British Rail Class 57

British Rail Class 57

Great Western Railway 57603 in 2016
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder Brush Traction
British Rail Crewe Works
Build date 1964-1967
Rebuilder Brush Traction
Rebuild date 1998-2004
Number rebuilt 33
UIC class Co'-Co'
Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Length 19.38 metres (63 ft 7 in)
Width 2.79 metres (9 ft 2 in)
Loco weight 57/0 & 57601: 120.6 tonnes (119 long tons; 133 short tons)
57/3 & 57602–57605: 117 tonnes (115 long tons; 129 short tons)
Fuel type Diesel
Fuel capacity 57/0: 5,550 L (1,220 imp gal; 1,470 US gal)
57/3 & 57/6: 5,887 L (1,295 imp gal; 1,555 US gal)
Prime mover 57/0: EMD 645-E3
57/3 & 57/6: EMD 645-F3B
Engine type two-stroke V12 diesel
Cylinders 12
Cylinder size (?)
MU working Yes
Train heating 57/0: None
57601: Electric Train Supply index 95
57/3 & 57602-57605: Electric Train Supply index 100
Loco brake Air
Performance figures
Maximum speed 57/0: 75 mph (121 km/h)
57/3 & 57/6: 95 mph (153 km/h)
Loco brakeforce 57/0: 80 long tons-force (797 kN)
57/3 & 57/6: 60 long tons-force (598 kN)
Operators Direct Rail Services
Great Western Railway
West Coast Railway Company
Number in class 33
Numbers 57001-57012
Nicknames Thunderbirds
Body Snatchers
First run 1999
Disposition 31 in service, 2 stored

The Class 57 diesel locomotives were re-manufactured by Brush Traction, Loughborough between 1998 and 2004 from Class 47s with re-conditioned EMD engines and Class 56 traction motors.


The Class 57 is a re-engineered locomotive, rebuilt by Brush Traction, Loughborough from redundant Class 47 locomotives. The locomotives are fitted with a refurbished EMD engine and a re-conditioned alternator, improving reliability and performance. Three variants exist, one for freight and two for passenger operations. Each cost £300,000, about one-third that of a new build locomotive.[1]

The class has its origins in 1997 when Freightliner ordered an initial six locomotives.[2] In 2001, a prototype locomotive was converted with electric train heating, with a view to obtaining orders from passenger companies.[3]

Current operators

Direct Rail Services

DRS 57304 at Crewe

Direct Rail Services currently operate nine class 57/0s, comprising 57002-57003 and 57007-57012 leased from Porterbrook and 57004 purchased outright as an insurance replacement for 37515 in 2008. DRS took 57302, 57305 and 57309 from Porterbrook in April 2012 on a three-year lease.[4] Since December 2012, Direct Rail Services have provided haulage for Virgin Trains. As part of the deal another three class 57/3s were leased. In July 2014, DRS took over the leases of the remaining six class 57/3s from Network Rail.[5][6]

The 57's are used on the Rail Head Treatment Train (RHTT) during the autumn periods. DRS hires out some of The non Thunderbird 57/3's to Great Western Railway to cover when the Class 57/6 break down.

57307 Lady Penelope kept her nameplate after been handed to DRS in 2013 as 57307 was a favorite with the head of DRS. 57307 was out shopped in "Cable Thieves: We're Watching You" vinyls. In 2015 to mark the 20th anniversary of DRS 57307 was chosen to carry the anniversary livery. She was vinyled at Carlisle Kingsmoor DRS depot during the Open day to mark 20 years of the company.

DRS/Virgin Thunderbirds

There are five members of class 57/3 that still have Dellner couplings fitted in order to rescue Pendolinos and Virgin Super Voyagers, these being:

The five can be seen at different places on the West Coast Main Line, such as Rugby, Crewe, London Euston or Preston.

