British Rail Class 87

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British Rail Class 87
Class 87 87030 Black Douglas, Kentonm, 15 September 1979.jpg
87030 Black Douglas, Kenton, 1979
Type and origin
Power typeElectric
BuilderBritish Rail Engineering Limited Crewe Works
Build date1973–1975
Total produced36
 • UICBo'Bo'
Gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Wheel diameter3 ft 9 12 in (1.156 m)[2]
Minimum curve80 m (4 chains)[2]
Wheelbase43 ft 6 18 in (13.262 m)[3]
 • Bogie10 ft 9 in (3.280 m)[3]
Pivot centres32 ft 9 in (9.98 m)[3]
 • Over beams58 ft 6 in (17.83 m)[3]
Width8 ft 8 14 in (2.648 m) (over body)[3]
 • Pantograph13 ft 1 14 in (3.994 m)[2]
 • Body height12 ft 4 14 in (3.766 m)[3]
Axle load19 long tons 13 cwt (20.0 t)[3]
Loco weight80 long tons (81 t; 90 short tons)[2]
Electric system/s25 kV AC Catenary[2]
Current pickup(s)Brecknell Willis high speed pantograph[2]
Traction motors
  • 4 × 1,250 hp (930 kW)[4] GEC G412AZ (87/0)
  • 4 × GEC G412BZ (87/1)[2]
 • Rating 1 hour885A[5]
Gear ratio32:73[2]
MU workingTDM
Train heating
Loco brakeAir & Rheostatic[3]
Train brakesAir
Safety systemsAWS[6] Train Protection & Warning System
Performance figures
Maximum speed110 mph (180 km/h)
Power output:
 • 1 hour1,270 hp (950 kW) per motor[5]
 • Continuous
  • 5,000 hp (3,700 kW) (87/0)
  • 4,850 hp (3,620 kW) (87/1)[2]
Tractive effort58,000 lbf (258 kN)
Brakeforce40 long tons (41 t)[2]
OperatorsBritish Rail
Bulgarian Railway Company
Caledonian Sleeper
Virgin Trains
Locomotive Services Limited
Number in class36
Numbers87001–87035, 87101
Axle load classRoute availability 6
LocaleWest Coast Main Line
Preserved87001, 87002, 87035
Disposition3 preserved, 21 exported, 12 scrapped

The British Rail Class 87 is a type of electric locomotive built in 1973–75 by British Rail Engineering Limited. Thirty-six of these locomotives were built to work passenger services over the West Coast Main Line (WCML). They were the flagships of British Rail's electric locomotive fleet until the late 1980s, when the Class 90s started to come on stream. The privatisation of British Rail saw all but one of the fleet transferred to Virgin Trains. They continued their duties until the advent of the new Class 390 Pendolinos, when they were transferred to other operators or withdrawn. There is only one Class 87 still in use in Britain, 87002, preserved by the AC Locomotive Group and owned by Locomotive Services Limited. It was previously in use with Serco Caledonian Sleeper and is intended for use on charter services. A large proportion of the fleet have now been exported to Bulgaria.


A requirement for more electric locomotives came about after the electrification of the WCML was extended from Weaver Junction north of Crewe to Preston, Carlisle and Glasgow. Initially, three Class 86 locomotives were used as test-beds to trial equipment (mainly electrical equipment and suspension) that would be used in the new locomotives; effectively, these locomotives were Class 87s in everything but appearance.[7]

The external design of the Class 87 was clearly derived from that of the Class 86; the only major visual difference was that the 87 had two front cab windows instead of the three of the 86, and also lacked a headcode indicator box;[8] by 1973, visual recognition of train reporting numbers by signallers was no longer necessary. The power and speed of the Class 87 was also increased over that of the 86: Power output was increased from 3,600 to 5000 hp to deal with the more demanding gradients on the northern half of the WCML such as Shap Fell and Beattock Summit, and the top speed was raised from 100 to 110 mph (180 km/h). The 87s were also fitted with multiple working equipment[8] which enabled locomotives to work with other members of the class (and some Class 86s) while controlled by one driver.[7]

In the 1980s, the multiple working system was replaced with a new system based on time-division multiplexing (TDM) allowing 87s to work with other classes of locomotive (including most 86s, 90s and 91s) and most importantly, Driving Van Trailers (DVTs).


The unique Class 87/1, No. 87101 Stephenson, in blue livery at Birmingham International station in 1988

Whilst the first 35 locomotives (numbered from 87001 to 87035, and known as Class 87/0) were identical, the 36th and last member of the class, which was going to carry the number 87036 before entering traffic but was allocated 87101 instead, had major equipment differences from the rest of the class. While the 87/0s were fitted with a traditional tap changer transformer and rectifiers, 87101 had a new thyristor power control system,[9] and spent over a year on test before entering service in 1976.[10] The locomotive, named Stephenson after transfer of the name from 87001,[8] worked the same services as the standard locomotives for many years, until British Rail was sectorised in the 1980s.

