1963 was to prove the watershed in the transition from steam to diesel traction in the county. The first main line diesels to operate from Worcester locomotive sheds were Birmingham RCW type 3 diesels (later Class 33) from the Southern Region. These arrived during the severe winter of January 1963. The first such example was No.D6518 (a photograph of which taken by Richard Moreton appears in the March 1963 issue of 'Modern Railways' with Saltley's Stanier Black 5 No.44963 at Worcester Foregate Street station on 21st January 1963 on the 10:05 from Hereford to Paddington). This was replaced by others of the same type during January and February 1963. For instance, Gerald Wadley records No.D6536 at Malvern Link on 21st February 1963.
The class 33s were not equipped with steam heating apparatus and were not intended to replace steam locomotives on the express passenger services to London but were based at Worcester for crew training prior to dieselisation of the Bitumen trains from Fawley to Bromford Bridge in April 1963.
The writing was nevertheless on the wall for steam and came later in 1963 in the shape of Beyer Peacock 'Hymek' type 3 (later class 35) locomotives. 101 locomotives of this type were built at Gorton, Manchester. The first to arrive at Worcester for crew training duties, as confirmed by Gerald Wadley's notebooks was No.D7076 of Cardiff Canton shed. Gerald first recorded this locomotive at Malvern Link on 13th May 1963. Other of the same class were recorded later that week. The 'Hymek' diesel locomotives took over about half of the Paddington express services during the summer 1963 timetable but were still working to steam locomotive schedules.
The premier train on the Cotswold line from Worcester to London was titled 'The Cathedrals Express'. Like all named trains it justified a full page entry in the Summer 1963 timetable - the last one worked to steam locomotive timings.
With much ado British Railways heralded the end of steam working of passenger trains from Worcester to Paddington with a full press turn-out and sparkling 'Castle' class 4-6-0 No.7023 'Penrice Castle' (of Worcester shed) on the last Saturday of operation of the Summer 1963 timetable on the 11:10 to London on 7th September 1963. 'Penrice Castle' was immediately retired to store at Worcester Locomotive Sheds.
However, things did not go to plan, as service failures and major problems with the 'Western' class diesel locomotives led to many steam substitutions as 'Hymek' diesels were moved to Cardiff. The Worcester Locomotive Society house magazine 'Big Four' reported that by 30th October 1963 steam locomotives were working all express passenger services from Worcester to London.
By Christmas 1963, the situation had become so desperate that 'Penrice Castle' was brought back into traffic (still looking immaculate) but more alarmingly a tranche of worn out 'Castles' were drafted in from far and wide. Decrepit examples were even allocated to Hereford shed, a depot that had never had an allocation of 'Castles'.
In June (date??????) the line from Ashchurch to Evesham was closed.*******
The first (and only one in 1964) 350hp diesel shunter later class 08 to arrive at Worcester was No.D4118 in 1964. It was first observed by a MIAC member at Worcester on Sunday 12th January 1964.
'Hymek' diesel locomotives slowly returned to Worcester in the early months of 1964, but by April 1964 they had again virtually disappeared from the Worcester to London service as they were again sent elsewhere to cover for defective 'Western' class diesel locomotives.
During March and April 1964 numerous 'Castle' class locomotives were tested on 9:15am London to Worcester and 1:15pm return including Nos.7032, 7029, 5054, 5091, 5096, 7025, 4079, 7008, 7023 and 7022 on Paddington to Worcester services in preparation for a BR sponsored high speed run from Paddington to Plymouth, Bristol and return on 9th May 19674, using three locomotives. No.4079 'Pendenis Castle' worked the Paddington to Plymouth leg but failed at Westbury where it was replaced by No.6999 'Capel Dewi Hall' which took the train to Taunton where Worcester 'Castle' No.7025' Sudeley Castle' took over as far as Plymouth. No.7029 'Clun Castle' hauled the train between Plymouth and Bristol where Worcester's No.5054 'Earl of Ducie' took over for the run back to Paddington.
On 16th May 1964 No.5054 'Earl of Ducie' was used on the Oxford University railtour (O.U.R.S.) from London to Worcester, Hereford, Newport and London.
The Vinegar Works branch line at Worcester closed on 5th June 1964.
An SLS railtour from Birmingham Snow Hill to Bromyard on 13th June 1964 was hauled by No.4555.
Diesel locomotive availability by June 1964 such that it was possible to release half of Worcester's 'Castles' including some of the best engines, Nos.7011 'Banbury Castle' and No.7023 'Penrice Castle', to Oxley and Tyseley sheds in the West Midlands.
A special train, organised by The Derbyshire Railway Society and carrying headcode '1X68' at Hereford on 12th July 1964 awaiting the return of the tour party after a shed visit. No.5054 'Earl of Ducie' was attached to a straight sided tender and looked to be in good condition. The 'Earl' was regularly in use on railtours in the spring of 1964.
With no scheduled London express duties from the Summer 1964 timetable, there was little work for the four remaining 'Castles' at Worcester but they hung on with more mundane duties such as engineering and stopping trains. No.5054 (together with No.7022 'Hereford Castle') was transferred to Gloucester in September 1964 but No.5054 was promptly withdrawn and dumped at Worcester.
BR built 'Castle' class locomotive No.7022 'Hereford Castle' complete with wooden front numberplate in the yard at Worcester shed on 12th July 1964. Photograph taken by Adrian Booth.
Dieselisation of the banking duties on the Lickey Incline commenced in July 1964 with the arrival of English Electric built 1,750hp diesel locomotive (later class 37) No.D6938 which was soon followed by others of the same class. Bromsgrove Locomotive Sheds weres closed to steam in September 1964, but three class 37s, although maintained at Worcester, were outstationed there.
Also during July 1964 Brush type 4 diesel electric locomotive (later class 47) No.D1749 arrived at Worcester for crew training duties and later was replaced by blue 'XP64' liveried example No.D1733.
Kidderminster Locomotive Sheds closed on 8th August 1964.
With the end of the Summer 1964 timetable the last 'Castles' at Worcester (No.7005 'Sir Edward Elgar' and No.7025 'Sudeley Castle') were withdrawn leaving only the small studs at Gloucester and in the West Midlands to survive into 1965. A correspondent to 'The Railway Observer' noted Nos.5054, 7005, 7025 and 5000 dumped on Worcester shed on 6th October 1964.
The branch from Bransford Junction to Bromyard closed on the 6th September 1964. A special train from Bromyard to Blackpool was hauled as far as Worcester by Nos. 2222 and 2232.
Worcester’s locomotive works continued to repair and overhaul steam locomotives including No.6435 to GWR livery for a private owner.
At the end of 1964 Worcester’s allocation of locomotives consisted of 29 steam locomotives:Nos.2222, 2244, 2253, 3682, 3725, 4113, 4161, 4664, 4680, 6147, 6155, 6169, 6813, 6817, 6819, 6836, 6848, 6856, 6877, 6958, 6995, 7909, 7920, 7928, 8104, 8415, 8793, 9490 and 9680. Diesels allocated to Worcester were Nos.D2123, D2131, D2132, D2136, D2139, D2186, and D4118. Also allocated were Nos.D2200, D2219, D2235, D2238 and D2240 which had been transferred following the closure of Hereford Locomotive Shed in September. No.D2200 was based at Hookagate Permanent Way Depot and as far as is known was never at Worcester.