The Class 31 diesel electric locomotive was developed as a result of the British Transport Commission’s 1955 Modernisation Plan, which proposed replacing all steam locomotives with diesel, powered units over a 10 year period. Locomotive manufacturers were invited to produce pilot designs, which could trialed with the hope that this would lead to fleet size orders.
Designed and built by the Loughborough based Brush Traction, the early examples were delivered to London’s Stratford depot for use on the former Great Eastern lines with the prototype D5500, the first of a batch of twenty being delivered in October 1957. The whole of the pilot batch of Class 31s entered traffic during the years of 1957 to 1959 with the vast majority going to the East Anglian Sheds.
The British Transport Commission were so impressed that orders were placed allowing for the Class to go into full production with orders amounting for a total of 263 with the full production being completed by 1962. The Class 31 locomotives were fitted with a standard electro-pneumatic control associated with the Blue Star multiple working system. Between 1965 and 1969 the entire Class was re-engined with English Electric power units, which was after serious problems were experienced with the original Mirrlees power units. The first of the Class to be re-engined was D5677, a locomotive that was later re-numbered under the TOPS classification system as 31249, with the last locomotive receiving a new engine being D5500, which is now part of the National Collection.
As the Class numbers grew so their field of operation increased and they soon could found working on the majority of the BR network heading up both passenger and freight trains.
Between the years of 1973 and 1985, sixty eight of the Class were fitted with electric train heating and all ‘31s’ that were still in traffic in 1988 were fitted with dual train brakes, both air and vacuum. From 1983 a life extension programme was undertaken involving the removal of the body side bands and skirts together with redundant steam heating equipment. Any of the Class that was not included in this programme of changes was listed for early withdrawal, however the last of these designated locomotives continued in service until 1994.
D5809, later to be renumbered as 31452 on the 10 October 1984 from being 31279, first went to traffic on the 27 July 1961. Currently, at the time of writing locomotive No. 31452 is part of the Hanson Traction group of locomotives and is allocated to Marcroft Engineering Stoke Depot.
Suitable rolling stock: General freight stock of the period.
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