British Rail Class 50

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English Electric Type 4
British Rail Class 50
50014 at Birmingham New Street 2.jpg
A Class 50 at Birmingham New Street in 1987
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-electric
BuilderEnglish Electric at Vulcan Foundry
Build date1967–1968
Total produced50
 • UICCo′Co′
 • CommonwealthCo-Co
Gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Wheel diameter3 ft 7 in (1.092 m)
Wheelbase56 ft 2 in (17.12 m)
Length68 ft 6 in (20.88 m)
Width8 ft 10 in (2.69 m)
Height12 ft 9 in (3.89 m)
Axle load19 long tons 10 hundredweight (19.8 t; 21.8 short tons)
Loco weight115 long tons (117 t; 129 short tons)
Fuel capacity1,540 imp gal (7,000 l; 1,850 US gal)
Prime moverEnglish Electric 16 CSVT
Engine type246 litres (15,000 cu in) Diesel engine
Traction motors6 English Electric type 538/5A axle-hung nose-suspended 400 hp (300 kW) traction motors
MU working Orange Square
Train heatingElectric Train Heat
Train brakesDual (Air and Vacuum)
Performance figures
Maximum speed100 mph (161 km/h)
Power outputEngine: 2,700 bhp (2,010 kW)
Tractive effortMaximum: 48,500 lbf (216 kN)
Continuous: 33,000 lbf (147,000 N)@ 23.5 mph (37.8 km/h)[1]
OperatorsBritish Rail
NumbersD400–D449; later 50001–50050
Axle load classRoute availability 6
Disposition18 preserved, remainder scrapped

The British Rail Class 50 is a class of diesel locomotives designed to haul express passenger trains at 100 mph (160 km/h). Built by English Electric at the Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows between 1967 and 1968, the Class 50s were initially on a 10-year lease from English Electric Leasing, and were employed hauling express passenger trains on the, then non-electrified, section of the West Coast Main Line between Crewe and Scotland. Initially numbered D400–D449 and known as English Electric Type 4s, the locomotives were purchased outright by British Rail (BR) at the end of the lease and became Class 50 in the TOPS renumbering of 1973.

The class gained the nickname "Hoovers" because of the noise made by the clean air plant at the No. 2 end, prior to refurbishment, which was likened to that of a vacuum cleaner, a name believed given to them by the staff at Paddington Station.[2] Once the electrification from Crewe to Glasgow was completed the locomotives were moved to the Great Western Main Line (GWML) out of Paddington to allow the retirement of most of the remaining diesel-hydraulic locomotives then in use. As trains on the GWML steadily moved to High Speed Train operation from 1976, the Class 50s moved to hauling trains between London Waterloo and Exeter St Davids, and also trains from London Paddington to Hereford and Worcester via Oxford until the majority of those trains too were taken over by IC125 operation. The class was steadily retired from service in the late 1980s and early 1990s as their services moved to operation by second-generation Class 159 DMUs.



The origins of the Class 50 lie in an invitation from the British Transport Commission (BTC) to manufacturers to produce a design for a lightweight Type 4 diesel locomotive with a gross power output of at least 2,500 hp.[3] In order to produce a prototype quickly, English Electric based their design on that for their Deltic locomotives which were then in production. Unlike the Deltics, this design was powered by a single engine, the 16CSVT, a development of the 16SVT used in the Class 40 locomotives. Parts related to the contemporary Class 37s were also used. The result was DP2, a 2,700 hp Diesel-electric locomotive weighing 105 tons and with a top speed of 100 mph.[4]

However, before the prototype could be completed, English Electric's design was rejected by the BTC, primarily on the grounds that the 16CSVT was unproven, and doubted its ability to produce the required power levels. Even after the delivery of DP2 in May 1962, any hope of future orders seemed over with the BTC's decision to standardise its Type 4 fleet on the Brush-Sulzer Class 47 design.

The DP2 design earned a reprieve in 1965, when the National Traction Plan of that year identified a need for an additional 50 Type 4 locomotives. By this time the Class 47 fleet were starting to suffer serious problems with engine stress cracking,[5] a problem which necessitated the derating of the fleet to 2,580 hp. At the same time, DP2 and its 16CSVT engine had proved far more reliable than expected. Negotiations took place with English Electric for a production batch of 50 locomotives for use on the Eastern Region.[6] English Electric intended to build the new batch as similar to DP2 as possible[7] but the British Railways Board (successor to the BTC) had produced a standard locomotive cab with a flat front and headcode box and also had specific requirements relating to the engine room and other equipment. English Electric produced several alternative front-end designs including one with a wrap-around windscreen[7] but the standard front-end design was eventually adopted for the class.


The complete production run of 50 locomotives was built in just over a year and numbered from D400 to D449. D400 entered service in October 1967 and deliveries were completed with D449 in November 1968.[8] Unusually, the ownership of the locomotives remained with the manufacturer and they were operated by British Rail on a 10-year lease which included certain stipulations relating to availability.[2] The D prefix was quickly dropped for all diesel engines after steam was banned from British Rail's mainline in 1968. The Class 50 engines were numbered as 400 to 449 from 1969 to 1974.


