The Class 40 Story
This is a brief history of the
English Electric Type 4 (British Rail Class 40) locomotive and its
origins. It is intended to cover most significant points in their
history, but this is not the complete story.
Please see the bottom of this page for recommended books on the subject.
In the beginning
To trace the origins of a Class 40, we go back to
1945. In the immediate post-war period all the 'Big Four' UK rail
companies were rumoured to be investigating an alternative to steam rail
traction to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
An interested UK delegation
visited the USA to see how their well-established diesel-electric motive
power fared in comparison to steam. Following this, in 1946 the Southern
Railway planned to build three prototype diesel-electric locos rated at
1600 hp, but the scheme was soon shelved. In the same year, the LMS
proposed two 1600 hp locos capable of being driven singly, or as two
units together "in multiple" using one set of driving
At that time, English Electric
were building locos for the Egyptian State railway of a similar power
rating. The LMS had good experience of diesel-electric traction for
shunting locomotives, and so approached the English Electric company
with the proposal. A design was agreed and work commenced, with Derby
Works building the mechanical parts and body shell while English
Electric produced all other items.
Number 10000, the first British
Main Line diesel-electric loco, emerged from Derby Works on 8th December
1947, just prior to nationalisation. The loco design/build used proven
steam loco principles, but the result was somewhat heavy, weighing as
much as a Duchess steam loco. Styling took American influence having
'nose ends' with two driving cabs on a Co-Co wheel arrangement. The
power unit was an English Electric 16 cylinder turbocharged 16SVT Mk 1
diesel engine, driving a d.c. generator and powering six d.c. traction
motors via control equipment.
10000 soon proved its worth on
Manchester/Derby/St. Pancras passenger services. It was joined by sister
loco 10001 in July 1948. Much experience was gained from the 'Derby
Pair', e.g. using a steam generator for train heat, and power unit
control under different load and rail conditions. Their 'trial' period
ended in 1951, followed by regular passenger service use on the London
Meanwhile, the Southern Region
began building three prototypes numbered 10201, 10202 and 10203. The
internal layout of the locos was different to 10000/1. They had a
flat-fronted design, and rode on cast frame bogies with a 1Co-Co1 wheel
arrangement to reduce axle loading. 10201 was exhibited at the Festival
of Britain in 1951. The EE 16SVT Mk 1 power units used in 10201/2 were
also uprated to 1750 hp.
The third SR loco, 10203,
emerged in 1954, held back to incorporate experience from trials with
10201 and 10202. This loco was not quite so heavy at 132 tons, and had
the later 16SVT Mk 2 power unit rated 2000 hp. By 1957, records show the
prototypes were returning approximately twice the annual mileage of
similar powered express steam locos.
The SR trio worked on London to
West of England and other Southern Region passenger services until
transfer to the LMR in 1955, where they worked until withdrawal.
Pilot Scheme diesels - D200 to D209
In 1955 British Railways implemented the start of
its Modernisation Scheme. In applying this to motive power, they ordered
174 diesel prototype locomotives from various UK manufacturers, to
evaluate the most suitable types over a three year trial period. Power
classification became a numbered sequence, Types 1 to 5, with Type 4
covering 2000 - 2999 hp. For their bid, English Electric proposed a 2000
hp. loco based on the layout of 10203, but with the appearance similar
to a restyled 10000. With the order placed, the first British Railways
main line diesel-electric locomotive, the English Electric Type 4, came
English Electric opted to use
their proven 16SVT Mk 2 medium-speed power unit, rated at 2000 hp, to
ensure long term reliability from reduced stresses. As a result, despite
generally good reliability, the locos soon gained a reputation for being
under powered for their immense weight. Later locos from other
manufacturers offered higher output from smaller power units, but some
proved to be unreliable, requiring de-rating to stop failure and
excessive wear of engine components.
