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The British Rail Class 08 is a class of diesel-electric shunting locomotive. From 1953 to 1962, 996 locomotives were produced, making it the most numerous of all British locomotive classes.

As the standard general-purpose diesel shunter on BR, almost any duty requiring shunting would involve a Class 08. The class became a familiar sight at many major stations and freight yards; however, since their introduction, the nature of rail traffic in Britain has changed considerably. Freight trains are now mostly fixed rakes of wagons, and passenger trains are mostly multiple units; neither requiring the attention of a shunting locomotive. Consequently a large proportion of the class has been withdrawn from mainline use and stored, scrapped, exported, or sold to industrial or heritage railways.

As of 2008 around 100 locomotives remain working on industrial sidings and on the main British network. On heritage railways they have become common, appearing on many of the preserved standard-gauge lines in Britain, with over 60 preserved.


The Class 08 design was based on the LMS 12033 series (later TOPS Class 11) design. There were also 26 of the near-identical but higher-geared Class 09, and 171 similar locomotives fitted with different engines and transmissions (some of which became Class 10), which together brought the total number of outwardly-similar machines to 1193.

The locomotives were built at the BR Works of Crewe, Darlingtonmarker, Derby and Doncaster between 1953 and 1962.

The majority of the class were re-classified as TOPS sub-class 08/0, when some locomotives were reduced in height for use on the Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway in south west Wales, and became Class 08/9.

The nature of rail freight in Britain has changed considerably since the Class 08 was introduced. Wagon-load consignments have given way to predominately block trains of bulk freight and intermodal operations which reduce or remove the need for shunting. Additionally the change of passenger operations from locomotive-hauled coaches to self-powered multiple units has reduced the need for shunters at major stations.

The first locomotive to be withdrawn was D3193 in 1967. Four other machines were withdrawn before TOPS reclassification in 1973. Withdrawals continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s; by the beginning of the 1990s most of the class were no longer in service. Withdrawals continued in the 1990s. At the same time as the withdrawals, many were purchased by heritage railways.
When British Rail was privatised and sold in the 1990s, EWS inherited most of the class. More units were disposed of, being sent to EWS's Component Recovery & Distribution Centre (CRDC) in Wiganmarker for stripping of re-usable components prior to scrapping. Others were stored in case of an increase in traffic.

As of mid 2008, EWS had over 40 units in operation, with a greater number stored. Freightliner also had about five units in operation, as did locomotive company Wabtec. First Group operated less than five; additionally various units work at industrial sidings - two for Foster Yeoman, one for Mendip Rail, one for Corus, one at ICI Wilton, two for English China Clays, amongst others. A few other businesses in railway-related business operated single examples.

Exported locomotives

Five units were exported to Liberiamarker; numbers: 3047, 3092, 3094, 3098 and 3100. At least one of these has been repatriated and is now preserved.

Preserved railways

Continuing in its designed-for role as a shunter, the Class 08 has been found useful by numerous heritage railways in the UK. With over 60 examples preserved, they are the most numerous class of preserved locomotive in the UK.


As the standard general-purpose diesel shunter on BR, almost any duty requiring shunting would involve a Class 08; thus the many locations where two portions of a train were merged, or where additional stock was added to a train, were hauled (briefly) by a Class 08, thus the class was a familiar sight at many major stations and termini.

Technical description

The Class 08 design was based on the LMS 12033 series (later TOPS Class 11) design.

The engine is an English Electric (EE) 6 cylinder, 4-stroke, 6KT. Traction motors are two EE 506 motors with double reduction gear drive. The main generator is an EE 801.

Design variations

There were variations on the basic design, which were given the following TOPS design codes:
TOPS design code Electrical system Max speed Weight Brakes Route availability Notes
08-0AV 90 V 49.8 te (496 kN) vacuum 5
08-0BX 110 V 50.4 te (502 kN) dual 5
08-0CA 90 V 49.6 te (494 kN) air 5
08-0DV 90 V 49.8 te (496 kN) vacuum 5
08-0BX 90 V 50.4 te (502 kN) dual 5
08-0FA 90 V 49.6 te (494 kN) air 5
08-0KX 110 V 50.4 te (502 kN) dual 5
08-0LX 110 V 50.4 te (502 kN) dual 5 Scharfenberg adapter fitted
08-0MA 110 V 49.8 te (496 kN) air 5
08-0NA 90 V 49.8 te (496 kN) air 5 fitted with Buckeye couplings
08-0PA 90 V 51 te (508 kN) air 6 fitted with Buckeye couplings
08-0QA 90 V 51 te (508 kN) air 6 fitted with Buckeye couplings
08-0RA 110 V 51 te (508 kN) air 6 fitted with Buckeye couplings
08-0SA 110 V 49 te (488 kN) air 6

Class 08/9

Class 08/9 locomotives were modified from the standard class by being given headlights and cut-down bodywork in which the overall height was reduced to 11’ 10” (3.61 m), for use on the Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway up to Cwm Mawr. In 2007, a few of these locomotives were used on the Manchester Metrolink track relaying project. Their job was to take the track to the construction sites.
TOPS design code Electrical system Max speed Weight Brakes Notes
08-9AV 90 V 49.8 te (496 kN) vacuum brakes 08 991 converted from 08 203
08-9CX 90 V 50.4 te (502 kN) dual brakes 08 992 created from 08 259
08 993 created from 08 592
08-9DA 90 V 49.6 te (494 kN) air brakes 09 994 created from 08 462
08 995 created from 08 687

BR Class 13

Six Class 08 units were adapted for a specialist role at Tinsley Marshalling Yardmarker, where there was a requirement for more powerful shunters. These locomotives were permanently coupled together in pairs as a 'master and slave' (or 'cow and calf'), the latter with its cab removed, to form the British Rail Class 13.

In fiction

A Class 08 known as Diesel was the first diesel locomotive to appear in The Railway Series books by the Rev. W. Awdry. In the spin-off TV Series, Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, several Class 08s have appeared: Devious Diesel, 'Arry and Bert, and Splatter and Dodge.


Several manufacturers have produced models of Class 08 shunters. In the past, in OO scale, Wrenn, Tri-ang and Hornby Railways all produced models of varying accuracy.

Lima also produced a model in several different liveries, but the model was actually of the near-identical British Rail Class 09.

Since 2000, both Bachmann Branchline and Hornby have released much more detailed models, in a variety of liveries and with a variety of appropriate detail variations.

In British N Gauge, Graham Farish have also produced two versions; a relatively crude version lacking outside frames that was discontinued in 2007, and a more detailed version with outside frames that was unveiled 2008.


  1. Fleet status (subsection Class 01-14)
  2. Disposals Class 08
  3. Locomotive Disposals Class 08 (see also subsequent pages)
  4. Derby Works - its 1,010 diesel locomotives. A brief look at the diesel locomotives built by Derby Locomotive Works from 1932 - 1967]
  5. Farish Class 08 diesel shunter emerges at Redhill

Further reading

External links

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