‘20s’ on the Un­der­ground

We looks at the vet­eran diesels reg­u­larly used on Lon­don Un­der­ground.

Model Rail (UK) - - Contents -

The first English Elec­tric Type 1 Bo-bos – bet­ter known as Class 20 – were de­liv­ered to Bri­tish Rail­ways in 1957 and, by rights, this 60-year-old de­sign re­ally shouldn’t be work­ing reg­u­lar freight trains on the na­tional net­work. But it is. Most BR classes had their usual ter­ri­to­ries and it’s only after they’ve been with­drawn from front-line ser­vice – or since pri­vati­sa­tion – that they’ve ap­peared in far-flung places, some way away from their tra­di­tional stamp­ing grounds. The Class 20 is no ex­cep­tion. En­thu­si­asts will have fond mem­o­ries of watch­ing pairs of ‘20s’ hard at work on coal trains through­out the Mid­lands and York­shire, or tak­ing trips to the sea­side be­hind them on sum­mer Satur­days. After be­ing re­placed in front­line ser­vice, nu­clear flask and weed­killing du­ties have led to Class 20s ap­pear­ing all over the coun­try. One place where the Class 20 has found favour is on Lon­don Un­der­ground. This link was sealed on April 29 2018 when 20227, re­s­plen­dent in Lon­don Trans­port ma­roon, was named Sher­lock Holmes, in hon­our of Metropoli­tan Rail­way elec­tric No. 8, by Sir Peter Hendy. Spe­cials and nam­ing aside, see­ing Class 20s on the Un­der­ground has been a weekly oc­cur­rence since 2009. The rea­son why is that this seem­ingly prim­i­tive de­sign has some re­deem­ing fac­tors over newer lo­co­mo­tives, and one of those is weight. There hasn’t been a new Bo-bo on the net­work with a low axle weight for many years. The new Class 68s and 88s are RA7 whereas the trusty ‘20’ is RA5 (Route Avail­abil­ity 5, axle weight of less than 19 tons). De­spite this, there are some routes where lighter lo­co­mo­tives are a must as heav­ier Class 60s, 66s, 67s and 70s are just that – too heavy. It’s claimed that the or­der for LU’S 191 S-stock EMUS – worth ap­prox­i­mately £1.5bn – was the big­gest new train con­tract ever of­fered in Bri­tain. It was won by Bom­bardier and, sub­se­quently, GB Rail­freight was con­tracted to move the new trains from Derby Litchurch Lane works to LUL’S Neas­den de­pot, via the As­fordby test track, near Mel­ton Mow­bray. The first S-stock was ready for delivery in 2009. There’s a bridge just out­side Neas­den with a se­vere weight re­stric­tion. It pre­cludes the use of, say, a Class 66. With nearly 200 new trains to move, GBRF had only one op­tion – to run the trains with Class 20s. GBRF could have run the trains with ‘66s’, swap­ping to ‘20s’ for the last few miles, but GBRF de­cided to use ‘20’ power through­out. How­ever it didn’t own any, so it hired, on a short-term deal, 20142 and 20189 from lo­co­mo­tive owner Michael Owen, the Class 20 So­ci­ety’s 20227 and Harry Nee­dle Rail­road Com­pany’s (HNRC) 20901 and 20905. It’s some­what ironic that Di­rect Rail Ser­vices (DRS) started out us­ing Class 20s, which it had fully re­fur­bished at Brush Trac­tion in 1995. Twenty-five years on, and DRS is now us­ing ul­tra-mod­ern Bo-bos, the Class 68 and Class 88. GBRF signed a longer term hire deal with DRS to use some of those Brush Class 20/3s – 20301/302/304/305 had ma­jor ex­ams and were fit­ted with trip-cocks, while a fifth, 20308, was re­tained as a spare. The S-stock delivery trains were a sight to be­hold. The seven or eight-car ‘S7’ or

