British Rail Class 40

English Electric Type 4
British Rail Class 40
40145 on a charter train at Carlisle, 27 August 2004
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder English Electric at Vulcan Foundry and Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns
Build date 1958–1962
Total produced 200
Configuration 1Co-Co1
UIC classification (1Co)'(Co1)'
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) Standard gauge
Wheel diameter Driving: 3 ft 9 in (1.143 m)
Idling: 3 ft 0 in (0.914 m)
Minimum curve 4.5 chains (91 m)
Wheelbase 61 ft 3 in (18.67 m)
Length 69 ft 6 in (21.18 m)
Width 9 ft 0 in (2.74 m)
Height 12 ft 10 in (3.91 m)
Locomotive weight 133 long tons (135 t)
Fuel capacity 710 imp gal (3,200 l; 850 US gal)
Prime mover English Electric 16SVT MkII
Transmission DC generator, DC traction motors
Multiple working Blue Star
Top speed 90 mph (140 km/h)
Power output Engine: 2,000 bhp (1,490 kW)
At rail: 1,550 hp (1,160 kW)
Tractive effort Maximum: 52,000 lbf (231 kN)
Train heating Steam
51 LTf (508 kN)
Train brakes Vacuum; later Dual (Air & Vacuum)
Career British Railways
Number D200–D399, later 40 001–40 199
Nicknames Bucket, Whistler
Axle load class Route availability 6

The British Rail Class 40 is a type of British railway diesel locomotive. Built by English Electric between 1958 and 1962, and eventually numbering 200, they were for a time the pride of the British Rail early diesel fleet. Despite their initial success, by the time the last examples were entering service they were already being replaced on some top-link duties by more powerful locomotives. As they were slowly relegated from express passenger uses, the type found work on secondary passenger and freight services where they worked for many years, the final locomotives being retired from regular service in 1985.



The origins of the Class 40 fleet lay in the prototype diesel locomotives (Types D16/1 ordered by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and British Railways and D16/2 ordered by British Railways between 1947 and 1954) and most notably with the Southern Region locomotive No. 10203, which was powered by English Electric's 16SVT MkII engine developing 2,000 bhp (1,460 kW).[1] The bogie design and power train of 10203 was used almost un-changed on the first ten production Class 40.


British Railways originally ordered ten Class 40s, then known as "English Electric Type 4s", as evaluation prototypes. They were built at the Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire.[2] The first locomotive, D200, was delivered to Stratford on 14 March 1958. Following fitter and crew training, D200 made its passenger début on an express train from London Liverpool Street to Norwich on 18 April 1958.[1] Five of the prototypes, Nos. D200, D202-D205, were trialed on similar services on the former Great Eastern routes, whilst the remaining five, Nos. D201, D206-D209, worked on Great Northern services on the East Coast Main Line.

Sir Brian Robertson, chairman of the British Transport Commission, was less than impressed, believing that the locomotives lacked the power to maintain heavy trains at high speed and were too expensive to run in multiple – opinions that were later proved to be correct. Airing his views at the regional boards prompted others to break cover and it was agreed that later orders would be uprated to 2500 hp (a change that was never applied). Direct comparisons on the Great Eastern mainline showed they offered little advantage over the "Britannia" class steam locomotives, when driven well, and the Eastern Region declined to accept further machines as they deemed them unsuitable to replace the Pacific steam locomotives on the East Coast Main Line[3] preferring to hold on until the "Deltic" Class 55 diesels were delivered.

The London Midland Region was only too pleased as the Eastern Region's decision released additional locomotives to replace their ageing steam fleet, Class 40 managing Camden bank, just north of Euston, with apparent ease. The West Coast Main Line had been starved of investment for many years and the poor track and general lower speeds (when compared to the East Coast route) suited Class 40 as the need to hold trains at speed for long periods simply did not exist and it better exploited their fairly rapid acceleration.


Following the mixed success of the prototypes, another 190 locomotives were ordered by British Railways, and were numbered from D210 to D399. All were built at Vulcan Foundry, except a batch of twenty (Nos. D305–D324) which were built at Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns factory in Darlington. All the locomotives were painted in the British Railways diesel green livery, and the final locomotive, D399, was delivered in September 1962.[4]

Batches of the class were built with significant design differences, due to changes in railway working practices. The first 125 locomotives, Nos. D200–D324, were built with steam-age 'disc' headcode markers, which BR used to identify services. Later, it was decided that locomotives should display the four character train reporting number (or headcode) of the service they were hauling, and Nos. D325–D344 were built with 'split' headcode boxes, which displayed two characters either side of the locomotive's central gangway doors. Another policy decision led to the discontinuing of the gangway doors (which enabled train crew to move between two or three locomotives in multiple). The remaining locomotives, Nos. D345–D399, carried a central four-character headcode box. In 1965, seven of the first batch of locomotives, Nos. D260–D266, which were based in Scotland, were converted to the central headcode design.[5][6]

