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Class 58

photograph by Colin Duff

Named on 28th October 1995 58021 Hither Green Depot is seen on display in the short lived Mainline livery at Old Oak Common 6th August 2000

The heavy freight powerful Class 58 has not been associated with the Southern in the past - its raison d'être for the majority of years since introduction being coal workings in the Midlands and South Yorkshire. However the reduction in coal trade following the bitter 1984-85 coal miners strike, the declining rail freight business in general at the time and the subsequent adjustments to the Railfreight sector in the run up to privatisation of the railway led to the class working wider afield in the 1990s, including a small number being stabled at Southern depots. The announcement by EWS in September 2000 that all surviving members of the class w ould be moved south (in exchange for newer Class 66s) to be allocated to Eastleigh, Hither Green (and Acton) finally qualifies this class for inclusion on Southern E Group pages.

The Class 58 design results from a 1977 requirement for a low cost easily maintainable heavy freight Co-Co locomotive with export potential, the introduction of the roughly contemporary Class 56 having been what could tactfully be described as grim. It was hoped that this would point the way for future British locomotive design and development. To meet the specification the traditional British diesel locomotive design practice of a load bearing superstructure was abandoned in favour of a load bearing underframe. This could be said to be throw back to some of the older 1955 Modernisation plan designs such as the Class 20, but more importantly to long established and successful American practice. To improve maintenance over existing classes to the underframe was fitted readily removable and exchangeable modules - number 1 cab, radiator, power unit, turbocharger, electrics and number 2 cab.

The initial order was 35 locomotives but this was subsequently increased to 50. They were constructed at Doncaster works and introduced between 1982 and 1987, numbered 58001-58050. The declining business in Britain and lack of export orders against superior American competition halted all chances of a hoped-for larger production run. The final locomotive was fitted with an experimental system of separate excitation of the motors which was hoped to enable the class to have comparable traction qualities of the imported Class 59. This was not a success, the system was not fitted to other members of the class, and the equipment was removed from 58050 in 1988. When introduced 58001-58049 wore the Railfreight red stripe livery.

58050 was delivered from new to Toton from Doncaster in the grey and red Railfreight livery and was repainted at Stratford Depot ready for the Railfreight relaunch at Ripple Lane. It's early days were restricted to working in the Toton and Derby area testing the prototype SEPEX traction system. It never hauled a revenue earning train, however, in this colour scheme leading to the common but mistaken myth that the loco never carried the original livery. In the run up to privatisation some were repainted into full Mainline blue livery, other members remaining in Railfreight sector two tone grey with Mainline branding. Some members of the class now wear EWS red and gold.

From its origins on coal workings the class now also hauls departmental, stone and oil trains for EWS as well as "Enterprise" workings. There are currently only 25 of the class remaining and with EWS concentrating its business on a portfolio of Classes 59/2, 60, 66 and 67 it is not thought the comparatively young 58s have a very long term future.

This page was last updated 7 July 2004

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