British Rail Class 26
|BRCW Type 2
British Rail Class 26
26014 and 26008 ready to depart Inverness with a passenger train, September 1977
The British Rail Class 26 diesel locomotives, also known as the BRCW Type 2, were built by the Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Company (BRCW) at Smethwick in 1958-59. Forty seven examples were built, and the last were withdrawn from service in 1994. Like their higher-powered sisters, the BRCW Classes 27 and 33, they had all-steel bodies and cab ends with fibreglass cab roofs. They were numbered D5300-D5346.
The BR Modernisation Plan contained a large requirement for small diesel locomotives in the 800 hp (600 kW) - 1,250 hp (930 kW) range and under BR's 'Pilot Scheme', small batches of locomotives were ordered from numerous different manufacturers for evaluation. BRCW obtained an order for 20 mixed traffic diesel-electric locomotives powered by 1,160 hp (870 kW) Sulzer 6LDA28 engines.
The Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company was a rolling stock manufacturer, although they were building diesel multiple units for BR. The first standalone locomotives made by the company were produced in 1956-57 BRCW : 12 diesel locomotives for the Irish railways Córas Iompair Éireann (CIE 101 Class), the order going to BRCW due to capacity problems at CIÉ's own Inchicore Works; a partnership was established between BRCW and the Swiss diesel engine manufacturers Sulzer Brothers at that time.
The Sulzer LDA28 range was found to be particularly suited to BR's needs. In addition to BRCW's Class 26, the 1160 hp 6LDA28 variant was also used in BR's own Class 24 design, while the 1250 hp 6LDA28-B was fitted in the later BRCW Class 27 and BR Class 25.
The Pilot Scheme batch of twenty locomotives (D5300-5319, Class 26/0) were delivered to Hornsey TMD (Traction Maintenance Depot) on the Eastern Region of British Railways between July 1958 and March 1959. They were used on a variety of duties, notably including London commuter services into King's Cross station and were evaluated against designs from the North British Locomotive Company, English Electric, Brush Traction, and British Railways' own works. Their allocation was switched to the new Finsbury Park TMD when it opened in 1960.
Locomotive D5303 was on loan to the Scottish Region from 1958, being operated briefly from Inverness TMD, and Eastfield TMD before moving to Leith Central TMD. This was the precursor to a further twenty seven locomotives of a slightly modified design (D5320-5346, Class 26/1) being delivered to the Scottish Region between April and October 1959. The first two of these locomotives were briefly allocated to Leith Central, but subsequently all of the Scottish batch were based at Haymarket TMD (although some went to Hornsey on loan for a time).
By the middle of 1960, evaluation of the various Type 2 designs was complete and it was decided to concentrate all of the Class 26s in Scotland. As a result, the Class 26/0s were transferred to Haymarket, displacing the Class 26/1s to Inverness. Although some transferring of individual locomotives between the two depots occurred, the type was then allocated entirely to Haymarket and Inverness until 1987, apart from the brief allocation of a few locomotives to Kittybrewster TMD and Dundee TMD during 1960.
Like other Scottish Region Type 2s, Class 26 were 'maids of all work' during the 1960s and '70s, and could be found on a wide variety of duties. The Inverness-based examples were particularly associated with the Far North Line and Kyle of Lochalsh Line, as well as operating south of Inverness on the Highland Main Line. One notable duty, shared with locally based Class 24s, was to operate 'The Royal Highlander' Inverness to London Euston sleeping car express as far south as Perth, a demanding turn which required three locomotives working in multiple. The Haymarket engines were latterly more associated with goods traffic, and the first seven locomotives (D5300-5306, later renumbered 26007, 26001-006) were given slow speed control apparatus in 1967 for use on MGR coal trains to the then new Cockenzie Power Station.
Upon elimination of BR standard-gauge steam traction in 1968, the 'D' number prefix was removed and locomotives D5300-5346 became 5300-5346. In 1974 the TOPS numbering system was implemented and Class 26/0s 5300-5319 were renumbered 26007/1-6/20/08-19, while Class 26/1s 5320-7/9-46 became 26028/1-7/9-46. Number 5328 had been withdrawn in 1972 with accident damage.
