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British Rail Class 40

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British Rail Class 40

English Electric Type 4
British Rail Class 40
40145 on a charter train at Carlisle, 27 August 2004
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder English Electric at Vulcan Foundry and Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns
Build date 1958–1962
Total produced 200
Configuration 1Co-Co1
UIC classification (1Co)'(Co1)'
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Wheel diameter Driving: 3 ft 9 in (1.143 m)
Idling: 3 ft 0 in (0.914 m)
Minimum curve 4.5 chains (91 m)
Wheelbase 61 ft 3 in (18.67 m)
Length 69 ft 6 in (21.18 m)
Width 9 ft 0 in (2.74 m)
Height 12 ft 10 in (3.91 m)
Locomotive weight 133 long tons (135 t; 149 short tons)
Fuel capacity 710 imp gal (3,200 l; 850 US gal)
Prime mover English Electric 16SVT MkII
Generator DC generator
Traction motors DC traction motors
Transmission Diesel-electric transmission
Multiple working Blue Star
Performance figures
Maximum speed 90 mph (140 km/h)
Power output Engine: 2,000 bhp (1,490 kW)
At rail: 1,550 hp (1,160 kW)
Tractive effort Maximum: 52,000 lbf (231 kN)
Train heating Steam
51 long tons-force (508 kN)
Train brakes Vacuum; later Dual (Air & Vacuum)
Operator(s) British Railways
Number(s) D200–D399, later 40 001–40 199
Nicknames Whistler
Axle load class Route availability 6
Withdrawn 1976-1985
Disposition seven preserved, remainder scrapped

The British Rail Class 40 is a type of British railway diesel locomotive. Built by English Electric between 1958 and 1962, and eventually numbering 200, they were for a time the pride of the British Rail early diesel fleet. Despite their initial success, by the time the last examples were entering service they were already being replaced on some top-link duties by more powerful locomotives. As they were slowly relegated from express passenger uses, the type found work on secondary passenger and freight services where they worked for many years, the final locomotives being retired from regular service in 1985.


  • Origins 1
  • Prototypes 2
  • Production 3
  • The named 40s 4
  • BR service 5
    • Decline 5.1
    • Further use 5.2
  • Accidents and incidents 6
  • D326 7
  • Gallery 8
  • Preservation 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12
    • Locomotive details 12.1
    • Preservation groups 12.2


The origins of the Class 40 fleet lay in the prototype diesel locomotives (Types D16/1 ordered by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and British Railways and D16/2 ordered by British Railways between 1947 and 1954) and most notably with the Southern Region locomotive No. 10203, which was powered by English Electric's 16SVT MkII engine developing 2,000 bhp (1,460 kW).[1] The bogie design and power train of 10203 was used almost unchanged on the first ten production Class 40s.


British Railways originally ordered ten Class 40s, then known as "English Electric Type 4s", as evaluation prototypes. They were built at the Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire.[2] The first locomotive, D200, was delivered to Stratford on 14 March 1958. Following fitter and crew training, D200 made its passenger début on an express train from London Liverpool Street to Norwich on 18 April 1958.[1] Five of the prototypes, Nos. D200, D202-D205, were trialled on similar services on the former Great Eastern routes, whilst the remaining five, Nos. D201, D206-D209, worked on Great Northern services on the East Coast Main Line.

Sir Brian Robertson, chairman of the British Transport Commission, was less than impressed, believing that the locomotives lacked the power to maintain heavy trains at high speed and were too expensive to run in multiple – opinions that were later proved to be correct. Airing his views at the regional boards prompted others to break cover and it was agreed that later orders would be uprated to 2500 hp (a change that was never applied). Direct comparisons on the Great Eastern Main Line showed they offered little advantage over the "Britannia" class steam locomotives, when driven well, and the Eastern Region declined to accept further machines as they deemed them unsuitable to replace the Pacific steam locomotives on the East Coast Main Line[3] preferring to hold on until the "Deltic" Class 55 diesels were delivered.

