The Post Office Tube Railway

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Another English Electric FIRST……

The world’s first fully automatic electric railway was opened in 1924, beneath the streets of London. The civil engineering work for the Post Office tube, including the running tunnels and tracks, were laid down before the 1914-18 war, although it was not until 1924 that electrification work was begun, following the acceptance of the English Electric Co.’s proposals. English Electric’s contract with the Post Office included the provision of rolling stock, substation equipment, automatic control systems, signalling and cabling.

The route covered in the project was 6 ½ miles long, with tracks laid to 2ft 0ins gauge, and power supplied at 440V d.c., and fed to the conductor rails from three substations. The original plan was to carry the mails between main line termini in London to the Post Office’s major sorting offices at the Western and Eastern ends of the city, to avoid the intense congestion in London’s streets.

London_Post_Office_Railway_Map

From Paddington to Liverpool Street, the deep level tube was constructed to link the principal GPO sorting offices. This included the Paddington District Post Office and the Eastern District Post Office in Whitechapel Road with the most important station at Mount Pleasant, about half way along the line, which also provided the maintenance and repair shops. A pair of running tracks was laid in 9ft diameter tunnels, which reduced to 7ft at station approaches. At each station, an island type platform arrangement was adopted, with passing loops for non-stop trains, and the railway operated 22 hours a day for most of its life.

Post Office Tube Railway 1924_2
Original Stock list

Actual vehicle speeds were set at 32 mph in the tunnels, slowing to 8 mph at the station platform roads. The rolling stock order consisted originally of 90 two axle trucks, though these were replaced in the 1930s by 50 wagons on “maximum traction trucks”. These were fitted with a pair of 22hp d.c. traction motors, reverser, and electrically operated brake gear.

Driver's cab

This photo shows the driver’s controller, with the words ‘English Electric’ at the top (obscured by driver’s handle), and stating ‘Dick Kerr System’ nearest the camera. Preston heritage.                    Photo: Matt Brown, under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

New Stock & Early Upgrades

The 1924 stock was put to work when the system opened in 1927, but it was quickly discovered that they were not sufficiently reliable, and were prone to derailment. In addition, the increase in mail traffic growth demonstrated that the railway required new vehicles with greater capacity to cope with the traffic growth.

So, in 1930 50 new vehicles were ordered from English Electric, and used in articulated train formations, but within a few years, as traffic continued to grow another 10 units were ordered and delivered in 1936.

However, the newer vehicles re-used some of the equipment from the early stock, and the new stock proved much reliable and lasted into the 1980s, supplemented by a new design developed again from an English Electric prototype.

One loco – No. 809 – from the 1930 vehicles has been preserved and is stored at the National Railway Museum.

Post Office Tube Railway 1925

English Electric were justifiably proud of this narrow gauge railway, and in a review of progress published by the company in 1951, considered it to be unique in the whole railway world. The Post Office Tube did have some human intervention, at a distance, as the operation of a switch was necessary to start a train on its way, and control of the points on the track was exercised remotely, guiding the vehicles on their way.

Points

On the tracks at Mount Pleasant station.                                                                                                       Photo: Matt Brown, under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Later Changes

The railway was still carrying considerable traffic in the 1960s, and in 1962, The Post Office ordered a pair of prototype units, which were intended to provide the base of a new design, some features of which were included the 1980 stock. Whilst English Electric built the prototypes, Hunslet built the new rolling stock, although they too were not the first choice, and the order was passed from Greenbat, who had gone bust. The vehicles were completed by 1982, and remained in operation until the system was closed in 2003.

1962 - 1980 Stock list

Some of the earlier stock was retained, and renumbered after 1984, from the 1930 and 1936 batches, although none of the original 1924 order was around, the electrical equipment did continue in use in the 1930s stock.

Retained stock list

Of the two English Electric prototypes from 1962, No.1 was withdrawn and scrapped in 1967, whilst No.2 remained in service until 1980, and was repaired using parts from No.1, and renumbered 66, lasting until the railway’s closure in 2003.

