British Rail Class 59

British Rail Class 59
59001 Yeoman Endeavour at Doncaster Works in revised Foster Yeoman livery on 27 July 2003
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder General Motors Electro Motive Division
Model JT26CW-SS
Build date 1985–1995
Total produced 15
Configuration Co-Co
UIC classification Co'Co'
Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) Standard gauge
Wheel diameter 3 ft 9 in (1.14 m)
Length 21.40 m (70 ft 3 in)
Width 2.65 m (8 ft 8 in)
Height 3.91 m (12 ft 10 in)
Locomotive weight 126 t (124 long tons; 139 short tons)
Fuel capacity 1,000 imp gal (4,550 l)
Prime mover EMD 16-645E3C
Multiple working AAR system (Classes 59, 66 and 67)
Top speed 60–75 mph (97–120 km/h)
Power output Engine: 3,300 bhp (2,460 kW)
Tractive effort Maximum: 508 kN (114,000 lbf) at 11 km/h (7 mph)
Continuous: 290 kN (65,000 lbf) at 23 km/h (14 mph)
Train heating None
Train brakes Air
Career DB Schenker
Mendip Rail
Number 59001–59005, 59101–59104, 59201–59206
Axle load class Route availability 7

The Class 59 Co-Co diesel locomotives were built and introduced between 1985 and 1995 by Electro-Motive Division (EMD) of General Motors (now independent company Electro-Motive Diesel) for private British companies, initially Foster Yeoman. They were designed for hauling heavy freight and designated JT26CW-SS.



In the light of Foster Yeoman's dissatisfaction with the availability and reliability of British Rail's Class 56 diesel freight locomotive[1], and their satisfaction with their EMD SW1001 shunter, four Class 59/0s were ordered from EMD and arrived in 1986. A new design to the British loading gauge and specifications, derived from the EMD SD40-2, it used the cab layout of the British Rail Class 58 to aid driver assimilation.[citation needed]

They were the first United States-built and the first privately owned diesel locomotives to operate regularly on the British main line,[citation needed] although EMD powered locomotives have been the mainstay in both the Republic of Ireland since 1961 and Northern Ireland since 1980.[citation needed]

Following Foster Yeoman's example, Amey Roadstone Construction bought four (Class 59/1) and National Power bought six (Class 59/2) locomotives. Foster Yeoman and ARC merged their rail concerns into Mendip Rail, and the rail interests of National Power were taken over by EWS, now DB Schenker Rail (UK) Ltd.

Ultimately EMD's diligence and flexibility in designing and constructing such a small order paid off in opening the way for the later, much larger, Class 66 order.[citation needed] This design uses the same body shell but is internally different. The only livery shared between the classes is EWS red and gold, but whereas the 66s have a zigzag gold stripe, the 59s' stripe is straight.[citation needed]

Mendip Rail

The better to manage their fleet availability and scale needs, Hanson ARC and Foster Yeoman founded Mendip Rail. The assets are still owned by both parent companies and the staff are seconded. Subsequently Mendip Rail has obtained Train Operating Company status. Mendip Rail's Class 59s work services between various destinations, which have changed over time according to demand and specific contracts. They have worked regularly over Southern metals, most notably to the Foster Yeoman terminals at Eastleigh and Botley, as well as on Channel Tunnel construction work.

Class 59 derivatives

Class 59/0 - Foster Yeoman

Because of poor reliability and low availability of the various locomotives used by British Rail to haul the stone trains from the West Country, Foster Yeoman began negotiations with British Rail to improve service.[citation needed] Having already supplied their own wagons with a reliability level of 96%, they suggested to British Rail that they could operate their own locomotives.[citation needed] British Rail's problem was the hard tie-in and control of the rail unions,[citation needed] but accepted the proposal in principle.