The availability of surplus Class 37 and 47 locomotives in the late 1970s and early 1980s displaced the Class 26s from passenger workings and from most goods traffic north of Inverness. However, the type continued to operate goods trains throughout the whole of Scotland, taking over duties previously carried out by Class 25 and 27 locomotives. Most of the class were refurbished in the 1980s to extend their lives, being chosen in preference to the newer Class 25 and 27 due to the better reliability of the Class 26s' lower powered engines.
In May 1987, all of the surviving Class 26s were transferred to Eastfield TMD, except the seven MGR examples which remained at Haymarket until transfer in May 1988. In August 1992, the remaining engines were reallocated to Inverness, although this was essentially a paper exercise as locomotives only returned to their home depot for major maintenance. By this time the service life of the Class 26 locomotives was coming to an end.
The first withdrawal, 5328, occurred as a result of accident damage in 1972. Although the Class 26s were a useful and reliable type, there was a surplus of small diesel locomotives, so any locomotive suffering significant damage was in danger of withdrawal. A further six locomotives were claimed by minor accidents or engine fires between 1975 and 1984. Apart from these, routine withdrawals commenced with three Class 26/0s in 1977, followed by two 26/0s and two 26/1s in 1985. The surviving 33 locomotives were all refurbished examples, and it had originally been intended to keep them in service until around 2000. However, three were lost to minor accidents/fire damage in 1988-89, and the closure of Ravenscraig steelworks in 1991 resulted in a surplus of locomotives. Routine withdrawal of the refurbished locomotives began in 1990, and the last examples were taken out of service in October 1993.
Nine main livery variants were carried by the class whilst in BR service:
- British Railways green, with grey roofs, white cab window surrounds and a thin white stripe midway up the bodysides. All locomotives were delivered in this livery;
- Within a few years all locomotives received small yellow warning panels on the lower cabfronts;
- From the late 1960s some locomotives received full yellow ends as an interim measure pending repainting into Rail Blue;
- From 1967, repainted locomotives received all-over 'Rail Blue' with full yellow ends;
- This was soon modified to include yellow cabside window surrounds. All locomotives had received this livery by the mid-'70s;
- Railfreight grey with yellow cabs, black cab window surrounds and red solebars. Nineteen locomotives repainted in 1985-87 received this livery (26001-8/10/25/6/31/2/4/5/7/8/40/1);
- Railfreight three-tone grey with black cab window surrounds, yellow lower cabsides and yellow/black 'Coal sub-sector' markings. This livery was applied to eight locomotives repainted in 1988-89 (26001-8);
- 'Civil Link' (or 'Dutch') grey with yellow upper bodysides and lower cabfronts, and black cab window surrounds was applied to sixteen locomotives (26001-8/11/25/6/35/6/8/40/3) in 1990-92;
- To mark the impending withdrawal of the class, the first two locomotives (26007 and 26001) were repainted into 1960s style BR green with small yellow warning panels in 1992, at which point 26001 became the first and only Class 26 to be named (Eastfield, to commemorate the closure of that depot).
Thirteen locomotives have been preserved.
(current in bold)
|D5300||26007||-||BR Blue||Barrow Hill Engine Shed||First-built locomotive. One of the final locomotives in traffic. Undergoing Repairs.|
|D5301||26001||BR Green||Caledonian Railway||One of the final locomotives in traffic. Stored.|
|D5302||26002||-||BR Green||Strathspey Railway||Stored|
|D5304||26004||-||Railfreight Coal||Nemesis Rail, Burton on Trent||Stored|
|D5310||26010||-||BR Green, flush yellow warning panel||Llangollen Railway||Operational|
|D5311||26011||-||BR Blue||Nemesis Rail, Burton upon Trent||Stored|
|D5314||26014||-||BR Green||Caledonian Railway||Operational|
|D5324||26024||-||BR Blue||Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway||Stored|
|D5325||26025||-||BR Green||Strathspey Railway||Stored|
|D5335||26035||-||BR Blue||Caledonian Railway||Undergoing repairs|
|D5338||26038||Tom Clift 1954 - 2012||BR Blue||North Yorkshire Moors Railway||Operational. On long term loan from the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway. Named in 2013, in honour of the former head of Hull Trains.|
|D5340||26040||-||BR Blue||Waverley Route Heritage Centre||Stored|
|D5343||26043||-||Repainted BR Blue||Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway||Operational|
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