BR Class 52 D1015 Western Champion
|BRBritish Rail or British Railways Class 52 D1015 Western Champion
D1015 Western Champion at Bridgnorth in September 2022
|BRBritish Rail or British Railways Swindon Works
|Purchased by DTG
|Main line certified
D1015 Western Champion is a BRBritish Rail or British Railways Class 52 diesel-hydraulic locomotive. A total of 74 were built for BRBritish Rail or British Railways's Western Region between 1961 and 1964. All were given two-word names beginning "Western", hence the type became known as Westerns. Other nicknames included D1000s or 'thousands', and 'wizzers'. A description of the Class can be found on the D1013 Western Ranger page.
D1015 is owned by the Diesel Traction Group (DTG). Since achieving main line certification in 2002, it has hauled over 60 rail tours as far as Penzance in the south and Kyle of Lochalsh in the north. These are listed on the DTG's D1015 Western Champion Railtour Archive page (external link). The locomotive visited the railway on various occasions for diesel galas and for attention by the DTG's engineering staff. From 2015 onwards the locomotive has remained at the SVRSevern Valley Railway for extended periods of time, and since 2017 has been regarded as a resident locomotive. Its TOPS number is 89416 and it is nicknamed 'The Mule'.
D1015 in service
D1015 Western Champion was built at BRBritish Rail or British Railways's Swindon works and was outshopped in January 1963 carrying a distinctive one-off 'Golden Ochre' livery with yellow panels not reaching the bottom skirt. It was equipped with vacuum brakes and steam heating as well as the BRBritish Rail or British Railways(W) ATCAutomatic Train Control, a form of limited cab signalling developed by the GWR in 1906, superseded by BR's Automatic Warning System system.
It entered service at Cardiff Canton although within a year it had been reallocated to London's Old Oak Common, back to Cardiff and to back to Old Oak Common for a second time. In February 1964 it was allocated to Plymouth Laira where it found a more permanent home until late 1968. This period was spent working the main lines out of London to Cornwall, West Wales, the Midlands and the North-West. On Saturday 30 January 1965, D1015 hauled the return coaches of Sir Winston Churchill's funeral train from Oxfordshire to the Capital, having taken over duties from 34051 Winston Churchill.
In November 1965 D1015 was repainted in BRBritish Rail or British Railways Maroon. Three years later in November 1968, the loco was repainted again into BRBritish Rail or British Railways Blue livery with full yellow ends. During the 1968 overhaul it was also fitted with air brakes and BRBritish Rail or British Railways's AWSAutomatic Warning System, a form of limited cab signalling introduced in 1956. As one of the early members of the class to be equipped with air brakes, D1015 was relocated to Landore in Swansea in January 1969 to operate services on the Paddington to Swansea route which had just seen the introduction of new air braked Mark 2 coaches. This duty continued until October 1971, when D1015 made a final move back to Laira.
Withdrawal of the class had begun in 1973 with the survivors used increasingly on freight work. Following a 'D' exam in November 1976, D1015 was shown on TOPS as restricted to freight workings only, limited to 60mph. Its last scheduled passenger working was a Paddington to Birmingham return on Sunday 21 November. On 7 December it failed while working a Westbury to Exeter Central cement empties train. After repairs, D1015 was allocated to another freight service on the following day but was unfortunately derailed in Castle Cary DownIn reference to the direction of travel means away from the major terminus (i.e. towards Bridgnorth on the present day SVR) Yard, sustaining damage to an air tank, the front valance and the bogie mounted AWSAutomatic Warning System, a form of limited cab signalling introduced in 1956 equipment. After rerailing, D1015 returned light engine to Westbury and was hauled back to Laira. On 13 December, fitters at Laira condemned D1015 and removed its B engine on the same day for re-use in classmate D1058. At withdrawal, D1015 had accumulated 1,296,000 miles in service.
D1015 in preservation
D1015 was stored at Swindon, where it was put on display on the turntable at the behest of the Works Manager. In 1978 the DTG were asked if they would be interested in carrying out a cosmetic restoration. The DTG undertook the work and even managed to get the locomotive to move under its own power, although at the time they had been informed that the locomotive was not for sale.
In mid-1979 an audit highlighted that D1015 had not been disposed of, and instructions were given for it to be scrapped. The DTG learnt of this and managed to stop the scrapping by interceding with a personal appeal to BRBritish Rail or British Railways Chairman Sir Peter Parker. A price of £6,000 + VAT was agreed, and on 25 January 1980 D1015 became the DTG's third locomotive; they already owned SVRSevern Valley Railway residents D821 Greyhound and Hymek D7029.
