BR Class 50 50044 Exeter

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BRBritish Rail or British Railways 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
2012 Diesel engine damaged
2018 Returned to service
Length 68ft 6"
Weight 115t

Diesel Locomotives

50044 Exeter is a BRBritish Rail or British Railways Class 50 diesel locomotive.

BRBritish Rail or British Railways Class 50

Fifty English Electric Type 4The British Railways classification for diesel locomotives of 2000 bhp to 2999 bhp (later BRBritish Rail or British Railways Class 50) diesel locomotives were built by English Electric at their Vulcan Foundry Works plant in Newton-le-Willows between 1967 and 1968. When built they were numbered in the D4xx series. They later became BRBritish Rail or British Railways’s Class 50, being allocated TOPSTotal Operations Processing System, an American computer system adopted by BR from the late 1960s to number and manage rolling stock. numbers in the 50xxx series. The class was nicknamed “Hoovers” because of the distinctive sound of the inertial air-filters with which the locomotives were originally fitted.

Initially the locomotives were used to haul express passenger trains on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) between Crewe and Scotland; that section not then being electrified. This often entailed ‘Multiple Working’, with two locomotives under control of a single driver.

By 1974 the northern WCML had been electrified, and the Class 50 fleet was being transferred to BRBritish Rail or British Railways’s Western Region to work main line passenger services out of London Paddington.

The Class 50’s did not originally carry names, but in the late 1970s BRBritish Rail or British Railways agreed to their being named after Royal Navy vessels with notable records in the First and Second World Wars.

Withdrawal of the class began in the early 1990s.

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 BRBritish Rail or British Railways 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, but finding that few components had been removed, successfully purchased 50044 for preservation. It arrived from St Leonards on 6 May 1994 with 50031 Hood.[1] The locomotive has been cosmetically de-refurbished, to appear as it did when released to BRBritish Rail or British Railways from English Electric's Vulcan Foundry works. Since its preservation 50044 has worked both on the SVRSevern Valley Railway and on the main line.

Exeter was repainted in un-prototypical two tone green and rededicated by the Crew of HMS Exeter at Kidderminster in 2007. '44 has subsequently been repainted in BRBritish Rail or British Railways Blue.

In 2012 a problem with oil temperature on a mainline railtour damaged 50044's diesel set. A replacement English Electric 16CSVT has been secured from Portugal (ex CP 1807) which was fitted with adjustments made to bring it in line with UK specifications. On 10 September 2018 50044 returned to passenger duty having received the overhauled engine and overhauled main, ETHElectric Train Heating and auxiliary generators.[2] It received a bogie overhaul in the Diesel Depot over the winter of 2019/20. It returned to the mainline in 2021.

50044 Exeter on the main line in preservation

An incomplete list of main line appearances is as follows:

Date Tour name Tour Operator Route Notes Reference
18 October 2008 Rail Blue Charters Manchester Piccadilly to Minehead With 50049 Defiance and 57601 [3]
9 May 2009 The Cambrian Mountaineer Spitfire Bristol to Aberystwyth [4]
3-4 September 2011 The Snowdon Ranger PTG Tours London Euston to Holyhead With 57304 Gordon Tracy [5]
19 November 2011 The Edinburgh Explorer II Spitfire Preston to Edinburgh With 50049 Defiance and 57001 [6]
21 July 2012 GBRfGB Railfreight, a main line rail freight operating company. Cardiff-Paignton (private leg) - Plymouth With 66720 [5]
11 September 2021 GBRfGB Railfreight, a main line rail freight operating company. Tame Bridge Parkway-Stranraer 'The Galloway Fifties', with 50007 Hercules and 50049 Defiance

See also

Diesel Locomotives
List of preservation groups
SVR-based diesel locomotives visiting other events
Locomotives running under different identities


  1. SVRSevern Valley Railway Stock Book, ninth edition
  2. Severn Valley Diesels Official Facebook Group.
  3. Loader Photography (Retrieved 21 January 2018)
  4. Renown Repluse Restoration Group website (Retrieved 21 January 2018)
  5. 5.0 5.1 website (Retrieved 21 January 2018)
  6. Hart M., ‘English Electric Class 40, 50 & 55 Diesel Locomotives’, Amberley Publishing Limited, April 2014


Class 50 Alliance web site
50 Fund web site (still maintained)