British Rail Class 57

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British Rail Class 57
Railfest 2012 MMB 74 57309.jpg
Direct Rail Services 57309 at the
National Rail Museum Railfest June 2012
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder Brush Traction or BR Crewe Works
Rebuilt by Brush Traction
Build date Rebuilt: 1998–2004
Total produced 33
Configuration Co-Co
AAR wheel arr. C-C
UIC classification Co'Co'
Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Length 19.38 metres (63 ft 7 in)
Width 2.79 metres (9 ft 2 in)
Locomotive weight 57/0 & 57601: 120.6 tonnes (119 long tons; 133 short tons)
57/3 & 57602–57605: 117 tonnes (115 long tons; 129 short tons)
Fuel capacity 57/0: 5,550 l (1,220 imp gal; 1,470 US gal)
57/3 & 57/6: 5,887 l (1,295 imp gal; 1,555 US gal)
Prime mover 57/0: EMD 645-E3
57/3 & 57/6: EMD 645-F3B
Engine type V12 two-stroke diesel
Top speed 57/0: 75 mph (121 km/h)
57/3 & 57/6: 95 mph (153 km/h)
Power output 57/0: 2,500 bhp (1,860 kW)
57/3 & 57/6: 2,750 bhp (2,050 kW)
Train heating 57/0: None
57601: Electric Train Supply index 95
57/3 & 57602-57605: Electric Train Supply index 100
57/0: 80 long tons-force (797 kN)
57/3 & 57/6: 60 long tons-force (598 kN)
Train brakes Air
Railroad(s) Direct Rail Services
First Great Western
Network Rail
West Coast Railway Company
Number 57001–57012, 57301–57316, 57601–57605
Nicknames Zombie, Thunderbird, Body Snatchers, Ronnie

The Class 57 diesel locomotives were introduced by Brush Traction between 1998 and 2004. They are rebuilds, with reconditioned EMD engines, of former Class 47 locomotives, originally introduced in 1964–67.


The Class 57 is a re-engineered locomotive, rebuilt by Brush Traction at Loughborough from redundant Class 47 locomotives. The locomotives are fitted with a refurbished EMD engine and a reconditioned alternator, improving reliability and performance. Three variants exist, one for freight and two for passenger operations. At £500,000 it was about one-third the cost of a new build locomotive.[1]

The class has its origins in 1997 when Freightliner ordered an initial six locomotives. In 2000 a prototype locomotive was converted with electric train heating, with a view to obtaining orders from passenger companies.

They are known as "Bodysnatchers", or "Zombies" to enthusiasts, by virtue of the fact that the shell (body) of the Class 47 has been stripped, rewired and re-engined[2] and as "GM"s due to them being "genetically modified" with General Motors equipment, EMD being a General Motors owned company.

Current operators[edit]

Direct Rail Services[edit]

Direct Rail Services 57012 passes Castleton East Junction

Direct Rail Services currently operate nine 57/0s, comprising 57002-57003 and 57007-57012 leased from Porterbrook and 57004 purchased outright as an insurance replacement for 37515 in 2008. DRS took 57302, 57305 and 57309 from Porterbrook in April 2012 on a three year lease.[3] From December 2012 Direct Rail Services have provided haulage for Virgin Trains. As part of the deal another three 57/3s were leased.

First Great Western[edit]

In 2000 Porterbrook placed an order for a prototype passenger locomotive fitted with electric train heating. This locomotive, 57601, was leased to First Great Western in June 2001,[4] FGW were looking for a replacement for its elderly Class 47 locomotives. It hauled Mark 2 stock on day services from London Paddington to Plymouth and Penzance until these ceased in September 2002 and the Night Riviera sleeper service. After an evaluation period, FGW agreed to lease three production Class 57/6s from Porterbrook in May 2002.[5] with the first delivered in November 2003.[6] As the prototype locomotive was non-standard, it was decided to order a fourth Class 57/6 in 2003 and return 57601 to Porterbrook. This occurred in December 2003 after the first production Class 57/6 was delivered with 57601 sold to West Coast Railway Company.[7]

