Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
death of the diesels
I just caught the end of steam when I was a kid, watching the Brighton-Plymouth at speed over the level crossing at Lyminster, saw a few on Ryde Pier, saw a tank engine somewhere in London and, from a great distance, the trains departing from Waterloo to the west. Everything else I saw was electrics, until one day, somewhere in Battersea, I saw a big green diesel crossing a bridge over the road. I was hooked. These were far better than electrics and were modern, so much better than steam!
But I think we all know now that diesel locomotives' days are numbered. As the price of oil starts to rocket the railway companies will quickly feel the pinch, even though their supplies will obviously be prioritised over the private motorist (who will be finished). There'll be a rush to electrify but will the money and, more importantly, the skills be there to do it in time? I doubt it.
But there is of course an obvious alternative to electric locomotives - steam! Not the lumbering old polluting and high maintenance machines of old of course, but sleek, clean and fast woodburners, using a sustainable energy source and providing an excellent power source for the tens of thousands of extra trains we're going to need in the future to keep us going. Their USP will be their use of simple technology and also being completely sustainable. They'll have the other advantage that even the old steam engines used to have - longevity. They could easily be built to last 50 or even 100 years or longer, with standardised parts that can be recovered and recycled when the locomotives finally wear out.
I suspect that just about the whole network will be eventually electrified, that's the current network plus the reversed Beeching routes, but local railways and many industrial lines may well find that steam is the cheapest and easiest option. We really are about to enter a new age of steam.
And what of the diesel locomotive? It's doomed. There won't even be the option of running them on preserved routes, diesel for public transport simply won't be available. I suspect the last of the oil will be snapped up by the military, by chemical and fertilizer companies and, of course, by the airlines. And even then it won't last long.
So get out there and photograph these magnificent creations. We may not see their like again ever, or at least for 150 million years, when oil may once again be available for a century or two ...