Ex-BR Class 33 diesel loco

Posted by Chris Graham on 31st August 2021

We report on a new arrival at the popular Bluebell Railway; an ex-BR Class 33 diesel loco that’s set to make itself useful in many ways.

ex-BR Class 33 diesel loco

The ex-BR Class 33 diesel loco D6570 Ashford at the Kent & East Sussex Railway. (Pic: Derek Hayward)

The group of long-standing locomotive department volunteers that own Bluebell’s Class 09 shunter, D4106, has acquired ex-British Railways Class 33 D6570, Ashford, from the D6570 Ashford Group for use on the railway.

It’s one of a class of 98 locomotives built between 1960 and 1962 for the Southern Region of British Railways. With a Sulzer, eight-cylinder 8LDA28A engine rated at 1,550hp, these were the most powerful, four-axle, diesel locomotives built for the BR modernisation programme. For over 30 years, they were a common sight across the region on freight and passenger workings, and were frequent visitors to East Grinstead on trains from London Bridge.

D6570 entered service in October 1961, and was initially allocated to Hither Green depot. In 1980, it was named Ashford and then, in 1985, re-allocated to Stewarts Lane where it was based until its withdrawal in February 1997. It was subsequently sold from BR and transported to the Kent & East Sussex Railway (KESR) where it’s remained in the careful custodianship of the D6570 Ashford Group.

The locomotive is in good mechanical condition and has been stored under cover, but has been out of use for several years at the KESR. At Bluebell, it won’t enter service immediately, however, the new owners will implement a re-commissioning programme to ensure the locomotive is reliable before being available for service. At the same time, the plan is to undertake a number of bodywork and roofing repairs to make the loco weather-tight. It’s envisaged that the Crompton will provide a wide range of benefits to the railway’s operation, including in the following areas:

  • During periods of high lineside fire risk, where steam locomotive operation may be curtailed or prohibited by the authorities, the Crompton would allow a passenger service to continue to operate, thus minimising revenue loss and risk to the business.
  • Provide support to steam passenger operations by giving greater flexibility in its use as a ‘thunderbird’ locomotive, able to rescue failed trains quickly, and enable a passenger service to continue. It’s more than capable of maintaining passenger timings, which has always been a limitation for the 09 shunter.
  • Shunting, infrastructure and engineering works – with it being able to haul heavier loads at higher speeds and so improve efficiency in the undertaking of these works.

Ashford on arrival at the Bluebell Railway’s Sheffield Park. (Pic: Andy Kelly)

The proposal made by the owning group to bring the locomotive to the railway was approved by the Plc board and BRPS trustees. Cromptons were an important part of the Southern scene in the early 1960s, so it fits in with the recently revised BRPS Long Term Plan.

Mike Hawkins, from the owning group, said: “D6570 Ashford coming to the Bluebell Railway is the culmination of a process that’s taken time, but we wanted to make sure we got the right loco. We’re really pleased to have secured this locomotive from our friends at the KESR, given its good overall condition and local connections.” Anyone interested in contributing to repairs, and particularly with experience of diesel locomotive maintenance (eg and ex-fitter) and restoration (eg steel work repairs), is asked to contact paulchillout@aol.com.

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