WESTERN FACTS NOT FICTION
WESTERN MYTHS DEBUNKED
THE lives of the Western Class 52 diesel-hydraulic locomotives have been the subject of much scrutiny over the years but research conducted from primary sources such as interviews with the men who made the decision about various matters, including liveries, design, naming and much more, has clarified most, if not all, of the myths associated with them.
I, together with other members of the Western Locomotive Research Society, have devoted more than a quarter of a century to the subject and have produced the following lists to help enthusiasts understand the facts and it is published here to prevent the continued use of incorrect information that has somehow found its way onto the worldwide web.
The debunking of Western myths continued in December 2012, when Adrian Curtis was the first author to have any published work detailing the role of John Beresford-Evans in the design of the Westerns. He along with co-designer/consultant with Sir Misha Black of the Design Research Unit then based in Duke, Street, London, produced arguably the best looking diesel locomotives ever built. While Sir Misha, as head of the DRU, provided the vision and the drive for the design, it was left to graphic artist ‘JB’ as he liked to be known, to produce all the relevant drawings and styling. These ideas and drawings were then taken on by Swindon Locomotive Works and their draughtsmen. In recent DRU archives, perused by the author, the credit for the design of the fleet is given squarely to both men. But this article published in the national Railway Magazine railway press, was the first occasion that major role of ‘JB’ had been mentioned and proven.
D1036 Western Emperor at Plymouth - straight out of the Laira paint box in May 1975. Picture: A. Curtis
With the help of the WLRS, I produced a comprehensive account of Laira Repaints of Class 52 locomotives in Western Liveries, but I felt it was time to re-visit the subject. Some of the information in Western Liveries has been made incorrect by the emergence of photographic evidence. A little of this was put right in Western Mythology but now, thanks to this website, I can do the research further justice. Most enthusiasts didn't start chasing the Westerns in earnest until 1974/5, by then the repainting programme was in full swing. Because Western enthusiasm grew in numbers by the time 1975 arrived, most enthusiasts had little idea that the repainting programme was started way back at the end of 1972. My table in Western Liveries was a rather jumbled and unclear one. It gave the reader little clue as to the order of repaints. The quest to find out who made the decision to apply silver footrests and windscreen surrounds on certain members of the fleet, is made even more fascinating when you take a look at the order of paint jobs and the finish applied to them. Then there is the equally interesting task of the looking at where the Laira men affixed the depot allocation sticker. In the early repaints, the oblong Laira Depot sticker was often placed behind the cab door. But with the arrival of the change to the 'LA' abbreviation as from May 6, 1973, the list provides an interesting insight into its use on the repainted engines. Some locomotives, as I have already shown in their respective Western Collection booklets, were released off repaints without the double arrow symbols at one or both ends. These locomotives were D1006 Western Stalwart and D1026 Western Centurion.
British Railways (WR) hatched the plan to clean up the external condition of many of the Class 52s in 1973. Remember, at this point, many of the class had gone years since their last visit to Swindon Works for a complete overhaul and repaint. Numerous examples of the class were looking distinctly grubby by the time 1973 approached. I have taken the date when the locomotive was released back into traffic to produce the list which determines in which order they were repainted. But around the same period, a number of locomotives were cleaned with oil, giving them the appearance of having been painted. D1013 Western Ranger was among these, as was D1044 Western Duchess. However, both of these engines were to be given repaints in the future. It was D1067 Western Druid which first enjoyed a Laira repaint. Appearing back in traffic on Boxing Day, 1972, she was to begin a period of repainting at the depot which would eventually finish in 1975, except for a few railtour repaints and embellishments to D1009/13/23 in 1976. Druid was followed by D1027 Western Lancer four days later on December 30 and D1038 Western Sovereign appeared back in service as the first repaint of 1973 on January 10. Now all these engines had the 'D' painted out and allocation sticker situated behind the cab doors. They were superb repaints but had none of the silver embellishments of later years. Indeed, in 1973, the four men handed the job at Laira were kept very busy, no doubt in line with the decree from WR HQ. Indeed, in 1973, 25 engines were released into traffic with new exterior repaints with a distinct possibility that D1028 Western Hussar could have been the 26th. She was spotted back in traffic on New Year's Day 1974 in pristine condition, but she could have been released in late 1973. Any pictures or information would be grateful, if you have one. On a list of locomotives, selected by S.R.D. Power, the CM&EE at Paddington, for depot repaints during 1973, there were a number of anomalies. The locomotives chosen were: D1001/3/5/6/8-13/16/21/24-31/33-37/41/43-46/8/9/51-56/59/61/2/4/7/9/70-73. This comprised a total of 48 Westerns. Now, plans being plans, we all know they can differ from reality, and Power's paint plan was no different. If we check off the list of engines omitted from his list, you can see the changes in more detail but in general, the Laira painters actually kept fairly close to Power's list below.