Although Greenbat managed to build three of the new 1980 sets, developed from the English Electric prototypes, before going into administration, the remainder were built at neighbouring Hunslet, who supplied sets 504 to 534. The intention was to replace the almost 50 yerars old English Electric stock from the 1930s, but as noted in the table, 17 of the units built in 1930 and 1936 were kept going.

In 1984, all of the stock was renumbered, with the most recent Hunslet units carrying numbers 1 to 34, and the retained 1930s stock renumbered from 35 to 51. They did manage to survive another 19 years until the system was finally closed in 2003.

Closure, Preservation & Re-opening

The English Electric innovation may not have been the first such plan to support the Post Office, but was certainly a pioneer in the field of automation on a railway. From the first order in 1924, the system and stock lasted some 76 years, and has now been given a new lease of life as a tourist attraction.

When the railway closed in 2003 it remained out of use. However thanks to years of fundraising it was up and running again in September 2017 – at least a short section – for tourists to travel on, using new rolling stock supplied by Severn Lamb of Stratford-upon-Avon. As part of the New Postal Museum, this is likely to be a star attraction, and has already received royal patronage, with a visit from HRH Princess Anne.Severn Lamb Post Office & Princess Anne

A number of the tractor units and trailers have been rescued, including No. 809 at the NRM – however, on their page Post Office Railway, underground train, No. 809 it shows incorrect information. But the Post Office Museum has a great deal of additional information about the railway and its operations: Mail Rail Exhibition

Others were rescued and can be found at:

A fascinating piece of railway and engineering history, with its success assured as much by the innovative ideas from English Electric in Preston, as the foresight of the General Post Office. Today, mails are carried almost exclusively by road – both in and across London, and around the rest of the UK.

EE Post Office Tube Railway - book extract

-oOo-

 

 

 

Class 210 – New Generation DMU – Doomed to Fail?

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Back in 1978, British Rail’s fleet of 1950s design diesel multiple units was ageing rapidly, and alongside a refurbishment programme, BR was designing and building its second-generation dmus – the Class 210.

210 001 December 29 1982

Unit 210 001 on a test run near Sonning Cutting on the WR main line on 29th December 1982. Photo Courtesy: Stephen Dance

Its design was almost literally built on existing components and architecture, using mechanical parts developed for other passenger rolling stock, with bodywork matched to the then ‘new’ Mark III Inter-City passenger coach. They were of course built by BR’s manufacturing arm “British Rail Engineering Ltd.”, which at its 12 and more workshops employed almost 40,000 people.

 

RIA Railpower - June 1978

Extract courtesy of the Railway Industry Association (RIA); “Railpower” June 1978

First mention of the plans for the new DMU design appeared in the Railway Industry Association’s “Railpower” magazine in June 1978. This new development took place at the time British Rail was also busy refurbishing the first generation multiple units, and saw the likes of the old Metropolitan-Cammell built units repainted in “Rail Grey” with a “Rail Blue” band at waist height. It may have looked a bit odd at the time, but was soon outdone by the garish colours of Network Southeast livery when BR went through its “Sectorisation” phase.

What made the new design different was the use of a diesel engine above the vehicle floor. From the 1950s the dieselisation programme used multiple units with underfloor engines and transmissions, whilst the Class 210 was unconventional. But, it was not without precedent on BR, since the Southern Region had already deployed similar train sets, known as “Hampshire” Line sets,

British_Rail_210001

British Rail Class 210 diesel-electric multiple unit at Reading station on 30 May 1982 for the type’s first passenger service. Photo (c): RCawsey

There were two ‘prototype’ units – a 4-car set and a 3-car set – powered by different engines and electrical equipment. The 4-car set (210 001) was powered by a 1,125hp Paxman engine, and paired with Brush electrical equipment, whilst the 3-car set (210 002) was fitted with a 1,140hp MTU engine and GEC electrical equipment.

