35th anniversary of a locomotive naming in Southampton

Chair of the SCARA committee, David Cross, has kindly provided this article about a significant milestone in the operation of the Southampton container terminal and P&O Containers' partnership with Freightliner from 35 years ago, back in 1988...  

Locomotive 37358 named “P&O Containers” at Southampton on 13 April 1988 

Diesel-electric locomotve 373358 "P&O Containers" at Tinsley TMD in August 1990 [reproduced here with the kind permission of the photographer, Keith Burton - Flickr]

Model of diesel-electric locomotive 37358, P&O Containers as presented on the day.

It was 35 years ago this week when P&O Containers had a locomotive named after our company, (then) P&O Containers.  The ceremony laid on by Freightliner Ltd took place at Southampton Central station at 12:20 on Wednesday 13 April 1988. 

The reason that Freightliner had offered to name one of their freight locomotives after the company was to celebrate the MILLIONTH container that OCL and later P&O Containers had moved through what was known then as the Southampton Maritime Freightliner Depot.   

(It is a coincidence, but the next SCARA get-together is taking place in Southampton exactly 35 years to the day after this event in 1988!)

Invitation letter issued to guests

A million of anything is always an achievement and for OCL/POCL to be so far ahead and having a deliberate policy of taking freight moving inland off the road and onto rail was another far-sighted achievement by the teams that ran our ‘movements’ business 35 years ago now, many of them I’m pleased to report SCARA members today. 

The principal guest that day was our then Chairman, Kerry St Johnston , who was invited by the then MD of Freightliner James Evans to name the English Electric built class 37 which had been built in January 1963 and allocated to Gateshead depot in Newcastle.  For those of a mechanical background it  was a six wheel, 1750 hp diesel-electric locomotive with a maximum speed of 80 mph.

It was scrapped in 2006 and we know where one of the nameplates is!    

Menu and wine list for the lunch on 13 April 1988

These days governments, customers and the public are all clamouring for reduced carbon in the modern supply chains, improving our environment and here we were 35 years ago getting on with it without fuss.  Those foundations were built well and it is no surprise to many of us that Maersk Line (who later bought P&O Nedlloyd as it had then become) remains the largest customer of Freightliner  moving over 400 containers per day on a large number of Freightliner services throughout the UK.

The name Freightliner remains the same today however they too have had a number of owners and are now owned by a large American Railroad company called Genesee and Wyoming . The biggest difference being that their green livery is being replaced by a bright orange USA colour scheme!  

Our locomotive ,”P&O Containers” was turned out in British Rail blue livery, 1988 being pre-privatisation , and  the late Kerry St Johnston  was still Kerry in his pre-Knighthood days!

David  Cross


Magazine report on the event