Here for the first time is the full story of the gas turbine locomotives, the build-up to their operation on the main lines out of Paddington and the results they achieved in service, as well as the delays and problems they encountered.
It was in 1946 that the Great Western Railway made its first tentative steps towards investigating the possibilities of gas turbine traction.
In June of that year Hawksworth, the Chief Mechanical Engineer, undertook a visit to Switzerland, during which he toured the works of Brown-Boveri, where a gas turbine locomotive had already been constructed for use on the Swiss Federal Railways. The visit proved successful and moves were made to develop locomotives for operation in Britain.
Orders had already been placed with Brown-Boveri and the Manchester-based Metropolitan Vickers for two locomotives before the GWR became part of British Railways in 1948, Nos. 18000 and 18100 entering service in 1950 and 1951.
Intended as a move towards the elimination of steam traction, the gas turbines were perhaps the ultimate example of the independent attitude of the GWR. Conceived at a time when other railway companies were developing diesel and electric locomotives, the gas turbine was seen as a potentially more advanced form of traction, promising more power for the same financial investment.
Kevin Robertson, author of Leader: Steam's Last Chance, draws on previously unpublished material from Britain and overseas, using over 140 photographs and diagrams and including exhaustive appendices to provide a vivid account of these locomotives. The Great Western Railway Gas Turbines: A Myth Exposed is the definitive record of this pioneering form of traction, and should intrigue and inform all those with an interest in railways.
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