British Rail Class 58

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British Rail Class 58
58001 at Doncaster Works.JPG
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder BREL, Doncaster Works
Build date 1983-1987
Total produced 50
Configuration Co-Co
UIC class Co'Co'
Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Wheel diameter 1,120 mm (44.09 in)
Minimum curve 4 chains (264.00 ft; 80.47 m)
Wheelbase bogie: 4.18 m (13 ft 9 in)
bogie centres: 14.85 m (48 ft 9 in)
Length 19.13 m (62 ft 9 in)
Width 2.72 m (8 ft 11 in)
Height 3.91 m (12 ft 10 in)
Loco weight 130 tonnes (127.9 long tons; 143.3 short tons)
Fuel capacity 4,480 litres (990 imp gal; 1,180 US gal)
Prime mover Ruston Paxman 12RK3ACT
Alternator Brush BA1101B
Traction motors Brush TM73-62
Cylinder size 254 mm × 305 mm (10.0 in × 12.0 in),
bore x stroke
MU working Red Diamond
Train brakes Air
Performance figures
Maximum speed 80 mph (129 km/h)
Power output Engine: 3,300 hp (2,460 kW)
At Rail: 2,387 hp (1,780 kW)
Tractive effort Maximum: 60,000 lbf (267 kN)
Loco brakeforce 60 tonnes (59.1 long tons; 66.1 short tons)
Operators British Rail
EWS / DB Cargo UK
Numbers 58001-58050
Nicknames Bone
Axle load class Route availability 7

The British Rail Class 58 is a class of Co-Co diesel locomotive designed for heavy freight. Introduced in 1983, they followed American practice of modularisation. EWS withdrew them in 2002 after 20 years in service, and 32 were hired abroad – four to the Netherlands, eight to Spain and twenty to France.


In the late 1970s, British Rail wanted to develop a new, low-cost, easily maintainable freight locomotive that would handle the predicted rail freight growth during the 1980s. The Class 56 had a troublesome entry into service, and BR was also keen to enter the export market. Pre-production drawings of the Class 58s referred to them as "Standard Export Locomotives".[1]

Once a design for the new Class 58 had been approved by the British Railways Board, the contract to build the locomotives was awarded to British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL) in Doncaster where work started on a major multi-million pound upgrade of ‘E2’ shop where the locomotives would be manufactured. BREL dropped traditional locomotive construction methods in favour of an entirely new approach – an innovative modular design. This offered savings on construction and maintenance compared to previous locomotive builds. The load-bearing underframe was fitted with exchangeable modules - number 1 cab, radiator, power unit, turbocharger, electrical equipment and number 2 cab. If required, each module could be easily removed from the underframe and replaced.[2]

The narrow body with cabs at either end led to them being given the nickname "Bone" by rail enthusiasts, but the design also made an American-style single cab version possible.[1]


The first locomotive, 58001, was handed over to British Rail at Doncaster Works on 9 December 1982 and delivery of the remainder of the locomotives continued until early 1987 with the final delivery of 58050. This loco was temporarily fitted with a Sepex wheelslip control system, but upon completion experimental testing the equipment was removed before the locomotive entered traffic. SEPEX was central to the design of the Class 60. No export orders were received and so the jigs at Doncaster were dismantled and 58050 became not only the last Class 58 to be built, but the last diesel locomotive to be built at ‘The Plant’.

Since they were introduced in the early 1980s, the 58s saw service on a variety of freight duties. Despite claims made at the time, their performance was actually inferior to Class 56s on many types of freight train due to their increased tendency to wheelslip, largely as a result of bogie design. Although originally allocated to coal traffic, their arrival coincided with the miners' strike, and British Rail apparently only tolerated the construction of so many because the components were already on order.[3] As a result, the 58s could also be seen working other types of freight traffic. With the advent of privatisation in the 1990s, Class 58s greatly extended the geographical scope of their operations and were used on general freight traffic until withdrawal.

In their day, Class 58s were powerful and capable freight locomotives, although not without their flaws. However, by the turn of the century they compared unfavourably with the new generation of locomotives and were quickly supplanted by Class 66s. In comparison, Class 58s were expensive to maintain and operate, and delivered much lower availability.[disputed ]

Accidents and incidents[edit]


During the late 1990s, it was almost certain that the entire Class 58 fleet would see in the next millennium as working locomotives. However, despite being quoted as EWS’s most reliable and consistent Type 5s, it was announced in 1999 that a large number of Class 58s were going to be placed into long-term storage: 58017 was the first to be stored, quickly followed by 58022.

Since then, the remainder of the Class 58s were stored at various points around Britain. This was hastened by the introduction of 250 Class 66s. The last few Class 58 locomotives were withdrawn in September 2002 after working the last charter train, the “Bone Idol” from King's Cross to Skegness and return.

