British Rail Class 57

The Class 57 diesel locomotives were re-manufactured from Class 47s by Brush Traction of Loughborough between 1998 and 2004. The locomotives were fitted with re-conditioned EMD engines and the same model of traction alternator as that fitted to the Class 56.

British Rail Class 57
Great Western Railway 57603 in 2016
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-electric
BuilderBrush Traction
British Rail Crewe Works
Build date1964–1967
RebuilderBrush Traction
Rebuild date1998–2004
Number rebuilt33
Gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Length19.38 metres (63 ft 7 in)
Width2.79 metres (9 ft 2 in)
Loco weight57/0 & 57601: 120.6 tonnes (119 long tons; 133 short tons)
57/3 & 57602–57605: 117 tonnes (115 long tons; 129 short tons)
Fuel typeDiesel
Fuel capacity57/0: 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 mover57/0: EMD 645–E3
57/3 & 57/6: EMD 645–F3B
Engine typetwo-stroke V12 diesel
MU workingYes
Train heating57/0: None
57601: Electric Train Supply index 95
57/3 & 57602–57605: Electric Train Supply index 100
Loco brakeAir
Performance figures
Maximum speed57/0: 75 mph (121 km/h)
57/3 & 57/6: 95 mph (153 km/h)
Brakeforce57/0: 80 long tons-force (797 kN)
57/3 & 57/6: 60 long tons-force (598 kN)
OperatorsDirect Rail Services
Great Western Railway
Rail Operations Group
West Coast Railways
Number in class33
First run1999


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.[2]

The class has its origins in 1997 when Freightliner ordered an initial six locomotives.[3] A prototype locomotive was converted with electric train heating in 2001, with a view to obtaining orders from passenger companies.[4]

Current operators

Direct Rail Services

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.[5] Since December 2012, Direct Rail Services have provided locomotives for Virgin Trains. Another three class 57/3s were leased as part of the deal, however, two of these are now in warm storage. In July 2014, DRS took over the leases of the remaining six class 57/3s from Network Rail.[6][7]

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

57307 Lady Penelope kept her nameplate after being 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 six members of class 57/3 that still have Dellner couplings fitted in order to rescue Pendolinos and Virgin Super Voyagers, these being:

  • 57302 Chad Varah
  • 57304 Pride of Cheshire
  • 57307 Lady Penelope
  • 57308 Jamie Ferguson
  • 57309 Pride of Crewe
  • 57311 Thunderbird

The remaining four can be seen at Rugby, Crewe and Carlisle on the West Coast Main Line.

Great Western Railway

In 2000, Porterbrook placed an order for a prototype passenger locomotive fitted with electric train heating.[4] This locomotive, 57601, was leased to First Great Western in June 2001,[8][9] 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 on the Night Riviera sleeper service. After an evaluation period, FGW agreed to lease three production Class 57/6s from Porterbrook in May 2002,[10][11] with the first delivered in November 2003.[12] 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 Railways.[13] Great Western Railway plan to obtain one more Class 57, but the sub-class and number are not yet confirmed.[14]

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,[15] 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.[16][17]

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—due to unreliability—the Class 57/3s were replaced by Class 67s.[18][19]

Rail Operations Group

In 2018, Rail Operations Group confirmed a long term lease for two Class 57 owned by Direct Rail Services.[20]

West Coast Railways

In April 2003, 57601 was sold to West Coast Railways, but it 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 through his paint shop to apply the house colours in the original diesel style.[21]

In January 2011, WCRC purchased 57001 from Porterbrook and 57005 from Advenza Freight,[22] followed in April 2011 by 57006 from Advenza,[23] with 57001 and 57006 returned to service and 57005 stored at Carnforth. In January 2013, 57313-316 were purchased from Porterbrook, making West Coast Railways the only company to operate all three class 57 sub-classes.[24][25] 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.[26][27] After Advenza ceased in 2009, 57005 was sold to West Coast Railways in January 2011, as was 57006 in April 2011.[22][23]

Arriva Trains Wales

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.[28] Four were repainted at Cardiff Canton, 57314 and 57315 receiving ATW livery, 57313 and 57316 plain blue with no signwriting.[29] In March 2012 Class 67s took over the duties from the Class 57/3s.[30]

Colas Rail

From the start of 2007 until 31 October 2009 Colas Rail hired Class 57/3 locos from Virgin Trains.[31] 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.


