The fifty English Electric Type 4 (later Class 50) locomotives were built by English Electric Co at the Vulcan Foundry at Newton-le-Willows in 1967/8 and were leased to British Railways initially for use on the West Coast Main Line to take over from electric traction at Crewe and handle trains north to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
This was to be a temporary situation until electrification from Crewe northwards into Scotland was completed. Financial constraints meant that the locos were not owned by BR, but leased, and each one carried a plate that denoted their ownership.
When electrification of the WCML was completed, the Class 50s moved to the Western Region of BR to replace the iconic ‘Western’ class of diesel hydraulic locomotives on services from Paddington to Bristol and the south west. Around this time, they were finally purchased by BR.
D402 started life at Crewe in 1967 and moved to Bristol Bath Road in 1973 and Laira three years later. D402 was renumbered 50 002 in 1974 under the BR TOPS renumbering scheme and named Superb in 1978 in line with the Western Region’s policy of naming the locomotives after warships.
In 1987, 50 002 found itself on former Southern Region territory under the guise of Network South East, wearing their rather garish red, white and blue livery and working first on the Portsmouth and Southampton line then on the Waterloo to Exeter line.
Withdrawn in December 1991, it was purchased for preservation and was the first Class 50 to be started up in preservation.
D402 is owned by the Devon Diesel Society and is at Buckfastleigh undergoing restoration.
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