British Rail Class 59

Why not keep the SD40 theme of late going again. I like looking up different locomotives all over the world and have them turn up being something familiar. I guess it just goes to show that although we have a long way to catch to the rest of the world in passenger rail due to certain lifestyle choices, but we are still quite influential in the freight world of things. It’s indeed somewhat difficult to go around the world and not find American Locomotive Company and General Motors locomotives in one form or another.

So the SD40 of this week is a derivation of the SD40-2, known as the British Rail Class 59, aka JT26CW-SS by EMD. She’s got a low and narrow car body with a control cab at each end. A 16-645E3C sits at heart. Purchased by Mendip Rail in 1984, the Class 59 was the first American locomotive and first privately owned locomotive to command freight trains on the British mainlines. The locomotive proved very effective and reliable, about 10 years after Mendip Rail’s order, National Power also followed suit.

A Mendip unit for Foster Yeoman when she was brand new
Although a total of only 15 locomotives of this class was produced in Lagrange, IL and London, ON, it was the Class 59 that opened the doors for North American diesels to the British market. One could even argue that if the Class 59 was not given the chance to prove herself on British soil, the Class 66 might never have had the chance to rein in the diesel freight services both in Britain and on the Continent. It is said that in 1991, the Class 59 set a haulage record in Europe for a single locomotive, leading a train of 13 000 tons and 5 400 feet long.

Today the Class 59 is still going strong. The National Power owned units are now under the control of DB Schenker. Based on the proven record of the SD40-2, the Class 59 will be serving for many years to come.


Anonymous said…
This is why I like your blog: you keep bringing up bits of information that hadn't occured to me before, like the class 59/66 being an SD40-2. Makes sense but never occured to me before. Thanks...

The locomotives are known as 'Sheds' in the UK because of their pitches roof profile, and although they work, they are a bit too slow for the UK and European railways where they have to fit between faster passenger trains for relatively short distances. I suspect that is why comparatively few sold in Europe. The latest freicgt locomotive to be bought in the UK, the class 68, is from Europe, suggesting that some companies are looking for more mixed traffic locomotives.

The reason I didn't mention much of the Class 66 in this post was because they were actually quite significantly different.

The Class 66 is more synonymous to a North American SD70 locomotive, with EMD 710 engines (not to mention the different electrical and control components) and a simplified version of the newer HTC-R trucks (bogies).

It's interesting you've mentioned the different operating environment these locomotives face in Europe. In North America freight railroads are the owners of the right of way and the priority user. There a few passenger trains except for a few densely populated corridors. Haulage capacity is of the most importance. Our railroads are adhesion limited rather than power, and because the equipment is stressed to maximum limits,especially couplers and draft gears, excessive acceleration can only mean trains ripped apart.
Anonymous said…
Yup, that's a major difference. Most lines today are 'open access' so if an operator can cover their costs they can use the tracks, as long as their trains can leg it between the incredibly fast passenger trains. As you say this makes for shorter faster freights, and probably explains the boxcab locomotives: less wind resistance. Also, some operators bid for passenger contracts so their locomotives need to be able to handle both.

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