British Rail Class 71
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E5001 at Doncaster Works.
The British Rail Class 71 was an electric locomotive used on the Southern Region of British Railways. Unlike most other Southern Region electric locomotives (such as classes 73 and 74) they could not operate away from the electrified (750 V DC) system.
As part of the British Transport Commission's Modernisation Plan of 1955, twenty-four electric locomotives were built in 1958 for the Kent Coast main lines. They were built at the British Rail workshops in Doncaster. Numbers were originally E5000–E5023 but the first locomotive, E5000, was renumbered E5024 in December 1962. They were classified type HA under the Southern Region's pre-TOPS scheme.
Power collection was from a 3rd rail at 650 volts DC (Eastern & Central sections) or 750 volts DC (Western section) and control was by flywheel booster, as in British Rail Class 70. In some yards (notably Hither Green, South East London and Snowdown colliery near Dover) overhead catenary energized to 650 V DC was used. This overhead collection method was only employed where it was deemed too dangerous to have third rail with staff constantly at ground level reaching into low running areas to couple and uncouple trains. The overhead system utilised tram-style catenary and pantographs – it was not necessary to collect traction current at speed and these provided a cost saving. The pantograph retracted into a cut-out recess in the roof when not in use, to keep within the loading gauge. Certain examples were delivered new without pantographs and ran with the recess vacant for some time. Evidently supply of the overhead equipment was short. Later in life (when the catenary in yards had almost completely been removed) during overhaul the opportunity was taken, on some examples of the class, to remove the sometimes troublesome pantograph, leading again to a vacant roof recess.
The danger of electrocution of staff at track level was the entire tenet behind the Southern Region/Railway adopting high-level brake pipes and control jumpers that are so distinctive of SR stock (nicknamed "bagpipes"). Low-level brake pipes were still fitted to maintain standards but only used when high-level could not be. The ten redundant class 71 that were modified to become class 74 emerged from Crewe works with bagpipes in 1967/8 and 19 members of class 33 (a purely diesel powered locomotive), which were modified at Eastleigh for push-pull operation Southern Region TC units were so-fitted along with nearly all SR homed members of shunting classes 03 & 08. In contrast, almost all other contemporary locomotive classes (excepting notably classes 07, 09, 73 [all SR locomotives] & class 50) had the multiple control jumpers and brake connectors on or under the buffer beam - a perilous place to be with 750 volts inches away. Despite overhead equipment being confined to just a handful of yards, class 71 was never retro-fitted with high-level connectors.
They were mixed-traffic locomotives. Their 2300/2552 hp was, for a small Bo-Bo locomotive, useful in both theatres of heavy freight and express passenger work. Acceleration on passenger trains (even when heavily loaded) was quite astonishing - to the extent the climb out of London Victoria was almost unnoticeable. Prestigious services including the "Night Ferry" (London to Paris overnight by train-ferry) and the "Golden Arrow", the latter a Pullman service, were a mainstay of the class for many years.
Reliability of the class as a whole was good. As more areas of the Eastern section were given over to the flexibilities of Multiple Unit (EMU) operation, however, the class found itself ousted almost completely from passenger work. During their later years their passenger duties were only the 'Night Ferry' and the nightly Victoria-Dover/Ramsgate newspaper train. Even this latter was rostered for a Class 33 (diesel locomotive) on Saturday nights due to the probability of engineering works en route.
Their reliance on the electricity supply proved a hindrance – much freight is moved overnight when congestion on the busy commuter corridors is low. This is also the time when engineering possessions of the track take place – the power being switched off to whole districts while this happens. Subsequently, Class 71 was faced with frequent, circuitous detours purely to stay "on the juice" and an electric-only locomotive was limited in scope for inter-regional freights. The flywheel booster allowed the locomotives to make short movements "off the juice" in yards and depots for example, but not for significant distances. The smaller Class 73 electro-diesel locomotives had deputised for them with ease (albeit often in pairs) and they had the ability to work lines when the power was off and to run into yards on other regions where there was no electricity supply of any kind – Class 71 was beginning to look (once again – see Class 74) like a white elephant. When the end came, most were scrapped in fully working order, purely because they had no work.
A single member of the class survives in preservation, E5001 is also in fully working order (although currently minus its 3rd rail collector shoes). As with the remainder of the class, the preserved example never received the standard SR horns, retaining its air whistles right up until being withdrawn.
Rebuilds and renumberings
In the late 1960s, ten examples were withdrawn, eventually being converted between 1967 and 1968 at the British Rail workshops in Crewe into electro-diesel locomotives. They were originally assigned the numbers E7001–E7010 but were numbered E6101–E6110 and classified type HB in the pre-TOPS scheme. Under TOPS the rebuilt ten became Class 74.
Because of the rebuilds there were three renumberings to fill gaps left by engines rebuilt.
The remaining fourteen became Class 71, numbered 71001–71014, under the TOPS scheme.
The class survived relatively un-scathed with no members being scrapped early. Two were awaiting repair at Ashford due to failures and the end finally came on the last day of 1977 when all 14 members were withdrawn en-bloc as a result of motive power rationalisation. Their rostered duties were turned over to Class 73 electro-diesels as part of a new timetable and better use of that class.
|E5000||E5024||Dec 1962||—||Feb 1968||Rebuilt as Class 74 E6104|
|E5003||—||—||—||Mar 1968||Rebuilt as Class 74 E6107|
|E5005||—||—||—||Apr 1968||Rebuilt as Class 74 E6108|
|E5006||—||—||—||Dec 1967||Rebuilt as Class 74 E6103|
|E5015||—||—||—||Feb 1968||Rebuilt as Class 74 E6101|
|E5016||—||—||—||Nov 1967||Rebuilt as Class 74 E6102|
|E5017||—||—||—||Apr 1968||Rebuilt as Class 74 E6109|
|E5018||E5003||Dec 1968||71003||Nov 1977|
|E5019||—||—||—||Feb 1968||Rebuilt as Class 74 E6105|
|E5020||E5005||Sep 1968||71005||Nov 1977|
|E5021||—||—||—||May 1968||Rebuilt as Class 74 E6110|
|E5022||E5006||Sep 1968||71006||Nov 1977|
|E5023||—||—||—||Mar 1968||Rebuilt as Class 74 E6106|
Class 71 is currently available as a kit and a ready-to-run model in OO gauge by Silver Fox Models. Hornby makes three versions of the class 71, which became available in July 2016 (with working pantograph).  DJM is also making a model of the class 71 in OO gauge with multiple versions to be made available. This model is due for release in late 2016. 
- Strickland 1983, p. 124.
- "Class 71 Bo-Bo British Rail Doncaster". Retrieved 17 November 2012.
- Strickland, David C. (September 1983). Locomotive Directory. Camberley, Surrey: Diesel and Electric Group. pp. 124–125. ISBN 0-906375-10-X.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to British Rail Class 71.|
- McManus, Michael. Ultimate Allocations, British Railways Locomotives 1948 - 1968. Wirral. Michael McManus.