‘S8’ LUL trains were sand­wiched be­tween KBA trans­la­tor wag­ons, EX-TEA bo­gie tank wag­ons with an S-stock cou­pler at one end, topped and tailed by pairs of Class 20s. These trains oc­ca­sion­ally ran with sin­gle ‘20s’ on each end. In this case, pairs of Net­work Rail MLA ‘Fal­cons’ bo­gie wag­ons were in­serted into the train, so the for­ma­tion be­came ‘20’, MLA, MLA, KBA, S-stock, KBA, MLA, MLA, ‘20’. The S-stock is de­signed for LUL’S ‘sub-sur­face’ lines but that makes it out-of-gauge for some Net­work Rail routes. There­fore, the delivery trains run un­der ‘X’ head­codes, to ad­vise sig­nallers that di­vert­ing the train off its booked route is not ad­vised and could cause is­sues if done so. They’re also lim­ited to 35mph. The trains were due to run weekly, so set paths were put in the work­ing timetable. The sched­ule was the train was due to leave As­fordby at 1142 and ar­rive at Amer­sham at 0045, so this was never a fast train! It quickly be­came ap­par­ent that the new S-stock needed some ma­jor mod­i­fi­ca­tion, so much so that all 192 trains would have to re­turn to Derby. This made the whole con­tract a tri­an­gu­lar oper­a­tion – Derby to As­fordby, As­fordby to Neas­den and Neas­den back to Derby – which made bet­ter use of the re­sources. The trains typ­i­cally ran south­bound on Wed­nes­day and re­turned on a Thurs­day and, ini­tially, the ‘20s’ would re­turn light

to Peter­bor­ough – some­times with­out the bar­rier ve­hi­cles which would be left at As­fordby or Derby – for main­te­nance. There were some is­sues with the DRS ‘20/3s’ in­clud­ing pe­ri­ods when avail­abil­ity was par­tic­u­larly poor and so the con­tract switched to HNRC in 2012. HNRC pre­pared eight ‘20s’ – 20096/107/ 20118/132/20311/314/901/905 – in or­der to im­prove avail­abil­ity and reli­a­bil­ity of these vin­tage ma­chines. After all, a round trip is over 400 miles. That bridge out­side Neas­den has since been up­graded and Class 66s could work the trains through­out. How­ever, the ‘20s’ have re­mained for two rea­sons. Firstly, the hire con­tract was al­ready signed and, sec­ondly, it would em­ploy two ‘66s’ at a time when GBRF’S fleet was stretched. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Class 20 and LUL dates back to 1993 when sev­eral were hired for work­ing in­fra­struc­ture trains on the Metropoli­tan Line. BR loaned 20007, 20092 and 20169 while D8110 and 20227 were hired from the South Devon Rail­way and Class 20 Lo­co­mo­tive So­ci­ety re­spec­tively. This work fin­ished in 1994 but 20227 be­came a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to LUL me­tals as it was hired on an ad hoc ba­sic for work­ing the pop­u­lar ‘Steam on the Met’ spe­cials, as well as route-learn­ing trips with the LUL’S ‘4-TC’ set. This ar­range­ment cul­mi­nated in 20227 be­ing re­painted in Metropoli­tan Rail­way ma­roon in 2000. Although in­spired by the old Met electrics, 20227 re­ceived a crest on the nose end doors but full yel­low ends and a red sole­bar. It also gained the name Sir John Bet­je­man, after the fa­mous Metropoli­tan Rail­way-lov­ing poet. Lon­don Un­der­ground em­barked on an ex­ten­sive se­ries of spe­cials in 2013 to mark the 150th an­niver­sary of the open­ing of the Metropoli­tan Rail­way. Most peo­ple’s at­ten­tion was fo­cused on Metropoli­tan Rail­way 0-4-4T No. 1’s re­turn to the

