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Class 47

With the benefit of hindsight not enough attention was paid to future needs in the specification which perhaps relied too much on the status quo therefore requiring future modifications. Whilst the first 20 were built with ETH subsequent constructions did not. Also subsequent modifications were required to provide air/dual braking for freight and Mk2 coaches. It is in these respects that the contemporary - and Southern's exclusive (at the time) - BRCW type 3 (class 33) was more far sighted.

The class was plagued by unreliability in its early days. The choice of the uprated Sulzer prime mover proved to be a mistake. There were problems with the fabricated crankcases and internal joints which required rewelding and rebalancing. These measures led ultimately to a reduction of engine speed and maximum engine output. There were also problems with fractures and traction motor fires in the well proven but heavyweight manganese cast steel Commonwealth bogies. However the major problems were resolved by 1969 and the class settled down to become the mainstay of the type 4 diesel electric fleet for over three decades.

Virgin Cross Country liveried Nº47818 at East Croydon on 8th June 1999

photograph by Michael Taylor.

47843 Virgin Cross Country 47843 was named Vulcan over the Old Oak Common open days on 5th/6th August 2000.

photograph by Colin Duff

The class has been used system-wide although due to the Southern's native fleet of class 33 diesels the type has not been as closely associated with operations in the south as elsewhere except perhaps comparatively recently. The class was used in 1967 on the later operations of the Bournemouth Belle when management dogma prevented "last-gasp" use of steam locomotives on the prestigious service (so prestigious that they were within a mater of months to withdraw it!). Thereafter the class was not regularly used on purely Southern passenger services until the introduction from the early 1990s of 47/7s (having been cascaded from Scotland by the introduction of class 158s there) on the Waterloo-Exeter service. This was a stop-gap measure to replace the ailing (and slightly younger) class 50s on this route until the 47/7s were in turn replaced from 1992 by the class 159s. The class has been regularly associated with the Southern throughout its entire life on inter-regional passenger services (today with Virgin Cross Country), special workings and inter-regional freight, especially Freightliner services.
47799 Prince Henry is the other dedicated Royal Train 47, though these duties are now increasingly being serviced by non-dedicated class 67s. Both were on display at Old Oak Common on the 6th August 2000.

photograph by Colin Duff


photograph by Colin Duff

Withdrawn from service at Bescot on 9th December 1998 47004, the 24th Brush type 4 to be built, was selected to be restored to operation and repainted to its original condition as D1524 as part of EWS' celebrity heritage collection. It was unveiled at Old Oak Common on 5th August 2000 and it is pictured here on the following day. This particular loco had previously been repainted into green livery and named Old Oak Common Traction and Rolling Stock Depot (formerly carried by 47701 - see the next page) in 1994 - hence its selection. It is in this two tone green livery that members of the class were first seen on the Southern Region hauling the Bournemouth Belle.
47778 Still in RES livery EWS Nº47778 brings in stock for a Hertforshire Railtour into Victoria on 28th April 2001.

photograph by Colin Duff

Nº47488 photographed at Clapham Junction on 20th May 2003.

photograph by John Lewis

47829 Another unlettered Intercity livery class 47 - Nº47829

photograph by Dave Harris.

The modifications, detail differences and experimental trials to this class have been many-fold. However the major subdivisions can be summarised as:

47/0 Largely as originally constructed. Steam heating (isolated) or no boilers
47/3 No train heating. Prime work freight duties. Some fitted with slow speed control for MGR
47/4 Electric or dual train heating
47/6 one off experimental conversion using a 3,250hp English Electric engine - test plant for class 56 prime mover, later converted to 47/9
47/7 modification of 47/4 for push-pull working originally for Edinburgh-Glasgow shuttle services
47/8 officially 47/4s but widely referred to as 47/8 Modification of 47/4s with long range (twin) fuel tanks
47/9 one off experimental conversion using a 3,250hp Ruston-Paxman engine - test plant for class 58 prime mover, converted from class 47/6

Mention should also be made of short lived class 48, five locomotives fitted with a French-built Sulzer 12 cylinder V type engine. These were converted to class 47s in 1969. Finally and much later the class 57 is a rebuilt 47 using a refurbished General Motors type 645 prime mover. Introduced in 1997, the class 57 promises to prolong the 47 design whose numbers have otherwise been dwindling in the last decade and the remaining members (about 50% of the original) can only have a few years left.

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This page was last updated 3 December 2002

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