Foster Yeoman invited tenders for the supply of six locomotives from a manufacturer with a proven availability record of 95%. It is untrue that British Rail refused to tender,[citation needed] but withdrew having conceded that they had nothing which was of the required combination of power and reliability.[citation needed] Having already operated an EMD SW1001 shunter in the Merehead Quarry with good results, Foster Yeoman approached General Motors who were able to demonstrate the required long-term 95% availability. Derived from the EMD SD40-2, the cab layout was based on the British Rail Class 58 for easier driver assimilation.[citation needed] To meet the British loading gauge, an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 man-hours of design work was carried out by EMD. Some compromises were required; the large exhaust silencer required to meet BR noise levels left no room for Dynamic Braking equipment. However, it was possible to retain the all-important Super Series wheel creep control, which because of its superior traction can eliminate the need for double heading.[citation needed] Foster Yeoman therefore reduced their original requirement from six to four locomotives, ordering four in November 1984, and a fifth in 1988. All five locomotives were custom built by General Motors Diesel Division at their La Grange, Illinois, USA, plant.

In their first ten years of operation, the five locomotives between them hauled over 50 million tonnes of aggregates away from Merehead.[citation needed]

Class 59/1 - Amey Roadstone Construction

Built by General Motors Diesel Division at their London, Ontario, Canada, plant in 1990. The four Class 59/1 locomotives owned by Hanson (parent company of the former owners Amey Roadstone Construction) are similar to the Class 59/0 locomotives of Foster Yeoman, the main differences being a revised head light and marker light layout and the fitting of yaw dampers to permit the maximum speed to be increased to 75 mph (121 km/h).[citation needed]

Class 59/2 - National Power

Following Foster Yeoman, National Power decided to investigate the possibility of running its own trains, by ordering a single pilot locomotive. Following the trial, National Power ordered a further five locomotives and a fleet of hopper wagons to carry coal and limestone.[citation needed]

Again built at the London plant in 1994 and 1995, the six Class 59/2 locomotives differ from the Class 59/1s in several ways. A carbon dioxide fire control system replaces the original Halon system, NiCd batteries replace lead-acid, and the fleet all have drop-head knuckle couplers fitted. A more advanced slow speed control suitable for merry-go-round power station coal train operation has been fitted, as well as yaw dampers for a higher top speed.[citation needed]

In April 1998 EWS took over the National Power rail operations. With the locomotives under EWS management, they were used more widely over the network until 2005 when they were allocated to work beside the Mendip Rail fleet. The 59/2s are also now maintained by Mendip Rail at Merehead.[citation needed]

Notable workings and accidents

Designed for reliability and 95% availability, the Class 59 has achieved a 99% level during its life.[citation needed] On 26 May 1991 class member 59 005 set the European haulage record for a single locomotive, with a stone train weighing 11,982 tonnes and 5,415 feet (1,650 m) long.[citation needed]

While working the 6A20 Whatley to Acton (West London) stone train locomotive number 59 103 and the first ten hopper wagons derailed at 23:20 on 12 September 2000 between Great Elm Tunnel and Bedlam Tunnel on the single track branch line to the Hanson Quarry at Whatley. The locomotive and the first two hoppers rolled and 59 103 came to rest on the parapet of a small bridge on the driver's side (left by direction of travel) with the trailing bogie partially torn off by the following hopper car. The locomotive was pulled upright on 19 September 2000 and removed to Whatley Quarry where an initial assessment of the damage was made and repairs made to make the locomotive safe for removal by road. The locomotive was then moved by road to Derby on 2 November 2000 for further assessment before moving to Eastleigh for repairs.[citation needed]


In 1997, one of the Foster Yeoman locomotives, 59 003 Yeoman Highlander was exported to Germany, renumbered as 259 003, and operated by Yeoman/Deutsche Bahn (DB), pulling stone trains. It has since moved on to Heavy Haul Power International where it is still working on coal trains and pulls the highest train weight of any loco presently in Germany.[2]

Enthusiast nicknames

Class 59 locomotives are known by some enthusiasts as 'Daddy Yings',[citation needed] due to the noise of the engine and that they are the design on which the later Class 66 locomotives (sometimes called 'Yings') were based. They are also occasionally referred to as 'GM', due to the General Motors powerplant. Another nickname is 'Super Shed', again based on a Class 66 nickname ('Shed' because when viewed head-on, it resembles the profile of a garden shed roof) and the fact the Class 59 is more powerful.