Class 210 set numbers
Intended for providing a high-power dmu on the Western Region around the London area, and beyond, including a route from Reading to Taunton. They were tested at various locations around the country, and even appeared at ‘open days’, such as Carlisle Kingmoor in September 1982. In October 1983 the 4-car set was tested in Scotland on services between from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Dundee, Fort William and Inverness, but by mid November was returned to the Western Region.

They were described as having ‘excellent performance’, but were definitely not efficient in terms of the use of space in what was essentially a Mark III coach body.

All were withdrawn from service as DMUs by the end of 1986, although the trailer vehicles found their way into the development of the “Networker” series of trains adopted successfully by BR’s “Network Southeast Sector”.

In essence the pilot of the Class 210 design was sadly a bit of a failure, as the BREL York built Class 150 “Sprinter” series were a much better solution operationally.

Useful links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_210  
http://www.traintesting.com/class_210_demu.htm  
Train Testing  
http://www.scot-rail.co.uk/page/Class+210 Scot rail icon
http://www.emus.co.uk/457.htm Suburban Electric Railway Assoc icon

 

 

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Vulcan Foundry Ltd – 120 Years On

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Yes, I know it actually pre-dates 1898, by almost 70 years, and was there as a driving force of Britain’s industrial revolution, and global industrialisation.  The railway workshops and foundries had been established some years earlier, in 1830, by Charles Tayleur of Liverpool, who was joined in 1832 by Robert Stephenson.  As Tayleur & Stephenson, working from the foundry at Newton-le-Willows, almost alongside the Liverpool to Manchester Railway.

 

 

0-4-0 Tayleur

The first steam locomotive to be built at the Vulcan Foundry, and intended for use on the North Union Railway.

Indian Railways 4-4-0 at Liverpool

An early Vulcan product destined for India – a 4-4-0 being loaded aboard ship at Liverpool (Photo: RPB Collection)

In 1847 the name was changed to the Vulcan Foundry Company, but Robert Stephenson had left, and Tayleur appointed another famous engineer – Henry Dubs – as Works Manager.  Charles Tayleur had also acquired a new partner, George Samuel Sanderson, and with Charles and Edward Tayleur they opened the Bank Quay Foundry, a stone’s throw from what is now one of Warrington’s railway stations.

The Bank Quay Foundry was equally as notable as the Vulcan works, and was responsible for building the world’s first iron tea clipper – the “Tayleur”, together with hydraulic presses used to construct the Stephenson designed ‘Britannia Tubular Bridge’.  As a separate undertaking, the Warrington foundry closed only 7 years later in 1854.

Vulcan Foundry family tree

The ‘organogram’ included in the GEC Diesels short publication describing the story of the Vulcan works at Newton-le-Willows

This world famous company was formally established as Vulcan Foundry Ltd in 1898, based at Newton-le-Willows, almost alongside the Liverpool to Manchester Railway, and within a short distance of  the principal Anglo-Scottish main railway line.  The diagram above shows some of the key connections between Vulcan, its acquistion – almost 60 years later – by English Electric of Preston, and on to form part of the GEC Traction empire.

 

By the time Vulcan Foundry Ltd was formed in 1898, the company had already built over 1500 steam locomotives, beginning with a pair of 0-4-0s (No.1 Tayleur, and No.2 Stephenson) for the North Union Railway, and a Mr Hargreaves.  The first locos built in 1898 were for the East Indian Railway – 16 x 0-6-0 types.  The same year saw another 4 orders for India, 1 for Uganda and 1 for Ireland.

 

From 1898 to the outbreak of the First World War Vulcan had supplied the same number of steam engines, as it had in its first 60 years of existence, clearly demonstrating the huge growth in both railways and locomotive building.  During hostilities – in both First and Second World Wars, Vulcans supplied military hardware, including tanks and munitions, demonstrating the ability and capability of its workforce.