The FGW fleet were originally painted green with a gold bodyside band to match the Night Riviera stock with cast name and numberplates. All four locomotives were named after castles in Devon and Cornwall, and operate mainly on the Night Riviera sleeper service with the occasional stock move. From March 2008 the fleet started to receive FGW's blue livery, with 57605 the first repainted. In June 2010 57604 received a repaint into lined Brunswick green livery to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the Great Western Railway.[8]

Virgin Trains 57312, on hire to First Great Western, trailing a rake of Mark 2 carriages on a Cardiff Central-Taunton service

First GBRf hired Virgin Class 57/3s to operate in top and tail formation with Mark 2 stock on a FGW Taunton to Cardiff diagram from December 2009 until July 2010 when the Class 57/3s were replaced due to unreliability by Class 67s. This diagram ran to cover for the unavailability of the normal DMU stock.[9]

Network Rail[edit]

In September 2011 Network Rail leased six Class 57/3s from Porterbrook for use on test trains and the new Network Rail snow train.[10] They have received the enthusiast nickname Snowbirds as a reference to their former Virgin Thunderbird status and their new snow train duties. The Dellner couplings (with the exception of 57301 and 57306) have been reconfigured to operate with classes 171, 350, 375, 376, 377, 444 and 450 in an emergency, due to their operational area primarily being the Southern Region. In April 2013 57301 and 57306 received Tightlock couplings.

West Coast Railway Company[edit]

West Coast Railway Company purchased the prototype passenger locomotive 57601 from Porterbrook taking delivery in December 2003.[11]

In January 2011 WCRC purchased 57001 from Freightliner from Porterbrook and 57005 from Advenza Freight, followed in April 2011 by 57006 from Advenza with 57001 and 57006 returned to service and 57005 stored at Carnforth. In January 2013 57313-316 were purchased, making West Coast Railway Company the only company to operate all three class 57 sub-types.[12] These have had their Dellner couplings removed.

Former operators[edit]

Advenza Freight[edit]

Advenza Freight purchased 57005 and 57006 from Porterbrook in January 2008 for use them on a number of freight flows won by the company.[13] After Advenza ceased in 2009, 57005 was sold to West Coast Railway Company in January 2011, as was 57006 in April 2011.

Arriva Trains Wales[edit]

From January until July 2006 Arriva Trains Wales hired Class 57/3s from Virgin Trains to operate a weekday Manchester Piccadilly to Holyhead diagram with Mark 2 carriages.

In December 2008 Arriva Trains Wales began operation of a daily express service between Holyhead and Cardiff utilising the company's stored Mark 2 rolling stock. To provide the motive power for this train ATW contracted Virgin Trains to provide Class 57/3 locomotives initially in top and tail formation, but later on their own.[14][15] Four were repainted at Cardiff Canton, 57314 & 57315 receiving ATW livery, 57313 & 57316 plain blue with no signwriting. In March 2012 Class 67s took over the duties from the Class 57/3s.[16]

Colas Rail[edit]

From the start of 2007 until 31 October 2009 Colas Rail hired Class 57/3 locos from Virgin Trains. Starting in August 2009 a Class 57/0 was hired from Direct Rail Services on a trial basis for one or two days each week. These trials culminated in the use of two Class 57/0 locos in multiple on 2, 3 and 4 November 2009. On 5 November 2009 the current standard hire of one Direct Rail Services Class 57/0 each day became the norm. Although on paper the Class 57/0 has 2,500 Horsepower, 250 Horsepower less than a Class 57/3, the Class 57/0s were able to keep the timings allocated to the Colas Rail timber trains by Network Rail. Unlike the Virgin Trains Class 57/3s, all sixteen of which were variously used on the timber trains, Direct Rail Services specifically allocated 57002 to the Colas workings with 57008 as standby when 57002 was undergoing maintenance. To reflect this allocation 57002 was fitted with a large Colas Rail logo on each side, just behind the non-driving side of each cab.


