Explore the detail of this Bo-Bo configuration 5000 bhp WCML locomotive – and discover where you can still see it in service in Eastern Europe.
To supplement the class 86 electrics, British Rail after extensive testing with equipment that was to be used on class 87 locos, converted three class 86 locomotives as test beds - these were renumbered 86101-86103.
The production class were to be progressively rolled out in a period from 1973-1975 and would work alongside class 86 locomotives on West Coast Main Line electrified routes, they would rarely stray far, although they have wandered to a few far flung places on the AC Electrified Railway Network.
The class were delivered in the all over BR Blue livery that was synonymous with the locos of British rail at the time, 36 locos were built, 35 were of the production specification 87/0 numbered 87001-87035 and one itself was to become a prototype and classified 87/1 this gained the number 87101.
The locos were built in BREL Crewe Works and could be found working InterCity passenger services from Euston to Birmingham/Wolverhampton/Manchester/Liverpool/Preston/Carlisle and Glasgow. They also enjoyed a spell working the sleeper services between Euston and Edinburgh after the section between Carstairs and Edinburgh was electrified, they have also reached Ayr on the Royal Scot and even worked diverted Inter City services quite remarkably between Bedford and St Pancras during a short period of engineering works, where trains were diesel hauled between Nuneaton and Bedford.
They rarely strayed from this stamping ground and although occasional special trains forays occurred notably into and out of Kings Cross and one working from Liverpool Street to Norwich and back, they would set about the daily work they were designed for without any significant issues.
Class members could be found working on occasion the Royal Train on the West Coast and were popular with train crews.
In the late 70s early 80s it was decided to name the whole class, 87001 had carried the Stephenson name for a while and in turn this name was transferred to 87101 with the 87001-035 batch being allocated names previously carried by express steam locomotives and also cities along the route as well as famous people. 87001 was to be named Royal Scot, 87002 Royal Sovereign, 87003 Patriot, 87004 Britannia and 87005 City of London the list continued in a similar vein and finished with 87034 William Shakespere and 87035 Robert Burns.
As with the 86s the class were retro fitted with TDM which enabled them to work Inter City push pull services on the West Coast Mainline, other than periods of severe weather where snow was sucked underneath the train the loco was pushing and dragged into the Traction Motors, this lead to periods of unreliability in winter months and at times instructions were issued where the locomotive must lead the train rather than push when snow was powdery and could cause damage to the locos as it blew about.
The locos could be found working freight trains in multiple with another class member and, leading up to Rail privatisation, 87101 was transferred to Railfreight Distribution and was painted in Railfreight Grey, whereas 87001-87035 were transferred to Inter City and would be dedicated to passenger work with the class being repainted in that sectors livery.
With privatisation came new owners 87001-87035 transferred to Virgin Trains ownership and were repainted in virgin red livery, within six years of privatisation and with the impending introduction of the Pendolino 87005 became the first class member to be withdrawn in 2003.
The class were due to be replaced by June 2005, however squadron service delivery of the Pendolino was delayed and it was December 2006 before the final working occurred in Virgin ownership utilising 87002.
87101 as a freight loco was transferred to EWS and after it suffered a major failure it was withdrawn in 1999 and sold to Alstholm for spare parts to be recovered before being scrapped in 2002.
It should be added that 87101 as a prototype was fitted with Thyristor control from new and was in effect a fore runner of the class 90.
With privatisation various companies hired 87s for short periods of time with differing degrees of success, Cotswold Rail had a total of 8 locos which saw little use before that Company was eventually wound up.
Direct Rail Services had four locos and were painted accordingly, however the InterModal Trains they were hired to work, also required a diesel locomotive to work at journeys end and it was deemed better for this operator to replace them with Diesel locomotives, to avoid loco changes and additional crewing costs.
GBRF acquired two locomotives as standby for parcels trains, the fleet size was increased to four at one stage but then dropped back to two until the locos were returned to the leasor.
Three locos survive in preservation: 87001 at the National Rail Museum York, 87002 serviceable at Willesden which has been used on Charter and Postal Trains and is available for spot hire, finally 87035 is at the Railway Heritage Centre at Crewe and can be viewed from passing trains if you look hard enough as you head North out of Crewe.
Finally the story of the class opened a whole new chapter with export orders coming in from Bulgaria 87012 and 87019 were initially transferred to an open access operator in Bulgaria and a further 15 were to follow. These locos were all initially to be found stored at Long Marston and in time refurbished by ETS a company based at the site, batches of three locos at a time were modified to meet Bulgarian Railway standards and locos in some instances were repainted in the operators colours before export, however 87004 retained it’s name and BR Blue Livery as did one or two other locos retain liveries painted for UK operations such as 87012 in Network South East Livery.
These locos are still working in Bulgaria today, although it has been reported that some have not worked freight for a while as they were exported to work freight rather than passenger trains, it is possible that they are waiting for an upturn in freight although reports suggest some vandalism has occurred, however some of the locos have been chartered to power Rail Enthusiast charters for British enthusiasts and one was recently used to power the Bulgarian Royal train quite appropriately Blue liveried 87004 still named Britannia, quite what the Royals made of this on that train we will never know.