Non-preserved Class 47s on Heritage Railways
The term ‘preserved’ has become slightly blurred over recent years, especially in the post-privatisation era, where organisations have bought locomotives as commercial assets, but based them – and in some cases allowed them to be restored and operated – on heritage railway lines. This section will only deal with those commercially-owned Class 47s that have been operated on the lines where they were based.
Riviera Trains had two locomotives based on the East Lancashire Railway in the shape of parcels red and grey 47575 and Virgin Trains-liveried 47769. Both locomotives were operational and used on a number of ELR services during their time on the railway. 47575 subsequently returned to Crewe where it was stripped for spares before being scrapped, while 47769 was sold to Harry Needle Railroad Company (HNRC) and moved to Barrow Hill, where its new owner had plans to return it to main line service, although it is yet to emerge.
Also moving to HNRC from the Wensleydale Railway after several years was 47703 Hermes and Network Southeast liveried 47715 Haymarket. The locomotive can now be found at HNRC’S extensive rail storage facility at Worksop, Nottinghamshire.
The latest Class 47 to leave a heritage railway that has hosted it for a number of years is 47640, which moved from the Battlefield Line to Nemesis Rail at Burton in January 2022. An active member of the Shackerstone diesel fleet for a number of years, 47640 is currently unserviceable. It joins a number of other stored locomotives to be based at Burton.
Despite the major setback, the Class 47 Preservation Project team are determined that it will run again.
The future of three preserved Class 47s are often the subject of much debate and speculation on social media and internet forums. Perhaps the greatest attention often falls on privately-owned former Old Oak Common celebrity D1524 (47004), based on the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway.
The locomotive saw use on the railway for a number of years before being moved to Bolton Abbey (along with 31119 and D5600), where it lay out of use until being moved back to Embsay last year.
It is in poor external condition after its long period in store, but work on its reactivation has been carried out by volunteers on the railway in recent months. It is in generally good mechanical condition but requires new batteries before it can be re-started. In theory, once new batteries have been fitted and some other minor rectification works have been carried out, D1524 could be brought into use relatively quickly – although it also requires a bodywork overhaul and repaint.
Another locomotive that attracts a lot of interest is former GWR150 celebrity 47484, which was bought by Pioneer Diesel Locomotive Group (PDLG) for preservation in 2011 after a number of years in store following its withdrawal back in 1998. The former Isambard Kingdom Brunel was moved to transport company Moveright International’s yard at Wishaw, where it remains.
PDLG operates a very successful contract engineering company, as well as also owning and maintaining its other preserved locomotives – 33035, 45060 Sherwood Forester, 45105 and 45135 3rd Carabinier. Despite some restoration work having been carried out
on the Class 47, attention has been focussed on other projects in recent years and it will be some time before 47484 will be ready to haul a train again.
When EWS disposed of the two former ‘Royal’ Class 47s, most of the attention went to 47798 Prince William, which was donated to the National Railway Museum and remains a key exhibit at the York museum. However, the other ‘Royal’ locomotive, 47799 Prince Henry, was also purchased privately for preservation and moved to the Eden Valley Railway at Warcop.
The locomotive remains in store at Warcop and has yet to work a train in preservation, but is understood to be largely complete and capable of being returned to service in a relatively short timescale.
As with most other preserved diesel classes, there are a number of formerly preserved Class 47s that have either been sold back into industry or disposed of for scrap.
We are indeed fortunate that 60 years after their introduction, we are still able to enjoy journeys behind Class 47s both on the main line and on our heritage railways.
The value and versatility of the design means they remain popular with many enthusiasts and are likely to do so for many more years to come.