THE CLASS 56:


The British Rail Class 56 was built between 1976 and 1984 to become one of British Rail's heavy haul Type 5 Locomotives. The Class was built for the purpose of moving heavy coal loads on the 'Merry Go Round' coal circuits in the east midlands. The first thirty locomotives were built at Electroputre in Romania, but suffered from multiple problems which resulted in the being rebuilt at Doncaster Works. All remaining Class 56's were subsequently constructed in the UK split between Doncaster and Crewe works. The Class 56's were nicknamed 'Grids' by enthusiasts, a name which has stuck with the class throughout their mainline career. The name was taken from the grid like horn covers fitted to the locomotive nose.

While the Class 56's were a powerful and capable locomotive, they suffered from expensive maintenance compared to their Class 58 counterparts. Many issues with the Class 56 would result in roof sections needing to be removed and sometimes power units to be lifted, because the space inside the locomotive body would not allow proper access. As such if time was not invested in regular engine care, then this would often lead to in service failures. As such the class fell out of favour in the privatisation years with EWS/ DB Schenker when many were sidelined at just 15 years old. Some were however exported for use in France under contract hire to assist with the building of TGV lines. Upon their return to the UK after a period out of service many have been purchased by smaller companies and are now back in regular traffic.

Taunton has seen a resurgence of Class 56's in recent years. In the 80's and 90's the Class would only make fleeting appearances. Sectorisation saw a batch of Metals Class 56's allocated to Cardiff Canton in the 90's, when a class member would often appear on a Saturday hauling the Exeter Basin scrap. Other than this an appearance of a Class 56 at Taunton can be considered 'rare' up until 2013 when Colas Rail Freight returned a large batch of Class 56's to mainline traffic.

Further Reading on the Class 56s:

Locomotives Illustrated & Class 56 Group

BR Blue liveried Class 56 No.56043 stands at Taunton on the 12th May 1984 stabled on Taunton Shed. It's not currently known why this Class 56 had ventured to Taunton as at the time the class were not allocated any work in the Taunton area.

(Photo: Richard Giles)

Railfreight Grey Class 56 No.56055 heads north light engine through Taunton on the 15th April 1988.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

Railfreight Construction Class 56 No.56031 'Merehead' hauls Network Southeast Class 50 No.50037 'Illustrious' through Taunton light engine. Presumably the Class 50 had failed and was being returned to Laira Depot for attention by the Westbury based Class 56. The image was thought to have been taken in 1989, which could connect to the below image.

(Photo: Nigel Curtis)

A very rare working occurred on the 17th June 1989. The 13:05 Paddington - Paignton loco hauled service failed at Westbury (Possibly Class 50 No.50037?). The only locomotive to hand was a Railfreight Construction Class 56. No.56046 is seen passing 40 Steps, Taunton with quite a few enthusiasts on board. The loco only worked the train between Westbury and Exeter. At Exeter something a little more appropriate was provided for the trip to Paignton. 56046 later returned light engine to Westbury.

(Photo: Taunton Trains Collection)

Railfreight Grey liveried Class 56 No.56035 passes Cogload Junction hauling Network Southeast Class 50 No.50029 'Renown' during October 1989. Presumably this Class 50 had also failed and was being returned to Laira for attention.

(Photo: Dave Jones)

Railfrieght sector Class 56 No.56033 stands at Taunton on the 21st June 1993, with a British Rail special which was run in conjunction with the Paignton and Dartmouth Diesel Gala weekend. The locomotive was used to haul the 08:00 London Paddington - Exeter St Davids before handing over to a Laira based Class 37 No.37672 at Exeter. More details can be found on the Six Bells Junction website.

(Photo: Darren Harris)

Cardiff based Railfreight Metals Sector Class 56 No.56032 'Sir De Morgannwg / County of South Glamorgan' passes 40 Steps, Taunton on the 23rd April 1993 hauling the 6B19 Exeter City Basin - Cardiff Tidal scrap train.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

Cardiff based Metals Sector Class 56 No.56076 'British Steel Trostre' passes 40 Steps on the 31st May 1993 with the 6B19 Exeter City Basin - Cardiff Tidal scrap.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

Cardiff based Metals Sector Class 56 No.56044 'Cardiff Canton' passes Norton Fitzwarren hauling the 6B19 Exeter City Basin - Cardiff Tidal Scrap in June 1993.

