Fearless returns after 15 years

The final BR working for 50050 would be ‘The 50 Terminator’ on March 26 1994, for which the locomotive was paired with 50007 for a last railtour around parts of their former stomping grounds. Following this tour, the two ‘50s’ returned to Laira Depot to await disposal and both locomotives were officially withdrawn from service on March 31 1994.

Thankfully they were quickly offered for sale by competitive tender. 50007 was bought by three members of the Class 40 Appeal, whilst 50050 was purchased by Netherlands-based railwayman and enthusiast Harry Schneider. 

Schneider originally announced plans to operate 50050 on the Dutch network, although when he investigated the practicalities of exporting the locomotive and registering it for use abroad it was deemed an impractical option and any thoughts of exporting 50050 were abandoned. 

However, Schneider still wanted to see his locomotive in use on the main line, rather than the more sedate pace that the other preserved Class 50s attained on the various heritage lines around the country which now hosted Class 50s amongst their diesel fleets. 

In May 1997 agreement was reached between Schneider and Michael Timms of Deltic 9000 Locomotives Ltd (DNLL) to return 50050 to main line use. DNLL had returned Class 55 Deltic D9000 Royal Scots Grey to the main line and was keen to add Class 50s to its operational fleet of locomotives which would be used for spot hire work. 

50050 returned to main line use in 1998 and was used on a variety of workings over the following 18 months, but after working a Norwich to London Liverpool Street service for Anglia Railways on September 19 1999, it was laid up by DNLL awaiting attention. This would prove to be its final main line working until its revival in January 2016. 

DNLL collapsed in 2004 and a group of former DNLL volunteers and other interested parties decided to take on 50050 with the aim of returning it to operational condition. Schneider retained ownership and was fully supportive of the efforts to get his locomotive back into service. A new home for the locomotive was found at the Yeovil Railway Centre and it was moved there on October 16 2004. Restoration work continued for the next decade, with many components overhauled and refurbished.

In January 2015, 50050 was sold by Schneider to Neil Boden and the following month it was moved from Yeovil to the Boden Rail Engineering Ltd workshops at Washwood Heath in Birmingham. 

Over the past 12 months, work has concentrated on reactivation of the locomotive and recertification for main line use, which culminated in a successful test run on January 25. The locomotive has been repainted into BR blue and carries both its D400 and 50050 numbers along with its Fearless nameplates. 

With Boden also owning 50007 and 50017, both of which he has reactivated for main line use, he has extensive experience in the maintenance and operation of Class 50s, which can only be good for the long-term future of these complex machines. 

Twenty-five years after being saved from the Laira scraplines and relaunched into service as D400, the doyen of the Class 50 fleet is now entering the next exciting phase of its working life. 

  • This feature was published in RAIL 797 on March 30 2016.

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