British Rail Class 52

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British Rail Class 52
"Western Lady" At Old Oak Common - 1976 (14153848945).jpg
D1048 Western Lady at Old Oak Common TMD on 13 July 1976.
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-hydraulic
Build date1961–1964
Total produced74
 • UICC′C′
 • CommonwealthC-C
Gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Wheel diameter3 ft 7 in (1.092 m)
Minimum curve4.5 chains (300 ft; 91 m)
Wheelbase54 ft 8 in (16.66 m)
Length68 ft 0 in (20.73 m)
Width8 ft 8 in (2.64 m)
Height12 ft 11+34 in (3.96 m)
Loco weight108 long tons (110 t; 121 short tons)
Fuel capacity850 imp gal (3,900 l; 1,020 US gal)
Prime moverMaybach MD655 (64.5 L or 3,940 cu in), 2 off
MU workingNot fitted
Train heatingSteam
Train brakesVacuum; later Dual (Air and Vacuum)
Performance figures
Maximum speed90 mph (140 km/h)
Power outputEngines: 1,350 bhp (1,007 kW)at 1500 rpm × 2
At rail: 2,000 hp (1,491 kW)
Tractive effortMaximum: 66,700 lbf (297 kN)
Continuous: 45,200 lbf (201 kN)@ 14.5 mph (23.3 km/h)[1]
Brakeforce50 long tons-force (498 kN)
OperatorsWestern Region of British Railways
NicknamesWesterns, Wizzos, Thousands.
Axle load classRoute availability 7
Disposition7 preserved, remainder scrapped

The British Rail Class 52 is a class of 74 Type 4 diesel-hydraulic locomotives built for the Western Region of British Railways between 1961 and 1964. All were given two-word names, the first word being "Western" and thus the type became known as Westerns. They were also known as Wizzos and Thousands.[1]

Historical context[edit]

An early photo of D1005 Western Venturer in 1962.

When switching to diesel traction as part of the Modernisation Plan of the 1950s, British Railways (BR) designed, and commissioned designs for, a large number of locomotive types. At this time BR's regions had a high degree of autonomy, which extended as far as classes of locomotives ordered and even the design criteria for those locomotives. Whilst almost all other diesel locomotives were diesel-electric, the Western Region employed a policy of using diesel-hydraulic traction, originally commissioning three classes of main line locomotives: a type 2 and two type 4s (later designations class 22, class 41 and class 42). With pressure to increase the speed of the transition from steam to diesel, volume orders for the class 22 and class 42 (along with a similar design class 43) followed in 1957, a mere two years after the original orders and well before any idea of performance or reliability could be gained. At the same time it was realised that all the existing orders (diesel-electric and diesel-hydraulic) were for types 1, 2 and 4; thus orders were placed for 101 Type 3 diesel-hydraulics (later Class 35). However the increasing demands for more powerful locomotives prompted a further order, in 1961, for 74 diesel-hydraulics of 2,700 hp (2,000 kW); so when the first locomotive was outshopped from Swindon Works in December 1961, less than a year after the order was placed, the Westerns were born.[2][3]

The theoretical advantage of diesel-hydraulic was simple: it resulted in a lighter locomotive than equivalent diesel-electric transmission. This provided a better power/weight ratio and decreased track wear. Unfortunately, it had several key disadvantages:

  • The technology was proven in continental Europe, particularly Germany, but was new to the UK. At the time, it was considered politically unacceptable for the UK government to order railway rolling stock from foreign companies, especially German companies so soon after the Second World War. This resulted in most of the engines and transmissions being manufactured in the United Kingdom under licence from the German manufacturers.[4]
  • The most robust hydraulic transmissions were only capable of handling engines with power output of around 1,500 hp (1,120 kW); building a more powerful locomotive would involve two diesel engines and two transmissions.
  • The transmission had significantly higher power losses than diesel-electric, negating some of the benefits and resulting in considerably higher fuel consumption.[citation needed]
D1015 Western Champion in Swindon Works

Experience showed that the Bristol-Siddeley-Maybach engines were superior to those made by North British Locomotive Company-MAN and although the use of twin engines in the same locomotive was new, the design did not produce any insurmountable problems. In the end the diesel-hydraulic experiment foundered on low fleet numbers, poor maintenance conditions and design issues; not on its German heritage or development of a novel configuration. BR's Swindon Works maintained all the diesel-hydraulic locomotives, and their early demise resulted in a much reduced workload and hastened its eventual closure in 1986.

