British Rail Class 56
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|British Rail Class 56|
|Gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Length||63 ft 6 in (19.35 m)|
|Width||9 ft 2 in (2.79 m)|
|Height||12 ft 9 in (3.89 m)|
|Locomotive weight||123 long tons (125 t)|
|Fuel capacity||1,150 imp gal (5,200 l; 1,380 US gal)|
|Prime mover||Ruston-Paxman 16RK3CT|
|Multiple working||◆ Red Diamond|
|Top speed||80 mph (129 km/h)|
|Power output||Engine: 3,250 bhp (2,424 kW)
at rail: 2,400 bhp (1,790 kW)
|Tractive effort||Maximum: 61,800 lbf (275 kN)
Continuous: 53,950 lbf (240 kN) at 16.8 mph 
|59 long tons-force (588 kN)|
|Axle load class||Route availability 7|
The British Rail Class 56 is a type of diesel locomotive designed for heavy freight work. It is a Type 5 locomotive, with a Ruston-Paxman power unit developing 3,250 bhp (2,423 kW), and has a Co-Co wheel arrangement. The fleet was introduced between 1976 and 1984.
The first thirty locomotives (Nos.56001-56030) were built by Electroputere in Romania, but these suffered from poor construction standards and many were withdrawn from service early. The remaining 105 locomotives were built by BREL at Doncaster Works (nos. 56031 to 56115) and Crewe Works (Nos.56116 to 56135). Enthusiasts nicknamed them "Gridirons" (or "Grids" for short), due to the grid-like horn cover on the locomotive's cab ends fitted to nos. 56 056 on.
When introduced, Class 56s were arguably the first of the "second generation" of UK diesel locomotives.
The engine is a direct descendent of English Electric CSVT types, its closest relative being the 16CSVT used in the Class 50. Technical advances included significantly uprated turbochargers, gear driven camshafts in place of the timing chain used on Class 50s, and uprated cylinder heads, fuel pumps and injectors. The engine was nominally rated at 3,520 hp (2,620 kW), but was set at 3,250 hp (2,420 kW) for rail use.
A key difference between Class 56s and the earlier designs of the 1950s and 1960s is the use of self-exciting alternators rather than direct current (DC) generators for the generation of traction current and auxiliary supply. This produces a far more robust power unit, and greatly reduces the risk of flash-overs and other earth faults. Traction supply was rectified since the type employs DC traction motors. Many auxiliary machines (such as compressors and traction motor blowers) used the unrectified 3-phase AC output of the auxiliary alternator, and therefore run at a speed proportional to engine r.p.m.
Class 56s were the first British Rail diesel type to be built with air train brakes only, using the Davies and Metcalfe E70 system. Earlier designs had variously been fitted with vacuum train brakes, or a dual braking system.
A total of 135 locomotives was built, numbered as follows:
- 56001 to 56030, built by Electroputere, Romania
- 56031 to 56115, built by BREL, Doncaster
- 56116 to 56135, built by BREL, Crewe
The Class 56 Group has published a list of locomotives still in existence at 29 March 2011. This includes locomotives stored, in mainline use and preserved.
In service the Class 56 proved to be a strong and capable locomotive, and less prone to wheelslip than the Class 58. However, maintenance needs were high by modern standards, and notwithstanding significant investment by Trans-Rail and Load-Haul in their Class 56 fleets in the 1990s, the class could not compete with the more modern Class 66 in terms of availability or maintenance costs. As Class 66 imports gathered pace the writing was on the wall for EWS operated Class 56s, which looked increasingly like locomotives from another era.
Class 56s today
Most examples were withdrawn by EWS on 31 March 2004. Some were subsequently reinstated for use on construction trains connected with the LGV Est in France, although all such locomotives have now returned to the UK. The rest work for Fastline or other private operators.
