The Class 47 List - Front Ends - Headcode Boxes

Page constructed by Shaun C 08/03/10, written by Nigel47417 and Shaun C for the Class 47 List.
The Class 47 List 2000-2014. Full copyright details available on the index page.

Class 47 Detail - Part 1, Headcode Boxes

As Built;
When built the Brush Type 4s were fitted with a four digit alpha numeric headcode box at each end of the locomotive, sitting behind a piece of toughened glass. The headcode boxes which housed the blinds and winding mechanisms were illuminated by eight 110v light bulbs, two bulbs for each blind. No other illumination of the front end was provided for anyone trackside at night. This 2010 view shows 47105, returned in preservation by the Brush Type 4 Fund to its former glory.
47105 Photo Copyright: Shaun C.

Shown below is D1534 in 1963 with four dots displayed on the headcode. The arrows highlight a couple of early Brush Type 4 features lost in time, the green arrow shows the original fixed radiator arrangement at the No. 1 end, replaced before long by moveable louvres to allow more air in *when required*. Yellow arrow shows the exhaust port for the boiler. More on these items in the future.
D1534 Photo Copyright: Brian Sherrington collection

End of Headcodes

The requirement to display headcodes was abolished on 5th January 1976 when all headcode blinds were, in theory, wound round to display four zeros (although many variations existed).
The photo of 47373 on the right during 1982 works attention shows the eight bulbs described previously which illuminated the headcode panel.
Photo's courtesy of Howard Osiransky and Richard Boyd

Glass; Black Plastic Applied

A few months later the toughened glass was removed and fitted to it was a black sticky back plastic film on the rear, which then had two small circles cut into them after which white sticky back plastic was added to create what we know as a Domino headcode panel. The blinds themselves were removed to allow the bulbs to illuminate the whites of the Domino.
The red arrow on 47450 shows the Electric Train Heating jumper cable housing on the cab front, this being the standard position on the 47421-47585 batch. More on this in another edition.
Photo's courtesy of Richard Boyd


Described above is the white circles which provided the illumination of the marker lights, though on a small number of locomotives the white circles were missing, shown here on 47320 on which you can see the lightbulbs shining through the uncovered circles in the glass.
Photo courtesy of Howard Osiransky

Works Attention

Slightly off topic for this page but a precursor of some topics yet to come, a conversion programme in late 1978 through to 1979 saw an important development with the creation of 12 class 47/7s to be able to not only haul, but to power their trains from the rear with the driver in a 'DBSO' (Driving Brake Standard Open, converted from a standard BSO vehicle), avoiding the need to run the loco around at the destination. Ten DBSOs were intially created, 9701 to 9710.
More conversions, 47713, 47714, 47715 and 47716 plus DBSOs 9711-9714 followed in 1985, and then of course 47717 in 1988 to replace fire damaged 47713.
It is a disappointment that further conversions did not continue in later years, such a system would have proved highly useful on certain services in later years, or that other conversions such as 'through wiring' of carriages as seen in later years with class 31s (allowing a loco at each end of a train to provide power) or the ability to work with 82xxx DVTs were not introduced.
In the photo; 47710 at Crewe works, the headcode panel is of course removed allowing you to see inside, other modifications that can be seen are the cut-outs for the Time Division Multiplex (TDM) system which used Railway Clearing House (RCH) jumpers, and a small rectangle for a new non-standard (circular) headlight, 710 would emerge with one of these early style headlights. TDM was later fitted to Res class 47/7s and a number of class 47/4s (see 784 photo lower down). Photo Copyright: Howard Osiransky

Metal; Yellow, Black or undercoat!