This locomotive was in effect the prototype for the later build of locomotives designated Class 90.

As a freight loco, the locomotive was transferred to EWS and after it suffered a major failure it was withdrawn in 1999 and sold to Alsthom for spare parts to be recovered before being scrapped at HMRC Barrow Hill in January 2002. It was the first Class 87 to be withdrawn and scrapped. Some equipment is preserved by The AC Loco Group.

British Rail service[edit]

A Class 87 hauled express on the WCML in InterCity livery in 1994

The great majority of the Class 87s' workload came on express passenger services from London Euston to the North West and Glasgow. They did, however, see some use on freight, especially on heavy services that required two locomotives. In the late 1970s, British Rail named its entire Class 87 fleet, many receiving names previously carried by the "Britannia" steam locomotives. The rest were named after towns, cities or counties along the WCML. In the 1980s, British Rail locomotives were allocated to separate sectors and the 87/0s were transferred to InterCity (which meant that their freight work largely came to an end), whilst 87101 went to work for Railfreight Distribution.

Post-Privatisation service[edit]

87025 'County of Cheshire' in 2002. One of the last Class 87s to be in service with Virgin Trains. The locomotive is painted in Virgin Trains' red and black livery.

Virgin Trains[edit]

As part of the privatisation of British Rail, all 35 passed to rolling stock leasing company Porterbrook and were leased to InterCity West Coast operator Virgin Trains in 1997. The locomotives continued to work the same services as before, the only outward indication of the change of ownership being the repainting of the locomotives in the red Virgin Trains livery. However, the Virgin policy of introducing a new fleet of trains inevitably meant that the writing was on the wall for the 87s. As Pendolino deliveries began to come on stream from 2002 onward, 87005 City of London was the first locomotive taken out of service, and although withdrawals were slower than expected due to the unreliability of the Pendolinos, the final day in service was set for 10 June 2005, by which time many locomotives had been withdrawn, and others transferred to other operators. On this day, four locomotives hauled special trains to Wolverhampton, Northampton and Manchester. However, this turned out not to be the final workings for Virgin, as further problems with the new trains meant sporadic appearances by Class 87s hired from other operators. The final working, between London and Birmingham, eventually occurred on 22 December 2006; 87002 performing the honours.

English Welsh & Scottish[edit]

English Welsh & Scottish inherited the unique 87101 from Railfreight Distribution. The locomotive was used infrequently on freight and charter trains but suffered a major failure in 1999 and was withdrawn due to its non-standard nature. It was eventually sold to Alstom for spare parts, and finally scrapped at Barrow Hill by Harry Needle Railroad Company in 2002.

Cotswold Rail[edit]

In April 2005, Cotswold Rail acquired three locomotives, all of which had been out of service for a number of months. The fleet later grew to eight, and were intended to work charter trains, for spot-hire contracts and a new possible intermodal traffic flow. They were based at Oxley depot in Wolverhampton. However the fleet saw very little use; only two ever worked a train (87007 and 87008), both having been repainted into Cotswold Rail livery, and in July 2006 the locomotives went off-lease.

Direct Rail Services[edit]

In November 2004, Direct Rail Services (DRS) acquired four locomotives. They were used on Anglo-Scottish intermodal services, but never on a regular basis. In June 2005, the four locomotives were stored. The main reason for their lack of use was the need for a diesel to shunt the train in non-electrified sidings.


In November 2004, FirstGBRf acquired two locomotives which had recently been retired from Virgin passenger service. They were used as standby locomotives to rescue failed Class 325 units working FirstGBRf parcels trains. The fleet increased to four at one point, but finally consisted of two locomotives, 87022 Cock O' The North, and 87028 Lord President, which were both withdrawn at the end of 2007. What was to have been their final working, a charter train on 29 December 2007, was cancelled.

Bulgaria export[edit]

87 022 working in Bulgaria

In 2006, Singapore trading company Romic-Ace International PTE Ltd approached Porterbrook to discuss the potential export of the Class 87 locomotives to a customer in eastern Europe. Nos 87012 and 87019 were purchased and sold to BRC, an open access operator in Bulgaria by Romic-Ace after preparation for export by Electric Traction Services Limited (ETS). The transfer did not take place until after Bulgaria's accession to the European Union the following year to minimise customs formalities.

