The AC Locomotive Group

Class 81 Photo Gallery

Electrical Equipment: Associated Electrical Industries (Metropolitan Vickers)
Mechanical Construction: Beyer-Peacock
Built: 1961

E3002/81002 at Barrow HillE3003/81002 at Barrow Hill

81002 is the oldest surviving British AC electric locomotive. It had two previous preservation owners before reaching the custody of the Group in 1997 and is virtually complete. 81002 is currently undergoing structural, cosmetic and electrical restoration at Barrow Hill. It is now complete electrically and mechanically, and work to restore it to working order is nearing completion.

AL1AL1 under construction at BRCW

The order for the first 25 locomotives for the West Coast Main Line electrification was given to the British Thomson-Houston division of AEI (Associated Electrical Industries) in 1955, who subcontracted the mechanical construction to the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company, of Smethwick, Birmingham. As originally planned AEI was to deliver 20 Type A (mixed traffic) and 5 Type B (heavy freight) units, but this was later amended to 23 Type A and just 2 Type B. The original number series was E3001-E3023 (A), E3301-E3302 (B), though within 2 months of delivery, E3301 was renumbered E3096, while E3302 was delivered new already renumbered as E3097.

The first of the class, and the first new AC electric to be delivered was E3001 in November 1959, allocated to Longsight (9A), Manchester. Delivery of the rest of the class was protracted with the last loco, E3097, not entering traffic until February 1964. The class was reallocated to the general code of "AC Lines" following the official inauguration of electric services. This "allocation" covered the depots at Longsight, Crewe and Allerton (Liverpool), with Crewe as the main depot. When the code was abolished, the class came under the direct jurisdiction of Crewe. Three Class 81s were withdrawn before the TOPS numbering system was implemented in 1972. E3009 was written off in the Hixon level crossing accident on 6th January 1968, when a lorry carrying a heavy transformer became grounded across the running lines. E3002 and E3019 were withdrawn after suffering severe fire damage, believed to be caused by placing the master control lever in reverse while the locomotive was still moving forward. This caused the traction motors to regenerate and overheat, and the resultant fire spread to the rest of the locomotive. Following these and similar incidents on other early locomotives, the master controllers were modified with an additional safety switch to prevent any recurrence.

In 1975 the class was transferred to the new depot at Glasgow Shields Road to coincide with the opening of the northern section of the WCML electrification. They remained allocated here until withdrawal in the late 1980s. The class, along with the other types, showed a tendency to catch fire in their final years, and this hastened the withdrawal of many of their number. In 1989, following the withdrawal of the last Class 83s from Euston empty coaching stock (ecs) duties, several Class 81s were put to use in their place. 81002 and 81004 were used at first, but were replaced in 1990 by 81012 and 81017. These last two were withdrawn themselves in July 1991, displaced by Class 85s, and were moved to Crewe to join the rest of the class, awaiting disposal. Of the twenty remaining locomotives, nineteen were sold to Coopers Metals for scrap by the end of the year, while one, 81002 was purchased by Peter Holt for preservation.

81002 and 8600181002 and 86001

The third of its class, and the third AC electric locomotive to be delivered, E3003 entered service at Longsight on 27th February 1960. Painted in original "electric blue" livery and fitted with two pantographs, it was initally used for testing and training prior to the launch of the full electric service in September of that year. Reallocated to Crewe in 1963, at first under the "ACLines" code and later the 5H and CE codes, it was to remain there until 1975 when it was transferred with the rest of the class to Glasgow Shields Road.

Repainted into Rail Blue, and renumbered 81002 in 1974, the loco was to spend the rest of its main-line career hauling passenger and freight on the WCML. It retained its Rail Blue livery, though with the addition of Shields Road trademark "leaping salmon" logo until withdrawal. A classic mixed-traffic loco until the end, 81002 was given a further lease of life in 1988 when it was transferred south to Willesden depot and restricted to 40 mph for London Euston empty carriage (ECS) duties, which it performed until October 1990 when it was replaced by classmate 81017.

After moving back to Crewe for disposal by BR, 81002 was sold to Peter Holt for preservation. Taken back into Crewe Electric Depot, it was returned to near-original "Electric Blue" livery, complete with cast aluminium numbers and crests. E3003 toured various exhibitions and open days over the following months, before being sold to Pete Waterman in 1993 to join his collection of classes 82, 83 and 85. E3003 continued to visit railway events, including the East Lancs Railway Diesel Weekend in October 1993 when it was hauled dead, at one point by a Class 50 / 52 combination.

E3003 was moved to store at Crewe South Carriage Shed in the mid 1990s, from where it was purchased in 1997 by the AC Loco Group.


Moved from Crewe to Barrow Hill on 5th December 1998, work began immediately to smarten up the loco's appearance.

The 'electric blue' paintwork, which had faded almost to white, was buffed up to something like its original shade during the first week, and flaked-off patches touched up. Further smartening was carried out in early 1999 with the complete repaint of one cab end which had suffered the worst of the weather at Crewe, and the application of small yellow warning panels to both cabs.

Priority work on other locos meant that the 81 took a back seat for the next few months, however its batteries were reconnected and charged in September 2001, and the paintwork has been kept clean.

The 81 suffered from a lot of corrosion around the cabs and throughout 2005 and 2006 rectification work was undertaken. While the loco still has some finishing touches to complete, the work is more or less complete.

Early 2006 saw 81002's electrical equipment overhauled, leading to a major milestone in April that year, when the loco's traction motors were powered up and spun, albeit slowly, via the transformer. The loco is now technically in a condition where raising the pantograph would be possible, however a lack of 25 kV overhead wires is one of the obstacles at present!