In March 1976 Holbeck depot trialed experimental headcode panels on 47425. This led to the loco being fitted with recessed metal headcode panels displaying two opaque lenses. These flat plastic lenses were encased in a rubber grommet when the modification became standard, those on 47425 being of a metallic design. Initially the mod was purely an Eastern Region thing, with Crewe Works turning out locos with Domino panels still. Eventually the whole fleet was to be fitted with the modification at both the number 1 and 2 cab ends, the final locos being changed in 1986.
Two number one end views of 47581 (left) and 47585 (right) at Liverpool Street in 1982. 581's marker light panel, with lights noticeably higher than 585's, was fitted upside down. The Eastern Region fitted them with the lights closer to the bottom, as can be seen on 47582 below, and also on 47432 and 47802 on this page. Standard panels fitted at Crewe Works and other depots had the marker lights in the centre.
581 + 585 Photo Copyright: Richard Boyd

An alternative to the above is to send the loco out with an undercoat headcode panel, seen here on 47078 'Sir Daniel Gooch' in the early 1980s after having its metal headcode panel fitted. Cardiff depot sent two or three more locos out like this including 47241, which also featured this style briefly. Note also that compared to the above photo of 581+585 the marker lenses of 078 are located in the centre of the panel.
Photo Copyright: John Lacy

Further number 1 end studies

A pair of 47/4s at Crewe Works - both with the number 1 end cabs at this end. At sole-bar level both are the same, but the comparison is with cab fronts. 582 on the right has the late 70s style headcode cover arrangement, whilst 521 has a flush front. Unlike the new replacement cabs which were fitted mostly to crash victims (see lower down the page) 521 was one of a handful of locos repaired at Stratford DRS following collision damage, who used to fit the marker lights, and sometimes taillights, in the raised position rather than the recessed position associated with Crewe Works replacement cabs. Other examples of this could be seen at one end of 47725 and currently still on 47747.
Photo Copyright: Howard Osiransky, 28/05/83

'Stand Still Fitted' - number 2 end headcode modification

One of those occasions when a fleet-wide change of appearance occurs began in April 1983 BR started to fit a safety system to Class 47s known as SSF ('Speed Sensor Fitted', though known by loco men commonly as 'Stand Still Fitted') and this device enabled the locomotive brakes to be applied if it was left in 'Engine only' with the brakes off and the loco ran away, or if the selector was placed into 'Engine only' on the move then after a delay of a few seconds the SSF system would apply the brakes.
To accommodate the SSF box it was decided to fit this system into the No. 2 end cab front, the box itself being riveted to the rear of the No. 2 end headcode panel as this picture shows. In order to make the SSF box fit the headcode box assembly this had to be removed and with it went the means of illumination (the original line of light bulbs - 373 pic).
Therefore two hinged sealed beam marker lights were fitted onto the headcode panel in place of the previous opaque lenses, which were connected electrically via a conduit on the rear of the headcode panel. This became standard for the whole class at the No. 2 end only, though in later years some locos had this type of headcode cover fitted to the No. 1 end as well, with various depots and workshops involved in that modification.
Number 2 end photographs, on the left is 47432 in 1979 (with experimental headlight) with the 70s style headcode panel, and on the right is 47784 showing the 1980s modification. Photo Copyright: Richard Boyd and Shaun C.

A few comparisons

These two images, of 47715 and 47802 show the number 1 ends of both locomotives from a similar angle. Where to start? Well, conveniently 47802 has been labelled, so...
a - NRN radio antenna, a fleet wide modification, 802 has a different support
b - marker lights, 715 has standard number 1 end style, 802 has the hinged type but with LED lights inside rather than standard bulbs. 802's markers are also lower than on most 47s
c - tail lights, reflective style lenses as adopted by Res, DRS and Cotswold engines. 715 has the RCH sockets/housing and cabling mentioned on the 710 photo.
d - not the first 47 to have a multiple socket in this area (47/9s) but this is DRS's unique multiple socket which works with other DRS locomotives. Of their 47s, only 237/298/501/802 were fitted.
e - lamp bracket, missing on this side on 802, missing on opposite side on 715. These are bolted to the buffer itself.
f - 802 does not have the vacuum brake pipe
g - both 47s still have the buffer beam skirting in place, but 802 has oval buffers. More on this in future.
Photo's courtesy of Mark Jamieson and editor Shaun C.