Distribution of locomotives,
March 1974[9]
British Rail Class 50 is located in England
Code Name Quantity
BR Bristol Bath Road 8
CD Crewe Diesel 42
Total: 50

The class was built for working passenger services on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) north of Crewe, to Preston, Lancaster, Carlisle, Glasgow Central and Perth, occasionally reaching as far north as Aberdeen. Services south of Crewe would generally be worked by an electric locomotive, with the Class 50s taking over for the journeys that continued north.[10] Initially trains were hauled by a single locomotive, but from May 1970 they were paired on 8 out of 34 locomotive diagrams covering Anglo-Scottish services north of Crewe,[11] allowing greatly accelerated timings to be applied (including a six-hour schedule for the "Royal Scot" London Euston-Glasgow Central and v.v. service). Once the electric service was introduced as far as Preston in 1973, this double-heading by Class 50s transferred there, although poor availability often resulted in single-heading with consequent delays. The ability to operate using multiple working had been part of the locomotive's initial design brief, but only two of the class had the facility from new, but with the introduction of the regular double headed duties, this facility was fitted to the whole class.[10]

50010 at Reading General in 1974

By 1974 the northern WCML was electrified, and the Class 50 fleet was displaced by new Class 87 electrics. The fleet was transferred to the Western Region between 1972 and 1976, working mainline passenger services from London Paddington along the Great Western Main Line (GWML) to destinations such as Oxford, Bristol Temple Meads, Plymouth and Penzance.[10] It was not unusual for locomotives to work services on other routes, such as the Birmingham New Street to Bristol Temple Meads corridor. The introduction of the Class 50s on these routes enabled the last remaining, non-standard, diesel hydraulic "Westerns" to be withdrawn.[10]

50048 Dauntless naming ceremony at Reading,1978

In the late-1970s, following a period where the policy of locomotive naming had been abandoned, BR was persuaded to name the class 50s after Royal Navy ships with notable records in World War I and II. As a result, the first locomotive naming occurred in January 1978, when 50035 was named Ark Royal by the captain and crew of then current aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. The rest of the fleet was named during the course of the next few years.

From 1977, British Rail introduced InterCity 125s onto the Great Western Main Line which began the displacement of the Class 50 fleet onto other routes, such as services to Birmingham New Street from London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads. The class also found work on the West of England Main Line from London Waterloo to Salisbury, Exeter and Plymouth. However, due in part to the over-complexity of the design, the class was plagued with reliability problems which resulted in frequent service failures and cancellations. As a result, the decision was taken in the late 1970s to refurbish the entire fleet.[10]


To deal with increasing reliability problems, the Class 50 fleet was refurbished at Doncaster Works between 1979 and 1984. Doncaster had taken responsibility for the fleet after BR completed the purchase of the locomotives from English Electric. The work involved simplifying the complex electronics and removing redundant features such as slow speed control and rheostatic braking.[10] In addition, the air intake fan arrangement was modified, because the original setup often prevented fresh air from entering the engine room and stale, oil mist-filled air from escaping, leading to many main generator failures. This was in part due to the moisture in the air in the UK: dust and other particles would lodge in the filter system and become 'gummed up' with moisture, preventing circulation which in turn also hampered the intended engine compartment pressure levels which then meant 'filtered' air could not be evacuated by the intended means. The filtration system was fundamentally sound and widely used in other countries; the problems arose because relative humidity had not been taken into account at the design stage.[12][13] This modification eliminated the characteristic droning "sucking" noise which had earned the "Hoover" nickname.[10]

Externally, the locomotives all received high-intensity headlights, which changed the appearance of the front end. Starting with 50006, the first six locomotives were outshopped in the standard BR Blue livery.[10] However, in 1980, 50023 Howe became the first to be outshopped in a revised livery with wrap around yellow cabs, large bodyside numerals and BR logo, in a livery that became known as BR Large Logo Blue.[14] The final loco to be refurbished was 50014 which was released to traffic in the latter half of 1983.[10]

50043 Eagle hauling the morning express across the Penadlake viaduct on 29 August 1987

Following refurbishment, the fleet was concentrated at two depots; Laira in Plymouth, and Old Oak Common in west London. The class were again used for Western Region services on the GWML out of Paddington, and on the West of England Main Line from Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter.[10]

In 1984, 50007 Hercules was repainted into lined Brunswick green livery and renamed Sir Edward Elgar, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Great Western Railway (GWR). Four Class 47 locomotives were similarly treated, and a Class 117 diesel multiple unit (DMU) was repainted in chocolate and cream livery. As a result, 50007 quickly became a favourite with rail enthusiasts. Another locomotive repainted in a special livery was 50019 Ramillies, which was repainted in a variation of BR Blue by staff at Plymouth Laira depot.

