British Rail Class 81

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British Railways AL1
British Rail Class 81
81017 Manchester Piccadilly.jpg
81017 at Manchester Piccadilly
Type and origin
Power type Electric
Builder Associated Electrical Industries at Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company
Build date 1959–1964
Total produced 25
Specifications
Configuration Bo-Bo
AAR wheel arr. B-B
UIC classification Bo'Bo'
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Wheel diameter 4 ft 0 in (1.219 m)
Length 56 ft 6 in (17.22 m)
Width 8 ft 8 12 in (2.65 m)
Height 12 ft 4 14 in (3.77 m)
Locomotive weight 79.60 long tons (80.9 t; 89.2 short tons)
Electric system(s) 25 kV AC Catenary
Current collection
method
Stone-Faiveley ‘V’-type pantograph, 2 off (later 1 off)
Traction motors 847 hp (632 kW) AEI 189 quill drive, 4 off
Performance figures
Maximum speed 100 mph (161 km/h)
Power output 3,200 hp (2,390 kW)
Tractive effort 50,000 lbf (222 kN)
Train heating Electric Train Heating
Locomotive brake Air, Rheostatic
Train brakes Vacuum; Dual from 1972–1973
Career
Operator(s) British Rail
Number(s) E3001–E3023, E3096, E3097; later 81001–81022
Axle load class Route availability 6
Retired 1968 (2), 1971 (1), 1983–1991
Preserved 81002
Disposition Non-operational

The British Rail Class 81 is an AC electric locomotive that formerly operated on the West Coast Main Line of the London Midland Region of British Rail. Originally designated AL1, it was the first type of AC electric locomotive to be delivered to British Railways.

History[edit]

As part of the modernization of the West Coast Main Line which included electrification, 100 locomotives of five types were acquired, each type from a different manufacturer.

The first locomotives to be delivered were of type AL1 designed by British Thomson-Houston (BTH), an order being placed for 25 examples. Of these, 23 were for use on passenger trains with a top speed on 100 mph and were designated Type A. The two remaining locomotives were to be for use on freight trains with a top speed of 80 mph, and were designated Type B.[1]

Before the work was completed, BTH amalgamated with Metropolitan Vickers to form AEI (Associated Electrical Industries) traction division,[1] and it was under this name that the locomotives were built in 1959 under subcontract by Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon in Smethwick. The first engine, number E3001, was handed over to British Railways on 27 November 1959.[2] The type was initially used for crew training on the Styal Line between Manchester and Crewe.

The AL1 were numbered E3001 - E3023 and E3096 / E3097; The first twenty-three were Type A, while the last two were to have been the Type Bs and numbered E3301 and E3302. However the last two were instead geared for passenger service, being delivered in February 1964 as E3096 and E3097.

Power supply[edit]

The locomotives always worked on power provided by overhead catenary energized at 25,000 V AC. However, the main transformer, normally operated with the four windings in series, could be operated at 6250V AC with the transformer windings in parallel.[1] This voltage was initially to be used where limited clearances gave concern over use of the higher voltage. However, this approach was never used on the West Coast main line, although it was employed elsewhere such as Glasgow Central in the initial 'Blue Train' electrification there. By the time the WCML wiring was extended to Glasgow, it had been revised there to the mainstream 25Kv voltage.

Operations[edit]

Because they were restricted to those lines electrified at 25 kV AC they only operated on the West Coast Main Line. Cities where these engines could be seen included London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow. They operated passenger trains, freight trains, and parcel trains. There is no record of operation on the Ex-Great Eastern line, which was being electrified at the time of their introduction, nor subsequently on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) when that was electrified in the 1980s.

Early withdrawals[edit]

Three locomotives, E3002, E3009, and E3019, were withdrawn before they could be renumbered under the TOPS system. E3002 and E3019 were damaged by fire and both were scrapped at British Rail Crewe Works. The remains of E3009 were also cut up at Crewe Works following an accident in 1968.

Renumbering[edit]

Under the TOPS system, twenty-two examples were reclassified as class 81 and numbered 81001 - 81022.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

Main article: Hixon rail crash
  • On 6 January 1968, locomotive No. E3009 was hauling an express passenger train which was in collision with an abnormal load at Hixon, Staffordshire. Eleven people were killed and 45 were injured. The locomotive was consequently scrapped due to damage sustained.

In addition to the three examples withdrawn before renumbering under TOPS others were withdrawn as a result of damage after being renumbered.