English Electric original publicity photo of
|The first of
the ten prototypes, D200, was accepted into BR stock in March
1958. After acceptance trials and various crew-training work, Its
first well-documented demonstration run was on 18th April 1958,
from London Liverpool Street to Norwich.
the first ten EE Type 4's D200 to D209, half were allocated to the
Great Northern Region and half to the Great Eastern Region. The
GNR machines worked out of Kings Cross to Sheffield, Newcastle and
Edinburgh, covering such famous named trains as the "Flying
Scotsman" and the "Master Cutler". The GER locos
were employed on upgraded services from Liverpool Street to
Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich.
The press at the time
commented on how well the locos performed generally, but also on
their disappointment at the lack of power for acceleration at
medium and higher speeds, being little better than the steam locos
being displaced. The operational advantage was, however,
immediately obvious. Careful GER diagramming enabled locos to
achieve weekly averages of 3600 to 3900 miles, 50% higher than the
best steam locos being replaced. GNR diagrams on longer haul
services averaged even higher weekly averages of approximately
4500 miles, which may have been over-ambitious considering the
lack of operating experience in the early days.
With the Pilot Scheme still in progress,
political pressure was still mounting for urgent improvements and
cost savings on the railways. The Government sanctioned wholesale
dieselisation, and large production quantities of locos were
ordered from the builders of the Pilot Scheme locos, with some
designs unproved, coming almost straight from the drawing board.
A further 190 EE Type 4's
were ordered in several batches, allocated to various areas in
England and Scotland, to upgrade passenger services, e.g. on the
West Coast Main Line (London Euston to Birmingham, the North West
and Glasgow). By the time the last batches were ordered, English
Electric had improved the 16SVT power unit further, but the offer
of uprated 2400 hp. locos was declined in view of the proven
reliability at 2000 hp. EE went on to produce another prototype
locomotive, DP2, using the same power unit rated at 2700 hp,
leading to an order for the 50 Class 50 locomotives.
The majority of EE Type
4's were built at the Vulcan Foundry, Newton-le-Willows. One batch of twenty locomotives, D305 to D324,
were built at the Robert Stephenson and Hawthorn factory in
Darlington. This allowed capacity at Vulcan for manufacture of the
22 production Deltics. Delivery of production locos began with
D210 in May 1959.
Amongst the various detail
differences in the batches, experiments were tried out on some
locos. Most notable of these was probably D255, delivered in 1960.
In addition to a steam heat generator it had an auxiliary
generator for electric train heating (ETH). This equipment was
removed after running trials and no other 40's ever had this
The most visible
difference among the batches was the variation in headcode/train
identification markings. The early batches up to D324 carried four
white marker lights and white background discs on their nose-ends
to identify the type of train being hauled - this followed
traditional steam methods. Locomotives D325 to D344 carried two
two-digit headcode describers at each end to identify the exact
train being operated. All locos up to D344 also had
interconnecting gangway doors at the nose-ends to allow crew
changes en-route when two locos were working in multiple. The
final variation, from D345 to D399, featured a central four-digit
headcode panel but no interconnecting doors, giving a much neater
appearance. Some Scottish disc-headcode locos were modified to
follow this design in the 1960's, having their disc indicators
removed, nose end doors plated over, and the four digit
centre-headcode panel installed.
The EE Type 4's (and other diesel loco types
of the time) suffered more than their fair share of criticism for
reliability. Few appreciated that the new diesels were expected to
perform while stabled alongside steam locos with all the inherent
grime and neglect, with little or no specialised maintenance
facilities or skills to hand. Time-served steam drivers were
retrained on diesel motive power, with a whole new language of
fault finding and 'get you home' problem solving. The train
heating boilers were a particular problem on the EE type 4's and
other early diesels, being fairly complicated to operate, and
requiring strict maintenance to ensure reliability.
Late Autumn 1958 was a
miserable time for the GNR fleet: on six out of ten days the
Flying Scotsman failed to produce an EE Type 4, and ran late with
a steam loco deputising. Efforts were made to ensure the Master
Cutler was a priority working, but this was not always possible.
