Above: 47851 / D1648 prior to being named Traction Magazine by David Brown, the Editor of that publication, at Derby station on 15th January 2002. This locomotive is still in main line service, although now with West Coast Railway Company. Photo: Simon Lilley.
First introduced on British Railways in September 1962, the class was initially known as the Hawker Siddeley Type 4, later Brush Type 4 and finally Class 47 under the TOPS system. A total of 512 were built in a unique arrangement between the designers Brush Traction Ltd and BR. Brush constructed 310 locomotives and supplied equipment to Crewe Works where the other 202 were built. The earliest Brush Type 4s were allocated to the East Coast Main Line; gradually the class spread across the length and breadth of the system, ultimately coming to serve on all Regions of BR. Deliveries took nearly six years to complete, the final example not entering service until May 1968.
After some early teething troubles had been overcome, the Class 47s settled down to become highly reliable and capable performers on all manner of duties. All were built with vacuum brakes; train air brakes were fitted to later examples from new, and to earlier locomotives as they passed through works. The majority originally carried steam train heating apparatus. Electric train heating equipment was fitted only 22 of the class from new, although eventually 263 were to receive it as the use of electrically heated stock increased. With the decline of steam heated stock came the removal of steam heating equipment from most of the locomotives that had been fitted with it.
Apart from accident victims the class remained intact until 1986 when the first programmed withdrawals took place. Since that time there has been a steady erosion of their numbers as their former duties have been progressively taken over by more modern forms of traction. The sectorisation, and later break up and privatisation of British Rail, led to the ownership of the surviving members of the class being transferred to private companies. The decline in their numbers has continued, yet more than half a century after the first one entered service, it is still possible to see Class 47s at work on the main line as a small number remain in the service of present day train operating companies. However, it is in preservation that the long term future of the class can best be secured.
Preserved Class 47s
In addition to our own 47771, there are a number of other members of the class in preservation.
The others are (in order of their final TOPS numbers carried while in normal service, previous numbers in brackets):
47004 (D1524) Privately owned at Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway.
47105 (D1693) Owned by Brush Type 4 Fund. Undergoing overhaul at Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway.
47117 (D1705) Owned by Type 1 Loco Group. Operational at Great Central Railway, Loughborough.
47192 (D1842) Based at Crewe Heritage Centre. Operational, and sometimes visits other preserved railways.
47205 (47395, 47205, D1855) Privately owned. Operational at Northampton & Lamport Railway.
47292 (D1994) Privately owned. Operational at Great Central Railway (North), Ruddington.
47306 (D1787) Privately owned. Operational at Bodmin & Wenford Railway.
47367 (D1886) Owned by Stratford 47 Group. Operational at Mid Norfolk Railway.
47376 (D1895) Owned by Brush Type 4 Fund. Operational at Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway.
47401 (D1500) Owned by 47401 Project. Operational at Midland Railway Centre, Butterley.
47417 (D1516) Owned by 47401 Project. Undergoing restoration at Midland Railway Centre, Butterley.
47449 (D1566) Privately owned. Operational at Llangollen Railway.
47484 (D1662) Owned by Pioneer Diesel Group. Undergoing restoration at a private site in Warwickshire.
47524 (D1107) Privately owned. Undergoing restoration at Churnet Valley Railway.
47540 (47975, 47540, D1723) Not preserved; was stored at Wensleydale Railway but has since been scrapped.
47596 (47255, D1933) Owned by Stratford 47 Group. Operational at Mid Norfolk Railway.
47635 (47029, D1606) Privately owned. Operational at Epping Ongar Railway.
47643 (47269, D1970) Owned by Scottish Railway Preservation Society. Operational at Bo’ness.
47701 (47493, D1932) No longer in preservation, now owned by Nemesis Rail.
47712 (47505, D1948) Owned by Crewe Diesel Preservation Group, Crewe Heritage Centre. Sometimes visits other preserved railways.
47732 (47580, 47167, D1762) Owned by Stratford 47 Group. Operational on Network Rail.
47765 (47631, 47059, D1643) Privately owned. Operational at Great Central Railway (North), Ruddington.
47785 (47820, 47665, 47232, D1909) Privately owned at Wensleydale Railway. Not operational at present.
47793 (47579, 47183, D1778) Privately owned at Mangapps Railway, Essex, although currently operational at Mid Hants Railway.
47798 (47834, 47609, 47072, D1656) Owned by National Railway Museum. Operational on Network Rail.
47799 (47835, 47620, 47070, D1654) Privately owned. Operational at Eden Valley Railway.
47840 (47613, 47077, D1661) Operational at West Somerset Railway.