At the start of my interest in the early 60's there were still steam engines around in Devon, mostly on the ex Southern lines but also occasionally to Paignton where I lived, indeed the very first number I "spotted" was King Richard I at Paignton in spotless condition, it might have been back in 1962 but I can still remember it! However most of the trains around there were worked by diesels, which at the time were the Western Region's unique on BR diesel hydraulics. These machines had a higher power/weight ratio than the other regions diesel electrics of the time, though later designs redressed the balance. The hydraulics had a great advantage on starting away with a heavy train, unlike the diesel electrics their axles were linked mechanically reducing the risk of wheelspin and the transmission could take a high level of short term overload, so a Western had a useable starting tractive effort of 72,600 lb against the comparable DE's, the Class 47, which have one of 55,000 lb, but need much more "nursing away".
At the start of this period the services between London Paddington and the South West of England were in the hands of the D800 Warships, the trains used to attach/detach portions for the Torbay line at Newton Abbot or Exeter, the remainder of the train continuing to Plymouth (where the restaurant cars were left behind) and Cornwall. The shunting involved at Newton Abbot was fascinating, for up trains the Torbay portion ran in and the loco and some of the coaches were removed, the main section ran in behind it, the loco then uncoupled and used a crossover to pass the Torbay portion before reversing on to it and coupling, finally a pilot engine pushed the main train forward to attach it to the front portion. In later years the service level increased, loads were lighter and complete trains ran alternately to Plymouth/Cornwall and to Paignton.
There's a few photos of some diesel hydraulics below, click on the photo to go to a page of photos of that class:
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This site was last updated 15-07-2012
Photos not otherwise credited are ©2001/2002 S G J Huddy. Other photos are included with permission of the copyright holders.