BR’s versatile Class 03s

Often overshadowed by the Class 08s, the lower-powered Gardner-engined machines were adopted as British Rail’s standard small shunter, enjoying a varied career across five regions. Simon Bendall recounts the type’s history and the many detail differences that would appear over the years.

Colchester maintained a small allocation of Class 03s for much of the 1980s, one of their duties being to work Ipswich docks. On August 15, 1983, No. 03179 rumbles along the quayside with a rake of loaded Fisons Fertilisers ammonium nitrate tankers from Ipswich Lower Yard to the fertiliser works at Cliff Quay. At this time, this traffic was originating from both Avonmouth and Immingham. In keeping with the other Class 03 dual brake conversions, it features the air cylinders in front of the cab as well as the vacuum exhauster cabinet on the leading section of the running plate. As a former Southern loco, it has the taller air tanks along with the high level brake pipes but the orange warning light on the cab roof was an altogether more unusual modification. Rail Photoprints/John Chalcraft

BUILT between 1957 and 1962, the Class 03s, as they would later become under the TOPS system, were BR’s attempt at creating a ‘standard’ small 0-6-0 diesel mechanical shunter.

Based extensively on the existing Drewry design (later Class 04) but with a number of refinements, the type employed the same proven and reliable 204hp Gardner 8L3 engine.

Eventually totalling 230 examples, the build was split between the BR workshops at Swindon and Doncaster. The former turned out Nos. D2000-43/86-88, D2114-99 and D2372-84 with the South Yorkshire workshop responsible for Nos. D2044-85/89-99, D2100-13 and D2385-99, the jump in the number series being due to the Class 04s occupying the D2200-D2341 range.

Swindon also constructed two further examples, these going into departmental stock as Nos. 91 & 92 at Chesterton Junction, Cambridge, in 1958. They were eventually taken into the revenue fleet in 1967, becoming
Nos. D2370 & D2371 respectively.

Accepted into traffic in December 1957, Nos. D2000-03 went new to King’s Cross (34A), thus beginning the type’s long association with the Eastern and North Eastern regions. While both of these areas received numerous further examples, batches were also dispersed across the Southern, Western and London Midland regions, leaving only Scotland without an allocation.

Read more in the March issue of RE – out now!

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