Brush Type 2 D5631
Our Class 31 locomotive, which was delivered new to Norwich Shed (32a) in 1960. Additional Images by permission of WTG & Chris Moxon.
Our Class 31 locomotive was delivered new to Norwich Shed (32a) in 1960 and was destined to have a BR service life of 41 years.
If there is one class of ex-BR mainline diesel motive power that is synonymous with the former M&GN system, then surely it must be the Brush Class 31, or Brush Type B (later Type 2) as it was when it was introduced in the 1950s. Some of the first members of the class started to work on the M&GN even before the 1959 closure. Post closure they became familiar sights on the Melton Goods, through passenger workings to Cromer Beach (The Broadsman), the Norwich Sand trains, the Lenwade Concrete Beam trains, the Rudham Grain trains, the Eye Brick trains from Murrow and so on. Members of the class were also involved in the delivery of much of the railway’s stock to Sheringham in the late '60s and early '70s. Even as late as 1980 one of the class hauled the Gresley Buffet and TK to Cromer.
The class was developed as a result of the British Transport Commission’s 1955 Modernization Plan and of the numerous different diesel locomotives which BR bought straight off the drawing board, the Brush Type 2 eventually proved to be one of the best.
BR saw the “Type 2” or B as a mixed traffic design capable of meeting the majority of its diesel needs, replacing 4-6-0 and 2-6-0 steam classes including “Black 5s”, B1s, GWR 4-6-0s, various moguls and their BR Standard equivalents. The Brush 2 was the first of the type to be delivered - D5500 entering traffic, in October 1957 - and they outlived their Type 2 sisters (BRCW Class 26/27, BR/Sulzer Class 24/25, North British Class 21/22, Metropolitan Vickers Class 28 and English Electric Class 23. Rugged, heavy, reliable and built to last, they ably fulfilled the brief, with some lasting over 50 years in service.
The specification for the Type B was demanding, requiring two cabs and a train heating boiler but with similar power output (1250 cf 1000hp) to the single cab Type A Bo-Bos, such as the Class 20, which carried no boiler.
The Brush 2 weighed in at 104 tons compared with the 72-ton Class 20. The design solution was to mount the locomotive on two six-wheel bogies, each with two powered and one unpowered axle – described as A1A A1A. This was adapted from Brush’s design for Ceylon Railways.
D5631 is one of 243 production series Class 30 locomotives built between 1958 and 1962 at Brush Traction’s Falcon Works in Loughborough, as follow-on orders from the twenty pilot scheme locomotives (D5500-19). Following re-reengining between 1965 and 1969 with English Electric diesel power units the whole class was reclassified as Class 31.
Beginning life on short-distance East Anglian expresses, their use spread across the system. Equally at home on passenger, freight and pilot duties, the class could be found on a variety of secondary and relief passenger duties as well as parcels and freight traffic. This versatility was a key strength which in part explains their longevity, together with later modifications such as equipping most members with train air brakes and later around 30% with electric train heating equipment and a major life extension programme commenced in 1983.
The first class 31 was withdrawn in 1975, as a result of collision damage and the “pilot” class 31/0s five years later. A further 50 were withdrawn by the end of 1989. Most of the remaining 200 plus locomotives were either withdrawn or stored in the 1990s, by which time they were seen as “life expired.
The Society’s Class 31 was delivered new from Brush Traction at Loughborough (works no. 231) to Norwich (32A) on 7th of July 1960 as Class 30 D5631. Here it joined our B12 and J15 which were already allocated there. There is every chance that the diesel worked passenger services over the M&GN line to Melton and freights to Norwich City whilst at 32A. After just four months at Norwich, it moved to Ipswich (32B) in November 1960. Here the locomotive remained until the following June when transferred back to Norwich. D5631 did have a claim to fame whilst at Norwich. On the last day of the 1961 summer timetable in East Anglia, which was also the last day of steam hauled express passenger workings in the area, an early morning Norwich to London service failed near Diss behind Britannia 70006 ‘Robert Burns’ and D5631 was sent to the rescue. D5631 stayed in Norfolk for slightly longer this time, not moving again until September 1962 when it moved to March depot (31B) where it obviously liked the Fenland air as the locomotive remained there for the next ten and a half years. In November 1966, it was re-engined with its original Mirrlees engine being replaced with an English Electric type - at this point it was reclassified from a Class 30 to Class 31. It was during D5631’s time here that it is actually recorded as working over the remnants of the M&GN mainline. On the 17th of February 1968 it worked the East Rudham grain train that included a Norfolk Railway Society party riding in extra brake vans. Five years later, on the 3rd of May 1973 it is reported to have double-headed a March to Colchester PW train with Class 25 D7614.
