Kent Rail

Class 33



British Railway's Southern Region turned to the Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Company (BRC&WC) to construct sixty-five diesel-electric locomotives in response to the BR modernisation plan of 1955 - these would become the most significant diesel locomotive fleet in the history of the South Eastern Division. The company had already proven itself in the locomotive building trade with its previous Type 2 diesels (Class 26 under TOPS) and its next product would bear much resemblance to this. The final specification from the British Transport Commission outlined the requirement for a locomotive of greater horsepower than that demonstrated by the Class 26, thus designating it ''Type 3'' (falling into the power classification 1500 - 2000 HP). The Birmingham-based company took the fundamental Class 26 body shell and made minor revisions and modifications, the most notable of which was the removal of the ''hump'' in-between the cab windows, providing a larger central glazed section. A Sulzer 8-cylinder 1550 BHP power plant was selected, (designated ''8LDA''), whilst the electric generator and four traction motors were provided by electrical firm Crompton Parkinson (the company of which had already supplied reliable electronic systems for the ''Peak'' locomotive classes) - hence the class nickname ''Cromptons''. The initial order size was soon increased by the Transport Commission, authorising the construction of another thirty-three diesels, bringing the total to ninety-eight. The final twelve builds of the increased order were modified to incorporate a narrower body width - 8 foot 8 inches compared to the standard 9 foot 3 inches. These narrower locomotives were destined to work on the Hastings to Tunbridge Wells Central line, which had a more restrictive than usual loading gauge due to the narrow tunnels featured on the route. The tunnels were particularly narrow due to strengthening work being done on the cheap - rather than complete tunnel rebuilding, additional layers of brick were simply put in place, reducing overall clearance.


The then new Type 3 locomotives were unique for their time as they were the first diesels to be fitted with electric train heating (ETH) for passenger workings. Appropriate locomotive-hauled coach stock was modified to be compatible with the new heating system; at the time of the class' launch, virtually all carriages were steam heated. In light of this, a small batch of D5000 series (Class 24) diesels were temporarily allocated to the South Eastern Division to double-head with Class 33s on passenger services, the former providing the train heating: these were returned to the London Midland Region during 1961. The initial sixty-five Cromptons were delivered between 1959 and 1961 (the first had come into service on 4th December 1959), with the latter part of the order being received between 1961 and 1962. The whole class received Hither Green allocation from the outset, but in 1965 shifts in the type began, with many transferring to Eastleigh on the South Western Division to take over a number of steam workings - they became especially useful on the Bournemouth to Weymouth push-pull operation from 3rd July 1967. At Hither Green, the diesels began replacing steam traction rapidly; Bulleid Q1s were re-allocated to the Central and South Western Divisions, and the withdrawal of many pre-Grouping types - some even of pre-SECR origin - began swiftly, excepting a select few which were retained for rail tour duty.


The Class 33s were enlisted on a number of workings in the district: in North Kent, the type monopolised aggregate workings from Cliffe (which had become a gravel works in 1970); cement trains from Northfleet (after the transfer of rail activity from Greenhithe by the Portland Cement Works in 1970); oil flows from the BP refinery at Grain (opened in 1950) and, of course, Sheerness Steel movements to and from Sheppey. Through the heart of Kent, the type were also found fronting Speedlink services to Dover, until these ended in July 1991 (the class also being phased out at the time), and were particularly common at Dover Western Docks, where they shunted the stock for boat trains. A Class 60 allocation was received by Hither Green in 1991, these diesels of which began taking over heavy loads which had previously required double-heading Class 33s. By this time, most Class 33s belonged to the TrainLoad Construction pool. These locomotives were retained in regular aggregate work until May 1993, during the Chatham Dockyard waste soil excavation, where they ran alongside Class 56s. Displaced Hither Green machines were either transferred to Eastleigh (switching back and forth between the two depots having been a feature of the Class' life from the outset), withdrawn, or what became increasingly common after 1991, were absorbed into the Civil Mechanical & Electrical Engineering fleet, receiving the renowned and pleasing ''Dutch'' colours. The latter function the class lasted in until beyond privatisation, the last Hither Green-based Class 33s being withdrawn on 29th December 1998: residing in the yard at Hoo Junction, they were dragged back to the depot. Displaced Toton Class 31s had arrived by that year and had taken over Hither Green to Hoo Junction engineering shuttles, in addition to being found on a number of the aggregate workings.


Expired Class 33 South Eastern Division workings:


This list will continually be added to when details of now defunct workings are found

Stuart Marshall has kindly submitted the following diagrams and notes:

South Eastern Division Allocation:




First of the class: No. D6500 (later No. 33001 under TOPS) is seen at Faversham, fronting a service from Charing Cross to Dover Priory, via Chislehurst Junction. In tow is BR Mk 1 ''Blood and Custard'' stock. The Late Brian Relf, courtesy & Colin Relf




No. 33050: Hither Green Marshalling Yard 1975

Class 33 No. 33050 is seen in the ''down'' yard at Hither Green, one of the huge 150-foot-high floodlight towers being visible in the background, on the right. Beside the locomotive is one of the site's regular contributors, Roger Goodrum, who is leaning on an indicator which reminded drivers of the Class 71 locomotives to raise their pantographs. Mick Bruce/Courtesy Roger Goodrum



No. 33202 was one of a batch of twelve Type 3 diesels to have narrow bodies for use on the ''Hastings'' line via Tunbridge Wells Central. The grubby diesel is seen outside the former steam engine shed at Hither Green, with a breakdown crane behind and, to the right, a former steam-hauled carriage. David Glasspool Collection




No. 33003, plus classmate, is seen stabled in the sidings at Ashford, which existed north of the platforms. The diesel was involved in an accident at Dormans in July 1987, severely damaging one of the cabs. As a result, it was permanently withdrawn, eventually being scrapped at Eastleigh in September 1990. Wayne Walsh



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