Great Western Railway

GWR 57604 at the NRM

In 2000, Porterbrook placed an order for a prototype passenger locomotive fitted with electric train heating.[3] This locomotive, 57601, was leased to First Great Western in June 2001,[7][8] FGW were looking for a replacement for its elderly Class 47 locomotives. It hauled Mark 2 stock on day services from London Paddington to Plymouth and Penzance until these ceased in September 2002 and the Night Riviera sleeper service. After an evaluation period, FGW agreed to lease three production Class 57/6s from Porterbrook in May 2002.[9][10] with the first delivered in November 2003.[11] As the prototype locomotive was non-standard, it was decided to order a fourth Class 57/6 in 2003 and return 57601 to Porterbrook. This occurred in December 2003 after the first production Class 57/6 was delivered with 57601 sold to West Coast Railway Company.[12] Great Western Railway also plan to obtain one more Class 57, however the sub-class and number are not yet confirmed.[13]

The FGW fleet were originally painted green with a gold bodyside band to match the Night Riviera stock with cast name and numberplates. All four locomotives were named after castles in Devon and Cornwall,[14] and operate mainly on the Night Riviera sleeper service with the occasional stock move. From March 2008 the fleet started to receive FGW's blue livery, with 57605 the first repainted. In June 2010 57604 received a repaint into lined Brunswick green livery to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the Great Western Railway.[15][16]

First GBRf hired Class 57/3s from Virgin Trains to operate in top and tail formation with Mark 2 stock on a FGW Taunton to Cardiff diagram from December 2009 until July 2010 when the Class 57/3s were replaced due to unreliability by Class 67s.[17][18]

West Coast Railway Company

WCRC 57316 at Derby

In April 2003 57601 was sold to West Coast Railway Company but remained in traffic with First Great Western for a few months. WCRC managing director said that the first thing he did when he took control of the loco was to pass it though his paint shop to apply the house colours in the original diesel style.[19]

In January 2011, WCRC purchased 57001 from Freightliner from Porterbrook and 57005 from Advenza Freight,[20] followed in April 2011 by 57006 from Advenza,[21] with 57001 and 57006 returned to service and 57005 stored at Carnforth. In January 2013 57313-316 were purchased from Porterbrook, making West Coast Railway Company the only company to operate all three class 57 sub-classes.[22][23] These have since had their Dellner couplings removed.

Former operators

Advenza Freight

Advenza Freight purchased 57005 and 57006 from Porterbrook in January 2008 to use on a number of freight flows won by the company.[24][25] After Advenza ceased in 2009, 57005 was sold to West Coast Railway Company in January 2011, as was 57006 in April 2011.[20][21]

Arriva Trains Wales

Arriva Trains Wales liveried 57315 hauling the Premier Service at Newport station in June 2009

From January until July 2006, Arriva Trains Wales hired Class 57/3s from Virgin Trains to operate a weekday Manchester Piccadilly to Holyhead diagram with Mark 2 carriages.

In December 2008, Arriva Trains Wales began operation of the daily Premier Service between Holyhead and Cardiff with Mark 2 carriages. To provide the motive power for this train ATW contracted Virgin Trains to provide Class 57/3 locomotives initially in top and tail formation, but later on their own.[26] Four were repainted at Cardiff Canton, 57314 and 57315 receiving ATW livery, 57313 and 57316 plain blue with no signwriting.[27] In March 2012 Class 67s took over the duties from the Class 57/3s.[28]

Colas Rail

From the start of 2007 until 31 October 2009 Colas Rail hired Class 57/3 locos from Virgin Trains.[29] Starting in August 2009, a Class 57/0 was hired from Direct Rail Services on a trial basis for one or two days each week. Unlike the Virgin Trains Class 57/3s, all sixteen of which were variously used on the timber trains, Direct Rail Services specifically allocated 57002 to the Colas workings with 57008 as standby when 57002 was undergoing maintenance. To reflect this allocation 57002 was fitted with a large Colas Rail logo on each side, just behind the non-driving side of each cab.