50026 Indomitable in early NSE livery at Reading, 1989

In 1986 the West of England Main Line came under the control of the Network SouthEast (NSE) sector, which saw the introduction of their bright blue, red and white livery. The first locomotive in this livery was again 50023 Howe. The NSE livery had two versions; the original had upswept red, white and grey stripes at the ends, with white cab window surrounds; the revised livery introduced in 1988 had the red and white stripes continue to the body ends, with a blue cab surround. In the revised livery the blue became a darker shade.[10]

Towards the end of the 1980s, the fleet could be found mostly on the West of England route, as well as fast services from Paddington to Oxford. Some locomotives were also transferred to the civil engineers department to work maintenance and engineering trains. Around this time, the first locomotives were withdrawn, starting with 50011 Centurion in early 1987. This locomotive's nameplates were later transferred to 50040, which was previously named Leviathan. A further two locomotives, 50006 Neptune and 50014 Warspite were withdrawn in 1987, followed by a further five locomotives in 1988 (50010/13/22/38/47).[10]

In 1987, consideration was given to using the class on freight trains. To this end, 50049 "Defiance" was renumbered to 50149, equipped with modified Class 37, lower-geared bogies and outshopped in the new trainload grey livery with Railfreight General decals. It was based at Plymouth Laira depot, and tested on local china clay trains in Cornwall as well as heavy stone trains to London from Devon quarries.[10] The project was, however, not an outstanding success and by 1989 the locomotive had been returned to its original identity. Ironically, the electronic anti-wheelslip equipment, with which the entire class had originally been built and which would have been key to the success of this experiment, had been removed during the refurbishment process.[10]

50044 Exeter in Network South East livery at London Waterloo

At the start of the 1990s, the reliability of the fleet became a problem again. By this time, the class was solely used on the West of England route, having been replaced on the Oxford route by Class 47/4 locomotives, displaced from Railfreight Distribution after the collapse of Speedlink in 1991. Arguably, the Class 50s were not suitable for the stop-start service pattern of Waterloo-Exeter services, nor to the extended single-line sections of this route, where a single locomotive failure could cause chaos. Therefore, the decision was taken to retire the remainder of the fleet, temporarily replacing them with Class 47/7 locomotives,[10] which were in turn replaced by new diesel multiple units. From 1992, the Oxford route was worked by Class 165 and Class 166 units, whilst Class 159 units were introduced onto the West of England route in 1993.

50007 Sir Edward Elgar at Bournemouth Open Day, 1992

By 1992, just eight locomotives remained in service, these being 50007/008/015/029/030/033/046/050. Several of these locomotives were specially repainted to commemorate the run-down of the fleet. The first-built locomotive, 50050 Fearless was renumbered D400 and painted in its original BR Blue livery. Two other locomotives, 50008 Thunderer and 50015 Valiant were also repainted, the former in a variation of BR Blue (the same as 50019 had previously carried), and the latter in "Dutch" civil-engineers grey/yellow livery. Of the final eight locomotives, three were retained until 1994 for use on special railtours, these being 50007 Sir Edward Elgar, 50033 Glorious and 50050 Fearless. 50007 was returned to working order using parts from 50046, which surrendered its recently overhauled power unit and bogies. By this time, 50050 had been repainted into Large Logo livery and 50007 also received a repaint into GWR green as the 1985 paint was wearing very thin. The final railtours operated in March 1994, during one of which 50033 was delivered for preservation at the National Railway Museum.[15] The final railtour operated with 50007 and 50050 from London Waterloo to Penzance and returning to London Paddington. Both locomotives were later preserved.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 23 November 1983, a sleeper train hauled by 50 041 Bulwark was derailed on the approach to Paddington due to excessive speed through a crossover. Three of the seventy passengers were injured.[16][17]
  • On 6 August 1989, 50025 Invincible was derailed at West Ealing whilst hauling the 21:15 Oxford to Paddington service. The cause was a length of rail that vandals had placed across the track. There were no fatalities and the locomotive was subsequently scrapped in October that year.[18]

Fleet list[edit]