The London Midland Region was only too pleased as the Eastern Region's decision released additional locomotives to replace their ageing steam fleet, Class 40s managing Camden bank, just north of Euston, with apparent ease. The West Coast Main Line had been starved of investment for many years and the poor track and general lower speeds (when compared to the East Coast route) suited Class 40 as the need to hold trains at speed for long periods simply did not exist and it better exploited their fairly rapid acceleration.


Following the mixed success of the prototypes, another 190 locomotives were ordered by British Railways, and were numbered from D210 to D399. All were built at Vulcan Foundry, except a batch of twenty (Nos. D305–D324) which were built at Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns factory in Darlington. All the locomotives were painted in the British Railways diesel green livery, and the final locomotive, D399, was delivered in September 1962.[4]

Batches of the class were built with significant design differences, due to changes in railway working practices. The first 125 locomotives, Nos. D200–D324, were built with steam-age 'disc' headcode markers, which BR used to identify services. Later, it was decided that locomotives should display the four character train reporting number (or headcode) of the service they were hauling, and Nos. D325–D344 were built with 'split' headcode boxes, which displayed two characters either side of the locomotive's central gangway doors. Another policy decision led to the discontinuing of the gangway doors (which enabled train crew to move between two or three locomotives in multiple). The remaining locomotives, Nos. D345–D399, carried a central four-character headcode box. In 1965, seven of the first batch of locomotives, Nos. D260–D266, which were based in Scotland, were converted to the central headcode design.[5][6]

From 1973, locomotives were renumbered to suit the TOPS computer operating system, and became known as 'Class 40'. Locomotives D201 to D399 were renumbered in sequence into the range 40 001 to 40 199. The first built locomotive, D200, was renumbered 40 122, which was vacant due to the scrapping of D322 as the result of accident damage.

The named 40s

Locomotives in the range D210–D235 were to be named after ships operated by the companies Cunard Line, Elder Dempster Lines, and Canadian Pacific Steamships, as they hauled express trains to Liverpool, the home port of these companies. The only locomotive not to carry a name was D226 which was to carry the name Media but never did so. From approximately 1970, with Class 40s no longer working these trains, the nameplates were gradually removed.[4]

A series of unofficial names were applied to the Class 40s by enthusiasts, and enthusiastic depot staff. Some locos ran in service with these names applied for many months, others were painted out within days.[7]

The locos to carry these unofficial names were:[7]

  • 40060 'Ancient Mariner' (while in departmental duties as 97405)
  • 40104 'Warrior'
  • 40129 'Dracula'
  • 40131 'Spartan'
  • 40132 'Hurricane'
  • 40134 'Andromeda'
  • 40137 'Trojan'
  • 40145 'Panther'
  • 40164 'Lismore'

BR service

The Class 40s operated in all areas of British Railways although sightings in the Western and Southern Regions have always been exceptionally rare and usually the result of special trains and/or unusual operational circumstances. After the early trials, the majority were based at depots in northern England, notably Manchester Longsight, Carlisle Kingmoor, Wigan Springs Branch, Thornaby and Gateshead.

The heyday of the class was in the early 1960s, when they hauled top-link expresses on the West Coast Main Line and in East Anglia. However, the arrival of more powerful diesels such as Class 47 and Class 55, together with the electrification of the West Coast Main Line, meant that the fleet was gradually relegated to more mundane duties.

In later life the locomotives were mainly to be found hauling heavy freight and passenger trains in the north of England and Scotland. As more new rolling stock was introduced, their passenger work decreased, partly due to their lack of electric train heating (D255 was fitted with electric train heating for a trial period in the mid-1960s) for newer passenger coaches. They lost their last front-line passenger duties – in Scotland – in 1980, and the last regular use on passenger trains was on the North Wales Coast Line between Holyhead, Crewe and Manchester, along with regular forays across the Pennines on Liverpool to York and Newcastle services.