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.[32] 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:

  • 57001 Freightliner Pioneer
  • 57002 Freightliner Phoenix
  • 57003 Freightliner Evolution
  • 57004 Freightliner Quality
  • 57005 Freightliner Excellence
  • 57006 Freightliner Reliance
  • 57007 Freightliner Bond
  • 57008 Freightliner Explorer
  • 57009 Freightliner Venturer
  • 57010 Freightliner Crusader
  • 57011 Freightliner Challenger
  • 57012 Freightliner Envoy

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.[33] Of the original six, three also went to Direct Rail Services and two to Advenza Freight in January 2008.[22][23][34] The remaining Class 57/0 was sold to West Coast Railways in January 2011.

Network Rail

In September 2011, Network Rail leased six Class 57/3s from Porterbrook for use on test trains and the new Network Rail snow train.[35] 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.[6][7][36]

57312 was named Peter Henderson, after one of the original Board members of Network Rail.

Virgin Trains West Coast

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[37] with the first delivered in June 2002.[38][39]

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,[40] a further four were ordered.[41][42]

It was decided to fit the fleet with Dellner retractable couplings with the original twelve being retrofitted from October 2003.[43] 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.[44] 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.[45]

As a nod to their purpose as rescue engines, Virgin named the engines after characters and vehicles from Thunderbirds. In keeping with this theme, the engines also bore special plates with the International Rescue logo above their regular nameplates.

The locomotives were named as follows:

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[46][47] before being returned to Porterbrook and leased to Network Rail in September 2011.[48][49][50] 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 Railways.[24][25][51]

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 Railways 57001, 57005, 57006 3
57/3 16 57301-316 Direct Rail Services 57301, 57302, 57303, 57304, 57306, 57307, 57308, 57309, 57310, 57311 10
Rail Operations Group 57305, 57312 2
West Coast Railways 57313, 57314, 57315, 57316 4
57/6 5 57601-605 Great Western Railway 57602, 57603, 57604, 57605 4
West Coast Railways 57601 1

Number Rebuilt from Livery Operator Name
57001 47356 West Coast Railways Maroon West Coast Railways
57002 47322 DRS Flash Blue/Green Direct Rail Services Rail Express
57003 47317 DRS Flash Blue/Green Direct Rail Services
57004 47347 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services
57005 47350 Advenza Freight Blue West Coast Railways
57006 47187 West Coast Railways Maroon West Coast Railways
57007 47332 DRS Compass Blue Direct Rail Services John Scott
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 Flash Blue/Green Direct Rail Services/Virgin Pride of Cheshire
57305 47822 Northern Belle (De-Branded) Rail Operations Group
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 Flash Blue/Green Direct Rail Services/Virgin Jamie Ferguson
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 Rail Operations Group Blue Rail Operations Group
57313 47371 West Coast Railways Maroon West Coast Railways
57314 47372 West Coast Railways Maroon West Coast Railways
57315 47234 West Coast Railways Maroon West Coast Railways
57316 47290 West Coast Railways Maroon West Coast Railways
57601 47825 Northern Belle West Coast Railways Windsor Castle
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[16] Great Western Railway Pendennis Castle
57605 47206 Great Western Railway Green Great Western Railway Totnes Castle

