BR Class 40

Resource Type: Image | Posted on 2nd December 2011 by Liam Physick

Here a diesel-electric locomotive belonging to British Rail Class 40 pulls a goods train. Their origins lay in the Class D16/1 (the first main-line diesels in Great Britain) and D16/2 prototype diesels ordered by BR, in particular No. 10203 in the latter Class. Initially BR ordered 10 evaluation prototype members of the Class (as part of the first 174 diesel locomotives ordered under the Modernisation Plan), then called English Electric Type 4, to be built at the Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows. The first, No. D200, was launched on 14th March 1958 and on 18th April pulled its first passenger train, an express from London Liverpool Street to Norwich: Nos. D200 and D202-205 were also trialled on former Great Eastern routes, while Nos. D201 and D206-209 pulled Great Northern Services on the East Coast Main Line. However, Sir Brian Robertson, chairman of the British Transport Commission, correctly believed that they were not powerful enough to pull heavy trains at high speed and too expensive for multiple working (where more than one locomotive pulls the train): they also lacked acceleration at medium and high speeds, and were little better than the steam Britannia Class locomotives they were meant to replace, and the Eastern Region of BR refused to accept any more, preferring to wait until the Deltic was delivered to work on the East Coast Main Line. However, the London Midland Region was happy to accept the locomotives rejected by the Eastern Region, as its steam fleet was ageing and English Electric Type 4 had proved capable of easily managing Camden Bank, north of Euston. It had been many years since there had been investment on the West Coast Main Line, and it also had a poor track and lower speeds compared to the East Coast route: thus there was no need pull fast trains for long periods and their rapid acceleration was an advantage. Another 190 English Electric Type 4s were ordered, numbered D210-D399. All were built at Vulcan Foundry, except Nos. D305-D324, built at the Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns factory in Darlington (in order to allow Deltics to be built at Vulcan). Initially they were the flagship diesels of BR, pulling top-link express passenger services on the West Coast Main Line and in East Anglia, but by the time the last one came out in September 1962, they were already being replaced on expresses by the more powerful Deltic and English Electric Type 3 (later renamed Class 47) locomotives, by electric traction on the West Coast Main Line, and by Sulzer Type 4s (Class 45 and Class 46) on trans-Pennine services. Despite this, Class 40s were used for many years on passenger and goods services. From the late 1960s to 1977, they were the usual locomotive for royal trains: on 1st July 1969, D216 Campania and D233 Empress of England double-headed the train from Euston that took the royal family to Wales for the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales. Nos. D210-D235 pulled express trains to Liverpool, and consequently (except No. D226, which was to be named Media, after a Cunard Cruise ship, but never was) were named after ships operated by three Liverpool-based shipping companies: Cunard Line, Elder Dempster Lines and Canadian Pacific Steamships - however, in the 1970s, these names were removed as the locomotives were no longer pulling these services. In 1973, English Electric Type 4 was renamed Class 40, and Nos. D201-D299 renumbered 40001-40199 - D200 was renumbered 40122, as D322, which would have been given this number, had been scrapped following an accident on 16th May 1966. The renumbering reflected the dropping of the letter “D” from BR diesels now that steam traction had been abolished, as well as the introduction of a new classification system based on power rating. As time went on, Class 40s were used less and less on passenger services as more modern coaches were introduced: Class 40’s lack of electric train heating made it unsuitable for this new stock. In 1980, Class 40 ceased to be used on front-line passenger trains, and their last regular passenger use was on the North Wales Coast Line between Holyhead, Crewe and Manchester, though they continued to occasionally pull trains from Liverpool to York and Newcastle. In the early 1980s, they were frequently used on relief, excursion and holidaymaker services, and as deputies for electric traction. They were seen on many parts of the network, and became popular with railway enthusiasts, and were nicknamed “Whistlers” due to the distinctive noise of their Napier turbochargers. But Class 40s were underpowered at 130 tons, and some of them had fractures of the plate-frame bogies (in large part due to inappropriate use on wagon-load goods trains and thus running into tighly-curved yards). Additionally, spare parts were required to keep other locomotives running, and the lack of air braking in many Class 40s made them incapable of pulling more modern rolling stock. The first withdrawals of Class 40s began in 1976, but picked up momentum in the 1980s. The first locomotive in the Class, No. 40122, was withdrawn in 1981 and placed on the scrapline at Carlisle Kingsmoor depot, with the intention of being sent to Swindon Works to be scrapped. At Carlisle it was spotted by two railway enthusiasts, Howard Johnston and Murray Brown: BR agreed to reinstate it and overhauled it on Tonton depot with parts from 40076. From April 1983, it was regularly used to pull railway enthusiasts’ special trains, as well as regular trains, in the hope of attracting enthusiasts. On 27th January, the last BR train pulled by a Class 40 took place, when No. 40012 pulled a service from Birmingham New Street. The following day, 12 of the 13 remaining Class 40s were withdrawn: the except was 40112. Four - 40060, 40135, 40012 and 40118 - were later briefly returned to service as part of Class 97, numbered 97405-97408, in order to remodel the railways around Crewe station: once this task had been completed, they were withdrawn once again in 1986-7. In 1988, 40122 became the last Class 40 to be withdrawn and became part of the National Collection at the National Railway Museum, where it regained its original number, D200. Also preserved was D306 Atlantic Conveyor, which featured at the Grand Cavalcade: appropriately, as it was one of those built at Robert Stephenson and Hawthorn. Overhauled and painted green in 1978 at Crewe, No. 40106 (as it was then numbered) became a popular engine on railtours and other special passenger trains. Withdrawn from service in April 1983, its passenger duties were taken over by 40122. 40106 was bought by Gerald Boden in March 1984, and on 18th April, the 26th anniversary of the first Class 40-hauled train, it was loaded onto Great Central Railway metals. Its power unit was restored on 23rd April, and on 11th August it reverted to its original number, D306, and was named Atlantic Conveyor, in honour of a ship sunk in the Falklands War. It then became the first Class 40 to pull a passenger train in preservation, and on 29th October 1987, featured in the film Buster, based on the story of the Great Train Robbery. On 21st February 1990, the Atlantic Conveyor moved to the Nene Valley Railway, where it remains, working regularly every summer. Four others - D212, 40018 and D335, three of those briefly redeployed as Class 97s, and 40145 - as well as the cab of 40088, have also been preserved. One locomotive not preserved was the ill-fated 40126, originally D326. On Boxing Day 1962, D326 was hauling the Midday Scot when it collided with the rear of a Liverpool to Bimingham express, killing 18 people and injuring 33. On 8th August 1963 it hauled the West Coast Portal during the Great Train Robbery. In 1964, a signalman working outside the engine was electrocuted by the overhead wire. In 1965, D326 suffered complete brake failure when approaching Birmigham New Street: however, in this case, the signalman acted quickly to divert it onto another platform at the last minute, and it smashed into the back of a goods train, with only the guard injured. Thus, BR scrapped 40126 in April 1984, just two months after it was withdrawn from service, to avoid souvenir hunters - generally, locomotives would not be scrapped for some time after withdrawal, a delay which aided preservation

BR Class 40

Tagged under: steam locomotives, rocket 150, british rail, diesel locomotives, goods, passengers, freight, grand cavalcade, heritage railways, robert stephenson

Categorised under: Landmarks, Landscapes & Locomotives

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