Heljan unveils North British / Ivatt 10800 ‘wonder engine’ diesel in 00

Heljan have today announced they are to produce the North British 10800 800hp prototype diesel.
Although not strictly a Southern Region Locomotive, 10800 did see trials on the Southern Region in 1952, as described below. Known by many of the Southern Region steam enginemen on the Central section at the time as the “Wonder Engine” from the locomotive department’s daily query “I wonder if it will go today” due to its poor reliability record and the fact that it spent more time in the works being repaired than actually working trains.

10800 at NBL Works [GRM Collection]
It was originally conceived by H.G Ivatt of the London Midland & Scottish Railway in 1945, who wanted a basic design for an 800hp diesel-electric loco for comparison with similar output steam traction on secondary and branch lines. The order was placed by the LMSR with the North British Locomotive Co of Glasgow, in 1946, to produce a loco to their design. Ivatt’s design was for a Bo-Bo wheel configuration with the cab slightly set in at one end.

The cab was arranged to enable the driver to face the direction of travel and therefore duplicate controls were fitted. The power unit

used was a Davey Paxman 16 RPHXL Mk2 engine that drove an 800hp British Thompson-Houston main generator and traction motors.

The loco was constructed in 1948-50 and when completed carried the BR number 10800. The livery applied was the then British Railways standard for its diesel fleet of black with silver bogies. When complete Nº10800 underwent testing in Scotland and after a few months was allocated to the LMR at Willesden from where it operated tests in the London area.

10800 [GRM Collection]
In July/August 1952 it was allocated to Southern Region at Norwood. The shed being chosen one would suspect due to the fact that it already had diesel refuelling facilities owing to its fleet of diesel shunters although, as described below, it also spent a lot of its time at Brighton works. The first test run of 10800 on the Southern Region was a 165 ton train 10:45 am from London Bridge to Tonbridge Wells West via Oxted and East Grinstead (High level) and return at 1:08pm on 13th August 1952. From 18th August 1952 it was allocated Norwood duty 610 which involved services such as the 5.08am London Bridge to Brighton via Dorking, Horsham and Steyning; the 10.18am Brighton to Victoria and 3.52pm return (both via Oxted and Eridge); the 6.49pm Brighton to Tonbridge Wells West and the 9.01pm onwards to Victoria; the 11.04pm Victoria to Oxted (Wednesdays and Saturdays excepted) or East Grinstead (Wednesdays and Saturdays only).

The trials also showed that Nº10800 was underpowered, so much so that time was lost on the banks with even a modest six coach load.

Heljan Cad render, shows the additional two mid height lamp irons added when tested on the SR

It was often found wanting and more often than not, was replaced by steam. In October 1952 it was taken off passenger work and switched to freight workings from Norwood to Purley. Its first visit to Brighton works was for nine days from 5 November 1952 where they carried out a light casual repair (costing only £23) at which point 10800 had completed 58,228 miles. The reliability of Nº10800 was poor, it was active for short spells during January and April 1953 but from 29th June 1953 until 6th February 1954 Brighton works tried to put right the faults that had so far blighted her career. They spent according to official documentation £1,357. On 25th January 1954, whilst still officially in the care of Brighton Works, she worked an eight coach trial train from Brighton to East Croydon and back via Uckfield and Oxted. Initially on first returning to Norwood on 6th February she was put onto freight workings. It did, however, take up working the Norwood 610 duty again from 9th February 1954. The locomotive failed totally at Streatham Common on 30th March whilst working the 3.52pm Victoria to Brighton service and had to be towed to Norwood from where it was then towed via Oxted and Sheffield Park to Brighton Works on 6th April where the repairs to the badly damaged diesel engine took until the beginning of December to complete. She had only completed a further 8,172 miles since being released back into service in February and would be destined to stay in Brighton Works for 210 days whilst a further £404 was spent on various repairs.

Cad render 10800 rear right side

Following its less than spectacular testing on the Southern Region, its recorded mileage being the lowest at anytime during its short life, on 11 December 1954 it was allocated to Plaistow shed on the ER for further testing. It was withdrawn in August 1959 and stored at Doncaster Works. Then in 1961 Brush of Loughborough were seeking a loco for experimental traction purposes and Nº10800 filled the role adequately so was sold to Brush in 1962. Following rebuilding, Nº10800 was tested by British Railways at the Rugby test plant and on the GC Leicester-Nottingham route. In this guise Nº10800 received a green and brown livery. The body was finally broken up in 1972-73.

10800 rear left side

The Heljan model includes: etched metal parts, working marker and cab lights, 21-pin DCC interface, DCC sound provision, sprung buffers and all-wheel drive/pick-up.
Based on original NBL drawings and research CAD work is complete and tooling is now well underway.
Four versions will be available on general release depicting 10800 in different stages of its life (but not as originally built without the lower bonnet door vents), priced at an RRP of £234.95 each.

  • 1080 BR Early Emblem Black/Silver 10800 (SR/LMR post February 1954 condition)
  • 1081 BR Early Emblem Black 10800 (SR/LMR condition) WEATHERED
  • 1082 BR Early Emblem Black/Silver 10800 (final BR condition)
  • 1083 BR Late Crest Green 10800

Delivery is expected in 2023.

Heljan have a track record of producing such one off prototypes and this is a loco I have been thinking of trying to model, due to its Southern Region connection, for some time so will be a welcome addition to my fleet. These will be available via your usual Heljan Retailers such as KMRC.

8 thoughts on “Heljan unveils North British / Ivatt 10800 ‘wonder engine’ diesel in 00

  1. Interesting model and most welcomed from Heljan – thank you for posting.

    However, it is a model to mull over rather than immediately add to my BR(S) order book……

  2. I knew this would happen eventually ever since I bought the Dave Alexander whitemetal kit, which is part-finished … Shame there weren’t two of them!

  3. I hope that on the SR version the lower line of bodyside louvres will be removed as per the photos of the real one above and as in BRILL May 2002.

    1. Hi Rod,

      I have just been discussing this very question with Heljan and they advise they are unfortunately only doing the post February 1954 rebuild at Brighton Works, so although she did run on the Southern Region between then and 11 December 1954 it does not cover the period on when she did the majority of the test runs on the SR.

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