In May 1973 it moved to London and entered the big time at Finsbury Park on the ECML, home to the legendary Deltics. From here it would have worked over the Metropolitan Widened lines into Moorgate with the Mk1 suburbans now on the NNR. Other duties would have included King’s Cross pilot and ECS duties, and ‘stoppers’ up the GN mainline to Peterborough. In March 1974 it was renumbered as 31207. In May 1979 the locomotive moved on to York for the summer season before going back home to the Fens at March in the September of that year. After another five years at March, 31207’s next tour of duty took it north to Immingham on Humberside in January 1984. In November 1984 its steam heating boiler was isolated. From here she took the short trip to Doncaster works in May 1986 for ‘life-extension’ refurbishment, during which its boiler was removed, it was dual-braked, valances were removed, fitted with a headlight and painted in Railfreight Grey. Whilst it was at Immingham, BR underwent sectorisation, and 31207 was allocated to the FPCI (Immingham Petroleum) pool and received Petroleum sector livery. Having now tired of the East Coast, the next move, in February 1992, took it to Crewe diesel depot to join the LWDC pool (Trainload Freight West) but just over two years later in May 1994 it moved north again, to Wigan Springs Branch depot where it was allocated to the LWNC pool (Nuclear Traffic) from here the locomotive could have worked to almost anywhere in the country on nuclear flask work. At this time, it was repainted from Railfreight Grey into the Civil Engineers’ yellow and grey ‘Dutch’ livery that it carried when it arrived at the NNR. In July 1994 it was assigned as part of the fleet of new freight company Transrail. In November 1996 it was back to Crewe again in the RCJC pool (North West Infrastructure) but this time owned by EWS who took over Transrail. In July 1997 it moved on again, this time to Bescot as part of the LWNW pool (Class 31s). Put into store at Bescot in February 1999 the locomotive was soon back in action, receiving a new set of bogies in April 2000. After this 31207 moved back to London, being based at Stratford. It lived out its final days working out of Stratford on Civil Engineers duties with its sister locos 31110 (the first class 31 delivered new to Norwich), 31420 and 31466. 31207 received its final exam at Stratford on 8th of February 2001, and was withdrawn from service on 10th having worked the 19.45 0Z31 from Stratford to Old Oak Common with 31110 and 31466. These three locos were the last operational 31s on EWS' books and were withdrawn as surplus to requirements. The loco then languished at Old Oak Common amongst several other withdrawn classmates. Interestingly, it was left remarkably intact, whilst the other locos in the line were heavily robbed of spares. Having been offered by tender, the loco was purchased privately from EWS in January 2004 and arrived at its new home on the North Norfolk Railway on February 12. 31207 required little work to get it working again. All missing items (including a driver’s door) had been secured from a scrap class 31 at T.J.Thompson's yard in Stockton, and all bar one item had already been fitted. Following an examination of the power unit, the fitting of the missing AWS relay unit, and charging the batteries, the loco was back in action! Not bad for three years out of use! It ran for a short time in the tatty Civil Engineer's livery until the Junior Club assisted with its repaint into Railfreight Grey in 2005.
The locomotive was purchased by the Society in March 2005. Continuing regular work on the North Norfolk it accumulated 7733 miles by early 2011 when it was withdrawn for major structural repairs to the Holt end cab. This included the reinstatement of the nose end doors and front skirts. The loco was then repainted in BR Green with white stripes but without yellow warning panels, as it was when first delivered new to Norwich in 1960.
In 2012, the opportunity arose to purchase a large quantity of spare parts for the engine and throughout 2013 several projects took place to increase the reliability of the engine. In July of that year a new set of batteries were delivered and fitted to the loco, along with the refurbishment of two destination blinds in August.
D5631 was used on 90 days in the year to 31 January 2015, covering almost 3,500 miles, an average of c 39 miles per day - much higher than the previous three years mainly due to the loco having to cover DMU turns. In the succeeding two years it was to achieve a little under 3000 in total.
It was withdrawn from service at the end of the 2016 season and entered Weybourne Works for long waited bodyside repairs and to replace the No 4 traction motor. It was to remain out of service for 4½ years. The corrosion proved to be far more extensive than anticipated and the need for other work became evident as the overhaul progressed, including a major rewiring.
Whilst in works the Trustees also took the decision to reinstate a steam heat boiler to increase the locomotives usefulness to the NNR. This was fitted in Summer 2018 and a water tank fabricated in Summer 2019. Besides fitting the latter, steam generator, associated fittings, removing the concrete stability weight installed when the boiler equipment was taken out, the bodyside steps to access the water tank were reinstated, bringing D5631 back very close to its original form. A full repaint saw her outshopped in BR Green with bodyside stripes and small yellow warning panels – the preferred livery which members had indicated in a poll.
D5631 re-entered traffic on Saturday May 24, 2021, during the NNR’s Mixed Traction Weekend, where she was undoubtedly the star of the show.
There was a short handover ceremony before departure of a special charter train for members of the Society and NNR shareholders hauled by D5631.
Handing back the locomotive to the Society, NNR’s CME. Keith Ashford said “the 31 demonstrates the quality of work that can be achieved by NNR Engineering. This is a very special project with much work being undertaken during the 16 months of Covid restrictions demanded by government.”
“Receiving back” the locomotive on behalf of the Society, Neil Sharpe said
“The loco looks superb. It has certainly been worth the wait. Society members are proud, impressed and delighted to see D5631 back in service and I should like to thank NNR Engineering for a job well done.
Neil then handed the keys to driver Rod Eastman. D5631 was officially back in service, ready for the off and hopefully for many years in traffic.
Final work to make the boiler and pre-heater operational will take place in Autumn 2021.