British Rail Class 50
|British Rail Class 50|
50015 Valiant, as preserved at the East Lancashire Railway in 2008.
|Builder||English Electric at Vulcan Foundry|
|Gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Wheel diameter||3 ft 7 in (1.092 m)|
|Wheelbase||56 ft 2 in (17.12 m)|
|Length||68 ft 6 in (20.88 m)|
|Width||8 ft 10 in (2.69 m)|
|Height||12 ft 9 in (3.89 m)|
|Axle load||19 long tons 10 hundredweights (19.8 t; 21.8 short tons)|
|Locomotive weight||115 long tons (117 t; 129 short tons)|
|Prime mover||English Electric 16 CSVT|
|Engine type||16 cyl, 246 litres (15,000 cu in) Diesel engine|
|Traction motors||6 English Electric type 538/5A axle-hung nose-suspended 400 hp (300 kW) traction motors|
|Multiple working||■ Orange Square|
|Top speed||100 mph (160 km/h)|
|Power output||Engine: 2,700 bhp (2,010 kW)|
|Tractive effort||Maximum: 48,500 lbf (216 kN)
Continuous: 33,000 lbf (147,000 N)@ 23.5 mph (37.8 km/h)
|Train heating||Electric Train Heat|
|Train brakes||Dual (Air and Vacuum)|
|Number||D400–D449; later 50001–50050|
|Axle load class||Route availability 6|
The British Rail (BR) Class 50 is a diesel locomotive built from 1967-68 by English Electric at their Vulcan Foundry Works in Newton-le-Willows. Fifty of these locomotives were built to haul express passenger trains on the, then non-electrified, section of the West Coast Main Line between Crewe, Carlisle and Scotland. They were originally hired from English Electric Leasing, not being purchased outright by BR until around 1973. Before gaining their 50xxx TOPS numbers these locomotives were known as English Electric Type 4s. The class were nicknamed "Hoovers"[note 1] (sometimes shortened to "Vacs") by rail enthusiasts because of the distinctive sound made by the inertial air-filters originally fitted. These proved unreliable, and were removed during mid-life refurbishment, but the "Hoover" nickname stuck.
The Class 50 fleet design was developed following trials with a prototype which used a body similar to a Deltic but modified to house the single diesel engine and cooler group. It was developed as a private venture by English Electric and was trialled under a contract with British Rail largely on routes out of Kings Cross. BR gave the locomotive the reporting reference DP2.
Unusually BR did not initially purchase the production batch of locomotives, but agreed to lease them from English Electric. EE manufactured all fifty locomotives at its Newton-le-Willows plant, delivering them all in the BR Blue livery with yellow cab fronts and numbered D400-D449. From 1973 onwards, the locomotives were renumbered into the range 50001-50050, to conform with the TOPS system. With the exception of the first-built locomotive, which was renumbered to 50050, the rest of the fleet retained the last two digits of their number. BR purchased all fifty locomotives from EE in the late 1970s.
The class were built for working passenger services on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) north of Crewe, to Preston, Lancaster, Carlisle and Glasgow Central. Services south of Crewe would generally be worked by an electric locomotive, with the Class 50s taking over for the journeys that continued north. Trains were often double-headed to deal with the steep gradients, such as Shap Summit and Beattock Summit. Due to the original build having a high fail rate double heading also increased the reliability of this service, a joke with train crews at the time was the class 50 pairing would only have a 50:50 chance of completing the journey with no failures.
By 1974 the northern WCML was electrified, and the Class 50 fleet was displaced by new Class 87 electrics. The fleet was transferred to the Western Region, working mainline passenger services from London Paddington along the Great Western Main Line to destinations such as Oxford, Cheltenham Spa, Bristol Temple Meads, Plymouth and Penzance. It was not unusual for locomotives to work services on other routes, such as the Birmingham New Street to Bristol Temple Meads corridor. The introduction of the Class 50s on these routes enabled the last remaining, non-standard, diesel hydraulic "Westerns" to be withdrawn.
In the late-1970s following the earlier withdrawal of the "Warships", BR decided to continue this naming policy, and as a result the Class 50 fleet were all named after Royal Navy warships. The first locomotive naming occurred in January 1978, when 50035 was named Ark Royal in honour of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. The rest of the fleet was named during the course of 1978, concluding in October with 50029, which was named Renown after the Resolution-class nuclear submarine HMS Renown.