The Western[edit]

D1023 Western Fusilier at Exeter St Davids with a train for the South West

With the Hymeks and Warships already in service but proving underpowered for top-link services, BR Western Region needed a high-powered locomotive for these trains – the Western therefore needed two diesel engines to achieve the required power output. In keeping with their policy, a new locomotive with a hydraulic transmission was envisaged. Experience had shown that the Maybach engines in the Hymeks were superior to the earlier Maybach and MAN engines used in the Warships, particularly in power output. Also Maybach were able to offer their 12 MD engines rated at 1,350 bhp (1,010 kW) allied to a Voith transmission; a Mekydro transmission designed to handle such power could not be fitted into the British loading gauge.

Prototypes sited the engines behind the driving cabs but drivers found this too noisy; moving the engines centrally meant making the locomotive heavier, removing some of the design's advantage. In operational use, the dual-engine arrangement turned out to have some advantages: in particular, the Westerns were able to continue operating with a single engine running in situations where more conventional single-engine designs would require rescue by another locomotive.

The most serious continual problem with the class was a mismatch between the Maybach MD655 engines and the Voith L630rV three speed hydraulic transmissions, a design fault. The top gear ratio in the transmission was too high for the torque characteristics of the engine: the result was that a single locomotive could struggle to reach its claimed 90 mph (140 km/h) top speed in the absence of down grades, more so when work-weary and due for overhaul. This factor, the South Devon Banks (a major part of their running grounds) and the deleterious effect on tired engines, all conspired against the Westerns continuing in top-line service. With fifty Class 50 locomotives becoming available following completion of the West Coast Main Line electrification, and new High Speed Trains, the speed and comfort increases the Western Region sought could be achieved and the Westerns dispensed with. Towards the end of their careers the Westerns were all allocated to Laira (Plymouth).

Competition and comfort[edit]

Distribution of locomotives,
July 1967[5]
British Rail Class 52 is located in Southern England
Code Name Quantity
82A Bristol Bath Road 15
84A Laira 59
Total: 74

Whilst the design was largely successful, the working life of the class was relatively short. Its non-standard design added to its maintenance costs at a time when national British Rail policy was moving away from diesel-hydraulics. When the Westerns were introduced in 1962, the Western Region had 226 diesel-hydraulics and 10 diesel-electrics (excluding shunters); by 1966 the numbers were 345 and 269 respectively. As a result, the early 1970s saw the decision taken to retire all the diesel-hydraulic types. Class 46s and Class 47s took over passenger and heavy freight while Class 25s covered the lighter duties. Following completion of the electrification of the West Coast Main Line throughout from London to Glasgow, the Class 50s were reallocated to the Western Region; the introduction of High Speed Trains three years later was the final nail in the coffin for the Class 52 Westerns.

In 1968–69 the Westerns received train air brake equipment in addition to their vacuum exhausters, thus significantly extending their working lives, unlike the similar but lower-powered, Warship class. Four of the class (D1017–D1020) did not receive dual brakes, with these locomotives being among the first withdrawals. The vacuum brake equipment was retained and to fit the additional equipment, it was necessary to remove one of the fuel tanks.[6] However, as with the Warships, it proved impossible to equip them with electric train heating (ETH, or head-end power in US terminology). The Western Region faced particularly stiff competition for its prime inter-city services in the mid to late 1970s from the M4 motorway and it was generally felt within BR that significant speed and comfort improvements on the prime London Paddington-Bristol route were necessary. The lack of ETH meant the Westerns could not power the newly introduced air-conditioned BR Mark 2d/e/f coaches – a shortcoming that classes 47 and 50, equipped with ETH (the latter from new), did not share.[7]


The highest recorded speed with a Western that O. S. Nock was aware of was 102 mph (164 km/h) when D1068 hauled nine coaches (305 tons gross) down 1 in 1,320 (i.e. virtually level) at Southall. The train averaged exactly 100 mph (161 km/h) for 12.8 miles (20.6 km) between Slough and Ealing whilst hauling a service from Reading to Paddington.[8] An unverified eyewitness account by a BR secondman stated that 110 mph (177 km/h) had been achieved when his driver drove a Western between Reading and Westbury. He experienced the locomotive shaking from side to side as 110 mph was indicated on the speedometer.[citation needed]

