British Rail corporate liveries

British Rail corporate liveries

The history of British Rail's corporate liveries is quite complex. Although from the 1960s to the 1980s the company was associated with "Rail Blue", a number of other schemes were also used, especially when the company was sectorised in the 1980s.

After the formation of British Railways in 1948, early BR diesel and electric locos and the Gas Turbines 18000 and 18100 were painted black with aluminium trim, but by the mid-1950s this had been superseded by a shade of green similar to that used on express passenger steam locomotives, although some locomotives were painted in a two-tone green livery. Multiple units were also generally green.

Coaching stock was originally painted in two tone scarlet and cream livery across the network. In the mid 1950s a darker maroon, which more closely resembled one of the pre-nationalisation liveries, was re-introduced except for the Southern Region where stock was generally painted malachite green. With the reorganisation of British Railways in the mid 1960s, a complete break with the past was signalled by the introduction of a dark blue based livery which dominated all passenger rolling stock until the later 1980s when a new red-banded Intercity livery was introduced along with a number of regional colour schemes.

Early liveries

The standard livery for British Railway steam locomotives was black, often with a thin red trim, although special trains such as the Golden Arrow could be painted in other colours.As part of a plan to find a suitable corporate livery for the then new diesel and electric locomotive fleet, coaching stock, and multiple units, a number of experiments were tried;

*Two Class 31 diesels were painted in trial liveries. No.D5578 was painted in an unlined 'Light Electric blue'cite book | last = Oakley | first = Michael | title = BR Class 31 diesels | publisher = Bradford Barton | date = 1981 | location = Truro | isbn = 0 85453 417 1] , and No.D5579 was painted in a colour variously described as 'Bronze Gold' and 'Golden Ochre'.
* The first Class 52 "Western" class, No.D1000 "Western Enterprise" was painted in a pale brown livery known as 'Desert Sand' liverycite book | last = Judge | first = Colin | title = The Power of the Westerns | publisher = OPC | date = 1977 | location = Oxford | isbn = 0 902888 98 6] when first delivered in 1961
* Another Class 52, No.D1015 Western Champion was delivered in another, darker yellow/brown colour desribed as 'Golden Ochre', though somewhat different from that applied to D5579..
* A number of Class 42 "Warship" class diesels and some Class 52s were delivered in all over maroon to match the then-standard coaching stock livery. This livery suited these diesel hydraulic classes, and allowed the Western Region to show an amount of independence; it was not applied to any other diesel or electric classes.
* At least three Class 52s received a rather pale metallic shade of blue often referred to as "Chromatic Blue".
* Most electric locomotives were painted in a paler, brighter shade of blue which became known as "Electric Blue". They retained this livery for some years, before being painted in Rail Blue when that became the norm.

Coaching stock from 1948

Discussions on the livery for British Railways coaching stock in 1948 eventually settled on a network-wide two-tone livery of carmine and cream for corridor coaches, with all-over carmine being used for local, non-corridor stock. The colours were chosen to be different to those of any of the "Big Four" pre-nationalisation railway companies while retaining a traditional aspect. However many people were not happy with the loss of the traditional "historic" regional colour schemes as used by the former private companies.

The second phase

From 1956 there was a move toward the return of regional colour schemes. Most regions adopted a maroon livery which strongly resembled that of the former London Midland and Scottish Railway. The Western Region started to repaint some coaches in a GWR chocolate and cream livery, while Southern Region reverted to malachite green. For cost reasons, liveries were usually changed piecemeal, when coaches came in for scheduled maintenance. Coaches from different regions could also often find themselves coupled together. Due to the consequent muddle of liveries, many trains began to get an untidy if not tatty appearance which added to the run-down image of the railway. The rebranding of British Railways to British Rail following the withdrawal of steam traction in the early 1960s was used as an opportunity to introduce an entirely new national livery.


The predecessor of the Rail Blue livery was an experimental train referred to as XP64. This prototype train was used to test technology and carriage arrangements for the planned BR Mark 2 coaches. The coaches for the XP64 were painted in a slightly ligher version of what would eventually become Rail Blue, with a 44inch wide Pale Ivory stripe centred on the passenger windows, and brown underframecite book | last = Parkin | first = Keith | title = British Railways Mark 1 coaches | publisher = The Historical Model Railway Society | date = 2006 | edition= Revised edition | pages= pp67-73 |isbn = 0 902835 22 X] . One locomotive, Class 47 No.D1733, was painted to match the coaching stock. In 2001, as passenger work for diesel locomotives came to an end on the rail system, a number of Virgin Trains Class 47s were painted in "heritage" liveries that they had carried in the past, including the former D1733, now 47853, which once again carried a near-correct version of the XP64 livery.

