Construction of the Class 50 locomotive fleet, which was built by the English Electric Company and originally leased to British Rail, took place at the Vulcan Foundry at Newton le Willows between February 1966 and October 1967. These locomotives were employed by BR on the West Coast Main Line to haul trains north from Crewe to Glasgow and Edinburgh where frequent double heading made the most of their 100mph capability to improve journey times. Originally classified as English Electric Type 4s, the completed locomotives were given the running numbers of D400 to D449 but during the late 1960s the “D” prefix was dropped by BR following the end of steam.
After the completion of electrification in 1972, the Class 50 locomotives were gradually transferred to the Western Region for use on the Paddington (London) to Bristol and the South West routes. During this time all fifty locomotives were purchased from the English Electric Company by British Railways. During the mid 1970s BR renumbered the locomotives into the TOPS series. Locomotives 401 to 449 became 50 001 to 50 049, with number 400 becoming 50 050. The Western Regions policy of naming locomotives after Royal Navy warships resulted in all members of the Class taking the names of Second World War naval vessels. The first to be named was 50 035 which was given the name “Ark Royal” on the 10 January 1978.
After the introduction of the High Speed Trains (HST) on to the main lines from Paddington in 1977, the locomotives were transferred to the Southern Region Waterloo to Exeter route as well as routes taking them to Birmingham from Paddington and Bristol. A major refurbishment of the Class was undertaken in the early 1980s. Part of the refurbishment was to simplify the complex electronics, plus the removal of many redundant features which were part of the control system. This refurbishment also resulted in the change of the air intake fan arrangement which had produced the classic Class 50 sound that had led to the locomotives gaining the nickname, “Hoovers”!
After refurbishment the locomotives returned to the Western Region where from February 1987 they were gradually withdrawn. By March 1994 they had all been “retired” with 50 007 and 50 050 being the final two. Since then several of the Class have been preserved. BR Type 4 number D424, later Class 50 024, “Vanguard” first entered traffic in May 1968 and was named some ten years later in May 1978. In the late 1980s the locomotive was reliveried in BR blue with yellow cabs plus black roof and with the large white arrows added to each side. After withdrawal “Vanguard” was cut up at Old Oak Common by Coopers Metals in September 1991.
Suitable rolling stock: General rolling stock of the period.
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