81 016 was one of a few Class 81 locomotives withdrawn as a result of accident damage.
A row of Class 81 locomotives waiting to be scrapped
  • On 9 December 1982, locomotive 81 016 was involved in an accident onear Linslade, Buckinghamshire. It was officially withdrawn in 1983.
  • On 26 August 1983, locomotive 81 001 was damaged by fire near Carstairs, Lanarkshire whilst working a Motorail train.

The end[edit]

Over the years examples of this class were withdrawn from service. The final examples were used for the transfer of empty coaches between London Euston Station and Willesden sidings between 1989 and 1991. The last two examples withdrawn from service were 81012 and 81017.

The majority of the class were scrapped at Coopers Metals in Sheffield.

Preservation[edit]

One example, 81002, has been preserved by the AC Locomotive Group, located at Barrow Hill Engine Shed.

Fleet details[edit]

Key: Preserved Scrapped
Numbers Works Number Date Introduced Withdrawn[3] Final Depot Disposal[3]
Type B Type A TOPS
- E3001 81001 1083 Nov-59 Jul 1984 GW Fire damaged
Scrapped at Crewe Works September 1986
- E3002 - 1084 Jan-60 Nov 1968 ACL Fire damaged
Scrapped at Crewe Works January 1969
- E3003 81002 1085 Feb-60 Oct 1990 WN Preserved at Barrow Hill Engine Shed
- E3004 81003 1086 Apr-60 Mar 1988 GW Scrapped at Coopers Metals, Sheffield November 1991
- E3005 81004 1087 May-60 Apr 1990 WN Scrapped at MC Metals, Glasgow May 1992
- E3006 81005 1088 Jul-60 Feb 1989 GW Scrapped at Coppers Metals, Sheffield November 1991
- E3007 81006 1089 Aug-60 Oct 1988 GW Scrapped at Coopers Metals, Sheffield November 1991
- E3008 81007 1090 Sep-60 Feb 1990 GW Scrapped at Coopers Metals, Sheffield November 1991
- E3009 - 1091 Oct-60 Aug 1968 ACL Accident damaged
Scrapped at Crewe Works August 1968
- E3010 81008 1092 Oct-60 Mar 1988 GW Scrapped at Coopers Metals, Sheffield November 1991
- E3011 81009 1093 Nov-60 Feb 1990 WN Scrapped at Coopers Metals, Sheffield December 1991
- E3012 81010 1094 Nov-60 May 1990 WN Scrapped at Coopers Metals, Sheffield November 1991
- E3013 81011 1095 Dec-60 Apr 1989 GW Scrapped at Coopers Metals, Sheffield November 1991
- E3014 81012 1096 Dec-60 Jul 1991 WN Scrapped at Coopers Metals, Sheffield December 1991
- E3015 81013 1097 Dec-60 Oct 1989 GW Scrapped at Coopers Metals, Sheffield November 1991
- E3016 81014 1098 Mar-61 Mar 1988 GW Scrapped at Coopers Metals, Sheffield November 1991
- E3017 81015 1099 May-61 Dec 1984 GW Scrapped at MC Metals, Glasgow May 1992
- E3018 81016 1100 Mar-61 Jul 1983 GW Accident damaged
Scrapped at Crewe Works January 1985
- E3019 - 1101 Apr-61 Jul 1971 ACL Fire damaged
Scrapped at Crewe Works October 1971
- E3020 81017 1102 Apr-61 Jul 1991 WN Scrapped at Coopers Metals, Sheffield November 1991
- E3021 81018 1103 Jun-61 Jan 1986 GW Scrapped at MC Metals, Glasgow June 1992
- E3022 81019 1104 Sep-61 Jan 1989 GW Scrapped at Coopers Metals, Sheffield November 1991
- E3023 81020 1105 Sep-61 Jul 1987 GW Scrapped at Coopers Metals, Sheffield November 1991
(E3301) E3096 81021 1106 Apr-62 Apr 1987 GW Scrapped at MC Metals, Glasgow July 1992
(E3302) E3097 81022 1107 Feb-64 Jul 1987 GW Scrapped at Crewe Works by A Hampton November 1988

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Bradley, Roger P (Nov 1980). "Pioneer AC electrics". Railway Modeller (Beer: Peco Publications & Publicity Ltd) 31 (360): pp385–387. 
  2. ^ "Class History – 81". AC Locomotive Group. 
  3. ^ a b Furness, Ian. "Disposals: Class 81". wnxx. End of the Line: Withdrawn & Stored Locomotives UK. Retrieved 2009-01-08. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]