|Sub-Category||Diesel and Electric|
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Bachmann 31-678: Class 85 Electric 85026 BR Blue (TOPS) Single Pantograph
From the late 1950s onwards, an increasing number of mainline passenger lines were being converted to electric operations as part of a nationwide modernisation programme. Lacking a range of suitable existing locomotive designs, British Railways engineers and planners devised a series of prototype classes to evaluate electric locomotive operational requirements.
Five initial types were produced, numbered from AL1, with the largest class of all by volume being the AL5, of which 40 were built at BR Doncaster Works from 1961. The AL5's were intentionally designed by BR Engineers to be operated on the soon to be electrified West Coast Mainline (WCML route which connects the cities of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh. They were also extensively tested on the new major suburban networks which in their initial ex-works electric blue livery offered a stunning new-world vision to rail passengers predominately familiar with steam-powered traction at that time.
Introduction of the TOPS numbering system from 1968 saw the AL5 locomotives coded as Class 85 and they became a familiar sight on many network routes now painted in corporate BR Blue livery. Electrification continued apace, with the A/C powered lines on the WCML reaching Glasgow by 1974. AL5 units were originally fitted with two pantographs, but improvements in overhead line design ultimately resulted in refurbishments and by the early 1970's this had been reduced to one, plus consequential internal alterations and the addition of new braking equipment. It was envisaged that all electric prototype classes would finally retire from service by the mid-1980s however as late as 1989, BR Railfreight converted ten Class 85 units for freight-only operations due to the delays with a successor class. Recoded as Class 85/1 locomotives they performed their duties admirably in their final years.
Withdrawal was finally undertaken in 1991, after some units had given nearly thirty y