BR Class 50 50044 Exeter

BR Class 50 50044 Exeter
50044 Exeter 20170408.jpg
50044 Exeter at Kidderminster, April 2017
Built By English Electric Vulcan Foundry Works, Newton-le-Willows
Configuration Co-Co
Power type Diesel Electric
Status Operational
Loco Number 50044
Other Numbers D444
Built 1968
Designed By English Electric
Type Class 50
1991 Purchased by Project Defiance
1994 Entered SVR service
2012 Diesel engine damaged
2018 Returned to service
Length 68ft 6"
Weight 115t

Diesel Locomotives

50044 Exeter (D444) is a BR Class 50 diesel locomotive. A brief description and history of the class can be found on the 50007 page.


50044 Exeter in service

D444 entered service at Stoke in November 1968, having been built as English Electric Works No 3814/D1185.

In May 1973 D444 was transferred to Crewe, being re-numbered 50044 in February 1974. Following electrification of the WCML, 50044 moved to Bristol in May 1974, before a move to Plymouth Laira in November 1980.

In April 1978, 50044 was named Exeter after HMS Exeter, a Royal Navy World War York Class Cruiser. Commissioned in 1931, HMS Exeter was involved in the Battle of the River Plate which resulted in the sinking of the German battleship Graf Spee. HMS Exeter was later sent to the East Indies where she was sunk by the Japanese in 1942.

50044 was withdrawn from service by BR in January 1991.

50044 Exeter in preservation

Following withdrawal, 50044 was sent to London's Stratford depot for component recovery and later offered for sale as suitable for scrap only. The Fifty Fund were seeking a locomotive as a source of spares for 50035 Ark Royal, but finding that few components had been removed, successfully purchased 50044 for preservation in November 1991 at a cost of £5,044 (plus VAT). The locomotive was initially moved to St Leonards Depot in East Sussex in January 1992. A poll of the Fund's shareholders voted to cosmetically 'de-furbish' the locomotive to as near to as-built condition as practical.[1]

On 1-2 May 1994, 'Exeter Railfair' was held at Exeter Riverside Yard to mark the City's 150-year link with the railways.[2] 50044 was re-dedicated in a ceremony 1 May 1994. Following the event, 50044 was moved to the SVR on 6 May 1994 with 50031 Hood.[3]. 50044 made its inaugural passenger operation at the SVR in the same month,[4]while both appeared at Kidderminster as static exhibits at the Vintage Vehicle Day on 9 October that year.[5]

After arrival repairs were carried out to the B1 cylinder liner which was leaking coolant into the sump. The No. 6 traction motor was also running in an isolated condition.[6] In summer 1996 50044 and 50031 attended the Tinsley Depot Open Day. While there, 50044 had the No. 6 traction motor changed; the proportional brake valves were also changed at the same time. In that autumn, all the traction motor brushes were changed, and the locomotive was repainted into a 1960-70s livery.[7]

Between 1996 and 1998 50044 Exeter (D444) performed the brunt of all the class 50 diagrams on the SVR,[8] being used for rostered passenger work and driver training. In 1998 it attended the Toton Depot open day and the West Somerset Railway Diesel Gala. After visiting Brush Engineering at Loughborough to have a faulty field winding attended to in the generator; it was re-registered with RESCO for main line work.[9]

50044 was operational until the end of 1999 both on the SVR and the main line. In early 2000 50044 returned to Brush Engineering under warranty to check out what was thought to be a small earth fault on the recently repaired generator. 50044 returned to the SVR where other overhaul work was undertaken, while the generator underwent a lengthy repair carried out by Dowding and Mills. The locomotive eventually returned to service in May 2004 having also been fitted with TWPS which had become a requirement for main line working by that time. It had been repainted as D444 (nameless) in an early BR two tone green livery (non-authentic, but representing how the class would have appeared if BR had not turned to blue livery at that time.[10]

On Saturday 14 October 2006, D444 was rededicated to HMS Exeter by Lieutenant Commander Scott Sellars, Logistics Officer of the later HMS Exeter,[note 1] as part of the Kidderminster Station Festival.[11] In early 2011 50044 was repainted by Pullman Rail at Cardiff Canton into an authentic BR blue livery, returning to main line use in the late summer of that year.[12]

During 2012 a problem with oil temperature on a mainline rail tour damaged 50044's diesel set. 50044 entered the new Diesel Depot facility when it became available for use in January 2016.[13] A replacement English Electric 16CSVT was secured from Portugal (ex CP 1807) which was fitted with adjustments made to bring it in line with UK specifications.

On 30 August 2017 50044 travelled to the Old Oak Common open day in a convoy which also included 50049, 50047, 50035 and D1015.[14] 50044 returned to passenger duty on 10 September 2018 having received the overhauled engine and overhauled main, ETH and auxiliary generators.[15] It received a bogie overhaul in the Diesel Depot over the winter of 2019/20, and returned to the mainline in 2021.

50044 Exeter on the main line in preservation

A potentially incomplete list of main line appearances is as follows:

Date Tour name Tour Operator Route Notes Reference
1999 Paddington to York With 50031 Hood [16]
18 October 2008 Rail Blue Charters Manchester Piccadilly to Minehead With 50049 Defiance and 57601 [17]
9 May 2009 The Cambrian Mountaineer Spitfire Bristol to Aberystwyth [18]
3-4 September 2011 The Snowdon Ranger PTG Tours London Euston to Holyhead With 57304 Gordon Tracy [19]
19 November 2011 The Edinburgh Explorer II Spitfire Preston to Edinburgh With 50049 Defiance and 57001 [20]
21 July 2012 GBRf Cardiff-Paignton (private leg) - Plymouth With 66720 [19]
11 September 2021 GBRf Tame Bridge Parkway-Stranraer 'The Galloway Fifties', with 50007 Hercules and 50049 Defiance

See also


  1. A type 42 Destroyer launched in 1978; as of 2006 the only surviving veteran of the 1982 Falklands War.


  1. Fifty Fund. Our Locos
  2. Taunton Trains, Memories – Exeter Railfair.
  3. SVR Stock Book, ninth edition
  4. SVR News 214
  5. SVR News 112
  6. SVR News 115, Summer 1995
  7. SVR News 119, 120, Summer/Autumn 1996
  8. SVR News 122, Spring 1997
  9. SVR News 128, 129
  10. SVR News 142, 146, 148
  11. SVR News 156
  12. SVR News 178
  13. SVR News 196
  14. SVR News 200
  15. Severn Valley Diesels Official Facebook Group.
  16. SVR News 131
  17. Loader Photography (Retrieved 21 January 2018)
  18. Renown Repluse Restoration Group website (Retrieved 21 January 2018)
  19. 19.0 19.1 website (Retrieved 21 January 2018)
  20. Hart M., ‘English Electric Class 40, 50 & 55 Diesel Locomotives’, Amberley Publishing Limited, April 2014