Laira's painters only strayed away from Power's decree on five occasions. D1023, the last to be overhauled at Swindon, began to look very poor externally in mid-1976 and therefore, with the Westerns not expected to last that long in BR service and with Fusilier the rail tour engine, an exception was made. D1038 was the first engine to be given a repaint against Power's wishes but that was an early job in the list. D1047/50 and 68 were also left off Power's list but given repaints. D1047 and D1050 were both painted in 1973 while D1068 was spruced up in 1974. But the external condition of the above Westerns probably prompted the Laira painters to break with Power's list. However, many of the engines omitted from Power's list did get some form of external cleaning. The first few engines painted were first class jobs, only D1009's was not up to the previous standard. The workload on the four men, who we are led to believe did nothing else but paint the Westerns, was immense. Indeed, in May 1973, they hit a peak with seven Class 52s outshopped in new coats of paint. It was to be the most productive period in their painting career. The nearest they came to matching that was in April 1974 when they succeeded in outshopping five of the class, including the first to sport both silver footrests and silver windscreen surrounds - D1008 Western Harrier.
D1033 Western Trooper was among those who received two repaints. The first can now be confirmed as taking place while on examination at Laira between April 14 and April 21, 1973 - being described a 'first class finish'. The second arrived in August 1974. The initial Laira repaints followed the Swindon style but the first notable break from that tradition arrived in September 1973 when D1005 Western Venturer was given silver wheelrims and buffers. It is believed that D1003 Western Pioneer was the first to have its bufferbeam footrests painted when outshopped on October 2 that year. However, the locomotive did not receive silver windscreen surrounds. Indeed, the Laira men went back to painting the class as per Swindon's style with D1028/35/43 and 56 all released without any embellishments. It was the appearance of D1008 which sparked the change. She appeared on April 10 with silver embellishments to both the windscreen surrounds and footrests but amazingly, D1034 and D1048 both emerged in the original style afterwards. This was puzzling and another question for the men involved to answer. D1029 and D1012 came next but only with windscreen surrounds painted silver. D1037 Western Empress is credited as being the second to emerge from the depot with a full compliment of silver embellishments on May 22, 1974. The following six engines were all painted in the same fashion - D1068, D1046, D1049, D1026, D1030 and D1006. D1033's second repaint broke the fashion when she was painted in the original style but with allocation sticker above the numberplate this time. D1001/13/64 all emerged with silver additions in both areas but the last two of 1974 - D1011 and D1021 did not get silver footrests. So, as you can see, the addition of silver footrests and windscreen surrounds was not consistent. Now, this could have been the trademark of one man or pair of painters in particular. It seems odd that some engines received them and others didn't. 1975 saw the number of repaints decline, mainly due to the decreasing numbers of the fleet, but the first five released into traffic all had silver additions in both areas. D1070 appeared in June with silver footrests but not with windscreen surrounds painted but the final two - D1009 and D1013 did have.
1976 saw D1013 receive red-backed nameplates and D1009 had wheelrims painted while being spruced up at Old Oak Common in time for a rail tour in September, 1976. But D1023 was the last repaint of them all at Laira in October 1976 - bringing the curtain down on one of the most fascinating periods in the fleet's rail blue history. In total, the 'Gang of Four', carried out 56 full repaints on the Westerns - some eight more than Power initially envisaged. Their work deserves to be recognised.
FULL LIST OF LAIRA REPAINTS BY LOCOMOTIVE
D1001: Between 29/08/74—10/09/74.
D1006: 13/07/74—19/07/74 *Ran for a period without BR double arrow symbol at one end after repaint.
D1009: 16/03/73—31/03/73; 29/06/75—04/07/75; OOC attn: 04/05-09/76.
D1013: 06/09/74—22/09/74; 09/09/75-13/09/75. Red-backed number and nameplates in blue from: 30/04/76.
D1026: 25/06/74—29/06/74* D1026 no double arrow symbol ‘A’ end.
D1028: by 01/01/74
D1033: 14/04/73—21/04/73; 17/08/74—28/08/74.
D1041: by 08/05/73.
