This is the second article in a series focussing on the history of the locomotives associated with the Corps [part one], and although the subject this time was named “Craftsman” and not “REME”, the links remain strong.

Britain’s railways were nationalised on 1 January 1948, and one of the newly-formed British Railways (BR) company’s aspirations was to move away from steam locomotives within twenty years. This led to the design and build of an entirely new class of diesel trains, the 47 (a class was a group of locomotives with specific characteristics associated with the purpose for which it was originally designed). The class 47 was a diesel electric locomotive developed by the Brush Traction company during the 1960s. This firm was based in the Falcon works in Loughborough, Leicestershire, and had a long history as an engineering firm in that area. Eventually, 512 47s were built between there and BR’s works in Crewe, itself a facility that dated back to 1840. It is probable that “Craftsman” was built in Crewe rather than Loughborough.

“Craftsman” was built between 1964 and 1966 and went into service on 29 June 1966 when it was allocated to BR’s Western Lines section, meaning it operated in the same area where it was built. The 1960s and 1970s saw the locomotive working in the Stoke and Birmingham divisions of BR’s operations, but it was based in the Old Oak Common depot near Paddington, west London, by the late 1980s. It was originally numbered D1944, but was renumbered as 47501 in February 1974.

The locomotive 47501 became permanently associated with REME on Thursday 22 October 1987, because it was on that day that a formal naming ceremony was held on platform one in Paddington Station. Speeches were given by Brian Scott, General Manager of BR’s Western Region, Alex Houseman, the Deputy Chair of British Rail Engineering Ltd. and Major General John Boyne, DGEME. And it was DGEME who called then-Craftsman Andrew Netting forward to unveil the nameplate and Corps badge that had been affixed to the side of the locomotive. Craftsman Netting was twenty years old at the time. He was selected to participate in the ceremony because of his all-round ability as a soldier and student at the School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at Bordon, where he was training as an instrument technician. He was commissioned in 1990, later reached the rank of major and served as Officer Commanding (OC) 27 Transport Regiment Royal Logistics Corps (RLC) Workshop.

Black and white image of a REME soldier in uniform, a woman and a man in smart dress stood next to a train with curtains opened to unveil a REME cap badge and name plate reading "Craftsman".

Then-Craftsman Andrew Netting and his mother and father standing next to “Craftsman” following the unveiling ceremony.

Black and white image of a train with "InterCity" on the side, parked at a station.

“Craftsman” as seen on the day of the ceremony.

It was very fitting that Mr John Webb was in attendance, as it was he, following his return from National Service in the Middle East, who suggested a locomotive be named “REME” in 1958. This name was ultimately applied to the Patriot class steam locomotive, 45528 (more about this story can be found in the first of these articles).

Following this, the entire party, which included Craftsman Netting’s family, boarded the 12:17 train, which was pulled by “Craftsman”, and made their way to Reading. Further speeches were made at a lunch held in the West Court Officers’ Mess, and Craftsman Netting was presented with a 1:72 scale model of “Craftsman” which was on loan to the Museum from 1999 until 2014.

REME Officer in uniform and a gentleman in a suit standing next to a train with curtains opened to unveil a REME cap badge and name plate reading "Craftsman"

Mr. John Webb, the former REME soldier who first suggested a loco be named after the Corps, stands next to “Craftsman”, alongside Captain Lionel Campuzano of REME Territorial Army’s Specialist Sector.

The subsequent history of “Craftsman” is equally interesting. It was acquired by English, Welsh and Scottish (EWS) Railways upon the company’s creation in April 1996, and then withdrawn from service five years later. Direct Rail Services of Carlisle acquired 47501 in October 2002, and returned it to active duty in September 2003. It was then purchased by Locomotive Services Ltd. in December 2014. Locomotive Services is part of the Icons of Steam group, a company dedicated to preserving and running iconic steam and diesel locomotives on Britain’s railways. On 23 July 2016, they renamed 47501 as “Craftsman” at the Gresty Bridge depot in Crewe, in honour of its heritage and connection to the Corps.

The Museum is fortunate to have one of 47501’s original nameplates in the collection, something that is entirely due to the dogged persistence of the REME Association’s Derby/Nottingham Branch. The full story is recounted in the September 2005 edition of The Craftsman, but the project began with the Branch’s aspiration to have the name and nameplate transferred to another locomotive within the EWS fleet following 47501’s sale to Direct Rail Services.

Five men standing in front of a truck vehicle in the museum, three in the middle are holding the nameplate which reads "Craftsman" with two shaking hands, the other two men either side are bearing the colours of the Corps and are holding large flags.

This image was taken at the Museum’s former home in Arborfield, and records the presentation of the nameplate by the Derby/Nottingham REME Branch Association in 2005. Pictured are Brigadier Nigel Williams ADC DEME (A), Brian Ireland, Chair of the Branch and Mike Coulby of EWS Railways. Photograph reproduced courtesy of David Marshall.

EWS proved reluctant to help: they were running fewer and fewer locomotives by the early 2000s, and naming those they operated was becoming less common. The Derby/Nottingham Branch were not deterred by this, and eventually succeeded in persuading the company to donate one of the nameplates to the Museum during a formal ceremony held on 2 July 2005. This is very appropriate, as a nameplate from the original “REME” locomotive also forms part of the Museum’s permanent collection.

Nameplate with white lettering on black background with wooden bordering reading "Craftsman".

A close-up of the nameplate.

Richard Davies, Curator

I am grateful to Zoë Tolman, the REME Museum’s Archives Assistant, for her great help with this article. I am also indebted to Brian Ireland and David Marshall for corresponding with me about the 2005 acquisition ceremony.

This article was published in The Craftsman on 1 June 2022.