Returning No. 47712 to the main line was one thing, but getting it to operate in push-pull mode across Scotland, running at 100mph for sustained periods, won it an award selected by Rail Express. Richard Clinnick meets the owners to find out how this happened, and why.
Ideas mooted over drinks in the pub don’t usually come to fruition.
Yet on February 25, as No. 47712 Lady Diana Spencer stood at Glasgow Queen Street on a matching rake of ScotRail Mk.3s having just propelled its train from Edinburgh Waverley, its owners could be forgiven for questioning that theory. Not that they would have believed it a decade ago.
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The Crewe Diesel Preservation Group (CDPG), based at the Crewe Heritage Centre, had never intended to return a Class 47 to the main line. Indeed, it had not even intended to own a ‘47’! Yet on April 14, the CDPG celebrated a decade of owning the ‘47/7’ by organising a railtour from Crewe to Carlisle, running north via the West Coast Main Line and returning via the Settle & Carlisle, Blackburn and the WCML. Again, the locomotive powered the ScotRail set from Locomotive Services’ fleet and propelled the train in both directions.
Jonathan Rawlinson is one of three members of the CDPG, with Andrew Quayle and Brian Bailey. He’s also the engineering director of Locomotive Services and has been charged with creating the itineraries for tours using the ‘47/7’ and stock. When you consider that the first train, the epic three-day tour from Crewe-Edinburgh on February 24, a return blast between Edinburgh and Glasgow Queen Street and up to Inverness on February 25, before returning to Crewe on February 26, via Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, the East Coast Main Line and the Calder Valley, sold out faster than any other LS diesel-hauled train, that makes sense. Jonathan is particularly proud that that train sold out in four days, which was quicker than the debut of No. D9000 (55022) Royal Scots Grey for LS last September.
That charter was the reason the CDPG was the recipient of the Heritage Railway Association Mortons Media Rail Express Modern Traction Award at a ceremony in Birmingham on March 11.
The CDPG won the award for returning an operational push-pull Class 47/7 and Mk.2f Driving Brake Standard Open (DBSO) set to the main line for the first time in almost 33 years (RE323/324).
The award was collected by Brian, Andrew and Jonathan at the HRA awards in front of nearly 200 of Britain’s leading preservationists who heard how the train performed faultlessly, with the ‘47’ not missing a beat while operating for 1300 miles. For a preserved locomotive that is some feat, but when you factor in it was doing something it had not done since 1990, and which no ‘47’ had done since that year, it really does take some beating.
But Jonathan and the team had no idea how that train would be received. Speaking to Rail Express on April 14’s charter, he said: “The three-day tour was a toe in the water to see how it would do. The whole point was to take it back to its original route.”
Despite being on a train powered by a locomotive he part owns, Jonathan said: “We never intended to buy a locomotive; we all have roots in preservation and worked on other people’s kit. But buying a locomotive wasn’t the plan.
“At the time, I worked for Northern Belle, I was the chief engineer. We had Direct Rail Services as the haulier and at the time No. 47712 was stopped with thin tyres, so they let us use it as a carriage heater. But then, by March 2013 they had to dispose of a number of assets, which was why locomotives were suddenly being sent for scrap. The ‘47’ was included in that asset disposal and was offered to Northern Belle, but it wasn’t interested. I asked about preserving it and DRS agreed. We kept that quiet for a bit as well, it was only when there was a move from Crewe Carriage Sidings, where the ‘47’ was based, to Crewe Heritage Centre that anybody found out.”
The Mk.2f Driving Brake Standard Opens (DBSOs) were transferred en masse from Scotland to Norwich Crown Point following the introduction of Class 158s. The only vehicle that didn’t move was No. 9706, which was written off in the Polmont accident in 1984.
Only when the DBSOs were replaced by Mk.3 Driving Van Trailers by ‘one’ in the mid-2000s did they start to move to different operators.
There has been much trading of the vehicles, but currently Network Rail owns and uses Nos. 9701-703/708/714, while Eastern Rail Services owns Nos. 9705/709/710. Locomotive Services owns Nos. 9704/707, while the Crewe Diesel Preservation Group (CDPG) owns No. 9711. No. 9712 was moved to Northern Ireland and can be found at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway, while No. 9713 has also since been scrapped.
