The Forties 1958 – 2008. Part One
Introduced in 1958, the English Electric Type 4s, with their distinctive whistling sound, captured the hearts and imagination of railway staff and enthusiasts over the years and became one of the most popular diesel locomotives built for British Railways. Paul Hill takes a look back at these incredible machines in action over the last 50 years.
March 2008, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the EE Type 4s/Class 40s and to mark the occasion we take a look back over the last half-century at these locomotives on a variety of duties from top link passenger work, to the humble pick-up freights, summer holiday trains to the heavy freights and weekend departmental work, a sight all to familiar for the class in the later years.
Prototypes D200 – D209
The Class 40 story started back in 1955, when British Railways were ordering various prototype locomotives from UK manufactures to evaluate for possible mainline use. Five classification types were drawn up based on engine horsepower (type 1 – 5) with the class 40s falling into the Type 4 category.
British Railways ordered ten of these locomotives from English Electric in 1955, as part of the prototype evaluation program. Three years later in March 1958, the first locomotive D200 emerged from the English Electric Vulcan Foundry works at Newton-Le-Willows. After acceptance trials at Doncaster Works D200 moved to her new home depot at Norwich shed (32A).
On April 18, 1958, an immaculate D200 made its first public appearance when she worked a press demonstration train from London Liverpool Street station to Norwich complete with headboard proclaiming the ‘first 2000 hp Diesel London-Norwich – Progress by Great Eastern’.
Between March and September 1958, the other nine locomotives were delivered to British Railways and divided between two London depots. D201 – D205 were all allocated to Stratford (30A) and employed on the Great Eastern Region together with D200 working services between London Liverpool Street to Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich. Meanwhile, D206 – D209 were allocated to Hornsey (34B) on the Great Northern Region and worked out of London Kings Cross on Sheffield, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh services.
Before the full evaluation of the first ten locomotives had taken place, British Railways abandoned the prototype scheme and placed an order with English Electric for a further 190 locomotives, ending in September 1962 with the appearance of D399 which was the 200th English Electric Type 4 locomotive to be built by English Electric for British Railways. They were all built at Vulcan Foundry, with exception to 20 locomotives, numbers D305 – D324, which were all constructed at Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns workshops in Darlington, while the 22 strong Deltic fleet was built at Vulcan Foundry.
The first production loco D210, was delivered to BR in May 1959 and allocated to Willesden (1A) on the London Midland Region for upgrading services on the West Coast Main Line. Others followed and were allocated to Crewe North, Longsight and Carlisle Upperby. The Eastern Region started to receive its allocation from October 1959 when D237 was allocated to Gateshead. Haymarket sampled its first taste of English Electric type 4 motive power in February 1960 when D260 was allocated to the depot. With the introduction of the ‘Deltics’ on the Eastern Region in 1961 the EE type 4’s were soon displaced off top link passenger work and by 1965 the more powerful Brush Sulzer Type 4s (class 47s) had took over the majority of East Anglia passenger working out of London Liverpool Street and, by 1967, the EE Type 4s had all been transferred to the London Midland Region.
The 200 strong fleet took four years to build and entered service with significant front end design differences. The first 125 locomotives, numbers D200 – D324 were all constructed with white marker disc headcodes but British Railways later adapted a new policy of train headcodes displaying four character train reporting number. D325 – D344 were built with split headcode boxes displaying two characters either side of the gangway doors. Another policy change meant locomotives were no longer built with gangway doors. As a result, the final batch, Nos. D345 – D399, were all constructed with four character centre headcode panels and without gangway doors, creating a much neater appearance to the front end design. Later, seven of the original Scottish based locomotives Nos. D260 – D266 were all modified to centre headcode design. Other modifications and experiments were carried out on individual class members, over the years and one of the most noticeable examples was D255, which was fitted with Electric Train Heating equipment (ETH) in addition to the standard steam heat generator. However, after various trials, the equipment was removed and the locomotive returned to a normal steam heat example. Another loco easy recognizable from a distance was 40069 due to its unique cut-away lower bodyside.
