The North British Type 4 diesel locomotives were introduced by the newly nationalised British Railways to work primarily on the Western Region expresses in the late 50’s, and sadly due to being a non standard ‘Hydraulic’ type were deemed unsuitable to be kept as British Rail looked to standardise its fleet. The entire fleet, later reclassified Class 41 and nicknamed ‘Warships’ due to their naval names – which never numbered more than 5 examples – were scrapped and no examples exist in preservation or elsewhere. So far so good.
The story takes a tasty twist when I was little and on holiday with my Dad in South Wales to say goodbye to my wonderful Grandfather and we travelled perilously close to the Woodham Brothers scrapyard on Barry Island – a place I’d heard so much about in my railway readings (along with the equally legendary Vic Berry’s of Leicester) but never dreamed I’d see. I longed to walk among the haunted lines of rusting locomotive shells. Tantalisingly, I had read that due to the massive backlog of rolling stock bought by the company to dispose of, one of the Warship Class locos (second built example D601 – ‘Ark Royal’) had remained largely intact into the early 80’s (along with the last remaining doomed last Class 21 locomotive) – an incredible fact considering the rest of the class barely even made it into the 70’s.
In my childish mind I pondered ‘what if it was still there?’ Imagine! Amongst the other Railway places of interest we took in on the trip (along with abandoned goldmines, ruined castles and rugby clubhouses) we went there, listening to my ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ tape in the car and investigated. What a stunning place for a young chap to see. A vast expanse of railway lines with hundreds of dead rusting locomotives awaiting their fate. Needless to say, the one we had hoped to see was long gone. A great sadness hung over the place, but we still managed to pinch a large Great Western oil tail lamp which I still have. Anyway, maybe 20 years later and after several attempts to satisfactorily commemorate that day (‘The Pilot Scheme’, ‘The Permanent Way’ and ‘The Light Engine’ will remain in the vaults) what better way to seal it than with a good dose of fantasy, irritating chords and tricky time signatures? Here’s a live version from Wireless 2007.