From 1977, British Rail introduced the Class 253 High Speed Trains onto the Great Western Main Line which began the displacement of the Class 50 fleet onto other routes, such as services to Birmingham New Street from London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads. The class also found work on the West of England Main Line from London Waterloo to Salisbury, Exeter and Plymouth. However, due in part to the over-complexity of the design, the class was plagued with reliability problems. As a result, the decision was taken in the late 1970s to refurbish the entire fleet.
Between 1979 and 1984, the Class 50 fleet was refurbished at Doncaster Works, which had taken responsibility for the fleet after purchase from English Electric. The work involved simplifying the complex electronics and removing redundant features such as slow speed control and rheostatic braking. In addition, the air intake fan arrangement was modified, because the original setup often prevented fresh air from entering the engine room and stale, oil mist-filled air from escaping, leading to many main generator failures. This was in part due to the moisture in the air in the UK: dust and other particles would lodge in the filter system and become 'gummed up' with moisture, preventing circulation which in turn also hampered the intended engine compartment pressure levels which then meant 'filtered' air could not be evacuated by the intended means. The filtration system was fundamentally sound and widely used in other countries; the problems arose because relative humidity had not been taken into account at the design stage. This modification eliminated the characteristic "sucking" noise which had earned the "Hoover" nickname.
Externally, the locomotives all received high-intensity headlights, which changed the appearance of the front end. Starting with 50006, the first six locomotives were outshopped in the standard BR Blue livery. However, in 1980, 50023 Howe became the first to be outshopped in a revised livery with wrap around yellow cabs, large bodyside numerals and BR logo, in a livery that became known as BR Blue Large Logo. The final loco to be refurbished was 50014 which was released to traffic in the latter half of 1983.
Following refurbishment, the fleet was concentrated at two depots; Laira in Plymouth, and Old Oak Common in west London. The class were again used for Western Region services on the GWML out of Paddington, and on the West of England Main Line from Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter.
In 1984, 50007 Hercules was repainted into lined Brunswick green livery and renamed Sir Edward Elgar, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Great Western Railway (GWR). Four Class 47 locomotives were similarly treated, and a Class 117 diesel multiple unit (DMU) was repainted in chocolate and cream livery. As a result, 50007 quickly became a favourite with rail enthusiasts. Another locomotive repainted in a special livery was 50019 Ramillies, which was repainted in a variation of BR Blue by staff at Plymouth Laira depot.
In 1986 the West of England Main Line came under the control of the Network SouthEast (NSE) sector, which saw the introduction of their bright blue, red and white livery. The first locomotive in this livery was again 50023 Howe. The NSE livery had two versions; the original had upswept red and white stripes and the ends, with a white cab surround; the revised livery introduced in 1988 had the red and white stripes continue to the body ends, with a blue cab surround. In the revised livery the blue became a darker shade.
Towards the end of the 1980s, the fleet could be found mostly on the West of England route, as well as fast services from Paddington to Oxford. Some locomotives were also transferred to the civil engineers department to work maintenance and engineering trains. Around this time, the first locomotives were withdrawn, starting with 50011 Centurion in early 1987. This locomotive's nameplates were later transferred to 50040, which was previously named Leviathan. A further two locomotives, 50006 Neptune and 50014 Warspite were withdrawn in 1987, followed by a further five locomotives (50010/13/22/38/47) in 1988.
In 1987, consideration was given to using the class on freight trains. To this end, 50049 "Defiance" was renumbered to 50149, equipped with modified Class 37, lower-geared bogies and outshopped in the new trainload grey livery with Railfreight decals. It was based at Plymouth Laira depot, and tested on local china clay trains in Cornwall as well as heavy stone trains to London from Devon quarries. The project was, however, not an outstanding success, and by 1989, the locomotive had returned to its original identity. Ironically, the electronic anti-wheelslip equipment (with which, the entire class had originally been built) which would have been key to the success of this experiment had been removed during the refurbishment process.
At the start of the 1990s, the reliability of the fleet became a problem again. By this time, the class was solely used on the West of England route, having been replaced on the Oxford route by Class 47/7 locomotives. Arguably, the Class 50s were not suitable for the stop-start service pattern of Waterloo-Exeter services, nor to the extended single-line sections of this route, where a single locomotive failure could cause chaos. Therefore the decision was taken to retire the fleet, temporarily replacing them with Class 47 locomotives, which were in turn replaced by new Diesel Multiple Units. From 1992, the Oxford route was worked by Class 165 and Class 166 units, whilst Class 159 units were introduced onto the West of England route in 1993.