However, when it came to drawbar horsepower the Westerns in some respects were less capable than the equivalent diesel electric locomotives. Nock states "whilst the Westerns took their rightful place as fast and powerful locomotives it became evident that they were showing the same deficiency in actual power put forth at the drawbar as the [diesel-hydraulic] Warships had done. The highest output that came to my notice was a sustained 85 mph (137 km/h) hauling 560 tons descending 1 in 1,320, which equates to 1,500 edhp (equivalent drawbar horsepower)".[9] This is 56% of power at the flywheel, whereas for a diesel-electric one would normally expect a figure of 75 to 80%.[citation needed] A similar result was obtained when Clough & Beckett[10] compared the performance of type 4 diesel locomotives (Classes 45/46/47/50/52) hauling trains up the ascent to Whiteball summit. They deliberately chose data to show each class in their best light and included a Western run which produced 1,775 edhp but they still concluded that "without doubt the Westerns get the wooden spoon; certainly not what one would expect from units of 2,700 bhp". The best performer was the Class 50, a 2,700 hp (2,000 kW) diesel-electric locomotive: on one run this achieved 2,115 edhp.

Despite this apparent limitation, the BR Western Region load-limit book gave the same 550 ton loading figure for both the Class 52 and Class 47 diesels over the South Devon banks between Newton Abbot and Plymouth. The reason for this is that, while the diesel-electric classes could produce high maximum tractive effort for limited periods, diesel hydraulics could produce significantly higher continuous tractive effort.[4]

Names and numbers[edit]

Name and numberplates at the National Railway Museum

While the first Western was under construction, proposals for livery and names were prepared by the BR design panel. The D1000 series locomotives were to be named after famous West of England place names; the illustration from the portfolio shows D1000 bearing the name Cheddar Gorge. This was not followed in production, however, and the Westerns were named with general heraldic and regimental terms prefixed with the word "Western" as per the following table.

Of the 74 locomotives built, 7 have survived to preservation.

