What’s green and has a five-digit running number? Fascinated by the strange juxtaposition of BR green livery and computerised numbers, RUSSELL SAXTON treats us to the results of several year’s research by presenting what is believed to be the definitive list of of Green TOPS-numbered locomotives… unless, of course, you know better. Photographs by David Rapson.
A PERENNIAL SUBJECT for debate amongst enthusiasts is, “Which members of class so-and-so ran in green livery with a TOPS five-digit number?” Everyone knows 40106 of course and other celebrity repaints such as Liverpool Street station pilot 08531 and ‘Deltic’ 55002 (which by an odd coincidence was actually the first ‘Deltic’ to receive rail blue back in 1966). Most enthusiasts of the mid/late 1970s will remember seeing a few two-tone green ’47s’, green ’08s’ and ’40s’ with TOPS numbers. However, it may come as something of a surprise to many, even those who were active spotters and photo-graphers during this period, to learn that there were actually well over 500 locomotives that ran with TOPS numbering whilst still in green livery despite nearly a decade passing after the introduction of rail blue.
With almost as much red primer showing through as there is top coat, Springs Branch allocated No. 40171 awaits its next turn of duty at Edge Hill stabling point on June 30th, 1975. It is a hard to believe that the ‘new’ BR rail blue corporate image had been adopted nine years previously.
At the end of 1973 there were 3,639 diesel locos in capital stock on BR, so as many as one loco in seven was still in green, a lot of them not having seen a paintbrush since the day they were built and in corresponding external condition. As you might expect, the bulk of this total were shunters but there was also a high proportion of main line classes, including many ‘top link’ express locos too, such as ETH-fitted ’47/4s’.
Introduced for diesel locomotives in May 1973, TOPS re-numbering took a little time to gather speed but was completed by the latter part of 1975, the last loco – apart from WR Hydraulics – with its old number was Class 45 No. 125 which became 45071. Green livery took somewhat longer to disappear, the last ‘true’ green locos surviving into the middle of 1980.
The definitive list?
Definitive? Well, perhaps, not quite! Every time I think I’ve uncovered the last green TOPS loco, I discover yet another one, and there are a few listed here that I’m not so sure about for which the reasons will be explained as we go along. However, this list is as near the definitive version as I’m likely to get. The trouble is some locos only ran as green TOPS for a few weeks and went unrecorded and especially unphotographed, of which more later.
I have, where possible, verified every loco on this list with a number-visible photograph, and where this was not possible, by multiple independent text references and sightings backed up by Works records. While I don’t claim infallibility, I can say that this list is as accurate as it could be made.
What has also been achieved is to remove many locos erroneously reported as running as green TOPS in previously published listings, many of which use each other as source material. Basically if it’s been in print elsewhere as a green TOPS and you can’t find it here, it never was!
Class 01 Black – Nos. 01001/2.
Only two of these small shunters survived into the 1970s, both isolated from the BR system at Holyhead breakwater, and it was presumably unviable, both physically and economically, to put them through Works overhauls. A case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ here. Oddly (but not uniquely), neither had even received a coat of green in the late ’50s or early ’60s and remained in the original 1950s black to the end.
Class 02 Nos. 02001/3/4.
There were actually four of these locos allocated TOPS numbers but 2852 (02002) didn’t last long enough to receive it. No Class 02 carried blue livery.
Class 03 Nos. 03128/34, 03382.
Three members of Class 03 were still green when TOPS numbers were applied and the first two were withdrawn before blue was received. 03382 outlasted the lot and received blue in early 1979. I well remember 03382 shunting around Bristol Temple Meads in October 1977 but with the foresight of the average teenage spotter, didn’t bother raising the camera. These three survivors are strange; most 03s not withdrawn in the late ’60s went blue very quickly although these three were WR-allocated locos and most of the rest were on the ER. The WR did have a number of other ’03s’ but these were allocated to Landore as opposed to the West Country and had visited Works to have their cabs cut down for use on the restricted clearances of the BPGV line; all wore Rail Blue by the early 1970s.
Class 06 Nos. 06001/10.