By 1992, just eight locomotives remained in service, these being 50007/008/015/029/030/033/046/050. Several of these locomotives were specially repainted to commemorate the run-down of the fleet. The first-built locomotive, 50050 Fearless was renumbered D400 and painted in its original BR Blue livery. Two other locomotives, 50008 Thunderer and 50015 Valiant were also repainted, the former in a variation of BR Blue (the same as 50019 had previously carried), and the latter in "Dutch" civil-engineers grey/yellow livery. Of the final eight locomotives, three were retained until 1994 for use on special railtours, these being 50007 Sir Edward Elgar, 50033 Glorious and 50050 Fearless. 50007 was returned to working order using parts from 50046, which surrendered its recently overhauled power unit and bogies. By this time, 50050 had been repainted into Large Logo livery and 50007 also received a repaint into GWR green as the 1985 paint was wearing very thin. The final railtours operated in March 1994, during one of which 50033 was delivered for preservation at the National Railway Museum. The final railtour operated with 50007 and 50050 from London Waterloo to Penzance and returning to London Paddington. Both locomotives were later preserved.
|D400||50050||Fearless||23.08.78||Carried nameplate 04.08.78 - 07.08.78. Preserved by the D400 Fund |
|D402||50002||Superb||21.03.78||Preserved by the Devon Diesel Society |
|D407||50007||Hercules||06.04.78||Renamed Sir Edward Elgar 25.02.84. Preserved at the Midland Railway - Butterley |
|D411||50011||Centurion||--.08.79||First to be withdrawn.|
|D415||50015||Valiant||21.04.78||Preserved: owned by the Bury Valiant Group|
|D417||50017||Royal Oak||24.04.78||Preserved at the Plym Valley Railway|
|D419||50019||Ramillies||18.04.78||Preserved at the Mid Norfolk Railway|
|D425||50025||Invincible||06.06.78||Scrapped at Old Oak Common in October 1989, after derailment at West Ealing in August 1989, as a result of vandals placing an object onto the track, causing the loco to overturn.|
|D426||50026||Indomitable||29.03.78||Privately Preserved |
|D427||50027||Lion||17.04.78||Preserved at the Mid Hants Railway. Moved from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway on 13 June 2012.|
|D429||50029||Renown||26.10.78||Preserved: owned by the Renown Repulse restoration Group|
|D430||50030||Repulse||10.04.78||Preserved: owned by the Renown Repulse restoration Group|
|D431||50031||Hood||28.06.78||Preserved: operated by the Class 50 Alliance|
|D435||50035||Ark Royal||17.01.78||Preserved: owned by the Class 50 Alliance|
|D440||50040||Leviathan||15.09.78||Scrapped at Sims Metals, June/July 2008.|
|D442||50042||Triumph||04.10.78||Preserved at the Bodmin and Wenford Railway|
|D443||50043||Eagle||28.06.78||scrapped for spares 2002 Blaenavon|
|D444||50044||Exeter||26.04.78||Preserved: owned by the Class 50 Alliance|
|Defiance||02.05.78|| 50149 carried during experimental Railfreight period (see text).
Preserved: owned by the Class 50 Alliance
Like the British Class 50s, they were equipped with an English Electric 16 CSVT engine and produced 2700 hp (2020 HP at the wheels). Unlike the BR locomotives upon which electronic control is extensively used, the Portuguese locomotives employ conventional control gear (the only exceptions being stepless control of tractive effort by a solid-state load regulator and the use of a very effective out-of-balance wheel-slip detector). The main generator and the traction motors are identical to those used on the BR Type 3 and Deltic locomotives. Contrary to BR Class 50, the Portuguese Série 1800 locomotives were built to be as much compatible with the smaller Série 1400 (themselves similar to BR Class 20) as possible and also to use as many common components as possible.
They were the only diesel locomotives in Portugal authorised to run at 140 km/h. The CP Série 1800s were all withdrawn in 2001 and (as of 2012) several have been cut up, and the future of the rest is unclear.
Locomotive 1805 has been preserved in operational condition by the Portuguese National Railway Museum at Entroncamento. It was repainted at the CP workshop at Contumil near Porto. Since the 1980s it had been painted in CP's corporate orange livery; it has been repainted in its original distinctive blue livery. It is fully functional, and while still an integral part of the National Railway Museum, is set to return to service pulling tourist trains in the Douro River Line.
