Cotswold Sulzer Type 2 to bow out after GWR summer diesel gala

Alex Farran
June 12, 2024

• Sulzer Type 2 / British Rail Class 24 Diesel No. 5081 to come out of traffic • Popular BR Blue locomotive to undergo engine repairs after summer gala • Class 24’s last operational day in traffic scheduled for Sunday 21st July 2024

One of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway’s popular Sulzer Type 2 diesels is to come out of traffic for engine repairs following the railway’s annual Summer Heritage Diesel Gala in July. The locomotive in question is resident British Rail Class 24 No. 5081 (24081), which is now over 64 years old. Privately owned and a regular performer on the Cotswold line, 5081 was preserved in 1981 and underwent a bogie refurbishment in recent years. The Bo-Bo’s last operational day in traffic before being withdrawn is scheduled for Sunday 21st July 2024.

151 locomotives were built between 1958 and 1961, with construction being carried out at British Railways’ Derby Works, Darlington Works, and Crewe Works. Numbered between D5000–D5150 (later 24001–24047 and 24051–24141 under TOPS), the Type 2s were fitted with 1,1160 bhp (865 kW) Sulzer 6LDA28-A diesel engines and power equipment was supplied by Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) and British Thomson-Houston (BTH). The class was developed as part of the British Railways 1955 Modernisation Plan, with the locomotives featuring a Bo-Bo wheel arrangement, a maximum speed of 75 mph, and weighing up to 79 tons, depending on the variant. The ‘24s’ paved the way for the development of the higher-powered Class 25s in 1961.

The Class 24s were deployed across various regions of the British Rail network, including the London Midland, North Eastern, Southern, and Scottish regions. Throughout their lives, they could be found working both passenger and freight services. Over the years, they became more prominent in freight operations, particularly on secondary routes and less demanding services. They were particularly notable for working the overnight ‘Condor’ fast freight services between London and Glasgow (replacing the Metro-Vic Co-Bo Class 28s), the Tyne Dock to Consett iron ore trains (replacing the 9F steam locomotives), and rail operations in the Scottish Highlands.

Members of the class were progressively withdrawn between 1967 and 1980, with four examples surviving into preservation, these being: D5032, D5054, D5061, and of course, the resident 5081.

Time for a bit of history on our resident - Sulzer Type 2 / British Rail Class 24 Diesel No. 5081.

5081 was outshopped from BR’s Crewe Locomotive Works on the 19th March 1960 and allocated to March (31B) on the Eastern Region (ER), wearing BR green livery (GNP) with a narrow white band around the bottom of the bodywork. Vacuum braked and fitted with steam heating from new (supplied by a Stone OK4610 boiler), the ‘Type 2’ spent time allocated to Willesden (1A), Rugby (2A), Watford (1C), London Division (D01), Stoke Division (D05), and Crewe Diesel (CD). During the 1970s, D5081 received a number of modifications, in December 1970 EQ brakes were added, in March 1971 it was fitted with Modified Triple Valve (MTV) brakes, in May 1973 its steam heat boiler was isolated, and in February 1974 it was renumbered to 24081 under TOPS.

In October 1980, 24081 participated in a joint BR/Steamport exhibition at Southport. Sadly, it was failed at the event due to flat batteries and subsequently retired. It was officially withdrawn on the 5th October 1980, which was significant because it was the last remaining Class 24 in service (and it had been the sole operational class member for the eighteen months prior).  This ended the locomotives eventful British Rail career, which lasted just over 20 years and 6 months.

Following withdrawal from British Rail, 24081 was saved for preservation in 1981 and spent some time at the Llangollen Railway before being moved to its current home base at Toddington.

Tickets for the summer diesel gala are available online at www.gwsr.com. With up to eight diesel locomotives including 5081, and a diesel multiple unit (DMU) running*, it will offer an action-packed timetable of trains. The locomotive and carriage & wagon workshops will throw open their doors for rare behind-the-scenes visits and there will be plenty of other activity at the railway’s picturesque period stations.