In 1997 Freightliner placed an order for an initial six Class 57/0 locomotives. The first of these was released in July 1998, and coincided with the unveiling of the new British Racing Green Freightliner livery. After an evaluation period Freightliner was sufficiently impressed to order a further six in June 1999, with plans for an eventual fleet of twenty-five.[1] However, in the event no more were rebuilt, due to the purchase of new Class 66 locomotives from General Motors. All were leased from Porterbrook.

The Freightliner fleet saw use over a wide area, serving locations such as Ipswich, Southampton, Birmingham, Cardiff and Leeds. The introduction of the class resulted in the replacement of the Class 47 locomotives on most long-distance intermodal trains.

Freightliner named all its locomotives, with examples such as Freightliner Pioneer and Freightliner Phoenix.

In 2007 Freightliner started to replace its Class 57/0s with new Class 66 locos. Initially six Class 57/0s (the second batch) were returned to Porterbrook, and leased to Direct Rail Services in July 2007. Of the original six, three also went to Direct Rail Services and two to Advenza Freight in January 2008. The remaining Class 57/0 was sold to West Coast Railway Company in January 2011.

Virgin Trains[edit]

Virgin Trains Thunderbird locomotive 57306 Jeff Tracy at Euston station.

To provide it with a fleet of locomotives for use on diversionary services during the West Coast Mainline upgrade and Thunderbird duties, Virgin Trains signed a deal with Porterbrook in 2002 to rebuild twelve Class 47s as Class 57/3s[17] with the first delivered in June 2002.[18] Virgin Trains has taken the convention of calling locomotives employed for rescue duties 'Thunderbirds' one step further by naming their Class 57/3 fleet after characters from the television series.

The engines were named as follows:[19]

After it was announced by the Strategic Rail Authority in June 2003 that Class 390 Pendolinos would operate along the North Wales Coast Line to Holyhead hauled by Class 57/3s,[20] a further four were ordered.[21]

It was decided to fit the fleet with Dellner retractable couplings with the original twelve being retrofitted from October 2003.[22] The Dellner coupling allows easier connection to Class 390 Pendolinos in regular service, and also Class 221 Super Voyagers in case of failure or emergency.

From spring 2005 Class 57/3s were used to haul two daily Virgin services from Crewe to Holyhead, complementing the Class 221 Super Voyagers that covered the other North Wales services.[23] The downside of this arrangement was that whilst the Class 390 Pendolino sets are longer and have the added advantage of running off OHLE south of Crewe, coupling and uncoupling at Crewe added to the journey time. From December 2008 all North Wales Coast services were operated by Class 221 Super Voyagers except for one Saturday service formed of a Class 57/3 and Class 390 Pendolino set. This too was converted to Voyager operation in November 2012.[24]

While intended for Virgin's West Coast franchise they were used to haul failed Virgin CrossCountry Class 220 Voyagers from as far as Aberdeen, Eastleigh and Plymouth on occasions.

After the completion of the West Coast Main Line upgrade in 2008, Virgin's requirement for Class 57/3s decreased. The sixteen strong fleet found other work with Arriva Trains Wales and West Coast. In September 2011 six were returned to Porterbrook and leased to Network Rail.[25] With the Arriva Trains Wales contract finishing, a further three were returned to Porterbrook and leased to Direct Rail Services in April 2012.

