British Rail Class 33
The British Rail Class 33 also known as the BRCW Type 3 or Crompton is a class of Bo-Bo diesel-electric locomotives ordered in 1957 and built for the Southern Region of British Railways between 1960 and 1962.
A total of 98 Class 33s were built by the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company (BRCW) and were known as "Cromptons" after the Crompton Parkinson electrical equipment installed in them. Like their lower-powered BRCW sisters (BR Classes 26 and 27), their bodywork and cab ends were of all steel construction. They were very similar in appearance to class 26/27 locos, but carried Southern Region two-digit headcode blinds between the cab windows.
The original (1957) number sequence was D6500–D6597.
- 1 Early years
- 2 Class 33s today
- 3 Sub-classes
- 4 Push-pull operations
- 5 Tramway safety
- 6 Accidents and incidents
- 7 Preservation
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
The locomotives began service on the South-Eastern Division of the Southern Region but rapidly spread across the whole Region and many were used much further afield – an example being the weekly Cliffe (Kent) to Uddingston (South Lanarkshire) cement train which they worked as far as York (and occasionally throughout) in pairs.
Only the then new electric train heating was fitted, rather than the ubiquitous steam heating which passenger carriages largely used. Early delivery problems and a shortage of steam locomotives resulted in many Class 24 locomotives being borrowed from the Midland Region and pairs, of 33 + 24, became common on winter passenger services. This resulted in unpopular, complex run-round manoeuvres at termini as Class 24 needed to be coupled inside to provide steam heat. Emergency provisioning of through-piping for steam heat on some examples of class 33 alleviated this somewhat. The Southern Region was unaccustomed to the operational overhead and maintenance associated with the use of class 24 and they rapidly became unpopular. With the advent of modern stock and warmer seasons, they were returned to the Midland Region.
Class 33s today
Most of these locomotives have now been withdrawn from active duty, though three 33025 33029 & 33207 (with one further member 33030 as a spares donor) members are on Passenger services with heritage spot hire rail company West Coast Railway Company, whilst others remain operational on preserved heritage railways.
There were three variants, later becoming Class 33/0, 33/1 and 33/2.
Class 33/0 – standard locomotives
All 86 of the first delivery were built as standard locomotives. Later with the advent of TOPS these would become class 33/0 and were numbered in the range 33001-33065. Two locomotives did not survive long enough to receive TOPS numbers as they were withdrawn due to damage sustained in accidents.
Class 33/1 – push-pull fitted locomotives
While third rail electrification was expanding on the Southern region, it was not then considered to be justified to extend beyond Bournemouth and so, in 1966, D6580 was fitted with experimental push-pull apparatus, high-level brake pipes and jumper cables to make it compatible with Multiple Unit stock. Tests were carried out on the Oxted Line using a 6-coach rake of unpowered multiple unit coaches (designated TC, the T standing for Trailer). The use of this equipment removed the necessity for the locomotive to run around to the front of its train at each terminus, as it could be controlled from the driving position of a TC unit and hence could propel its train from the rear.
In 1968, following successful completion of trials, D6580 and eighteen other members of the class entered Eastleigh works to be fitted with a modified version of the push-pull apparatus – fully compatible with Class 73 and Class 74 Electro-Diesels and indeed any Electro-Pneumatically controlled (EP) Multiple Unit stock. They emerged painted in the new BR corporate blue with full yellow ends.
With the advent of TOPS, Class 34 had been reserved for these modified locomotives but it was not used and they were grouped, instead, into class 33/1 being numbered in the range 33101–33119.
They settled into sterling service, proving themselves highly useful and reliable. The prototype locomotive (D6580 later 33119) was the only member of Class 33 to run in green livery with the Multiple Unit control equipment – not to be confused with preserved members of Class 33/1 that have been repainted into green.
Class 33/2 – narrow-bodied locomotives
The second batch of 12 locomotives was built with narrow bodies to allow them to work through the narrow tunnels between Tunbridge Wells and Hastings in Kent and East Sussex. The "Hastings profile", required the bodies to be reduced in width by 7 inches (178 mm) to avoid clipping tunnel linings on that line, leading to their nickname of 'Slim Jims'.
The high cost of re-tooling the jigs and fixtures for construction of these narrow bodies was extensive and based on the very small number of locomotives, was financially painful to BRCW. This and other order book issues with the rolling stock business contributed to the bankruptcy of the business.