Locomotives in the range D210–D235 were to be named after ships operated by the companies Cunard Line, Elder Dempster Lines, and Canadian Pacific Steamships, as they hauled express trains to Liverpool, the home port of these companies. The only locomotive not to carry a name was D226 which was to carry the name Media but never did so. From approximately 1970, with Class 40s no longer working these trains, the nameplates were gradually removed.[4]

From 1973, locomotives were renumbered to suit the TOPS computer operating system, and became known as 'Class 40'. Locomotives D201 to D399 were renumbered in sequence into the range 40 001 to 40 199. The first built locomotive, D200, was renumbered 40 122, which was vacant due to the scrapping of D322 after an accident on 16 May 1966.[7] It was withdrawn September 1967.[8]

BR service

The Class 40s operated in all areas of British Railways although sightings in the Western and Southern Regions have always been exceptionally rare and usually the result of special trains and/or unusual operational circumstances. After the early trials, the majority were based at depots in northern England, notably Manchester Longsight, Carlisle Kingmoor, Wigan Springs Branch, Thornaby and Gateshead.

The heyday of the class was in the early 1960s, when they hauled top-link expresses on the West Coast Main Line and in East Anglia. However, the arrival of more powerful diesels such as Class 47 and Class 55, together with the electrification of the West Coast Main Line, meant that the fleet was gradually relegated to more mundane duties.

In later life the locomotives were mainly to be found hauling heavy freight and passenger trains in the north of England and Scotland. As more new rolling stock was introduced, their passenger work decreased, partly due to their lack of electric train heating (D255 was fitted with electric train heating for a trial period in the mid 1960s) for newer passenger coaches. They lost their last front-line passenger duties – in Scotland – in 1980, and the last regular use on passenger trains was on the North Wales Coast Line between Holyhead, Crewe and Manchester, along with regular forays across the Pennines on Liverpool to York and Newcastle services.

Throughout the early 1980s Class 40's were common performers on relief, day excursion (adex) and holidaymaker services along with deputisation duties for electric traction, especially on Sundays between Manchester and Birmingham. This resulted in visits to many distant parts of the network. It would be fair to say that few routes in the London Midland and Eastern regions did not see a Class 40 worked passenger service from time to time. Regular destinations included the seaside resorts of Scarborough, Skegness and Cleethorpes on the Eastern region, with Blackpool and Stranraer being regularly visited on the West Coast.

Much rarer workings include visits to London's Paddington and Euston stations, Norwich, Cardiff and even Kyle of Lochalsh. The fact that 40's could turn up almost anywhere resulted in them being followed by a hard core of bashers, enthusiasts dedicated to journeying over lines with rare traction for the route. The 40's rarely disappointed in this respect.


Withdrawal of the Class 40s started in 1976, when three locomotives (40 005, 40 039 and 40 102) were taken out of service. At over 130 tons the Class were by then considered underpowered. In addition, some were found to be suffering from fractures of the plate-frame bogies (due mainly to inappropriate use on wagon-load freight and the associated running into tightly curved yards[citation needed]), and spares were also needed to keep other locomotives running. Also, many Class 40s were not fitted with air braking, leaving them unable to haul more modern freight and passenger vehicles. Despite this, only sixteen had been withdrawn by the start of the 1980s.[9] The locomotives, often known as "Whistlers" because of the distinctive noise of the Napier turbochargers, became more popular with railway enthusiasts as their numbers started to dwindle.

Withdrawals then picked up apace, with the non-air brake fitted locomotives taking the brunt of the decline. In 1981, all 130 remaining locomotives were concentrated in the London Midland region of BR. After that, numbers dwindled slowly until by the end of 1984 there were only thirteen still running. These included the pioneer locomotive, 40 122, which having been withdrawn in 1981, was re-instated in July 1983 and painted in the original green livery to haul rail enthusiasts' specials. The last passenger run by a Class 40 apart from 40 122 occurred on 27 January 1985, when 40 012 hauled a train from Birmingham New Street to York. All the remaining locomotives except 40 122 were withdrawn the next day.

Further use

40 135 (97 406) at Crewe Works

The Class 40 story was not quite over, however. Upon the joint initiative of enthusiasts Howard Johnston and Murray Brown who noticed it on the scrapline at Carlisle Kingmoor depot in summer 1981 ready to go to Swindon Works for breaking up, 40 122 was reinstated by BR and overhauled at Toton depot with parts from 40 076. Now in working condition and repainted green, it was regularly used to haul normal passenger trains in the hope of attracting enthusiasts, as well as special trains. In addition, four locomotives were temporarily returned to service as Class 97 departmental locomotives, numbered 97 405-408. They were used to work engineering trains for a remodelling project at Crewe station. These were withdrawn by early 1987.