In 2006, two locomotives (56045 and 56124) were overhauled at Brush Traction and renumbered as 56301 and 56302 for Fastline, the British freight company launched by Jarvis. 56125 was returned to service after a less thorough overhaul by FMRail and numbered 56303. They were used on intermodal traffic. The small fleet never achieved particularly impressive availability, and there were significant problems with bogies, turbochargers, and low power. Fastline have now dispensed with Class 56 operation due to the loss of intermodal traffic and operated Class 66s on their coal traffic until March 2010 when the company went bust. 56301 is now stored, 56302 owned and run by Colas Rail, while 56303 has been returned to RVEL (successor to FMRail) and sat out of use at Derby, but in September 2009 it was repainted into Great Western Railway green livery, to mark the 175th anniversary of The Great Western Railway in 2010. The loco was expected to move to the Severn Valley Railway in October 2009 to participate in their 2009 diesel gala, before being used as part of the GWR 175 celebrations next year, but its involvement was subsequently shelved. The loco is however in use with the freight spot hire market, having twice been hired from RVEL to Colas Rail in late 2009 to work the Boston to Washwood Heath steel train and return empties. 56303 is currently (2011) part of the BARS fleet, based at Washwood Heath.
Formerly preserved 56057 (renumbered 56311) and 56003 (renumbered 56312) are now operated by British American Railway Services (formerly Hanson Traction), these were frequently hired to Colas Rail to work their intermodal services between Dollands Moor and Hams Hall, steel diagrams between Boston and Washwood Heath and their Dagenham to Dollands Moor "Transfesa" workings in London, supplementing Colas Rail's own class 47/7 fleet. Now British American Railway Services use 56311 and 56312, along with 56303 on their own freights flows including scrap metal flows and for stock moves. During 2011, 56312 was repainted into the same grey livery as 311, but with advertising for the National Railway Museum's forthcoming 'Railfest 2012' event displayed on the bodyside (this has since been removed). 56128 (which was to become 56313) is also owned by British American Railway Services but its use on the mainline is now uncertain, as it remains stored at Wansford (Nene Valley Railway; BARS' former base which they no longer use, instead favouring the former Alstom facility at Washwood Heath). 56114 was stripped of usable parts and dispatched for scrapping during March 2012 and was cut up immediately after arrival at EMR Kingsbury. BARS 56091 has now returned to service (April 2013), and 56103 is nearing the completion of its restoration.
In September 2011, freight operator DB Schenker (formerly EWS) announced that all 33 stored class 56s in its fleet were up for sale with most expected to be sold for scrap.
- For re-use
UK-based locomotive provider Europhoenix has bought three of the DB Schenker locomotives (56018, 56115, 56117) for export to Hungarian freight operator Floyd. They finally bought 56101 (from preservation), 56115 and 56117. With 56101 moving to Europhoenix, 56018 has been sold to preservationist Ed Stevenson. 56101 arrived to Hungary on 19 June 2012. The deal is for six locomotives, so Europhoenix will be seeking three more class 56s from other sources. In July 2012, Europhoenix purchased 56086 from the Battlefield Line and 56096 from EMR with these two being returned to traffic for export.
- For scrap
In late 2011, DB Schenker sold 27 Class 56s for scrap to European Metal Recycling. These are 56006, 031, 032, 037, 038, 046, 049, 051, 058, 060, 065, 069, 073, 074, 077, 078, 081, 087, 090, 094, 096, 104, 105, 106, 112, 113, 133. Despite the mass sale of scrap, 56078, 56087, 56094, 56105 and 56113 were sold on to Colas Rail while Ed Stevenson has bought 56051, 56060, 56065 and 56081 to form a pool of locomotives with 56007, 56301 and 56302. BARS and Europheonix may be looking into purchasing more 56s for future use.
|56006||-||BR Blue||Barrow Hill||Under restoration|
|56097||-||Railfreight Triple Grey (Coal Sector)||Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre||Operational.|
|56098||-||Load Haul||Battlefield Line||Undergoing repair.|
|56301||-||Fastline Freight||Burton||Operational. Often on hire to DCR/BARS|
- Platform 5 pocket book no.1, 2001, page 51, ISBN 1-902336-15-1
- Class 56 fleet list 2011
- "Items for disposal".
- Railways Illustrated, February 2012, page 8, ISSN 1479-2230
- Railways Illustrated, February 2012, page 9, ISSN 1479-2230
- "Two more 56s preserved". Railways Illustrated: p.30. March 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to
British Rail Class 56.
- Class 56 Group - owners of preserved loco no. 56045 now 56103
- Class 56 Diesel Photo Gallery
- Electroputere Catalogue Entry for LDE 3500 HP-BR
- The Class 56 section of Ste's railway gallery
- General railway photographs in Britain BR Brush Class 56 at Paul Bartlett's Photographs