Just the two from this class. 06001 went blue in 1975 but 06010 ended its days in green. There were originally 34 of these locos; most were withdrawn in the late 1960s in green but ten survived to receive TOPS numbers, nine of which also received rail blue.
Class 08, 09 and 13 Nos. 08010/22-4/35/6/43-5/56-8/60-6/
8/11/2/16-21/3/5-7/34/5/8/56-8. 09024/5. 13001/2.
Black – 08105.
Now we are talking! The majority of TOPS locos in green are, as you would guess, Class 08s – an inevitable consequence of their sheer number – but it may be a surprise to discover one or two still retained pre-1957 black well into the 1970s. Willesden’s D3052 (allocated 08039 but not carried) remained in black livery despite a trip to Derby Works in September 1973, complete with pre-1956 ‘cycling lion’ and a half-size D prefix until its withdrawal in December that year. As a non-TOPS carrying loco this puts it out of the remit of this article to be strictly accurate, although one of its black cab doors ended up on 08010, which also sported the pre-’56 crest. 08105, however, survived into the spring of 1975 still black with its ‘cycling lion’ and was even illustrated in 1975’s Ian Allan Combined Volume (albeit in black & white). 08221 was another with a ‘cycling lion’ but even a colour photo of this loco cannot say for definite if it was black or just very dirty green, so it has been included in the list of green locos.
Class 08 withdrawals proper had begun in 1972 with a few early members – the vast majority of the class survived long enough to be allocated TOPS numbers but a few did bite the dust before actually receiving them. Some of those still green when TOPS was applied didn’t last long enough to receive rail blue with 08010/57/65/6, 135/57, 229, 306/7/ 10/57/8 and 566 all going to the scrapyard in green. Last green ’08’ and last ‘proper’ green TOPS loco of all was 08934, which was repainted by Swindon in June 1980. The SR had only a small allocation of locos with all its mainline classes going blue by the summer of 1971 (the last being ‘Crompton’ 6566). A few of its Class 08s were still green in 1973 but the inclusion of the two ’09s’ in this list may prove to be of interest. This is easily explained by the fact that they were allocated to the LMR at Allerton until transfer to the WR in 1974 and eventually to the SR, although 09025 was still green in 1977.
The Class 13 shunters were formed from pairs of converted ’08s’ in 1965 and the relatively minute annual mileages they must have run kept them clear of the shops until the early 1970s. No. 4500 (13003) just escaped inclusion in the list by receiving blue whilst still 4500 in late 1972 but the other two both made it with 13002 lasting into 1977.
Class 20 Nos. 20014-8/20-3/5/6/45/7/56/75, 129-33/7/8/
The EE Type 1s were the third most numerous type to retain green livery into the TOPS era and, apart from the aforementioned celebrity repaints, members of this class were the last main line locos running in green and certainly the most numerous in the late 1970s. As a schoolboy spotter in the mid ’70s living a few miles north of Toton, they were a familiar sight to the point of monotony and it was not unusual to see a pair of green ’20s’ pass another green pair on coal trains, thus providing the sight of four green TOPS locos in action together! With the usual kid’s attitude to the familiar, this would not cause so much as the raising of an eyebrow. Sometimes such a sight wouldn’t even distract us from The Victor, Sounds or the sort of publication you find discarded in the hedgerow depending on which year of the 1970s you refer to.
The Class 20s were built in two main blocks, 8000-127 from 1957-61 and a second block of 100, Nos. 8128-99 and 8300-27 from 1966-8. By the time the second batch was well underway, BR had adopted rail blue as standard and locos delivered from the end of 1966 began to emerge in blue from 8178 onwards. There has been controversy over the precise point at which new blue ’20s’ began, but research has now conclusively proved that up to 8177 were green. 8179, the subject of much contention, was blue. As you would imagine, locos new to traffic in 1966 would not require major Works attention for several years and this, coupled with the reliability of the type, ensured that most of the latter batch remained in green well into the TOPS era, together with a fair number of the early locos. No. 20228 is not an odd survivor or a freak green new build, it is the former 8128 put at the end of the list for a TOPS number due to the need to accommodate 8000 in the main series (8000 became 20050 and 8050 became 20128).
