When switching to diesel traction as part of the Modernisation Plan of the 1950s, BR designed, and commissioned designs for, a large number of locomotive types. At this time (and arguably right up until Sectorisation in 1982), BRs regions had a high degree of autonomy, which extended as far as classes of locomotives ordered and even the design criteria for those locomotives. Whilst almost all other diesel locomotives were diesel-electric, the Western Region employed a policy of using diesel-hydraulic traction, originally commissioning three classes of main line locomotives: a type 2 and two type 4s (later designations class 22, class 41 and class 42). With pressure to increase the speed of the transition from steam to diesel, volume orders for the class 22 and class 42 followed in 1957, a mere two years after the original orders and well before any idea of performance or reliability could be gained. At the same time it was realised that all the existing orders (diesel-electric and diesel-hydraulic) were for types 1, 2 and 4; thus orders were placed for 101 Type-3 diesel-hydraulics (later Class 35). However the increasing demands for more powerful locomotives prompted a further order, in 1961, for 74 diesel-hydraulics of 2,700 hp (2,000 kW); so when the first locomotive was outshopped from Swindon Works in December 1961, less than a year after the order was placed, the Westerns were born.
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