Key: Scrapped Preserved
Number Name[19] Built Named Withdrawn Status Notes
D400 50050 Fearless 17.10.67 23.08.78 26.03.94 Preserved Carried nameplate 04.08.78 – 07.08.78. Now owned by Boden Rail Engineering Ltd.
D401 50001 Dreadnought 09.12.67 10.04.78 19.04.91 Scrapped Scrapped at Booth-Roe scrapyard, Rotherham in December 2002.
D402 50002 Superb 12.67 21.03.78 09.09.91 Preserved Preserved by the Devon Diesel Society. It is currently being restored at the South Devon Railway in Buckfastleigh.[20]
D403 50003 Temeraire 01.68 09.05.78 15.07.91 Scrapped Scrapped at MC Metals scrapyard, Glasgow in April 1992.
D404 50004 St Vincent 12.67 09.05.78 22.06.90 Scrapped Scrapped at Booth-Roe scrapyard, Rotherham in May 1992.
D405 50005 Collingwood 01.68 05.04.78 11.12.90 Scrapped Scrapped at Old Oak Common TMD, London in February 1991.
D406 50006 Neptune 04.68 25.09.79 20.07.87 Scrapped First Class 50 to be refurbished. Scrapped at Vic Berry's scrapyard, Leicester in February–March 1988.
D407 50007 Hercules 03.68 06.04.78 16.07.91 / 26.03.94 Preserved Renamed Sir Edward Elgar on 25.02.84. Originally withdrawn in 1991. Reinstated for railtour use in 1992. Renamed back to Hercules in early 2014. Now owned by Class 50 Alliance.[21]
D408 50008 Thunderer 03.68 01.09.78 05.06.92 Active Owned by Hanson & Hall Rail Solutions, returned to mainline in June 2021
D409 50009 Conqueror 03.68 08.05.78 11.01.91 Scrapped Scrapped at Old Oak Common TMD, London in February 1991.
D410 50010 Monarch 03.68 16.03.78 27.09.88 Scrapped Scrapped at Laira TMD, Plymouth by Coopers in May 1992.
D411 50011 Centurion 04.68 17.09.79 24.02.87 Scrapped First Class 50 to be withdrawn. Scrapped at Crewe Works by Texas Metals in September 1992.
D412 50012 Benbow 04.68 03.04.78 16.01.89 Scrapped Scrapped at Vic Berry's scrapyard, Leicester in July 1989.
D413 50013 Agincourt 04.68 19.04.78 06.04.88 Scrapped Scrapped at Old Oak Common TMD, London in July 1989.
D414 50014 Warspite 05.68 30.05.78 14.12.87 Scrapped Scrapped at Vic Berry's scrapyard, Leicester in May–July 1989.
D415 50015 Valiant 04.68 21.04.78 05.06.92 Preserved Owned by the Bury Valiant Group.
D416 50016 Barham 05.68 03.04.78 03.08.90 Scrapped Scrapped at Booth-Roe scrapyard, Rotherham in June 1992.
D417 50017 Royal Oak 04.68 24.04.78 09.09.91 Preserved Owned by Michael Gregory, Great Central Railway as of February 2019.
D418 50018 Resolution 04.68 06.04.78 22.07.91 Scrapped Scrapped at MC Metals scrapyard, Glasgow in January 1993.
D419 50019 Ramillies 05.68 18.04.78 19.09.90 Preserved Owned by the Class 50 Locomotive Association, Mid Norfolk Railway.
D420 50020 Revenge 05.68 07.07.78 27.07.90 Scrapped Scrapped at Booth-Roe scrapyard, Rotherham in June 1992.
D421 50021 Rodney 05.68 31.07.78 17.04.90 Preserved Owned by Paul Spracklen, Eastleigh Works.
D422 50022 Anson 05.68 20.04.78 20.09.88 Scrapped Scrapped at Vic Berry's scrapyard, Leicester in May–June 1989.
D423 50023 Howe 06.68 17.05.78 15.10.90 Scrapped Scrapped at Barrow Hill, Chesterfield in March 2004.
D424 50024 Vanguard 06.68 15.05.78 01.02.91 Scrapped Scrapped at Old Oak Common TMD, London in July 1991.
D425 50025 Invincible 07.68 06.06.78 14.08.89 Scrapped Scrapped at Old Oak Common TMD in October 1989, after derailment at West Ealing in August 1989. The derailment was a result of vandals placing an object onto the track, causing the loco to overturn.
D426 50026 Indomitable 07.68 29.03.78 11.12.90 Preserved Owned by Paul Spracklen.
D427 50027 Lion 06.68 17.04.78 23.07.91 Preserved Privately owned. Based at the Mid-Hants Railway. It was based at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway from 1992 until 13 June 2012.
D428 50028 Tiger 07.68 10.05.78 01.02.91 Scrapped Scrapped at Old Oak Common TMD, London in July 1991.
D429 50029 Renown 07.68 26.10.78 25.03.92 Preserved Owned by the Renown Repulse Restoration Group.[22]
D430 50030 Repulse 07.68 10.04.78 08.04.92 Preserved Owned by the Renown Repulse Restoration Group.[22]
D431 50031 Hood 07.68 28.06.78 05.08.91 Preserved Operated by the Class 50 Alliance.[23]
D432 50032 Courageous 07.68 07.07.78 15.10.90 Scrapped Scrapped at Old Oak Common TMD, London in February 1991.
D433 50033 Glorious 08.68 26.06.78 25.03.94 Preserved Currently based at the Severn Valley Railway.
D434 50034 Furious 08.68 06.04.78 29.06.90 Scrapped Scrapped at Old Oak Common TMD, London in February 1991.
D435 50035 Ark Royal 08.68 17.01.78 03.08.90 Preserved First to be named and preserved. Owned by the Class 50 Alliance.[21] Currently based at the Severn Valley Railway.
D436 50036 Victorious 09.68 16.05.78 12.04.91 Scrapped Scrapped at Booth-Roe scrapyard, Rotherham in July 1992.
D437 50037 Illustrious 09.68 08.06.78 09.09.91 Scrapped Scrapped at MC Metals scrapyard, Glasgow in December 1992. One cab preserved at the Llanelli & Mynydd Mawr Railway.[24]
D438 50038 Formidable 10.68 05.05.78 27.09.88 Scrapped Scrapped at Old Oak Common TMD, London in July 1989.
D439 50039 Implacable 10.68 20.06.78 04.06.89 Scrapped Scrapped at Old Oak Common TMD, London in July 1991.
D440 50040 Leviathan 10.68 15.09.78 03.08.90 Scrapped Scrapped at Sims Metal Management, Halesowen in June–July 2008.
D441 50041 Bulwark 10.68 08.05.78 17.04.90 Scrapped Scrapped at Old Oak Common TMD, London in July 1991.
D442 50042 Triumph 10.68 04.10.78 15.10.90 Preserved Preserved at the Bodmin and Wenford Railway.
D443 50043 Eagle 10.68 28.06.78 01.02.91 Scrapped Scrapped for spares at Blaenavon by Rexstar in January 2002.
D444 50044 Exeter 11.68 26.04.78 11.01.91 Preserved Owned by the Class 50 Alliance.[21]
D445 50045 Achilles 11.68 12.04.78 11.12.90 Scrapped Scrapped at Booth-Roe scrapyard, Rotherham in April 2000.
D446 50046 Ajax 12.68 11.10.78 25.03.92 Scrapped Scrapped at MC Metals scrapyard, Glasgow in June 1992. One cab privately preserved near Looe, Cornwall.[25]
D447 50047 Swiftsure 12.68 26.05.78 13.04.88 Scrapped Scrapped at Vic Berry's scrapyard, Leicester in April–June 1989.
D448 50048 Dauntless 12.68 16.03.78 15.07.91 Scrapped Scrapped at MC Metals scrapyard, Glasgow in April 1992.
D449 50049
Defiance 12.68 02.05.78 16.08.91 Preserved Owned by the Class 50 Alliance.[21] 50149 carried during trial of using the class on freight trains.

