A Cure for Insomnia: The Biography of 37402 - Stephen Middlemore

in STEMGeeks7 months ago

Whilst waiting for the train home at York recently, something rather exciting happened.

(Not really jumping up and down screaming with joy exciting, just mildly excited and kept internally so as not to totally embarrass myself!)

There was an almighty rumble as this monster locomotive pulling just one coach, reversed into platform 6.


A majestic beast sits on Platform 6 at York!

The majestic beast in question was an English Electric Class 37, a huge piece of self-propelled engineering marvel over 50 years old and just as I was when I was a kid stood by one of these, the old feelings of awe and wonderment at the sheer power and and size came flooding back.

These days, there are not many stand alone locomotives running around the network unless hauling freight and no scheduled passenger services that are locomotive hauled other than the Caledonian sleeper service so it was interesting to see this big old girl stood in a station especially as the last time I saw this very loco was in Scotland, over 30 years ago!

English Electric Type 3

A total of 309 of these locomotives built between 1959 and 1964 and have been workhorses on the network used for both freight and passenger services. I say were, but such is there longevity, there are still 65 still in active use to day and 39 preserved with various heritage railway groups, most of which can, and do get called up into mainline service as and when required.

The locomotive is a diesel-electric which many people find confusing but don't realise that the diesel engine(s) on a locomotive doesn't directly power the wheels, the engines are in fact generators that create electricity which then power electric motors, called 'traction motors' attached directly to each axle.

Her engine produces 1999 Horsepower which drives her 105 ton bulk along at up to 80mp/h and she has a maximum tractive effort of 55000 lbf.

37402 - Stephen Middlemore

This particular locomotive was originally numbered D6974 when she left the Vulcan foundry in Newton-le-Willows in April 1965. Yes, she's a year older than I am!


When British Rail introduced TOPS codes, she was renumbered to 37246 (sub-class 37/2), and again to 37402 (sub-class 37/4) when she had electric train heating fitted in 1985.

Originally allocated to Cardiff Canton depot in Wales, she hauled mainly freight around Wales and the South-West until the late seventies when she could be found hauling passenger services from Swansea and Cardiff to places as far and wide as Tenby, Weymouth and Bristol and even latterly ran the Euston to Wolverhampton service just before she was transferred to Eastfield depot in Scotland on the 9th of October 1984 to take over the West and North Highland line passenger services from the aged and tiring Class 26 and 27 locomotives and it was at Eastfield, she had her electric train heating fitted, replacing the original steam heating boilers and repainting her into classic BR Blue large logo livery. She also gained a name, 'Oor Wullie' after the Scottish comic book cartoon character and the Scotty dog logo which had slowly been introduced to all of Eastfield's fleet from the late eighties.

She ran the highland line services for four years until 1989 when the passenger services were replaced with the new, and much more efficient Class156 multiple units, coincidentally, one of which we went on to York! and 'Oor Wullie' went back on the heavy freight for another 4 years, working every corner of Scotland before being transferred South, to Crewe in 1993.


In a twist of fate, this multiple unit we rode from Pontefract to York was of the same type that robbed our heroine of her job in Scotland!

Obviously the Scots loved their loco and removed the nameplate and officially de-named her but one of the first things Crewe depot did was her a new one, 'Bont Y Bermo' which is a bridge in Wales and perfectly suited her new use as she was again switched back to run local, loco hauled passenger services around the smaller branches of Wales.

In 1997 and with now almost all passenger services being replaced by 'multiple units', and freight traffic being at an all-time low, she bummed around the country from depot to depot looking for work. A surplus of old locos which were rapidly being scrapped meant work was scarce and it would have been all too easy to have ended up at Booths (famous loco scrapyard) being cut up and turned into dog-food tins.

English Welsh and Scottish Railways were the company running the freight network at the time and upon being taken over themselves by DB Schenker, they added her to the tactical reserve list in 2004, officially sorted and un-named her in 2007 where she sat, unloved and unused in a siding at Toton depot in Nottingham until 2011 when a miracle happened. Someone bought her!