Vulcan Foundry Advert - 1952 Rly Gazette

A typical advertisement for Vulcan Foundry from the 1958 edition of the “Directory of Railway Officials & Year Book”

The inter-war era – the 1920s and 1930s depression – saw a reversal of the country’s manufacturing growth, job losses and near commercial failure.  This was repeated with Vulcan’s competitor’s, such as the giant North British Loco. Co., although orders from the British Colonies – especially India – continued to be won.  This together with its early foray into non-steam traction, with A/S Frichs of Denmark, and a partnership with English Electric for diesel traction kept the company going.

That partnership with English Electric proved a major success and from 1945 onwards, the company’s construction of non-steam types continued to grow.  This was especially encouraged by the BR “Moderinsation & Re-Equipment Programme” of the 1950s, and the UK’s first 2000hp diesel type was built at Newton-le-Willows in 1958.

Vulcan Foundry - "wheeling" a Class 40

“Wheeling” an English Electric Type 4 (BR Class 40) at Vulcan Foundry, and slightly hidden to the right is one of the electric locos built for South African Railways during the 1950s.

At that time of course, Vulcan Foundry was becoming part of the EE Co. empire, and having been in at the start of the railway revolution and steam traction, it was also building ‘firsts’ towards the end of its independent existence.  The company’s last order was for a 500hp diesel shunter for ICI’s Northwich Works in Cheshire in 1980 – a long way from some of the most powerful  steam, diesel and electric locomotives that emerged from the Newton-le-Willows works and desptached around the world.

By 1980, the Vulcan works had been in the railway engineering business for 148 years – not a bad record!

Well Worth a watch:

These two films were made in 1954, and show the work in all areas of the Vulcan works at Newton-le-Willows – this was typical not just of Vulcan Foundry, but of the heavy engineering industry in Britain at that time.  Sadly all gone now.

 Vulcan ad logo

Vulcan Foundry 1954 (Part 1)

Vulcan Foundry 1954 (Part 2)

Useful Links:

Newton Heritage – Vulcan Foundry

 

 

Watch this space for more Vulcan info to come …..

-oOo-

 

 

 

British Railways: Interchange Trials 1948

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Whilst it is the anniversary this year of the end of steam on BR, in 1968, just 20 years earlier, a series of comparative trials took place across the country, to analyses what was then the best in steam traction design, construction and operation.  Not surprisingly, these trials – which took place between April and August 1948, were latched on to by enthusiasts – as a form of competition to see which railway had the best steam types.

City of Glasgow on 1st Caledonian 17th June 1957

A classic shot of a classic pacific – although 46236 “City of Bradford” was used in the 1948 trials. Seen here is sister loco 46242 “City of Glasgow” on the inaugural run of The Caledonian in June 1957.                                                                                                                                                                    Photo: RPB Collection

RPB 220_Lens of Sutton

‘A4’ Class No. 60004 “William Whitelaw” at York on an enthusiasts’ special in the 1960s. As an express passenger type, it was natural to choose one of Gresley’s A4s, but 60022 “Mallard” did not acquit herself well, and was substituted by 60033/34 for the Interchanges.                                      Photo Courtesy: Lens of Sutton

70 years ago, a series of trials took place on the newly nationalised British railway network, to contrast and compare the best elements of the locomotive engineering design, and practice used by railways across Britain. Well, at least that was the plan.

The trials led, eventually to the new BR Standard steam locomotives, and covered espress passenger, mixed traffic and freight types, including a selection of some of the latest designs, WD ‘Austerity’ types, and some traditional designs.  The process was not particularly controversial, but new steam locomotives in the 1950s – especially as diesel and electric traction had already been established, and was developing rapidly.