Despite being used as a carriage heater, the ‘47’ was operational, however it had suffered because it had been stood around for at least a year. Some bodywork attention was also required but it was perfectly acceptable for preservation in terms of its operational condition.
Other work undertaken included reinstating its vacuum brake and putting the RCH jumper cables back on the cab front, these having been removed by DRS. The locomotive was also repainted back into ScotRail livery, as carried in the mid-1980s, at the Crewe Heritage Centre.
Then disaster struck. It was robbed of parts in a theft at Crewe. Electrical cubicle components were removed in an act Jonathan believes was undertaken by people who knew what they were doing. “At that point that could have been it for us. We could have said that the ‘47’ was no longer viable. But DRS came to the rescue. It had scrappedNo. 47709 and Eastleigh Works had retained the cubicle from that.
“Andy [Quayle] then spent several months rebuilding it. That was a blessing as now electrically it’s incredibly reliable.”
When this was completed, the CDPG entered into a lease agreement with the Weardale Railway to supply traction for the Polar Express operations. The locomotive was also repainted back into ScotRail livery, as carried in the mid-1980s, at the Weardale Railway. For the first year, the ‘47/7’ went from Crewe by itself, but after that it went with No. D1842 (47192) which was also based at the Heritage Centre. The CDPG has custodianship of the ‘47/0’ which is currently at the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. Both ‘47s’ started attending diesel galas at various heritage railways too, but then the work began to dry up and the ‘47/7’ began to sit around not doing much.
By that point Jonathan had joined Locomotive Services, and so a discussion was had. “We were really beginning to pick up work and needed locomotives. I asked the managing director if the business would consider hiring No. 47712.”
When it eventually returned to the main line, hired by Locomotive Diesels, which is part of Locomotive Services, the ‘47’ required the installation of safety systems such as On Train Monitoring Recorders (OTMR) and Train Protecting Warning System (TPWS), which had been removed when it was sold by DRS. Refitting the various systems was not far from costing a six-figure sum, something that was beyond the CDPG’s coffers.
“The deal was not about us making money. We bought the locomotive as wanted to save it when DRS was about to scrap it. LS agreed, reinstated the safety systems, and repainted it. It joined the fleet in early 2019 and wasn’t restricted to certain jobs and could run at maximum speed.”
The ‘47’ was used for various trains including the Staycation Express on the S&C in 2020, where it was a regular and reliable performer. However, as the year progressed into autumn, so the leaves began to fall and the ‘47’ suffered wheel flats. LS agreed to replace the wheelsets, although those fitted to the locomotive were not new, but nevertheless without the main line company carrying out this work, the CDPG would have been unable to afford to do so. Due to other more pressing work, this took time and the ‘47’ only returned to the main line at the start of 2023.
Jonathan wasn’t finished with ideas. “Alongside that work I had talked about whether the company wanted a DBSO. I own No. 9711 but the problem is that that doesn’t have the safety systems and the costs involved…
“DRS issued a tender list which included its DBSOs, and we convinced Jeremy Hosking to bid for them as we believed they would be a good idea. LS bought two and once we got them we said we needed to assemble a push-pull set. We had spare Mk.3s and bought three that were at Barry Island.”The stock, all former Greater Anglia coaches, has been reconfigured internally with all airline seating removed. The Tourist Standard Open Buffet (TSOB) No. 10404 has been converted into a first class vehicle with former Great Western Railway High Speed Train leather seats installed.
The biggest cost for the set, other than repainting it, was fitting it with through wiring to enable the ‘47’ to operate with the DBSO. When the DBSOs were refurbished by DRS they had their Time-Division Multiplex (TDM) push-pull system removed. Now, when on the main line, No. 47712 uses blue star and green circle while the stock is through-wired. The only other difference is the lack of gangway on No. 9707, however that is due to the roof-mounted headlight fitted to the carriage by DRS.
The CDPG owns two original push-pull Mk.3s from the Edinburgh-Glasgow route (Nos. 11007 and 12011) as well as No. 9711 and the plan is that will be a short-formed push-pull set for use on heritage lines, and that will be fitted with TDM, with No. 47712 also being retro-fitted with the system so it can operate with that set.
