Resident English Electric Type 3 diesel ‘tracks-up’ 25 years in preservation

Alex Farran
June 8, 2023

• English Electric Type 3 / British Rail Class 37 diesel No. 37215 hits 25 years • Class 37’s first test run between Toddington & Gotherington on 5th July 1998 • Locomotive launched into preservation service on 25th September 1998

This year marks 25 years in preservation service for one of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway’s resident English Electric Type 3 / British Rail Class 37 diesel-electric locomotives - No. 37215 (D6915). The locomotive first moved under its own power in preservation on the 5th July 1998 with a test run operating between Toddington and Gotherington. This significant milestone will be reached just two days before the start of the railway’s annual Summer Heritage Diesel Gala on Friday 7th July 2023.

37215 (D6915) was officially launched into preservation service on Friday 25th September 1998.

Time for a bit of history on 37215 & the English Electric Type 3 / British Rail Class 37 locomotives.

309 locomotives were built by English Electric between 1960 and 1965, with construction being carried out at Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows and Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns in Darlington. The Class 37s were versatile and reliable locomotives which made light work of heavy freight trains and mainline passenger services on both primary and secondary routes.

The locomotives had a low axle load and a route availability of 5 (RA5) meaning that they could travel virtually anywhere on the national rail network, which made them particularly useful for operating services on branch lines across the country. Due to their reliability, a number of subclasses were developed over the years to extend their lifespan, so much so that over 90 locomotives still exist today, either in active mainline service, long term storage, or in preservation. The Class 37s have a big following with rail enthusiasts and are known to many as ‘Tractors’ due to their sound being quite similar to that of the agricultural machines.

37215 (D6915) is a 37/0 owned by The Growler Group and was built at the Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire in late 1963. Delivered new to Swansea Landore depot (87E) during January 1964, D6915 spent the next 3.5 years working on predominantly freight trains around the Swansea and West Wales areas. In October 1967 it was transferred to Wakefield shed in West Yorkshire, subsequently moving to the replacement newly built Healey Mills diesel depot (55C) two months later. From here, it worked coal and other freight services around Yorkshire and across the Pennines into Lancashire.

4 years later during October 1971, 6915 (having lost its ‘D’ prefix in October 1968) moved on to Tinsley depot (41A) near Sheffield, before moving a bit further afield to Stratford depot (SF) in East London from September 1973. Just over 8 years were spent working over the Great Eastern lines out of London and into East Anglia including servicing the many freight facilities in the Essex and north Thameside area including forays around the north London line onto Southern and Western Region territory. In January 1982, having been renumbered 37215 in March 1974, a move back to Yorkshire and Tinsley depot (TI) followed and for nearly 6 more years, the locomotive was a frequent sight in the Yorkshire area becoming a summer Saturday regular once again on the many extra trains that ran from the Sheffield area to the likes of Blackpool, Scarborough and Skegness.

The allocation of BR’s locomotives to the business sectors resulted in three quick moves between November 1987 and May 1988 from Tinsley (TI) to Immingham (IM) then Stratford (SF) and finally Cardiff Canton (CF), becoming part of the Trainload Petroleum fleet. It was to spend the next 4 years working heavy oil trains out of South Wales to various terminals across the south of England, usually in pairs with other class 37s. Finally stored in August 1992, it was moved to Inverness depot (IS) and officially withdrawn on 16th July 1993. It was subsequently bought for preservation by The Growler Group and moved to the Toddington site at the GWR by road, arriving on the 23rd June 1994, where restoration to operational condition commenced.

The locomotive was restored to full working order by July 1998 and following a number of test runs, the paintwork was completed on the 25th August 1998. The ‘37’ was officially launched into preservation service on the GWR on Friday the 25th September 1998. In 2007, 37215 was repainted to a high standard in BR blue livery as worn by the class during the 1970s and 1980s.

The railway will be marking 37215’s 25th anniversary in preservation service on Sunday 24th September 2023 with the ‘37’ operating trains under the pink timetable. For further details and Information, please check out the website.

Tickets for the summer diesel gala are available online at www.gwsr.com. With up to eight diesel locomotives 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.