Following successful trials and homologation by the state railways, a further 25 locomotives (the entire fleet, minus five that have been scrapped, two already in Bulgaria and the four locomotives preserved or staying in the UK) were purchased from Porterbrook by Romic-Ace and sold to the Bulgarian Railway Company (БЖК/BRC) in seven batches with the refurbishment being carried out by ETS at Long Marston. The locomotives were then moved to Crewe for 25 kV testing and sign off. The project involved the supply of the locomotives, spares, drawings, overhaul documents and the provision of driver/staff training, which was provided by ETS in the UK and Bulgaria on behalf of Romic-Ace.

The locomotive batches were scheduled to be exported in stages over the period 2008–2009. The first batch, locos 87007, 87008 and 87026, were prepared by Electric Traction Services Limited, and left the UK in June 2008 after testing and sign off by Romic-Ace and BRC at Crewe.[11] The locomotives were delivered by rail via the Channel Tunnel. Subsequent batches of locomotives have been delivered by road to Hull, then ferry and barge to the port of Ruse in Bulgaria. Seventeen locomotives are in service with Bulgarian Railway Company.[12] A downturn in traffic in Bulgaria meant that the export deal was terminated in 2009, leaving 11 locos "in limbo". Those in worst condition (87011, 87018, 87021, 87027, 87030, 87031 and 87032) were sent for scrapping in 2010 and 2011.

This left four – 87009, 87017, 87023 and 87025 – owned by Europhoenix, which started to prepare 87017 and 87023 for possible use in the UK, but the only interest was from Bulgaria in the form of open access freight operator Bulmarket. 87017 and 87023 (in working order) and 87009 and 87025 (not in working order) were exported by ship from Immingham in October 2012.


  • On 16 February 1980, at Bushey, a broken welded rail caused a train hauled by 87007 to derail at 96 mph, injuring 19 passengers.[13]
  • 1999 Winsford rail accident: On 23 June 1999, an express hauled by 87027 collided with an empty Class 142 Pacer railbus which had passed a signal at danger in Cheshire. 31 people were injured.[14]

Fleet Details[edit]

Pre-tops numbers E3201–34 were allocated to the first 34 locomotives, but these were never carried.[15]

