Class 90 commissioning 1988

The class 90  bo-bo locomotives were designed to complement the existing Class 87 and in fact were originally designated Class 87/2. They were designed for both locomotive-hauled and 'Push-Pull' operation and in the latter mode could be operated remotely from a Driving Van Trailer (DVT) vehicle using a Time Division Multiplex (TDM) system of control by which 'signals' are sent through the standard Railway Clearing House (RCH) lighting jumper cables to operate the controls of the locomotive.

I remember undertaking TDM trials on the WCML with a couple of class 85s and a rake of Mk2 coaches, mainly between Crewe Basford Hall and Stafford. The locos were not permanently fitted for TDM just 'jury-rigged' and monitored.

Later when the Mk3 DVTs arrived they were also trialled in a similar way but with a class 86 which would be coming off works fitted with TDM kit.

Rated at 5,000 HP with a maximum permitted speed of 110 mile/h they were well able to deal with the passenger services on the WCML

90001 was delivered to the RTC, Derby for trials in late Autumn 1987.

The fleet of 50 locos were introduced onto the WCML in 1988 and I was part of the team responsible for the commissioning of the locomotives.

 Here is a selection of photos of the class 90 on test.............

Click on the picture for a bigger image - photos are the author's unless otherwise credited

90 technical data IVA88 The technical data for the class 90 was produced in German and English for the Hamburg IVA88 exhibition

Author's collection

About to leave Crewe

90001 stands inside BREL's Crewe Works on 31st October 1987 prior to being loco-hauled to Derby to commence its type testing.

Brian Morrison

90 001 publicity shot Publicity shot of 90001 at Winsford, north of Crewe on the WCML, in early 1988

Author's collection

In the EDU Coupled to Lab Coach 6 (Prometheus) 90001 stands in the EDU workshop at Derby

Colin Marsden

RTC yard 90001 stands outside the EDU after arrival at Derby On test The loco is pictured on a test run south of Preston on the WCML


Willesden Jnc HL 90001 trails TC10 when passing through Willesden Jnc HL station on a turning move at the south end of the WCML, behind 47115 on 20th January 1988

Colin Brooks

90001 Another shot of 90001 at Willesden Jnc HL station

Colin Brooks

On test With Test Car 10 and a train of loaded steel carriers behind the locomotive, 90001 heads up Shap during its type testing

Author's collection

On test Another shot on test - this is the Lune Gorge

Author's collection

Winsford Down Slow Another shot at Winsford where the Down Slow line would have been under a possession for brake testing.

Author's collection

Hanburg 90008 at the IVA88 exhibition in Hamburg, Germany - May 1988
90001 at the head of a test train at Carlisle on 12th April 1988

David Ford collection

90001 has just arrived in Carlisle with a test train on 12th April 1988

David Ford collection

On test at Old Dalby 90001 is pictured at the Old Dalby test track during pantograph aerodynamic trials

Derek Young

Class 90 New Street

An unidentified class 90 rolls into Birmingham New Street station sometime during 1988

Author's collection

Stonebridge Park Here's an unidentified class 90 at Stonebridge Park at the bottom of the WCML en route to Bounds Green for a series of comparative traction tests with the class 91 in July 1988

...........and in service

In the early 1990s, with the sectorisation of British Rail, 26 locomotives were dedicated for freight traffic; they were reclassified Class 90/1 and renumbered 90125-150 by the addition of 100 to the original number. The modifications included lowering the maximum speed to 75 mph (121 km/h) and isolating the electric train supply.

90030 at Waverley Pictured at Waverley station, Edinburgh in the spring of 2002 - this is the EWS livery applied to 90030 90020 at Oxley And again at Oxley Depot, Wolverhampton on 1st March 2003 the EWS gold and maroon on 90020
Ipswich 90049 in the old Freightliner livery on the depot at Ipswich on 29th June 2006 Ipswich 90001 in 'One' livery propels its train out of Ipswich towards Norwich on 29th June 2006
Crewe On 20th July 2006 EWS-liveried 90017 is captured in platform 12 at Crewe on relief MK2 stock with DVT Euston 90019 at Euston on 8th July 2008
Euston Late departure for the overnight sleeper ECS saw 90021 still on the stops at 11.00am on 8th July 2008 Euston 90020 waits at Euston with the spare Mk3 set on 29th July 2008
Norwich 90009 in NXEA interim livery at Norwich Thorpe on 10th August 2008 Norwich 90035 and 90009 at Norwich on 10th August 2008
Euston 90019 at Euston on 19th June 2009 Norwich 90005 at Norwich on 11th July 2009
Euston 90029 At Euston with VWC newly liveried Mk3 rake (known as the Pretendolino) on 14th August 2009 90041 90041 heads north at Rugeley with a Freightliner train on 28th August 2009
90042 90042 heads north at Rugeley with a Freightliner train on the same day Euston 90036 with the Pretendolino at Euston on 15th October 2010
Still going in 2018 -90018 at Grantham on 31st July 2018

90039 at Grantham on 31st July 2018
90004 at Norwich on 7th August 2018

90013 at Liverpool Street on 7th August 2018

Loadbank testing work

Stockley Bridge 90147 pictured at the temporary station of Stockley Bridge which was erected as part of the Heathrow Express railway - mid-1997. The station was built due to the delays in the completion of the tunnelling work, following the partial collapse during construction.

Out of the picture shuttle buses ran from the station to the Heathrow Terminals. On the right of the picture you can see construction work on the tunnel entrance which was taking place in a cutting behind the locomotive.

Chris Ward

Stockley Bridge

Looking in the opposite direction the pair of class 90/1  locos which formed the test train are pictured in the platform at Stockley Bridge.


The class 90/1 's were undertaking 'Loadbank tests' to confirm the immunisation of the signal and telecoms on the route and the adjacent London Underground lines around Paddington. Further tests were undertaken once the tunnels and Terminal stations were opened which included OHLE Test Car MENTOR and the once in a lifetime sight of a Class 90/47/90 combination into Heathrow Terminal 4!

Chris Ward

Down Slow Crewe Prior to undertaking the first tests the principal was trialled at Winsford, near Crewe on the WCML. Here class 90/1 No 90147 and an unidentified sister loco is pictured on the Down Slow line sometime in 1997

Chris Ward

4 class 90's & a class 66

A mega train of four class 90's and a class 67 was put together for a Christmas Day 2001 loadbank test at Corey's Mill, near Stevenage and is pictured at Sandy with 90/1 No 90141 carrying a special headboard. The diesel locomotive was for traction when the OHLE current was not available.


In 1996 Freightliner inherited 10 Class 90/1 locos, These have since been returned to their original Class 90/0 configuration.

More pictures will be added as time permits


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