Image Number Name Built Liveries Withdrawn[11] Disposition Notes
D1000-old oak common - 1964.jpg D1000 Western Enterprise BR Swindon 20.12.61 Desert Sand
Rail Blue
02/1974 Scrapped 31.07.74 BREL Swindon
Class 52 D1001 Western Pathfinder, Old Oak Common, 6 June 1976 (2).jpg D1001 Western Pathfinder BR Swindon 12.02.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
10/1976 Scrapped 08.77 BREL Swindon Originally outshopped without yellow warning panels; the buffer beams being painted yellow instead [12]
D1002 Western Explorer BR Swindon 19.03.62 Brunswick Green[13]
Rail Blue
10/1976 Scrapped 08.77 BREL Swindon
D1003 Western Pioneer BR Swindon 14.04.62 Brunswick Green[13]
Rail Blue
01/1975 Scrapped 08.77 BREL Swindon
D1004 Western Crusader BR Swindon 12.05.62 Brunswick Green[13]
Rail Blue
08/1973 Scrapped 19.09.74 BREL Swindon
Class 52 D1005 Western Venturer, Reading, 20 April 1976.jpg D1005 Western Venturer BR Swindon 18.06.62 Brunswick Green[13]
Rail Blue
11/1976 Scrapped 17.06.77 BREL Swindon
D1006 Western Stalwart BR Swindon 06.07.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
04/1975 Scrapped 24.03.77 BREL Swindon
D1007 Western Talisman BR Swindon 01.08.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
01/1974 Scrapped 24.02.75 BREL Swindon Was extensively damaged in the Ealing rail disaster of 19 December 1973 and subsequently scrapped.
D1008 Western Harrier BR Swindon 04.09.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
10/1974 Scrapped 10.10.75 BREL Swindon
D1009 Western Invader BR Swindon 24.09.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
11/1976 Scrapped 11.78 BREL Swindon
Williton North Yard D1010.jpg D1010 Western Campaigner BR Swindon 15.10.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
28/02/77 Preserved by the Diesel & Electric Preservation Group[14] Standby loco for the Western Tribute Railtour.[15]
D1011 Western Thunderer BR Swindon 27.10.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
10/1975 Scrapped 12.78 BREL Swindon
D1012 Western Firebrand BR Swindon 17.11.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
11/1975 Scrapped 04.79 BREL Swindon
D1013 Western Ranger BR Swindon 13.12.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
28/02/77 Preserved by the Western Locomotive Association Hauled the Western Tribute Railtour on 26/02/77 (with D1023); the last Western-hauled train on BR.[15]
D1014 Western Leviathan BR Swindon 24.12.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
08/1974 Scrapped 13.02.75 BREL Swindon
Hugh llewelyn D1015 (5555393987).jpg D1015 Western Champion BR Swindon 21.01.63 Golden Ochre[13]
Rail Blue
04/01/77 Preserved by the Diesel Traction Group[16] Hauled the return working of Churchill's funeral train in 1966.[17]
D1016 Western Gladiator BR Swindon 16.02.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
12/1975 Scrapped 08.77 BREL Swindon
D1017 Western Warrior BR Swindon 15.03.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
08/1973 Scrapped 12.03.75 BREL Swindon
D1018 Western Buccaneer BR Swindon 02.04.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
06/1973 Scrapped 20.03.74 BREL Swindon
D1019 Western Challenger BR Swindon 02.05.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
05/1973 Scrapped 03.10.74 BREL Swindon
D1020 Western Hero BR Swindon 21.05.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
06/1973 Scrapped 17.04.74 BREL Swindon
Class 52 D1021 Western Cavalier, 8 May 1976.jpg D1021 Western Cavalier BR Swindon 17.06.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
08/1976 Scrapped 02.79 BREL Swindon
Class 52 D1022 Western Sentinel, Old Oak Common, 25 January 1977.jpg D1022 Western Sentinel BR Swindon 16.07.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
01/1977 Scrapped 12.78 BREL Swindon
1023 1z15 Paddington extra service at Exeter St Davids - - 734618.jpg D1023 Western Fusilier BR Swindon 23.09.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
28/02/1977 Preserved as part of the national collection by the NRM Hauled the Western Tribute Railtour on 26/02/77 (with D1013); the last Western-hauled train on BR.[15]
D1024 Western Huntsman BR Swindon 01.10.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
11/1973 Scrapped 14.08.74 BREL Swindon
D1025 Western Guardsman BR Swindon 01.11.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
10/1975 Scrapped 01.79 BREL Swindon
D1026 Western Centurion BR Swindon 24.12.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
10/1975 Scrapped 06.08.76 BREL Swindon
D1027 Western Lancer BR Swindon 28.01.64 Maroon
Rail Blue
11/1975 Scrapped 10.06.76 BREL Swindon
Class 52 D1028 Western Hussar, Old Oak Common turntable, 27 May 1976.jpg D1028 Western Hussar BR Swindon 25.02.64 Maroon
Rail Blue
10/1976 Scrapped 06.79 BREL Swindon
D1029 Western Legionaire BR Swindon 20.04.64 Maroon
Rail Blue
11/1974 Scrapped 29.05.75 BREL Swindon Renamed Western Legionnaire in 1969, the nameplate being cut to allow the additional letter to be inserted.[18]
D1030 Western Musketeer BR Crewe 05.12.63 Maroon
Chromatic Blue[12]
Rail Blue
04/1976 Scrapped 22.09.76 BREL Swindon
D1031 Western Rifleman BR Crewe 20.12.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
02/1975 Scrapped 06.10.76 BREL Swindon
D1032 Western Marksman BR Crewe 31.12.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
05/1973 Scrapped 05.12.74 BREL Swindon
D1033 Western Trooper BR Crewe 17.01.64 Maroon
Rail Blue
09/1976 Scrapped 04.79 BREL Swindon
D1034 Western Dragoon BR Crewe 15.04.64 Maroon
Rail Blue
10/1975 Scrapped 20.05.77 BREL Swindon
Williton 1035 Western Yeoman aka 1010.jpg D1035 Western Yeoman BR Crewe 17.07.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
01/1975 Scrapped 30.09.76 BREL Swindon
D1036 Western Emperor BR Crewe 29.08.62 Brunswick Green[13]
Rail Blue
11/1976 Scrapped 24.02.77 BREL Swindon
D1037 Western Empress BR Crewe 31.08.62 Brunswick Green[13]
Rail Blue
05/1976 Scrapped 16.02.77 BREL Swindon
D1038 Western Sovereign BR Crewe 07.09.62 Brunswick Green[13]
Rail Blue
10/1973 Scrapped 20.11.74 BREL Swindon
D1039 Western King BR Crewe 07.09.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
07/1973 Scrapped 05.09.74 BREL Swindon One of the few Westerns to have full yellow ends applied to Maroon livery [12]
D1040 Western Queen BR Crewe 20.09.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
02/1976 Scrapped 11.08.76 BREL Swindon
D1041 Western Prince BR Crewe 10.10.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
02/1977 Preserved by the Bury Diesel Group [2]
D1042 Western Princess BR Crewe 19.10.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
07/1973 Scrapped 18.05.74 BREL Swindon
D1043 Western Duke BR Crewe 26.10.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
04/1976 Scrapped 10.02.77 BREL Swindon
D1044 Western Duchess BR Crewe 12.11.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
02/1975 Scrapped 10.09.75 BREL Swindon
D1045 Western Viscount BR Crewe 16.11.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
12/1974 Scrapped 21.08.75 BREL Swindon
D1046 Western Marquis BR Crewe 24.12.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
12/1975 Scrapped 10.11.76 BREL Swindon
D1047 Western Lord BR Crewe 04.02.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
02/1976 Scrapped 09.09.76 BREL Swindon
D1048 Western Lady BR Crewe 15.12.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
02/1977 Preserved
D1049 Western Monarch BR Crewe 14.12.62 Maroon
Rail Blue
04/1976 Scrapped 03.02.77 BREL Swindon
D1050 Western Ruler BR Crewe 01.01.63 Maroon
Rail Blue
04/1975 Scrapped 08.04.76 BREL Swindon
D1051 Western Ambassador BR Crewe
D1052 Western Viceroy BR Crewe
D1053 Western Patriarch Reading.jpg D1053 Western Patriarch BR Crewe
D1054 Western Governor BR Crewe
D1055 Western Advocate BR Crewe
D1056 Western Sultan BR Crewe
D1057 Western Chieftain BR Crewe
D1058 Western Nobleman BR Crewe
D1059 Western Empire BR Crewe
D1060 Western Dominion BR Crewe
D1061 Western Envoy BR Crewe
D1062 Western Courier BR Crewe
D1063 Western Monitor BR Crewe
D1064 Western Regent BR Crewe
D1065 Western Consort BR Crewe
D1066 Western Prefect BR Crewe
D1067 Western Druid BR Crewe
D1068 Western Reliance BR Crewe
D1069 Western Vanguard BR Crewe
D1070 Western Gauntlet BR Crewe
D1071 Western Renown BR Crewe
D1072 Western Glory BR Crewe
D1073 Western Bulwark BR Crewe

