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The ‘DH’ class comprised three locomotives that were constructed in 1968/69 for Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) by the English Electric (EE) Co. Limited, at their Vulcan Foundry, Newton-Le-Willows, Lancashire. Built to the ‘Stephenson’ class design, the locomotives were obtained for use on engineers’ trains, trip freights and shunting duties. The locomotives were numbered 1 to 3 inclusive, with locomotive 1 entering service on 31st July 1969, locomotive 2 following on 27th September 1969, and locomotive 3 on 4th October 1969. The locomotives were fitted with a Dorman 12QTV engine of 620 hp, coupled to an EE twin disc torque converter and a Wiseman final drive.

The locomotives were less than successful during their period of service with NIR, and locomotive 1 was eventually laid up in 1986, with locomotive 3 being stopped two years later. Only locomotive 2 soldiered on, eventually being taken out of service in May 1989. At around that time, NIR decided that they wanted to mark the 150th anniversary of railways in Northern Ireland by having these three locomotives ‘plinthed’ at Lisburn, Belfast Central and Londonderry stations.

In preparation for this, in mid-1989 locomotive 1 had its engine, transmission and final drive unit removed at York Road Works, and was then cosmetically restored into NIR maroon livery, before being moved to Lisburn Engineers’ Yard. The intention was that the locomotive would be lifted onto a short section of track at the north end of the down island platform. However, when it came to actually lifting the locomotive into position, difficulties were experienced which meant that the plan was abandoned and the locomotive was moved back down to the rear of the Engineers’ Yard where it was to remain for the next five years.

Although locomotive 2 was originally taken out of traffic in May 1989, the ITG approached NIR in August 1989, enquiring if it would be possible to organise a farewell railtour using this particular locomotive. NIR graciously agreed to this proposal, and the railtour was scheduled to operate on 10th September 1989. Locomotive 2 was then taken into York Road Works to be prepared for the railtour and also to repaint it into NIR maroon livery. Unfortunately, on 9th September 1989, the day before the railtour, locomotive 2 suffered a catastrophic engine failure whilst running light engine from York Road to Central Services Depot to work the railtour. This was the end of the ‘DH’ locomotives in NIR service.

On 9th August 1991 locomotives 2 and 3 were towed from York Road to Larne Harbour for storage. On 10th and 11th September 1991, the engines and transmissions were removed from these locomotives and sold to a marine engine company. Locomotives 2 and 3 then languished at Larne Harbour until early September 1994 when, along with locomotive 1, they were all purchased for preservation by the ITG.

On 11th September 1994 the three locomotives started the first leg of their remarkable journey south, eventually destined for the ITG’s operating base at Carrick-On-Suir. The first stage of their journey was from Larne Harbour to Adelaide Yard. Unusually, a two-piece 80 class railcar set was used to haul locomotives 2 and 3 from Larne Harbour to Adelaide Yard. As the cross- harbour link via the Dargan Bridge had not been completed at that time, the two locomotives had to be hauled to Adelaide Yard via Bleach Green Junction and Antrim, to Lisburn. At Lisburn, locomotive 1 was added to the convoy for the final leg to Adelaide Yard, where they were shunted into the engineers’ siding at Lislea Drive. The locomotives then remained at Lislea Drive until 7th January 1995 whilst various paperwork issues were sorted for their first, and only, journey over Iarnród Éireann tracks.

At 12:20 on 7th January 1995, the three DH locomotives set off south on the second leg of their journey, this time to Inchicore Works in Dublin, hauled by a 181 class locomotive. The journey to Dublin Connolly took seven hours to complete, as the movement was restricted to 20 mph, with several stops also having to be made on route to check that the coupling rods and bearings were not running hot. After being shunted around at Dublin Connolly, a 141 class locomotive was used to transfer the three DH locomotives around to Inchicore Works, where they eventually arrived at around 21:00.

After spending a week at Inchicore Works, remarkably parked on the head-shunt outside the main running shed at the Dublin Heuston end of the building, immediately next to the main line, the three locomotives were hauled south to Carrick-On-Suir on 14th January 1995 by a 141 class locomotive, running via Kilkenny and Waterford. The convoy of locomotives departed Inchicore Works at 04:25 that morning, eventually arriving at Carrick-On-Suir at 13:15. Over the next 10 years at Carrick-On-Suir they were repeatedly attacked by vandals, despite our best efforts to make them secure.  

During their long period in store at Carrick-On-Suir, the Group had received several enquiries from various engineering companies with a view to them possibly acquiring one or more of these locomotives for industrial use. However, nothing ever came of these enquiries, mainly due to the high cost of replacing the engines and transmissions, around £70,000 Sterling being quoted to put just one locomotive back in running order.  It was also accepted that there was no realistic prospect of these locomotives ever being restored to working order by the ITG for the same reason.

However, in May 2005, the ITG was contacted by Beaver Power Limited, enquiring if the Group would be prepared to sell all three locomotives to them for re-use in Sri Lanka. After much deliberation it was agreed to sell two locomotives to Beaver Power Limited, 2 and 3, and retain locomotive 1. The two locomotives were sold to Beaver Power Limited on 13th June 2005 and they were collected from Carrick-On-Suir on Thursday 7th July 2005 and moved to their workshops at Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, for overhaul.

Subsequently, on Wednesday 23rd November 2005, DH locomotive 1 departed Carrick-On-Suir by Allely’s low-loader, also destined for the premises of Beaver Power Limited at Merthyr Tydfil. This was done in order for Beaver Power Limited to recover certain parts from this locomotive to assist in the overhaul of sister locomotives 2 and 3. In May 2006 locomotives 2 and 3 were exported to Sri Lanka for use at a cement factory in the Puttalam area, around 200 Km north of Colombo. The two locomotives were re-gauged to 5’ 6” gauge and fitted with Rolls Royce CV12 engines of 750 hp, coupled to a Twin-Disc 13800 MS230 torque converter.  

Subsequently, it was decided to offer DH locomotive 1 for sale. Prior to this decision being taken, consideration was given to cosmetically restoring locomotive 1, but in the absence of a suitable location at which to display the locomotive, it was not considered worthwhile. On 28th January 2010 locomotive 1 was finally sold to Beaver Power Limited, and is currently stored at their premises in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. It is understood that there are plans for this locomotive to eventually be rebuilt and overhauled for industrial use, either in the UK or abroad.

DH1 on static display at Lisburn, 1989. Photo - A J Marshall

DH1 stored at Carrick-on-Suir, 11.12.04. Photo - Aidan Kehoe

DH3 stored at Carrick-on-Suir, 11.12.04. Photo - Aidan Kehoe

DH3 following refurbishment by Beaver Power Ltd, Merthyr Tydfil

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