Key: Preserved Scrapped Exported
TOPS Number Export Number Date into traffic[16] Disposal Notes Name[16][nb 1]
87001 - June 1973 Preserved 2005 Preserved at the National Railway Museum, York Stephenson
(14 January 1976 – July 1977)[17][nb 2]
Royal Scot
(14 July 1977–1998)[nb 3]
Royal Scot
Royal Scot
87002 June 1973 Preserved 2008 Preserved by the AC Locomotive Group.
Owned by Locomotive Services Limited.
Purchased by LSL in November 2019 post Serco Caledonian Sleeper duties. It was previously owned by Electric Traction Limited.
Royal Sovereign
(4 July 1978 – 2003)
The AC Locomotive Group
Royal Sovereign
87003 87003-0 July 1973 Exported 2009 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. Patriot
(13 June 1978 – 2005)
87004 87004-8 July 1973 Exported 2009 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. Britannia
(3 April 1978 – 2005)[nb 4]
87005 August 1973 Scrapped 2005 Scrapped at JT Landscapes, MoD Caerwent City of London
(22 November 1977 – 2003)
87006 87006-3 November 1973 Exported 2009 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. City of Glasgow
(8 December 1977–1987)
Glasgow Garden Festival
(April 1987 – January 1989)[17]
City of Glasgow
George Reynolds
87007 87007-1 October 1973 Exported 2008 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. City of Manchester
(1 November 1977 – 2004)
87008 87008-9 November 1973 Exported 2008 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. City of Liverpool
(29 November 1977 – 1998)
Royal Scot
City of Liverpool
87009 - November 1973 Exported 2012 Exported to Bulmarket, Bulgaria City of Birmingham
(29 November 1977 – 2003)
87010 87010-5 December 1973 Exported Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. King Arthur
(6 June 1978 – 2005)
Driver Tommy Farr
87011 - January 1974 Scrapped 2011 Scrapped at EMR Kingsbury The Black Prince
(15 May 1978 – 1998)
City of Wolverhampton
87012 87012-1 January 1974 Exported 2007 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. Coeur de Lion
(25 May 1978 – November 1984)[17]
The Royal Bank of Scotland
Coeur de Lion
The Olympian
87013 87013-6 February 1974 Exported 2009 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. John o' Gaunt
(14 March 1978 – 1998)[nb 5]
87014 87014-7 January 1974 Exported 2009 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. Knight of the Thistle
(16 May 1978 – 2004)
87015 February 1974 Scrapped 2005 Scrapped at JT Landscapes, MoD Caerwent Howard of Effingham
(12 May 1978 – 2005)
87016 March 1974 Scrapped 2004 Scrapped at JT Landscapes, MoD Caerwent Sir Francis Drake
(28 April 1978 – 1988)
Willesden Intercity Depot
87017 March 1974 Exported 2009 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. Iron Duke
(30 May 1978 – 2004)
87018 May 1974 Scrapped 2010 Scrapped at JT Landscapes, MoD Caerwent Lord Nelson
(9 March 1978 – 2004)[nb 6]
87019 87019-6 March 1974 Exported 2007 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. Sir Winston Churchill
(3 May 1978 – 2005)
ACoRP Association of Community Rail Partnerships
87020 87020-4 March 1974 Exported 2009 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. North Briton
(19 May 1978 – 2004)
87021 April 1974 Scrapped 2010 Scrapped at JT Landscapes, MoD Caerwent Robert the Bruce
(12 June 1978 – 2005)
87022 87022-0 April 1974 Exported 2009 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. Cock o' the North
(30 June 1978 – 1998)
Lew Adams The Black Prince
Cock o' the North
87023 April 1974 Exported 2012 Exported to Bulmarket, Bulgaria Highland Chieftain
(3 July 1978 – November 1982)
87024 April 1974 Scrapped 2005 Scrapped at JT Landscapes, MoD Caerwent Lord of the Isles
(24 May 1978 – 2004)
87025 April 1974 Exported 2012 Exported to Bulmarket, Bulgaria Borderer
(6 June 1978 – November 1982)[17]
County of Cheshire
(1982–2004)[nb 7]
87026 87026-1 May 1974 Exported 2008 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. Redgauntlet
(19 May 1978 – October 1982)[17]
Sir Richard Arkwright
(1982–2004)[nb 8]
87027 May 1974 Scrapped 2010 Scrapped at EMR Kingsbury Wolf of Badenoch
(18 May 1978 – 2003)
87028 87028-7 May 1974 Exported 2009 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. Lord President
(9 May 1978 – 2003)
87029 87029-5 June 1974 Exported 2009 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. Earl Marischal
(26 June 1978 – 2004)
87030 June 1974 Scrapped 2010 Scrapped at EMR Kingsbury Black Douglas
(10 July 1978 – 2005)
87031 July 1974 Scrapped 2010 Scrapped at EMR Kingsbury Hal o' the Wynd
(8 June 1978 – 2004)
Keith Harper
87032 July 1974 Scrapped 2010 Scrapped at EMR Kingsbury Kenilworth
(9 May 1978 – 2003)
Richard Fearn
87033 87033-7 August 1974 Exported 2009 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. Thane of Fife
(30 May 1978 – 2005)
87034 87034-5 September 1974 Exported 2009 Exported to BZK, Bulgaria. William Shakespeare
(16 May 1978 – 2003)[nb 9]
87035 October 1974 Preserved 2005 Preserved at Crewe Heritage Centre Robert Burns
(13 April 1978 – 2004)[nb 10]
87101 January 1977[nb 11] Scrapped 2002 Originally allocated number 87036.
Entered revenue-earning service 08/1976.[17]

Scrapped at HNRC Barrow Hill, some equipment preserved by The AC Loco Group.

(12 October 1977-2002)[nb 12]


British Rail Class 87 No. 87001 restored to static display at the National Railway Museum
Caledonian Sleeper Class 87 No. 87002 at London Euston

Three Class 87 electric locomotives are currently preserved in Britain.

  • 87001 Stephenson/Royal Scot was donated to the National Railway Museum in November 2005.[20]
  • 87002 Royal Sovereign is owned by Locomotive Services Limited. It was preserved by the AC Locomotive Group, and was returned to main line running condition. When the new contract for the Caledonian Sleeper was won by the Serco in 2014, 87002 was hired to work empty coaching stock movements in and out of London Euston. It was painted in February 2015 into Caledonian blue for the new contract. From March 2015 until October 2019, 87002 shunted the empty sleeper coaching stock into London Euston alongside 86101 as part of the Serco Caledonian Sleeper contract. Upon the end of the Caledonian Sleeper contract, 87002 was sold to Locomotive Services Ltd. for use on mainline charter services. [21][22]
  • 87035 Robert Burns was the first locomotive to be preserved. It is based at Crewe Heritage Centre. It was handed over for preservation by owners Porterbrook at Crewe Works Open Day on 10 September 2005.
Numbers Name Livery Location Status
87001 Stephenson
Royal Scot
British Rail Blue National Railway Museum Static display
87002 Royal Sovereign Caledonian Blue Crewe Diesel TMD Operational (mainline registered)
87035 Robert Burns British Rail Blue Crewe Heritage Centre Static display

