Continuing the rail-related theme here on AROnline, I get the impression that both Editor Keith Adams and Mike Humble are big HST/InterCity 125 fans – perhaps they had the Hornby model as kids? However, I think the Brush Type 4 or Class 47 is a more remarkable locomotive. Introduced in 1962, some 30 are still in service in 2015, an amazing 53 years later. The HST has only put in a mere 39 years service!
Probably everybody reading this has seen a Class 47, but didn’t know what they were looking at. The Class 47 was a workhorse that lacked the glamour of the steam locomotives they replaced and the high speed cache of the later HST, Eurostars and Pendolinos. They were everywhere on Britain’s railway network.
The Brush Type 4 was a second-generation diesel electric locomotive. The early designs like the English Electric Class 40 and the Sulzer Class 44/45/46 were 133-ton behemoths. The Class 47 were lighter and fitted with the Sulzer 12LDA28-C twin-bank twelve-cylinder unit producing 2750hp. A total of 512 Class 47s were built at Crewe Works and Brush’s Falcon Works, Loughborough between 1962 and 1968, which made them the most numerous class of British main line diesel locomotive.
With their 95mph maximum speed, they were soon chosen as British Rail’s standard Type 4 diesel locomotive. They were the anodyne, bland diesels so detested by diehard steam enthusiasts. Most of them were just numbers, but some eventually received names, some more than one. 47337 was named Herbert Austin on 24 April 1986 by Austin Rover boss Harold Musgrove, the name later being transferred to 47209. Serious withdrawals of the class did not begin until the 1990s as age took its toll, but it is still in service, just.
But what about some pictures? The locomotives first appeared in green, so here is an image of D1670 ‘Mammoth’ (above). This loco might be familiar to some as it was the subject of a 1970s/’80s Hornby model. The same locomotive now 47085, is seen in Rail Blue at Ipswich in 1980.
Finally, two more images: D1720 (top), seen here in green was delivered to traffic in March 1964. Here it is as 47813 at Norwich station in May 2015, a full 51 years later. So let’s hear it for the Class 47, the greatest piece of British engineering you have never heard of.