D1029 was originally named Western Legionaire [sic], but renamed Western Legionnaire in 1969, the nameplate being cut to allow the additional letter to be inserted.[19]

Although designated Class 52 under the TOPS scheme and all were still in service when TOPS was introduced in 1973, no Western ever carried its "52 0xx" TOPS number. As withdrawal was already planned when the scheme was introduced and because of the cast number plates, it was not considered cost effective to renumber the locomotives. Some class members did run with the "D" of their number painted over – TOPS classification removed the need for locomotives to indicate their energy type in the running number (D = Diesel, E = Electric).

When the display of destination headcodes on the front of trains was dropped in 1976, the instruction was given for them all to be set to "0000". On many Westerns, the headcode was set to display the locomotive's number in contravention of this directive and most surviving members of the class ran like this until they were scrapped. If used for routing, such reporting numbers would be interpreted as a passenger express terminating on the Southern Region.[20]

Year Quantity in
service at
start of year
Locomotive numbers Notes
1973 74 11 1004/17–20/24/32/38–39/42/60
1974 63 11 1000/02/07–08/14/29/45/61–62/66/73
1975 52 18 1003/06/11–12/16/25–27/31/34–35/44/46/50/52/59/64/69
1976 34 26 1001/05/09/15/21/28/30/36–37/40/43/47/49/51/53–57/63/65/67–68/70–72
1977 8 8 1010/13/22–23/33/41/48/58


Early liveries[edit]

D1000 in Desert Sand livery, 1961

When the initial batch of Westerns was being built in 1961–2, British Rail was considering a new unified corporate colour scheme but had not yet made a final decision on what it would be. As a result, some of the early locomotives were painted in experimental liveries: D1000 was rolled out of Swindon Works in November 1961 painted in a light brown livery which became known as Desert Sand.[13] Initially the numbers, borne on the left hand cab when viewed from the side, were painted in white but soon individual numbers and letters, looking like they were cast but apparently made of wood, were fitted. This was in turn replaced by the final design of cast nameplate and numberplate; metal with a black background. This livery was later altered by the addition of a small yellow warning panel at each end and a black roof. The second locomotive, D1001 was delivered in an all-over maroon livery with yellow buffer beams and further locomotives D1002-D1004 in all-over green with small yellow warning panels.[13] Remaining deliveries carried the all-over maroon livery, initially without yellow warning panels, but the latter were applied from new after D1010 of the Swindon-built, and D1043 of the Crewe-built locomotives. Exceptions were the first four locomotives built at Crewe, D1035–D1038, which were delivered in green livery with red backgrounds to the nameplates, and D1015, which was outshopped from Swindon in an experimental "golden ochre" livery with small yellow warning panels at each end.[13] On one end of this locomotive, the yellow panel was embellished by the addition of a yellow band which extended sideways from each of the top corners round onto the cabside for a short distance, resembling a T shape. The locomotive is not believed to have run in this condition, but was released to traffic in the golden ochre livery with standard small yellow panels.