Another strange thing is that Crewe Works overhauled the class in the early ’70s and, for some reason, turned out freshly overhauled locos in green livery. I have never been able to find out why this was done. Could it have been a large stock of green paint, paint shop capacity limitations, LM penny-pinching that said ‘if its bodywork is in good order, leave it’? It is interesting to note that this also applied to Class 47s overhauled in the same period.
The bulk of the green survivors were LM-allocated and this, as will be seen from the notes for other classes, is perhaps not a coincidence. 20014 was withdrawn whilst still in green in 1976 and was the only ’20’ to escape corporate blue. 20141 became the last surviving main line green loco in normal service, still in green when photographed at Glasgow Works on May 17th, 1980, almost 14 years after the first members appeared in blue!
Class 24 Nos. 24032/5/9/47/57/63/9/71/81/2/90/2, 24110/36/42/7.
Not many Class 24s lasted long enough to run in green after re-numbering, probably due to the fact that they were falling due for Works attention in the early days of rail blue and most passed through Derby in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Again, most of the green TOPS machines were LM-based, this region seeming to be the least diligent at repainting its locos into blue, often outshopping after a heavy general without repainting. Some other regions repainted their locos at the first available opportunity. Strangely though, the mostly LM-based Class 45s were all blue pre-1970.
Those of you with copies of the 1975 Combined Volume may ask ‘What about 24021?’ which is illustrated therein with a lion and wheel emblem but this loco was in fact blue! Wholesale withdrawal of Class 24 began in 1975 and 24090/2 & 24136 were withdrawn whilst still green. No. 24092 was rather odd in that it had a double arrow symbol on its very tatty green livery to the end. No. 24081 was the same but this one did get a coat of blue and later became the last member in traffic.
Those familiar with the Class 24s in their last years will recognise many of the last survivors in the above list – presumably their survival was due to receiving overhauls around 1974/5. This seems odd considering they were earmarked for early withdrawal, but as stated in the intro-duction, there seems to be little logic in this subject.
Class 25 Nos. 25006/36/8/40/3/53/8, 25102, 25202/3/
This is a difficult class to be sure of since almost no photographs of these locos in green with TOPS numbers seem to have made it into print and were it not for the photo collections of friends there would be little evidence for most of these bar text references, which can be unreliable to say the least. The numbers are spread fairly evenly across the whole class with LM-based examples again featuring prominently.
A few LM-based locos had not even received full yellow ends in 1973/4 and there is the slight possibility that 7659 (25309) may have received its TOPS number before overhaul and rail blue. It was spotted (coupled together with the other remaining yellow panel example 7600!) at Willesden on January 8th, 1974, by arch livery guru Ron Halestrap with old numbers, but did it briefly run with the new? Both were at Crewe for overhaul and repaint by late February, 7600 with its pre-TOPS identity and chalked on number.
25006/36/8/40/3/53/8 & 25218 were in all-over green, the rest being the later variant with the different body design and two-tone green livery. No. 25043 was the last green Class 25 of all, the last two-tone green example was 25102, both going blue in 1976.
Class 27 Nos. 27001/24.
Despite a fair number of this class remaining green well into the 1970s, just these two made it into TOPS and neither lasted too long, both receiving blue by 1975. No. 27001 retained the attractive white bodyside stripe but 27024 was in a less pleasing plain green. The ScR was quite keen with the blue paintbrush and until the transfer of 20146/49 to the region in 1976, it had temporarily eliminated main line green locos.
Class 31 No. 31294.
The least known and certainly least photographed green TOPS loco, 31294 ran in traffic for maybe six weeks or so on the WR from February 15th, 1974, when it was re-numbered, to its entry into Doncaster Works on April 6th and subsequent emergence in rail blue. It remains my most sought after photo reference. The ’31s’ were mostly ER-based and this region was no slouch with blue paint. Most of the remaining green ’31s’ (the ones that had seen the longest spell without Works attention) were cleared out to the WR in the early ’70s to replace withdrawn hydraulics. There is also the very distinct possibility that 31286 can be added to the list, of which more later.
