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British Rail Class 31: Map


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The British Rail Class 31 diesel locomotives, also known as the Brush Type 2 and originally as Class 30, were built by Brush Tractionmarker from 1957-62.


The Class 31 was one of the Pilot Scheme locomotives ordered by British Railways to replace steam traction. They were originally built with Mirrlees JVS12T and engines and Brush electrical equipment, but the engines were not successful and in 1964 a programme of works commenced to re-engine the fleet with the English Electric 12SVT engines. The locomotives were originally known as Class 30 under TOPS, with re-engined examples joining Class 31. The class was originally intended for service on the Eastern Region, but gradually became common in both the Western and London Midland regions too.

Several sub-classes of Class 31 exist:

  • 31/0 - First batch of locos, fitted with Red Circle electro-magnetic control equipment - withdrawn in the late 1970s as non-standard
  • 31/1 - The standard locomotive
  • 31/4 - Fitted with ETH apparatus
  • 31/5 - Former 31/4 with the ETH isolated for Civil Engineers Department use
  • 31/6 - Standard locomotive through wired for ETH but without ETH apparatus.

Class 31/0

These first 20 locos, originally numbered D5500-D5519, were always easily recognisable as they did not have the headcode box mounted on the roof above the cab, leading to the nickname "Skinheads". They were also nicknamed "Toffee Apples" from the shape of the control key which had to be taken from cab to cab when changing ends. These pilot scheme locos were non-standard in having Electro-Magnetic Multiple-Working control equipment, and were limited to . The Class 31/0s had a Route Availability of 5.

They were allocated to East Anglianmarker sheds throughout their service, ending up allocated to Stratfordmarker and latterly sporting that depot's trademark silver roof. Upon withdrawal four locomotives were converted at Stratfordmarker into train pre-heating units. Locomotives 31013, 31002, 31014 and 31008 were renumbered ADB968013 to ADB968016 in the order given; ADB968014 was allocated to Bounds Green depot on the Great Northern main line and ADB968015 was based at Great Yarmouthmarker, while the remaining two were allocated to Stratford.

Class 31/1

Class 31/1 on Sharnbrook bank with a short van train in April 1985

The first 16 locos (31101 - 31116) externally had much in common with the original 31/0s as they lacked the roof mounted headcode box, and were also limited to , but were otherwise the same as subsequent locos. The whole sub-class had steam heating boilers fitted, had the Blue Star Electro-Pneumatic multiple-working controls as found on many other BR classes, and were classified as Route Availability 5. The Class 31/1s could be found on a variety of secondary and relief passenger duties as well as parcels and freight traffic.While used in East Angliamarker, with locos allocated to Stratfordmarker and Marchmarker depots, they were found throughout the Eastern Region of BR with Finsbury Parkmarker sporting a large allocation along with the depots at Tinsleymarker, Imminghammarker and Thornabymarker. Locos were also allocated to Bristol Bath Roadmarker and Old Oak Commonmarker on the Western Region, where they could be found working passenger trains as far west as Barnstaple and Paignton. In the early 1980s Healey Millsmarker and Bescotmarker on the Midland Region also gained an allocation as replacements for Class 25s.

Class 31/4

The Class 31/4s, numbered from 31400 to 31469, were conversions of 31/1s to which ETH was fitted. They had an ETH index of 66, equivalent to 330 kW, which was sufficient to power trains of up to eleven Mk 3 carriages, in order to allow them to power long trains, whose service run would be worked by a larger locomotive, between depot and terminus, although in actual passenger service loads rarely exceeded four or five carriages. 330 kW accounted for about a third of the total electrical power output, and the conversion was such that none of the ETH power was ever available for traction even if the ETH was not being used at all. The traction power output of the 31/4 was therefore limited to a maximum of two-thirds of that of the non-ETH variants, which did not help the performance of an already somewhat underpowered locomotive, and late running of 31/4-hauled services was common.

Most recent commercial operators

English, Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWS)

The final three EWS locomotives were withdrawn in 2001.

FM Rail

In 1998, FM Rail (then known as Fragonset Railways) purchased four redundant Class 31 locomotives from EWS. The first of these, no. 31452, was quickly repaired and repainted in a new black livery with a red mid-body band. It was quickly followed by nos. 31459 and 31468. Several more locomotives were also purchased, and in 1999, the first of two modified Class 31/6 locomotives re-entered traffic. The Class 31/6 subclass is essentially a modified Class 31/1 locomotive with through electric-train heating wiring. This enables a Class 31/4 and Class 31/6 to work in multiple and still heat the train, even if the no-heat Class 31/6 is attached to the carriages.

In 1999, Fragonset won a short-term contract with Silverlink for two locomotives to work in top-and-tail mode with two Mk. 1 carriages on the Bletchley-Bedford linemarker. This was to cover for the non-availability of Class 117 and Class 121 diesel multiple units. The trial was a success, and in 2000 it was repeated in the summer timetable. The locomotives were retained until displaced by more modern Class 150/1 units cascaded from Central Trains.