In addition, the two banks of thyristors and transformer from 87101 were preserved by the AC Locomotive Group.[23]

Model railways[edit]

In 2008 Hornby Railways launched its first version of the BR Class 87 in OO gauge in BR Blue, [24] In 2017 Hornby launched a super-detailed new tooled BR Class 87 in 00 gauge in a variety of liveries, including Intercity Swallow and Virgin Trains.[25]


  1. ^ Unless otherwise stated, prior to 1979, locomotives were named at Willesden depot, without a ceremony.[16]
  2. ^ 87001 named Stephenson at Euston in 1976.
  3. ^ 87001 named Royal Scot at Manchester Piccadilly in 1977.
  4. ^ 87004 named Britannia at Crewe in 1978.
  5. ^ 87013 named John o' Gaunt at Lancaster in 1978.
  6. ^ 87018 named Lord Nelson at Liverpool in 1978.
  7. ^ 87025 was named County of Cheshire on 29 November 1982 at Crewe, by Councillor Roy Hinks, the chairman of Cheshire County Council.[18]
  8. ^ 87026 was named Sir Richard Arkwright on 12 October 1982 by the Duke of Devonshire at Preston.[19]
  9. ^ 87034 named William Shakespeare at Birmingham International in 1978.
  10. ^ 87004 named Robert Burns at Glasgow in 1978.
  11. ^ 87101 was delivered for research in March 1975, and officially in traffic in January 1977.[16]
  12. ^ 87101 named Stephenson at Manchester in 1977.


  1. ^ "87002: Technical Details". The AC Locomotive Group. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Marsden & Fenn 2001, p. 103
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Vehicle Diagram Book No. 110 for Electric Locomotives (PDF). Barrowmore MRG. Derby: British Railways Board. May 1987. 87-0a, 87-1a.
  4. ^ Webb & Duncan 1979, p. 81
  5. ^ a b Webb & Duncan 1979, p. 79
  6. ^ "Driving Cabs". Dawlish Trains. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Class 87". AC Locomotive Group. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Longhurst 1979, Class 87
  9. ^ Longhurst 1979, The changing pattern of electric service
  10. ^ "Class 87 history". AC Locomotive Group. Retrieved 28 July 2007.
  11. ^ "First three 87s almost ready". Electric Traction Services Limited. Archived from the original on 13 August 2008. Retrieved 17 April 2008.
  12. ^ "BZK locomotives". Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  13. ^ Dept of Transport (1981). Report on the Derailment that occurred on 16th February 1980 at Bushey in the London Midland Region British Railways. London: HMSO.
  14. ^ "REPORT BY THE HEALTH AND SAFETY EXECUTIVE'" (PDF). Health and Safety Executive. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  15. ^ Williams, Alan; Percival, David (1972). British Railways Locomotives and Other Motive Power: Combined Volume. London: Ian Allan. p. 127. ISBN 0-7110-0325-4.
  16. ^ a b c d Webb & Duncan 1979, p. 82
  17. ^ a b c d e f Marsden 1991, pp. 206–207
  18. ^ "Loco namings". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. February 1983. p. 53. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.
  19. ^ "Readers' round-up: Class 87". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. January 1983. p. 51. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.
  20. ^ "British Rail Bo-Bo Class 87 electric locomotive, No 87001, 1974". National Railway Museum. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  21. ^ "87002". The AC Locomotive Group. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  22. ^ 86101 and 87002 on Caledonian Sleeper duties Archived 13 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine Electric Traction Ltd 1 April 2015
  23. ^ "The Locomotives – Introduction". AC Locomotive Group.
  24. ^ "Hornby BR Class 87". Hornby Railways Collector Guide. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  25. ^ "Hornby BR Class 87". Hornby. Retrieved 1 February 2020.


  • Longhurst, Roly (1979). Electric Locomotives of the West Coast Main Line. Truro: D. Bradford Barton Ltd. ISBN 0851533558. OCLC 16491712.
  • Marsden, Colin J. (1991). The Complete BR Diesel & Electric Locomotive Directory. Oxford Publishing Co. ISBN 9780860934868. OCLC 59814977.
  • Marsden, Colin J.; Fenn, Graham B. (2001). British Rail Main Line Electric Locomotives (2nd ed.). Oxford Publishing Co. ISBN 9780860935599. OCLC 48532553.
  • Webb, Brian; Duncan, John (1979). AC Electric Locomotives of British Rail. David & Charles. ISBN 9780715376638. OCLC 6916046.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]