Portuguese locomotives[edit]

En route from Barreiro to Vila Real de Santo António on 27 November 1990, 1805 pauses at Ermidas Sado where it was booked to cross over with a northbound train.

The Portuguese Railways, CP, bought ten locomotives similar to the BR Class 50, but built to Iberian track gauge (1,668 mm). These locomotives, designated by CP as "Série 1800" (numbered 1801–1810), entered service in 1968.

Like the British Class 50s, they were equipped with an English Electric 16 CSVT engine and produced 2700 hp (2020 HP at the wheels). Unlike the BR locomotives upon which electronic control is extensively used, the Portuguese locomotives employ conventional control gear (the only exceptions being stepless control of tractive effort by a solid-state load regulator and the use of a very effective out-of-balance wheel-slip detector). The main generator and the traction motors are identical to those used on the BR Type 3 and Deltic locomotives. Contrary to BR Class 50, the Portuguese Série 1800 locomotives were built to be as much compatible with the smaller Série 1400 (themselves similar to BR Class 20) as possible and also to use as many common components as possible.

They were the only diesel locomotives in Portugal authorised to run at 140 km/h. The CP Série 1800s were all withdrawn in 2001 and (as of 2012) several have been cut up, and the future of the rest is unclear. Today some of these locomotives are still mostly seen as freight trains rather than passenger trains.

Locomotive 1805 has been preserved in operational condition by the Portuguese National Railway Museum at Entroncamento. Since the 1980s it had been painted in CP's corporate orange livery; it has been repainted in its original distinctive blue livery by the CP workshop at Contumil near Porto. While still an integral part of the National Railway Museum, is set to return to service pulling tourist trains in the Douro River Line.


D400 Fearless, the first Class 50 to be built in 1967, seen here on the Settle & Carlisle Railway, 2022

Class 50 locomotives proved popular with rail enthusiasts, with eighteen locomotives saved for preservation and several subsequently registered for use on the mainline.

An ambitious project involving preserved Class 50s was "Operation Collingwood", an engineering charity established in the early 1990s. The aim had been to train young engineering apprentices by getting them to rebuild railway locomotives and Class 50s were chosen both for the fact that they were a British design throughout and that all were named (so the apprentices would derive some pride from rededication ceremonies at the completion of their work). To this end, Operation Collingwood purchased and stored 50001, 50023, 50029, 50030, 50040 and 50045. All except 50029 and 50030 were heavily stripped examples sold to scrapyards for final cutting up. The intention was to restore them by using industrial sponsorship money to build an engineering centre and overhaul the components, making brand new ones where necessary to overcome lack of availability of some parts unique to the original design. These ambitions failed when sponsorship did not reach the required level and the project lost various key people. The charity was wound up in 2002; 50001/023/040 and 045 were sold back to scrapyards and their state as little more than bodyshells deterred most further preservation attempts. 50045 was scrapped to provide spares for preserved 50026, and 50001 met a similar fate. A private individual made an attempt to restore 50023 using some parts from 50001 but this was abandoned and the shell was cut up a few years after the initial purchase. 50040 could have been suitable for cosmetic restoration, but after many years untouched and in a derelict state at the Coventry Railway Centre, it finally had all remaining parts stripped for spares and was transported to Sims Metals of Halesowen for scrapping. The cutting of the derelict hulk was completed by Wednesday 2 July 2008. 50029 and 50030 were in far better mechanical condition, and were sold to a preservation group for full restoration.

