British Rail Class 31
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31108 and 31190 at Sutton Cross (NVR)
- 1 Description
- 2 Classification
- 3 Accidents and incidents
- 4 Commercial operators
- 5 Preservation
- 6 Gallery
- 7 Media
- 8 Models
- 9 References and sources
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Construction of the first locomotive was completed in the final week of September 1957, and the handing-over took place on 31 October. The Class 31 entered service in November 1957, after the launch of the Class 20 locomotive and was one of the Pilot Scheme locomotives ordered by British Railways to replace steam traction.
They were originally built with Mirrlees JVS12T 1,250 bhp (930 kW) and 1,365 bhp (1,018 kW) engines and Brush electrical equipment, but the engines were not successful and in 1964 a programme of works commenced to re-engine the fleet with the English Electric 12SVT engines as used in the Class 37 de-rated to 1,470 bhp (1,100 kW) which was the maximum the electrical system could accept.
The Mirrlees-engined locomotives were originally known as Class 30 under TOPS, with re-engined examples joining Class 31. The class was originally intended for service on the Eastern Region, but gradually became common in both the Western and London Midland regions too.
Several sub-classes of Class 31 exist:
- 31/0 - First batch of locos, fitted with Red Circle electro-magnetic control equipment - withdrawn in the late 1970s as non-standard. RA 5
- 31/1 - The standard locomotive, electro-pneumatic control. RA 5
- 31/4 - As Class 31/1 but fitted with Brush Electric train heating (ETH) apparatus. RA 6
- 31/5 - Former 31/4 with the ETH isolated for Civil Engineers Department use. RA 6
- 31/6 - Standard locomotive through wired for ETH but without ETH apparatus. RA 5
These first 20 locomotives, originally numbered D5500-D5519, were always easily recognisable as they did not have the headcode box mounted on the roof above the cab, leading to the nickname "Skinheads". They were also nicknamed "Gurglers" from the noise of their engines, and "Toffee Apples" from the shape of the control key which had to be taken from cab to cab when changing ends. These pilot scheme locomotives were non-standard in having Electro-Magnetic Multiple-Working control equipment, and were limited to 80 mph (130 km/h). After being involved in a serious collision D5518 was rebuilt as a standard locomotive, with indicator boxes, and blue star coupling code
They were allocated to East Anglian sheds throughout their service, ending up allocated to Stratford, their initial shed, and latterly sporting that depot's trademark silver roof. Upon withdrawal four locomotives were converted at Stratford into train pre-heating units. Locomotives 31013, 31002, 31014 and 31008 were renumbered ADB968013 to ADB968016 in the order given; ADB968014 was allocated to Bounds Green depot on the Great Northern main line and ADB968015 was based at Great Yarmouth, while the remaining two were allocated to Stratford.
The first few locos externally had much in common with the original 31/0s as they lacked the roof mounted headcode box, and were also limited to 80 mph (130 km/h), but were otherwise the same as subsequent locos. The whole sub-class had steam heating boilers fitted, had the Blue Star Electro-Pneumatic multiple-working controls as found on many other BR classes. The Class 31/1s could be found on a variety of secondary and relief passenger duties as well as parcels and freight traffic. While used in East Anglia, with locos allocated to Stratford and March depots, they were found throughout the Eastern Region of BR with Finsbury Park sporting a large allocation along with the depots at Tinsley, Immingham and Thornaby. Locos were also allocated to Bristol Bath Road and Old Oak Common on the Western Region, where they could be found working passenger trains as far west as Barnstaple and Paignton. In the early 1980s Healey Mills and Bescot on the Midland Region also gained an allocation as replacements for Class 25s.
The Class 31/4s, numbered from 31400 to 31469, were conversions of 31/1s to which ETH was fitted. They had an ETH index of 66, equivalent to 330 kW, which was sufficient to power trains of up to eleven Mk 3 carriages, in order to allow them to power long trains, whose service run would be worked by a larger locomotive, between depot and terminus, although in actual passenger service loads rarely exceeded four or five carriages. 330 kW accounted for about a third of the total electrical power output. The early conversions tapped off the main generator such that none of the ETH power was available for traction even if the ETH was not being used. The traction power output of some of the 31/4 subclass was therefore limited to a maximum of two-thirds of that of the non-ETH variants, this did not help the performance of an already somewhat underpowered locomotive, and late running of these 31/4-hauled services sometimes happened. Later conversions allowed unused ETH power to be used for traction.
Accidents and incidents
- On 11 September 1975, 31 150 was involved in a head-on collision at Corby Tunnel, with a loose brake van and coke wagons. This locomotive was the first of the class to be withdrawn.