Seven Class 58s were put on the DB Schenker April 2010 disposals list. This is the first time stored Class 58s have been put up for sale. One of these, 58016, has entered preservation at Barrow Hill with the Class 58 Locomotive Group (C58LG).[5]

Five class 58s were listed for disposal by DB Schenker October 2015 disposals list. Namely 58008, 58012, 58022, 58023, and 58048.

According to Railways Illustrated for August 2014: "..the story of the 58s has been one of a shocking waste - they were nowhere near life-expired when withdrawn and to see them sitting in depots in France when there is a shortage of locos in the UK is baffling..." [6]


In January 2016 it was reported that DB Schenker had disposed of its last Class 58's. Of these 58 012, 58 022, 58 023, & 048 were saved, but 58 008 is to be scrapped by Raxstar.[7]

Service in Continental Europe[edit]

EWS announced in 2000 that eight Class 58s were to be moved to Spain (on hire to Spanish infrastructure operator GIF) and more recently, a large number of Class 58s (alongside BR Class 56s) operated in France for Fertis, TSO and Seco Rail.

In May 2007, all of the locomotives from the French contract were returned to the UK and placed back into storage.[8] The Spanish locomotives remain active however now under the ownership of Transfesa .[9] The locomotives that were returned to the UK were sent back abroad to France from May–October 2009 on hire to operators TSO and ETF.[10] The Dutch locomotives were prepared for further use in France before being transported to France in July 2009.[11]


On 28 June 2010, DB Schenker confirmed that the Class 58 Locomotive Group's bid for 58016 had been accepted and thus the locomotive would become the first preserved example of its type. Shortly afterwards, on 7 July, the group announced they had also acquired another locomotive, 58045, as a spares donor. A subsequent posting on the group's website said that the stripping of 045 had proceeded apace and all parts recovered were to be initially stored until the restoration of 016 commences properly.[12]


From new, all locos were outshopped in Railfreight grey, with yellow ends and red solebars. The introduction of Railfreight sector liveries from October 1987 saw 58050 outshopped by Stratford in the new triple grey scheme, complete with the Railfreight coal sub-sector logo. Eventually the majority of the fleet were repainted in triple grey livery. Upon shadow privatisation of the UK freight business, Mainline Freight became the owners of the 50 strong fleet, which saw a small number re-painted into the operator's aircraft blue and silver livery, while others had Mainline Freight branding applied to the triple grey bodywork. With full privatisation and the takeover of the freight operations by EWS, maroon and gold became the standard livery for repainted examples from mid-1997 and beyond.

58021 in Mainline Freight livery (2000) 
Spanish infrastructure operator GIF's livery (2003) 
ACTS 5812 in the Netherlands (2008) 
LGV Rhin-Rhône construction train in France (2010) 


In 1979, prior to the building of the first locomotive by British Rail Engineering Limited, a 1:25 scale model was made by a member of the staff of the Locomotive Drawing Office at the Railway Technical Centre (RTC) in Derby, using the General Arrangement drawings of the proposed design. The model formed part of an exhibition at the RTC to illustrate the work of the Locomotive Design Office to the then Chairman of British Rail, Sir Peter Parker. In 1982 Hornby Railways released 00 gauge model of a Class 58, with variants produced over the next two decades.[13] Heljan released an OO model in 2008.[14] In 2011 Dapol released a model in N scale.[15]


  1. ^ a b "Artists Impressions - Locomotives". Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  2. ^ "Class 58". Southern E-Group. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  3. ^ Thomas, David St John; Whitehouse, Patrick (1990). BR in the Eighties. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. p. 142. ISBN 0-7153-9854-7. 
  4. ^ Earnshaw, Alan (1993). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 8. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 38. ISBN 0-906899-52-4. 
  5. ^ "About us | Class 58 Loco Group". Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  6. ^ Railways Illustrated, August 2014, page 94, ISSN 1479-2230
  7. ^ Rail Magazine Issue 792, Page 29, 20th January 2016
  8. ^ "Focus: France WZFF WZGF WZKF". Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  9. ^ Lowe, Chris (2011-10-20). "58s in Spain change hands | Class 58 Loco Group". Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  10. ^ "Focus: France WZFF 2009". Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  11. ^ "Focus: Holland WZFH". Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  12. ^ "News". Class 58 Locomotive Group. Archived from the original on 17 July 2010. 
  13. ^ "Hornby Railways Collector Guide - Class - Class 58 (Type 5) - Diesel-Electric",, retrieved 10 January 2012 
  14. ^ "Class 58 models in 'OO' gauge: HELJAN", 
  15. ^ "Dapol launches 'N' gauge Class 58",, 1 June 2011 

Further reading[edit]

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