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British Rail Class 87

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British Rail Class 87

British Rail Class 87
No.87030 "Black Douglas" in blue livery at Kenton in 1979.
Type and origin
Power type Electric
Builder BREL Crewe Works
Build date 1973–1975
Total produced 36
Configuration Bo-Bo
AAR wheel arr. B-B
UIC classification Bo'Bo'
Wheel diameter 3 ft 9 14 in (1.149 m)
Locomotive weight 83.30 long tons (84.64 t; 93.30 short tons)
Electric system(s) 25 kV AC Catenary
Current collection
Traction motors 1,250 hp (930 kW) GEC G412AZ
Performance figures
Maximum speed 110 mph (180 km/h)
Power output 5,000 bhp (3,730 kW)
Tractive effort 58,000 lbf (258 kN)
Train heating Electric Train Heating
Train brakes Air
Operator(s) Bulmarket
Bulgarian Railway Company
Number(s) 87001–87035, 87101
Axle load class Route availability 6

The British Rail Class 87 is a type of electric locomotive built from 1973–75 by British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL). 36 of these locomotives were built to work passenger services over the West Coast Main Line (WCML). They were the flagships of British Rail's electric locomotive fleet until the late 1980s, when the Class 90s started to come on stream. The privatisation of British Rail saw all but one of the fleet transferred to Virgin Trains they continued their duties until the advent of the new Pendolino trains, when they were transferred to other operators or withdrawn. There is only one Class 87 still in use in Britain, and that is 87002, owned by the AC Locomotive Group but is solely used alongside 86101 for the occasional charter train. A large proportion of the fleet have now been exported to Bulgaria. 87002 is currently hired by Serco to work the empty coaching stock of the Caledonian Sleeper services.


  • History 1
  • 87101 2
  • British Rail service 3
  • Post-Privatisation service 4
    • Virgin Trains 4.1
    • EWS 4.2
    • Cotswold Rail 4.3
    • Direct Rail Services 4.4
    • FirstGBRf 4.5
    • Bulgaria export 4.6
  • Accidents 5
  • Fleet Details 6
  • Preservation 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


A requirement for more electric locomotives came about after the electrification of the WCML was extended from Weaver Junction north of Crewe to Preston, Carlisle and Glasgow. Initially, three Class 86 locomotives were used as test-beds to trial equipment (mainly electrical equipment and suspension) that would be used in the new locomotives; effectively, these locomotives were Class 87s in everything but appearance.[1]

The external design of the Class 87 was clearly derived from that of the Class 86; the only major detail differences were two front cab windows on the 87 instead of the three of the 86, and also the lack of headcode indicator boxes; by 1973, visual recognition of train reporting numbers by signallers was no longer necessary. The power and speed of the Class 87 was increased over that of the Class 86. Power output was increased to 5000 hp to deal with the more demanding gradients on the northern half of the WCML such as Shap Fell and Beattock Summit, and the top speed was raised to 110mph (180km/h). The 87s were also fitted with multiple working equipment which enabled locomotives to work with other members of the class (and some Class 86s) while controlled by one driver.[1]

In the 1980s, the multiple working system was replaced with a new system based on time-division multiplexing (TDM) allowing 87s to work with other classes of locomotive (including most 86s, 90s and 91s) and most importantly, Driving Van Trailers (DVTs).

The unique Class 87/1, No.87101 Stephenson, in blue livery at Birmingham International station in 1988


Whilst the first 35 locomotives (numbered from 87001 to 87035, and known as Class 87/0) were identical, the 36th was numbered 87101 (was going to carry the number 87036 before entering traffic but got the 87101 number instead) and had major equipment differences from the rest of the class. While the 87/0s were fitted with a traditional Stephenson, worked the same services as the standard locomotives for many years, until British Rail was sectorised in the 1980s.

This locomotive was in effect the prototype for the later build of locomotives designated Class 90.

British Rail service

A Class 87 hauled express on the WCML in InterCity livery in 1994

The great majority of the Class 87s' workload came on express passenger services from London Euston to the North West and Glasgow. They did, however, see some use on freight, especially on heavy services that required two locomotives. In the late 1970s, British Rail named its entire Class 87 fleet, many receiving names previously carried by the "Britannia" steam locomotives. The rest were named after towns, cities or counties along the WCML. In the 1980s, British Rail locomotives were allocated to separate sectors and the 87/0s were transferred to InterCity (which meant that their freight work largely came to an end), whilst 87101 went to work for Railfreight Distribution.