tun­nels un­der Lon­don in Jan­uary, but the sum­mer’s ‘Steam on the Met’ trips be­tween Amer­sham and Har­row brought Class 20s back to LUL with a vengeance… and in some rather un­usual liver­ies. 20227’s was ar­guably the most eye­catch­ing. It re­ceived a colour scheme based on cur­rent LUL prac­tice: white body­sides with red cabs and a blue sole­bar and small yel­low pan­els. To pro­vide cover for the steam spe­cials, Michael Owen’s 20142 and 20189 re­turned to the Un­der­ground. 20189 was re­painted into what was meant to be Lon­don Trans­port red, but a com­mu­ni­ca­tion break­down meant that it ac­tu­ally ap­peared in Lon­don bus red! Owen’s pair were painted into Bal­four Beatty blue and white for con­tract work but, when this was cut short, 20189 re­verted to full BR blue in 2016, after run­ning in a tem­po­rary scheme – BR blue but with Bal­four Beatty grey roofs and sole­bars. 20142, mean­while, re­ceived full Lon­don Trans­port ma­roon liv­ery and has since gained the Sir John Bet­je­man name from 20227 be­cause this, of course, gained its new name on April 29. 20227, 20189 and 20142 have made reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances on the Lon­don Un­der­ground in re­cent years, pro­vid­ing cover as needed for steam spe­cials. When not on LUL, 20227 calls the Mid­land Rail­way – But­ter­ley home, although it’s cur­rently on hire to the North Nor­folk Rail­way to work its Sher­ing­ham­cromer din­ing trains. But­ter­ley is also home to 20142 and 20189, although at the time of writ­ing both were on hire to the North York­shire Moors Rail­way as steam had been banned due to the ex­cep­tion­ally hot weather. The pair, thanks to their main line regis­tra­tion, have been cov­er­ing NYMR trains to Whitby as well as work­ing be­tween Pick­er­ing and Gros­mont. LUL, mean­while, has re­ceived all 191 S-stock units, but de­liv­er­ies of mod­i­fied units is due to last un­til May 2019. It’s truly re­mark­able that Class 20s are still in front line use in 2018, but the rail­way is ar­guably all the bet­ter for it! What hap­pens to HNRC’S Class 20s after­wards re­mains to be seen. But with more steam spe­cials in the pipe­line, the dis­tinc­tive sound of the ‘20’ looks set to con­tinue on LUL for some time to come.


Where else could you find a Class 20 cou­pled to a four-wheel wooden-bod­ied coach of 1892 vin­tage and run­ning on the main line other than on the Un­der­ground? 20189, in Lon­don bus red liv­ery, passes Chor­ley­wood with an Amer­shamhar­row-on-the-hill work­ing on May 26 2013, dur­ing the ‘Steam on the Met’ spe­cial that cel­e­brated the Metropoli­tan Rail­way’s 150th an­niver­sary.


Old and new on the Un­der­ground: a Metropoli­tan Line train of S-stock has been held at a red sig­nal along­side four Class 20s, led by DRS 20302, re­turn­ing to Derby, on March 1 2012. The ‘20s’ have re­ceived a green light first, treat­ing LUL cus­tomers to the au­ral and visual delights of the English Elec­tric 8SVT en­gines un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion!


A rather chilly Sir Peter Hendy has just un­veiled 20227’s new name at Quain­ton Road sta­tion on April 29. The Sher­lock Holmes name­plates are based on those car­ried by Metropoli­tan Rail­way No. 8, after it was re­named in 1953. It’s also why 20227 has the num­ber 8 on the side.


20142 and 20227 show off their smart Lon­don Trans­port ma­roon liver­ies at the Mid­land Rail­way – But­ter­ley on April 8 2017. 20142’s liv­ery is slightly dif­fer­ent: it has Metropoli­tan Rail­way crests in place of the LT roundel and num­ber 8. Both use their four-char­ac­ter head­code blinds when haul­ing S-stock: 20142 shows ‘1K73’ and 20189 usu­ally dis­plays ‘0Z20’.


20227 and 20189 rest out­side Neas­den on Oc­to­ber 21 2009 hav­ing de­liv­ered the first of 191 new S-stock units. Four MLA wag­ons are used when only two ‘20s’ are em­ployed. S-stock trains are planned to run un­til at least May 2019.


The west Lon­don sub­urbs echo to the sound of four Class 20s. Since 2014, the ‘20s’ have been painted to run in pairs: in this case 20901/905 are in GBRF blue and 20311/314 are in HNRC or­ange. The pairs usu­ally run cou­pled nose to nose but, oc­ca­sion­ally, they have been nose to cab.

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