FIFTY years ago steam locomotives suddenly became a much rarer sight in Furness as the new breed of diesel units - many with Barrow engines - took over.

The travelling public was not very nostalgic about steam power in 1966 - it was seen as dirty and old fashioned by most.

The Evening Mail of Tuesday, December 13 in 1966 announced the end of an era of steam which had started back in 1846 with the arrival of Coppernob for the Barrow-based Furness Railway.

It noted: "Unheralded, except for a flurry of interest among schoolboy train-spotters, a new era of Barrow railway history began yesterday.

"From now on, the rumble of diesel engines will replace completely the hiss of steam in the town's British Railways depot."

Mr D. Hayes, Barrow station manager, said: "Beginning yesterday, the depot turned over completely to diesel.

"It is recognised that it is not economical to keep several depots operating steam, in view of the decreasing numbers of steam locomotives.

"The depot will be confined to Crossley type diesels, diesel multiple units and diesel shunting engines.

"There will be steam engines at Carnforth and they will be working backwards and forwards throuigh the Barrow area.

"Sometimes they will be manned by Barrow crews."

Vickers at Barrow had much to do with the decline of steam on Britain's railways as it was a major producer of diesel locomotive engines.

An example of the Swiss-designed Sulzer engine, which was built under licence at Barrow, is preserved at the National Railway Museum in York.

The York engine left Vickers in 1960, had six cylinders and produced 1,160hp.

A display board notes: "It was directly coupled to the electric generators, which produced a direct-current electrical supply to the motors mounted on the locomotive bogies."

A booklet produced to mark a board meeting and shipyard tour at Vickers in July 1960 turned up at the collectables shop Pepperland Collect in Scott Street, Barrow.

The directors were shown the production line for Sulzer engines in the general engineering shop.

They were built with six, eight or 12 cyclinders. The booklet noted: "By arrangement with the British Transport Commission a type 2 diesel electric locomotive, fitted with a Sulzer traction engine manufactured by the Barrow works of Vickers-Armstrongs (Engineers) Limited, will be at Barrow Central Station for inspection on Thursday and Friday, 21st and 22nd July, 1960."

The production line had an important visitor in 1964, Dr Richard Beeching, the first chairman of the British Railways Board.

His push for modernisation on the railways saw the rapid introduction of diesel locomotives and the cutting of thousands of miles of branch lines - including that from Ulverston to Lakeside.