After another failure there were calls for a steam loco standby to
be arranged at the Sheffield end. D209 failed on a Newcastle
working on 30th October. On November 1st D207 failed at Kings
Cross on the down Flying Scotsman, replaced by D208, which failed
later in the journey with traction motor problems. Similar
problems were still being experienced in the autumn of 1959. The
first year's running figures showed GER and GNR availability at
71.5% and 79% respectively.
Livery, numbers and names
The production series locos followed the same
numbering sequence, from D210 to the final loco D399, delivered in
September 1962. The majority followed the Pilot Scheme livery of
all-round Dark Brunswick Green with a grey roof, black bogies and
red bufferbeams. Problems with the safety of permanent way staff
soon led to all BR diesel locos having the cab fronts or nose-end
fronts painted in half warning yellow, to help make approaching
trains more visible. The last batch of EE Type 4's were duly
delivered already painted in this scheme, while others were
treated during works visits or on depots. By the late 1960's the
yellow 'warning panels' began to be extended to cover the full
nose ends, improving visibility further.
From 1966, locos
overhauled by works began to be repainted in the new 'corporate'
rail blue livery with full yellow nose-ends. One example, 40106
was kept in green, becoming the preferred choice for use on
enthusiast specials. 40106 was withdrawn in 1983 after 40122 was
reinstated to traffic, itself repainted into Dark Brunswick Green
with full yellow ends.
With the end of steam on
BR in 1968, the diesel prefix 'D' was gradually dropped from all
loco numbers. Also in 1968, a new locomotive classification system
was devised, based on the power rating. These EE Type 4's became
Class 40's. In 1973 the BR TOPS computer system was introduced,
and from the autumn all locos were renumbered according to their
class. The Class 40's were renumbered in sequence 40001 to 40199.
Pioneer D200 was renumbered 40122, filling a number gap left by
D322, withdrawn after the Acton Bridge crash in 1966.
Twenty five of the class
carried the names of famous ocean going liners on cast brass
plates, signifying the importance of passenger workings to and
from Liverpool. Only the first three of these, D210, D211 and
D212, were named during ceremonies in 1960, the remainder of
nameplates being fitted during works overhauls up to 1963. These
nameplates began to be removed from around 1970, as the locos were
no longer working such trains, and were attracting unwanted
interest from "collectors".
In the 1980's with growing
enthusiast interest, many of these locos had their names
unofficially painted back on by depot staff, and several other
locos gained unofficial names.
Even while the production locos were being
built, improvements on the Great Northern Region saw more powerful
diesels take over most EE Type 4 workings out of Kings Cross. By
June 1961 the GNR diagrams were all but abandoned with the arrival
of the Deltics and EE Type 3's, and steam power was restored to
the Flying Scotsman service for a while. By October 1961 all the
Hornsey GNR machines were transferred to Stratford to take up
Great Eastern Region diagrams.
Some GER changes saw EE
Type 4's working more freights and only the heavier passenger
turns by winter 1963. From January 1965 the new, more powerful
Brush Type 4's took over prime East Anglia passenger services, and
the EE Type 4's were eventually transferred away in August 1967,
to serve on the West Coast Main Line.
Throughout their history,
the EE Type 4's were used for periods on prime passenger services,
only to be displaced by higher powered locos. Workings out of
London Euston to the North were normally in their hands, until
electrification in the mid 1960's saw all services south of Crewe
being hauled by electric locos. In 1967 the more modern 2700 hp EE
Type 4's (Class 50's) took over accelerated services working north
of Crewe to Glasgow.
were also lost to the more powerful Sulzer Type 4's (Class 45's
and 46's) during the late 1960's, while displaced LMR 40's began
to take up a stronghold on North Wales Coast passenger services.
The 40's also became favoured power for heavier freights in the
Midlands, North West, North East and Scotland, where they could
slog away on more generous timings. With their reduced passenger
duties, many of the fleet had their train heat steam generators
isolated, although secondary Scottish passenger work kept
Haymarket-based locos busy until 1980.
