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TSW: The Brush Rush

Train Sim World: West Somerset Railway is coming soon, and with it, the classic BR Class 47 locomotive!

As the steam-era was quickly drawn up for an abrupt end by the mid-to late 1960s, the British railway network needed a vast and swift conversion to diesel traction, nation-wide. While the Western Region had opted for diesel-hydraulic options, the British Transport Commission was doubtful this would be the best approach for the railway’s future and started exploring for diesel-electric traction.

The new locomotives needed to be both lightweight, and easily attain a “Type 4” locomotive status (meaning they had to produce between 2500 and 2999 horsepower). Two prototypes were built for testing purposes, their names being Lion and Falcon. Each was built by a different manufacturer and featured differing engine types, however before any testing could begin, the necessity for new engines was too great and an initial batch of new locomotives started production.

The new locomotives, combined with the trialled Lion, would eventually lead to a much larger batch of locomotives which would be built by Brush Traction. In all, between 1962 and 1968, a grand total of 512 “Brush Type 4” locomotives would roll out of Loughborough and Crewe Works – numbered from D1500 to D1999, and D1100 - D1111. The Type 4’s quickly went to work, replacing steam locomotives on both passenger and freight duties.

In the 1970s, the Brush Type 4 locomotives were sorted with the new TOPS classification system and became the Class 47. TOPS allowed for sub-classes to be used in further sorting locomotives, and three variants of the Class 47 existed at the time, those with steam heating, those with no heating, and others with dual or electric train heating; these became the Class 47/0, 47/3 and 47/4 respectively. Further modification, to fit additional fuel tanks, also brought about the somewhat unofficial 47/8 subclass.

While the Western Region of British Railways was still aiming to strive with its diesel-hydraulic locomotives, namely the ‘Westerns’, this would inevitably fall by the wayside for diesel-electric alternatives, and several Class 47s were built for former-GWR rails. One in particular was numbered D1661 and named ‘North Star’ . Based initially at Landore, Swansea, before being moved to Old Oak Common, London, in 1973 and various other sheds beyond that, D1661 would work the Western Region in tandem with the hydraulics, and throughout its life has been reclassified as 47077, then 10 years later 47613 after electrical heating was fitted, and once more to 47840, which extra fuel tanks.

The constant upgrades meant longevity for ‘North Star’, even though inter-city services were soon no longer its main role on the Great Western Main Line, its newly fitted fuel tanks made it ideal for cross-country use, and so until 2002 47840 was operated by Virgin Trains. Eventually, Virgin replaced them with their new ‘Voyager’ fleet, and so the 47 would be hired to various operators for the following 6 years.

After a service life of 43 years, ‘North Star’ was retired from mainline duties in 2008. However, instead of facing the cutters’ torch, the locomotive received a fresh coat of paint - BR two-tone green - and its original D1661 guise. Now safely in preservation, D1661 was given a new home in the form of the West Somerset Railway, based at Williton, where it works as classic passenger-hauling traction along Britain’s longest standard gauge heritage railway.

And now, after a decade since its preservation, we are bringing the mighty BR Class 47, including D1661 ‘North Star’, to Train Sim World for service along our authentic representation of the West Somerset Railway, which is coming soon!

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