CIÉ E421 “W. F. Gillespie OBE”

At a glance:

Builder:Córas Iompair Éireann (Inchicore Works)
Build date:1962
Original company:Córas Iompair Éireann
Withdrawal date:1983
Final company:Córas Iompair Éireann
Arrived at DCDR:1986
Current status:Museum display
Current owner:DCDR

E421 was built by CIÉ in Inchicore Works in 1962, with prime mover being supplied by Maybach of Germany. The class leader of the 14-strong ‘E Class’, E421 made its debut on a test run in September 1962. In spectacular fashion, it hurled itself off the tracks at 60mph near Newbridge in County Kildare. The derailment was attributed to the class’s unusual wheel arrangement of three asymmetrically-arranged powered axles. As a result of E421’s escapades, the entire class was restricted from its design speed of 60mph to just 25mph, and as a result they lived almost their entire working lives shunting in Dublin’s goods and locomotive yards.

E421 was eventually withdrawn in 1983 and remained in store at Inchicore Works until 1986, when it was purchased for preservation by DCDR – it was our very first locomotive! Purchase of the locomotive was very generously funded by our late President, William Gillespie OBE, and in honour of his generosity we named E421 after him. The locomotive arrived in Downpatrick in November 1986 after being moved from Dublin by lorry.

In January 1987, after weeks of preparation, E421 moved under its own power for the first time in preservation; the first time any locomotive had moved under its own power in Downpatrick since the BCDR closed in 1950. In December that year it worked our very first passenger trains, hauling our NCC brake van between Downpatrick and the Loop Platform. From this point on E421 was in almost constant service until 2010, but eventually 23 years of work caught up with it and we were forced in withdraw the locomotive in the face of numerous issues.

As the owner of the locomotive, Bill Gillespie requested it go on display in the Carriage Gallery until such time that a full overhaul could take place on. With the A39 and three G Class diesels working at the railway, and a B Class on its way in fully operational condition, he was reluctant to spend the many thousands of pounds required to get E421 working again, especially when none of the aforementioned diesels require the two hours of pre-heating before use that the E Class does.

Today E421 has been cosmetically restored and can be enjoyed up close in the Gallery, where it takes pride of place at the front alongside the Railmotor and steam locomotive No. 90. Though very far down the list of priorities, we hope that E421 will run again in the future- Especially as our locomotive crew misses the distinctive noise of the Maybach engine!