The DTG continued to work on the locomotive at Swindon until it could move under its own power on two engines. It appeared at the September 1985 Old Oak Common open day but suffered a fractured bearing in one engine, requiring an engine change. The locomotive returned to Swindon, where the Group decided that a complete rebuild of the locomotive should be undertaken. In December 1990 D1015 was moved to a new home in the carriage shed at Old Oak Common.
Restoration continued over the next 10 years, interspersed by visits to open days including Laira in 1991. A move into the Old Oak Common factory enabled the DTC to replace the engine and bogies with improved condition components. The locomotive was also rewired and fitted with up to date safety systems such as Drivers Vigilance, Speed Sensing equipment and radio telephones. In early 2000 D1015 ran again on two engines.
Main line running required the completion of 1,000 miles of running in which was carried out on the Severn Valley Railway, usually performing two round trips a day. A main line loaded test run to and from Sheffield was carried out on 28 January 2002, although the B engine failed early in the trip with low oil pressure. D1015 returned light engine to Old Oak Common where the engine was replaced. After another test run on 13 February, D1015 began a mainline programme on 23 February 2002, with six charter trains operated that year to places such as Bristol, Paignton, Swansea, Worcester, Plymouth and Shrewsbury. A notable occurrence was the rescue of an HST on 26 October 2002 at Daunsey. The HST had slipped to a stand and Champion took the train to Swindon.
After that time D1015 remained based at Old Oak Common from where it operated on the main line, interspersed with occasional visits the SVRSevern Valley Railway for Galas and other purposes. These included the 2002 and 2005 Diesel Galas, although the latter saw the locomotive fail due to an electrical relay burning out compounded by an earth fault. In April 2014 D1015, now in BRBritish Rail or British Railways Maroon livery, brought D1062 Western Courier back from tyre turning at Tyseley. In 2015 it attended the October Diesel Gala and in 2016 D1015 took part in the May Diesel Gala as D1058 Western Nobleman and the August 'Western Weekend'. By December 2016 the DTG had entered into a running agreement with the SVRSevern Valley Railway.
On Saturday 17 December 2016 the locomotive suffered an major failure of the B engine during The Yuletide East Yorkshireman railtour. The picture below shows the locomotive still carrying the identity of D1031 Western Rifleman which was used during that rail tour.
In January 2017 the DTG announced that the engine needed to be replaced before D1015 could commit to further mainline running and an appeal for £50,000 was launched, which was rapidly filled and the share offer closed the following month. The loco operated on one engine while two engines were rebuilt in parallel, one by DTG engineers at Kidderminster and one on their behalf in Germany. In August 2019 the locomotive moved to the Diesel Depot for a replacement engine to be fitted, and subsequent workings of the SVRSevern Valley Railway 'The Pioneer' excursion trains were with two engines again operating. The locomotive was also repainted from maroon into BRBritish Rail or British Railways Blue livery.
An overhauled MD655 engine was installed in early 2021. Western Champion returned to the mainline for a test run on 17 September 2021 but unfortunately suffered a seized engine. Subsequently it was fitted with two MTU 12V538 engines, a later development of the MD655.
- On 29 and 30 August 2002 it worked Colas Rail freight China Clay Tanks trains around St Blazey, as part of crew training and attendance at the St Blazey open day.
- On 14 and 15 October 2009, Western Champion worked Colas Rail freight China Clay Tanks trains from Quidhampton to Tavistock Junction.
- Its loaded mainline tests on 17 September 2021 and 10 January 2024 included piloting the GBRfGB Railfreight, a main line rail freight operating company. Avonmouth Hanson Siding to Penyffordd Cement train as far as Gloucester.
TV and film
The 'Bank Job' film was based on a true story about a bank robbery of Lloyds Bank on Baker Street in September 1971. It was directed by Roger Donaldson, produced by Steven Chasman and Charles Roven and written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Champion was transformed into D1046 Western Marquis, which at the time was the sole remaining operational Western in Maroon livery. Filming took place at Paddington on 18 February 2007.
- Diesel Locomotives
- Diesel Locomotives visiting the SVR for galas
- Locomotives running under different identities
- SVR Spring Diesel Festival 2017 Brochure, which listed D1015 under "Home Fleet"
- DTG Website, D1015 Western Champion British Railways History (Retrieved 3 February 2023)
- BR Database
- DTG Website, D1015 Western Champion: Preservation History (retrieved 3 February 2023)
- westernchampion.co.uk About Us
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 153
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 186
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 194
- Yuletide East Yorkshireman railtour
- DTG website announcement (retrieved 6 January 2017)
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 208
- DTG (retrieved 20 September 2021)
- DTG (retrieved 20 September 2021)
- RAIL Magazine issue 1001, 24 January 2024, p.24