- On 2 January 1976, locomotive 31 241 was hauling a parcels train when a light engine ran into its rear. Time interval working was in force at the time.
- On 25 February 1979, locomotive 31 421 was hauling an engineering train that was working under a possession between Fratton and Hilsea, Hampshire. The adjacent line was open to traffic. A crane in the engineering train was foul of the other line when it was struck by a passing passenger train. One person was killed and nine were injured.
- On 9 March 1986, locomotive No. 31 436 was hauling a passenger train that was in a head-on collision with two light engines at Chinley, Derbyshire due to a signalman's error. One person was killed. Lack of training and a power cut were contributory factors.
- On 20 February 1987, a freight train ran away and was derailed by trap points at North Junction, Chinley. Locomotive No. 31 440 was hauling a train that collided with the wreckage.
- On 28 October 1988 two unmanned Class 31 locos (31 202 and 31 226), presumably with brakes not fully applied, rolled off together along a short siding near Cricklewood. After demolishing the buffer stop they ran down the embankment on to the North Circular Road, although no-one was hurt. The second loco of the pair landed on the roof of the leading one, remaining precariously balanced. They were both withdrawn after the incident.
English, Welsh & Scottish
Before the introduction of Class 66, English Welsh & Scottish (EWS) took control of the class 31s from the Mainline Freight and Trainload Freight companies. 31466 was repainted into EWS colours for the Toton TMD open day in May 1998 and soon became the only one of the class to be in traffic running in the EWS colours. 31255 also received EWS colours but never ran on the main line and spent its life at Toton until preservation. In their final days of EWS ownership, 31110 (scrapped at TJ Thompson's, Stockton in April 2007) was repainted into BR green in the summer of 1999 and featured its original number D5528 to mark the end of their working lives with EWS and worked the last EWS class 31 hauled railtour. The final four EWS locomotives were withdrawn in February 2001. The two EWS liveried locos, 31255 is now owned by Harry Needle Railroad Company for mainline use and 31466 is now preserved.
In 1998, Fragonset Railways purchased four redundant Class 31 locomotives from EWS. The first of these, no. 31452, was quickly repaired and repainted in a new black livery with a red mid-body band. It was quickly followed by nos. 31459 and 31468. Several more locomotives were also purchased, and in 1999, the first of two modified Class 31/6 locomotives re-entered traffic. The Class 31/6 31601 & 31602 subclass is essentially a modified Class 31/1 locomotive with through electric-train heating wiring. This enables a Class 31/4 and Class 31/6 to work in multiple and still heat the train, even if the no-heat Class 31/6 is attached to the carriages.
In 1999, Fragonset won a short-term contract with Silverlink for two locomotives to work in top and tail mode with two Mk. 1 carriages on the Bletchley-Bedford line. This was to cover for the non-availability of Class 117 and Class 121 diesel multiple units. The trial was a success, and in 2000 it was repeated in the summer timetable. The locomotives were retained until displaced by more modern Class 150/1 units cascaded from Central Trains.
By this time, the Fragonset Class 31 fleet had expanded considerably to include three Class 31/1s, three Class 31/4s and two Class 31/6 locomotives. Regular work at this time included use hauling Class 317 electric multiple units from WAGN's Hornsey depot to Bedford for use with Thameslink. As units were still maintained at Hornsey, this meant regular workings between the two depots to swap units when maintenance was due.
After the demise of FM Rail, several of their Class 31s passed to Mainline Rail, operated by RMS Locotec. As of November 2008, four 31/4s and one 31/6 are owned by RMS Locotec, which is a subsidiary of British American Railway Services.
Class 31 number 31128 is now owned by Nemesis Rail based at Burton upon Trent. It is an ex-Fragonset locomotive which is at present on loan to North Yorkshire Moors Railway as a standby in case of steam locomotive shortage.
Network Rail operated a fleet of three Class 31/1 locomotives, nos. 31105/233/285, and one Class 31/4 locomotive, 31465 to haul test trains around the network. The locomotives were purchased from Fragonset, and overhauled at their Derby workshops. They have been repainted in Network Rail's new all-over yellow livery. 31285 and 31465 were offered for sale by tender in July 2015.
Prior to operating its own locomotives, Network Rail's predecessor, Railtrack, had hired two Class 31 locomotives from Fragonset Railways. These two locomotives, nos. 31190 and 31601, were repainted in Railtrack's blue and lime green livery. With the overhaul and entry into service of Network Rail's own locomotives, these two engines were returned to Fragonset. They are now owned and operated by British American Railway Services, based at Washwood Heath in Birmingham.