Green Circle

If you want more power, standard railway practise is to add an extra loco or two, and an extra driver or two to enable two or more locomotives to work in tandem. Whilst this provides more power, it's not so convenient, the second driver having to rely on brake gauges and unable to read the road ahead and obviously this also requires a second wage to be paid.
Multiple working had worked on other diesel classes in the past, allowing a second loco to replicate the power applications of the leading loco. A selection of freight-only class 47s were thus modified for Freightliner and Railfreight Distribution trains, the equipment referred to as 'green circle' in common with the names given to other types of multiple equipment to distinguish which other types of loco it could work with.
One of two external changes was the orange socket fitted off-centre on the headcode panel, shown to the left on the No. 1 end of 47839 and the No. 2 end of 47805 (note different marker light covers). Photo Copyright: Shaun C
In later years, Cotswold Rail, Riviera Trains, Colas Rail and DRS (who had previously used their own type of multiple socket) have adopted the system for their ETH fitted locos, often using equipment from scrapped freight 47s.

The second external change can be seen in this pair of views, the red arrow on the left photo (of 839) points to a small hose and cock, these were usually positioned using the support for the old vacuum hose, with a white air pipe leading to it - see Richard Boyd's photo on the right of 47082 which has a yellow arrow highlighting the vacuum hose. This is a control air system, which is needed to supply control air to the governor on the rear loco. On the labelled picture of 47802 you will see that the control air cock is positioned under the buffer on the secondmans side, with the white pipe attached to the bufferbeam. On some dual braked locos, like 47292 and 47306 you will see the control air cock next to the vacuum hose on the bufferbeam.
The yellow arrow points to the trunk of the vacuum brake pipe, seen on 47082

Rebuilt fronts

47367 during a repaint whilst in preservation gives us a chance to study a rebuilt cab front in uncluttered fashion. This is one of the replacement Crewe cabs, with the four outer circles showing the marker and tail light recesses. The fifth (center) hole is a later addition, for the green circle multiple working facility described previously. Photo Copyright: Andre, 2010
Replacement cab sections seen at Crewe Works in 1979. Photo Copyright: Richard Boyd


This page has been designed and created by Shaun C, written by Nigel47417 and Shaun C for the Class 47 List.
If you've enjoyed this page and would like further loco specific information, it can be found in the excellent Class 47 Data Files published by The 47401 Projectt, owners of 47401 (D1500) and D1516 (47417) who have relaunched this series with a never before released volume "CLASS 47 DATA FILE PART 2 - D1520-D1549", featuring the Eastern Region, vacuum braked, Brush built locos otherwise known as D1520 to D1549 (TOPS numbers 47001-47016 and 47421-47434). Following the format of earlier volumes (but now with a striking full colour cover! featuring 47007 as above) the book tells the story of each locomotive in the batch with details of liveries, modifications, allocations, withdrawal and disposal. We have managed to include a photo of every loco in the batch with its pre-TOPS number, and there are plenty of never before, or rarely, published pictures. The book is a valuable tool for modellers, enthusiasts and historians of the Class and you will indeed be hard pressed to find all this information anywhere else.
The original co-authors Richard Levett and Peter Jaques have been joined by Ian McLean and Nigel Antolic who have added a great deal to the original research, and who are keen to press on and complete the remaining volumes of the series. Part 6 of the series, featuring 'Series Parallel' locomotives D1682-D1714 (47096-47124) is already being prepared for release after this issue.
Proceeds from the sales of this book will go towards the upkeep of the pioneer of the Class, 47401, and will help with the continued thorough restoration of classmate D1516 at the Midland Railway, Butterley. It should be remembered that 47417 has not worked since 1991, with the railways then still under the stewardship of BR. Once the restoration of the locomotive is complete it will be some 20 years since it was last ran.
The book is now at the printers, and is available to order. Price 9.99 + 2 P&P for 72 pages including around 100 photos! The book can be ordered directly through the 47401 Project website - see their Book Sales page - or by cheque/PO payable to '47401 Project' and sent to 21 The Oaklands, Droitwich, WR9 8AD.

As well as thanks to Nigel, further thanks is extended to the photographic contributors whose illustrations appear on this page.