In my last blog on syphon days I pulled toghether my own learning and electric webernet 'gen' on the short falls of the class 47 aka "duff" or spoon. Really though in the early to mid 1980s ( and probably near the demise of diesel hydraulics and the Deltics before that), the Duffs were well and truly hated by the majority of bashers.
There were of course duff bashers, but they were thin on the ground and tended to hide themselves amongst "rat" bashers, at least they could feel twice the men they were on single headers! Another of Brushes efforts, rescued by EE-Rustons with a decent reliable PU, was the class 31s and in 5 years bashing I never met anyone who proclaimed to be a 31 basher let alone just a fan.
Why did we hate duffs though?
Pretty straight forward: they displaced more popular locomotives from their diagrams. The problem was in fact with the loss of general freight traffic in the 1970s and the introduction of IC 125s, duffs were displaced to other traffic.
Rumours abounded that less reliable members of the class in the early 80s, were encouraged to become somewhat itinerant by their home depots. Thus they would replace a failed 45 or the like on a newcastle, get sent to Edinburgh and work a sunday "drag" down to Carlilse, monday up to glasgow replacing a failed class 25 or 27.
More specifically, and a saving grace for we syphon bashers, duffs would turn up on various 1x and 2x passenger bookings which were type 4 : thus the two most popular EE classes in the early 80s, 40s and 50s, were often substitued to for a spare duff.
Even on syphon terratory they dared to show their ugly faces: the occaisional Tain to Inverness shoppex was duff as the line was in fact RA6 rated. Once in a blue moon a 47 would work the sleeper portion at Dumbarton or pick up a failed 37 south of Criagendorran ...( a rare event on the WHL despite the conditions and often poor state the locos arrived at ED from their previous depots)
For other enthusiasts they also bowled them out for a good line in the book: type 2 bashers had to put up with duffs being dropped onto some services. For example the Stranrærs and the Type 2 bookings to Dundee.
And ugly they were: flat nosed, slab sided, nearly all identical. Void of personality and any individuality in engine note, the revised liveries were something of a relief. So another reason to hate them, when the 20s, 37s and 40s had diverse appearances and personalities, and deltics and 50s had something of an exlusivity by their relatively low class numbers.
The other annoying thing about them, was that when you did HAVE to take one and wanted a fast diagram to get you there, Duffs often lived up to their name by either not turning up, running slowly or failing underway. The only good duffs for us were the shove-duffs, the 47/7s which in 1982, would whizz you Glas-Edin faster than the plastic does today. The 47-7s also lead to a spate of 37 workings on the route in 1984: IIRC, there was a spate of excessive brake wear and overheating engines in their small fleet, necessitating entire sets to be dropped in favour of the spare Mr I or II sets from Cowlairs depot.
47-7s were seen as the flagship duffs, but they were also the flagship general repair budget and I guess they probably had double the number of A, B and C insepctions in order to keep them going ( on what is a very demanding route, which would have destroyed many other classes like the 50s) 37s actually nearly got chosen for the route over end-to-end 27s and were trialled during the early 70s. The worries about the fuel bill and the use of ETH stock perhaps were the issues there.
Æsthetically it wasn't just the looks and lack of variety: It was also the sound and performance. For all that strumming and whining they make, progress was often embarresingly slow up to 60mph. Often up QS tunnel the load 5 , the shove duff would not reach as good a speed by cowlairs as a 37 on a bigger load. Compared to a 50 on western region, duffs were slower. On those good running metals I believe peaks were in fact overall faster, maybe by virtue of brute force/ momemtum in pushing through field diversions.
The other "glory duffs" the generator 401-420 were supposedly good enough to challenge deltics: according to deltic bashers, they were often ETHELS, with only the auxillary generator in fettle to work trains. The gennies were well maintained at Gateshead, but seemed worse for failure when ever they wandered off patch a little. More power at rail on ETH stock, but still not as impressive as a 50 which should be laying down less kw at rail when ETH is on.