As for what the future holds, there are currently no trains to be announced, but plans are being created. Jonathan recognises that LS received criticism for promoting charters with traction such as No. D9000 or No. 45118 and didn’t deliver, and so wants to get it right; only announcing when something is ready. “I hope we were ready with the ‘47’ ”, he says. “Our charter programme at LS is immense. There are 140 trains in 2023 which is very resource heavy. The ‘47’ and its train can operate, if planned right, with one crew, but a steam tour could need four sets of crews! So, anything we do is about availability. It has to make money too. All our trains are subject to commercial rules. We are not allowed to run at a consistent loss. That is the rule of the railway. Jeremy funds the restorations and then everything after that is a commercial entity.” The six-coach train needs to sell 78% capacity to be able to operate.
Scottish Class 47/7 status
|Stored, Nemesis Rail, Burton
|Scrapped January 2005
|Stored, Wabtec Rail, Doncaster. For sale.
|Scrapped December 2006
|Converted to No. 57303, March 2003
|Scrapped August 1995
|Scrapped February 2010
|Scrapped August 1995
|The Lord Provost
|Scrapped September 2012
|Sir Walter Scott
|Scrapped March 2007
|Scrapped September 2004
|Lady Diana Spencer
|Scrapped July 1990
|Stored, Wabtec Rail, Doncaster. For sale.
|Stored, Worksop. For sale.
|Duke of Edinburgh’s Award
|Scrapped March 2010
|Scrapped March 2007
The hire of No. 47712 is included in this commercial activity and Jonathan does not make a special case when looking at available traction for LS duties. LS owns the stock and Locomotive Diesels owns the diesel fleet. LD will hire the ‘47’ at a commercial rate when it is required, however the CDPG will not receive hire fees until its debt for the repairs undertaken have been paid.
As for what the future holds: “Anything we do will be marketed through the InterCity brand. We want to take it to Oban, which will make it the first ‘47’ to go there. We just announced a rerun of the Scottish tour on August 5/6, but are selling it as a two-day charter aimed at the Scottish market, and then offering separate Crewe-Edinburgh and Edinburgh-Crewe tours for the positioning moves. Beyond these, we are open to ideas. Kyle, Wick and Thurso have been suggested and it lends itself to cross-country routes. LS has not been traditionally strong in East Anglia so we could look at that. There is no limit to what it can do.”
Lady Diana Spencer will continue to roam the national network until 2027. The introduction of European Train Control System (ETCS) is the killer for main line operation for the locomotive says Jonathan. “We reckon we’ve got five years’ use. We’re not prepared to modify the locomotive, it’s quite invasive and changes the cab considerably.” The LS ‘47’ fleet will receive the modifications he says, but for No. 47712 that will be it for its main line career. Nevertheless, Jonathan is full of praise for the crews operating it. “It’s a testament to the professionalism of the LS staff that it goes out and we don’t have to worry. If there was any hint it was being driven in a way that could damage it, we would pull it from traffic. But our crews were recruited for their professionalism, so we expect this.”
He looks back to the original conversations when a push-pull set was just a dream. “When we did it, it completed the fastest Glasgow Queen Street-Haymarket run ever and would have been the fastest into Edinburgh if it hadn’t been stopped by signals.
“We had an idea of putting the ‘47’ on the blocks at Glasgow Queen Street anyway, but that was just an idea in the pub. We thought it would be on a standard tour, not with Mk.3s and a DBSO.
“I wrote Jeremy an email to say that seeing the ‘47’ back at Glasgow Queen Street was the highlight of my career.” Not bad for an idea in a pub…
No. 47712 timeline
March 1964: Order placed for locomotive
August 1966: Delivered to London Midland Region as No. D1948
February 1974: Renumbered No. 47505
September 1979: Transferred to Haymarket
November 1979: Converted to No. 47712
April 30, 1981: Named Lady Diana Spencer
November 1990: Transferred to Crewe Diesel Depot
July 1991: Transferred to Old Oak Common
March 1993: Transferred to Crewe Diesel Depot
April 1995: Nameplates removed
May 1995: Acquired by Waterman Railways
July 1995: Named Dick Whittington
October 1997: Acquired by Fragonset Railways
February 1998: Nameplates removed
January 2001: Named Artemis
May 2007: Acquired by Direct Rail Services
February 2008: Named Pride of Carlisle
April 2013: Preserved by CDPG
July 23, 2016: Renamed Lady Diana Spencer