To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of The Severn Valley Railway and the 50th year of the class 50 Diesel locomotive there is a Class 50 Diesel Golden Jubilee event from October 4th to 6th at the Severn Valley Railway in conjunction with The Class 50 Alliance.
The British Rail Class 50 was a class of 50 diesel locomotives designed to haul express passenger trains at 100mph. Built by English Electric at the Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows between 1967 and 1968, the Class 50’s were initially on a 10-year lease from English Electric Leasing, and were employed hauling express passenger trains on the, then non-electrified, section of the West Coast Main Line between Crewe and Scotland. Initially numbered D400 – D449 and known as English Electric Type 4s, the locomotives were purchased outright by British Rail (BR) at the end of the lease and became Class 50 in the TOPS renumbering of 1973. The class were nicknamed “Hoovers” by rail enthusiasts because of the distinctive sound made by the dynamic braking resistor cooling fan arrangement (removed at refurbishment). Once the electrification from Crewe to Glasgow was completed the locomotives were moved to the South West of England to allow the retirement of the remaining diesel-hydraulic locomotives then in use. As these trains steadily moved to High Speed Train operation from 1976, the Class 50s moved to hauling trains between London Waterloo and Exeter St Davids, and also trains from London Paddington to Hereford and Worcester via Oxford. The class was steadily retired from service in the late 1980s and early 1990s as their services moved to operation by second-generation DMUs.
The Class 50 was created after the British Transport Commission (BTC) requested a design for a Diesel locomotive with a gross power output of at least 2500hp. In order to produce a prototype quickly, English Electric based their design on that for their Deltic locomotives which were then in production. Other parts related to another current design, the Class 37s were also used. The result was DP2, a 2700hp Diesel-electric locomotive weighing 107 tons and with a top speed of 100mph. The prototype was delivered to British Rail in May 1962
The prototype was deemed successful and negotiations took place with English Electric for a production batch of 50 locomotives for use on the Eastern Region English Electric intended to build the new batch as similar to DP2 as possible but the British Railways Board (successor to the BTC) had produced a standard locomotive cab with a flat front and headcode box and also had specific requirements relating to the engine room and other equipment. English Electric produced several alternative front-end designs including one with a wrap-around windscreen but the standard front-end design was eventually adopted for the class.
The complete production run of 50 locomotives was built in just over a year and numbered from D400 to D449. D400 entered service in October 1967 and deliveries were completed with D449 in November 1968 Unusually, the ownership of the locomotives remained with the manufacturer and they were operated by British Rail on a 10-year lease which included certain stipulations relating to availability The D prefix was quickly dropped as for all diesel locos after steam had disappeared in 1968. The locos ran as 400 to 449 from 1969 to 1974. In 1984, 50007 Hercules was repainted into lined Brunswick green livery and renamed Sir Edward Elgar, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Great Western Railway (GWR).
From 1987, the class was used on freight trains. So 50049 “Defiance” was renumbered to 50149, equipped with modified Class 37, lower-geared bogies and outshopped in the new trainload grey livery with Railfreight General decals. During the 1990s, the reliability of the fleet became a problem again so the fleet was retired and, temporarily replaced with Class 47/7 locomotives,then by new Diesel Multiple Units. By 1992, just eight locomotives remained in servic Nos:50007/50008/50015/50029/50030/50033/50046/ 50050. Several of these locomotives were specially repainted to commemorate the run-down of the fleet. The first-built locomotive, 50050 Fearless was renumbered D400 and painted in its original BR Blue livery. Two other locomotives, 50008 Thunderer and 50015 Valiant were also repainted, the former in a variation of BR Blue. Of the final eight locomotives, three were retained until 1994 for use on special railtours, these being 50007 Sir Edward Elgar, 50033 Glorious and 50050 Fearless. 50007 was returned to working order. 50050 was repainted into Large Logo livery and 50007 was repainted into GWR green.
Locomotives attending the event include class 50 50007 Hercules, Garcia Hanson’s 50008 Thunderer, 50011 Centurion, 50035 Ark Royal, 50031 Hood, 50044 Exeter, 50015 Valiant, Neil Boden’s 50017 Royal Oak and Paul Spracklen’s 50026 Indomitable , 50049 Defiance and 50050 (D400) Fearless.