The infamous D326 (40126)
This was probably the most famed diesel loco,
but for all the wrong reasons. On Boxing Day 1962 it was hauling
the up Midday Scot when it collided with the rear of a Liverpool
to Birmingham express due to driver error, killing 18 passengers
and injuring 33. On 8th August 1963 it was hauling the overnight
West Coast Postal and became involved with the 'Great Train
Robbery'. In 1964 a secondman was electrocuted by the overhead
wire while working outside the loco. Finally, in 1965 the loco
suffered total brake failure on the approach to Birmingham New
Street. Luckily in this case, the train was diverted into another
platform at the last minute by a quick-thinking signalman, and
smashed into the back of a freight train, injuring only the guard.
Royal Train duties
Class 40's became the preferred locos for use
with the Royal Train from the late 1960's until 1977, when the
train was replaced with an air conditioned set requiring electric
train heating. A pair of pristine locos was usually provided from
a limited 'pool' including some of the named examples. One of the
most notable duties was taking the Royal Family to North Wales,
for the Prince of Wales' investiture at Caernarfon on 1st July
1969. Class 40's nos. 216 'CAMPANIA' and 233 'EMPRESS OF ENGLAND'
were used, double-heading the train from Euston.
The beginning of the end
As the 1970's drew to an end, the recession
hit BR freight traffic hard. Continuing delivery of new Type 5
Class 56's and 58's enabled other motive power to be 'cascaded',
so the Class 40's found less and less work. The first planned
withdrawals had started in 1976, with several 'life expired' locos
scrapped as they became due for classified works overhaul, along
with some accident-damaged examples. Poor availability of other
loco types thankfully kept withdrawals to a minimum, and works
overhauls soon recommenced..
While 40084 awaits its fate, two cabs side by
side and a few scattered items are all that remain of the
Crewe Works, 15/4/84
|In 1980 a fleet
run-down program was announced, along with the planned scrapping
of many older locos of other types. First on 'The List' were those
locos with high engine hours and vacuum-only train brakes,
preventing them from hauling more modern air-braked freight wagons
and passenger coaches. The next withdrawals sent shock waves
through enthusiast circles. As major component failures occurred,
locos were often withdrawn out of sequence due to the cost of
repairs, regardless of their last overhaul date. Others were
simply switched off, deemed 'life expired', despite being in
perfectly serviceable condition.
Scrap lines at Crewe Works, 15/4/84
40008, 40006 and 40138 await their doom
'List' became less significant - the writing was on the wall for
the whole class. While this realisation began to dawn on people,
the embryonic CFPS was already recruiting members in a bid to save
at least one machine from being scrapped.
withdrawals, the Class were never far from passenger work,
constantly deputising for non-available rostered locos of other
types. By the early 1980's, very few passenger trains were still
booked for Class 40 haulage, but they still maintained their
annual stranglehold on summer holiday trains to various locations,
and other relief workings and excursions.
and freight work still provided Class 40 enthusiasts with an
enormous variety of train destinations and places to view 40's in
action. Records for a typical Saturday in August 1982 show
nineteen Class 40's on passenger trains to or from such places as
Manchester, Leeds, Llandudno, Skegness, York, Scarborough, Bangor,
Holyhead, Blackpool and Newcastle.
Eastern Region Class 40's
were gradually reallocated to the London Midland Region in the
early 80's. With less passenger and freight work in Scotland, and
to concentrate the dwindling class numbers, all remaining Scottish
Region machines were also reallocated to the LMR by October 1981.