Rail Blue

Eventually, it was decided to standardise on a colour which became known as Rail Blue. Introduced in 1967, and also known as "Monastral Blue", the colour was defined by British Standards BR28/6001 (Airless spray finish) and BR28/5321 (Brush finish)cite web | last = Turner | first = Graham | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Rail Blue - The Story | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-03-25] . It was a dark, greyish blue tone which hid the effects of dirt well. The colour often appears inaccurately in photographs, generally appearing brighter and bluer than the real colour. In the early years the colour faded quite badly, becoming lighter and paler with time although this problem had been overcome by the late 1970s. United Kingdom paint code RAL5020 ("Ocean Blue") is a good match to Rail Blue.


This colour was applied to all diesel and electric locomotives, with the exception of the ends, which were painted yellow to improve visibility, and the underframes and buffer beams which were painted black; the paints being to BSS 2660-0.003 and BSS 2660-9.103 repectivelyClass 43 D838 "Rapid" which left Swindon Works in August 1968 in the maroon livery. cite web | last = Turner | first = Graham | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Rail Blue - timeline | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-04-03] .

The Vale of Rheidol Railway remained steam operated past the general end of steam traction in 1968, and accordingly the 3 remaining Vale of Rheidol Railway locomotives received the Rail Blue colour scheme, being all blue with black smokebox and red bufferbeam, and no yellow warning panel [cite journal | last = Streeter | first = Tony | title = BR Blue Steam! The Rheidol in '69 | journal = Steam Railway | issue = 292 | pages = pp48-49 | publisher = EMAP Active Ltd | location = Leicester | date = January 2004 ] .

Coaches and Multiple Units

Coaching stock was to be painted in Rail Blue with a 44inch Pearl Grey (BS 2660-9-095) horizontal panel centred vertically on the main windows, this being outlined by a narrow white line. This grey panel finished just short of the end of the coach leaving a small amount of Rail Blue which then continued round onto the end of the coach. Roofs were Dark Grey and underframes originally brown, but later black.

Originally, multiple units were also painted in all over Rail Blue, however the blue and grey coaching stock livery was eventually also applied to all gangwayed DMUs, EMUs and DEMUs. Non-gangwayed coaches and some other vehicles such as vans dedicated to newspaper traffic remained in all-over Rail Blue livery without the Pearl Grey band.

From 1974, some DMU sets, after being refurbished, were painted in a different "reversed" version of the official BR coach livery, with the blue and grey sections reversed. Often these units were reported as being painted white, such was the lightness of the grey used.

From 1966 until withdrawal, Pullman Coaches were also painted in the reverse livery, although a deeper grey shade than Pearl Grey was used. The Blue Pullman sets retained their livery of Nanking Blue until 1969 when they were repainted in the same livery.cite journal | last = Leigh | first = Chris | title = Pullman Multiple Units | journal = Model Rail | issue = 116 | pages = pp49-51 | publisher = emap | location = Peterborough | date = April 2008 ]

Local variations

In 1977 two Class 47 locomotives, 47163 and 47164, were painted by Stratford TMD with silver roofs and other decorations including a full body height Union Flag on each side, in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee|title= Image of No.47163 with Silver Jubilee Union Jack|accessdate=2008-05-27 |publisher=] . Several other Class 47 locomotives, some Class 31's, and even some DMU cabs, were subsequently also painted by Stratford with silver roofs, the variation becoming something of a trademark for the depot.

After this time small variations in the Rail Blue livery became much more common. Several Class 31 locomotives received blue waist stripes, these being particularly associated with the depots at Old Oak Common and
Finsbury Park. Also on the Eastern Region, Class 55 Deltic locomotives based as Finsbury Park acquired white surrounds to their cab windows.