Corporate scheme[edit]

D1005 Western Venturer in BR blue.

After the adoption of Rail Blue with full yellow ends in 1966 (D1048 was the first of the class painted in this livery in 1966), for some unexplained reason a small batch of locomotives (D1017, D1030, D1036, D1037, D1043, D1047 and D1057) received this variant married to small yellow warning panels; D1030 carried red buffer beams for a short while. All other repaints were with full yellow ends which extended from the body line above the buffer beam up to the base of the window frames, along the sill of the cab-side windows onto the vertical end reveal. The valance above the cab windows on the front was also painted yellow, leaving the window frames in their base aluminium. The drive to repaint the locomotives in Rail Blue was outstripped by the safety directive dictating full yellow ends for all powered vehicles and some locomotives ran for a time with their original maroon bodies and full yellow ends.

The last locomotive to be repainted into Rail Blue was D1046, outshopped from Swindon in May 1971. Some early photographs of the blue livery give it a more metallic shade which is even more evident on the locomotives with small yellow panels. This however is possibly a photographic anomaly with colour film or due to printing techniques.

It is commonly accepted amongst Western enthusiasts in recent years that none of the class or any other British Rail locomotive of the period were ever painted with a metallic paint. However, several publications refer to initial painting in blue as being "chromatic blue" and published images do show a metallic sheen and lighter shade of blue than the standard Rail Blue.[21]


  • 15 August 1963. Knowle and Dorridge rail crash. No. 1040 Western Queen collided with a freight train, crushing the cab and killing the three traincrew. The locomotive was repaired and returned to service.[22]
  • 11 January 1967. St Annes Bristol rail crash. No. 1071 Western Renown in charge of the diverted 12:00 Paddington to Swansea collided with the rear of the 11:45 Paddington to Bristol hauled by No. 1067 Western Druid. The collision resulted in very severe damage being caused to the leading cab of locomotive No. 1071, but the three men in the cab escaped injury by moving into the centre of the locomotive. Nineteen passengers required first aid or medical treatment but there were no fatalities or serious injuries. The locomotive was repaired and returned to service.[23][24][25]
  • 19 December 1973. Ealing rail crash. No. 1007 Western Talisman derailed while hauling an express passenger train, after an unlocked battery box door fell open, broke off and changed points under the locomotive. Ten people were killed.[26] The locomotive did not return to service.
  • 29 January 1975 (Oxford). No. 1023 Western Fusilier derailed with a London Paddington to Birmingham train whilst approaching the platform. This was due to a failed axle which had split due to the growth of a previously undetected crack. There were no reported injuries and the locomotive was later preserved.[27]
  • 3 January 1976 (Worcester Tunnel). No. 1055 Western Advocate crashed into a stationary parcels train killing the driver and guard of the Western.[28] The locomotive did not return to service.
  • 4 October 1976 (Stoke Canon, Exeter). No. 1001 Western Pathfinder was working an overnight parcels train from London Paddington to Penzance when the train was in collision with a workers' van at a level crossing. One workman in the van died in the accident. The locomotive was removed to Exeter St Davids depot. Despite sustaining relatively minor damage, the imminent demise of the entire fleet of Class 52's resulted in condemnation of the locomotive. Up to this point, Western Pathfinder had been a serious contender for preservation.[citation needed]


D1062 on the West Somerset Railway

Seven locomotives have survived into preservation at heritage railways. Two have run on the mainline in preservation with D1015 been passed to operate on the mainline since 2002.[29][30] D1062 made a brief appearance in 1980 during the Rocket 150 parade at Rainhill.

D1022 Western Sentinel was a candidate for preservation and was planned to be purchased by the DTG (Diesel Traction Group), but it was scrapped. D1015 Western Champion was purchased for preservation.[31]

Number Name Builder Livery Home Base Status Notes
D1010 Western Campaigner Swindon Works BR maroon with half yellow West Somerset Railway Operational
D1013 Western Ranger Swindon Works BR blue with full yellow Severn Valley Railway Under Overhaul
D1015 Western Champion Swindon Works BR maroon with half yellow Severn Valley Railway Undergoing Repairs Mainline Certified, undergoing repairs to engines[32]
D1023 Western Fusilier Swindon Works BR blue with full yellow National Railway Museum Static Display Currently on static display awaiting repairs to be authorised
D1041 Western Prince Crewe Works BR maroon with full yellow East Lancashire Railway Undergoing Overhaul Having bodywork repairs undertaken plus a full rewire
D1048 Western Lady Crewe Works BR blue with full yellow Midland Railway Under Restoration
D1062 Western Courier Crewe Works BR blue with full yellow Severn Valley Railway Operational Re-painted at Kidderminster April 2017

Model railways[edit]

The first model of a Class 52 was produced by Trix (company) to its unusual compromise scale of 3.8mm to 1ft with OO gauge/HO gauge (16.5mm) track. This model, however, was quite crude.