No. 31106 is privately owned by Howard Johnston, and after a period of lease to Fragonset and FM Rail is now managed by Rail Vehicle Engineering Limited (RVEL) and is stored. The same individual purchased three more of the class from EWS, but they acquired new owners; 31107 (scrapped by C F Booth at Rotherham in May 2009, following a crash with a Renault Espace on a level crossing during Top Gear Series 9, Episode 5 in 2006), 31289 (preserved at the Northampton and Lamport Railway), and 31301 (scrapped).
Around 26 locomotives have been purchased, and preserved, for use on heritage railways around the UK. Of note are the first built, no. 31018, and the last built, no. 31327. There were a further seven, which have subsequently been scrapped.
(Current in bold)
|D5500||31018||–||–||–||BR Blue||National Railway Museum||First-built locomotive, now part of the National Collection|
|D5518||31101||–||–||–||BR Blue||Avon Valley Railway||–|
|D5522||31104||31418||–||Boadicea||BR Blue||Midland Railway - Butterley||–|
|D5526||31108||–||–||–||Railfreight Grey||Nene Valley Railway||–|
|D5533||31115||31466||–||–||EWS Maroon/Gold||East Lancashire Railway||–|
|D5537||31119||–||–||–||BR Blue||Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway||–|
|D5548||31130||–||–||Calder Hall Power Station||Trainload Coal||Avon Valley Railway||–|
|D5557||31139||31438||31538||–||BR Blue||Epping Ongar Railway||–|
|D5562||31144||–||–||–||Civil Engineers||Owned by BARS and now at Weardale Railway for spares||–|
|D5580||31162||–||–||–||BR Blue||Great Central Railway (Nottingham)||–|
|D5581||31163||–||–||–||BR Green||Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway||–|
|D5600||31179||31435||–||Newton Heath TMD||BR Green||Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway||–|
|D5627||31203||–||–||Steve Orgam G.M||BR Green||Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway||–|
|D5630||31206||–||–||–||Civil Engineers||Rushden, Higham and Wellingborough Railway|
|D5631||31207||–||–||–||BR Green||North Norfolk Railway||One of final three locomotive operated by EWS.|
|D5634||31210||–||–||–||BR Green||Dean Forest Railway||–|
|D5662||31235||–||–||–||BR Blue||Mid-Norfolk Railway||–|
|D5669||31410||–||–||–||Regional Railways||Privately owned at Kirby Stephen||–|
|D5683||31255||–||–||–||EWS Maroon/Gold||Colne Valley Railway||Repainted in EWS livery for paint trials.|
|D5695||31265||31430||31530||Sister Dora||BR Blue||Mangapps Railway Museum||–|
|D5800||31270||–||–||Athena||Regional Railways||Peak Rail||–|
|D5801||31271||–||–||Stratford 1840-2001||Trainload Construction||Midland Railway - Butterley||–|
|D5814||31414||31514||–||–||Gatwick Express Intercity||Ecclesbourne Valley Railway||Fitted with 'Pink Circle' for operations similar to Class 73|
|D5821||31289||–||–||Phoenix||BR Blue||Northampton & Lamport Railway||–|
|D5830||31297||31463||31563||–||BR Golden Ochre||Great Central Railway||–|
|D5862||31327||–||–||–||BR Green||Strathspey Railway||Final locomotive built.|
Preserved then scrapped
In addition, the following locomotives were previously preserved, but have since been scrapped.
- 31113 ex-Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway - scrapped in June 2008 at EMR Kingsbury after death of owner
- 31123 ex-Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway - scrapped in 2006 by A1A Locomotives
- 31166 ex-Wensleydale Railway - scrapped in 2009
- 31188 ex-Wensleydale Railway - scrapped in 2008
- 31421 ex-Midland Railway Butterley - scrapped in 2007 after deal fell through for loco to get power unit ex. 31405
- 31442 ex-Churnet Valley Railway - scrapped in 2004
- 31467 ex-East Lancashire Railway - scrapped in 2008 after being stripped by metal thieves. 31556 due to follow shortly.
31018, at the National Railway Museum in York, on 3 June 2004. This was the first locomotive of the Class to be built in 1957. It was withdrawn from service in 1976. It currently carries BR Blue livery. Note the absence of over-window head code panel, which were only omitted from the first few locomotives.
31271 Stratford 1840-2001, pictured on 3 June 2004 at the York Railfest held to celebrate the 200th anniversary of railways. The locomotive is preserved at the Midland Railway - Butterley. It carries Trainload Construction livery, and was named to commemorate the former locomotive depot at Stratford.
InterCity liveried 31414 running brake van rides on the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway.
