Bear - Ex-British Railways Class 35 Hymek

Sir Richard reflects upon the life and times of one of Sodor's less-known engines - Bear

During the 1960s, The North Western Railway - or the North Western Region of British Railways, as it was officially designated, was finding it increasingly difficult to ignore modernisation. The pipe smoking bods at the headquarters of the nationalised network were continuously nudging my grandfather in the ribs as new prototypes and ideas began to roll out onto the metals of the Mainland, doing away with the steam powered workhorses that Sodor was so proud to have running.


My grandfather had little tolerance for the pestering, and this typically came to a head with the arrival of a diesel locomotive for a 'trial' on the hefty gradients and tight curves of Sodor. These were not always new prototypes, and one wonders to this day if we were sometimes 'fobbed off' with engines no longer wanted by the rest of the Nationalised Network, where standardisation seemed to be ruling every fleet of locomotives from Land's End to John O' Groats - but, one digresses.


One particular day in the spring of 1967 two locomotives arrived on trial from the Mainland, both examples of 'modern traction' from the period - and both rather iconic classes of engine. They were treated with suspicion, and for at least one of the pair, rightfully so. Neither of the diesels had names - they were known only as D199 and D7101.


D199 was a Class 46 'Peak'. This class of locomotive, it would be fair to say, was a very enterprising, well built piece of kit. They were an efficient design, tried and tested in preceding classes - and unfortunately, D199 was well aware of this. He arrived at Tidmouth Sheds with a terrible attitude, outspoken and self-congratulating, consistently claiming that diesel locomotives were the future and the sad 'antiques' on the NWR should be in scrapyards.


D199 did not make he or his friend very popular - rather unfair, as D7101 was consistently trying to shut him up over the course of the day.

On their trials, D199 was tested with a Goods train of tankers. He didn't have the finest bit of performance and failed carrying the train just outside Maron. Rather than make any effort, the crippled 'peak' complained for the attention of a fitter, which he didn't get.  Instead the signalman cursed him as a 'Spamcan' and made threats of attention from his tin opener.


Henry, who himself had suffered a failed regulator, and was instead working upon cutoff, rolled alongside to await a clear line - the signalman requested Henry move 'Old Reliable' and his train, to which Henry, with the usual NWR worker ethic, agreed - taking great humour in the irony of the situation!


Close by, on his trial, D7101 was pulling 'The Limited', an express train, on the way towards Barrow-in-Furness. Unfortunately, his ejector had failed when he climbed over the brow of Gordon's Hill, - something that, as ejector failures often do, went unnoticed for the majority of the remaining journey - but by the time he had passed Maron his brakes were applying slowly, making his journey increasingly difficult - the train growled past Henry and Old Stuck-Up ...and ground to a halt only a few hundred feet in front.


The railway was now in a rather complex predicament - Henry, a 'failed' engine, would rescue both trains - keeping the brakes off of 'The Limited' so D7101 could pull his own load - Spamcam, however, gave no assistance. They reached Cronk Station without losing too much time and 4472 'Flying Scotsman', whom was coincidentally in the middle of his famed visit to Sodor - took 'The Limited' for the remaining journey. Henry was strongly complimented - D199 was sent away after his failure in disgrace, while D7101 was kept for further trial.


D7101 proved to be a hard worker - Henry, despite being a 'failed' engine proved to him the Sodor work ethic - and inspired him - to the point he still remembers it well today, and treats Henry as somewhat of a mentor! He made friends very easily and even James couldn't help but grow to like him.


After little deliberation D7101 was transferred permanently to the North Western Railway, renumbered to 'D3', but being known for commonly as 'Bear' - thanks to the growl of the famous Bristol-Siddeley Maybach engines. His fierce noise can make even the worst temperament of goods stock behave.


Bear has now been with us since 1967 and given excellent service throughout. His build number places him as quite literally the last of his batch, meaning the transmission issues noted with the early Hymeks are not in place - he has seen further modifications in his time on the NWR to improve efficiency and engine temperatures without sacrificing power or speed - this has ultimately had varied success and were generally reverted - meaning Bear is still largely the same locomotive he was upon arrival.


 The Hymeks were statistically the most efficient of any Diesel-Hydraulic on the network at the time, and Bear has constantly proved this. He can be relied on - the greatest asset of any locomotive! We find great use for him on early mornings and late nights - he takes barely any time to prepare compared to our steam motive power and has the same spirit and capabilities of them - the engines enjoy this arrangement too as it means longer rests!


Bear's also very versatile - he can be running a top link express service one moment, and the next will be pulling a slow goods! While not the most powerful locomotive on sudrian metals he's incredibly capable, and is an asset to the NWR, as he was to the Western Region in his time. Bear is painted in the original 'Hymek' livery (albeit with yellow warning panels), complete with Brunswick green and ivory window surrounds - this has made him very popular with enthusiasts, and when running an express service he will attract just as much attention as Gordon. (Much to the latter's chagrin!)


Many of you will note Bear does not appear often in the Railway Series since his introduction - this is fairly easy to explain. He's a regular worker but mishaps rarely occur - something I have no complaints about!


Should you wish to see classic traction, running at full capability, across some stunning scenery, you'll find few places better to Sodor - if you are unable to travel, however, four are in preservation, two of which are undergoing comprehensive overhauls. You shall find a 'Bear' running at the West Somerset Railway (D7017), and one at the East Lancashire Railway (D7096) - they are fine examples, and I hope the two remaining shall be running soon, as well - perhaps it'll soon be time for a Hymek reunion!

Find out more about Bear and his origins on the internet's definitive Awdry Railway Series website - The Real Lives of Thomas The Tank Engine.

Find out all there is to know about Bear and his class-mates at - a site by Hymek enthusiats

Click the link above for relevant books and products about Bear and other Class 35 Hymek Diesels!