January’s Object of the Month features this stylised drawing of Gas Turbine locomotive No. 18000. The drawing was done by Leslie Carr who was a British artist who specialised in poster style art and carried out work for various railway companies during the 1930s to 1950s.
This drawing featured in a booklet produced for British Railways to mark No. 18000’s demonstration run from Paddington to Plymouth on Tuesday 14th March 1950. The 225 mile journey was scheduled to take 4 hours and was part of a series of test runs carried out to assess the performance of the locomotive.
The possibilities of gas turbine locomotives was initially explored by the GWR who ordered No. 18000 from Brown – Boveri Ltd. in 1946. By the time the locomotive had been delivered British Railway has been formed and the company continued with the project to assess the potential benefits of gas turbine power.
The absence of the large number of moving parts on a gas turbine compared with a diesel engine was anticipated to reduce the need for maintenance. Fuel consumption was also expected to be reduced compared with a steam locomotive.
In May 1950 No. 18000 entered into service on the express routes between Paddington and Plymouth and Paddington and Bristol.
However the locomotive was actually difficult to service, with its complicated electrical system and regular failure of parts. It also proved far less fuel efficient than expected, partly due to it not being suited to Britain’s railway network. It was eventually withdrawn from service in 1960. Nevertheless, No. 18000 was preserved and remains an important part of Britain’s railway history.