Class 37 Nos. 37009, 37176, 37207/8/10/4/8/23/5/
It’s odd that despite the keen interest shown in the Class 37s today no such fanaticism seemed to exist in the 1970s, and the type was the least photographed and least reported main line class of all. As with the ’25s’, the photo collections of friends and much cross-checking of independent text references have been invaluable. There is a much quoted rumour that 37207 retained small yellow panels into 1974 even being seen at Paddington on April 8th whilst still numbered 6907 after deputising for a failed Class 47 on an express from South Wales. However, after much research into this story and the perusal of several photographs, I think it can safely be dismissed as a mistake for a very dirty loco with a clean patch due to headcode panel cleaning. 37232 was unusual in that it had a double arrow symbol on green livery, not unique amongst green ’37s’ but this was the only one believed to have received a TOPS number. Some sources report 37106 as green, but I can find no evidence to support this. Indeed, reports to suggest the opposite exist, leaving 37009 as the only confirmed split-headcode machine in green with a TOPS number. With the exception of this one, together with Thornaby’s 37250 and Stratford’s 37265/7, all the other members were South Wales based, their survival in green being probably due to their relatively recent construction in 1964/5 before the intro-duction of rail blue (note that most are numbered in the higher series), and the subsequent gap before they fell due for overhaul. Although to confound this, 6992 appeared in rail blue in 1968. It is more probably due to the fact that the South Wales freight-only locos possibly ran relatively low mileages due to their confinement to a small geographical area and use on slow freight trains so taking time to accrue enough engine hours for a general overhaul. The last one into blue was 37244 in October 1976.
Class 40 Nos. 40010/7/8/22/31/5/9/52/87/8/96, 40101/
The bigger sisters of the Class 37s are contrastingly well represented in print, and photographic evidence is easy to come by. Most of the green TOPS ’40s’ are well photographed (especially 40106!) with two exceptions. Livery scholars will note the absence of 40189/90 from the above list and despite numerous printed sources listing these two (some going so far as to say they were scrapped in green), I have to say that years of research have failed to provide a single photograph of either in that livery. It can be said conclusively that both were blue upon withdrawal and any references to their scrapping in green can be disregarded. The only Class 40 (apart from early accident victim D322) to go to the breakers in green was 40039, scrapped at Crewe in October 1976. Others frequently listed as green TOPS in error are 40128/ 61/93, all of which were blue before TOPS, 393 as long ago as 1969. Most of those listed above had the numbers on the cabside but a few such as 40039/52 had them on the bodyside behind the cab doors. 40017/22/35 still carried their nameplates as green TOPS locos, certainly during 1974 and perhaps until repainting. I’m unsure about 40010/8/31.
Everyone knows 40106 as green TOPS, repainted as a celebrity loco in 1978, but there is a persistent rumour that refuses to die, stating it was repainted briefly into blue and ran in traffic for a few days, or onto Crewe diesel depot and back to the Works. I cannot confirm or deny this story as no really conclusive evidence can be found either way, if true then someone must have photographed it. To be fair, several do claim to have seen it as far away as York, but I would love to know the final answer.
Seven Class 47s lasted into 1977 carrying BR two-tone green. One of these was Toton’s No. 47369. Its dilapidated exterior obviously bore no relation to its mechanical condition as it accelerates away from Dee Marsh with an 8Z33 16.00 departure for East Usk on August 23rd, 1976.
Class 47 Nos. 47033/41/50/2/60/91/4/9, 47109/21/5/6/
The most numerous main line class in green TOPS was, as you would expect, the Class 47. A similar situation to Class 20 existed with the ’47s’ – they were still under construction when rail blue was introduced and 1953-61 (not numerically the last, but the last to be constructed) entered service in that colour scheme, never appearing in green. The bulk of the class did not fall due for major Works attention for several years after the adoption of rail blue. This, coupled with Crewe’s odd penchant for outshopping locos in green in the early 1970s, sometimes even ETH fitting them at the same time, ensured plenty of survivors into the TOPS era. Indeed, at the start of 1971, apart from 1953-61 and early repaint 1932, the whole of the block 1785-1999 was still in the attractive two-tone green with full yellow ends, as well as many from the earlier series.
