After the final BR trains with Class 50s, groups of preservationists bought scrapped locomotives with the plans of making them run once again. Some have been long term projects while others returned to the limelight in weeks.
It was in 1991 that the first Class 50, 50035 Ark Royal, was officially bought for preservation and handed over to its new owners, the Fifty Fund. 50035 was moved to St Leonards depot for restoration to begin and was soon joined by 50031 Hood and 50044 Exeter. 50031 was operational and became our ambassador at heritage railway events around the UK, while work was carried out by our dedicated volunteers on 50035 and 50044.
In May 1992, 50031 moved to the Severn Valley Railway, to make its passenger debut. This marked the start of a relationship with the railway that has been our home for the last 30 years. Once restoration work was completed on 50035 and 50044, they also moved to the SVR. The relationship with SVR provided the ideal springboard to return 50031 to the mainline in 1997.
Project Defiance, like the Fund, bought their own Class 50, 50049 Defiance, in 1991. 50049 was initially based at the West Somerset Railway before moving to the SVR in 1998. The Fifty Fund and Project Defiance began working together and the spirit of collaboration was born. In 2006, after several years of working as a successful partnership, the decision was taken to merge the two organisations to form the Class 50 Alliance. As part of this agreement, the Fifty Fund was reformed to operate as the supporter’s organisation, charged with maintaining the historical archive and fund raising (including selling shares in the new company).
In 2017, the opportunity arose to purchase a mainline ready 50007 Hercules. Before re-entering service, 50007 underwent a thorough technical inspection and both its main and train heat generators were overhauled. In 2018, an agreement was made with The Birmingham Railway Museum to take over the management and operation of 50033 Glorious, making it the 6th Class 50 in the Class 50 Alliance fleet.
A total of 21 Class 50s entered preservation, although 3 were heavily stripped and eventually scrapped.