Stanier 8F nearing Dalton in 2008

The LMS built this 2-8-0 in huge numbers – with over 600 in service by 1948. Many having been built by the other main line railway companies, Beyer Peacock and North British Loco. for war service at home and overseas. A natural choice perhaps for the 1948 trials.                                    Photo: RPB Collection

It may be that one of the main drivers was the ease of availability of coal as a fuel,where oil had to be imported, and the cost of electric traction’s infrastructure was expensive in the post-war economy of the UK.

Further reading

Clicking on the image below will take you to a more detailed discussion of the trials:

Interchange Trials - cover

Useful Links:

National Archive – Report of the Locomotive Testing Committee

RM Web – The 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials – Discussions

1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials

BR’s First Year (The Spectator)

Loco Interchange Trials 1948 (Rly Mag)

BR’s Last Main Line Diesel Hydraulic Locomotives

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Just about 50 years ago, 43 of the 56 ill-fated diesel-hydraulic 0-6-0s built at Swindon Works were withdrawn, 3 more in February and March 1969, and the final 10 in May 1969.  These ‘Type 1’s were designated main line locomotives, intended primarily for shunting and trip freight work, initially in South and Mid-Wales, and later classified ’14’ in the TOPS renumbering scheme.

DimensionsAs the only B.R. Type 1 locomotives to have a hydraulic transmission, should they really have been built at all?

Preston_Riverside_-_D9537_and_D9539

Two class 14 diesel-hydraulics at Preston Riverside station in 2015. Green D9539 is based here on the Ribble Steam Railway by sand-coloured D9537 is making a visit from the East Lancashire Railway. (Photo Courtesy: Geof Sheppard) (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

They were intended to replace the 0-6-2 tank locomotives working the Welsh valleys lines, which from a freight traffic perspective served mainly the coal mines.  It was decided that these rigid frame Type 1 diesels would be better than the Type 2s, which were much more powerful.

Class 14 Running NUmbersSo, they were essentially BR Western Region’s answer to the ‘pick-up’ goods train, normally hauled by small tank engines.  Considering too that they were delivered after both Beeching 1 and around the time of Beeching 2 – for BR, this was clearly a mistake.

They survived to be taken over by the extensive industrial lines of the National Coal Board, and British Steel sites, which for the latter was mainly at Corby.  Here they went on for a fuurther 5 to 7 years or so, with a couple being sold abroad, and no less than 19 of the 56 being preserved at various locations.

They seem to have become the most common of preserved diesel locomotives – so ironic.

Preserved 14sFurther Reading

Clicking on the image below will take you to a more detailed review of the class.

Class 14 Cover shot

Further information and links

-oOo-

Metro-Vicks: 60 Years On

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In July 2018, it will be 60 years since what have been described as the ‘ugly ducklings’ of BR’s ‘Pilot Scheme’ diesels first appeared.  They were the only type built on a 2-axle and 3-axle bogie layout, and the first to appear without the almost mandatory nose, or bonnet, following the ex-LMS examples of 10,000 and 10,001.

Yes, I know there was a flat nosed ex-Southern Railway design too.

However, the Metro-Vick Co-Bo Type 2 was intended to be a major option included in the British Railways’ 174 pilot scheme types, for testing and approval before placing further orders to replace steam traction.

GEC TRaction Photo SP 8671

As new, the Metro-Vicks were given some pretty severe tests before entering service. This view clearly shows the original “wrap-around” windows.   (GEC Traction /RP Bradley Collection)

The asymmetrical wheelbase of the Metro-Vick design was not its downfall.  This proved to be the 2-stroke 1,200hp diesel engine produced by Crossley, and only a couple of years after their introduction a plan was hatched to provide them with English Electric power.

Leading Dimensions

Main Dims & CapacitiesThese locomotives were fitted with an electro-pneumatic control system, and designed to be operated in multiple with other Pilot Scheme designs, including:-

  • North British Loco. Co. type 1, nos. D8400-9
  • North British Loco. Co. type 2, nos. D6100-37
  • Brush/Sulzer type 2, nos. D5500-19

Aside from the collapse of the North British Loco Co in 1962 – which perhaps influenced the decision to abandon the design – BR itself was battling a range of problems in the 1960s.   The changing economic climate and competition from road transport growth, and BR’s mounting operational losses were amongst the reasons for their withdrawal.  That coupled with increasing unreliability, and ‘unconventional’ technology, sealed their fate.