The Whistlers (nicknamed from their
distinctive exhaust and turbo charger sound) gained a fanatical
following during the late 1970's and early 1980's. The following
grew, ironically, with more and more locos being withdrawn, as
enthusiasts tried to savour every chance to photograph or ride
was an all-year-round past-time, the summer months saw greater
enthusiasm as rare, non-boilered locos were used on passenger
turns, where their lack of train heating did not matter. Crowds of
'bashers' descended on locations such as Manchester, Preston,
Leeds and Sheffield every summer Saturday to meet up, 'get the gen'
on which 40's were going where on what passenger trains, and then
head off in pursuit. As with some other loco classes, the
following that formed was a community of friends from all over
mainland UK, all with a common interest. Information about rare
and last-minute workings was spread on the grapevine as quickly as
possible; but these were the days before e-mail, mobile phones and
D200 withdrawn and reinstated
loco, 40122 (ex D200), was withdrawn in August 1981. At the
time, everyone hoped and assumed it would be claimed by the
National Railway Museum. Unfortunately the withdrawal coincided
with a change in policy at the NRM, which stated no interest in
saving the machine. This was understood to be principally
because the chance to save one of the prototype Derby twins or
Southern trio had been lost long ago. The CFPS itself was
criticised for not attempting to buy the loco, however the
mechanical condition deteriorated rapidly while dumped at
Carlisle, which meant that a rescue bid would have been too
expensive, even if the loco had made it onto the tender list.
A campaign was started
by staff at RAIL Enthusiast magazine - a crucial initial success
was to prevent the loco from being dragged to the Swindon
scraplines. Its partner on the Carlisle scraplines, 40062, was
not so lucky. A concerted effort was then made by the magazine
staff, involving handing a set of documents to BR chairman Sir
Peter Parker during a non-related public engagement. The
reprieve was eventually granted, and D200 was reinstated to
traffic. This also allowed the ageing favourite 40106 to be
withdrawn, nearly five years after its last works overhaul and
having only vacuum train brakes. To keep costs to a minimum, the
restoration work on D200 was carried out as an apprentice
training programme at Toton TMD, using withdrawn 40076 as the
'donor' loco for its power unit and bogies.
She re-entered traffic
in April 1983, painted in original Dark Brunswick green livery
with full yellow ends, numbered both D200 and 40122. Her
condition was excellent, a tribute to the enthusiasm, care and
hard work done by everyone at Toton.
After her restoration
and return to service, D200 was assigned to special duties such
as enthusiast railtour trains. The locomotive was also used for
general freight and passenger traffic in the Carlisle area. A
regular turn was the daily out-and-back Carlisle to Leeds
passenger train. This helped bring much needed income and
publicity to the famous Settle and Carlisle route at the time
when it was scheduled for closure.
|The End of an
enthusiasts frantically following every last move, the few
surviving 'main fleet' of Whistlers were withdrawn en-masse in
January 1985. D200 was the last Class 40 left in service, and was
withdrawn finally in April 1988, almost 30 years to the day after
first entering service. Fortunately by that time the NRM had
changed their views, and D200 took her rightful place in the
National Collection, to be preserved for future generations.
Pictured is the handing
over ceremony for D200 at the National Railway Museum on 16th
April 1988, shortly after the arrival of the final railtour. In
front of the loco are representatives of British Rail Intercity
and the NRM, with the driver and secondman from the final stage of
Four Class 40's
were reinstated during April and May 1985 to help with freight
workings for the Crewe station remodelling. 40012, 40060, 40118
and 40135 were 'patched up' and re-entered departmental service
with restricted working. This was more successful than expected,
and despite the general lack of maintenance and attention, the
locos continued in service after the work at Crewe, hauling local
ballast and freight trains, and even assisting the odd passenger
train failure. The final Class 40 in departmental service was
97405 (ex 40060), withdrawn in March 1987.
The dawn of a new era
Thankfully, the Class 40 preservation story
was well underway before the end of their main line career.
"Class 40s At Work" by John Vaughan
"Modern Railways Pictorial Profile 9: Class 40s" by
"The Allocation History of B.R. Diesels and Electrics"
by Roger Harris.
"Class 40s at Work" by John Vaughan,
pub. 1983 by Ian Allan is the best all-round tribute to the Class,
with excellent text and photographic content.
Also recommended are
"Rail Portfolios 1 - The 40s" by Murray Brown, pub. 1984
by Jane's, "Power of the 40s" and "Profile of the
40s" by J.S. Whiteley/G.W. Morrison, pub. by OPC. All three
are excellent photographic records
© Class 40 Preservation