British Rail Class 47

British Rail Class 47
Brush Type 4
British Rail Class 47
Two Class 47s, Nos. 47424 and 47607, at Bangor station with a passenger train in 1987
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder Brush Traction
British Rail Crewe Works
Build date 1962–1968
Total produced 512
Configuration Co-Co
UIC classification Co'Co'
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) Standard gauge
Wheel diameter 3 ft 9 in (1.143 m)
Wheelbase 51 ft 6 in (15.70 m)
Length 63 ft 7 in (19.38 m)
Width 8 ft 10 in (2.69 m)
Height 12 ft 9 12 in (3.90 m)
Locomotive weight 112 long tons (114 t) to 125 long tons (127 t)
Fuel capacity 850 imp gal (3,900 l; 1,020 US gal)
Prime mover Sulzer 12LDA28-C
Multiple working Not fitted when built. Some now retrofitted with Green Circle
Top speed 75 mph (121 km/h) or 95 mph (153 km/h)
Power output Engine: originally 2,750 bhp (2,050 kW), later derated to 2,580 bhp (1,920 kW)
Tractive effort Maximum: 55,000 lbf (245 kN) to 60,000 lbf (267 kN)
Train heating 47/0: Steam generator
47/3: None
47/4: Electric Train Heat
61 LTf (608 kN)
Train brakes Vacuum, Air, or dual
Career Colas Rail
Direct Rail Services
West Coast Railway Company
Riviera Trains
British Rail
Number D1500–D1999, D1100–D1111
later 47001–47981
Axle load class Route availability 6 or 7

The British Rail Class 47, is a class of British railway diesel-electric locomotive that was developed in the 1960s by Brush Traction. 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 mainline diesel locomotive.

They were fitted with the Sulzer 12LDA28C twin-bank twelve-cylinder unit producing 2,750 bhp (2,050 kW) - though this was later derated to 2,580 bhp (1,920 kW) to improve reliability - and have been used on both passenger and freight trains on Britain's railways for over 40 years. Despite the introduction of more modern types of traction, as of 2008 a significant number are still in use, both on the mainline and on heritage railways. As of August 2011, 99 locomotives still exist; between 25 and 30 are engaged on active work on the mainline.



The Class 47 history begins in the early 1960s with the stated aim of the British Transport Commission (BTC) to completely remove steam locomotives from British Rail by a target date of 1968.[1] They therefore required a large build of lightweight Type 4 locomotives to achieve this aim. This required locomotives producing at least 2,500 bhp (1,900 kW) but with an axle load of no more than 19 long tons (19 t). However, the BTC were not convinced that the future of diesel traction lay down the hydraulic transmission path of the Western Region, and began looking at various diesel-electric designs.

Despite the construction of two demonstration locomotives (D0260 LION, produced by AEI and BRC&W using a Sulzer engine,[2] and D0280 FALCON, built by Brush Traction using Maybach engines),[3] the need for a large number of locomotives quickly was deemed paramount, and the pilot build of what would become Class 47 began before the prototypes could be comprehensively assessed.[4] This initial build of 20 locomotives (Nos. D1500 to D1519) were mechanically different from the remainder of the type,[5] and would be withdrawn earlier. However, based on these and the success of LION, an order for 270 locomotives was made, which was later revised upwards a number of times to reach the final total of 512. Five locomotives, Nos. D1702 to D1706, were fitted with a Sulzer V12 12LVA24 power unit and classified as Class 48s; the experiment was not deemed a success, and they were later converted back into standard 47s.

In service

Eventually, 310 locomotives were constructed by Brush in Loughborough, and the remaining 202 at BR's Crewe Works.[6] The first 500 locomotives were numbered sequentially from D1500 to D1999, with the remaining twelve being numbered from D1100 to D1111. The locomotives went to work on passenger and freight duties on all regions of British Rail. Large numbers went to replace steam locomotives, especially on express passenger duties.[7]

The locomotives, bar a batch of 81 built for freight duties, were all fitted with steam heating boilers for train heat duties. The initial batch of twenty, plus D1960 and D1961, were also fitted with electric train heating (ETH).[8] With this type of heating becoming the norm, a further large number of locomotives were fitted with this equipment.

