BR Class 55 – A truly amazing Diesel Locomotive

The BR Class 55 is famously known as one of the fastest and powerful diesel engine locomotives in the mid-1900s. They were responsible for making steam engine locomotives old-fashioned and took their place.

The history of the BR Class 55

The BR Class 55 is one of the first diesel engine locomotives to enter service. They entered service in 1961. But the development of its engine was done right after the second world war.

The engine of the BR Class 55 was actually inspired by a different engine, the Culverin. But it was too big and heavy for locomotives. The British company, Napier & Son Limited, took this concept of the Culverin engine and developed a scaled-down version that was made especially for motor-propelled boats. The engine was called the Deltic.

In the 1050s, the British Railway was transitioning from steam to diesel for high speed and low maintenance transportation. The Deltic engine seemed to be the perfect engine for the job. And so, a prototype called The Deltic was tested from 1955 to 1960. Later the British Rail developed production units of The Deltic and the BR Class 55 was introduced in 1961.

From 1961 to 1962, 22 Deltics (BR Class 55 and other Deltic locomotives) entered service and replaced 55 steam locomotives.

The journey of the BR Class 55 locomotives ended in the 1980s after the development of many powerful and fuel-efficient diesel locomotives.

Inside the BR Class 55

Inside the BR Class 55, we have a magnificent beast. It will be more appropriate t say that there are two beasts in one locomotive.

That’s because there are two Napier Deltic 18 cylinder diesel engines in one BR Class 55 locomotive. Each Delta engines have a power output of 1680 horsepower. Together combined they produce over 3300 horsepower (3360 horsepower to be exact). This allows the train to reach over 100mph quite easily and that had become the standard in the British Railway industry.

Although there are more powerful Napier diesel engines for locomotives, British Rail decided to corporate two slightly low-powered engines. This was done to extend the working life of each locomotive before it reached the period of major rebuilds.

The BR Class 55 has two piloting decks. One at each end. This allowed the locomotive to move both ways without turning the locomotive on tracks.

Overall, the weight of the locomotive scales about 101 tons with 4100 litres of diesel loaded.

Are there other versions of BR Class 55?

Yes, there are many versions of the BR Class 55 known by other names. The BR Class 23 is a prime example. The BR Class 23 is famously known as baby deltic and the BR CLass is known as Deltic.
All Deltic locomotives have the same appearance with two pilot decks. But they differ in engine power and capacity.

What is the current status of BR Class 55 locomotives?

The BR Class Locomotives were officially withdrawn out of service in 1980. Most of them are decommissioned and scraped off.

However, there are six BR Class 55 locomotives active in various stages of operation. You can hire one for private use if you want to experience how it felt to ride one of the most powerful diesel engine locomotives.

What Engine is in the BR Class 55?

The BR Class 55 locomotives have two Napier Deltic 18-cylinder engines, which were mechanically blown.

How long is a BR Class 55?

The BR Class 55 is 69.6 feet long. That is 21.21 in meters. The wheelbase of this locomotive is 58.6 feet long (17.86 meters).

How many BR Class 55 are there?

There were 22 BR Class locomotives built. But now there are only six available in the world, and some of them are under repair. The rests are scrapped off.

How much Horsepower does a BR Class 55 have?

The BR Class 55 locomotives had two 18-cylinder Deltic engines. Each engine has 1680 horsepower. Combined, the BR Class 55 locomotives have an output of 3360 horsepower.

What does a BR Class 55 weigh?

About 101 tons with 4100 liters of diesel loaded.

How much does BR Class 55 cost?

The BR Class 55 is not available for sale yet by anyone. Thus, there is no estimated price announced for these locomotives. However, you can hire them for private use. There are six of them still available under the ownership of different individuals and organizations. You can negotiate a price for them about the cost of hiring the locomotives.


The BR Class 55 has the most powerful Deltic engine designed for locomotives. Although it got withdrawn from service for economic reasons, it remained as an icon in rail history as the first-ever British diesel locomotive in use.

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