In 1979 Hornby Railways launched its first version of the BR Class 52 (type 4) Western in OO gauge.[33]

Lima (models) also produced a model to OO gauge.

An N gauge model was produced by Graham Farish.

Since then, OO gauge models have been produced by both Heljan, and most recently Dapol, whilst an O gauge model has been produced by Heljan. Dapol have also produced a model in N gauge.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Whittaker, Nicholas (6 August 2015). Platform Souls: The Trainspotter as 20th-Century Hero. London, UK: Icon Books Limited. ISBN 9781848319905. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  2. ^ 2,700 hp Diesel-Hydraulic Locomotives for British Railways Railway Gazette 2 February 1962 pages 129-131
  3. ^ Western Enterprise The Railway Magazine issue 731 March 1962 pages 159-162
  4. ^ a b Clough, David N (2011). Hydraulic vs Electric; The battle for the BR diesel fleet. Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allan. ISBN 978-0-7110-3550-8.
  5. ^ British Rail Locoshed Book. Shepperton: Ian Allan Publishing. February 1968. p. 12. ISBN 0-7110-0004-2.
  6. ^ Reed 1978, pp. 70–71
  7. ^ Heaps, Chris (1988). BR Diary 1968–1977. Ian Allan Publishing. p. 67. ISBN 0-7110-1611-9.
  8. ^ Farr, K.S. (May 1976). Slater, J.N. (ed.). "'Western' Sunset". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 122, no. 901. London: IPC Transport Press. pp. 225–226.
  9. ^ Nock, O.S. (1985). British Locomotives of the 20th Century: Volume 3 1960-the present day. London: Guild Publishing/Book Club Associates. p. 59. CN9613.
  10. ^ BR Motive Power Performance, p. 122
  11. ^ Till, J O (1977). Western Stock List. Camberley: Steam & Diesel Publications. p. 9.
  12. ^ a b c Judge, Colin (1977). The Power of the Westerns. Oxford: Oxford Publishing Co. Ltd. ISBN 0-902888-98-6.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Vaughan, John (1977). Western Diesels in Camera. Shepperton: Ian Allan. p. 9. ISBN 0-7110-0831-0.
  14. ^ "Class 52 D1010 'WESTERN CAMPAIGNER'". DEPG. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  15. ^ a b c Watts, Peter (1977). Western Memories. Gloucester: Peter Watts. ISBN 0-906025-00-1.
  16. ^ "Western Champion". Diesel Traction Group. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  17. ^ The Railway Magazine: p. 134. March 1965.
  18. ^ Walker, M (September 2002). "Loco profile of the Westerns". The Marlow Donkey (101): 8–10.
  19. ^ Walker, M (September 2002). "Loco profile of the Westerns". The Marlow Donkey (101): 8–10.
  20. ^ Bailey, M.R. (February 1968). British Rail Headcodes (5th ed.). Shepperton: Ian Allan. pp. 5–7. ISBN 0-7110-0000-X. 458 GEX 268.
  21. ^ Judge, Colin (1977). The Power of the Westerns. Oxford: OPC. pp. Plate 44. ISBN 0-902888-98-6.
  22. ^ McMullen, D (1964). "Report on the Collision that occurred on 15th August 1963 at Knowle and Dorridge" (PDF). Railways Archive. HMSO. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  23. ^ Pages 1 to 7. Railway company: Western Region. Report on the Collision that occurred...
  24. ^ Report on the Collision that occurred on 11th January 1967 at St. Anne's Park, Bristol in the Western Region British Railways
  25. ^ Image details - Rail collision St Anne's Park, near Bristol
  26. ^ "Official accident report" (PDF). HMSO, reproduced at The Railways Archive. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  27. ^ "Report on the Derailment that occurred on 29th January 1975 near Oxford Station" (PDF). Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  28. ^ King, A.G.B. (28 September 1977). "Report on the Collision that occurred on 3rd January 1976 at Worcester Tunnel Junction" (PDF). Retrieved 7 September 2010.
  29. ^ In the Golden Jubilee…a Western goes main line for first time since Silver Jubilee The Railway Magazine issue 1211 March 2002 page 30
  30. ^ Return of the Western Rail issue 430 6 March 2002 pages 60=63
  31. ^ "D1015 Western Champion Preservation History The 24 year Story of D1015's return to life". Western Champion. Diesel Traction Group. Retrieved 27 October 2020.
  32. ^ Latest News Diesel Traction Group November 2018
  33. ^ "Hornby BR Class 52 (Type 4) Western". Hornby Railways Collector Guide. Retrieved 3 March 2020.