Class 50 locomotives proved popular with rail enthusiasts, with eighteen locomotives saved for preservation and several subsequently registered for use on the mainline.
An ambitious project involving preserved Class 50s was "Operation Collingwood", an engineering charity established in the early 1990s. The aim had been to train young engineering apprentices by getting them to rebuild railway locomotives and Class 50s were chosen both for the fact that they were a British design throughout and that all were named (so the apprentices would derive some pride from rededication ceremonies at the completion of their work). To this end, Operation Collingwood purchased and stored 50001, 50023, 50029, 50030, 50040 and 50045. All except 50029 and 50030 were heavily stripped examples sold to scrapyards for final cutting up. The intention was to restore them by using industrial sponsorship money to build an engineering centre and overhaul the components, making brand new ones where necessary to overcome lack of availability of some parts unique to the original design. These ambitions failed when sponsorship did not reach the required level and the project lost various key people. The charity was wound up in 2002; 50001/023/040 and 045 were sold back to scrapyards and their state as little more than bodyshells deterred most further preservation attempts. 50045 was scrapped to provide spares for preserved 50026, and 50001 met a similar fate. A private individual made an attempt to restore 50023 using some parts from 50001 but this was abandoned and the shell was cut up a few years after the initial purchase. 50040 could have been suitable for cosmetic restoration, but after many years untouched and in a derelict state at the Coventry Railway Centre, it finally had all remaining parts stripped for spares and was transported to Sims Metals of Halesowen and scrapping. The cutting of the derelict hulk was completed by Wednesday 2 July 2008. 50029 and 50030 were in far better mechanical condition, and were sold to a preservation group for full restoration.
50043 Eagle was purchased in almost working order (the main generator had failed, a very common Class 50 problem) but it was never intended for restoration. Instead the power unit was gutted to provide parts for preserved Class 40 no. 40118 as the two share a very similar design of diesel engine. Eagle was then subjected to a further bout of stripping when electrical and other parts were sold to various Class 50 preservationists. Although cosmetically very smart, the loco was by this stage unrestorable and although an ambitious private individual did try, this effort soon came to naught and it was scrapped to provide parts for 50026 Indomitable.
Once preserved, 50002 became the first class 50 to operate a train for a private party on the South Devon Railway (April 1992), while 50031 was the first to operate a train for fare paying passengers (Severn Valley Railway May 1992). 50031 was also the first to operate on the mainline, hauling the Past Time Railtours Pilgrim Hoover train from Birmingham International to Plymouth on 1 November 1997. Since then several other members of the class have also been passed for use on Network Rail (was Railtrack) lines (including 50044, 50049 and 50050). However with changes in the UK's Rail Access regulations (requiring fitment of additional equipment: TPWS/OTMR/GSMR) some of these locos are no longer of a standard to continue mainline operation.
One locomotive, 50017, was hired to Venice Simplon Orient Express (VSOE) to work the Northern Belle service from Bath to Manchester Victoria. As part of the contract it was painted in LMS-style maroon livery. Following this, the loco spent many years dumped at Tyseley locomotive works before being sold to a private individual. The loco has now been restored to working order at the Plym Valley Railway.
In 2005, 50031 and 50049 were on long term hire to Arriva Trains Wales (ATW), for use on special services in connection with events at the Millennium Stadium, and over the summer period saw regular use on the Monday to Saturday "Fishguard Flyer" from Cardiff to Fishguard and return, in connection with the ferry sailing to Ireland. One of the two locomotives was used for the service each day, along with 4 Mark 2 coaches, the short formation and high power leading to very good performance. This arrangement lasted for one year. At the end of this period 50031 failed whilst working an ECS (Empty Coaching Stock) train, again for ATW.
During the summer of 2008 50044 "Exeter" was fitted with OTMR, and the TPWS fitted previously was commissioned. In October 2008 '44 was re-registered for mainline use, and operated its first revenue mainline train on 18 October 2008, when it worked, in multiple with 50049 "Defiance" on a railtour from Manchester Piccadilly to Minehead.
Several owning groups have ceremonially re-dedicated their locomotives to the warships whose names they carry. The HMS Hood Association rededicated 50031 Hood at the Mid Hants Railway, unveiling new crests. The crew of HMS Exeter re-dedicated D444 Exeter at the Severn Valley Railway a year before the vessel was decommissioned, unveiling a crest and early-BR-style nameplates. The captain of HMS Ark Royal performed the re-dedication ceremony for 50135 Ark Royal at the Eastleigh 100 Open Days.
