Dick Mabbutt: Here’s the Deal With Britain’s Dirtiest Train Name
You’ve heard of a streetcar named desire, but this is something else.
If you think cars and trucks can get strange names, just wait til you learn about the world of trains. Scratching a locomotive's planned name in favor of something silly scrawled on its boiler is only the tip of the iceberg; trains have been gotten goofy names ranging from Jawn Henry to Galloping Goose and even Flying Hamburger. Perhaps the funniest in history, though, belongs to a humble British freight locomotive, which putters around England with a plaque reading "Dick Mabbutt" bolted to the side.
Much to the delight of... me, I recently learned Dick Mabbutt is the real, publicly-displayed name of a GB Railfreight Class 73/9 locomotive, specifically unit 73692. This engine went viral a couple weeks ago via social media trainspotting sensation Francis Bourgeois, who filmed himself meeting the engine with unbridled joy. His reaction (along with a very unusual face cam) no doubt helped catapult his video into the limelight, and its subject matter into the consciousness of thousands, who now in addition to high-speed rail have another double entendre for flirting with train nerds. (Not an all-male hobby, if you can believe that.)
The way GB Railfreight tells it, unit 73962 got its name from a widely loved engineer at British locomotive works Brush Traction. Richard Mabbutt (affectionately known as Dick) worked his way up from an engineering apprenticeship to Chief Electrical Engineer over a 40-year career, only to pass away unexpectedly in 2013, according to Loughborough Echo.
Fittingly for Mabbutt, who "lived and breathed locomotives" according to a GB Railfreight tweet, he would be memorialized by having the first of the railway's modernized Class 73/9 engines named in his honor. These updated locomotives can produce the same power running off an electrified third rail as can from their prime movers—in 73962's case, an MTU 8V 4000 R43L. That's a 38.1-liter turbodiesel V8, generating 1,609 horsepower and 4,829 pound-feet of torque. (It weighs 11,618 pounds, so no, it probably won't fit your Camaro.)
GB Railfreight told Rail Magazine in 2014 it hoped these modernizations would add 25 years to the Class 73's already lengthy service life, which already dates back to 1962. That Mabbutt will be paraded through the British countryside for at least another 18 years would surely make its namesake proud—you just know he'd be over the moon to make people crack a smile decades after his passing. Yes, those are puns, and yes, I am sorry.
Know of unusual trains you'd like to see covered? Ring my bell at firstname.lastname@example.org
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