On 21 August 2006, Network Rail and the BBC Television programme Top Gear staged and filmed a crash between a Class 31 locomotive (31107) and a family car in order to promote rail safety. The off-limits event was the first of its type for 10 years and took place at Hibaldstow level crossing near Scawby in Lincolnshire, where the B1206 road crosses the Barnetby–Gainsborough railway line. Two Class 31 locomotives and a parked Renault Espace were used during the crash. Network Rail's 31233 was used to propel 31107 up to a speed of 80 mph (130 km/h). The rear locomotive slowed down to a stop and 31107 continued to coast at a speed of 70–80 miles per hour into the road vehicle parked across the eastbound 'up' line. For the crash, locomotive 31107 received a special black livery with the slogan "Level crossings — Don't run the risk" along the side in white lettering. The final 5 minute segment was originally scheduled for 4 February 2007 but was rescheduled, apparently due to a fatal crossing crash at Dingwall two days earlier. It was eventually aired on BBC Two on 25 February 2007, shortly after the Cumbria derailment. A repeat of the programme was pulled following a further level-crossing accident.
Class 31 no. 31108 appeared on 1 November 2010 in the BBC soap opera EastEnders. The scene shows Janine Butcher nearly being hit by a train on a level crossing, and was filmed at the Nene Valley Railway.
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Currently the only 00 Gauge model of the Class 31 is that produced by Hornby since 2004.
2012 saw the return of the Lima model under the Hornby Railroad banner.
Heljan have released an O gauge model based on the 31s in their early condition, March 2013.
References and sources
- Fox, Peter. (1985). Locomotives & Coaching Stock. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-906579-45-7.
- Toms 1978, p. 26
- Toms 1978, p. 40
- Toms 1978, p. 25
- Railway Magazine December 1957 p. 889
- Toms 1978, p. 41
- Marsden, Colin J. (1981). Motive power recognition:1 Locomotives. Shepperton: Ian Allan Ltd. ISBN 0-7110-1109-5.
- British Rail Locoshed book 1981 edition. Shepperton: Ian Allan Ltd. 1981. ISBN 0-7110-1112-5.
- Lund, E (1980). To the last drop. Chesterfield: Longden technical Publications. ISBN 0-9507063-0-2.
- "31150 1975-10-05 Doncaster Works". RailOnline. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
- Hoole, Ken (1982). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 3. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 48. ISBN 0-906899-05-2.
- HM Railways Inspectorate. "Report on the Collision that occurred on 25th February 1979 between Hilsea and Fratton in the Southern Region British Railways" (PDF). Railways Archive. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
- Vaughan, Adrian (1989). Obstruction Danger. Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens Limited. pp. 240–48. ISBN 1-85260-055-1.
- Earnshaw, Alan (1991). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 7. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 45. ISBN 0-906899-50-8.
- Hall, Stanley. Railway Disasters cause and effect. p. [page needed].
- "Network Rail gives 120 hours to bid for 50 year old diesels". 31 July 2015.
- wnxx.com, News Archive: February 2007, 2007–02–04.
- BBC NewsOne dead in train crossing crash, 2007–02–02.
- The Railway Herald, Network Rail stage level crossing crash accident (pdf file, >4MB)
- BBC News, Top Gear screens train crash item, 2007–02–25.
- Tele-photo pictures of the crash setup.
- BBC News, One dead in level crossing crash, 2007–03–01.
- Stevens-Stratten, S.W.; Carter, R.S. (1978). British Rail Main-Line Diesels. Shepperton: Ian Allan Ltd. ISBN 0-7110-0617-2.
- Toms, George (1978). Brush Diesel Locomotives, 1940-78. Sheffield: Turntable Publications. ISBN 0902844482. OCLC 11213057.
- Williams, Alan; Percival, David (1977). British Railways Locomotives and Multiple Units including Preserved Locomotives 1977. Shepperton: Ian Allan Ltd. ISBN 0-7110-0751-9.
- Cole, Andrew (2016). Class 31 Locomotives. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 9781445657912. OCLC 932262936.
- Morrison, Brian (1984). The Power of the Class 31s. OPC. ISBN 9780860930648. OCLC 656098166.
- Loader, Martin; Norris, Rich (2005). Class 31 Photo File. Vanguard Publications. ISBN 9781900872065.
- McManus, Michael. Ultimate Allocations, British Railways Locomotives 1948 - 1968. Wirral. Michael McManus.
- Oakley, Michael (1981). BR Class 31 Diesels. Bradford Barton. ISBN 9780851534176. OCLC 16542541.
- Vaughan, John (2009). Diesel Retrospective: Class 31. Ian Allan. ISBN 9780711032859. OCLC 267193524.
- Clough, David (18–31 May 1989). "Unsung Heroes". RAIL. No. 96 (EMAP National Publications). pp. 26–31. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
- Dunn, Pip (12–25 February 1997). "Brush's veterans". RAIL. No. 298 (EMAP Apex Publications). pp. 22–26. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
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