Throughout the early 1980s Class 40s were common performers on relief, day excursion (adex) and holidaymaker services along with deputisation duties for electric traction, especially on Sundays between Manchester and Birmingham. This resulted in visits to many distant parts of the network. It would be fair to say that few routes in the London Midland and Eastern regions did not see a Class 40 worked passenger service from time to time. Regular destinations included the seaside resorts of Scarborough, Skegness and Cleethorpes on the Eastern region, with Blackpool and Stranraer being regularly visited on the West Coast.

Much rarer workings include visits to London's Paddington and Euston stations, Norwich, Cardiff and even Kyle of Lochalsh. The fact that 40s could turn up almost anywhere resulted in them being followed by a hard core of bashers, enthusiasts dedicated to journeying over lines with rare traction for the route.


Withdrawal of the Class 40s started in 1976, when three locomotives (40 005, 40 039 and 40 102) were taken out of service. At over 130 tons the Class were by then considered underpowered. In addition, some were found to be suffering from fractures of the plate-frame bogies (due mainly to inappropriate use on wagon-load freight and the associated running into tightly curved yards[8]), and spares were also needed to keep other locomotives running.

Also, many Class 40s were not fitted with air braking, leaving them unable to haul more modern freight and passenger vehicles. Despite this, only seventeen had been withdrawn by the start of the 1980s.[9] The locomotives became more popular with railway enthusiasts as their numbers started to dwindle.

Withdrawals then picked up apace, with the locomotives which lacked air brakes taking the brunt of the decline. In 1981, all 130 remaining locomotives were concentrated in the London Midland region of BR. Classified works overhauls on the Class 40s were also gradually phased out, only 29 members of the class had a full classified in 1980, and the final two emerged resplendent from Crewe Works in 1981. The honour of the very last classified overhaul falls to 40167 being complete in February 1981.

After that, numbers dwindled slowly until, by the end of 1984, there were only sixteen still running. These included the pioneer locomotive, 40 122, which, having been withdrawn in 1981, was re-instated in July 1983 and painted in the original green livery to haul rail enthusiasts' specials. The last passenger run by a Class 40, apart from 40 122, occurred on 27 January 1985, when 40 012 hauled a train from Birmingham New Street to York. All the remaining locomotives except 40 122 were withdrawn the next day.

The majority of Class 40s were cut up at Crewe, Doncaster, and Swindon works. Crewe works dismantled the most 40s, the totals are listed below.

The other eleven machines were cut at Derby, Glasgow, Inverkeithing, and Vic Berry at Leicester.

1981 and 1983 were the worst years for Class 40 withdrawals, a total of 41 being withdrawn both years.

The very last Class 40s to be cut up were 40091 and 40195 by A. Hampton contractors at Crewe works in December 1988.

Table of withdrawals by year
Year Quantity in
service at
start of year
Locomotive number Notes
1967 200 1 D322 Accident damage
1976 199 11 40 005, 021, 039, 041, 043, 045, 053, 089, 102, 189, 190 40039 never received B.R blue livery.
1977 188 4 40 048, 054, 059, 072
1978 184 1 40 051 Vacuum brake only
1980 183 20 40011, 026, 038, 040, 042, 071, 100, 105, 108, 109, 110, 112, 114, 119, 123, 142, 146, 147, 156, 161
1981 163 41 40010, 014, 016, 017, 018, 019, 023, 031, 032, 037, 062, 065, 066, 067, 070, 075, 078, 083, 095, 098, 107, 111, 113, 116, 117, 120, 122, 125, 134, 137, 144, 149, 151, 165, 171, 173, 175, 176, 178, 179, 193 40122 would be reinstated 24 April 1983. 40010 withdrawn only 14 months after receiving a full classified works overhaul.
1982 122 32 40003, 008, 020, 025, 036, 055, 064, 087, 088, 092, 094, 101, 103, 115, 127, 128, 130, 132, 136, 138, 139, 140, 148, 154, 162, 163, 166, 182, 184, 186, 187, 199 40183 was due for an E exam, the loco was withdrawn but then reinstated and given E exam 8 September 1982. Final withdrawal came on 1 June 1983 with bogie fractures.
1983 90 41 40006, 007, 027, 030, 046, 049, 050, 052, 061, 068, 069, 073, 076, 077, 080, 081, 084, 090, 093, 096, 097, 106, 121, 131, 141, 145, 153, 157, 158, 159, 164, 169, 170, 172, 180, 183, 185, 188, 191, 197, 198 40185 withdrawn 2yrs overdue a classified works repair. 40076 provided bogies for the restoration of 40122.
1984 49 33 40001, 002, 004, 009, 015, 022, 024, 028, 029, 033, 034, 035, 047, 056, 057, 058, 063, 074, 082, 085, 091, 099, 124, 126, 129, 133, 160, 167, 168, 174, 177, 195, 196 40009 the last vacuum braked Class 40 withdrawn 7 November 1984 with bearings and traction motor problems. 40126 was the locomotive stopped at Sears Crossing in the 1963 Great Train Robbery.
1985 16 16 40012, 013, 044, 060, 079, 086, 104, 118, 135, 143, 150, 152, 155, 181, 192, 194 All locos were switched off surplus to requirements or life expired by 22 January 1985.[10]

