Today’s history lesson - Class 03, No.03078:
As part of the modernisation of the railways it was thought that a lot of time and money could be saved by replacing the “shunting” locomotives, which had always been steam, with diesel. Shunting was very common from moving wagons round in a yard to moving rakes of carriages around in stations.
Steam engines need 2 men to operate and take a few hours to get ready each morning whereas a diesel engine takes 1 man and 10 minutes. The Class 03 was one of the most successful diesel-mechanical 0-6-0 designs, 230 were made by British Rail at Swindon & Doncaster between 1957 & 1962. The Class 03 is powered by a Gardner 8LW diesel engine coupled to a 5-speed epicyclic gearbox and it features both air and vacuum train brakes for flexibility.
Our 03, No.03078, was built at Doncaster and entered service on the 24th December 1959. Her first allocation was at Thornaby between 1959 and 1965. She then spent a year at both Darlington and West Hartlepool before returning to Thornaby between 1967 and 1968.
She made her final move north in 1968, being allocated to Gateshead Depot, and remained there till being retired in 1988. She was normally used at Newcastle Central, work included station pilot duties (shunting carriages), trips to the staithes at Dunston, Blaydon, work in Berwick and Team Valley.
Shortly after retirement she was sold to North Tyneside Council and moved to Middle Engine Lane. 03078 was vital in the construction of our railway, being regularly used on works trains. The loco was repainted into a fictional lined black livery in the early 1990s and renumbered No.D2078, before being repainted back to BR Blue in early 2019.
In 2019 she was also reunited with one of her former Gateshead stablemates (No.03079) at the railways diesel gala. 03078 is still frequently used for shunting around the railway and the occasional passenger train working.