British Rail Class 17

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Clayton Type 1
British Railways Class 17
Bewdley - D8568 arriving from Kidderminster.JPG
D8568 in preservation in October 2015.
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder Clayton Equipment Company & Beyer, Peacock & Co.
Build date 1962–1965
Total produced 117
Configuration Bo-Bo
UIC class Bo'Bo'
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Wheel diameter 3 ft 3 12 in (1.003 m)[1]
Minimum curve 230 feet (3.5 chains; 70 m)[1]
Wheelbase 36 ft 6 in (11.13 m)[1]
Length 50 ft 7 12 in (15.431 m)[1]
Width 8 ft 9 12 in (2.680 m)[1]
Height 12 ft 8 in (3.86 m)[1]
Loco weight 68 long tons (69 t; 76 short tons)[1]
Fuel capacity 500 imp gal (2,300 L; 600 US gal)[1]
Prime mover

Paxman 6ZHXL, (2 of)

except D8586–8587: Rolls Royce 'D' type V8, (2 of)
Displacement Paxman:
2 x 29.4 L (1,790 cu in) = 58.8 L (3,590 cu in)
Generator D8500–D8587: GEC WT800, GEC WT auxiliary
D8588–D8616: Crompton Parkinson main and auxiliary
Traction motors GEC WT421, nose-suspended, with single-reduction gear (4 of)
Cylinder size Paxman:
7 in (178 mm) diameter
7 34 in (197 mm) stroke
Transmission Diesel electric
MU working D8500–D8587 Red Diamond
D8588–D8616 Blue Star
Train heating None; through steam pipe
Train brakes Vacuum
Performance figures
Maximum speed 60 mph (97 km/h)
Power output Engines: 450 hp (336 kW) @ 1500 rpm × 2
Tractive effort Maximum: 40,000 lbf (178 kN)[1]
Continuous: 18,000 lbf (80.1 kN) @ 13 mph (21 km/h)[1]
Loco brakeforce 35 long tons-force (350 kN)
Operators British Railways
Numbers D8500–D8616
Axle load class Route availability 4
Retired 1968–1971
Disposition One preserved, remainder scrapped.

The British Rail Class 17 (also known as the Clayton Type 1) was a class of 117 Bo-Bo diesel-electric locomotives built 1962–1965 by Clayton Equipment Company and their sub-contractor Beyer, Peacock & Co., for British Railways (BR).


Following problems with the single-cabbed pilot scheme Type 1 locomotives, the Class 17s were designed with a centre cab and low bonnets to maximise visibility for the driver. The low engine covers required the use of two Paxman 6ZHXL six-cylinder horizontal engines and these gave unreliable performance even after extensive modifications. The class proved to be one of the least successful of the Type 1s. Withdrawals took place from the late 1960s to 1971, some locomotives having a working life of less than five years. Several were sold to industrial users, but only one has been preserved.

Design and construction[edit]

Earlier designs[edit]

The Type 1 was the lowest power classification for BR mainline diesels. Under BR's 'pilot scheme', three different designs of Type 1 locomotive had been produced. Two of these (Classes 15 and 16 under the TOPS classification system) were of a 'road-switcher' type layout based on the 10800 prototype, with a single off-centre cab, from which forward visibility for the crew was poor in both directions of travel, while the third (Class 20) had its cab at one end, giving good visibility in that direction only. After experience with these, and although Class 20 was a technical success, BR decided that it wanted a single-cab Type 1 locomotive with good forward visibility in both directions.

The Class 17[edit]

The result was the Class 17, fitted with a centre cab and low engine covers. These requirements meant that instead of having a single large engine, it was necessary to use two smaller six-cylinder horizontal engines, one on either side of the cab.


Most were powered by two Paxman 6ZHXL engines of 450 hp (340 kW) each,[2] an engine originally intended for diesel railcars, but not adopted.[3] The last two of the Clayton-built batch, D8586-D8587, each had a pair of Rolls Royce Type D 450 hp (340 kW) engines.


British Railways ordered 117 off the drawing board, and announced to the railway press that these locos were to be the new Type 1 standard.[4]:59 The designer, the Clayton Equipment Company of Hatton, Derbyshire completed locomotives D8500-D8587 between September 1962 and February 1965, while sub-contractor Beyer, Peacock and Company of Manchester delivered D8588-D8616 between March 1964 and April 1965.

Control gear

The Clayton examples had 'red diamond' control equipment while the Beyer Peacock batch had the standard 'blue star' type.


