We Surprise Nobody With A Nifty Class 50 in 00/4mm
Warley is back! And as is known, we like to make a bit of a splash ahead of the big Brum show. It's also been a bit of an EE theme for us, having previously announced the Deltic and the 37 around the biggest show on the calendar. So, let's complete the set; welcome to the Class 50, from Accurascale.
The Class 50 is the third and final member of our iconic English Electric (EE) six-axle trio that began with the Class 55 in 2018 and the Class 37 in 2019. With our award-winning ‘Deltic’ now in customers’ hands and the first of the much anticipated Type 3s due to leave our factory in the coming weeks, it is now time to reveal the full details of the next classic main line locomotive to join our growing roster.
It's also the most requested loco we've had for the last three years, so it's about time we obliged!
Why the 50? Check out our video with Hornby Magazine!
The class developed a huge following towards the end of the 1980s as older locomotives fell by the wayside and the ‘Hoovers’ were lined up to be the next major victim of ‘Sprinterisation’. With just 50 examples built and all – initially – wearing evocative names drawn from Royal Navy warships that were applied from the late 1970s, many enthusiasts developed intense bonds with individual Class 50s that rivalled even the last days of the ‘Deltics’. Although the final withdrawals came in 1994, this passion for the class was happily translated into preservation and 18 examples are still extant with five currently main line registered.
Delivered from Vulcan Foundry, Newton-le-Willows, between September 1967 and December 1968, the new 100mph diesel-electrics were developed from EE’s successful DP2 prototype with the intention of speeding up services north of Crewe to complement the accelerated electric timetable on the southern section of the West Coast Main Line. They were numbered D400-449, later 50001-50050 under TOPS, and were initially allocated to Crewe, albeit leased to British Rail as part of an innovative deal that made their approval much more palatable to government officials.
The 2,700hp locomotives were the first class to be entirely delivered in BR corporate blue and later gained the ‘Hoover’ nickname due to the intense sucking sound created by the twin inertial filters at the No.2 end. The fleet was initially deployed on passenger and parcels services between Crewe and Glasgow, with forays north as far as Inverness, as well as trains to Blackpool, Liverpool and Manchester. Notably they were also fitted with rheostatic braking – already common on electric locos – that was particularly useful on the long down grades from the summits at Beattock and Shap. As the wires began to march north again from 1970, multiple working equipment was installed fleet wide while freight work became a greater part of their remit, their slow speed control kit proving particularly useful for MGR coal operations to Ironbridge and other power stations.
Although EE had hoped to deliver what would have essentially been a fleet of ultra-reliable DP2s in a restyled carbody – courtesy of the Design Panel – BR eventually settled on a substantially revised specification that was packed with electronics and would prove to be the Achilles heel of the class, especially when they began to move to the Western Region from October 1972, initially just 400 (the ‘D’ prefix having been dropped from the late 1960s) spending seven months at Bristol Bath Road for training purposes.
In 1973, the lease deal ended with the fleet becoming BR property and by the end of the following year – which had seen the introduction of the full Euston-Glasgow electric timetable as well as the new TOPS numbers – almost three quarters of the class had transferred south, with Bath Road, Old Oak Common and Plymouth Laira taking over maintenance. They replaced the ‘Westerns’ on Paddington-Bristol and Penzance workings, as well as other West of England services and parcels duties.
The whole fleet was reunited on the WR by the end of 1976, which also saw a nadir in performance; just 38% of the class being active, a far cry from the 84% that EE had promised in its original availability guarantee, or the 75% achieved during their last year of LMR service. The problems were not easily solved. While routine maintenance issues could be mostly overcome as the former diesel hydraulic depots became used to their new charges, their complicated mixed traffic design was susceptible to spares shortages and frustrated WR bosses that were looking for a more thoroughbred passenger loco, while the internal electrical equipment was plagued by the ingress of dirt and oil via the inertial filters.
Although HSTs were starting to take over on the principle expresses in 1976, retiring the Class 50s was not a serious option. The result was an extensive refurbishment that would strip superfluous kit to a minimum and resolve contamination issues, as well as introduce several cosmetic improvements and bring forward various upgrades that would have typically come due during half-life overhauls a few years later. No. 50006 was the first to enter BREL Doncaster in September 1977, but it would be November 1979 before it would be released. By the time No. 50014 – the last to be refurbished – arrived in South Yorkshire in May 1983, the time had been slashed to just over six months, and Warspite returned to traffic in December of the same year. Notably, all but the first six locos in the programme were released in the new ‘large logo’ livery.
By the early 1980s class was mostly employed on secondary services, such as Paddington to Birmingham, Cheltenham, Hereford, Gloucester, Oxford, Worcester and South Wales destinations, Waterloo-Exeter, inter-regionals (South West to Gloucester or Birmingham, and Bournemouth or Poole to Reading) and South West locals, like Penzance to Plymouth.
The run-up to the Great Western 150 celebrations in 1985 included No. 50007, which was repainted in lined brunswick green with cast numbers and double arrow in February 1984, controversially losing its Hercules name to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the composer Sir Edward Elgar, who had no connection with the GWR. Rumoured to be the first of a series of locomotives renamed after famous people, the intense backlash put paid to any future rededications! The implementation of sectorisation in 1986 co-incided with the colourful launch of Network SouthEast – the blue, white and red scheme eventually being rolled out on around half the class – and the fleet found itself split between passenger, parcels and departmental work.