Further use

40 135 (97 406) at Crewe Works

The Class 40 story was not quite over, however. Upon the joint initiative of enthusiasts Howard Johnston and Murray Brown who noticed it on the scrapline at Carlisle Kingmoor depot in summer 1981 ready to go to Swindon Works for breaking up, 40 122 was reinstated by BR and overhauled at Toton depot with parts from 40 076. Now in working condition and repainted green, it was regularly used to haul normal passenger trains in the hope of attracting enthusiasts, as well as special trains. In addition, four locomotives were temporarily returned to service as Class 97 departmental locomotives, numbered 97 405-408. They were used to work engineering trains for a remodelling project at Crewe station. These were withdrawn by early 1987.

40 122 was eventually withdrawn in 1988 and presented to the National Railway Museum. Six other locomotives were preserved, and on 30 November 2002, over sixteen years after the last Class 40 had hauled a mainline passenger train, the Class 40 Preservation Society's 40 145 hauled an enthusiasts' railtour from Crewe to Holyhead and back.[11]

Accidents and incidents

  • On Boxing Day 1962, D215 Aquitania was hauling the Up Mid-Day Scot when it collided with the rear of a Liverpool-Birmingham train. 18 were killed and 34 injured, including the guard. Contrary to popular belief, the infamous D326 was not hauling the train. [12]
  • On 13 May 1966, a freight train became divided between Norton Junction and Weaver Junction, Cheshire. Locomotive D322, hauling an express passenger train, was in collision with the rear part of the freight train, which had run away. Both driver and secondman were killed.[13] The locomotive was withdrawn September 1967.[14]
  • On 7 May 1965, a freight train was derailed at Preston-le-Skerne, County Durham. Locomotive No. D350 was hauling a newspaper train that ran into the derailed wagons and was itself derailed. Recovery of the locomotive was not until 16 May.[15]
  • On 14 August 1966, locomotive No. D311 was hauling a passenger train which was derailed when it ran into a landslip at Sanquhar, Dumfriesshire.[16]
  • On 6 August 1975, locomotive No. 40 189 was hauling a freight train which was unable to stop due to a lack of brake power. It was in collision with another freight train at Weaver Junction, Cheshire.[16]
  • On 26 October 1975, an express passenger train failed at Lunan, Angus. Locomotive No. 40 111 was sent to its assistance but ran into the rear of the failed train at 25 miles per hour (40 km/h). One person was killed and eleven were injured.[17]
  • In September 1978, locomotive No. 40 044 was hauling a freight train that ran away and was derailed by trap points at Chinley, Derbyshire.[15]


D326 (later 40 126) was the most famous Class 40, but for unfortunate reasons. In 1963 it was involved in the infamous "Great Train Robbery", a year later in 1964 a secondman was electrocuted when washing the windows. Finally in 1965 it suffered total brake failure with a maintenance train at Birmingham New Street and hit the rear of a freight train, injuring the guard. It then settled down and had a normal life until it was scrapped in 1984. Other famous "40s" include 40 106, which was the last one to remain in BR green livery, and 40 009, the last 40 to still have vacuum brakes only.[18]



Seven locomotives and one cab end (40 088) have been preserved on heritage railways, including the first built, number D200, and the Departmental Locomotives, 97 406, 97 407, 97 408. Not all locos may be carrying their names so ones noted show they aren't currently carrying their names.