Names, Livery and Numbers
Being such a large class, it was incredible that only a small number of these locomotives received names. Between April 1960 and March 1963, 25 of the London Midland Region fleet, Nos. D210 – D225 and D226 – D235 were all named after ocean liners belonging to Cunard, Elder Dempster Lines and Canadian Pacific all associated with the port of Liverpool. Only the first three D210, D211 and D212 received naming ceremonies in 1960, while the other members received their names during works visits. Mystery has always surrounded D226 which was officially allocated the name ‘Media’ but the plate was never carried by the locomotive. During the early 1970s the nameplates started to disappear off these locos, which was a shame as the 40’s carried one of the best designed name plates ever fitted to any British Rail diesel locomotive.
The English Electric type 4s emerged from Vulcan Foundry in all-over British Rail standard green livery with a light grey roof and a thin grey band just below the bodyside roof line plus red buffer beams. Initially the class saw very little change to the overhaul appearance apart from the introduction of a half-yellow warning panels to the nose ends. These helped improve visibility for permanent way gangs working on the track and made approaching trains more visible from a distance. The final batch of locomotives were delivered to British Rail with half yellow warning panels already applied, while the rest were painted at depots or during works visits. Later full yellow ends were applied to all locomotives making them even easier to see. From 1966 onwards, British Rail adopted the new ‘Corporate’ blue image with full yellow ends. When locomotives received works attention, they would re-emerge in the new livery with exception to one locomotive, 40106. This was the last member of the class still to retain its original green livery and, when she was called into Crewe works for a general overhaul during early 1978, everyone thought that was the end of the green 40s. However, in a surprise move, the locomotive emerged from Crewe Works in the autumn of that year repainted in green livery with full yellow ends and numbered 40106 on all four cab sides.
The first ten locomotives entered service in 1958 numbered D200 – D209 and were followed later by the production series, which carried on the same numbering sequence from D210 to D399. With the demise of steam in 1968, the ‘D’ prefix on all diesels was discontinued. In 1973 BR introduced the new TOPS computer system and the English Electric Type 4s became known as Class 40s. Renumbering saw 201 – 321 became 40001 – 40121 and 323 – 399 become 40123 – 40199, with 200 taking up the number 40122 (vacant because D322 was scrapped after a serious accident at Acton Grange Junction while working the 20:40 Euston-Stranraer on May 13 1966).
In the early 1980s, some of the original named 40s regained their names after enthusiastic depot staff stenciled the names back on the bodysides using white paint. A later version saw the names neatly hand painted, again using white letters, this time on a red background in the position where the original name plates were once fitted. There was also a brief period of locos being unofficially named but this was short lived and the names were soon removed.
Over the years, the EE Type 4s have operated on the London Midland, Eastern, Scottish, Great Eastern and Great Northern Regions with great success. Once they had settled down and the initial faults had been ironed out and the locomotive crews and fitters come to understand them, the locos produced some sterling service for British Rail over the years. Even before the last locos were being built, more powerful locomotives were arriving on the scene. After entering service, the class was soon put to work on top link passenger duties operating over the Eastern, London Midland and Scottish regions but with the introduction of the ‘Deltics’ on the East Coast Main Line and the Brush Type 4s on the Great Eastern, the EE Type 4s soon found themselves delegated to secondary passenger duties. The story was very different on the London Midland Region where the class remained on top link passenger duties until the mid-1960s when electrification was introduced south of Crewe. In 1967 the complete electrification of the Euston-Manchester and Liverpool service started and more powerful 2700 hp EE Type 4s (later class 50s) were introduced and took over service north of Crewe to Glasgow.