Direct Rail Services has been created in 1994 by British Nuclear Fuels to handle the rail movement of Nuclear Waste on Britain's railways but they were expanding and diversifying into other specialised railway operations and into general freight and they needed some locos.

37402's next journey was actually by road, 40 miles North to Barrow Hill roundhouse, The last remining roundhouse style of engine shed in the UK that was saved by a group of enthusiasts who run it today as both museum and commercial operation, providing storage and maintenance for locos run by the multitude of different operators and leasing groups that for the modern British railway network.

In memory of a DRS Railways Safety and Train Officer, who was tragically killed, DRS named 37402, Stephen Middlemore in his honour.


Note the information panel which is slightly blurred but shows all a locomotive's main details.

Despite her 56 years, the future is still bright for 37402. She was repainted into the classic BR large logo livery she carried during her halcyon days in Scotland, complete with her resplendent Scottie Dog logo once more in 2019 and since has been regularly seen out on the network hauling enthusiasts rail tours and on route learning trips.

In an interview last year, Andy Grundy of DRS reinforced the company's commitment to the class for the next five years, as they are still the only class of locomotive able to perform certain duties, and in the specific case of 37402, she will happily remain operational as opposed to some of the other 18 class 37 in the fleet which will slowly be scavenged for spares.

"The only class of locomotive able to perform certain duties", why is that?

This 105 ton monster is actually very light on her feet. Her wheels are laid out in a Co-Co configuration which means she has two bogies with 3 pairs of wheels on each giving her a relatively light axel load. Coupled with her fairly short wheelbase means she has a 'Route Availabilty' of 5 and along with her electric train heating means she can run on almost any section of track on the whole network, hence the reason she was used on the smaller Scottish and Welsh routes. They are extremely versatile locomotives.

"She's a Model and She's Looking Good..."

What is it about this particular loco? She has been made into a '00' gauge model by not one, not two but three different model railways manufacturers, Lima, Bachmann and Vitrains.


The rather good Bachmann model in '00' Gauge!

If you got this far then you're a liar and you're still awake. I apologise, I failed! Worry not, I shall be trying again soon as the coach she was hauling behind is rather unique and has some interesting history of its own!

Thanks for dropping by!



Class 37.co.uk
History of the Class 37
All Photos were taken by me on 21/12/2021

The naughty corner!

As I mentioned in a ranty post a while ago, the transport community are extremely arsey about the use of their photos. I also mentioned that I don't give a damn, so here ae a few more shots of 37402 taken throughout her working life and in her various guises!

Photographers and sources are of course credited!


Here she is sat in York in her DRS livery 5/7/2013. Photograph by Brian Sherrington from www.class37.co.uk


In her original BR Blue large logo livery taken in Mallaig, Scotland 21/2/1986 by David Jenner from www.class37.co.uk


In British Rail Railfreight Livery taken at Doncaster on 16/10/1998 by Gary Cross from www.class37.co.uk


In British Rail Mainline Passenger Livery taken in Crainlarich by Robert Thomas on 23/11/1991 from www.class37.co.uk


On her delivery to Cardiff Canton back in 1965 and if it were in colour, you'd see she was in her original green livery! (A heavily cropped, 'borrowed' Getty image. You seriously think I'd pay £150 to use it?)

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hahaha....I'm going hunting for old train posts now....this community is going places ....as long as you have a ticket :-)

hop on board!!!!

Perfect! I clicked on this right in time for my nap! Lol. I was curious when you mentioned the cure for insomnia!
I have been on only a couple trains, but I think they are pretty fascinating.
One was a small one that toured the Redwoods when I was a kid, and we also took a train to the Grand Canyon. I want to go on one of the trains like you see in moview with sleeping compartments and such.

haha, I'm just trying to provide a public service to the blockchain. Elderly nerds are the new black!

I actually live in Thailand where I use sleeper trains all the time. There is something innately romantic about sleeper trains, even sleeping on your own!

You are so lucky though, I could bore you to death with lists of multi day rail journeys I'd love to do across the US.....hmmm death might be a service too far, I'll stick curing insomnia!

Thank you so much for dropping by and best wishes :-)