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The BR Class 73 Electro-Diesel Locomotive

Image of STUART JORDAN. STUART JORDAN looks at this mixed-traffic locomotive which has stood the test of time.


Here at Gaugemaster, we are more than a little attached to the Class 73 Electro Diesel locomotive. Not only were they (along with Class 33s) our only diversion from the endless procession of EMUs that passed our office windows every day for the early years of our existence here at Ford, but also because we’ve commissioned our friends at Dapol to produce a series of limited edition models of the class in both OO and N scales. For that reason, some of us here also now have an unhealthy obsession with them too.

Class 73 01.

Ordered as part of the 1955 British Railways Modernisation plan, The Class 73 Electro-Diesel Locomotive is a true work-horse, pulling mixed-traffic trains across the BR Southern Region.

The first six locomotives were built by BR at Eastleigh in 1962 (classified JA, or Class 73/0), and following successful trials a production run of 43 more Class 73s (classified JB or Class 73/1) were built by English Electric at their Vulcan Works in Lancashire between 1965 and 1967. These differed from the original run, with an increased tractive effort and a higher top speed of 90mph as opposed to 80mph.

All Class 73s were built with the ability to couple with existing Southern Region EMUs and DMUs, and its Electro-Diesel design meant that it could run on both electrified and non-electrified parts of the Southern Region.

In 1984 Class 73s were used on the Gatwick Express service, running from Gatwick Airport to London Victoria once every fifteen minutes. The trains were initially comprised of a Class 73/1, two 3-car and one 2-car Class 488 trailer sets, and a Class 489 Gatwick Luggage Van, with a reduction to just five coaches during the quieter winter period. After Sectorisation in 1988 twelve of the locomotives were reclassified as Class 73/2 and were re-liveried as InterCity.

Post-privatisation the number of working Class 73s has reduced significantly. Currently Eurostar own two Class 73s which were used to rescue failed Eurostar trains, but these have become redundant after the Eurostar moved their maintenance depot to Temple Mills.

In 1991 73101 'Brighton Evening Argus' was repainted in Pullman livery to mark the 150th Anniversary of the London-Brighton line and was renamed 'The Royal Alex' in 1996 after the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Brighton.

After the introduction of EMUs on the Gatwick Express service only one Class 73 was retained, and is used for rescue work. Six of the Gatwick Express Class 73s were bought by Railfreight and they are primarily used on engineering trains from Eastleigh and Tonbridge. First GBRf and Network Rail also currently run Class 73s, and South West Trains have two in service has rescue locomotives.

Several Class 73s are preserved on heritage railways around the country, all of them running on diesel power due to the lack of electrification on preserved lines.

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Many models exist of the prototype, mainly because of the sheer number of different liveries and even variations within the different liveries.

O Scale

Gaugemaster Class 73 101 Pullman Umber and Cream

Click Here to view all the available O Scale Class 73 models.

OO Scale

Dapol Class 73 105 BR Large Logo Blue

Click Here to view all the available OO Scale Class 73 models.

N Scale

We are also pleased to say that there will be more N Scale Class 73s exclusively from Gaugemaster in the future. So if you have a “wishlist”, do get in touch and you might see your choice as a future release!

GB Railfreight Class 73136

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