The mainstay of push-pull operations was the operation over the then un-electrified track from Bournemouth to Weymouth and the service continued like this across three decades. Weymouth trains started at London Waterloo powered by third-rail electric traction via Winchester and Southampton to Bournemouth. The consist was normally twelve cars made up of a powerful 3,200 hp (2,400 kW) 4REP electric multiple unit on the rear with two leading units of un-powered 4TCs. At Bournemouth the train would be divided with the 4REP remaining at the London end of Bournemouth station and the 4TCs hauled onward to Poole and Weymouth by Class 33/1. On the return leg, the locomotive propelled the train back to Bournemouth where it would be attached to a waiting London-bound 4REP and the locomotive detached to await the next Weymouth-bound portion.
The usual configuration was 4TC+4TC+Loco with the locomotive at the country end. Light traffic would result in 4TC+Loco, and in rare operational circumstances 4TC+Loco+4TC was noted. This combination was not preferred, as it led to operational difficulties and inconvenience to waiting passengers who found themselves confronted with the side of the locomotive when their train has drawn to a halt.
The Class 33/1 with one or two 4TC sets (normally with the Class 33/1 at the country end of the train) were also the mainstay of the Waterloo – Salisbury service from their introduction. Platform congestion and the lack of facilities at the very busy Basingstoke station were two of the reasons for class 33/1 operation throughout the route rather than just over the non-electrified section west of Basingstoke..
In later years Weymouth boat trains, conveying passengers between London and the Channel Islands ferry service out of Weymouth, were handed over to push-pull operation. The section of route from Weymouth to the ship terminal at the quay is actually tramway, following (and largely in the middle of) the harbour road. The quay spur did not pass through the station, but diverged westwards at the throat thus it was not possible for boat trains to call at Weymouth station. Boat trains had been made up of conventional coaching stock and the locomotive would run-round its train on arrival at the sea-terminal. The move to push-pull sets on boat trains removed two headaches for the SR:
- The necessity for the run-round at the quay was removed.
- The locomotive swap at Bournemouth (for both up and down trains) was eliminated and services were greatly improved with the removal of the troublesome Class 74 locomotive from the equation.
Although class 73 & 74 electro-diesel locomotives had push-pull capability, they did not have the endurance for longer runs on diesel power – their 600/650HP was not even Type 1 – little more than a high-powered shunter equivalent. The Type 3 power of Class 33/1 with only a 4 or 8 car train was rarely into the recovery margin of a schedule due to load.
Class 33/1 and 4TC combinations were often used to supplement other services and were not just the purview of Bournemouth-Weymouth trains. Services could be rostered for a push-pull set due to stock shortages – the Reading to Basingstoke service (normally a stronghold of DEMU sets) could be relied upon to produce a push-pull set on Sundays. Often, electric rosters would be substituted by class 33/1 + 4TC if the line was de-energised during engineering work. Indeed, push-pull sets were a possibility over the entire range of Southern Region services including inter-regional trains; they were not in-frequent visitors to Bristol Temple Meads station and have been noted at Cardiff.
Although in private ownership at the time, 33103 and 4TC 417 were spot-hired for use on Barking-Gospel Oak services during a stock shortage in 1999 and worked the service for some weeks without issue.
A further member of the class; 33115, was used as a dead-load test before the introduction of Eurostar trains running on Southern tracks into Waterloo, with running number 83301. Having been fitted with Eurostar bogies (complete with electric 3rd rail collector shoes), it formed part of a test train where its through-wiring for push-pull work was necessary for the completion of tests.
Allocated to work the Weymouth Harbour Tramway, trains operating over public thoroughfare tramway without escort are required to be fitted with warning equipment for the general public. Two warning units were built and housed in a cabinet at the track side of the quay spur at the throat of Weymouth yard. This equipment comprised a yellow box which fitted on a bracket just above the rubbing plate on the cab front. It had an amber rotating beacon and bell which served to warn thoroughfare users and was controlled from the driving cab. Each member of Class 33/1 and all TC stock had a small socket where the bell/beacon units plugged in to draw power from the train systems. Later units (i.e. those in use after the tramway fell out of general use and the power sockets had been removed during overhaul) were smaller and mounted on a lamp bracket just below the cab window. These had an on/off switch on the bottom of the unit and no bell – warnings being given using the train horn.
Trains for the quay would halt at the station throat, and the warning equipment was attached and tested by the train guard. In addition, trains on the tramway were "walked" by railway staff with flags, clearing the route of people and badly parked cars all the way between the points at which the tramway reverted to conventional track at the quay station and road crossing into Weymouth yard. On arrival at the quay terminus the guard would move the warning equipment to the other end of the train in readiness for the return journey. In later years, (e.g. for Railtours) the local Police fulfil the role of traffic control and the process of moving a train along the tramway has become a lot less routine.
Accidents and incidents
- On 23 March 1960, locomotive D6520 was hauling a freight that was derailed between Burghclere and Highclere, Hampshire.
