Class 76 (LNER / British Railways / Metropolitan Vickers 1,300hp DC Electric Locomotive EM1)

The Class 76 was Sir Nigel Gresley's only mainline electric locomotive design and the last completed locomotive design he worked on before his death in 1941 [1]. The first locomotive was completed in LNER colours in 1940 though it then spent the rest of the war in limbo as the electrification of the line it was intended for had been suspended due to the war! [2] After the war the locomotive spent some time working in the Netherlands on loan [3]. The suspended electrification of the Woodhead Tunnel route between Manchester and Sheffield was completed in the early 1950s, using 1, 500v DC overhead collection, a developed version of the original LNER design was chosen and built for this route [4].

Number built: 58
Built: 1940, 1950-53
Builder: LNER / BR Gorton
Motor: 4 Metropolitan-Vickers 186 traction motors (1, 500v DC OHLE)
Power: 1, 300 hp (969 kW) - higher power output available for limited periods
Wheel arrangement: Bo+Bo

The production EM1 class it was known (later classified as Class 76) had a number of improvements thanks to invaluable experience with running the prototype on the Continent. It proved to be a highly reliable locomotive on British metals. However it always suffered from a rough ride especially at speed [5] with the bogies being coupled together via an articulated joint (hence Bo+Bo) giving problems. Remedial work helped improved matters and riding [6]. Although designed for mixed traffic the Class 76 spent much of its time on freight traffic, often coal traffic. This however dwindled throughout the 1970s and the Woodhead Line was closed in 1981 [7].

Although when built the Class 76 (and its express passenger counterpart the Class 77) had been probably the most advanced trains in Britain, BR had standardised on AC overhead collection not DC (outside of the Southern Region third rail network of course) so when their line was closed they had nowhere else to go to. One complete Class 76 has been preserved and is with the National Railway Museum in York, a cab has also been preserved at the Manchester science museum.
26020 at the NRM York

26020 is preserved in British Railways black livery

26020 in BR days, photographer/location unknown (KJD Collection)

Another view of 26020, note the raised pantograph

Preserved cab of 76 039

Front of 76 039
[1] David McIntosh, Gresley's Legacy (Ian Allan, 2015) p. 135
[2] Colin J. Marsden (ed.), "BR/LNER Bo-Bo - EM1 Class 76", Modern Locomotives Illustrated No. 215 October-November 2015 (DC Electric Locomotives) p. 40
[3] R.L. Vickers, DC Electric Trains and Locomotives in the British Isles (David & Charles, 1986) p. 61
[4] Alan Whitehouse, The Woodhead Route (Ian Allan, 2014) p. 12
[5] Whitehouse, Woodhead p. 13
[6] Brian Haresnape, Electric Locomotives (Ian Allan, 1983) p, 25
[7] John Glover, BR Diary (Ian Allan, 1985) p. 62