Bachmann Europe today (19 March 2007) announced that they have released the first of their N gauge Class 57 locomotives in time for the forthcoming London Festival of Railway Modelling being held at Alexandra Palace on 24th / 25th March.
Two of the four versions of the new model have so far been released. These are Freightliner's 57003 'Freightliner Evolution' (371-651) and Porterbrook 57601 in the distinctive purple livery (371-653) it carried prior to sale to West Coast Trains.
These state of the art models have 6 axle and flywheel drive, directional lighting, detailed cab interior, fine etched steel grilles and is DCC friendly. Each has a recommended retail price of £78.50.
The Class 57 fleet made its debut in 1998. Freightliner asked Brush Traction to completely rebuild six former Class 47 locomotives and to fit reconditioned General Motors 645-12E3 engines. A further six locomotives followed between Autumn 1999 and April 2000. The funding for these locomotives was provided by train leasing company Porterbrook.
Keen to test out if a similar rebuild would interest the passenger operators, Porterbrook funded the building of a prototype passenger locomotive with electric train supply (ETS) to power the ancillary equipment such as air conditioning and catering equipment. As this required more power this locomotive had a more powerful General Motors type 645-12E engine fitted. This locomotive became 57601 and emerged in Porterbrook purple livery. It went into service with Great Western Trains hauling sleeper trains to and from the West Country.
Virgin Trains ordered 12 Class 57/3 locomotives for hauling its new fleet of Pendolino trains when diverted over non electrified routes such as Crewe - Holyhead, the Settle-Carlisle and the Carlisle-Glasgow line via Dumfries, the latter two routes being extensively used for diversions during engineering works. These were also available for rescuing any trains in trouble and have become known as 'Thunderbird' or International Rescue locomotives. Virgin in a blaze of publicity obtained a license to name their initial 12 locomotives after characters from the cult television programme. The first 57301 'Scott Tracy' was named by creator Gerry Anderson at Euston station, suitably assisted by a life size puppet. All were delivered between June 2002 and September 2003. These again had an upgraded engine to provide the additional power. A further four locomotives were provided in by December 2004 and again carried names from the TV series. All were subsequently fitted with Dellner couplings for coupling to Pendolino units.
Following trials of 57601, First Great Western ordered four 57/6 locomotives of its own (57602 -5)which were funded through Porterbrook. These were delivered during 2004 and have been named after West Country castles. These are used on the overnight Sleepers and on some other services when required.
No.57601 was returned to Porterbrook and was subsequently sold to West Coast Trains, the charter and short term hire operator based at Carnforth. It now carries that operators maroon livery.