Several years on from refurbishment and the extensive rebuild was not the panacea that had been hoped. While reliability was improved, generator issues continued to hamper the class, an earlier plan to replace this with an alternator having been shelved due to cost. A lack of spares and a reduced workload meant the first withdrawals took place in 1987, Nos. 50006, 50011 and 50014 all being switched off, the latter pair scandalously having only been refurbished four years earlier! The same year, Laira out-shopped Defiance in the stunning new Railfreight General livery with re-geared CP7 bogies and new 50149 number heralding a potential freight future for the class. After just under two years of use, the project was cancelled partially due to poor wheelslip protection and lack of sanding equipment, both ironically removed during refurbishment.
It was the arrival of ex-Great Eastern Class 47/4s between 1987-90 and Class 47/7s from Edinburgh-Glasgow services from 1989 that really sounded the death knell. Taking over on Paddington semi-fasts, the Class 50s were down to half strength by the end of 1990. Faltering reliability saw further inroads as the ‘Brush 4s’ began to encroach on the ‘Mule’ during 1991, the arrival of the new NSE ‘Turbo’ DMUs in 1992 releasing enough Class 47s to almost finish the job by June 1992. This wasn’t entirely the end as Nos. 50050 (running as D400), 50007 and 50033 were retained until March 1994 for railtours and open days, all three subsequently passing into preservation along with numerous other favourites.
While many locomotives have enjoyed long preservation careers, seven of the class have returned to the main line, with an eighth expected to head back out in due course. Incredibly five are still active on Network Rail metals, the Class 50 Alliance’s Nos. 50007 Hercules (running as 50034 Furious on one side) and 50049 that both wear GBRf livery along with No. 50044 Exeter (cosmetically backdated to pre-refurbished condition), Hanson & Hall’s No. 50008 Thunderer and Boden Rail’s No. 50050 Fearless.
Our Class 50 is the culmination of over three years of development that began with a 3D laser scan of No. 50017 at the Great Central Railway in 2019. Building on our growing range of diesel and electric locomotives, the EE Type 4 features their most impressive specification yet, with our ground shaking twin-speaker set up, working radiator fan, flange squeal sensor, full lighting package that includes preservation era oddballs, engine room and cab lighting with auto off feature and eight cab configurations with illuminated driver’s control desk.
The Class 50 Alliance also graciously allowed us to visit their fleet based at Kidderminster Diesel Depot on the Severn Valley Railway on several occasions, even raising No. 50044 on jacks to allow the our research team unprecedented access to the underframe!
The full gamut of changes experienced by this class have been included on our extensive tooling suite to create the definitive Class 50. This includes optional multiple working equipment, missing handrails on D400, original headcode or plated with marker lights or sealed beam lights, no headlight, blanked headlight and headlight, wind deflectors, sandbox fillers, ‘grilled’ windows on refurbished locomotives (including the first pair which retained the window grommet for several years), early or late cast bogies, dynamic brakes, roof scavenger port, NRN or GSM-R radio equipment/fittings, seven- or 12-blade radiator fan and roof walkways.
Tooling is almost complete but due to a local COVID shutdown in China the first sample has been delayed in arriving in time for the 2022 Warley show. This first sample will follow early in the new year. Six locomotives make up the first announcement, with some Accurascale Exclusives to follow soon. Prices range from £189.99 for the DC/DCC ready examples to £299.99 for the DCC Accurathrash sound fitted models. Delivery is slated for late Q4 2023.
Locomotives can now be pre-ordered via your local stockist, or direct via the Accurascale website, where you can spread the cost using our flexible payment terms over 6 months or less, depending on your requirements. Just click on the basket at checkout and follow the simple steps.
- Highly-detailed OO scale model, 1:76.2 scale
- Minimum Radius 438mm (2nd Radius Set-track) in OO
- Die-cast metal chassis
- RP25-110 profile OO wheels with provision for re-gauging with scale-sized wheels for P4/EM gauges – with simple ride height adjustment – and ability to set brake blocks in line with wheels
- Separately-applied etched metal/plastic detail parts, including grab handles, steps, wipers, etc.
- Scale width wire handrails
- Etched metal pre-painted nameplates and crests (where applicable) provided for customer to install
- Interchangeable printed headcodes with full description covering the first nine years of the class plus preservation era
- Scale-sized and mounted snowploughs provided for customer to install, with one-piece NEM mounted option
- Full underframe tank, battery box and full-formed compressor detail with extensive pipework and other separate parts
- Fully sprung buffers, super-fine pipework and screw couplings (for display)
- Kinetic NEM coupler mounts at correct height and mini-tension-lock couplers
- Separately powered working radiator fan with different speed settings
- DCC ready [21-Pin MTX Socket] or Factory-Fitted DCC Sound options
- Five-Pole motor with two flywheels
- Metal Helical Gear box for maximum performance and slow speed running
- Gearing arranged so locomotive can achieve minimum scale top speed of 125 mph (200 km/h)
- DCC ready with PowerPack capacitor for uninterrupted power
- All wheel drive (sprung centre axle) and all wheel pickup
Fully detailed Lighting Pack, including:
- Directional lighting, DC and DCC
- Switchable Red and white marker lights with correctly configured lights for preservation era oddballs 50008 and 50044
- Separately switched cab lighting and illuminated, driver’s desk, auto/off on movement
- Interior lighting with cast electrical compartment and engine bay detail on metal motor enclosure
- Customised Dual-Speaker Technology with large "Accurathrash" Bass Speaker and smaller ‘iphone’ style cube for higher frequencies (on DCC Sound-fitted models only)
- Hall sensor for flange squeal effect (on DCC Sound-fitted models only)