In the Beginning

Spanning little more than a decade of working life, these locomotives were amongst the 174 locomotives of the ‘Pilot Scheme’ diesel types in British Railways’ Modernisation and Re-equipment Programme of 1956.

BR Weight Diagram for M-VMetropolitan-Vickers were responsible for the overall design of these locomotives, which were built at the Trafford Park works in Manchester, with mechanical parts supplied by Beyer-Peacock. Although subsequently known as type 2 locomotives, the original power classification was letter code B covering locomotives with engines rated at between 1000-1500 h.p.

Building & Withdrawal

These locomotives were ordered in November 1955 and two and a half years elapsed before the first was handed over to BR in July 1958. This delay between order and delivery occurred to most other types ordered at the same time. Operational Ups & Downs

Building & WithdrawalIt was originally proposed that they should be classed as mixed traffic locomotives for use on the Midland division lines of the London Midland Region (LMR).  Following delivery they were allocated to Derby, from where it was intended that they would work passenger and freight services between St. Pancras, Manchester and Carlisle.

During proving trials before delivery, these locomotives were required to start from rest a 420 ton train and accelerate to 10 m.p.h. on a I in 42 gradient. This haulage capacity was tested, not perhaps to the full, when two of these locomotives were frequently used on the all-fitted Condor freight service between Hendon and Gushetfaulds, Glasgow.

D5716 at Carnforth - Mandy Sharpe

D5716 at Carnforth, probably taken in 1967 at Carnforth, but withdrawn in September 1968.
(Photo courtesy Mandy Sharpe)

Due to their indifferent performance, on 28 January 1962 the entire class was transferred to Barrow depot on the Western Division, where they were worked a variety of duties, but their performance still gave rise to problems. During their early years, and perhaps because of the engine faults and failures, the whole class was considered a candidate for being fitted with new engines.

All were withdrawn from operational service by the Autumn of 1968, although the single example that survived became the subject of a rescue and restoration exercise, currently in progress at Bury on the East Lancashire Railway.  For a complex locomotive the restoration work is equally complex.

Further Reading

Clicking on the image below will take you to a more detailed review of the class.

M-V Article cover page

More Useful Links

Class 28 Metrovick diesels (Cumbrian Railways Association) – Images

D5705 Preservation group on the ELR

D5705 Facebook Group

George Woods – Flickr Photos

 

Metro-Vick Co-Bos on Condor

The Co-Bo’s original fast fitted freight working was the Hendon to Gushetfaulds “Condor” service.
This view also shows the original “wrap-around” windows.

Metropolitan_vickers_logo

The Class 50 is 50 this year

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In the same year that the company celebrates its centenary – yes I know it no longer exists! – it is 50 years since the final EE built diesel-electric locomotive was delivered to British Rail.  They were ordered in 1967 and delivered in the space of a year, between 1967 and 1968, and described in glowing terms by the contemporary railway press as:

“The 50 English Electric Type 4 locomotives of 2,700 hp now entering service with the London Midland Region of British Railways as the D400 class represent a significant step forward in traction engineering because they embody a number of features combined for the first time in one design.”

English Electric were the principal suppliers of diesel and major electric traction equipment in the post-war years into the 1950s, but their dominance was under threat from changes in the AEI Group companies, which included Metropolitan-Vickers.  But the 1960s proved a watershed in the UK rail industry, and for English Electric.

Image From brochure

The new Class 50, or 2,700hp D400 series of locomotives were based on the DP2 prototype of 1962, which was used as a ‘testbed’ for English Electric’s new design of diesel engine; the 16CSVT.  The use of a ‘Deltic’ bodyshell as the locomotive was being built at EE’s Vulcan Works, was a bonus.  The 2,700hp was less than the existing 3,300hp ‘conventional’ Deltic, but DP2 was used on their workings and timing son the East Coast Main Line.  It proved to be better on acceleration, and included a number of innovative design features, such as automatic wheelslip and slide detection.  DP2 continued its workings on ‘Deltic’ timings until the 1967 accident at Thirsk, when it was severely damaged after running into a stationary cement train.  After this it was withdrawn from service, and engine parts were used as spares in what became the Class 50.

DP2

GEC Traction/R P Bradley Collection

English Electric’s engine design and its technology was a great success, and in addition to the BR order, in 1968, English Electric signed a £2.7 million contract, for the construction and supply of locomotives for Portugal, and based around the same power unit.  These new BR locomotives provided considerable improvement in power to weight ratio, being demanded by the railway, and following the tender invitation from BTC/British Railways Board, the order for 50 locos similar to DP2 was placed.

English Electric had hoped to use their original ‘Deltic’ style nose, and cab, and even offered alternatives, including wraparound windscreens, but the BR design team’s preferred layout of two windows and flat front end was approved.

Class 50 Dimensions

Class 50 DiagramWorks Numbers, Running Numbers and Build/Withdrawal Dates

Class 50 numbering

The Technology

EE Class 50 copyThese locomotives – quite apart from the impressive diesel engine design – included some interesting new electronic technology, including:

  • Slow-speed control; with precise control below 3 mile/hr for merry go round coal trains.  The driver could pre-set speeds, which would be automatically maintained.
  • Pre-set tractive effort control; this could be set by the driver, and the control system would maintain constant TE, through acceleration, which in turn was planned to further improve the loco’s operating efficiency.
  • Automatic integration of loco and train brakes; an electro-mechanical system, again designed to improve braking efficiency, and reduce wear on brake rigging.

Early diesel locomotives on BR benefited from developments in traction diesel engine technology, and these locomotives applied that to the maximum available at the time, from charge air cooling, to increase the volumes available for combustion, to turbocharging.  Even the radiator cooling fans were automatically controlled through electronic sensors, to match the needs of the engine when in use.

gec036

GEC Traction/RP Bradley Collection

The new English Electric Type 4 was fitted with the 16CSVT engine, a ‘vee’ form16 cylinder design, with charge air cooling (intercooler) and turbocharged to deliver 2,700hp at 850 rpm. The engine had been extensively tested in the DP2 prototype, and was a forerunner of the 16RK3CT from Ruston Paxman, as used in the Class 56 locomotives of the late 1970s, early 1980s. A 12-cylinder variant was produced for the last ever diesel locomotives built in Doncaster Workshops – the Class 58.

Getting the power to the traction motors, which were the same type as those supplied for the still successful EE Type 3 (Class 37), came via the same generator used on DP2. The EE538/5A motors were arranged conventionally, as axle hung, nose-suspended, driving the wheels through reduction gearing.

Electric train heating was delivered by means of a separate generator, so gone were the steam heating boilers for the train!

The whole thing was built on a pair of rolled steel joists, linked together with fabricated cross members to form the main underframe assembly. Beneath this platform a pair of cast steel bogies, of the same basic design used on the Type 5 and some EE built Type 3 locomotives, were provided. English Steel Castings, supplied the bogie castings with a 13ft 6ins wheelbase, whilst the wheels were given a modified Heumann profile. This was developed to protect against derailment and ‘hunting’ of wheels and wheelsets in service. Naturally, roller bearing assemblies from Timken and SKF were the order of the day.

gec037

GEC Traction/RP Bradley Collection

At the time these locomotives were introduced, BR still had its Design Panel, who had developed a standard interior layout. The Class 50 layout was based on this standard style, with heat and sound 
insulation, and forced-air ventilation
. One interesting aspect was a device that provided a delay when the engine was shut down and ‘parked’ at the end of its duty, which automatically switched off all the lights after 15 minutes – except tail lights.