The 40s eventually settled down to secondary passenger duties, summer holiday trains, parcel traffic and heavy freight trains together with weekend engineering trains and could be found working over a vast area from the Midlands to Inverness, Holyhead across to Scarborough and the Severn Tunnel Junction to Carlisle. In fact, the only region not familiar with the class was the Southern Region and parts of the Western Region such as Devon and Cornwall. However, in later years, the Class ventured onto the Southern and Western region on enthusiasts specials. North Wales was one of the last regular haunts for the class, a route associated with them from the early 1960s. By the early 1980s, only a hand full of the class could be found hauling summer holiday train to places such as Skegness, Blackpool, Bangor, York, Llandudno, Leeds, Manchester, Scarborough, Holyhead, Newcastle and Crewe. By then the majority of the Class were kept busy hauling heavy freight train around the country during the week. At weekends they found work on engineering trains, together with the occasional ‘dragging’ of electric motive power when the overhead live wires were switched off for vital engineering work to be carried out.
The Royal Train
The Class has always been associated with the Royal Train from the early 1960s until the late 1970s when the stock was replaced with air-conditioned electric train heating stock which the Class 40s were unable to work. Crewe depot would usually provide the motive power for Royal duties and always turn out two immaculate looking 40s for the train, which included the named examples on numerous occasions.
Probably the best known member of the Class was D326 (40126), but unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons. On Boxing Day 1962, while hauling the ‘Midday Scot’ from Glasgow to Euston, she ran into the rear of 16:45 Liverpool-Birmingham train. Some 18 passengers were killed and 33 seriously injured. On the night of August 7/8, 1963, she worked 1M44 1850 Aberdeen/Glasgow-Euston mail and became involved in the ‘Great Train Robbery’. Twelve months later she was in the news again when a secondman on the loco came in contact with the overhead wires and was electrocuted. Finally in August 1965, while approaching Birmingham New Street, the loco suffered a total brake failure. Quick reactions by signal staff diverted the loco into another platform, where she ran into the back of a goods train, injuring the guard but avoiding a serious accident.
Decline of the class
Overweight, underpowered, cold, draughty and uncomfortable by today’s standards, was reason enough to get rid of them. In addition to this they were now starting to fail with serious problems, such as main generator and traction motor flashovers, bogie fractures and power unit failures. Prior to the start of 1976, only one members of the Class, No. D322, had been withdrawn from active service after suffering serious collision damage.
January 1976 saw the first planned withdrawals of the class when 40005/40039, still in its original green livery, and 40102 (all allocated to Healey Mills) were condemned. The reason given at the time was they were life-expired. Others were just switched off when due works overhaul instead of spending money on them. Any involved in accidents or in general poor condition were automatically scrapped. Remarkably only 12 members of the Class had been withdrawn by the end of 1976.
Towards the end of the 1970s, BR found themselves suffering from a general recession which hit their freight and parcel business hard. As the 40s found less and less work, their future looked bleak. However, with prediction of a total withdrawal of the class by January 1985. However, poor availability of other classes at the time helped keep withdrawals down to a minimum and in some cases locos were being put back through the work for major overhauls again. By the end of the 1970s there were still 183 locos in traffic.
As we moved into the 1980s, the Class was still giving a good account of themselves and could be found more or less any where in the country working on passenger, parcels, newspapers and a Varity of freight movements from local trip workings to heavy freightliner traffic plus weekend engineering duties.
However, for some members of the fleet, the summer of 1980 was to be their last, with BR announcing a program which would affect many of the first generation diesels. At the time, there was a large percentage of vacuum-only locos still in traffic, unable to haul the modern air brake freight and passenger stock, and which were prime candidates for early withdrawal. Towards the end of 1980, a further 20 members of the class were taken out of traffic and the remaining Eastern region 40s were all transferred to the Midland Region. 1981 witnessed even more changes with the announcement that Haymarket depot was to lose its allocation of class 40s after 21 years of being associated with the Class. The remaining ex-Scottish members of the class were all transferred away to the Midland Region, but this still did not stop the Class still venturing north of the border. The year also witnessed the largest number of withdrawals to date, with a staggering 40 members of the class being condemned including pioneer 40122 (ex D200) at Carlisle Kingmoor depot.
