ON MARCH 16 British intermodal operator Freightliner Ltd presented its first Class 57 diesel locomotive at Brush Traction’s Falcon works in Loughborough, lowering an American engine into a Class 47 now undergoing conversion. Brush has a contract to rebuild six Class 47s which it delivered to British Rail 30 years ago, replacing the original Sulzer engines with remanufactured General Motors 645-12E3 2500hp prime movers as fitted to GM-EMD SD39 and GP39 locomotives. The contract was signed last December and the first Class 57 will be rolled out this month, followed by the other conversions by the end of the year.

Freightliner has purchased the Class 47s from Adtranz for conversion at a cost of £500000 each. The Class 57s are intended to obviate the need for double-heading of container trains. Slightly slower than the unrebuilt locos, they will handle trains usually hauled by the nominally more powerful Brush-built Class 56s.

It has proved cheaper to buy a second-hand engine than to overhaul the original. Freightliner chose VMV of Paducah, Kentucky, which despite being more expensive than two other bidders, offered a better product. The Sulzer engines have become unreliable and require frequent overhauls. The GM engine has an average service life of 25 to 30000h between overhauls, compared with 10 to 12000h for the 30-year old Sulzers.

The selected Class 47s are structurally very sound for their age. Some wiring will be retained, along with traction motors, bogies and the auxiliary generator. The Class 57s will receive new pumps, flow valves, silencers and sanding equipment, a Class 56 pattern alternator connected to a Class 60 rectifier, and speed-based wheelslip control as fitted to the Class 56. The Class 57 will have just one field divert at 90 km/h, compared with three on a Class 47, and an eight-notch controller replaces a four-notch unit.

At the same time, the cabs are being transformed with new soundproof panelling, draughtproofing, modernised equipment and other comforts. Extra dead weights will be added to compensate for the GM engine being five tonnes lighter than the Sulzer. Maintenance will be carried out by English Welsh & Scottish Railway, although with superior engine performance this should entail a simple refill with oil and water in most cases.

Also being built at Loughborough are five additional Le Shuttle locomotives ordered by Eurotunnel in 1996. The first was delivered by road to Cheriton in March and was expected to enter traffic last month. The second and third units are also complete, with two more under construction. A sixth will follow to replace the locomotive destroyed in the Channel Tunnel fire of November 1996.

Following the privatisation of workshop activities as part of the break-up of British Rail, Brush has obtained a number of maintenance contracts for former BR locomotives now owned by EWS. In the erecting shop at the same time as 57001 were Class 56s undergoing intermediate overhaul, a Class 60 for bogie work and two Class 92 Channel Tunnel freight locos. o