The bodies were painted in the then standard rail blue, using a polyurethane paint, with full yellow ends, and bogies and running gear in black.  The paints used on locomotives has always come in for a great deal of interest – although mostly from the viewpoint of its colour.  But paint technology had moved on too in the 1960s, and the old oleo or synthetic resins of the 1950s, with coats of varnish overlaid had long since disappeared.

 The Subcontractors

Interesting to reflect that many of the subcontractors listed above have disappeared from the rail industry in the UK, though some like Skefko (SKF) and Oleo Pneumatics still have a presence.

Class 50 subcontractors

Operations

When these locomotives entered service, British Rail did not actually buy them immediately, and they were effectively rented through a company called “English Electric Leasing”.  Maybe this could be viewed as a forerunner of the many ROSCO’s that came into being in the 1990s.

They were used on the West Coast Main Line between Crewe, Preston, Carlisle and Glasgow, as a stopgap measure before full electrification in 1974. Initially working the main line expresses as single locomotives; they were responsible for a significant acceleration of timings north of Crewe after double heading was adopted from 1970. They worked the principal Anglo-Scottish services, including the “Royal Scot”, and on occasions were found as far north as Aberdeen.

Following the introduction of the “Electric Scots”, the fleet was transferred to the Western Region, whgere again they worked the principal Paddington to the West of England services, at least until the arrival of the IC125s (HSTs) took over these workings. They were also found on trains to Birmingham and the West Midlands, whilst during their time on the Western Region they began to acquire names.

Not long after British Rail bought the fleet of Class 50s – English Electric Type 5s – they began experiencing reliability problems, and a programme of refurbishment and modifications at Doncaster in the early 1980s brought improvements. They were re-delivered to the Western Region, and based at depots like Plymouth Laira and West London’s Old Oak Common.

Later in the 1980s, they acquired a ‘sector’ colour scheme, with the garish “Network Southeast” livery applied a to a number, whilst true to GWR and Western Region form, one was painted in a green livery.

The Class 50 continued to work on West of England trains, some engineering and work trains too, whilst 50049 was modified still further in an attempt to use the type on freight services. It was not a success. At the start of the 1990s, the class was becoming troublesome again, and on some services were replaced by Class 47 and multiple unit trains.

In 1992, just eight remained in service with BR – 50007/008/015/029/030/033/046/050 – whilst by 1994, the few that had been specially repainted for railtours had also come to the end of their working life. In that year 50033 (D433) was dispatched to the National Railway Museum for preservation.

Preservation

50026 at Bridgnorth

50026 resplendent in Network Southeast Sector livery on the Severn Valley Railway.                         (c) RPBradley

 

Perhaps as a result of the pedigree of the original builders, and the affection they had acquired from the professional as well as the enthusiast community, a number of locomotives have been preserved, and remain in use on specials today. The lion’s share of ‘preserved’ Class 50s are on the Severn Valley Railway, with 5 of the 6 locomotives owned and operated by Alliance Rail, and the other by Paul Spracklen. In the north, the East Lancs Railway has D408, whilst Peak Rail is the home of D429 and D430, currently under restoration by the “Renown Repulse Restoration Group”.

The West Midlands is home to another collection of 3 locomotives, including the first of the class, D400, and based at Washwood Heath, and all are approved for mainline operations.
Considering that this English Electric design was the last of its type, and the last wholly UK built locomotive, the preservation and railtour operators have delivered some remarkable working exhibits. It seems the English Electric heritage from Preston and Newton-le-Willows is continuing well into the 21st century, in the company’s centenary year, and this locomotive is fitting legacy for one of Britain’s greatest engineering companies.

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Useful links:

The Class 50 Alliance 

Class 50 Alliance logo

The Fifty Fund

50 Fund logo

Severn Valley Railway

Severn Valley logo