The AC Locomotive Group

Class 89 Photo Gallery

Electrical Equipment: Brush
Mechanical Construction: British Rail Engineering Limited (Crewe)
Built: 1986

89001 at Barrow Hill89001 at Barrow Hill in original InterCity Executive livery

89001 at Barrow Hill89001 at Soho depot in InterCity Swallow livery

89001 nameplate

The unique Class 89, 89001, was built as a prototype in 1986 for a fleet that was never ordered.

89001 was named "Avocet" on 16th January 1989, with the plates removed again by July 1992 when the loco was put up for sale. Bought privately by a team of Brush engineers, it passed through the ownership of a bus company before being sold to GNER who overhauled the loco and returned it to traffic in 2000. It was again stored in 2003, and moved to Barrow Hill into the group's care at the end of 2004.

Following attention from the group, the loco was passed fit to move by rail and travelled to Crewe Works and Norwich for events in 2005. Put up for sale by GNER in October 2006, our "89 Appeal" resulted in the purchase of the loco by the end of the year.

It was repainted into original InterCity Executive livery in early 2007, and then in 2020 into Inter City Swallow livery. It is currently being electrically restored.

89001 at Barrow Hill89001 at Barrow Hill

In the early 1980s the long-delayed electrification of the East Coast Main Line (ECML) was put back on the agenda. The original rolling stock plan was for locomotive-hauled trains formed of new locomotives and a new build of Mk3 coaches. In response to the plan, Brush designed a completely new electric locomotive and built a "production prototype" (the mechanical construction was sub-contracted to BREL Crewe) which became the one and only Class 89, 89001.

This loco appeared in 1986 and bore no resemblance to its predecessors. It had two streamlined cabs similar to the HST, a Co-Co wheel arrangement (as opposed to the Bo-Bo of all previous AC designs), and a 125 mph top speed. The body was profiled to match the Mk3 carriage design and it was fitted with buckeye couplers and rubbing plates (another first for an AC electric). Brush envisaged a fleet of 89s for the ECML, but the loco was also capable of handling heavy freight services, so could theoretically provide modern traction for passenger and freight on the West Coast route too. The opportunity to standardise and modernise the fleets on Britain's two main north-south arteries was there for the taking.

Sadly, before fleet production could get underway (and indeed before the prototype even took to the rails) British Rail's policy towards the new ECML stock had changed in favour of fixed-formation trainsets, with a Class 91 Bo-Bo locomotive semi-permanently attached at one end of a rake of Mk4 coaches; and a new top speed of 140 mph. This effectively ruled out the 89, which could only reach 125 mph.

A production fleet never materialised, but the design paved the way for Brush to build the Eurotunnel Class 9s and the International Class 92s several years later. Ironically, the Class 91s that were built for the ECML have never been allowed to run above 125 mph in regular service after all.


Rolled out in 1986, 89001 was tested on the Old Dalby Test Track before moving to the northern WCML. After a number of very successful test runs, often hauling BREL's "International" rake, the loco moved to Bounds Green on the ECML in 1987 for crew training. In 1988 it travelled to Hamburg to take part in the International Railway Exhibition along with a brand new Class 90 and 91. On its return it was placed into service on relief and commuter services alongside the first Class 91s. Its one-off nature meant that maintenance and spares would always be an issue and by the end of 1990 the combination of a number of minor faults saw the loco taken out of traffic.

In 1992 BR sold the loco to a group of engineers from Brush who saw the potential the loco still offered, and who considered it too good to scrap. They moved it to the Midland Railway Centre at Butterley and into semi-preservation. In early 1996 the loco was moved to Brush Loughborough where staff, working in their own time, endeavoured to get the loco suitable for main line use once again.

Following privatisation the new operators of the ECML, Great North Eastern Railway, required additional traction to cover for poor Class 91 availability and service expansion. The existence of a nearly-new 125mph electric locomotive in private ownership was not overlooked, and 89001 was consequently bought in late 1996. After training, the loco returned to traffic in 1997. Further problems were experienced and the loco was returned to Brush for nearly a year before re-entering traffic in late 1999. Sadly, after only a short time the loco again came out of traffic following further technical problems, returning to traffic briefly in 2000 before being stored at Doncaster.

It was used for a short time as a static carriage power supply at Bounds Green during 2002, but then returned to Doncaster for continued storage. Rolled out briefly in 2003 for the Doncaster 150 open days, the loco remained in store at Doncaster until the site was cleared for redevelopment in late 2004. Following an approach from GNER, the AC Locomotive Group offered storage at Barrow Hill and the loco was moved by road on the 17th December 2004.

In October 2006 GNER put 89001 up for sale, and following a hugely successful appeal, the group was able to purchase the loco in December 2006.

89001 at Barrow Hill89001 at Barrow Hill

As purchased from GNER, the loco was mostly complete although a number of major components required expensive overhaul before the loco could run on the main line again. A thorough surveywas undertaken to establish exactly what was required, and costs drawn up.

Cosmetic work in 2007 saw the loco return to its original InterCity Executive colour scheme.

Electrical restoration work focussed on repairing and/or refurbishing the items that led to the locomotive being withdrawn from service, namely the traction motors and their associated field converter electronics. The locomotive was lifted by HNRC at Barrow Hill in December 2010 and three traction motors were removed including the one known to be faulty. These were examined at Bowers in February 2011 to allow repair cost estimates to be made. Two of the field converters were removed, one of them faulty and again repair estimates were sought. Initially it was intended, as funds became available, to allow one power group (i.e. one bogie) to become fully operational.

Thorough analysis and electrical testing of the removed field convertors showed that they were repairable, but there was a strictly limited source of spare parts; and the control elctronics was in poor condition. The decision was taken to perform a full rebuild of all the field convertors using modern equivalent parts and new control electronics.

Another area that had caused problems in GNER days was the rheostatic brake stacks. One of the brake stack blower motors was faulty, and some of the resistor elements in the stack had suffered overheating. The brake stack blower motors were considered very small for the brake stack power rating compared to those fitted to classes 86 and 87, and the decision was made to rebuild the stacks using refurbished class 86 brake stack blower motors.

Meanwhile the electrical and pneumatic control systems were checked out as far as possible.

During 2017 work on the 89 continued with a comprehensive set of tests being undertaken on the Armature Convertors. Inspection and testing of the voltage measuring equipment on the armature circuits led to the decision to replace the Voltage Transducers and remove the resistor panels associated with them. This took quite some time to complete as the Voltage Transducers were located at the rear of the Motor Contactor cubicles, and a major strip down was required.

The 89's brake system saw works with both of the train brake controllers removed and overhauled, and all of the air reservoirs being inspected and recertified. Once the brake system components were back together a considerable amount of time was devoted to working through the manuals for the E70 brake system to identify each of its components and then test how it operated in response to the train brake controller and various other switches on the driver's desk.

Oil samples were taken from the Transformer and both Armature Convertors, the samples demonstrated that the oil in the three devices was in good condition and there was no evidence of any insulation decay that could cause impurities or other changes in the oil.

Preparations for the 89's bogie overhaul were advanced by stripping the bogies of all their dampers. The loco has lot of dampers (perhaps why it was always reckoned to ride very well): four vertical and four lateral secondary dampers, eight yaw dampers and twenty four primary dampers. All were crated up and sent to Sabre Rail to be overhauled.

The old NRN antennae were removed from the cab domes as the NRN system is no longer used - any future main line operation would require fitment of a GSM-R system with its own antennna.

In 2018 work on 89001 continued with the Vacuum Circuit Breaker (VCB), Battery Charger Chokes and Auxiliary Transformer all removed for overhaul. The armature convertor supression networks were removed and new capacitors specified for replacement to meet higher network voltage ratings.

Underframe and internal earth bonds were inspected and tested, there are a lot of these amd this took a lot of time. Following inspection and investigation by ourselves it was decided to replace the main HV cable connectiing the locomotive roof to the transformer, so a new cable was sourced from Mekufa. The traction return brushes on the axle ends were inspected and cleaned out, two were found to require rectification as they were full of a watery grit mixture.

All the axle main bearings were condemned. The tachogenerators inspected, and some found to have suffered water ingress; these were repaired. Body work cleaning up and repair continued. The bogie preload units, a kind of lateral damper, were overhauled.

The locomotive was lifted again and the bogies were stripped down. The springs sent away for testing, the axle bearings replaced, and the traction motors were reinstated. Following reinstallation of the VCB, the new main cable was installed.

The development work on re-engineering the field convertors was completed. They were rebuilt and extensively tested as individual components, units and in complete groups and were ready for fitment by the end of the 2019.

Also during 2019 ther detail work performed included reinstatement of traction bonds, earth cables etc to bogies; door seals replaced; water traps in underfloor areas drilled out and drained, and the No.2 choke cover drilled.

The rheostatic brake stacks were rebuilt. New brake blocks were sourced and fitted, the cabs were reassembled and lighting circuits reinstated; the pantograph was serviced and chains replaced.

Both of the cab roof domes  were removed to repair damage to the GRP mouldings and to replace damaged failed seals. Aside from joints around the exterior of the cab and a small number of 'water traps' very little corrosion was found on the 89 and only small repairs were required. Once the body repairs were completed the locomotive was left in a patchwork finish of painted repairs and older livery sections, to temporarily tidy the locomotive up primer and a sealing undercoat paint was applied.

The early part of 2020 saw the completion of the overhaul of 89001. The major remaining internal items, the Field Convertors and the Rheostatic Brake Stacks, were installed. The roof sections were reinstated, after cleaning and checking that everything seals correctly. The locomotive’s Field Battery was rebuilt, using new cells. The hydraulic Parking Brake system was serviced and re-commissioned. The Brake Hoses and Buffer Beam mounted brake cocks were replaced. The roof mounted equipment HV busbars were re-instated; connecting the pantograph, overhaul Vacuum Circuit Breaker and new HV Cable Assembly. 

89001 was moved on 30/04/2020 from Barrow Hill to Toton, where it received Inter City Swallow livery. DC Rail Class 60 locomotive 60046 was used to provide the haulage. This was the 89's first excursion away from Barrow Hill since returning from Norwich in January 2006.

After repainting into Inter City Swallow livery, 89001 was hauled back from Toton to Barrow Hill on 13/10/2020 by DC Rail locomotive 60028. Whilst at Toton, replica "Avocet" and RSPB logo plates were added, along with replica Brush works plates.

89001 was moved, courtesy of Rail Operations Group, from Barrow Hill to the West Midlands Trains depot at Soho near Birmingham on 27/10/2020 for live testing. On 15/11/2020 89001's pantograph was raised onto a live wire for the first time in around 20 years - video here. A series of control system and power tests were then performed over the following months.

Testing of 89001 at Soho depot continued in 2021, culminating on 22/04/2021 with low speed movements around the depot. Several moves were made around the depot and in the sidings, at up to the depot 5 mph speed limit. Some of the moves used the depot's shunting locomotive 08805 as an extra load. These were the first movements of the locomotive under its own power since 2001. A video of one of the test moves can be seen here; thanks to Tim Bralesford for this video. This completed the testing planned for the locomotive at Soho depot.

During its time at Soho, 89001 was subjected to a large number of static and 25 kV tests which confirmed the correct operation of:

  • all the control and auxiliary systems,
  • the main transformer (the first time the loco was energised at 25 kV since 2001),
  • the battery chargers, oil pumps, blower fans etc.,
  • the refurbished field convertors,
  • the refurbished rheostatic brake stacks,
  • the armature convertors,
  • correct rotation of all six traction motors,

Other systems such as cab heat and cab air conditioning systems were tested for the first time. As expected after more than 20 years of use, and changes in legsilation regarding refrigerant gases, both air conditioning units will need to be overhauled. 

Unfortunately during the testing of the armature convertors a fault occurred which applied some unusual stresses to the traction motors in Group 1. This caused a fault on traction motors 1 and 3, which would need to be removed from the locomotive for further investigation. The armature convertor fault was repaired and it was correctly driving traction motor 2 during the low speed movement testing.

89001 was moved from Soho depot to Barrow Hill on 06/05/2021.

In May 2021, motors 1, 2 & 3 were removed for analysis of the faults found during power testing.

The analysis of the motors was completed in August 2021 and the faults diagnosed. A scope of work was agreed, a price set and the work was authorised. The faults were on different traction motors to those repaired ten years previously.

Following the agreement made in December 2021 with Locomotive Services Ltd., design work was carried out relating to the installation of the equipment for mainline operation, and the necessary parts were obtained. Some of the critical parts were on very long lead times.

Towards the end of 2022, with most of the parts in hand, but with the workshops at Barrow Hill at full capacity, the decision was taken to move the locomotive to the UK Rail Leasing works at Loughborough for the mainline equipment installation to take place. The move by road from was made from Barrow Hill to Loughborough on 24/11/2022 - with traction motors still missing from the locomotive a move by rail was not possible.

During 2023 the following work was carried out at Loughborough:

  • re-installation of the repaired traction motors into the No.1 end bogie,
  • repair and re-installation of the faulty traction motor blower motor,
  • repair and re-installation of the driving cab air conditioning units,
  • installation of new control battery cells (the field battery cells were changed a few years ago),
  • fitment of an overhauled pantograph,
  • installation of the equipment required for mainline operation: GSM-R radio, TPWS and On Train Data Recorder,
  • installation of a new fire suppression system (the original did not comply with modern regulations).

Testing of all the new systems took place in late 2023 and into 2024, but problems were found with air leaks in the Davies & Metcalfe E70 brake frame. After a delay due to obtaining the correct O-rings, this was finally corrected in Spring 2024.

With all the new and original equipment finally installed, we could then start on the system testing. This involved detailed step-by-step checks of all the new systems to make sure they were working correctly, and also a full re-test of the other loco systems. This work was completed in June 2024.

Finally, on 3 July 2024, 89001 was powered up on a live 25 kV supply in one of the test bays at Loughborough for auxiliary systems checks, then short distance movement tests were carried out on the test track. This was the first time that the locomotive had run under its own power on all six traction motors for around 25 years. See the Latest News pages for more details and a link to a YouTube video.

We are very grateful to UK Rail Leasing for their work on 89001, and the provision of facilities, during the locomotive's extended stay at Loughborough.


BR TOPS Number 89001
Network Rail TOPS Number 89001


Class 89
BR TOPS Original Number Series 89001
Introduced 1986


Builder BREL Crewe (under contract to Brush)
Electrical Equipment Manufacturer Brush


Weight In Working Order 105 tonne
Length Over Buffers 19787 mm (64' 11")
Width 2740 mm (8' 11 1/2")
Height Over Body 3975 mm (13' 0 1/2")
Height Over Pantograph (lowered) 3975 mm (13' 0 1/2")
Wheelbase 15100 mm (49' 6 1/2")
Bogie Wheelbase 4394 mm (14' 5")
Bogie Pivot Centres 10903 mm (35' 9 1/4")
Wheel Diameter 1080 mm (3' 6 1/2")
Minimum Curve 80 m (4 chains)


Maximum Speed 201 km/h (125 mph)
Horsepower 4350 kW (5850 hp)
Maximum Rail Horsepower 4500 kW (6120 hp)
Maximum Tractive Effort 205 kN (46100 lbf)
Brake Force 50 tonne
Electric Train Heating Index 95


Transformer and Control Gear Oil cooled, no tap changer. Electronic Control.
Rectifier Type Thyristor
Circuit Breaker Type Vacuum
Traction Motor Type Brush TM 2201A
Gear Ratio 41/80
Pantograph Type 1 x Brecknell-Willis "high speed"
Locomotive Brake Type Air and Rheostatic
Train Brake Type Air