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Class 08


photograph by Alan Robinson

D3100 pictured here in this undated and unspecified location picture was from one of the early batch of shunters built by BR between 1953 and 1955

Without hesitation the class 08 shunter can be declared the largest class of diesel locomotives on British Railways. Although due to increasing use of multiple unit stock for passenger workings and reduction of freight services (with many of those remaining being block workings) the overall number is now much reduced the venerable and largely unsung 08 is still highly regarded and will still be about in quantity for a long time to come.

The origins of this class lie in the pre World War Two fledgling development of diesel traction by British railway companies. In particular both the SR and the LMS had small fleets of diesel shunters in service before the war. After obtaining prototypes from a number of private locomotive companies the LMS selected a design by the English Electric Company with six coupled wheels driven by a 350 hp engine-generator set powering two nose suspended electric motors on the outer axles via reduction gearing. 10 were in service before the war and were the start of an intended order of 100. With the outbreak of war responsibility for production passed to the War Department who had a further 14 built for use on the LMS system. Following nationalisation a further 96 were built with production ending in 1952 by which time British Railways were ready to produce their own unified design.

The BR shunter - subsequently TOPS class 08 - is based on and virtually indistinguishable from the LMS design (although its wheel size is inherited from a similar post war SR type). English Electric continued to supply the power and electrical parts whilst BR supplied the chassis and bodywork. Construction was at Derby, Darlington Doncaster, Horwich and Crewe BR works between 1953 and 1962. Almost 1000 were built and construction included 27 higher geared versions (subsequently TOPS class 09) for the Southern region where shunter hauled trip freights were required to thread their way between tightly timed EMU services. (In comparatively recent years use of 09s has spread beyond the Southern and a further twelve 09s were converted from 08s in 1992/3.)

There have been minor modifications to the class over the years. Six locomotives were converted into six cow and calf pairs - designated class 13 - for use at Tinsley hump yard between 1965 and the mid 1980s. There was also a batch of fifteen 08s built in 1955 with Blackstone prime movers and GEC electrical plant. Such non standard locomotives could not survive long in an increasingly standardising BR and they were sold to Netherlands Railways where they have continued to prove themselves to be a useful locomotive. Surplus 08s have found ready customers among industrial users.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
  • D3273
    In June 1969 D3273 (subsequently 08203) was pictured shunting in Eastbourne Yard. This yard is now a shopping centre.
    Photograph by Michael Taylor.
  • D3220
    D3220 at Newhaven Town, 14th May 1972, blue loco with red coupling rods.
    Photograph by Glen Woods.
  • D3220
    D3220 again, this time standing on the loco spur at Newhaven Town (the Brighton side of the A259) on 25th June 1972.
    Photograph by Glen Woods.
  • 08937
    Despite still displaying BR arrows 08937 is now owned by RMS Locotech and is captured here at Okehampton on 29th July 2000 in between working Dartmoor Pony shuttle services - so providing one of the few opportunities for passengers to travel behind an 08.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 08694
    Freshly out-shopped in EWS colours 08694 was on display at Old Oak Common on 6th August 2000. This loco was named Pat Barr after a popular member of staff at the depot who died earlier in 2000.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.

This page was last updated 3 December 2002

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