Post-Privatisation service

87025 'County of Cheshire' in 2002. One of the last Class 87s to be in service with Virgin Trains. The locomotive is painted in Virgin Trains' red and black livery.

Virgin Trains

In 1997 Virgin Trains took over the WCML franchise from British Rail. All 35 Class 87/0 locomotives passed to the Porterbrook rolling stock company and were leased to Virgin as part of the deal. The locomotives continued to work the same services as before, the only outward indication of the change of ownership being the repainting of the locomotives in the red Virgin Trains livery. However, the Virgin policy of introducing a new fleet of trains inevitably meant that the writing was on the wall for the 87s. As Pendolino deliveries began to come on stream from 2002 onward, No.87005 City of London was the first locomotive taken out of service, and although withdrawals were slower than expected due to the unreliability of the Pendolinos, the final day in service was set for 10 June 2005, by which time many locomotives had been withdrawn, and others transferred to other operators. On this day, four locomotives hauled special trains to Wolverhampton, Northampton and Manchester. However, this turned out not to be the final workings for Virgin, as further problems with the new trains meant sporadic appearances by Class 87s hired from other operators. The final working, between London and Birmingham, eventually occurred on 22 December 2006; 87002 performing the honours.


EWS inherited the unique No.87101 from Railfreight Distribution. The locomotive was used infrequently on freight and charter trains but suffered a major failure in 1999 and was withdrawn due to its non-standard nature. It was eventually sold to Alstom for spare parts, and finally scrapped at Barrow Hill by HNRC in 2002.

Cotswold Rail

In April 2005, Cotswold Rail acquired three locomotives, all of which had been out of service for a number of months. The fleet later grew to eight, and were intended to work charter trains, for spot-hire contracts and a new possible intermodal traffic flow. They were based at Oxley depot in Wolverhampton. However the fleet saw very little use, only two ever worked a train (87007 and 87008) both were repainted into Cotswold Rail livery, and in July 2006 the locomotives went off-lease. Cotswold Rail is no longer in existence.

Direct Rail Services

In November 2004, Direct Rail Services (DRS) acquired four locomotives. They were used on Anglo-Scottish intermodal services, but never on a regular basis. In June 2005, the four locomotives were stored. The main reason for their lack of use was the need for a diesel to shunt the train in non-electrified sidings.


In November 2004, FirstGBRf acquired two locomotives which had recently been retired from Virgin passenger service. They were used as standby locomotives to rescue failed Class 325 units working FirstGBRf parcels trains. The fleet increased to four at one point, but finally consisted of two locomotives, No.87022 Cock O' The North, and No.87028 Lord President, which were both withdrawn at the end of 2007. What was to have been their final working, a charter train on 29 December 2007, was cancelled.

Bulgaria export

In 2006, Singapore trading company Romic-Ace International PTE Ltd approached Porterbrook to discuss the potential export of the Class 87 locomotives to a customer in Eastern Europe. Nos 87012 and 87019 were purchased and sold to BRC, an open access operator in Bulgaria by Romic-Ace after preparation for export by Electric Traction Services Limited (ETS). The transfer did not take place until after Bulgaria's accession to the European Union the following year to minimise customs formalities.

Following successful trials and homologation by the state railways, a further 25 locomotives (the entire fleet, minus five that have been scrapped, two already in Bulgaria and the four locomotives preserved or staying in the UK) were purchased from Porterbrook by Romic-Ace and sold to the Bulgarian Railway Company (БЖК/BRC) in seven batches with the refurbishment being carried out by ETS at Long Marston. The locomotives were then moved to Crewe for 25 kV testing and sign off. The project involved the supply of the locomotives, spares, drawings, overhaul documents and the provision of driver/staff training, which was provided by ETS in the UK and Bulgaria on behalf of Romic-Ace.