The majority of the green TOPS locos were not as you would expect (the low mileage non-boiler fitted freight-only 47/3s) but steam heated 47/0s, including namer 47091 Thor complete with red backed nameplates at first. Also included were several ETH-fitted ’47/4s’. Most were from the old 11xx series allocated to the ECML but there was also 47494 allocated to the WR, which, as 1936, was fitted with ETH in October 1971 yet escaped blue livery, as did most ’47s’ having heavy general repairs at the time. It survived to be the last green ’47/4′, receiving a TOPS number on February 5th, 1974, and blue paint during overhaul in January 1975.
There were a number of minor livery variations amongst green TOPS ’47s’. Most had the old number deleted and a TOPS number applied below the driver’s side window. Others had the new number applied to the bodyside where it would have been on a blue loco and 47356 had both, number on the driver’s side cab and also on the bodyside at the opposite end although on one side only… strange! No. 47267 retained its WR red route classification discs and 47262’s old pre-TOPS number 1962 was clearly visible under the secondman’s cab window where the blue overpainted panel wore thin.
Nos. 47195, 47256, 47356/8/66/7/9 all remained green into 1977, with the last succumbing to blue in September with one exception. No. 47256 suffered fire damage at the end of 1977 and was repainted all-over green without a BR logo by Cardiff Canton, carrying on in traffic like this until May 1978 when it entered Crewe before emerging in blue in October.
Probables and possibles
There are a number of locos that I have references for that have been listed elsewhere as green TOPS, but which cannot be verified with photographic evidence and which Works records, etc. do not back up. Sometimes they are from conflicting text references, my own memories of unrecorded spotting days and sometimes from incorrectly captioned pictures. In all cases I do not feel justified in including them in the main list until proven beyond all doubt.
This sub-list is not long but for the sake of completeness and in the hope that someone can say for certain what does or does not belong here, it has been included below. The majority on this list are not doubted and it must be said that almost all of these, with the exception of the Class 20s which I feel are inaccurate, and 40189/90 mentioned previously, can fairly safely be said to be green TOPS. Certainly most were green under their pre-TOPS numbers in 1973 and 1974, but I just require a little more proof, cynic that I am! 08025/52/95, 08100/36/46/71/80/1, 08294, 08367, 08452, 08556/7/85, 08697, 08783, 08867, 08910. 20028/57, 20171. 24042. 25139/49, 25201/4-6/15/35/68/83. 31286. 37106/86, 37226/8. 40189/90. 47170/3/82, 47206/12/8/23, 47319.
Well, there it is. If not absolutely the ‘definitive’ list, it is at least the most definitive and accurate I know of! It is arguable that after such a long passage of time the ‘definitive and final’ list may well be impossible to achieve – many spotting notes of the era having inevitably long since gone the way of the Dodo, even photographic collections sometimes too. Of course, it’s equally inevitable that some of you who read this will say, “What about 08 so-and-so, that was green and it’s not listed”, and I freely admit that there are bound to be a few that have slipped the net that ran for months, weeks or even just days in green with a TOPS identity. If anyone can add to/subtract from this list I would be delighted to hear from you (providing you can prove it, of course!), so please do follow it up. Anyone with queries relating to specific locos such as dates, livery variation etc, can to contact me care of the RE editorial office.
I would like to express my personal thanks to everyone who has helped with research, but I’d like to give a special thank you to Ron Halestrap, Neil Phillips, David Rapson, Alan Turton, John Hague, Alan Rintoul, Peter Jacques, Tony Sayer, David Hills, Bill Hamilton and Simon Bendall for taking the time to talk liveries with me and for all the photographs, sightings, photocopied articles, Works records, painstaking hours spent typing sighting dates/times and friendly arguments, without whom this item could not have been compiled. Thank you.