The Class 37 Locomotive Group (C37LG) is a group of rail enthusiasts dedicated to preserving and operating working examples of English Electric Type 3 (British Rail Class 37) locomotives for the general public, and to promote their interest and history, being part of our nation's industrial and railway heritage. The C37LG is a non-profit making organisation.
The C37LG is one of longest established diesel preservation groups in the country, and traces its history back to 1984 when a group of like-minded Class 37 "Bashers" based around Norwich and Ipswich formed a group called the East Anglian Syphon Bashers (EASB).
By the end of 1985, the EASB had metamorphosed into the Class 37 Group, with 'Splitbox' as the Group magazine. Things rapidly progressed over the next couple of years, including a trade stand being set up, 'Splitbox' scooping the national railway press with the BR launch of the 'Triple Grey' Railfreight livery, and, crucially, the launch of the official Preservation Fund at the Midland Railway Centre's 1988 Diesel Gala.
To counter accusations of favouritism towards the early build locos, the Group's monthly magazine changed its name in 1988, 'Splitbox' became 'Syphon!' (no "panel-ist" discrimination here!) which it continues to present day ( produced quarterly). The Group was very active in its early days with sales department visiting events and galas to carry out fundraising to buy their own Class 37. Several classic railtours operated, including 'The Felixstowe Phoenix' breaking the loco-hauled drought on the Felixstowe branch, and the Settle Syphons' setting a believed Class 37 passenger speed record of 109.25mph!
37003 - our own loco at last! And restoration work begins
Years of fundraising and hard work by Group members paid off when, in 1998, our bid for 37003 from EWS was successful (at second attempt) albeit without power unit - it had been stripped for spares by its owner! The rest of the locomotive was sitting on a nice set of cast CP7 bogies (where the Group volunteers discovered upon inspection, these were originally with 50149 during its freight trials in the West Country in 1980s!) usually fitted to Class 37/3 onwards.
After being declared asbestos free at the MC Metals, Glasgow, 37003 was moved to the East Anglian Railway Museum (EARM) in Chappel, who had plans to extend their running line across the magnificent brick-built Chappel Viaduct and ultimately heritage train passenger operations on full stretch of the Marks Tey to Sudbury branch line on some Sundays.
Major restoration work began on 37003, from the ground upwards, which included retro-fitting buffer skirts. A number of spares were acquired from C.F. Booths to complete the loco, particularly the cabs. Repainted into BR Green and the mountings for the original 1963 nameplates, 'The 1st East Anglian Regiment', were uncovered!
However, EARM's plans to use the Sudbury branch on Sundays sadly failed to progress due to high costs of red tape and safety regulations (such as mainline certification for locos and stock, despite one-train operation within the branch line!) but the Group had carried on with restoration work on the locomotive at EARM site in Chappel.
After a visit to the Wigan CRDC in July 2002, the Group acquired the power unit from 37073 and was fitted into 37003, after several months of hard work, 37003 was soon started up at Chappel for the first time in preservation on 18th October 2003. As the EARM's efforts to secure a running line had not been successful, thoughts soon turned to whether it was a suitable long-term base (see 'The second chapter' below).
37003 in North-East England
After negotiations to find a home post-EARM, the Group moved 37003 to the Wensleydale Railway, in North-East England, in January 2004.
Finally, six years after purchase by the Group, 37003 seemed to have the prospect of regular work, and she was used on Wensleydale PW trains in 2004 and hauled her first passenger train on 23 October 2004, followed by successful peak-season Summer trains in 2005.
Following a change of traction policy by the Wensleydale Railway board to concentrate fully on heritage DMU operation, no duties available for 37003 (and other locos) so the Group moved 37003 to fledging Weardale Railway in August 2006, where it had worked a number of passenger trains that year, which included rescuing timetabled 'Santa Specials' when a steam loco was failed in service.
However, since ECT Ltd took over Weardale Railway operations they changed their priorities, with less emphasis on privately-owned heritage diesel use, and in December 2007 37003 moved to a temporary home at Locomotion Shildon (part of the National Railway Museum), before moving to her intended long-term home at Dereham on the Mid-Norfolk Railway in February 2009. Since then, our loco has been subject to major restoration work, including the replacement of the main generator bearing, and during the September 2010 Class 37 Golden Jubilee event at the Mid-Norfolk Railway 37003 was able to be tested while working her first revenue-earning passenger train since December 2006.
Membership and volunteering with the Group
Members receive our high-quality magazine, 'Syphon!', with exclusive articles and photos, four times a year as well as access to members-only egroup, where they hear about Group's activities and news before they are made public. We are justifiably proud of our skilled, enthusiastic and friendly volunteers, which we believe would be a credit to any railway. We have good relations with several sources of spare parts, other groups & individuals. Many of our people possess vital mainline railway experience and knowledge, but equally plenty of our regular volunteers began with no experience and believed they had no special skills - we proved them wrong!
The Present and Future
With our small but dedicated people forming the Committee and team of working volunteers looking after 37003 , we have plenty to offer to members, with the 'Syphon!' magazine, touring diesel galas with our publicity and sales department, as well as plenty of opportunities to get involved to work on our Class 37s at the Mid-Norfolk Railway. The Committee is also exploring options for visits to diesel galas at other railways around the country.
About your help
You can help by joining the the Class 37 Locomotive Group and sending occasional or regular donations to funds.