Freightliner 57007 at Northampton station in July 2006

In 1997 Freightliner placed an order for an initial six Class 57/0 locomotives. The first of these was released in July 1998, and coincided with the unveiling of the new British Racing Green Freightliner livery. After an evaluation period Freightliner was sufficiently impressed to order a further six in June 1999, with plans for an eventual fleet of twenty-five.[30] However, in the event no more were rebuilt, with Freightliner switching to new-built Class 66s. All were leased from Porterbrook.

The Freightliner fleet saw use over a wide area, serving locations such as Ipswich, Southampton, Birmingham, Cardiff and Leeds. The introduction of the class resulted in the replacement of the Class 47 locomotives on most long-distance intermodal trains. Freightliner named all its locomotives, with examples such as Freightliner Pioneer and Freightliner Phoenix.

The engines were named as:

In 2007, Freightliner started to replace its Class 57/0s with new Class 66 locomotives. Initially six Class 57/0s (the second batch) were returned to Porterbrook, and leased to Direct Rail Services in July 2007.[31] Of the original six, three also went to Direct Rail Services and two to Advenza Freight in January 2008.[20][21][32] The remaining Class 57/0 was sold to West Coast Railway Company in January 2011.

Network Rail

Network Rail 57305, 57312 & 57310 at Eastleigh station in February 2014

In September 2011, Network Rail leased six Class 57/3s from Porterbrook for use on test trains and the new Network Rail snow train.[33] The Dellner couplings were reconfigured to operate with 171, 350, 375, 376, 377, 444 and 450s in an emergency, due to their operational area primarily being the Southern Region. In July 2014, the leases were transferred to Direct Rail Services.[5][6][34]

57312 was named Peter Henderson who was one of the original Board members of Network Rail

Virgin Trains West Coast

Thunderbirds International Rescue crest and Gordon Tracy nameplate on 57304 in April 2006

To provide a fleet of locomotives for rescue duties and for drags on routes with no overhead wires, Virgin Trains signed a deal with Porterbrook in 2002 to rebuild twelve Class 47's as Class 57/3's[35] with the first delivered in June 2002.[36][37]

After it was announced by the Strategic Rail Authority in June 2003 that Class 390 Pendolinos would operate along the North Wales Coast Line to Holyhead hauled by Class 57/3s,[38] a further four were ordered.[39][40]

It was decided to fit the fleet with Dellner retractable couplings with the original twelve being retrofitted from October 2003.[41] The Dellner coupling allows easier connection to Class 390 Pendolinos in regular service, and also Class 221 Super Voyagers in case of failure or emergency.

From spring 2005, Class 57/3s were used to haul two daily Virgin services from Crewe to Holyhead, complementing the Class 221 Super Voyagers that covered the other North Wales services.[42] The downside of this arrangement was that whilst the Class 390 Pendolino sets are longer and have the added advantage of running off OHLE south of Crewe, coupling and uncoupling at Crewe added to the journey time. From December 2008, all North Wales Coast services were operated by Super Voyagers except for one Saturday service formed of a Class 57/3 and Class 390 Pendolino set. This too was converted to Voyager operation in November 2012.[43]

The 57/3's were for Thunderbirds duties so Virgin Trains named the fleet after characters from Thunderbirds.

The locomotive were named as followed:

57307 Lady Penelope is the only 57/3 to keep a Thunderbirds nameplate when DRS took control of the Virgin Thunderbirds

While intended for Virgin's West Coast franchise they were used to haul failed Virgin CrossCountry Class 220 Voyagers from as far as Aberdeen, Eastleigh and Plymouth on occasions.

After the completion of the West Coast Main Line upgrade in 2008, Virgin's requirement for Class 57/3s decreased. The sixteen strong fleet found other work with Arriva Trains Wales and Colas Rail. In September 2010, six were placed in store at Eastleigh Works[44][45] before being returned to Porterbrook and leased to Network Rail in September 2011.[46][47][48] With the Arriva Trains Wales contract finishing, a further three were returned to Porterbrook and leased to Direct Rail Services in April 2012.

