Class 47 No 47484 Isambard Kingdom Brunel in Great Western Livery.
The Class 47 – or ‘Brush Type 4’ – was the definitive second generation, mixed traffic locomotive of British Rail’s time. Introduced between 1962 and 1967, there were to be many variations and upgrades throughout the ensuing 45 years to present day operation.
Class 47 locomotives operating in service today are still able to head passenger and freight services throughout the country. However, their once-superb reliability has declined with age. During the early 1980s most locomotives passed through the Crewe Locomotive Works for heavy general overhaul, but this only served to stall withdrawals of life-expired or collision-damaged locomotives.
Following privatisation of the UK railways, the remaining Class 47s passed to freight operators in the private sector. Direct Rail Services, EWS, First Great Western, Freightliner, Virgin Cross Country and Cotswold Rail have all operated Class 47s over the last decade, sharing Freight, Passenger and Preservation Rail Tour duties. Each of the operators was quick to apply its own branding to the locos after privatisation and a plethora of brightly coloured Class 47s are produced even now. These include: Direct Rail Services, Cotswold Rail and, more prominently, the late FM Rail’s Blue Pullman livery.
Many of the remaining locomotives are in steady decline with the introduction of more and more modern traction. A few have been converted to the newer Class 57 through upgrades to the body work, as well as a complete internal strip out and upgrade to better instruments, equipment and engine.
However, the future of most Class 47 locomotives lies at the scrap yard, as a new generation of mixed traffic traction has undermined their dominance. The Class 66 Locomotive adds more technology, more traction and more diversity to modern freight operations.