50043 Eagle was purchased in almost working order (the main generator had failed, a very common Class 50 problem) but it was never intended for restoration. Instead the power unit was gutted to provide parts for preserved Class 40 no. 40118 as the two share a very similar design of diesel engine. Eagle was then subjected to a further bout of stripping when electrical and other parts were sold to various Class 50 preservationists. Although cosmetically very smart, the loco was by this stage unrestorable and although an ambitious private individual did try, this effort soon came to naught and it was scrapped to provide parts for 50026 Indomitable. 50026 itself was rescued from Booth's Scrapyard in 1993.[26][27]

Once preserved, 50002 became the first class 50 to operate a train for a private excursion on the South Devon Railway (April 1992), while 50031 was the first to operate a train for fare paying passengers (Severn Valley Railway May 1992). 50031 was also the first to operate on the mainline, hauling the Past Time Railtours Pilgrim Hoover train from Birmingham International to Plymouth on 1 November 1997. Since then several other members of the class have also been passed for use on Network Rail (was Railtrack) lines. However, with changes in the UK's Rail Access regulations (requiring fitment of additional equipment: TPWS/OTMR/GSMR) some of these locos are no longer of a standard to continue mainline operation. At present, 50007,[when?] 50008, 50044, 50049 & 50050 are passed for main line running. The owner of 50021 & 50026 aims to restore them to mainline use in the near future.

One locomotive, 50017, was hired to Venice Simplon Orient Express (VSOE) to work the Northern Belle service from Bath to Manchester Victoria. As part of the contract it was painted in LMS-style maroon livery. Following this, the loco spent several years dumped at Tyseley locomotive works before being sold to a private individual. The loco was then restored to working order at the Plym Valley Railway, before being sold to Boden Railway Engineering a few years later. In Feb 2019 the engine was sold from Boden Rail to the Great Central Railway minus it's mainline equipment.

In 2003, the National Railway Museum decided to dispose of 50033 due to an inability to commit to maintenance and storage costs. This was subject to a suitable owner being found for what was now a museum asset. After spending a period on loan to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in 2004 the locomotive was moved to the Swindon Steam Railway Museum. However, soon after it was sent on to the Tyseley Locomotive Works as part of a proposed move to the RailSchool project and Royal Docks Heritage Railway in North Woolwich, London. When the Crossrail project was authorised, this scheme fell by the wayside, stranding 50033 at the Birmingham Railway Museum (Tyseley). After a period the ownership of the loco was transferred between the museums in lieu of storage payments. Unfortunately due to lack of covered accommodation the loco was stored in the open. This situation ended in February 2018, when an agreement between the Birmingham Railway Museum and the Fifty Fund was reached to return the locomotive to operational use. As part of this arrangement the locomotive was moved to the Severn Valley Railway in May of the same year. After an intense restoration effort the loco hauled trains at the Class 50 Golden Anniversary Gala in October 2018. As the loco was still in undercoat, it was possible for gala attendees to graffiti the loco body for a payment towards its full repaint – an exercise that raised over £3,800.

In 2005, 50031 and 50049 were on long term hire to Arriva Trains Wales (ATW), for use on special services in connection with events at the Millennium Stadium, and over the summer period saw regular use on the Monday to Saturday "Fishguard Flyer" from Cardiff to Fishguard and return, in connection with the ferry sailing to Ireland. One of the two locomotives was used for the service each day, along with 4 Mark 2 coaches, the short formation and high power leading to very good performance. This arrangement lasted for one year. At the end of this period 50031 failed whilst working an ECS (Empty Coaching Stock) train, again for ATW.

During the summer of 2008 50044 "Exeter" was fitted with OTMR, and the TPWS fitted previously was commissioned. In October 2008 '44 was re-registered for mainline use, and operated its first revenue mainline train on 18 October 2008, when it worked, in multiple with 50049 "Defiance" on a railtour from Manchester Piccadilly to Minehead.

Several owning groups have ceremonially re-dedicated their locomotives to the warships whose names they carry. The HMS Hood Association rededicated 50031 Hood at the Mid Hants Railway, unveiling new crests. The crew of HMS Exeter re-dedicated D444 Exeter at the Severn Valley Railway a year before the vessel was decommissioned, unveiling a crest and early-BR-style nameplates. The captain of HMS Ark Royal performed the re-dedication ceremony for 50135 Ark Royal at the Eastleigh 100 Open Days.