In December 2012, the remaining seven were returned with three being leased to Direct Rail Services and the remaining four sold to West Coast Railway Company.[22][23][49]

Fleet details

Subclass No. Built No. Range Operators Loco Nos. Total
57/0 12 57001-012 Direct Rail Services 57002, 57003, 57004, 57007, 57008, 57009, 57010, 57011, 57012 9
West Coast Railway Company 57001, 57005, 57006 3
57/3 16 57301-316 Direct Rail Services 57301, 57302, 57303, 57304, 57305, 57306, 57307, 57308, 57309, 57310, 57311, 57312 12
West Coast Railway Company 57313, 57314, 57315, 57316 4
57/6 5 57601-605 Great Western Railway 57602, 57603, 57604, 57605 4
West Coast Railway Company 57601 1

Number Rebuilt from Livery Operator Name
57001 47356 West Coast Railway Maroon West Coast Railway Company
57002 47322 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57003 47317 DRS Flash Blue/Green Direct Rail Services
57004 47347 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57005 47350 Advenza Freight Blue West Coast Railway Company
57006 47187 West Coast Railway Maroon West Coast Railway Company
57007 47332 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57008 47060 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57009 47079 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57010 47231 DRS Flash Blue/Green Direct Rail Services
57011 47329 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57012 47388 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57301 47845 DRS Flash Blue/Green Direct Rail Services Goliath
57302 47827 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services/Virgin Chad Varah
57303 47705 DRS Flash Blue/Green Direct Rail Services Pride of Carlisle
57304 47807 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services/Virgin Pride of Cheshire
57305 47822 Northern Belle Direct Rail Services Northern Princess
57306 47814 DRS Flash Blue/Green Direct Rail Services Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate 175
57307 47225 DRS "20 Years of Direct Rail Services" Vinyl Blue Direct Rail Services/Virgin Lady Penelope
57308 47846 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services/Virgin County of Staffordshire
57309 47806 DRS Flash Blue/Green Direct Rail Services/Virgin Pride of Crewe
57310 47831 DRS Flash Blue/Green Direct Rail Services Pride of Cumbria
57311 47817 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services/Virgin Thunderbird
57312 47330 Northern Belle Direct Rail Services Solway Princess
57313 47371 West Coast Railway Maroon West Coast Railway Company
57314 47372 West Coast Railway Maroon West Coast Railway Company
57315 47234 West Coast Railway Maroon West Coast Railway Company
57316 47290 West Coast Railway Maroon West Coast Railway Company
57601 47825 West Coast Railway Maroon West Coast Railway Company
57602 47337 Great Western Railway Green Great Western Railway Restormel Castle
57603 47349 Great Western Railway Green Great Western Railway Tintagel Castle
57604 47209 GWR Brunswick Green[15] Great Western Railway Pendennis Castle
57605 47206 Great Western Railway Green Great Western Railway Totnes Castle


