Class 59 is a train powered by diesel-electric, and it was built by the General Motors Electro-Motive Division in 1985. It was the first train to be privatized in Britain. The train was built after the failure of its predecessor, the class 56 diesel freight locomotive. Class 59 has a power output of 2460 kW with a maximum speed of 60-75 mph.

It was introduced by Foster Yeoman, which was an independent quarrying and asphalt company. The company ordered the building of four such locomotives with the cab layout of the British Rail Class 58. The class 59 locomotive has several derivatives the class 59/0, class 59/1, and class 59/2. Class 59/0 was from Foster Yeoman. The other derivatives are explained below.

  • Class 59/1 Locomotive 

The class 59/1 was owned by Amey Roadstone Construction and built by General Motors at their Canadian plant in London. Four class 59/1 locomotives were built with similar features as the class 59/0 with minor changes to the headlight, marker light layout and introduction of yaw dampers to increase the speed to 75 mph.

  • Class 59/2 Locomotive

The class 59/2was contracted by National Power after they decided to run their train with a single pilot locomotive. After a successful trial, National Power ordered the building of five more locomotive and wagons to transport coal and limestone. The engines were built at the Ontario plant in 1995, owned by General Motors from Canada.

The class 59/2 was a significant improvement from the previous class 59 with a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher replacing the Halon system. The fleet was then fitted with standard screw couplings replacing the knuckle couplers. EWS replaced National Power in managing the class 59/2, who used them more widely over the network.

The reason for having derivatives was to ensure there is reliability and 95% availability. Things turned out well and it achieved a 99.8% level during ten years of evaluation. At this time, the evaluation focused on accessing the first four derivatives.

Powering Class 59 Locomotive

Class 59 is powered by diesel-electric means. It has a diesel engine that drives a generator or alternator. The diesel engine converts chemical energy in the diesel to electrical energy in the generator. The electrical energy is then converted to mechanical energy used to turn the wheels hence pulling the carriages. Thus in effect, this locomotive proceeds to the various stations. Due to this feature, it can be termed as an electric locomotive with a generating station.

A diesel-electric engine needs some form of the transmission system to multiply torque when starting. This can be achieved via electric transmission. The engine comes in three varieties according to the period of design. They are divided into DC-DC with DC generators supplying direct current traction motors. The other is AC – DC with an AC alternator output modified to provide DC motors. The AC – DC – AC with an AC alternator output rectified to DC and then inverted to 3 phases.

Earlier on, the diesel-electric engines were used to move rail cars in rail yards. The engines were introduced in 1924 long before the invention of class 59 engines. Foster Yeoman contracted the class 59/0, the mining company, which invited tenders for the supply of six locomotives from a manufacturer with a 95% proven availability record. The cab layout for this derivative was assimilated from class 58.

Why Class 59 Diesel-Electric Locomotive?

The class 59 locomotive has several benefits over the power cars. It is easy to maintain since it involves one locomotive hauling many carriages. So, in case of failure, it affects one of the cars, unlike self-propelled vehicles that affect all the cars. The feature is a great advantage because the locomotives didn’t experience much delays.

The locomotive is safe since the train’s power system is far from carriages, so in case of any system failure, the carriages are safe. It is also easy to replace the motive power should the locomotive break down its easy to acquire a new one and replace it.

The class 59 locomotives have an added advantage in that if either the engine or the carriage spoils, it’s easy to repair one without affecting the other. The locomotive has achieved a lot and encountered very few accident incidents.