During the first half of 2011 81002 was repainted into Rail Blue livery.


Original Number E3003
BR TOPS Number 81002
Network Rail TOPS Number 89503
Number Carried 81002
Current Livery Rail Blue


Type / Class AL1 / 81
Original BR 1957 Number Series E3001-E3022, E3301-E3302
Revised BR 1957 Number Series E3001-E3022, E3096-E3097
BR TOPS Original Number Series 81001-81022
Introduced 1959-1964


Builder Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Company, Smethwick, Birmingham
Electrical Equipment Manufacturer Associated Electrical Industries (British Thomson Houston)
Works Number Series 1083-1107


Weight In Working Order 80 tons
Length Over Buffers 56' 6"
Width 8' 8 1/2"
Height Over Body 12' 4 1/4"
Height Over Pantograph (lowered) 13' 0 9/16"
Wheelbase 42' 3"
Bogie Wheelbase 10' 9"
Bogie Pivot Centres 31' 6"
Wheel Diameter 4'
Minimum Curve 4 chains


Maximum Speed 100 mph (reduced to 80 mph in 1986, 40 mph for Euston e.c.s. duties)
Horsepower (full field) 3200 hp
Horsepower (weak field) 3200 hp
Maximum Rail Horsepower 4400 hp at 44 mph
Maximum Tractive Effort 48000 lb (Type A) 60000lb (Type B)
Continuous Tractive Effort 17000 lb at 71 mph
Brake Force 40 tons
Electric Train Heating Index 66


Transformer and Control Gear Oil cooled, Low Tension Tap Changing
Rectifier Type Mercury Arc multi anode air cooled
Later replaced by Silicon rectifiers
Voltage Detection Equipment (never used) Capacitor divider
Bogie Type Fabricated steel, Alsthom suspension
Circuit Breaker Type Brown Boveri Air Blast Circuit Breaker
Traction Motor Type AEI (BTH) 189 6-pole (847 hp)
Traction Motor Drive Alsthom Quill
Gear Ratios 29/76 (Type A) 26/83 (Type B - later converted to Type A)
Pantograph Type 2 x Stone-Faiveley (one later removed)
Locomotive Brake Type Air
Train Brake Type Vacuum, later Vacuum and Air

1st E No. (1959)2nd E No. (1960)1st TOPS No.2nd TOPS No.Depart-mental No.Network Rail '89' No.Last No.BuilderIntroStatusNotesNames1965 Proposed Names
E3001 81001 81001AEI (BTH) / BRCWNov-59Scrapped 1986: BREL CreweEnvoy
E3002 E3002AEI (BTH) / BRCWJan-60Scrapped 1969: BR CreweEleanor
E3003 81002 8950381002AEI (BTH) / BRCWFeb-60Preserved 1997: The AC Locomotive GroupOriginally preserved by Peter Holt, later sold to Pete Waterman.Enchantress
E3004 81003 81003AEI (BTH) / BRCWApr-60Scrapped 1991: Coopers Sheffield
E3005 81004 81004AEI (BTH) / BRCWMay-60Scrapped 1992: MC Metals Glasgow
E3006 81005 81005AEI (BTH) / BRCWJul-60Scrapped 1991: Coopers Sheffield
E3007 81006 81006AEI (BTH) / BRCWAug-60Scrapped 1991: Coopers Sheffield
E3008 81007 81007AEI (BTH) / BRCWSep-60Scrapped 1991: Coopers Sheffield
E3009 E3009AEI (BTH) / BRCWOct-60Scrapped 1968: BR CreweHixon Level Crossing Crash
E3010 81008 81008AEI (BTH) / BRCWOct-60Scrapped 1991: Coopers Sheffield
E3011 81009 81009AEI (BTH) / BRCWNov-60Scrapped 1991: Coopers Sheffield
E3012 81010 81010AEI (BTH) / BRCWNov-60Scrapped 1991: Coopers Sheffield
E3013 81011 81011AEI (BTH) / BRCWDec-60Scrapped 1991: Coopers Sheffield
E3014 81012 81012AEI (BTH) / BRCWDec-60Scrapped 1991: Coopers Sheffield
E3015 81013 81013AEI (BTH) / BRCWDec-60Scrapped 1991: Coopers Sheffield
E3016 81014 81014AEI (BTH) / BRCWMar-61Scrapped 1991: Coopers Sheffield
E3017 81015 81015AEI (BTH) / BRCWMay-61Scrapped 1992: MC Metals Glasgow
E3018 81016 81016AEI (BTH) / BRCWMar-61Scrapped 1985: BREL Crewe
E3019 E3019AEI (BTH) / BRCWApr-61Scrapped 1971: BREL Crewe
E3020 81017 81017AEI (BTH) / BRCWApr-61Scrapped 1991: Coopers Sheffield
E3021 81018 81018AEI (BTH) / BRCWJun-61Scrapped 1992: MC Metals Glasgow
E3022 81019 81019AEI (BTH) / BRCWSep-61Scrapped 1991: Coopers Sheffield
E3023 8102081901 81901AEI (BTH) / BRCWSep-61Scrapped 1991: Coopers SheffieldNumber 81901 officially allocated in 1987 but never carried in service.
E3301E309681021 81021AEI (BTH) / BRCWApr-62Scrapped 1992: MC Metals Glasgow
E3302E309781022 81022AEI (BTH) / BRCWFeb-64Scrapped 1988: A Hampton CreweOriginal E-number E3302 is believed not to have been carried in service.