40 122 was eventually withdrawn in 1988 and presented to the National Railway Museum. Six other locomotives were preserved, and on 30 November 2002, over sixteen years after the last Class 40 had hauled a mainline passenger train, the Class 40 Preservation Society's 40 145 hauled an enthusiasts' railtour from Crewe to Holyhead and back.[10]

D326 (40 126)

This was probably the most famed diesel loco, but for all the wrong reasons. On Boxing Day 1962 it was hauling the up Midday Scot when it collided with the rear of a Liverpool to Birmingham express due to driver error, killing 18 passengers and injuring 33. On 8 August 1963 it was hauling the overnight West Coast Postal and became involved with the 'Great Train Robbery'. In 1964 a secondman was electrocuted by the overhead wire while working outside the loco. Finally, in 1965 the loco suffered total brake failure on the approach to Birmingham New Street. Luckily in this case, the train was diverted into another platform at the last minute by a quick-thinking signalman, and smashed into the back of a freight train, injuring only the guard. Whilst other class 40 members, and withdrawn locos in general, languished for long periods awaiting disposal, BR cut 40 126 up very quickly in order to keep the souvenir hunters at bay, when withdrawn in February 1984 and cut up in April 1984.


  • D326 (later 40 126) was the engine used to haul the train involved in the Great Train Robbery in 1963.
  • D318 (later 40 118) featured in the 1967 film Robbery, based on the events of the Great Train Robbery.
  • 40 106 (originally D306) retained its original green livery throughout its career. In 1979, it was the last locomotive remaining in the livery, and instead of being repainted into rail blue, was given a new coat of green. It was regularly used on charter specials, and after withdrawal in 1983 it was later preserved. In 1988 D306 was Given a false front end and played the part of D326 in the film "Buster" replicating the Great Train Robbery.[citation needed] The locomotive was later named Atlantic Conveyor, after the ship of the same name sunk in the Falklands War.



Seven locomotives and one cab end (40 088) have been preserved on heritage railways, including the first built, number D200.

Numbers(current in bold) Name Livery Location Notes
D200 40 122 BR Green National Railway Museum Part of the National Collection
D212 40 012 97 407 Aureol BR Green Midland Railway - Butterley Headcode discs.
D213 40 013 Andania BR Blue Barrow Hill Engine Shed
D288 40 088 BR Blue Crewe Heritage Centre Only one cab saved and is mounted on a road trailer.
D306 40 106 Atlantic Conveyor BR Green Washwood Heath Headcode discs. Named in preservation.
D318 40 118 97408 BR Blue Tyseley Locomotive Works
D335 40 135 97 406 BR Green East Lancashire Railway Split headcode boxes. Operational.
D345 40 145 East Lancashire Railway Large Logo Blue East Lancashire Railway Domino Route. Mainline registered. Named during the East Lancashire Railway 20th Anniversary event. Currently out of traffic due to a main generator fault, for which it is receiving attention at HNRC Barrow Hill.

In fiction

Two Class 40 1Co-Co1s appear in The Railway Series of children's books by the Rev. W. Awdry and the TV spin-off, Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. The locomotives concerned were "The Diesel" (D4711) (numbered D261 in the TV Series) and "Old Stuck Up".


  1. ^ a b Class 40 History Part 1 Class 40 Preservation Society - Retrieved on 2007-07-17
  2. ^ Class 40 Page The Railway Centre - Retrieved on 2007-07-18
  3. ^ BRITISH RAIL STANDARD DIESELS OF THE 1960s - p94 - Ian Allan Publishing
  4. ^ a b Class 40 History Part 2 Class 40 Preservation Society - Retrieved on 2007-07-23
  5. ^ Haresnape, Brian (June 1984) [1982]. British Rail Fleet Survey 3: Production Diesel-Electrics Types 4 and 5 (2nd ed.). Shepperton: Ian Allan. pp. 22–26, 27. ISBN 0 7110 1450 7. CX/0684. 
  6. ^ Strickland, D.C. (March 1983). D+EG Locomotive Directory. Camberley: Diesel & Electric Group. p. 96. ISBN 0 906375 10 X. 
  7. ^ Report on the Collision that occurred on 13th May 1966 at Acton Grange Junction in the London Midland Region British Railways Accident report at The Railways Archive
  8. ^ Incidents in 1967 - Retrieved on 2007-07-23
  9. ^ Withdrawal list Class 40 page - Retrieved on 2007-07-24
  10. ^ 40145 maiden journey 2002 Six Bells Junction - Retrieved on 2007-07-24

Further reading

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

External links

Locomotive details

  • Detailed photoguides (annotated):
  1. Cab interiorPDF (372 KB) , including driver's desk, secondman's position, AWS equipment
  2. Nose interior equipmentPDF (118 KB) , including sanding gear, hand brake, vacuum brake controls
  3. 1-Co BogiePDF (201 KB) , including bogie structure; brake, heating and electrical connections
  4. Engine interiorPDF (187 KB) , camshaft and associated components
  5. Electrical control cubiclesPDF (440 KB)

Preservation groups

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