In the early 1970s, it was decided to de-rate the engine output of the fleet from 2,750 bhp (2,050 kW) to 2,580 bhp (1,920 kW).[9] This significantly improved reliability by reducing stresses on the power plant, whilst not causing a noticeable reduction in performance.[10]


In the early 1970s, the fleet was renumbered into the 47xxx series to conform with the computerised TOPS systems. This enabled a number of easily recognisable sub-classes to be created, depending on the differing equipment fitted. The original series were based on train heating capability and were as follows;[11]

  • Class 47/0: Locomotives with steam heating equipment
  • Class 47/3: Locomotives with no train heating
  • Class 47/4: Locomotives with electric train heating

However, this numbering system was later disrupted as locomotives were fitted with extra equipment and were renumbered into other sub-classes.[12][13] For an overview of the renumbering see the Class 47 renumbering page. This section summarises the main sub-classes that were created.

Class 47/0 No. 47293 with a relief passenger train at York station in 1987

Class 47/0

Originally numbered from 47001 to 47298, these locomotives were the "basic" Class 47 with steam heating equipment fitted.[14] In the 1970s and 1980s, with steam heating of trains gradually being phased out, all locomotives fitted with the equipment gradually had their steam heating boilers removed. Some were fitted with ETH and became 47/4s, whilst the others remained with no train heating capability and were therefore used mainly on freight work. In the 1990s, the class designation 47/2 was applied to some class 47/0s after they were fitted with multiple working equipment.[10] The locomotives involved also had their vacuum braking systems removed, leaving them air braked only. This was mainly a paper exercise, however, and the locomotives were not renumbered; in this article they are included in Class 47/0.

Class 47/3 No. 47376 in Freightliner livery, at Toddington station

Class 47/3

Originally numbered from 47301 to 47381, this sub-class was originally built with no train heating equipment and therefore remained freight locomotives almost exclusively for their working lives.[15] They were all fitted with slow speed control for working MGR coal trains (as were a number of Class 47/0s).[16] However, during the summer months when train heat was not required, 47/3s could regularly be found hauling the extra trains that the holiday season brought.[17] The sub-type remained stable until withdrawals started, although an "extra" 47/3, No.47300, was created in 1992 when No.47468 had its train heating equipment removed and was renumbered.[18] Also, No.47364 was renumbered to 47981 in 1993.[19]

Class 47/4 No. 47523 in standard BR Blue, at Birmingham New Street station in 1988

Class 47/4

The designation for standard locomotives fitted with ETH and therefore used for passenger, mail and parcels use. 133 locomotives had been fitted by the time renumbering occurred, and shortly afterwards the sub-class had settled down to 154 locomotives, numbered 47401 to 47555, with one gap. Later, further class 47/0s were converted to class 47/4s and renumbered into the series, which eventually reached 47665.[20]

Class 47/9 No. 47901 on a railtour at Westbury station in 1987

Class 47/6 and Class 47/9

After being severely damaged in a derailment near Peterborough in 1974, locomotive 47046 was selected to be a testbed for the projected Class 56, and was fitted with a 16 cylinder Ruston 16RK3CT engine rated at 3,250 bhp (2,420 kW) for assessment purposes.[21] To identify it as unique, it was renumbered 47601 (at the time the number range for Class 47s only extended as far as 47555). Later, in 1979, it was used again for the Class 58 project, fitted with a 12 cylinder Ruston engine (this time of 3,300 bhp (2,500 kW)), and renumbered 47901. It continued with this non-standard engine fitted until its withdrawal in 1990.[22]

Network SouthEast Class 47s 47711 and 47716

Class 47/7

In the late 1970s, BR authorities identified a need to replace the ageing trains operating the Glasgow to Edinburgh shuttle services, in order to increase speed and reliability. The trains were operated by pairs of Class 27s, one at each end of this train. It was decided to convert twelve 47/4s to operate the service in push-pull mode. The locomotives would be known as Class 47/7 and would be fitted with TDM push-pull equipment and long-range fuel tanks, and be maintained to operate at 100 mph (160 km/h). The conversions began in 1979 and the service was operated completely by them from 1980. In 1983, the push-pull service spread to Glasgow-Aberdeen services, and a further four locomotives were converted. The sub-class therefore comprised Nos. 47701 to 47716, though a further locomotive, 47717, was converted in 1986 after the fire-damaged 47713 was withdrawn.[23]