During the early part of 1982, Gateshead depot nominated 40057 and 40084 for special duties, and gave both locos a complete repaint prior to them taking on these duties. Withdrawals of the class continued at a steady pace and, by the end of the year, the Class was down to less than half the original build.
One of the highlights of 1983 was the reinstatement of D200/40122 back into traffic. D200 was repainted in original green livery with full yellow ends and was a tribute to all the hard work and effort put in by Toton staff. Allocated to Carlisle Kingmoor, the loco soon took up its new roll as a ‘celebrity’ loco working special charters and enthusiast rail tours. She was also classed as a general user loco and could be found on freight and passenger duties such as the daily out-and-back Carlisle-Leeds service. D200 was also seen as a direct replacement for the ageing vacuum-only 40106 which was withdrawn in April after twenty two and half years of loyal service with BR.
At the start of 1984 almost three quarters of the class had been withdrawn and were to be found lingering around at depots and works waiting their final fate. However, what was remarkable was vacuum only 40009,one of the original ten prototype locos was still in traffic some 26 years service. The loco was finally withdrawn in November 1984 and holds a place in history as the last vacuum only class 40 in traffic.
The year 1984 also saw the Class still associated with the Carlisle-Leeds service, summer Saturday Manchester to Skegness holiday trains and occasional appearances north of the border. Complete with headboard, and a train packed with enthusiasts, 40181 had the honors of hauling the last Skegness- Manchester service into Piccadilly on September 15.
The last few remaining 40s were in heavy demand on tours and special charters, taking the class from one end of the country to the other, but like all good things, they came to an end.
By now an official date of January 1985 had been earmarked for withdrawal of the Class with exception to D200/40122 and two other locos, namely 40012 and 40118, which would be retained to honour rail tours and charter commitments.
At the time I remember thinking, ‘surely they are not going to just switch all these locos off when there is nothing wrong with them?’ But that was exactly what did happen. The locos were all just switched off and, in some cases, within days were taken to Crewe or Doncaster works for cutting up.
40060 gained special dispensation to work around Carlisle yard hauling electric freights destined for electric locos for a short time and did even end up working the northbound ‘Clansman’ one day. 40012 soldiered on to February 8, while 40118 was withdrawn on February 13, leaving just D200 to carry on.
Just when most of us thought the 40’s had finished, four of them were temporary reinstated back into traffic for departmental use associated with Crewe Station re-modeling program, which was schedule to run for a period of six weeks. Renumbered Class 97s and restricted to a maximum speed of 35 mph, the locos in question were 97405 (40060), 97406 (40135), 97407 (40012), and 97408 (40118).
After Crewe Station re-opened, the four 40s continued in departmental service working ballast, freight and the occasional parcels train until finally being withdrawn between April 1986 and March 1987.
Eventually, three out of the four departmental locos were offered up for sale to preservationists, but sadly, 40060, unofficial named ‘Ancient Mariner’ never made it and were cut up at Vic Berry’s during March 1988.
End of the line
D200 successfully soldiered on for another three years with enthusiasts following the locos every move, which took her to all parts of the country on Railtours and special charter work. Even the die-hard steam enthusiasts respected D200, as she was seen as something special.
At the start of 1988, BR announced the final countdown of D200 with a withdrawal date set for April that year, almost 30 years to the day since she entered service. This sent a shiver down every ones spine as they new it was only a matter of months till the end. Rail tour operators were kept busy and the loco put in some sterling performances during the last few months of traffic.
D200’s ‘Farewell’ tour started at Liverpool Street station and travel over the same route to Norwich as she had done thirty years earlier, then onto York, where the loco was to be officially handed over to the National Railway Museum as part of the National Collection.