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CLASS 90 ELECTRIC LOCO GROUP British Rail Class 90 Silver Anniversary: 1987-2012

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General Introduction

Updated 28/12/20

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This website is dedicated to the BR built class 90s, which were manufactured and assembled in Crewe Works by BREL from 1985 until completion in 1990 under contract to GEC. The original fleet size consisted of 50 locos as new and these were numbered 90001-90050. However, In the early 1990s several class 90s notably those higher than 90025 were renumbered to 90/1 and 90/2 for a number of years, but they all reverted back to 90/0 in the early 2000s. The total fleet tally has been reduced by 1/4 in recent years bringing the total number in regular traffic down to roughly 35 which has stabled. The dwindling numbers in service has largely arisen due to a lack of work for those owned by DB Cargo (formerly EWS and DBS).


The class 90 locomotive celebrated their 31st  passenger birthday on July 12th 2019. The first 90 to work a passenger service was 90003 having been attached to the 13:46 Blackpool North to London Euston service at Preston on July 12th 1988 owing to a failed class 86 the previous day (90003 was used as a driver training loco in the Preston area at the time). It could however be argued that 90005 was in fact the first 90 to work a service train after it performed a VIP service to Northampton in March 1988 in readiness for naming - she was subsequently called 'Financial Times'. It is interesting to note that the first loco to be outshopped from Crewe was 90001 in October 1987 which went to Derby to be a test engine for several months and saw action on the WCML as well as on the Old Dalby Test Track.


One of the most bizarre situations to arise with the class 90 fleet in the beginning was the deployment of 90008 to Hamburg fresh out of Crewe Works as part of the 'Hamburg International Transport Traffic Exhibition' in May 1988. The 90 went in a convoy of other locomotives and wagons including 91003 and 89001. It is unknown if the class 90 (90008) worked under its own power for any part of the trip to/from Hamburg (pictures show a raised pantograph at the Hamburg depot). If you like more information on this event, then go to http://www.traintesting.com/IVA_88.htm


The original 50 strong fleet of class 90 locomotives were built as a direct replacement for the then aging class 85s as well as being an opportunity to cascade a number of passenger class 86s to East Anglia. The design specification was based on a tried and tested system which BR had developed over the years. Furthermore, one must not forget that the class 90s were a later version of the class 87. Incidentally back in 1987 the original number sequence for the 90s took the form of 87/2s - I recall seeing what is now 90001 at a Crewe Open Day in 1987 as a young lad with 87201 written on the bodywork, but this numbering system was short lived and the rest as they say is “history”.


The maximum speed of a class 90 is 110mph, although they have been known to go faster in days gone by under test conditions. These engines are NOT permitted to operate at 125mph unless they are regeared and adapted to operating with disc brakes. The 90s entered service as a mixed traffic locomotive and have featured on both freight and passenger work throughout their entire history a trend still seen today in 2020. They have operated (and continue to do so) on a number of electrified routes including the West Coast, East Coast and Great Eastern Region.


A more detailed introduction and analysis of the class 90 fleet can be found in the 100th issue of “Today’s Railways (UK)” which was published on the 8th March 2010. Also further sub-pages of the website consider other areas of the class 90s history which includes operational routes, livery combinations, operating characteristics, technical capabilities and associated names/nameplates. It is also worth reviewing the “train testing” website which has a wealth of information on the class 90s.


Moving on to the present day (December 2020), the class 90s continue to operate freight trains under the stewardship of DB Cargo, Locomotive Services and Freightliner with approximately 75% of the fleet still in active use. At the time of writing though, class 90s no longer work daily passenger trains, having finished in East Anglia in late March 2020 due to the introduction of Flirt units. Furthermore, It was hoped that DB90s would work with MK4s on passenger duties between Euston and Blackpool. From Summer 2020, but due to Covid-19, this plan was scrapped. Despite the challenges in 2020, approximately 75% of the fleet remain active despite being 32 years old.


Further updates will be added to this page as they become known, so in the meantime enjoy the BR class 90s and if you have any questions or comments, please use the contact section or drop us an email and we will get back to you promptly and assist wherever possible.



Present & Future

Updated 28/12/20

As already noted the 90s entered their 32nd year of passenger operations on 12/7/20. It is unclear what will happen to these locomotives in years to come, but at the time of writing in 2020, the current fleet size has stabilised, with enough work to go around for the foreseeable future.


Focus now turns to DB Cargo - this fleet of locos are owned outright by DB and those currently in traffic primarily operate intermodal freight trains on the WCML. Other types of traffic flows include Royal Mail postal trains on an ad-hoc basis and DAT testing on the MML . DB90s continue to work charter trains when needed just like they always have done. Not too long ago, they use to work sleeper trains to and from Scotland, but this ceased in 2015 as did the hiring of 90s to Virgin West Coast and Greater Anglia.


Loco-hauled passenger services finished in East Anglia in late March 2020 for 90001-90015. The first two locomotives notably 90001 and 90002 are now owned by Locomotive Services Ltd for their charter operations and have been painted into Intercity livery based at Crewe. The remaining 13 engines (90003-90015) have transferred to Freightliner (see below).


Now we turn to the Freightliner fleet - these engines largely work intermodal freight trains between Coatbridge and Crewe, but they are now seeing action in East Anglia as well as other parts of the network too on ad-hoc basis. In the past, the FL90s had always been a mixed traffic loco and have seen regular passenger work, but alas this no longer happens. The loco’s are owned by Porterbrook, which are leased to Freightliner. The original fleet has for several years consisted of 10 locomotives (90016 plus 90041-90049). However, since 90001-90015 finished passenger duties in East Anglia, the Freightliner fleet has increased into 23 locomotives after 90003-90015 transferred to the operator in May 2020.


In the short-term, I envisage the current active fleet to continue working freight trains with DB, Locomotive Services and Freightliner. As for class 90s working passenger trains, Locomotive Services have already started using 90001 and 90002 on charters, so we shall see what evolves from this into the future.



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