The Clayton examples were delivered to the Scottish Region depots at Polmadie and Haymarket, although some later migrated to Kingmoor on the London Midland Region. The Beyer Peacock locomotives were new to the North Eastern Region at Thornaby (4) and Gateshead (12) and to the Eastern Region at Tinsley (12) and Barrow Hill (1). In September 1963 numbers D8501 and D8536 moved to the Tyne Dock area where they were tested in multiple on Consett iron ore trains. They proved far too underpowered for this work, and so were moved to Ardsley shed a few months later where they undertook a variety of freight work both individually and in multiple.[3] Subsequently all of the locomotives allocated to the Eastern Region were transferred to Haymarket where they were employed on freight traffic in southern Scotland and northern England.


This design was arguably the least successful diesel locomotive ever employed on British Railways after the ill-fated Co-Bo. The twin Paxman engines were unreliable, being prone to camshaft and cylinder head problems amongst others;[4]:58 overall availability was around 60%, even after extensive modifications. Forward visibility, which had dictated the whole design of the type, was not as good as had been hoped, the long noses meaning that the crew could not see the area immediately in front of the locomotive. Although the Rolls Royce and Crompton Parkinson engined examples had better reliability, no further examples were ordered and BR decided to dispose of the type, replacing them with an order for 100 of the already proven Class 20 locomotives.[4]:58

Withdrawal and Preservation[edit]

Withdrawals began in July 1968 and the final locomotives were withdrawn in December 1971. The Class 17s had by far the shortest lives of any significant BR diesel-electric locomotive design, with many examples having a working life of less than five years. Most had been scrapped by the end of 1975, but at this time the possibility of converting 9 of the remaining locos to battery operation was mooted.[3] This came to nothing, and although D8521 and D8598 enjoyed a brief reprieve by being sent to Derby Research Centre; one as mobile power plant and the other on test trains, both were withdrawn in 1978 and subsequently scrapped.

After withdrawal in 1971, D8568 went on to see industrial use at Hemelite, Hemel Hempstead and at Ribblesdale Cement, Clitheroe, and was then secured for preservation. It is now (2016) at the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway, Oxfordshire.

In fiction[edit]

In the Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends TV Series, a character based on this class appears by the name of Derek, with the problems inherent to the class incorporated into the character and his sole episode.[5]


Danish manufacturer Heljan launched a 00 gauge ready-to-run model of the Class 17 at the 2006 Warley National Model Railway Exhibition which went on sale after some production delays in early 2009. Aside from small runs by TechCad, and in kit form by DC Kits and others, this was the first time the class had been produced as a ready-to-run model.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Standard Type 1 Diesel-Electric Locomotive for British Transport Commission" (PDF). The Clayton Equipment Company. November 1962. Retrieved 6 January 2014.  |section= ignored (help)
  2. ^ Carr, Richard (2010-08-13). "ZH Traction Applications". Paxman and Diesel Rail Traction. Paxman History Pages. Archived from the original on 2011-04-02. Retrieved 2009-07-11. 
  3. ^ a b c "The Class 17 Claytons - BR's Standard Type 1?". Rail Blue. Archived from the original on 2011-04-02. Retrieved 2010-12-01. 
  4. ^ a b c Green-Hughes, Evan (March 2014). "Reshaping the Railways". Railways Illustrated. Vol. 12 no. 3. Key Publishing. ISSN 1479-2230. 
  5. ^ "Derek - Character Profile". Thomas & Friends. HIT Entertainment. 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 


  • Stevens-Stratten, S.W.; Carter, R.S. (1978). British Rail Main-Line Diesels. Shepperton: Ian Allen Ltd. ISBN 0-7110-0617-2. 
  • Sugden, S.A. Diesel & Electric Loco Register (3rd edn). Sheffield: Platform 5. ISBN 1-872524-55-9. 
  • Grindlay, Jim. British Railways Locomotive Allocations 1948-1968 (Part 6 - Diesel & Electric Locomotives). Troon: Modelmaster Publications. ISBN 978-0-9544264-6-0. 

Further reading[edit]

  • McManus, Michael. Ultimate Allocations, British Railways Locomotives 1948 - 1968. Wirral. Michael McManus. 
  • Cayless, David (June 1982). "Day of the Claytons". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. pp. 26–27. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965. 
  • Brown, Murray (March 1983). "Clayton is safe at last...". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. p. 45. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965. 

External links[edit]