    See also


    1. "Rail UK Diesel/Electric Locomotive Information".
    2. "Brush plans ETH Class 57" Rail issue 361 14 July 1999 page 7
    3. "As good as new as Freightliner moves forward" Rail issue 348 13 January 1999 page 16
    4. "Go-ahead for Brush ETS 57" Rail issue 387 12 July 2000 page 48
    5. Porterbrook has reached an agreement with Direct Rail Services for the lease of three Class 57 locomotives Archived 28 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine Porterbrook Leasing News 4 April 2012
    6. "DRS leases more 57/3s for NR infrastructure contract" Rail issue 753 23 July 2014 page 33
    7. "Six more 57s for DRS" Today's Railways issue 153 September 2014 page 65
    8. "Porterbrook's Class 57/6 makes its passenger debut" Rail issue 412 27 June 2001 page 53
    9. "Porterbrook's Purple Monster goes into passenger service" The Railway Magazine issue 1204 August 2001 page 89
    10. "FGW to order 57s" Rail issue 435 15 May 2002 page 7
    11. "First Great Western confirms order for at least three ETH Class 57/6s" Rail Express issue 84 May 2003 page 5
    12. "First FGW Class 57s released" Rail issue 474 12 November 2003 page 75
    13. "FGW Class 57 works sleeper as first train" Rail issue 476 24 December 2003 page 16
    14. "Our new Great Western franchise" (PDF) (pdf). First Great Western. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 May 2018. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
    15. "FGW Class 57s become Castles" The Railway Magazine issue 1244 December 2004 page 66
    16. FGW honours 'GWR 175' - Railway Herald. Page 3. 28 June 2010. Issue 228. Retrieved 2011-08-05.
    17. "Great Western livery for FGW Class 57" The Railway Magazine issue 1312 August 2010 page 73
    18. "First GBRf to operate FGW contract" The Railway Magazine issue 1306 February 2010 page 61
    19. "Taunton Trains Loco-Hauled Info". Taunton Trains. 27 April 2011. Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
    20. In Brief Railways Illustrated issue 188 October 2018 page 17
    21. "Class 57" Rail issue 476 10 December 2003 page 81
    22. "West Coast buys Advenza locos" The Railway Magazine issue 1320 April 2011 page 80
    23. "Second Advenza 57 at Carnforth" The Railway Magazine issue 1322 June 2011 page 79
    24. "WCRC buys ex-VT Class 57/3s to boost charter trains fleet" Rail issue 714 23 January 2013 page 26
    25. "West Coast takes on four ex Thunderbirds" Rail Express issue 201 February 2013 page 10
    26. Rail Magazine (584): 66, 30 January 2008 Missing or empty |title= (help)
    27. "Cotswold takes on two 57/0s, but scraps a 47" The Railway Magazine issue 1283 March 2008 page 77
    28. North-south service to go ahead BBC News 8 October 2008
    29. "Losing Virginity" The Railway Magazine issue 1293 January 2009 page 85
    30. Changeover day North Wales Coast Railway Notice Board 26 March 2012
    31. "Woodwork lessons for Amec Spie Rail" Rail Express issue 130 March 2007 page 10
    32. "Freightliner signs deals for five 66s and six 57s" Rail issue 358 2 June 1999 page 4
    33. "DRS takes six Freightliner Class 57s" The Railway Magazine issue 1275 July 2007 page 76
    34. "Two more Class 57s for DRS" The Railway Magazine issue 1289 September 2008 page 82
    35. Class 57 Locomotives leased to Network Rail Archived 30 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine Porterbrook Leasing News 10 October 2011
    36. "NR Class 57s adapted for EMU rescue" The Railway Magazine issue 1349 September 2013 page 80
    37. "Virgin finally confirms 12 57/6s for rescue work" Rail issue 433 17 April 2002 page 17
    38. "Virgin's WCML contingency launched with new 57/6s" Rail issue 438 26 June 2002 page 6
    39. "Thunderbirds are Go!" Rail Express issue 75 August 2002 page 6
    40. "Pendolino to Holyhead" Rail issue 464 25 June 2003 page 17
    41. "Four more Class 57s for Virgin" Rail issue 468 20 August 2003 page 62
    42. "Thunderbirds are go as Virgin gets the nod" The Railway Magazine issue 1229 September 2003 page 6
    43. "57301 receives Dellner coupling" Rail issue 473 29 October 2003 page 75
    44. Class 57/3 loco and Class 390'Pendolino' North Wales Coast Railway: The Trains
    45. Pendolino no more North Wales Coast Railway Noticeboard 10 December 2012
    46. "Virgin Trains places surplus 57/3s in warm storage" Rail issue 653 22 September 2010 page 28
    47. "Six Virgin Class 57/3s go off lease" The Railway Magazine issue 1315 November 2010 page 77
    48. Virgin bids farewell to six Class 57/3s - Railway Herald. Page 3. 2011-08-29. Issue 281. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
    49. "Six of the surplus Class 57/3 locos to work for Network Rail" Rail Express issue 184 September 2011 page 11
    50. "Six Virgin Thunderbirds are going to run Network Rail's test trains" The Railway Magazine issue 1326 October 2011 page 81
    51. January 2013 Archived 27 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine Porterbrook 4 January 2013

    Further reading

    • Dunn, Pip (5–18 November 1997). "£13m rebuild for Freightliner '47s'". RAIL. No. 317. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 8–9. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
    • "GM engine fitted to Freightliner's new Class 57 at Brush Works". RAIL. No. 327. EMAP Apex Publications. 25 March – 7 April 1998. p. 8. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
    • "Freightliner's Brush/GM Class 57 goes to work!". RAIL. No. 336. EMAP Apex Publications. 29 July – 11 August 1998. p. 10. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
    • "Freightliner's Class 57 moves to Felixstowe for tests". RAIL. No. 340. EMAP Apex Publications. 23 September – 6 October 1998. p. 16. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
    • Holley, Mel (21 October – 3 November 1998). "Freightliner to order 24 more Brush Class 57s". RAIL. No. 342. EMAP Apex Publications. p. 6. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
    • "57002 ready to go and the rest are not far behind". RAIL. No. 344. EMAP Apex Publications. 18 November – 1 December 1998. p. 45. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
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