(Photo: Dave Jones)

Railfreight Construction Class 56 No.56056 is pictured passing Norton Fitzwarren during September 1993 working light engine. Adjacent the locomotive passes the rail connected Taunton Cider works and the unimog which was used to shunt wagons once loaded.

(Photo: Dave Jones)

Cardiff based Class 56 No.56060 'Cardiff Rod Mill' hauls an unidentified 'Dutch' Class 37 through 40 Steps working the 6B19 Exeter City Basin - Cardiff Tidal scrap in November 1993.. The Class 37 is likely to have been in transit back to Cardiff from Exeter (possibly having failed and needing attention at it's home depot in Cardiff).

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

An unidentified Class 37 hauls Transrail Class 56 No.56044 and Transrail Class 60 No.60097 through 40 Steps, Taunton on the 10th September 1994. The Class 37 had been added to the consist at Exeter, however the Class 56 had lead this demonstration freight from St Blazey. All three locomotives returned to Cardiff.

(Photo: Dave Jones)

Transrail liveried Class 56 No.56073 'Treforma Steelworks' hauls the 'Paignton Decorator' charter through Norton Fitzwarren on the 27th May 1996. The charter was operated by Hertfordshire Railtours and operated as the 1Z73 08:03 Paddington - Paignton. More details of the charter can be found on the Six Bells Junction website,

(Photo: Dave Jones)

EWS liveried Class 56 No.56119 stands at Taunton on the 7th December 2001, having operated a special charter in conjunction with the annual Dunster By Candlelight events on the West Somerset Railway. The 1Z41 08:25 from Crewe worked through to Minehead solo, however the return run saw DEPG Class 33 No.33048 added between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard. The Class 56 is pictured at Taunton before heading onto the West Somerset Railway. Further details of the charter can be found on the Six Bells Junction website

(Photo: Lester Solway)

On the 2nd August 2003 two Load Haul liveried Class 56's ventured to Paignton hauling 'The Worksop Riviera' charter for the Worksop Open Day Committee. Class 56 No.56107 and No.56118 headed the 1Z56 05:40 Workshop - Paignton & 1Z57 16:20 Paignton - Worksop return. The pair are pictured passing Cogload Junction on their return.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

EWS liveried Class 56 No.56103 'Stora' made an impromptu visit Taunton on the 9th October 2003 when points failed at Bridgwater. It was a common practice move in order to keep the line clear (should the points fail) and allow access into the yard from the Taunton direction. No.56103 is pictured at Taunton waiting for the road back to Bridgwater with the 6C92 from Newport ADJ.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

EWS liveried Class 56 No.56018 was sent light engine to Exeter Riverside to collect a small rake of stored MGR HAA hoppers on the 3rd April 2003. The locomotive is pictured passing 40 Steps, with the 6G77 11:18 Exeter Riverside - Margam returning the wagons from store.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

EWS liveried Class 56 No.56081 was sent light engine to Exeter Riverside Yard to collect a rake of Engineers wagons and return to Westbury on the 12th October 2003. The locomotive is pictured climbing Whiteball wit the 6W33 Exeter Riverside - Westbury.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

Devon & Cornwall Railways (DCR) produced perhaps the most striking livery a Class 56 has ever carried. After an extensive overhaul former Load Haul Class 56 No.56003 became No.56312 and was named 'Artemis' in two foot high letters along the body side. The loco is pictured at Taunton on the 19th January 2001 towing Colas Class 47 No.47739 from Washwood Heat to Tavistock Junction.

(Photo: Paul Finnimore)

After the demise of Fastline Freight, Class 56 No.56302 entered into service for Nemesis Rail. On the 8th March 2012 No.56302 leads Class 47 No.47375 through Wellington hauling the 6Z23 Burngullow - Burton On Trent conveying Silver Bullet wagons from store.