Class 47/7b No. 47787 parked in a bay platform at Rugby station

Class 47/7b and 47/7c

In the 1990s, further 47/4s were converted with long-range fuel tanks and the ability to be remotely controlled by a type of rolling stock known as propelling control vehicles, which were used on mail trains. They were also numbered into the 47/7 series, from 47721 onwards. With dwindling passenger work for them, a number of 47/8s, already fitted with the extra fuel tanks, were also renumbered into this series.[24]

Two locomotives, 47798 Prince William and 47799 Prince Henry, were dedicated for use on the Royal Train, and were designated as Class 47/7c.[25]

Class 47/8 No. 47839 Pegasus at Canterbury West station in 2007

Class 47/8

The last of the original 47/4 conversions, from 47650 to 47665, were fitted with extra fuel tanks, giving them an extended range. Four earlier Class 47/4s were also converted. In 1989 it was decided to give these locomotives easy recognisability, and so these locomotives were renumbered into their own series from 47801 to 47820. At the same time, further locomotives were fitted with extra fuel tanks and renumbered; the series eventually reached 47854.[26] After the privatisation of British Rail, the sub-class was mainly used by Virgin Trains on cross-country work until the introduction of their Voyager trains. A combination of relatively recent overhauls and the versatility provided by the extra range of this sub-class has meant that they have remained operational longer than the majority of their classmates.


By 1986, only five of the original 512 locomotives had been withdrawn from service, all because of serious accident damage.[26] However, with work for the class declining due to the introduction of new rolling stock, and spare parts becoming difficult to source, some inroads started being made.

The first locomotives to be targeted were the non-standard pilot batch of 20, now numbered 47401-47420. Three locomotives were withdrawn as life-expired in February 1986, and the remainder of the batch that had not recently been overhauled followed in the next two years. All 20 were withdrawn by 1992.[27]

Meanwhile, BR drew up a 'hit-list' of locomotives for early withdrawal, mainly including those with non-standard electrical equipment, known as series parallel locomotives.[28] In the outset, withdrawals were slow, mainly due to the surplus of spare parts and new flows of freight traffic which required extra locomotives; only 61 locomotives had been withdrawn by the end of 1992. However, with the introduction of new locomotives, the rate of withdrawal quickly rose, with 86 more 47s reaching the end of their lives in the next three years.[26] With most of the non-standard locomotives withdrawn, the reduction of the fleet again proceeded more slowly. The privatisation of British Rail also produced new independent rail companies needing available traction until they could order new locomotives. From 1996 to 2006, an average of around fifteen locomotives per year were taken out of service.[26]

During the decline in passenger work a number of locomotives were painted in "celebrity" colours, depicting various liveries that the type had carried during its history. This continued a tradition of painting 47s in unusual liveries, which dates back to 1977, when Stratford depot in East London painted two locomotives with huge Union Flags to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.[29]

Current mainline operation

DRS liveried 47712 Pride of Cumbria heads a Stobart Pullman liveried rake

In 2007, after more than 40 years of front line passenger and freight operations, between 25 and 30 locomotives are operational at any one time on the National network.[30] The following is a list of companies currently operating Class 47s.

  • Direct Rail Services (DRS) locomotives appear on freight, stock movements, charter trains and spot-hire duties.
  • West Coast Railway Company is primarily a charter train operator, and is currently expanding its fleet by overhauling withdrawn locomotives.
  • Riviera Trains is a spot-hire company based at Crewe with a fleet of locomotives which are mainly used to haul charter trains.
  • Colas Rail owns a small fleet of locomotives for duties hauling its track maintenance trains.

Other working locomotives

Preserved Class 47/7a No. 47715 Poseidon at the National Railway Museum in 2005

Class 47s have proved very popular with preservationists and private railways, and more than 30 have now entered preservation, with the majority in working order.[31] A full list can be found at list of preserved British Rail Class 47 locomotives.

A total of 33 withdrawn locomotives have been rebuilt with EMD engines and re-classified as Class 57s.[32][33] The production versions work for the goods train company Freightliner, and the passenger train companies First Great Western and Virgin Trains Limited, with the passenger prototype being operated by the West Coast Railway Company.