By this time, the Fragonset Class 31 fleet had expanded considerably to include three Class 31/1, three Class 31/4 and two Class 31/6 locomotives. Regular work at this time included use hauling Class 317 electric multiple units from WAGN's Hornseymarker depot to Bedfordmarker for use with Thameslink. As units were still maintained at Hornsey, this meant regular workings between the two depots to swap units when maintenance was due.

After the demise of FM Rail, several of their Class 31s passed to Mainline Rail, operated by RMS Locotec. As of November 2008, four 31/4's and one 31/6 are owned by RMS Locotec, which is a subsidiary of British American Railway Services, Ltd.

Network Rail

Network Rail operates a small fleet of three Class 31/1 locomotive, nos. 31105/233/285, to haul test trains around the network. The locomotives were purchased from Fragonset, and overhauled at their Derbymarker workshops. They have been repainted in Network Rail's new all-over yellow livery.

Prior to operating its own locomotives, Network Rail's predecessor, Railtrack, had hired two Class 31 locomotives from Fragonset. These two locomotives, nos. 31190 and 31601, were repainted in Railtrack's blue and lime green livery. With the overhaul and entry into service of Network Rail's own locomotives, these two engines were returned to Fragonset.

These three locos (105, 233, 285) will undergo a £250,000 refurbishment (each) to keep them working until at least 2010. To cover for when any one of these locomotives is undergoing refurbishment, Network Rail have hired 31602, for a year, although it expected that it may be required for longer. It has already been painted into the Network Rail yellow livery as carried by 105, 233 and 285.

No. 31106 is privately owned by Howard Johnston, and after a period of lease to Fragonset and FM Rail is now managed by RVEL and in regular use with Network Rail. The same individual purchased three more of the class from EWS. but they acquired new owners - 31107 (scrapped at Rotherham in May 2009), 31289 (preserved at the Northampton & Lamport Railway), and 31301 (in store).


33 locomotives have been preserved for use on heritage railways. These are listed below. Of note are the first built, no. 31018, and the last built, no. 31327.

Numbers carried

(Current in bold)
Name Livery Location Notes
D5500 31018 BR Blue National Railway Museummarker First-built locomotive, now part of the National Collection
D5518 31101 BR Large Logo Blue Battlefield Linemarker
D5522 31104 31418 Boadicea BR Blue Midland Railway - Butterleymarker
D5526 31108 Railfreight Grey South Devon Railwaymarker
D5531 31113 Civil Engineers Scrapped in June 2008 At EMR Kingsbury Scrapyard
D5533 31115 31466 EWS Maroon/Gold Dean Forest Railwaymarker
D5537 31119 Railfreight Red Stripe Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railwaymarker
D5548 31130 Calder Hall Power Station Trainload Coal Battlefield Linemarker
D5557 31139 31438 31538 BR Blue Mid-Norfolk Railwaymarker
D5562 31144 Civil Engineers Privately owned
D5580 31162 BR Blue Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway
D5581 31163 BR Green Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railwaymarker
D5584 31166 BR Green Wensleydale Railwaymarker Sold to be scrapped
D5600 31179 31435 Newton Heath TMD BR Green Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railwaymarker
D5611 31188 BR Green Wensleydale Railwaymarker
D5627 31203 Steve Orgam G.M BR Green Pontypool and Blaenavon Railwaymarker
D5631 31207 Railfreight Grey North Norfolk Railwaymarker One of final three locomotive operated by EWS.
D5634 31210 BR Green Dean Forest Railwaymarker
D5641 31216 31467 BR Blue East Lancashire Railwaymarker
D5662 31235 BR Blue Mid-Norfolk Railwaymarker
D5669 31410 Regional Railways Privately owned
D5683 31255 EWS Red/Gold Colne Valley Railwaymarker Repainted in EWS livery for paint trials.
D5695 31265 31430 31530 Sister Dora Civil Engineers Mid-Norfolk Railwaymarker
D5800 31270 Regional Railways Peak Railmarker
D5801 31271 Stratford 1840-2001 Trainload Construction Nene Valley Railwaymarker
D5814 31414 31514 Gatwick Express Intercity Ecclesbourne Valley Railwaymarker Fitted with 'Pink Circle' for operations similar to Class 73
D5821 31289 BR Blue Northampton & Lamport Railwaymarker
D5823 31291 31456 31556 Civil Engineers East Lancashire Railwaymarker
D5830 31297 31463 31563 BR Golden Ochre Great Central Railway
D5862 31327 BR Green Strathspey Railwaymarker Final locomotive built.

In addition, the following locomotives were previously preserved, but have since been scrapped.