In December 2012 the remaining seven were returned with three being leased to Direct Rail Services and the remaining four sold to the West Coast Railway Company.[26]

Fleet details[edit]

Subclass No. Built No. Range Operators Loco Nos. Total
57/0 12 57001-012 Direct Rail Services 57002-57004, 57007-57012 9
West Coast Railway Company 57001, 57005-57006 3
57/3 4 57301-316 Network Rail 57301, 57303, 57305-57306, 57310, 57312 6
Direct Rail Services 57302, 57304, 57307-57309, 57311 6
West Coast Railway Company 57313-57316 4
57/6 5 57601-605 First Great Western 57602-57605 4
West Coast Railway Company 57601 1

Number Rebuilt from Livery Operator Name
57001 47356 WCRC Maroon West Coast Railway Company
57002 47322 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57003 47317 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57004 47347 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57005 47350 Advenza Freight Blue West Coast Railway Company
57006 47187 WCRC Maroon West Coast Railway Company
57007 47332 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57008 47060 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services Telford International Railfreight Park June - 2009
57009 47079 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57010 47231 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57011 47329 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57012 47388 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57301 47845 Network Rail Yellow Network Rail
57302 47827 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services Chad Varah
57303 47705 Network Rail Yellow Network Rail
57304 47807 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services Pride of Cheshire
57305 47822 Network Rail Yellow Network Rail
57306 47814 Network Rail Yellow Network Rail
57307 47225 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services Lady Penelope
57308 47846 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services County of Staffordshire
57309 47806 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services Pride of Crewe
57310 47831 Network Rail Yellow Network Rail
57311 47817 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services Thunderbird
57312 47330 Network Rail Yellow Network Rail Peter Henderson
57313 47390 Arriva Trains Wales Blue West Coast Railway Company
57314 47372 WCRC Maroon West Coast Railway Company
57315 47234 WCRC Maroon West Coast Railway Company
57316 47290 Arriva Trains Wales Blue West Coast Railway Company
57601 47825 WCRC Maroon West Coast Railway Company
57602 47337 First Great Western Blue First Great Western Restormel Castle
57603 47349 First Great Western Blue First Great Western Tintagel Castle
57604 47209 GWR Brunswick Green[8] First Great Western Pendennis Castle
57605 47206 First Great Western Blue First Great Western Totnes Castle


  1. ^ a b Richard Clinnick (3 January 2007), "Freightliner to return 57s", Rail Magazine (556): 54 
  2. ^ Renown Repulse Restoration Group. "Nicknames". 
  3. ^ Porterbrook has reached an agreement with Direct Rail Services for the lease of three Class 57 locomotives Porterbrook Leasing News 4 April 2012
  4. ^ Rail Magazine (425), 26 December 2001: 37 
  5. ^ Rail Magazine (435), 15 May 2002: 7 
  6. ^ Rail Magazine (474), 12 November 2003: 75 
  7. ^ Rail Magazine (476), 24 December 2003: 57 
  8. ^ a b FGW honours 'GWR 175' - Railway Herald. Page 3. 28 June 2010. Issue 228. Retrieved 2011-08-05.
  9. ^ "Taunton Trains Loco-Hauled Info". Taunton Trains. 27 April 2011. 
  10. ^ Class 57 Locomotives leased to Network Rail Porterbrook Leasing News 10 October 2011
  11. ^ Rail Magazine (476), 10 December 2003: 81 
  12. ^ News Archive-January 2013
  13. ^ Rail Magazine (584), 30 January 2008: 66 
  14. ^ North-south service to go ahead - BBC News, 8 October 2008
  15. ^ 12:41. "Arriva Class 57 timings". Retrieved 2012-01-01. 
  16. ^ Changeover day North Wales Coast Railway Notice Board 26 March 2012
  17. ^ Rail Magazine (433), 17 April 2002: 17 
  18. ^ Rail Magazine (438), 26 June 2002: 7 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Rail Magazine (464), 25 June 2003: 17 
  21. ^ Rail Magazine (468), 20 August 2003: 62 
  22. ^ Rail Magazine (473), 29 October 2003: 75 
  23. ^ Class 57/3 loco and Class 390'Pendolino' North Wales Coast Railway: The Trains
  24. ^ Pendolino no more North Wales Coast Railway Noticeboard 10 December 2012
  25. ^ Virgin bids farewell to six Class 57/3s - Railway Herald. Page 3. 2011-08-29. Issue 281. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
  26. ^ January 2013 Porterbrook Leasing 4 January 2013

Further reading[edit]