Class 52 (Type 4) Western
Class: Class 52 (Type 4) Western
Designer: British Railways
Weight: 109 tons
Purpose: Express Passenger & Heavy Freight
Information: These unique diesel hydraulic express passenger locomotives were originally classified by British Railways as Type 4 and later reclassified Class 52 under TOPS. In 1959, as part of British Railways modernisation plan, these locomotives were key elements in the plan set forth by the British Transport Commission to completely replace steam traction through-out the Western Region.
Details: In May 1959 the BTC put forth plans for a Type 4 diesel for the heavy coal trains prevalent to the Western Region. As the class was developed it became a natural replacement of passenger workings previously entrusted to Castle and King Class locomotives, and as such became a mixed traffic design.
By 1961 a total of 74 locomotives had entered service having been constructed at both Swindon and Crewe Locomotive Works. Having two Maybach Diesel Hydraulic engines the class was prone to similar failures as other Western Region first generation designs. Again, like other diesel hydraulic designs, the Western’s were compared to similar rated locomotives of other origin; in this case the Class 47. In common with other WR diesel hydraulic designs the 52 ultimately lost to the competition due to transmission design issues.
Like many other first generation diesels a great deal of emphasis was placed on locomotive aesthetics. The locomotive shares many attributes to similar Continental German designs of the period. First as the locomotives were to be used on express passenger services, the locomotives were named “Western” in honour of the allocated region. Each aspect of design and livery were put to committee vote and as such much debate ensued. In the case of the Western this resulted in several experimentation liveries being employed on various members, including sand, ochre, Brunswick green, and maroon. By 1964 small yellow ends were added for visibility. An interesting aspect of the committee design was the employment of the Standard BR passenger crest in lieu of the standard locomotive BR design. By 1967 class members were repainted Corporate blue with full yellow ends as standardised on all BR diesels.
As with other diesel hydraulic designs employed on the WR, the Western’s were deemed a non-standard design and ultimately condemned to scrap. Unlike other Type 4 designs, sufficient replacement motive power was unavailable and as such at five Western’s remained in service through 1977, finally being ousted by HST’s being introduced to the WR.
Both bulky and purposeful, the Western design gained acceptance with enthusiasts after the demise of steam resulting in seven members being preserved.