    1. "Brush plans ETH Class 57" Rail issue 361 14 July 1999 page 7
    2. "As good as new as Freightliner moves forward" Rail issue 348 13 January 1999 page 16
    3. 1 2 "Go-ahead for Brush ETS 57" Rail issue 387 12 July 2000 page 48
    4. Porterbrook has reached an agreement with Direct Rail Services for the lease of three Class 57 locomotives Porterbrook Leasing News 4 April 2012
    5. 1 2 "DRS leases more 57/3s for NR infrastructure contract" Rail issue 753 23 July 2014 page 33
    6. 1 2 "Six more 57s for DRS" Today's Railways issue 153 September 2014 page 65
    7. "Porterbrook's Class 57/6 makes its passenger debut" Rail issue 412 27 June 2001 page 53
    8. "Porterbrook's Purple Monster goes into passenger service" The Railway Magazine issue 1204 August 2001 page 89
    9. "FGW to order 57s" Rail issue 435 15 May 2002 page 7
    10. "First Great Western confirms order for at least three ETH Class 57/6s" Rail Express issue 84 May 2003 page 5
    11. "First FGW Class 57s released" Rail issue 474 12 November 2003 page 75
    12. "FGW Class 57 works sleeper as first train" Rail issue 476 24 December 2003 page 16
    13. "Our new Great Western franchise" (PDF) (pdf). First Great Western. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
    14. "FGW Class 57s become Castles" The Railway Magazine issue 1244 December 2004 page 66
    15. 1 2 FGW honours 'GWR 175' - Railway Herald. Page 3. 28 June 2010. Issue 228. Retrieved 2011-08-05.
    16. "Great Western livery for FGW Class 57" The Railway Magazine issue 1312 August 2010 page 73
    17. "First GBRf to operate FGW contract" The Railway Magazine issue 1306 February 2010 page 61
    18. "Taunton Trains Loco-Hauled Info". Taunton Trains. 27 April 2011.
    19. "Class 57" Rail issue 476 10 December 2003 page 81
    20. 1 2 3 "West Coast buys Advenza locos" The Railway Magazine issue 1320 April 2011 page 80
    21. 1 2 3 "Second Advenza 57 at Carnforth" The Railway Magazine issue 1322 June 2011 page 79
    22. 1 2 "WCRC buys ex-VT Class 57/3s to boost charter trains fleet" Rail issue 714 23 January 2013 page 26
    23. 1 2 "West Coast takes on four ex Thunderbirds" Rail Express issue 201 February 2013 page 10
    24. Rail Magazine (584): 66, 30 January 2008 Missing or empty |title= (help)
    25. "Cotswold takes on two 57/0s, but scraps a 47" The Railway Magazine issue 1283 March 2008 page 77
    26. North-south service to go ahead BBC News 8 October 2008
    27. "Losing Virginity" The Railway Magazine issue 1293 January 2009 page 85
    28. Changeover day North Wales Coast Railway Notice Board 26 March 2012
    29. "Woodwork lessons for Amec Spie Rail" Rail Express issue 130 March 2007 page 10
    30. "Freightliner signs deals for five 66s and six 57s" Rail issue 358 2 June 1999 page 4
    31. "DRS takes six Freightliner Class 57s" The Railway Magazine issue 1275 July 2007 page 76
    32. "Two more Class 57s for DRS" The Railway Magazine issue 1289 September 2008 page 82
    33. Class 57 Locomotives leased to Network Rail Archived July 30, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Porterbrook Leasing News 10 October 2011
    34. "NR Class 57s adapted for EMU rescue" The Railway Magazine issue 1349 September 2013 page 80
    35. "Virgin finally confirms 12 57/6s for rescue work" Rail issue 433 17 April 2002 page 17
    36. "Virgin's WCML contingency launched with new 57/6s" Rail issue 438 26 June 2002 page 6
    37. "Thunderbirds are Go!" Rail Express issue 75 August 2002 page 6
    38. "Pendolino to Holyhead" Rail issue 464 25 June 2003 page 17
    39. "Four more Class 57s for Virgin" Rail issue 468 20 August 2003 page 62
    40. "Thunderbirds are go as Virgin gets the nod" The Railway Magazine issue 1229 September 2003 page 6
    41. "57301 receives Dellner coupling" Rail issue 473 29 October 2003 page 75
    42. Class 57/3 loco and Class 390'Pendolino' North Wales Coast Railway: The Trains
    43. Pendolino no more North Wales Coast Railway Noticeboard 10 December 2012
    44. "Virgin Trains places surplus 57/3s in warm storage" Rail issue 653 22 September 2010 page 28
    45. "Six Virgin Class 57/3s go off lease" The Railway Magazine issue 1315 November 2010 page 77
    46. Virgin bids farewell to six Class 57/3s - Railway Herald. Page 3. 2011-08-29. Issue 281. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
    47. "Six of the surplus Class 57/3 locos to work for Network Rail" Rail Express issue 184 September 2011 page 11
    48. "Six Virgin Thunderbirds are going to run Network Rail's test trains" The Railway Magazine issue 1326 October 2011 page 81
    49. January 2013 Archived April 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Porterbrook 4 January 2013

    Further reading

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