October 2018 saw the Severn Valley Railway host the 'Class 50 Golden Jubilee' gala, celebrating fifty years since the class was introduced into traffic. Eleven of the eighteen preserved 50s attended the event, these being: 50007, 50008, 50015, 50017, 50026 (non-operational), 50031, 50033, 50035, 50044, 50049 and 50050. This made it the largest gathering of a single type of locomotive in preservation history. Of significance was 50033, which had undergone a speedy overhaul since transferring to the railway in May of that year, hauling its first passenger trains since 2004.

Seven of the preserved Cass 50s have operated on the mainline in preservation, these being: 50050 Fearless, 50007 Hercules, 50008 Thunderer, 50017 Royal Oak, 50031 Hood, 50044 Exeter and 50049 Defiance.

List of preserved locomotives[edit]

Numbers (current in bold) Name Image Livery Location Notes
D400 50050 - Fearless 50050 Fearless at Hardingham.jpg BR Blue Nottingham Eastcroft TMD Owned by Boden Rail Engineering Ltd. First-built locomotive.

Operational, Mainline certified

D402 50002 - Superb The South Devon Railway 16.jpg BR Blue South Devon Railway Under restoration.[28]
D407 50007 - Hercules Long Rock 2019 - GBRf 50007 (aka 50014).JPG GBRf[29] Severn Valley Railway Operational, Mainline Certified. On spot-hire to GBRf.[29]
D408 50008 - Thunderer Railways of Great Britain 471.jpg Hanson & Hall Kings Norton Re-entered preservation in 2006. Repainted by ELR 2009–2010. Operational, Mainline Certified 2017
D415 50015 - Valiant And Also.jpg BR Blue Large Logo East Lancashire Railway Only Class 50 to carry "Dutch" civil-engineers livery in BR ownership. Preserved by Bury Valiant Group


D417 50017 50117 Royal Oak Class 50 locomotives in Cardiff - - 4357751.jpg Network SouthEast (Original) Great Central Railway. Preserved & Operational. Previously Mainline Certified.
D419 50019 - Ramillies 50 019 Ramilles on standby.jpg BR Blue Large Logo Mid-Norfolk Railway Taken out of service for works in 2013.
D421 50021 - Rodney General Railway Pictures 2018 189.jpg BR Blue Large Logo Eastleigh Under Restoration by Paul Spracklen
D426 50026 - Indomitable 50026 Swanage.jpg Network SouthEast (Revised) Eastleigh Undergoing maintenance. Fitted with OTMR, TPWS and GSMR equipment for future mainline operation. Currently in the final stages of an engine overhaul.
D427 50027 - Lion 50027 Lion passing Northside Lane Foot Crossing, 20th June 2020.jpg Network SouthEast (Revised) Mid Hants Railway Operational
D429 50029 - Renown 26.12.82 Old Oak Common MPD 50029 (42687144262).jpg BR Blue Large Logo (Black Roof) Peak Rail Awaiting Restoration
D430 50030 - Repulse Rowsley - Peak Rail 'Class 50' - - 601605.jpg BR Blue Large Logo Peak Rail Under Restoration
D431 50031 - Hood 18.05.17 Kidderminster Town 50031 (34659794491).jpg Intercity Swallow Severn Valley Railway Operational. Currently carries non-prototypical Intercity livery.
D433 50033 - Glorious Hugh llewelyn 50 033 (5561082796).jpg BR Blue Large Logo Severn Valley Railway Previously at Swindon Steam Railway Museum and Tyseley Locomotive Works.


D435 50035 50135 Ark Royal Class 50 50035 Ark Royal.jpg BR Blue Severn Valley Railway Operational.
D442 50042 - Triumph Long Rock 2019 - 50042.JPG BR Blue Large Logo (Black Roof) Bodmin & Wenford Railway Operational.
D444 50044 - Exeter 50044 & 50007 5Z84.jpg BR Blue Severn Valley Railway Operational. Mainline Certified.
D449 50049 50149 Defiance 50049 at Crewe Diesel Depot Open Day 2019 - 48061193568.jpg GBRf[29] Severn Valley Railway Operational. Mainline Certified. On spot-hire to GBRf.[29]

Model railways[edit]

Lima produced the first model of the Class 50 in OO gauge – initially in unrefurbished condition – with Graham Farish producing the type in British N gauge. Neither of these models are now available new, but second-hand models do appear from time to time.

In 2003, Hornby Railways launched its first version of the BR Class 50 in OO gauge.[30] Hornby have since updated the Class 50 and have produced models of 50007 Hercules and 50049 Defiance in GBRF colours as part of their 2020 range.