  • 11 January 1965: D1734 was severely damaged after the freight train it was hauling ran out of control near Shrewsbury, eventually demolishing a signal box. It was withdrawn two months later, becoming the first Class 47 withdrawn after a working life of only eight months.[34]
  • 17 December 1965: D1671 THOR was derailed near Bridgend whilst hauling a train of empty coaches. Shortly afterwards, a freight train collided heavily with the wreckage, killing the drivers of both locomotives. D1671 was withdrawn some four months later. Its nameplates were salvaged, and transferred to No. D1677.[35]
  • 8 April 1969: D1908 was badly damaged when, while hauling a freight train at Monmore Green, it was struck head-on by a passenger train that had passed a signal at danger. D1908 caught fire after the accident and became the third Class 47 withdrawn.[36]
  • 13 March 1971: D1562 was wrecked after its power unit, which had been experimentally uprated, exploded at Haughley Junction while the locomotive was hauling a Liverpool Street to Norwich express.[37]
  • 11 June 1972: D1630 was involved in the notorious Eltham Well Hall rail crash in which six people were killed. The locomotive was repaired, but much later in its life when numbered 47849, it was withdrawn from the Class 57 rebuilding programme after damage was discovered which was thought to have dated back to the accident.[38]
  • 22 October 1979: 47208 became the fifth Class 47 to be withdrawn after suffering severe damage in a fatal accident at Invergowrie in Scotland. 47208 was hauling a Glasgow to Aberdeen service which collided with a local train which had stopped in front.[39]
  • 9 December 1983: 47299 (formerly 47216) was involved in a serious accident at Wrawby Junction in Lincolnshire, when whilst hauling an oil train, the locomotive collided with a local train resulting in the death of a passenger. It later emerged that the locomotive's renumbering was allegedly due to a warning given to BR by a clairvoyant who claimed to have foreseen a serious accident involving a locomotive numbered 47216.[40]
  • 30 July 1984: 47707 Holyrood was propelling the 17:30 express from Edinburgh to Glasgow from the rear, when the train collided with a cow near Polmont and was derailed, resulting in 13 deaths. The accident raised serious concerns about the safety of push-pull operation where the locomotive was at the rear of the train.[41]
  • 6 September 1993: No. 47288 was hauling a train of 15 goods wagons from Dover to Willesden. At 0202 BST, the locomotive's rear bogie derailed in the tunnel approaching Maidstone East. The loco ended up on its side, on the track. Several wagons left the track, running into signals, platforms and buildings, spilling their load of 900 tons of steel cables. The driver subsequently failed a breathalyser test. Maidstone East was closed for recovery and repairs for several weeks following the incident.

Gallery of liveries


Between 1963 and 1966 ten locomotives similar to the British Rail Class 47 were supplied to Ferrocarriles de Cuba (Cuban National Railways).[42]

In popular culture

The Works Diesel from The Railway Series is based on the BR Class 47. He first appeared in "James and The Diesel Engines in 1984".[43]