The locomotive batches were scheduled to be exported in stages over the period 2008–2009. The first batch, locos 87007, 87008 and 87026, were prepared by Electric Traction Services Limited, and left the UK in June 2008 after testing and sign off by Romic-Ace and BRC at Crewe.[3] The locomotives were delivered by rail via the Channel Tunnel. Subsequent batches of locomotives have been delivered by road to Hull, then ferry and barge to the port of Ruse in Bulgaria. 17 locomotives are in service with Bulgarian Railway Company.[4] A downturn in traffic in Bulgaria meant that the export deal was terminated in 2009, leaving 11 locos "in limbo". Those in worst condition (87011, 87018, 87021, 87027, 87030, 87031 and 87032) were sent for scrapping in 2010 and 2011.

This left four 87009, 87017, 87023 and 87025 owned by Europhoenix Ltd. Europhoenix started to prepare 87017 and 87023 for possible use in the UK, but the only interest was from Bulgaria in the form of open access freight operator Bulmarket. 87017 and 87023 (in working order) and 87009 and 87025 (not in working order) were exported by ship from Immingham in October 2012.


  • On 16 February 1980, at Bushey, a broken welded rail caused a train hauled by locomotive no. 87007 to derail at 96 mph, injuring 19 passengers.[5]
  • 1999 Winsford rail accident: On 23 June 1999, an express hauled by 87027 collided with an empty Pacer railbus which had passed a signal at danger in Cheshire. 31 people were injured.[6]

Fleet Details

Key: In Service Withdrawn Preserved Converted Scrapped Exported
87/0 Number 87/1 Number Last Number Export Number Intro Date Disposal Notes Name
87001 87001 - 06/1973 Preserved 2005: National Railway Museum - Stephenson (1976–1977)
Royal Scot (1977–1998)
Royal Scot (1999–2003)
Stephenson (2003–present)
Royal Scot (2005–present)
87002 87002 06/1973 Sold in 2008 to The AC Locomotive Group Repainted into Caledonian Blue and shunts the Caledonian Sleeper coaching stock into London Euston, also back-up loco for the Caledonian Sleeper. Royal Sovereign (1978–2003)
The AC Locomotive Group (2005–2008)
Royal Sovereign (2008–present)
87003 - 87003 87003-0 07/1973 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) - Patriot (1978–2005)
87004 - 87004 87004-8 07/1973 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) - Britannia (1978–2005)
Britannia (2009–present)
87005 - 87005 08/1973 Scrapped 2005: JT Landscapes, MoD Caerwent - City of London (1977–2003)
87006 - 87006 87006-3 11/1973 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) - City of Glasgow (1977–1987)
Glasgow Garden Festival (1987–1988)
City of Glasgow (1989–1997)
George Reynolds (1997–2004)
87007 - 87007 87007-1 10/1973 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) - City of Manchester (1977–2004)
87008 - 87008 87008-9 11/1973 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) - City of Liverpool (1977–1998)
Royal Scot (1998–1999)
City of Liverpool (1999–2004)
87009 - 87009 - 11/1973 Exported: Bulgaria (Bulmarket) - City of Birmingham (1977–2003)
87010 - 87010 87010-5 12/1973 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) - King Arthur (1978–2005)
Driver Tommy Farr (2005–2005)
87011 - 87011 - 01/1974 Scrapped 2011: EMR Kingsbury - The Black Prince (1978–1998)
City of Wolverhampton (2001–2004)
87012 87012 87012-1 01/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) Coeur de Lion (1978–1988)
The Royal Bank of Scotland (1988–1998)
Coeur de Lion (2001–2005)
The Olympian (2005–2006)
87013 87013 87013-9 02/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) John O' Gaunt (1978–1998)
John O' Gaunt (2000–2004)
87014 87014 87014-7 01/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) Knight of the Thistle (1978–2004)
87015 87015 02/1974 Scrapped 2005: JT Landscapes, MoD Caerwent Howard of Effingham (1978–2005)
87016 87016 03/1974 Scrapped 2004: JT Landscapes, MoD Caerwent Sir Francis Drake (1978–1988)
Willesden Intercity Depot (1992–2004)
87017 87017 03/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (Bulmarket) Iron Duke (1978–2004)
Iron Duke (2011–present)
87018 87018 05/1974 Scrapped 2010: EMR Kingsbury Lord Nelson (1978–2004)
87019 87019 87019-6 03/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) Sir Winston Churchill (1978–2005)
ACoRP Association of Community Rail Parterships (2005–2006)
87020 87020 87020-4 03/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) North Briton (1978–2004)
87021 87021 04/1974 Scrapped 2010: EMR Kingsbury Robert the Bruce (1978–2005)
87022 87022 87022-0 04/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) Cock o' the North (1978–1998)
Lew Adams The Black Prince (1998–2004)
Cock o' the North (2006–2007)
87023 87023 04/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (Bulmarket) Highland Chieftain (1978–1984)
Velocity (1985–2000)
Polmadie (2000–2005)
Velocity (2011–present)
87024 87024 04/1974 Scrapped 2005: JT Landscapes, MoD Caerwent Lord of the Isles (1978–2004)
87025 87025 04/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (Bulmarket) Borderer (1978–1982)
County of Cheshire (1982–2004)
87026 87026 87026-1 05/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) Redgauntlet (1978–1982)
Sir Richard Arkwright (1982–2004)
87027 87027 05/1974 Scrapped 2010: EMR Kingsbury Wolf of Badenoch (1978–2003)
87028 87028 87028-7 05/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) Lord President (1978–2003)
Lord President (2006–2007)
87029 87029 87029-5 06/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) Earl Marischal (1978–2004)
87030 87030 06/1974 Scrapped 2010: EMR Kingsbury Black Douglas (1978–2005)
87031 87031 07/1974 Scrapped 2010: EMR Kingsbury Hal o' the Wynd (1978–2004)
Keith Harper (2004–2005)
87032 87032 07/1974 Scrapped 2010: EMR Kingsbury Kenilworth (1978–2003)
Richard Fearn (2003–2004)
87033 87033 87033-7 08/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) Thane of Fife (1978–2005)
87034 87034 87034-5 09/1974 Exported: Bulgaria (BZK) William Shakespeare (1978–2003)
87035 87035 10/1974 Preserved 2005: Crewe Heritage Centre Robert Burns (1978–2004)
87101 87101 03/1975 Scrapped 2002: HNRC Barrow Hill. Originally allocated number 87036.
Entered revenue-earning service 08/1976.
Some equipment preserved by The AC Loco Group.
Stephenson (1977-scrap)


