The EM2 Locomotive Society, registered in the UK as an Educational Charity, was formed in 1983 with the aim of repatriating a Dutch Railways (Nederlanse Spoorwegen) class 1500 / BR class EM2 electric locomotive. These locomotives, built at Gorton, Manchester, in 1953/4, were to work the recently electrified railway between Manchester and Sheffield through the newly constructed Woodhead tunnel. Regrettably the ambitious plans to expand the network failed to become reality, so they always operated in isolation.
After an uneventful career they were withdrawn from British Railways service in 1968 (the same year that regular steam traction on BR finished) and stored at Bury before they were surprisingly purchased by the Nederlandse Spoorwegen, who dismantled one for spares but overhauled the rest and they were returned to service.
Due to the connection with Manchester, the NS generously agreed to donate one for preservation. Funding was quickly secured and that locomotive, 1505 "Ariadne", is now preserved in the Power Hall at Greater Manchester Museum of Science and Industry in the striking and attractive grey and yellow livery of the Dutch Railways. When she was donated, it was agreed that she would always remain in this livery.
Thoughts then turned to the prospect of obtaining a second locomotive, only this time to be returned to her former British Railways livery. The locomotive chosen for this project was NS 1502, formerly BR number 27000, "Electra". She was selected because of the significant role she played in British Railways early electrification schemes. "Electra" is Britains first electric express passenger locomotive (to enjoy a working life!).
In 1986 the Society arranged for the two locomotives due to return to have their original names restored, and so bedecked worked out their remaining year of service in Holland.
After the historical farewell railtour in 1986, the two locomotives returned to England after a period of 17 years, and "Electra" went to her new home at the Midland Railway Centre at Butterley in Derbyshire. A third example, number 1501, formerly BR number 27003, "Diana", has been privately preserved in Holland.
In 1989 the Dutch Railways celebrated their 150th anniversary and the Society was invited to participate - with "Electra", of course. After a short visit to the locomotive workshops at Tilburg, she was deemed to be in excellent working order and was soon back operating both excursion and scheduled trains in Holland.
Having completed 3100 miles in active service, she yet again crossed the Channel and once more she is on public display at Butterley. It is hoped that eventually she will once again operate under her own power. Until then she can occasionally be seen 'double heading' (with a diesel) freight trains at Butterley, or on display at British Rail open days.
The mandate of the Society covers the preservation of other items connected with EM2's, and to this end we secured, in November 1997, two Drewry built overhead line inspection vehicles, one of which was built for use on the Woodhead route. The second vehicle (built for the Great Eastern electrification) will be cannabalised for spares before disposal. It is hoped to convert the retained vehicle for passenger use. It is currently being restored on the Middleton Railway in Leeds.
Membership of the Society is £9 per year, and the membership year runs from 1st February to 31st January. For this members receive the quarterly newsletter with a cosmopolitan mix of articles (not always about railways!), and have the opportunity to partake in Society organised events and assisting in the physical preservation of the locomotive and associated vehicles.
EM2 Locomotive Society
21, Harper Grove