See also

Portal-puzzle.svg UK Railways portal

References and sources


  1. ^ Replacement of steam locomotives The railways archive - Retrieved on 2007-06-15
  2. ^ Feature on D0260 LION - Retrieved on 2007-05-31
  3. ^ Feature on D0280 FALCON - Retrieved on 2007-05-31
  4. ^ Introduction to Prototypes Retrieved on 2007-05-31
  5. ^ Class 47 history Gloucester Transport History - Retrieved on 2007-06-04
  6. ^ Class 47 History SEMG - Retrieved on 2007-06-01
  7. ^ Class 47 History GSWR - Retrieved on 2007-06-04
  8. ^ Early diesel locomotives SEMG - Retrieved on 2007-06-01
  9. ^ Class 47 history - Retrieved on 2007-06-01
  10. ^ a b Locomotive modifications The Railway Centre - Retrieved on 2007-06-04
  11. ^ Class 47 numbering The Railway Centre - Retrieved on 2007-05-31
  12. ^ Class 47 sub-classes The Junction - Retrieved on 2007-06-04
  13. ^ numbering Retrieved on 2007-06-14
  14. ^ Class 47/0 -Retrieved on 2007-06-15
  15. ^ Class 47/3 -Retrieved on 2007-06-15
  16. ^ Slow speed control Class 58 Loco Group - Retrieved on 2007-06-15
  17. ^ Lund, E (1980). To the last drop. Chesterfield: Longden technical Publications. ISBN 0 9507063 0 2. 
  18. ^ No.47300 -Retrieved on 2007-06-15
  19. ^ No.47981 -Retrieved on 2007-06-15
  20. ^ Class 47/4 - Retrieved on 2007-06-15
  21. ^ Williams, Alan; Percival, David (1977). British Railways Locomotives and Multiple Units including Preserved Locomotives 1977 Combined Volume. Shepperton: Ian Allan Ltd. ISBN 0 7110 0751 9. 
  22. ^ Class 47/6 - Retrieved on 2007-06-15
  23. ^ Class 47/7 Felgall Rail - Retrieved on 2007-06-15
  24. ^ Class 47/7 - Retrieved on 2007-06-15
  25. ^ Locomotive pools Retrieved on 2007-07-09
  26. ^ a b c d Class 47 withdrawal data - Retrieved on 2007-06-04
  27. ^ 47401 History The 47401 Project - Retrieved on 2007-06-10
  28. ^ Class 47 Technical Details Railfan page - Retrieved on 2007-06-04
  29. ^ Silver Jubilee livery, retrieved on 2008-04-30
  30. ^ Fleet Status - Retrieved on 2007-06-10
  31. ^ Class 47 Page Preserved Diesels - Retrieved on 2007-04-30
  32. ^ Class 57 page The Junction - Retrieved on 2007-04-30
  33. ^ Class 57 conversion The Railway Centre - Retrieved on 2007-04-30
  34. ^ locomotive D1734 - Retrieved on 2007-07-08
  35. ^ locomotive D1671 - Retrieved on 2007-07-10
  36. ^ locomotive D1908 - Retrieved on 2007-07-10
  37. ^ locomotive D1562 - Retrieved on 2007-06-04
  38. ^ locomotive D1630 - Retrieved on 2007-05-14
  39. ^ Invergowrie accident report - Retrieved on 2007-04-30
  40. ^ Jinxed locomotive 47299 Railfan article - Retrieved on 2007-04-30
  41. ^ The Polmont accident in the light of 2001 Selby Crash Danger Ahead - Retrieved on 2007-04-30
  42. ^
  43. ^ Railway Series Characters: The Works Diesel


  • Stevens-Stratten, S.W.; Carter, R.S. (1978). British Rail Main-Line Diesels. Shepperton: Ian Allan Ltd. ISBN 0 7110 0617 2. 

Further reading

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

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • British Rail Class 66 — 66713 Forest City at Crewe Works Power type Diesel electric Builder Electro Motive Diesel Model …   Wikipedia

  • British Rail Class 59 — 59001 Yeoman Endeavour at Doncaster Works in revised Foster Yeoman livery on 27 July 2003 Power type Diesel electric Builder …   Wikipedia

  • British Rail Class 52 — D1062 Western Courier in maroon, with small yellow warning panel Power type Diesel hydraulic Builder British Railways’ Swindon and Crewe …   Wikipedia

  • British Rail Class 08 — 08694 in EWS livery at the Great Central Railway (April 2010) Power type Diesel electric Builder British Railways: Derby Works, Crewe Works …   Wikipedia

  • British Rail Class 07 — D2991 at Eastleigh Works in the 1970s. Still in service at the Works in 2008. Power type Diesel electric Builder Ruston Hornsby Se …   Wikipedia

  • British Rail Class 14 — Class 14 no. D9526 (as preserved), at Williton on the West Somerset Railway (2009) Power type Diesel hydraulic Builder British Railways’ …   Wikipedia

  • British Rail Class 67 — Class 67 redirects here. For the Norwegian EMU, see NSB Class 67. British Rail Class 67 67004 on a rail head treatment train (Oct. 2009) Power type Diesel electric Builder Meinfesa: Alstom, Val …   Wikipedia

  • British Rail Class 31 — Brush Type 2 British Rail Class 31 31289 at the Northampton Lamport Railway, 22 April 2007 Power type Diesel electric Builder Brush Traction Build date …   Wikipedia

  • British Rail Class 20 — English Electric Type 1 British Rail Class 20 20002 and 20058 pulling a freight train in 1979 Power type Diesel electric Builder English Electric at Vulcan Foundry and …   Wikipedia

  • British Rail Class 86 — Infobox Locomotive name = British Rail Class 86 powertype = Electric caption = Class 86/6, nos. 86613 and 86610, painted in the new Freightliner livery, at Ipswich on 14th February 2004. Freightliner are now the largest operator of Class 86… …   Wikipedia