Moving away from Rail Blue

The first break in the uniformity of Rail Blue came in 1976 with the introduction of the first InterCity 125 (HST). The distinctive angular shape of the HST power cars did not lend itself to applying yellow on the leading face, so the yellow was wrapped around and extended along the side of each power car, although the coaches retained the usual Rail Blue coaching stock livery.In 1978 the British Railways Board began planning a new livery for the future, and in that August Class 56 diesel locomotive 56036 was painted to test a modified liverycite book | last = Baylis | first = Alan Brooke | title = BR Class 56 diesels | publisher = Bradford Barton | date = 1982 | location = Truro | isbn = 0 85453 448 1cite book | last = Judge | first = Colin | title = Diesels Nationwide volume 2 | publisher = Oxford Publishing Co | date = 1979 | pages= plate 26 | location = Oxford | SBN = 86093 068 8 of all-over Rail Blue with the entire loco front in bright yellow to improve visibility, this extending down the sides of the loco to the rear of the cab windows which were, in turn, outlined in black. This livery was known as "Large Logo" livery as each side of the locomotive was dominated by a full body height BR double arrow logo, and had the loco number prominently displayed at twice the previous size. This livery was well received by enthusiasts but as the Class 56's only hauled freight, it was decided to extend the experiment to a passenger loco. Thus Class 47 47170 "County of Norfolk", allocated to Stratford and a regular performer on trains between Liverpool Street and Norwich, was painted in Large Logo liveryCitation | title = Stratford Traction Maintenance Depot Open Day souvenir Brochure | year = 1981 | pages = p3. Initially new locos were still painted in the traditional Rail Blue livery, but starting with Class 56 number 56084 the new Large Logo version was standard on new locos delivered to BRcite journal | last = Marsden | first = Colin | title = Class 56 design and construction | journal = Modern Railways Pictorial Profile :5 - Class 56's/58's | issue = 5 | pages = pp6-8 | publisher = Ian Allen Ltd | location = Shepperton | date = April 1984 | issn = 0264-3642 . After this date, the passenger versions of Class 37 and 47, as well as Class 50, were routinely outshopped in this livery.



Following the introduction of the Advanced Passenger Train in 1983, a similar livery to the APT's (dark grey on the upper body, and light grey on the lower, with two stripes of red and white separating them) was experimentally applied to 2 HST sets and the coaches operating the Gatwick Express service between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport. This was referred to as the "InterCity Executive" livery as the sets used were dedicated to operating morning/evening services operated for businessmen. Despite the InterCity brand having been introduced in 1966, in 1985 the word 'Executive' was dropped and the livery was applied to all coaches and many locomotives used on InterCity services.

Network SouthEast

On 10 June 1986 British Rail launched Network SouthEast, an organisation designed to cut across the traditional regional boundaries and deliver a co-ordinated train service for London and the surrounding region. For this new venture a new livery - a paler shade of blue than Rail Blue, with three stripes of white, red and grey - was created with Class 47 No.47573 "The London Standard" painted in the new livery specifically for the launch ceremony [cite journal | last = Jones | first = Ben | title = Network SouthEast | journal = Model Rail | issue = 93 | pages = pp22-30 | publisher = EMAP | location = Peterborough | date = July 2006 ] . As well as rolling stock and multiple units, a number of Class 47 and Class 50 locomotives dedicated to Network SouthEast passenger services were painted in this livery. A later version made minor changes to the livery, the main one of which was to darken the main shade of blue used. [cite web |url=|title= Revised Network SouthEast livery|accessdate=2008-05-27 |publisher=]


ScotRail was the brand name under which British Rail operated InterCity passenger rail services in Scotland and cross border services to Northern England and London. A corporate livery was created for major express services in Scotland, which effectively consisted of the InterCity livery with the red stripe replaced by a saltire blue one.

Regional Railways

Upon sectorisation, most secondary passenger routes which did not fall under the InterCity or Network SouthEast banner were re-designated as Regional Railways (originally Provincial). A livery, similar to ScotRail but with the upper dark grey bodyside replaced with a dark blue, was created. A number of sets of coaching stock and a handful of locomotives received the livery, as well as all new multiple units and some existing ones.

Scottish rolling stock not covered by the ScotRail livery (generally those on secondary services) received the Regional Railways livery, but with "ScotRail" branding.

Rail Express Systems

Rail Express Systems was the sector of British Rail responsible for transport of mail and parcels traffic. Its rolling stock carried the standard Rail Blue (or blue and grey) livery but in 1992, it introduced a new livery of red and grey, with pale blue and grey flashes.

The livery was carried on the rolling stock, but also on a number of locomotives which were dedicated to mail and parcels traffic, mainly of Classes 47 and 90.

Railfreight and associated liveries

Railfreight livery, a colour scheme specifically for freight locomotives, was unveiled when Class 58 58001 drove through a plastic screen at Doncaster Works on 9 December 1982. While this livery had much in common with the "Large Logo" version of Rail Blue livery, including the yellow cabs and larger logo and numbers on the bodyside, the main colour was grey rather than blue. A later version added a red stripe along the lower edge of the locomotive bodyside.

When British Rail operations were divided into sectors in the late 1980's, prior to privatisation, a new version of the Railfreight livery emerged giving the sectors individual identities. Consisting of three shades of grey and thus known as "triple grey Railfreight", the livery included logos on the sides and cabs of locomotives indicating which sector they belonged to. For locomotives used on internal British Rail duties, a separate livery of a plain darker grey was created. This was later modified for locomotives allocated to the Civil Engineer's department to include a yellow stripe on the upper bodyside, the resulting livery being known as "Dutch" due to its similarity to the corporate colours of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen. [cite web |url=|title= "Dutch" Grey and yellow livery|accessdate=2008-05-27 |publisher=]



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