  • Ford, H L (1973). Diesels on Cornwall's main line. Truro: D Bradford Barton.
  • Hall, Stanley (2006). Railway Milestones and Millstones. Hersham: Ian Allan Publishing. pp. 125–130. ISBN 0-7110-3110-X.
  • Kichenside, Geoffrey (1975). Farewell to the Westerns. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-7069-3.
  • Preedy, Norman E; Gillham, G F (1974). WR Diesel Hydraulics. Truro: D Bradford Barton.
  • Reed, Brian (1978) [1975]. Diesel-Hydraulic Locomotives of the Western Region. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-6769-2.
  • Taylor, Ken. A Decade After. Walsall: Midland Railfans.
  • Till, J O (1977). Western Stock List. Camberley: Steam & Diesel Publications.
  • Watts, Peter (1977). Western Memories. Gloucester: Peter Watts. ISBN 0-906025-00-1.

Further reading[edit]

  • Birt, David (1988). The Class 52s: A Tribute to the Westerns. OPC. ISBN 9780860934240. OCLC 315783582.
  • Chapman, Chris (2002). Western Glory. Waterfront. ISBN 9780946184996. OCLC 786126155.
  • Clarke, David; Jennison, John (2007). Diesels in Depth: Westerns. Ian Allan. ISBN 9780711032507. OCLC 159634206.
  • Clough, David N. (2011). Hydraulic vs Electric: The battle for the BR diesel fleet. Ian Allan. ISBN 978-0-7110-3550-8.
  • Cross, David (2012). Fifty Years of the Westerns. Ian Allan. ISBN 9780711036581. OCLC 794814820.
  • Curtis, Adrian (2001). Western Liveries. A & C Services. ISBN 9780954021313. OCLC 49299854.
  • Curtis, Adrian N. (2011–2012). Westerns Vols 1/2/3. Western Legacy Publications.
  • Curtis, Adrian N. (2002). Western Dawn. A&C Services.
  • Curtis, Adrian N. (2000). Cast of Thousands. A&C Services.
  • Curtis, Adrian N. (2012). Final Salute '77. Western Legacy Publications.
  • Curtis, Adrian N. (2012). Spirit of '76. Western Legacy Publications.
  • Curtis, Adrian N. (2012). Indian Summer '75. Western Legacy Publications.
  • Curtis, Adrian N. (2012). Tracks of my Years. Western Legacy Publications.
  • Curtis, Adrian N. (2012). Teenage Lament '74. Western Legacy Publications.
  • Curtis, Adrian N. (2010–2012). Western Power. Western Legacy Publications.
  • Curtis, Adrian N. (1996–2012). Classic Diesels & Electrics. Western Legacy Publications.
  • Curtis, Adrian N. (2010–2012). Diesel Hydraulics Illustrated. Western Legacy Publications.
  • Dowle, Stephen (2015). Class 52 Westerns: The Twilight Years. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 9781445648989. OCLC 919481086.
  • Ford, H.L.; Preedy, Norman E. (1976). The Westerns: British Rail Class 52 Diesel Hydraulics. Bradford Barton. ISBN 9780851532738. OCLC 2797567.
  • Huntriss, Derek (2003). The Heyday of the Westerns. Ian Allan. ISBN 9780711029811. OCLC 52530865.
  • Marsden, Colin J.; Fenn, Graham B. (1988). British Rail Main Line Diesel Locomotives. Sparkford: Haynes. pp. 220–223. ISBN 9780860933182. OCLC 17916362.
  • Nicholas, D.; Montgomery, S. (2005). Profile of the Westerns. Ian Allan. ISBN 9780860931164. OCLC 10723140.
  • Preedy, Norman (2015). British Railway Diesel Memories: The Western Class 52s. Book Law Publications. ISBN 9781909625457.
  • Preedy, Norman E. (1977). Book of the Westerns. Peter Watts. ISBN 9780906025031. OCLC 650233739.
  • "Where 'Westerns' went". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. February–March 1982. p. 54. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.
  • Kelly, Peter (January 1983). "Maybach music!". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. pp. 14–17. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.
  • "Western Lady". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. November 1983. p. 21. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.