Recently, Heljan have also made models of Class 50 in O gauge which includes 50007 Hercules as Sir Edward Elgar in GWR green, 50149 Defiance in BR Railfreight general sector triple grey, 50017 Valiant in BR Civil Engineers 'Dutch' grey and yellow and 50008 Thunderer in BR Laira Blue as well as unnamed and unnumbered 50s in BR Blue, and in the original and revised Network South East livery.

Dapol have also released a model of the Class 50 in N gauge which include samples in BR Blue, BR large logo Blue and the original NSE livery.

Accurascale announced in November 2022 that they would be producing a newly tooled OO gauge Class 50 model, based on a 3D laser scan taken of locomotive 50017 at the Great Central Railway in 2019.[31]

References, literature and notes[edit]



  1. ^ "Locomotive Database – BR Class 50". Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b Cotter, Jarrod (2017). English Electric Class 50 1967 Onwards (all models) Owner's Workshop Manual. Sparkford, Somerset: Haynes Publishing. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-78521-060-0.
  3. ^ Clough, David N (2011). Hydraulic vs Electric: The battle for the BR diesel fleet. Hersham: Ian Allan. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-7110-3550-8.
  4. ^ Clough, David N (2011). Hydraulic vs Electric: The battle for the BR diesel fleet. Hersham: Ian Allan. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-7110-3550-8.
  5. ^ Why the '50s' triumphed in class struggle Rail Magazine – Retrieved 31 December 2018
  6. ^ Marsden, Colin J. "Design and Building". Modern Railways Pictorial Profile. No. 4: Class 50s. Shepperton: Ian Allan. p. 4. ISSN 0264-3642.
  7. ^ a b Marsden, Colin J. "Design and Building". Modern Railways Pictorial Profile. No. 4: Class 50s. Shepperton: Ian Allan. p. 5. ISSN 0264-3642.
  8. ^ Chalcraft, John (1985). Portrait of the 50s. Bristol: Rail Photoprints. p. 1. ISBN 0-906883-07-5.
  9. ^ British Railways Locoshed Book 1974 edition. Shepperton: Ian Allan. 1974. p. 53. ISBN 0-7110-0558-3.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Class 50s in Operation. D Clough[page needed]
  11. ^ Perren, Brian (December 1971). "Five years "under the wire" – 2". Railway World. Vol. 32, no. 379. Shepperton: Ian Allan. pp. 528–531.
  12. ^ BR Locomotive Problems Working Group Minutes
  13. ^ English Electric Traction for Egypt – EE Co Publicity Document E438 1961
  14. ^ Class 50 The Large Logo Years. I Horner
  15. ^ The Laira Years. Locomaster Profiles[page needed]
  16. ^ Nicholson-Lord, David (24 November 1983). "Eleven coaches derailed in Paddington sleeper crash". The Times. No. 61698. London. col B-F, p. 32.
  17. ^ Department of Transport (18 February 1985). Report of the derailment that occurred on 23rd November 1983 at Paddington Station (PDF). Her Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 0-11-550686-1. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  18. ^ "Accident at West Ealing in August 1989". Railways Archive.
  19. ^ "Class 50 Locomotive Names". Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  20. ^ "Devon Diesel Society – Locos D2246, D6737 and D402". Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  21. ^ a b c d Locomotives owned by the Class 50 Alliance Ltd (Accessed 2009-01-28)
  22. ^ a b Locomotives owned by Renown Repulse Restoration Group
  23. ^ Locomotives operated by the Class 50 Alliance Ltd (Accessed 2009-01-28)
  24. ^ "The Cab Yard – The Cabs".
  25. ^ "The Cab Yard – The Cab Yard Story".
  26. ^ "50026 Indomitable". English Electric Archive. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  27. ^ Travers, Chris. "Diesel Update – November 2017". Epping Ongar Railway. Diesel Restoration Group. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  28. ^ "D402 – English Electric Type 4 – BR Class 50 – 50 002".
  29. ^ a b c d "GB Railfreight and Class 50 Alliance collaboration sealed with locomotive repaints". 15 January 2019. Archived from the original on 21 August 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  30. ^ "Hornby BR Class 50". Hornby Railways Collector Guide. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  31. ^ "Class 50s – from Accurascale". World of Railways. Bourne: Warners Group Publications. 23 November 2022. Retrieved 23 November 2022.


  • Clough, David (2004). Class 50s in Operation. Hersham: Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-711029-71-7.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • 50015 Bury Valiant Group – Information on D415/50015 based at the East Lancashire Railway
  • The Fifty Fund – Supporters group for the locomotives owned and operated by The Class 50 Alliance Ltd. – Information on all class 50s and specific coverage of 50007 Hercules, 50031 Hood, 50035 Ark Royal, 50044 Exeter and 50049 Defiance all nominally based at the Severn Valley Railway
  • Class 50 loco-by-loco photo gallery
  • English Electric Archive – gallery dedicated to English Electric Type 4 Co-Co (British Rail Class 50) locomotives in preservation and their restoration
  • 50042 – Information on 50042 Triumph based at the Bodmin and Wenford Railway