Western Locomotive Association

D1013 Western Ranger – 60 Glorious Years!

In the beginning…

D1013 Western Ranger was created at Swindon Works. A Class 52 Diesel Hydraulic locomotive, which was introduced into express passenger and heavy freight service on British Railways, Western Region on 13 December 1962.  During that time, Class 52’s were often known as “Thousands” by the Drivers, “Westerns” or Whizzo’s by enthusiasts. At the time, they represented a class of modern, if not futuristic locomotives, compared to steam and other early diesel designs and to many enthusiasts, the Class 52’s have remained timeless, in overall appearance.

The locomotive, D1013 Western Ranger, clocked up a fairly respectable 1.32 million miles during its 15 years of service before its withdrawal in February 1977, one of the last members of the class to work on BR. Whilst the mileage may seem a bit on the low side compared to more modern designs, it must be remembered that these locomotives were built at Swindon and Crewe, replacing steam, with a design life of just ten years or so and were very much based on 1960’s technology, the hydraulic principles and design of which, emanated from Germany. In addition, steam locomotives would take some 40 years plus to match such mileages, having spent a third of their life under repair or overhaul. Such was the intensive work of their modern counterparts.

The Westerns were essentially a British development of a prototype locomotive built by Krauss-Maffei in 1957. This locomotive, known as ML3000 was an enlarged version of the successful V200 design but with six-wheel bogies giving greater traction and braking effort. The design had to be “reduced” to fit within the British loading gauge and 74 locomotives were ordered in October 1959. The unit cost of each locomotive was given as £115,500. Remarkably, no prototype was developed or evaluated. The class was ordered before the detailed design had been finalised.

A point worth noting is that the Class 52 was designed to be a “mixed traffic” locomotive eg hauling express passenger trains such as the prestigious top link Cornish Riviera Express or heavy freight trains, especially down in the West Country for road stone or china clay traffic. Modern diesel electric locomotives tend to be designed for a single purpose, with greater tractive effort but much lower top end speeds compared to the 90mph of the Westerns. In any case, the two Maybach MD655 engines could produce a staggering (for the time) 2,700 bhp or 72,000 lbs of tractive effort – around twice the power of the Castle Class (steam locomotive!) that they helped to replace.

Iconic design

Many people believe that the Western is “iconic” with a considerable amount of design work from Misha Black who was an industrial designer renowned for blending engineering and art, with the aim of producing items which are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Add this to the fact that the Maybach high revving V12 engines produced sounds comparable to the likes of the Spitfire or Lancaster bomber, made the locomotives individual and distinctive, non-standard with Western names and were, in effect, the last throwback to the days of the GWR. No wonder many steam enthusiasts became to like them too!

Years of Service

D1013 Western Ranger emerged from Swindon works on 13th December 1962 (SW LOT 450) and on entering service was painted maroon with half-yellow warning panels with black backed name and number plates and black roof panels. The locomotive was initially allocated to Cardiff Canton (88A) before being briefly allocated to Old Oak Common (81A) in March 1963, before being reallocated back to Cardiff Canton in April of the same year. The locomotive remained South Wales based with a spell at Landore (87E) in February 1965. Unfortunately, the first claim to fame for D1013 involved an accident at Llanharran in South Wales whilst hauling the 16.15 Swansea to Paddington express service on 26 September 1965. The locomotive hit the tail-end of a crane when travelling at approximately 35 mph with front end damage sustained.

Once the repairs had taken place, D1013 was allocated to Laira (84A) from February 1966 before being repainted into the BR corporate blue with full yellow ends from 1967 and then being allocated to South Wales again at Landore (87E) from April 1968. The final BR home for all Westerns was Laira (84A) where D1013 was finally based from October 1971 until withdrawal in February 1977.

During 1972, D1013 was fitted with Automatic Warning System (AWS) and dual brakes at Swindon Works. Although the Western locomotives were always air braked, the dual brake feature was a major conversion, enabling the locomotive to become more flexible to operate with air braked stock. If there were plans to provide ETH they never materialised and D1013 remained with a steam heat boiler right up to withdrawal and for a short time in preservation.

BR’s Preferred rail tour locomotive

If you’re old enough, you will know that D1013 gained considerable fame for a spell of time as BR’s preferred “rail-tour locomotive”, having worked a number of high profile excursions from 1975 and was the only locomotive of its type to be adorned with red backed name and number plates from 1976 making it somewhat distinctive in its own right and adding to the interest in Westerns as the Class numbers began to diminish from 1974. Such was BR’s preference for the diesel-electric designs, which were far more numerous elsewhere on other regions but beginning to become more prevalent on the Western Region, including the Class 50’s which were gradually transferred from Midland Region much to the concern of Western enthusiasts (and to their delight when they failed, especially if rescued by a Western!).

Of course, it was the introduction of the HST’s which ultimately replaced the Westerns. However, before the HST’s were on the scene, and once it was realised that Westerns were to be withdrawn, the fascination with the Westerns rapidly made them legends in their own time, with Ranger ending right up at the very top of the list!