Fleet details (2006)

EWS = English, Welsh and Scottish Railway

Class No. Built

No. Range Operators Loco nos. No. in Traffic

Class 31/0 19 31001–31019 0 1980
Class 31/1 227 31101–31327 FM Rail 31106/128/190 3
Network Rail 31105/107/233/285 3
Class 31/4 70* 31400–31469 EWS 0 2001
FM Rail 31452/454/459/468 4
Class 31/5 25* 31507–31569 0 1999
Class 31/6 2* 31601–31602 FM Rail 31601-602 2
Class 31/9 1* 31970 EWS 0 1991


Image:31018 at National Railway Museum.JPG|31018, at the National Railway Museummarker in Yorkmarker, on 3 June 2004. This was the first locomotive of the Class to be built in 1957. It was withdrawn from service in 1976. It currently carries BR Blue livery. Note the absence of over-window head code panel, which were only omitted from the first few locomotives.Image:31454 stabled at Westbury.JPG|31454, stabled at Westburymarker on 16 April 2004. This locomotive is painted in InterCity livery, and was at the time owned by Fragonset Railways. It was hired to Wessex Trains to haul trains from Bristolmarker to Brightonmarker and Weymouthmarker.Image:31271 'Stratford 1840-2001' at York Railfest.JPG| 31271 Stratford 1840-2001, pictured on 3 June 2004 at the Yorkmarker Railfest held to celebrate the 200th anniversary of railways. The locomotive is preserved at the Midland Railway - Butterleymarker, but is currently on loan to the Nene Valley Railwaymarker. It carries Trainload Construction livery, and was named to commemorate the former locomotive depot at Stratfordmarker, which closed to make way for High Speed 1.Image:31128 'Charybdis' at Bristol Temple Meads.JPG| 31128 Charybdis at Bristol Temple Meadsmarker on 23 July 2004. This locomotive was owned by Fragonset Railways, but hired to Wessex Trains to haul trains from Bristolmarker to Brightonmarker and Weymouthmarker.Image:31255 at Colne Valley Railway.jpg|31255 at the Colne Valley Railwaymarker in EWS liveryImage:31414 at Wirksworth.JPG|31414 running brake van rides on the Ecclesbourne Valley Railwaymarker. This locomotive has been fitted for 'Pink Circle' multiple unit operation, enabling it to be controlled from Class 489 luggage vans through Mark 2 coaches.


Number 31107, seen at RVE Derby, was the locomotive used in the Top Gear crash

On 21 August 2006, Network Rail and the BBC television programme Top Gear staged and filmed a crash between a Class 31 locomotive and a family car in order to promote rail safety. The off-limits event was the first of its type for 10 years and took place at Hibaldstowmarker level crossing near Scawby in Lincolnshiremarker, where the B1206 road crosses the Barnetby–Gainsborough railway line.

Two Class 31 locomotives and a parked Renault Espace were used during the crash. Network Rail's 31233 was used to propel 31107 up to a speed of . The rear locomotive slowed down to a stop and 31107 continued to coast at a speed of 70–80 miles per hour into the road vehicle parked across the eastbound 'up' line.

For the crash, locomotive 31107 received a special black livery with the slogan "Level crossings — Don't run the risk" along the side in white lettering. The final 5 minute segment, presented by Jeremy Clarkson, was originally scheduled for 4 February, 2007 but was rescheduled, apparently due to a fatal crossing crash at Dingwall two days earlier. It was eventually aired on BBC Two on 25 February, 2007, shortly after the Cumbria derailmentmarker. A repeat of the programme was pulled following a further level-crossing accident.

Oddly, Class 31s appear to be the locomotive of choice for appearing in level crossing accidents on television.

Another Class 31 was used in an episode of Dalziel and Pascoe, where it crashed into a coach. This was filmed at Wansford Station Level Crossing on the Nene Valley Railwaymarker. A Class 31 31420 was also used in a train crash in the ITV series 'The Royal', though locomotive was tipped over onto its side and separated from its bogies. 31414 has been used in the ITV drama Mobile and also in the BBC series Casualty with the former Gatwick Express coaches at the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway.


00 Gauge

The first model of the Class 31 was made by Triang. Airfix model railways also chose to produce a Class 31 when Airfix entered the model train market in the mid 1970s, although poor, by current standards, with the centre wheel of each bogie moulded in plastic with a flat section to prevent it fouling the rails both these model were of a high standard when first released. Lima also produced a model.

Currently the only 00 Gauge model of the Class 31 is that produced by Hornby since 2004.

N Gauge

Currently the only N Gauge model of the Class 31 is that produced by Graham Farish, while Lima have also produced a model.

References and sources


  1., News Archive: February 2007, 2007–02–04.
  2. BBC News One dead in train crossing crash, 2007–02–02.
  3. The Railway Herald, Network Rail stage level crossing crash accident (pdf file, >4MB)
  4. BBC News, Top Gear screens train crash item, 2007–02–25.
  5. Tele-photo pictures of the crash setup.
  6. BBC News, One dead in level crossing crash, 2007–03–01.


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