87001 at the National Railway Museum

Three Class 87 electric locomotives are currently preserved in Britain.

  • 87002 Royal Sovereign is preserved by the AC Locomotive Group, and has been returned to main line running conditions. Due to the new contract for the Caledonian Sleeper won by the Serco in 2014, 87002 has been selected to help bring the empty coaching stock in and out of Euston Railway Station. It was painted in February 2015 into Caledonian blue ready for the new contract. From 31 March 2015, 87002 shunts the empty sleeper coaching stock into London Euston alongside 86101 as part of the Serco Caledonian Sleeper contract.[8]
  • 87035 Robert Burns was the first locomotive to be preserved. It is based at Crewe Heritage Centre. It was handed over for preservation by owners Porterbrook at Crewe Works Open Day on 10 September 2005.
Numbers Name Livery Location Status
87001 Stephenson
Royal Scot
British Rail Blue National Railway Museum Static display
87002 Royal Sovereign Caledonian Blue Willesden TMD Operational (mainline registered)
87035 Robert Burns Intercity Crewe Heritage Centre Static display


  1. ^ a b "Class 87". AC Locomotive Group. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Class 87 history AC Locomotive Group – Retrieved on 28 July 2007
  3. ^ First three 87s almost ready Electric Traction Services Limited, retrieved on 17 April 2008
  4. ^ –
  5. ^ Dept of Transport (1981). Report on the Derailment that occurred on 16th February 1980 at Bushey in the London Midland Region British Railways. London: HMSO. 
  6. ^ "'"REPORT BY THE HEALTH AND SAFETY EXECUTIVE (PDF). Health and Safety Executive. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  7. ^ – 87001 NRM collection page
  8. ^ 87002 page AC Locomotive Group, retrieved on 27 April 2008

External links

  • The AC Locomotive Group
  • Class 87 – The Junction
  • Europhoenix
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