It was often stated that D1013 was “the best Western by far” down at Laira at least until D1023 Western Fusilier received its final major overhaul at Swindon Works in 1973. Nevertheless, D1013 ended up as BR’s preferred rail tour locomotive, hauling more rail tours than any other Western, including the following:

14 September 1975: "Bristolian-Tynesider"- 6000 Locomotive Association: Bristol- Birmingham- Sheffield- Newcastle and return.

25 October 1975: "Pembroke Coast Express"- Wirral Railway Circle: Cardiff-Fishguard Harbour- Milford Haven- Pembroke Dock- Llanelli.

1 May 1976: "Severn Valley Flyer"- Gwili Railway Company: Swansea- Cardiff- Gloucester- Worcester- Kidderminster and return.

22 May 1976: "The Merchant Venturer"- 6000 Locomotive Association: Bristol- Cheltenham- Birmingham and return.

11 July 1976: "Torbay Explorer"- Severnside Locomotive Association: Severn Tunnel Junction- Bristol- Exeter- Paignton- Exeter- Westbury- Bristol- Gloucester.

26 September 1976: Paddington- Hereford- British Rail: Paddington- Bath- Newport- Hereford-Worcester- Birmingham- Oxford- Paddington.

13 November 1976: "The Cornishman"- Severnside Locomotive Association: Birmingham-Bristol-Exeter- Plymouth- Penzance and return.

19 February 1977: "Southern Belle"- Severnside Locomotive Association: Waterloo- Bournemouth- Weymouth- Southampton- Havant- Guildford- Redhill- Guildford- Reading- Ascot- Waterloo.

26 February 1977: "Western Tribute"- British Rail: Paddington-Swindon- Newport- Swansea- Newport- Bristol- Plymouth- Newbury- Paddington.

Not content with high-profile rail tours, the locomotive received considerable fame for working the 07.30 Swansea to Leeds service throughout on 20 January 1977, as the booked locomotive had failed at Swansea prior to departure. Western Region men worked the service with an Eastern Region conductor. Needless to say, the locomotive didn’t hang about for long and quickly returned back to the Western Region on the 14.30 Leeds to Plymouth service which she worked throughout. It was great publicity for Westerns and D1013 in the day and one can only imagine the interest that a Western would create on a Cross-Country service today!

As mentioned above, 26 February 1977 was the final day for the Westerns operating on BR and D1013 had the privilege of working the very last BR rail tour, double heading with D1023 Western Fusilier. It’s almost ironic that many people believed that the Crewe built Westerns were the better built locomotives but, in the end, it seems that Swindon had the final say!


With D1013 operating 15 years with BR, it’s amazing to think that this represents only a quarter of its current life – the remainder being in preservation! The acquisition of D1013 is attributed to Richard Holdsworth who ran a business, manufacturing camper vans and mini buses at the time. A staunch Western enthusiast whose interest in railways went back to the days of the Kings and Castles who, like many other people, became fascinated by Westerns, just as they started cutting them up! Needless to say, Richard soon joined the Western Locomotive Association and began to get much more involved having met the then WLA Chairman at the AGM in 1976, Dave Ashley. Richard was particularly impressed with the acquisition and preservation of D1062 Western Courier together knowledge from two WLA members in particular, who worked at Swindon – Graham Howell and Phil Harper. It didn’t take long for Richard to find out that the WLA would support another Western if he could purchase one, especially if it were a Swindon built one!

In the end, just four Westerns remained as possible purchase candidates: D1010, D1013, D1041 and D1048 and Richard soon received a “Tender for the Purchase of Redundant BR stock” which led to a site inspection down at Newton Abbot with Graham and Phil to help advise on conditions of each locomotive. After ruling each one out, they eventually agreed that D1013 wasn’t “that bad” after all and so she was tendered for accordingly. A month later, Richard received a call from Richard Nixon of BR Derby to be told “Congratulations, you’re the proud owner of D1013 Western Ranger…and now your problems begin!” And so from that point on, (14 May 1977) D1013 was officially preserved and the rest, as they say, is history!

Of course, once the locomotive had been purchased, a home had to be found for D1013 and so it made sense for D1013 to join D1062 which was now based on the Paignton to Kingswear line. Permission was granted on the basis that “two’s better than one” and so D1013 was duly hauled over to Paignton from Newton Abbot on 14 June 1977 by Class 47, 47 013 no less! Later on in the year, D1013 performed its first official trip in preservation during a “Western Day” on the Torbay Steam Railway along with D1062, on 9 October 1977. Unfortunately, things were not great for the two locomotives with various rules and restrictions in place, not to mention very limited facilities for maintenance and so their new home was short-lived with the last working taking place the following year on 29 April 1978. By then, negotiations had taken place with other preserved railways, helped by the success of several running days.

