MEMORIES - LAST CLASS 50'S


The humble Class 50 was always a popular machine with railway enthusiast. The 50 strong fleet were built in the Vulcan Works at Newton le Willows between 1967 and 1968. They were originally built as a stop gap locomotive, to haul passenger trains on the non electrified sections of the West Coast Mainline to the north of Crewe. After the completion of the West Coast electrification program the class was slowly transferred down to the South West. The loco's were used on passenger (and later freight) diagrams all over the South West, working out of Bristol, London Paddington and London Waterloo. However locomotive reliability was appalling after their heavy use on the WCML. The Class were put through a full refurbishment program in the 1980's before being put back to work on the West of England routes. However in February 1987 the first axe fell, 50011 was withdrawn from service, little did enthusiasts know, that by March 1994 50007 and 50050 would be the only two class members left operational to work the last farewell tour.

Even before 1994, scrapping of some class members was already underway. Locomotives were collected in groups of 3 or 4 and were generally tripped to Vic Berry's Scrap yard in Leicester by rail. Laira Depot (Plymouth) had a famous line of scrap Class 50's, however these loco's didn't last long with many working their way gradually North to meet their fate with the cutters torch. Taunton saw some of the Class 50's before they worked their way North. Some may recall that four such examples spent some time in Fairwater Yard, during the Easter period of 1989. Through some interesting research (With thanks to Jeff Treece and Dave Jones) we have managed to piece together the movements which saw four of the locomotives towed North for cutting.

50012 'Benbow' and 50014 'Warspite' were towed to Taunton on the 23rd March 1989, they were dumped in Fairwater Yard looking very forlorn, and unused. Their nameplates and any other valuable items had already been removed. Views can be see below of the two locomotives:

Below: 25th March 1989, 50012 and 50014 are seen from the 'Texas Car Park' (Now Chaplin's), note the removal of the front windows to allow air pipes to be trailed though both locomotives (Photo: Garry Stone)

Below: 50012 and 50014 are seen from the community orchards in Staplegrove, note 50014 only had it's number left on one side (Photo: Jeff Treece)

On the 30th March 1989, 50047 'Swiftsure' and 50022 'Anson' were bought up from Laira to join 50012 and 50014 in Fairwater Yard. Sleeping Coach (No 10603) was also used with this latest pair to provide braking. The 4 locomotives remained in the yard over the Easter Weekend, before departing Taunton on the 5th April. Ironically it was another classmate which towed them (at least partway) to their death. 50004 'St Vincent' was used for the move, and was seen departing the yard at 11:05am (Booked departure being 10:40).

Below: On the 2nd of April 1989 all four locomotives had been marshaled together and were ready for their final trip North. From left to right: 50014, 50012, 50047 & 50022 (Photo: Jeff Treece)

Below: The final piece of the story is completed with this final shot. 50004 leads 50022, 50047, 50012 and 50014 away from Taunton and onwards for scrapping. This unique photo was the only one taken from 40 Steps of the convoy leaving Fairwater Yard (Photo: Dave Jones)

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Many of the scrap Class 50's passed straight through Taunton heading North, towed by various traction of the time. Over the years many were caught on film, Taunton Trains would like to hear from you if you have any images which may be of use for this section of the memories page.

21st June 1992, 47581 hauls 50046 'Ajax', 50037 'Illustrious' & 50018 'Resolution' North through Taunton from Laira to Leicester. Three coaches were provided at the rear to provide braking (Photo: Darren Harris)

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For some interesting links to images relating to Vic Berry's Scrap Yard see below: