Heritage diesel locomotives scheduled to pass through Thanet

Loco 50008 THUNDERER passing through Sandling en route to Dollands Moor. Picture: John Horton

UPDATE: Thunderer has failed its ‘fitness to run’ exam at Leicester and so will not be running on Saturday. Instead, 50007 HERCULES/WARSPITE and 50049 DEFIANCE in GBRf livery will now haul the tour.

By John Horton

Railway enthusiasts will once more be able to see another Railtour arrive at Margate on Saturday from East Midlands Parkway with two Heritage Class 50s diesel locomotives.

50008 THUNDERER will be sporting its owner’s private livery of ‘Hanson and Hall’. The identity of the other loco is not certain at present but it is alleged to be 50007 HERCULES, which on the opposite side also carries the number and name of a long gone scrapped member of the class, 50014 WARPSITE. The loco carries GBrF livery of blue and orange.

The class 50s were built as a stop gap for the London Midland Region, whilst the section from Crewe to Glasgow was electrified in the late 1960s. Leased from the builders, The English Electric Company, they were eventually purchased by British Rail.

Once the West Coast Main Line Electrification was completed, the class were slowly transferred to the Western Region. There were 50 of the class built, known by enthusiasts as ‘Hoovers’ due to their distinctive sound. They also had opposition by some enthusiasts ‘the 50/50s’ as they were also nicknamed, as it was a 50/50 chance one would not fail in service, which was pretty harsh.

They did have technical issues over the years and the Western Region decided to completely refurbish the entire 50 locos, the work being carried out at BREL works in Doncaster.

50008 THUNDERER side view at Eastleigh Arlington Works in May 2021 with new Hanson and Hall livery. Picture: John Horton

They continued in service until 1991 when the entire class was withdrawn from traffic, ending their days in the South West of England, with their penultimate finale working from Waterloo to Exeter St Davids, before heading off back to Plymouth Laira Depot for official withdrawal.

Preservationists bought many of the locos and 19 of the class were purchased, many of which are still operating on preserved railways or under going restoration. All of the class were named after famous Royal Navy Ships, past and present at the time.

Class 50s never worked in service on Kent Coast Services, but two class members did a round trip through Thanet back in the 1990s – 50032 COURAGEOUS and 50034 FURIOUS carrying the infamous Network SouthEast livery.

50025 was noted at Dover having hauled the Manchester – Dover Western Docks Intercity service from Mitre Bridge, whilst 50008 THUNDERER worked to Dollands Moor, Folkestone, with a stone blower for European Export via the Channel Tunnel and worked back to Derby light Engine on August 2, 2018.

Timing for those wishing to see the tours are as follows:

Canterbury West 10:56 arr – 10-58 dep

Minster 11:12

Ramsgate 11:20 arr – dep 11:32

Broadstairs 11:38 arrive dep 11:41

Margate 11:47 arrive

Return Journey

Margate 14:07 Dep – Platform 4

Broadstairs 14:11 arr – dep 14:13

Ramsgate 14:17

Minster 14:26 arr – 14:36 dep

Photo John Horton

The train then proceeds to Dover Priory via Deal, before reversing to head for Canterbury East, Faversham, Rochester and Hither Green, where the locos will be coupled up together and run double headed back to Leicester.

The Class 50s will be detached there and the tour continues back to East Midlands Parkway being top and tailed for the final leg of the tour by Class 66 and Class 67 locomotives.


    • Not the route in the itinerary. The train does t have to circumnavigate the whole Isle for it to be classed as passing through Thanet.

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