New Home

The best offer for a new home came from the Severn Valley Railway where the General Manager, Michael Draper, guaranteed the running days and actually offered to pay the WLA for operating! The move away from the Torbay Railway took place on 2 August 1978 and D1013 and D1062 subsequently arrived at Cardiff Canton depot for tyre turning a few days later on 7 August 1978. Finally, on 29 September 1978, both left Cardiff Canton bound for the Severn Valley Railway with Class 37 37 292 hauling them as far as Foley Park on the SVR. The first “Western Weekend” took place on 31 March and 1 April 1979 with both D1013 and D1062 being the first Western to double-head a train in preservation on the 1 April 1979.

Exhibitions, Events and Open Days

Not content with staying put on the SVR, D1013 ventured off out onto the main line to attend no less than ten high-profile events away from the SVR. Many people would agree that the ultimate event was the Laira Depot Open Day on 15 September 1991, where D1010, D1013, D1015, D1023 and D1062 all made an impressive line up back at their old home! And then on 30September 2000, D1013 double-headed with D1023 to re-create the last Western Tribute rail tour complete with red backed name and number plates, silver buffers and headboard! Even the station announcer (Hugh Mc Quade) took the opportunity to make the original announcement made at Paddington, as he was the station announcer at the time! The main events attended by D1013 are listed as follows:

17 September 1989: Exhibited at Gloucester Horton Road Depot's "Rail Day". Southern Belle headboard refitted for the day.

6 May 1990: Bescot Open Day

12 May 1990: Birmingham Snow Hill Station Special Mid Line Promotion Day

1 July 1990: Gloucester Horton Road "Rail Day"

19 August 1990: Exhibited at open day, Barry Railfreight Depot, South Wales.

29 September 1990: Cambridge Station open day

6/7 October 1990: Visits Nene Valley Railway to work services between Peterborough and Wansford.

26 May 1991: Coalville open day

22 June1991: Cardiff Cathays Open Day

29 June 1991: Bristol Bath Road open day

15 September 1991: Exhibited along with fellow class 52s D1010 Western Campaigner,D1015 Western Champion, D1023 Western Fusilier and D1062 Western Courier at Laira diesel Depot Open Day, Plymouth.

30 September 2000: Western Ranger double-heads with Western Fusilier on the SVR for the first time since 26th February 1977, recreating the "Western Tribute" railtour. Livery with red backed name and number plates and silver buffers.

15 October 2000: Western Ranger exhibited at Worcester Shrub Hill station open day.

Maintaining a High Profile

In addition to the above, D1013 operated several excellent privately sponsored Obbo and Dining Car events on the SVR, culminating in a really special “The Golden Hind” evening diner on the 13 August 2005 – complete with headboard, art-deco menus, specially designed place mats and free wine! By this time, the locomotive had become the property of the WLA who purchased it from Roger Smith on 14 August 2004. Roger had previously taken ownership of the locomotive from Richard Holdsworth on 16 October 1995. In effect, Roger secured the locomotive for the WLA until such time the WLA could afford to purchase the locomotive, at the price Roger paid for it. From an appearance point of view, D1013 was kept in immaculate condition, given a full repaint in April 2001, further paintwork in September 2002 and new name and numberplates from Dekton Components fitted in  April 2003. The locomotive was always highly polished and, prior to be taken out of traffic in October 2009, D1013 was treated to a further repaint, making it the one of the most immaculate locomotives ever to be withdrawn from traffic, prior to the start of its long-awaited overhaul and complete re-wire.

Major Overhaul Work

Over the last fourteen years D1013 has kept a relatively low profile and currently resides at Kidderminster TMD at the Severn Valley Railway. However, a huge amount of work has taken place overhauling all the ancillary equipment such as pre-heaters, compressors, exhausters, dyno-starters etc in addition to a complete end to end re-wire. Current projects include an overhaul of the two engines, work on cooler-groups, braking system and body work attention, which has received a complete repaint.

A major potential “ring-fenced” project is a full bogie overhaul, as the locomotive hasn’t been lifted for over 45 years!  Experience gained by the WLA, has indicated that D1013 will need a full bogie overhaul, if it is to gain a new lease of life for the next 150,000 miles over the next 40 years or so. This work will include lifting the locomotive off its bogies for an initial assessment, prior to a complete strip-down, clean, overhaul, repair and assembly. A major part of this work will require the wheelsets to be re-tyred as currently, they are virtually life-expired on minimum thickness safety levels.

The WLA has already successfully launched a Bogie Appeal for D1013 which has raised almost £30k, which will help the WLA refurbish or order replacement parts to undertake a bogie overhaul, similar to the work carried out on D10162 "plus a bit more". A web site has been specially set up for the bogie project which can be seen at: https://d1013bogieappeal.uk/

The history and background to D1013 plus all the work to be carried out will ensure that the locomotive remains one of the most iconic machines ever created and, if it can make 100 years, then hears to the next 40 glorious years at least…!

Roger Smith, Chairman, WLA

Western Locomotive Association 50 Years

The WESTERN LOCOMOTIVE ASSOCIATION is a company limited by guarantee - Registered No: 3873466
Registered Address: 5, Prospect Place, Millennium Way, Pride Park, Derby, England DE24 8HG. Charity No. 1115058