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Class 60

photograph by John Lewis

Load Haul branded 60007 at East Croydon on an engineer's train on 15th February 2003

As a result of the considerable success of Foster Yeoman's imported GM class 59 locomotives Railfreight's Petroleum, Construction, Metal and Coal sub-sectors were clamouring for some of their own. However the politics of a nationalised industry buying from abroad when native locomotive manufacturers were struggling prevailed. Thus following on from the Class 56 and Class 58 the Class 60 was British Rail's third and final attempt to produce an indigenous heavy freight diesel locomotive. The specification also emerged from the chaos of the aborted Class 38 and Class 48 projects during which a number of manufacturers had invested in developing power plants and systems.

The final requirement was for a total of 100 locomotives to be delivered by 1992. Politics aside, the short production run deterred interest from foreign builders. The deal also called for guaranteed high performance and strict warranty terms. Brush and GEC eventually bid leading consortiums of sub contractors with various equipment packages.

In 1998 an order for up to 100 locomotives placed with the Brush Company to be constructed at their Loughborough works. The final specification utilised a development of a Mirrlees engine originally developed for the aborted class 38 project. The established and successful Brush bogies were utilised with the addition of a SEPEX system (separately excited traction motors with active wheel slip control). The bodies were sub contracted to Procor at their Wakefield works and they were transported to Loughborough by road. The lighter in-line engine design allowed a return (from the class 58 design) to traditional load bearing bodywork construction and it provided sufficient room to work around the engine without removing it from the body. There was an attempt to stylise the rather boxy design by applying continental-type positive and negative rake to the front cab.

The first loco, 60001, was handed over on 30 June 1989 but the last, 60015, was not accepted until March 1993. The almost four years to introduce and accept a class of 100 was due to extensive teething problems. To be accepted each loco had to complete 1000 trouble free miles. In a hugely different experience from the trouble-free entry of class 59s there was an average of 100 faults per loco and it took a staggering 16 months before first samples were officially accepted.

The introduction of the class resulted in cascade and withdrawal of earlier classes especially 20, 31, 33 and 73. Railfreight two tone grey sub sector was the first livery to be worn. In the run up to privatisation new TOC branding was generally applied over the Railfreight sector livery, although a few were painted into full Loadhaul and Mainline colours. EWS livery started being applied to the class from July 1997. However 60006 and 60033 wore a special British Steel Blue livery. During November 2000 60033 was repainted into Corus (successor to British Steel) silver and then 60006 in December 2000.

The locomotive fleet envisaged for EWS long term uses a mix of classes 08/09, 59/2, 60, 66 and 67 since each type is designed and optimised for specific groups of work. So although they are not nearly as reliable as the class 59s, 66s and 67s the class 60 does have a future.

Subsequently all new diesel locomotives on the British railway network have been imported. It is interesting to speculate whether the failure over an extended period to design and build a successful locomotive reflects on the competence of British engineering. However both General Motors and General Electric have had the benefit of very large volume production over many decades during which they have been able to evolve, develop and refine their products. Faced with the stop-go timescales, small quantities and fickle specification procurement behaviour of the nationalised British Rail the British engineering industry did not stand a chance.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
  • 60005
    Railfreight Construction sub-sector 60005 Skiddaw stabled at Eastleigh on 7th December 1991.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 60011
    60011 Cader Idris, one of the only three 60s to appear in Mainline livery, whilst stabled at Didcot Parkway on 26th August 2000.
    Photograph by Graeme Pettit.
  • 60019
    Illustrating the angular rake of the cab front attempting to detract from the boxy looks of the class 60019 Wild Boar Fell is passing through South Acton station on 14th June 2000 with an inter-regional freight train.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 60019
    60019 is about to pass through South Acton junction, with a cloud of black exhaust, on its way to the Southern Region with its string of hoppers.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 60060
    EWS, former Railfreight Coal, 60060 James Watt was stabled at Didcot Parkway in between MGR workings at the nearby power station on 26th August 2000.
    Photograph by Graeme Pettit.
  • 60081
    Unveiled at the EWS open days at Old Oak Common on 5th/6th August 2000 was 60081, re-named Sir Isambard Kingdom Brunel, repainted into mock GWR livery.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.

This page was last updated 28 May 2003

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