List of preserved locomotives
|Numbers (current in bold)||Name||Livery||Location||Notes|
|D400||50050||-||Fearless||BR Blue Large Logo||Yeovil Railway Centre||First-built locomotive.|
|D402||50002||-||Superb||BR Blue||South Devon Railway||Being cosmetically restored to unrefurbished condition|
|D407||50007||-||Sir Edward Elgar
|GWR Brunswick Green||Midland Railway - Butterley||Specially repainted to commemorate Great Western Railway 150th anniversary in 1984.|
|D408||50008||-||Thunderer||BR "Laira Blue"||Barrow Hill||Re-entered preservation in 2006. Repainted by ELR 2009-2010|
|D415||50015||-||Valiant||BR Blue Large Logo||East Lancashire Railway||Only Class 50 to carry "Dutch" civil-engineers livery in BR ownership. Preserved by Bury Valiant Group|
|D417||50017||-||Royal Oak||Network SouthEast (Original)||Plym Valley Railway||Previously used to operate VSOE Northern Belle.|
|D419||50019||-||Ramillies||BR Blue Large Logo||Mid-Norfolk Railway||-|
|D421||50021||-||Rodney||BR Blue Large Logo||Tyseley Locomotive Works||-|
|D426||50026||-||Indomitable||BR Blue Large Logo||Mid Norfolk Railway||Operational and fitted with OTMR equipment for mainline operation. Requires TPWS, NRN Radio and GSM-R Radio.|
|D427||50027||-||Lion||Network SouthEast (Revised)||Mid Hants Railway||-|
|D429||50029||-||Renown||BR Blue Large Logo||Peak Rail||-|
|D430||50030||-||Repulse||BR Blue Large Logo||Peak Rail||-|
|D431||50031||-||Hood||BR Blue Large Logo||Severn Valley Railway||Operational.|
|D433||50033||-||Glorious||BR Blue Large Logo||Tyseley Locomotive Works||Previously at Swindon Steam Railway Museum|
|D435||50035||50135||Ark Royal||Non-prototypical Load-Haul||Severn Valley Railway||Currently at the Severn Valley Railway - non-operational: awaiting ETH generator repair/replacement.|
|D442||50042||-||Triumph||BR Blue||Bodmin & Wenford Railway||-|
|D444||50044||-||Exeter||BR Blue||Severn Valley Railway||Mainline registered
Currently awaiting a power unit repair at Brush, Loughborough.
|D449||50049||50149||Defiance||BR Blue Large Logo (Black Roof)||Severn Valley Railway||Mainline registered.
Currently undergoing a power unit repair at the Severn Valley Railway.
50015 'Valiant' in Bury, East Lancashire Railway
References, literature and notes
- after The Hoover Company, the name "Hoover" being a genericized trademark used to apply to all makes of Vacuum cleaners in the UK
- "Class 50 Locomotive Names". Class50.com. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
- Locomotives owned by Renown Repulse Restoration Group
- Locomotives operated by the Class 50 Alliance Ltd (Accessed 2009-01-28)
- Locomotives owned by the Class 50 Alliance Ltd (Accessed 2009-01-28)
- Clough, David (2004). Class 50s in Operation. Hersham: Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-711029-71-7.
- Chalcraft, John; Scott-Lowe, Graham (1979). Book of the Fifties. Gloucester: Peter Watts Publishing. ISBN 0-906025-10-9.
- Chalcraft, John (1985). Portrait of the Fifties. Bristol: Rail Photoprints. ISBN 0-906883-07-5.
- Vaughan, John (1979). The Power of the 50s. Oxford: OPC. ISBN 0-86093-060-2.
- McManus, Michael. Ultimate Allocations, British Railways Locomotives 1948 - 1968. Wirral. Michael McManus.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to
British Rail Class 50.
- 50015 Bury Valiant Group - Information on D415/50015 based at the East Lancashire Railway
- The Fifty Fund - Supporters group for the locomotives owned and operated by The Class 50 Alliance Ltd. - Information on all class 50s and specific coverage of 50031 Hood, 50035 Ark Royal, 50044 Exeter and 50049 Defiance all nominally based at the Severn Valley Railway
- The Fifties – extensive information on names, liveries and history, plus comprehensive photo gallery
- Class 50 loco-by-loco photo gallery
- Class50.net – pictorial guide to Class 50s preserved or under restoration
- English Electric Archive – archive gallery dedicated to English Electric Type 4 and Type 5 diesel locomotives