Fleet details

 Specification   Sub-class 
 59/0   59/1   59/2 
Built for: Foster Yeoman ARC, daughter company of Hanson plc National Power
Currently owned by: Foster Yeoman Hanson DB Schenker
Operated by: Mendip Rail Mendip Rail DB Schenker
Built: 1985 and 1989 by General Motors, USA 1990 by General Motors, Canada 1994-1995 by General Motors, Canada
Engine: General Motors 16-645E3C two stroke of 2460 kW (3300 hp) at 900 rpm
Main alternator: General Motors AR11 MLD-D14A
Traction motors: General Motors D77B
Maximum tractive effort: 506 kN (113,550 lbf) until 14.3 mph (23.0 km/h)
Continuous tractive effort: 291 kN (65,300 lbf)
Power at rail: 1889 kW (2533 hp)
Train brakes: Air brakes
Brake force: 69 t
Dimensions: 21.35 x 2.65 m
Mass: 121 t
Wheel diameter: 42 inch
Design speed: 60 mph (97 km/h) 60 mph (97 km/h) 75 mph (121 km/h)
Maximum speed: 60 mph (97 km/h) 60 mph (97 km/h) 75 mph (121 km/h)
Fuel capacity: 1,000 imp gal (4,550 l)
Route availability: RA 7
Electric train supply: Not equipped
Multiple working: AAR System
Number Works No Commissioned by Build Date Ship Arrive UK Revenue Owner Name Notes
59 001 848002-1 Foster Yeoman 1985 MV Fairlift 21 Jan 1986 Feb 1986 Foster Yeoman Yeoman Endeavour
59 002 848002-2 Foster Yeoman 1985 MV Fairlift 21 Jan 1986 Feb 1986 Foster Yeoman Alan J Day Renamed from Yeoman Enterprise at Merehead Quarry on 21 June 1996 by Alan J Day, Managing Director of Day Aggregates
59 003 848002-3 Foster Yeoman 1985 MV Fairlift 21 Jan 1986 Feb 1986 Heavy Haul Power International Originally named Yeoman Highlander. Transferred to Germany in 1997 and renumbered 259 003.
59 004 848002-4 Foster Yeoman 1985 MV Fairlift 21 Jan 1986 Feb 1986 Foster Yeoman Paul A Hammond Renamed from Yeoman Challenger at Merehead Quarry on 21 June 1996 by Paul A Hammond, Managing Director of Yeoman Aggregates
59 005 Foster Yeoman 1989 MV Fairlift 4 June 1989 June 1989 Foster Yeoman Kenneth J Painter
59 101 878029-1 Hanson (formerly ARC) 1990 MV Stellamare 20 Oct 1990 11 Nov 1990 Hanson Village of Whatley
59 102 878029-2 Hanson (formerly ARC) 1990 MV Stellamare 20 Oct 1990 11 Nov 1990 Hanson Village of Chantry
59 103 878029-3 Hanson (formerly ARC) 1990 MV Stellamare 20 Oct 1990 11 Nov 1990 Hanson Village of Mells
59 104 878029-4 Hanson (formerly ARC) 1990 MV Stellamare 20 Oct 1990 11 Nov 1990 Hanson Village of Great Elm
59 201 918273-1 National Power 1995 MV Haskerland 16 Feb 1994 26 April 1994 DB Schenker Vale of York
59 202 948510-1 National Power 1995 MV Condock V 4 Aug 1995 Oct 1995 DB Schenker Vale of White Horse
59 203 948510-2 National Power 1995 MV Condock V 4 Aug 1995 Oct 1995 DB Schenker Vale of Pickering
59 204 948510-3 National Power 1995 MV Condock V 4 Aug 1995 Oct 1995 DB Schenker Vale of Glamorgan
59 205 948510-4 National Power 1995 MV Condock V 4 Aug 1995 Oct 1995 DB Schenker L Keith McNair Originally named Vale of Evesham on 14 June 1996 at Ferrybridge. Renamed on 28 March 1998 at Ferrybridge.
59 206 948510-5 National Power 1995 MV Condock V 4 Aug 1995 Oct 1995 DB Schenker John F Yeaman First locomotive to carry DB Schenker verkehrsrot livery. Previously named Pride of Ferrybridge under EWS

References and sources



  • Fox, Peter; Hall, Peter & Pritchard, Robert (2004). British Railways Locomotives & coaching stock 2004. Sheffield: Platform 5. ISBN 1 902336 39 9. 

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