Numbers(current in bold) Name Builder Livery Location Notes
D200 40 122 Vulcan Foundry BR Green National Railway Museum Part of the National Collection
D212 40 012 97 407 Aureol Vulcan Foundry BR Blue Midland Railway - Butterley Headcode discs.
D213 40 013 Andania Vulcan Foundry BR Green Barrow Hill Engine Shed Headcode discs.
D288 40 088 Vulcan Foundry BR Blue Crewe Heritage Centre Only one cab saved and is mounted on a road trailer.
D306 40 106 Atlantic Conveyor Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns BR Green Washwood Heath Headcode discs. Named in preservation.
D318 40 118 97408 Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns BR Blue Tyseley Locomotive Works
D335 40 135 97 406 Vulcan Foundry BR Blue East Lancashire Railway Split headcode boxes. Operational.
D345 40 145 *East Lancashire Railway Vulcan Foundry BR Blue East Lancashire Railway Domino Route. Mainline registered. Named during the East Lancashire Railway 20th Anniversary event. Operational following repairs at HNRC Barrow Hill.


  1. ^ a b Class 40 History Part 1 Class 40 Preservation Society - Retrieved on 2007-07-17
  2. ^ Class 40 Page The Railway Centre - Retrieved on 2007-07-18
  3. ^ BRITISH RAIL STANDARD DIESELS OF THE 1960s - p94 - Ian Allan Publishing
  4. ^ a b Class 40 History Part 2 Class 40 Preservation Society - Retrieved on 2007-07-23
  5. ^ Haresnape, Brian (June 1984) [1982]. British Rail Fleet Survey 3: Production Diesel-Electrics Types 4 and 5 (2nd ed.). Shepperton:  
  6. ^ Strickland, D.C. (March 1983). D+EG Locomotive Directory. Camberley: Diesel & Electric Group. p. 96.  
  7. ^ a b The official and unofficial namers!
  8. ^ The British Rail Dieselisation Programme: The Type 4s and 5s
  9. ^ Withdrawal list Class 40 page - Retrieved on 2007-07-24
  10. ^ Scrap
  11. ^ 40145 maiden journey 2002 Six Bells Junction - Retrieved on 2007-07-24
  12. ^
  13. ^ Report on the Collision that occurred on 13 May 1966 at Acton Grange Junction in the London Midland Region British Railways Accident report at The Railways Archive
  14. ^ Incidents in 1967 - Retrieved on 2007-07-23
  15. ^ a b Earnshaw, Alan (1990). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 6. Penryn: Atlantic Books. pp. 44–45.  
  16. ^ a b  
  17. ^ Trevena, Arthur (1981). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 2. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 43.  
  18. ^

Further reading

  • McManus, Michael. Ultimate Allocations, British Railways Locomotives 1948 - 1968. Wirral. Michael McManus. 

External links

  • The Class 40 Appreciation Society Photo gallery with over 9,000 Class 40 images, topics, and discussions.
  • Class 40 motherlist Just about everything you need to know about the Class 40s

Locomotive details

  • Detailed photoguides (annotated):
  1. Cab interior PDF (372 KB), including driver's desk, secondman's position, AWS equipment
  2. Nose interior equipment PDF (118 KB), including sanding gear, hand brake, vacuum brake controls
  3. 1-Co Bogie PDF (201 KB), including bogie structure; brake, heating and electrical connections
  4. Engine interior PDF (187 KB), camshaft and associated components
  5. Electrical control cubicles PDF (440 KB)

Preservation groups

  • The Class 40 Appeal, owners of 40012
  • The Mayflower Group, operators of 40106
  • Class 40 Preservation Society, operators of 40145 on the mainline and 40135 on the East Lancs Railway
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