A tour of Rolvenden works gave an opportunity to get close to a rare Diesel-Electric locomotive, constructed for Ford’s Dagenham factory by the British Thompson Houston Company (BTH). Diesel-electric No. 40 is a Bo+Bo shunter, built along similar lines to American Switcher locomotive’s, hence it looking different to most equivalent machines in the UK. The American connection is natural enough though, given it is similar to those used at Ford’s plant in New Jersey, USA.The BTH Diesel shunters were ordered in 1931 by Ford and completed the following year. As you could imagine, it created quite a stir when built as it was advanced for its time. This was at a time before the country had seen even a Gresley A4 pacific, let alone a diesel electric locomotive of all-steel construction with a driving cab at either end.
There is no doubt that taking into account its age and how advanced it is for its time, this is an important piece of railway history. My tour guide informed me that this is the oldest working diesel electric locomotive in the UK and so despite not being the prettiest machine, it was great to see it up-close. To read more about K&ESR fleet no. 40, check out the railways website by clicking here.
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