Class 47s’ Second Lives

The Class 47s have been displaced from front-line duties but still remain active on the main line on a surprising variety of alternative roles, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES explains.

The history of the Class 47 can be traced back as far as 1955, when British Railways (BR) announced its intention to modernise and, in the process, rid itself of steam traction. A pilot scheme was launched which led to a number of different diesel classes being built for evaluation. Amongst these were a number in the 2,000hp range intended for heavier work, such as express passenger or heavy freight. These appeared as huge and heavy 16-wheel machines from builders such as English Electric and Derby Works, with these later becoming Class 40 and 44-46.

These were considered sub-optimal, mainly because of their weight caused by being built of heavy frames with a body structure mounted on the top. In the meantime, locomotives were being built by private contractors which used lighter integral construction providing the same power output on two six-wheel bogies.

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