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Railfreight livery without the red stripe, shown on a Class 37 in September 1985.
Railfreight Red Stripe livery, shown on a Class 26 in October 1985.

Railfreight was a sector of British Rail responsible for all freight operations on the British network. The division was created in 1982 when BR sought to assign particular stock and management to the evolving requirements of freight traffic.


Railfreight existed as a single unit from 1982 until 1987 as the rail freight division of British Rail. In 1987 BRs freight operations were further divided according to the type of train operated and material carried; the Trainload Freight division and its sub-sectors handled unit trains of coal, metal, aggregates, oil or petroleum, LPG, petro-chemicals, and construction materials, Railfreight Distribution handled intermodal and non-unit train work, and channel tunnel freight. Activities which were not assigned to one of the new Trainload Freight or Railfreight Distribution sub-sectors were then continued under the Railfreight General banner, Railfreight General was dissolved in 1989, its limited responsibilities being taken over by Railfreight Distribution.


Railfreight grey[edit]

The Railfreight sector was immediately identifiable through the introduction of a new 'Railfreight Grey' livery, originally created for the new Class 58 locomotives which began to appear in 1982,[1] and then soon applied to most of the locomotives and rolling stock assigned to the division. This new colour scheme was very distinctive on the British network as it represented the first clear break from the universal application of variations of Rail Blue for 15 years.

Railfreight red stripe[edit]

The new livery was further distinguished, in locomotive classes such as the Class 58 and Class 20 where the bodywork was mounted on a solebar, by painting the solebar red to give a distinctive red stripe running the length of the lower bodyside, a livery known as 'Railfreight Red Stripe'. Other classes of locomotives with an integrated monocoque construction and so no solebar, such as the Class 26, Class 37, Class 47 and Class 56, also had red stripes applied to the lower body side.

Two-tone grey[edit]

Some of the monocoque locomotives briefly acquired a red stripe in 1987; however following the creation of Trainload Freight and Railfreight Distribution in 1987, they were soon repainted in the new sub-sector two-tone grey livery with appropriate decals. Four remaining Railfreight locomotives and rolling stock, not assigned to the sub-sectors, were painted in two-tone grey livery with dedicated Railfreight General decals.


  1. ^ Railfreight, Class 58 locomotive group