- On 5 March 1964, locomotive D6502 was hauling a freight train when it ran through signals at Itchingfield Junction, West Sussex and was in a rear end collision with a freight train. Two people were killed. Damage was so extensive that the locomotive was cut up on site.
- On 30 September 1966, locomotive D6535 was hauling a freight train that overran signals and was derailed by trap points at Wallers Ash, Hampshire.
- In 1968, locomotive D6576 was involved in a collision at Reading, Berkshire. Following recovery to Eastleigh Works and examination, it was considered uneconomical to repair and was cut up for spares.
- On 4 January 1969, locomotive No. D6558 was hauling a parcels train that was run into by a passenger train at Marden, Kent.
- On 28 July 1971, locomotive No. 6561 was hauling a parcels train that was derailed at Guildford, Surrey.
- In September 1975, locomotive No. 33 041 was involved in an accident in London and was consequently written off.
- On 11 October 1977, locomotives No. 33 036 and 33 043 were hauling a freight train that was derailed at Mottingham, London. Due to damage sustained, 33 036 was withdrawn from service and scrapped.
- On 25 February 1979, locomotive No. 33 115 was hauling a passenger train which was involved in a collision with an engineers' crane near Hilsea. One person was killed in the accident. 33 115 was out of traffic until 1980.
- On 24 March 1987, a freight train overran a signal at Frome North Junction, Somerset. Locomotive No. 33 032 was hauling a passenger train that was in a head-on collision with the freight train (hauled by 47 202). Fifteen people were injured, some seriously.
29 examples survived into preservation:
|1957 number||TOPS number||Name||Location||Current Status||Livery|
|D6501||33002||Sea King||South Devon Railway||Operational||BR Green|
|D6508||33008||Eastleigh||Shillingstone||Undergoing Restoration||BR Green (Yellow Warning Panels)|
|D6515||33012||Lt Jenny Lewis RN||Swanage Railway||Operational and Mainline Certified||BR Green (Yellow Warning Panels)|
|D6530||33018||–||Midland Railway - Butterley||Undergoing Restoration||BR Blue|
|D6534||33019||Griffon||Battlefield Line Railway||Operational||DCE Grey and Yellow|
|D6539||33021||Captain Charles||Churnet Valley Railway||Undergoing Minor Repairs||BR Blue|
|D6543||33025||Glen Falloch / Sultan||Carnforth||Under Overhaul||West Coast Railway Company|
|D6547||33029||Glen Loy||Southall||Operational, Mainline Certified||West Coast Railway Company|
|D6548||33030||-||Carnforth||Stored (spares loco)||DRS Dark Blue|
|D6553||33035||Spitfire||Barrow Hill Engine Shed||Operational||BR Blue|
|D6564||33046||Merlin||East Lancashire Railway||Stored (spares Loco)||SWT Blue|
|D6566||33048||–||West Somerset Railway||Operational||BR Green (Yellow Front)|
|D6570||33052||Ashford||Kent and East Sussex Railway||Stored||BR Green|
|D6571||33053||–||Mid Hants Railway||Operational||BR Blue|
|D6575||33057||Seagull||West Somerset Railway||Operational||BR Green (Yellow Front)|
|D6583||33063||R.J. Mitchell||Spa Valley Railway||Operational||Railfreight Mainline Sector|
|D6585||33065||Sealion||Spa Valley Railway||Undergoing heavy overhaul||BR Blue|
|D6513||33102||Sophie||Churnet Valley Railway||Operational||BR Blue|
|D6514||33103||Swordfish||Ecclesbourne Valley Railway||Operational||BR Blue|
|D6521||33108||Vampire||Barrow Hill Engine Shed||Operational||BR Blue|
|D6525||33109||Captain Bill Smith RNR||East Lancashire Railway||Operational||BR Blue|
|D6527||33110||–||Bodmin and Wenford Railway||Operational||Departmental grey|
|D6528||33111||-||Swanage Railway||Operational||BR Blue|
|D6535||33116||Hertfordshire Rail Tours||Great Central Railway||Operational||BR Blue|
|D6536||33117||–||East Lancashire Railway||Undergoing Repairs||BR Blue|
|D6586||33201||–||Swanage Railway||Operational||BR Blue (Full Yellow Ends)|
|D6587||33202||Dennis G. Robinson||Spa Valley Railway||Operational||BR Blue|
|D6592||33207||Jim Martin||Southall||Operational, Mainline Certified||West Coast Railway Company|
|D6593||33208||–||Battlefield Line Railway||Undergoing Repairs||BR Green (Yellow Warning Panels)|
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