(Photo: John White)

By July 2012 DCR Class 56 No.56312 (56003) had lost it's striking livery. On the 10th July 2012, Nemesis Rail operated the 5Z56 11:00 Carlisle to Laira stock move. The ECS move was formed of Virgin Trains Mk2 barriers 3344 & 5952, conveying newly converted FGW Mk3 coaches No's. 45503 & 502 to Laira Depot. The coaches have been converted from previously redundant buffet cars into full passenger seated coaches. No.56312 provided the power for the trip.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

DCR Class 56 No.56312 also carried an advertising livery for the York Railfest during 2012. The locomotive made a brief foray into the South West on the 18th June 2012, while working the 0Z56 10:00 Bristol Barton Hill - Laira route leaving trip, light engine. The loco is pictured passing Creech St Michael.

(Photo: Stephen Ginn)

Colas Rail Freight Class 56 No.56087 made it's first appearance in the South West on the 7th November 2012, hauling the 6Z52 Chirk - Teigngrace log empties. The loco is pictured exiting from Whiteball Tunnel as it enters Devon.

(Photo: Stephen Ginn)

Colas Rail Freight Class 56 No.56094 powers through the snow at Nynehead on the 23th January 2013 hauling the 6Z52 07:13 Chirk - Teigngrace log empties.

(Photo: Mike Rowland)

Colas Rail Freight Class 56 No.56105 takes the relief line at 40 Steps, Taunton on the 10th April 2013 while hauling the 6Z62 Gloucester - Teigngrace wagons for loading with logs at the Devon outpost.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

Class 56 No.56302 (formerly 56124) made its debut appearance in the South West for Colas Rail Freight on the 10th July 2013 hauling the 6Z52 Chirk - Teigngrace log empties, and is pictured passing Charlton near Cogload Junction.

(Photo: Stephen Ginn)

DCR Class 56 No.56312 (56003) was out shopped in a new corporate image in September 2013, it wasted no time in visiting Taunton. On the 21st September 2013, the locomotive became the first (and probably last) Class 56 to enter Platform 1 at Taunton. The loco was also named 'Jeremiah Dixon'. The ex works locomotive is pictured at Taunton.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

Colas Rail Freight provided another of their Class 56's to visit the South West on the 5th November 2013. Recent returnee to the mainline No.56113 is pictured passing Norton Fitzwarren while hauling the 6Z29 Hackney Yard - Westbury long welded rail train.

(Quentin Hawkes)

Taunton's new stabling sidings resembled a heritage centre on the 22nd November 2013. Probably no one would of ever predicted that in 2013 Taunton would see a Class 56, 47, and 31 stabled 'on depot' at the same time. DCR provided the spectacle with 56311 towing 47769 from Washwood Heath Taunton. After a short shunt the 56 was removed and the Class 31 continued to Okehampton with the Class 47. The 47 was being moved to the Dartmoor Railway to provide batteries for 47375 which had failed. The Class 31 then returned to Taunton light engine and stabled with 56311 for the night.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

Former Fertis liveried Class 56 No.56103 lead a pair of Class 56's into Devon on the 17th July 2014. No.56103 and No.56312 paired up for a route refresher between Washwood Heath and Plymouth. The pair are pictured passing Beambridge near Whiteball.

(Photo: Stephen Ginn)

DCRail's pair of Class 56's No.56303 & No.56103 returned from Cornwall with the Swedish Railvac in tow on the 17th November 2014. The colourful pair are pictured passing the former station site of Creech St. Michael Halt while working the 6Y85 Lostwithiel Clay Sidings to Chaddesden (Derby).

(Photo: Stephen Ginn)

Double Colas Class 56's were used on timber traffic from the South West on the 10th December 2014. Colas supplied Class 56 No.56078 & No.56096 to operate the 6V54 05:33 Chirk - Exeter Riverside log empties. The pair are pictured passing Fairwater Yard

(Photo: Stephen Ginn)

A rare Colas Rail Freight pairing on the 11th December saw Class 56 No.56096 lead classmate No.56078 north with the loaded 6M51 Exeter Riverside - Chirk logs. The pair are pictured passing Cogload Junction while on route to Chirk.

(Photo: Stephen Ginn)