of these engines gave the locomotive its unprecedented power, plus a charismatic exhaust note. Where other diesels chugged, the Deltic howled.

To see, and more importantly, hear a Deltic in action try this link -


and make sure the volume is turned up!

English Electric sold 22 Deltic locomotives to British Rail to replace 55 steam locomotives hauling express trains on the East Coast route between London and Edinburgh . At that time the route was divided into three regions. The locomotives based at Edinburgh and Newcastle were named after local army regiments, but the eight Deltics allocated to the Eastern region, and maintained at Finsbu5ry Park depot, took the names of race horses, including five Derby winners.

The Derby winners were Nimbus (1949), Tulyar (1952) Pinza (1953), Crepello (1957) and St Paddy (1960). Completing the stud were Meld, Ballymoss and, of course, Alycidon.

To complete the story, by 1963 I had just qualified as an engineer and was in my first job as general dogsbody to the managing director of English Electric's Traction Division, which had built the Deltics and was now maintaining them. To further my technical education, in the Summer of 1963 I was seconded to the maintenance team at Finsbury Park - where I spent some hot and sweaty days working spanner in hand followed by pint mugs of tea.

When it came to naming my web site I was looking for a name that could be generic, while having a railway association for those using my part of the website. My favourite Deltic at Finsbury Park was Pinza but as a name for a website Alycidon was more euphonious.

What happened to the Deltics when they were withdrawn? Alycidon, number D9009, was saved by the Deltic Preservation Society and as you can see from the photographs on this page is being maintained in top class condition as a working locomotive. My thanks to Ian Lewis of the DPS for these illustrations.


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