ORDER OF CLASS 52 REPAINTS
01: D1067: 26/12/72
02: D1027: 30/12/72
03: D1038: 10/01/73
04: D1059: 30/01/73
05: D1073: 25/03/73
06: D1009: 31/03/73
07: D1044: 07/04/73
08: D1016: 21/04/73
08: D1033: 21/04/73
10: D1024: 03/05/73
11: D1041: 08/05/73
12: D1050: 10/05/73
13: D1055: 14/05/73
14: D1061: 23/05/73
15: D1047: 28/05/73
16: D1072: 31/05/73
17: D1031: 14/07/73
18: D1069: 16/07/73
19: D1052: 29/08/73
20: D1054: 31/08/73
21: D1045: 06/09/73
22: D1062: 08/09/73
23: D1005: 21/09/73 *Loco had white wheelrims and silver buffers
24: D1025: 28/09/73 *Allocation sticker behind cab door but higher than normal
25: D1003: 02/10/73 *Windscreens not painted silver but footrests painted
26: D1035: 10/11/73
27: D1043: 18/11/73
28: D1028: by 01/01/74
29: D1056: 19/02/74
30: D1008: 10/04/74 *First to be painted with silver windscreen surrounds and footrests.
31: D1034: 17/04/74
32: D1048: 17/04/74
33: D1029: 24/04/74 *Silver windscreens only
34: D1012: 27/04/74 *Silver windscreens only
35: D1037: 22/05/74 *2nd painted with silver windscreens and footrests.
36: D1068: 09/06/74 *3rd
37: D1046: 22/06/74 *4th
38: D1049: 26/06/74 *5th
39: D1026: 29/06/74* 6th; *No double arrow symbol ‘A’ end.
40: D1030: 05/07/74 *7th
41: D1006: 19/07/74 *8th *Ran for a period without BR double arrow symbol at one end after repaint.
42: D1033: 28/08/74 *First not to be painted with silver windscreen surrounds and footrests since D1037.
43: D1001: 10/09/74 *9th to be painted with silver footrests and windscreen surrounds.
44: D1064: 19/09/74 *10th
45: D1013: 22/09/74 *11th
46: D1021: 09/10/74 *Footrests not painted.
47: D1011: 13/10/74 *Footrests not painted.
48: D1051: 21/03/75 *12th
49: D1053: 27/04/75 *13th
50: D1010: 09/5/75 *14th
51: D1071: 21/05/75 *15th
52: D1036: 29/05/75 *16th
53: D1070: 24/06/75 *Windscreens not painted silver; * Loco could also have received a 1973 repaint - but this is not confirmed
54: D1009: 04/07/75 *2nd repaint *17th
55: D1013: 13/09/75 *2nd repaint *18th plus white wheelrims
56: D1013: 30/04/76: Red-backed number and nameplates in blue
57: D1009: 05/09/76 *OOC attention for railtour – wheelrims painted only
58: D1023: 01/10/76 *19th *for railtour, silver buffers.
STICKERS, ‘D’ PREFIX AND SILVER
D’ PREFIX PAINTED OUT
‘D’ PREFIX SILVER
ALLOCATION STICKERS BEHIND CAB DOOR (Oblong Laira version)
D1005/9* first repaint/16/24/5 *higher than normal/7/8/31/3/8/41/4/5/50/2/4/5/6/9/61/7/9/72/3.
ABOVE NUMBER PLATE (LA sticker used as from 6/5/73)
D1001/3/6/8/9* 2nd repaint/10/1/2/3/21/3/6/9* above plate ‘A’ end – none ‘B’ end/33* 2nd repaint/4/6/7/43/8/9/51/3/64/8/70/1.
D1030/35 *None at ’A’ end/46 *None at ’B’ end/47/62.
BATTERY BOX DOOR LOCK MODIFICATION
Following D1007 Western Talisman’s tragic derailment at West Ealing on December 19, 1973, in which 10 people lost their lives and 53 were injured, the Western Region issued an immediately decree to all depots to check the security of the pear-drop type locks which were originally fitted to all the fleet when built. The loco was derailed when a battery box door dropped down and smashed into the operating rods of No. 807 facing points at Longfield Avenue. The WR also issued details of a modification to replace the pear-drop catches with a new style lock painted bright yellow. This new design was aimed at preventing a repeat of the Ealing crash. The new design, listed as modifications MB407/72 - Improved catch on battery box door and MB407/173 - Improved battery box safety clips - were formed of a 1.75" by 3/8" steel bar some six inches long. They were fitted to all remaining Class 52s by August 1974. But some of the fleet didn’t survive long enough to receive them, namely the 1973 batch of withdrawals. Below is the full list of those which got them and those locomotives which missed out.
Various members of the Western Class 52 fleet that lost headboards clips during their lives, D1025-9, were, of course, built without them at Swindon. Here is your at-a-glance guide to those engines which were built without them or lost them in traffic. Picture shows the damage to D1071 following the St. Annes collision and the reason the clips were removed at ‘B’ end. She emerged in blue livery with full yellow ends after repairs in 1967 but still vacuum-braked. Picture: D1071 BR Locomotive file.