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The Class 56 was a mainstay of British Rail’s freight traction fleet from the mid-1970s right through to privatization of the network in the 1990s.

A total of 135 examples were built between 1976 and 1984, the first 30 being built by Electroputere in Romania and the rest by BREL in the UK. Weighing 125 tons, the Class 56 produced 3,250 horsepower, thanks to its Ruston-Paxman diesel engine, and was the first British locomotive to be fitted only with air brakes, rather than vacuum brakes or a combination of both systems.

The type continued in service under private ownership following the dissolution of British Rail in 1997, and though most have now been replaced by more modern locomotives, a small number remain in service with freight operators.


Routes Featuring the Class 56 Diesel;

Oxford to Paddington

Newcastle to York

Free Roam: York

Pick a train by clicking on it, then explore the route


Grid Iron

Iron from Thrislington to Dunston Staithes


Grid Line

Scottish coal on its way to Darlington Power Station


Grid MGR

56 Grid on heavy MGR train from Oxford to Didcot Power station