This is my blog concentrating on the UK locomotive scene. I'm particularly interested in Class 08/09 Shunters and I am an Amateur photographer of Diesel and Electric locomotives.

This is my personal blog and as such, all views are those of myself and do not necessarily represent the views of my family, friends, dog or employers.

Friday, 15 January 2021

86604 (E3103) last day in service 15/01/2021

Today, the 15/01/2021, is 86604's last day in service. I've had a look in the archives for what I have of the old girl. Here, along with 86628, back on 07/06/16 at Halewood West Jn with 4K64 11:46 Garston FLT to Crewe BH. 

A product of Donny works in August 1965 and originally known as E3103, the loco has gone on to have a career of just over 55 years service since, what machines these 86's turned out to be!

For info, the last workings for the loco are training trips between Crewe BH and Trafford Park FLT. At the start of the day the loco had 6 hours remaining until it's next B exam is due. No more exams are currently authorised for the 86's, use them and their done.

Farewell old friend, I hope we may see you run in the UK again someday....

Friday, 27 November 2020

Freightliner 86's - Down to single figures but still powering on

When I hear the word 'Freightliner', I instantaneously think of two things - Container Cranes and the British Rail Class 86. The AC electric loco has been a workhorse for well over 50 years now, and with the formation proper of Freightliner as a standalone entity in the mid 1990's, have been an ever present in their fleet. Now with the cascading of redundant Class 90's from the Greater Anglia passenger services, Freightliner now have 23 operational Class 90's at their disposal. 

The Freightliner Class 86 fleet had remained static at 16 for many years. Earlier this year, as members of the class became due for expensive repairs (mainly new wheelsets/bogie overhauls) the 1st examples  were started to be stood down from traffic. The good news to come out of this, was that the plan was to 'warm store' the locos for an eventual overhaul and return to service for at least some of the fleet. 
86610 was the 1st to be stood down in January 2020, followed soon after by 86614. Against the odds, 86614 returned to traffic before succumbing to storage for a second time in October 2020. 86627, 86605 and 86612 all followed in May and June, 86628 in July (described as terminal). The most recent 'Can' to be stood down was 'Powerhaul' liveried 86622 during November. The remaining 9 locos now are concentrated on flows between Ipswich and Garston or Trafford Park, with Scottish runs now a thing of the past. It is believed that retention and overhaul is still on the cards for some of the class after a period of retirement, but we believe this to be dependant on several factors. 1 being the current COVID Global Pandemic and the economic impact that is having. The intermodal sector seems to be picking up again and performing strongly which could be a good sign. 
2. Freightliner are believed to be hoping to secure a couple of contracts that would increase the requirement of it's fleet and the need for the 86's.   

These truly are a wonderful locomotive that have stood the test of time, and owe their owners nothing. Their owners however, probably will be in debt to them forever...

Current Fleet Status as below as of 20:00 on 27/11/2020

A relatively calm scene at Garston FLT as ‘Arrol 1’ goes about it’s business. 86613 and 86604 are seen resting prior to this evenings 4L60 departure to Felixstowe North FLT and had not long arrived in on the 4M45 run in the opposite direction. 66598 is seen lingering behind and was to depart shortly afterwards, running light engine to Ditton FLT were it will assist with the 4L92 departure. 27/11/2020.

One of my favourite shots to take (and I've a few so no apologies on that front!) is this approach shot at Halewood as the train is about to pass under the A561 "Ford Road". Throw in a couple of 86's, some decent light and I'm a happy chappy. 

Still defying the odds is 86604, which reportedly is now on very thin wheels that apparently cannot be turned again. Glad to get 86604 on the front here in this instance as it leads 86613 near journeys end on the long trip from Ipswich Yard to Garston FLT.  26/11/2020.

86604 and 86613 get a rare go on the fast lines in to Garston on 27/11/2020 as they head in with the 4M45 from Felixstowe North FLT which the AC Electric pair had worked up from Ipswich. Seen here passing the Jaguar Land rover head shunt on 27/11/2020. 

86638 86639 4L60 Hartford 19/11/2020.

Swimming through Harford on the wet evening of 09/10/20 is the veteran pairing of Freightliner's 86613 and 86608. The pair finishing off the week of 4L60 19:46 Garston FLT to Felixstowe service which they of course will only work to as far as Ipswich. Quite like the rain in this one, adds an element of drama!

Another week of operations done at Garston FLT and, rather unusually, the electrics haul the diesels back to base (a welcome change for me at least!)
After working up over night from Ipswich with the 4M45 intermodal service from Felixstowe, 'Powerhaul' liveried 86637 leads 'Racing Green' liveried 86607 and dead 66550 + 66517 over Halewood East Jn on the 4K83 12:23 departure from Garston. At this point it was running some 20 mins early. 10/10/20.

86638 leads 86622 with 4Z14 0618 Garston to Crewe BH passed Acton Bridge at 0727 (32 late) on 03/10/20.

86622 86607 4L60 Halewood East Jn 27/08/20

86632 86607 4L60 Halton Jn, 18/08/20


Tuesday, 3 November 2020


Today saw Bachmann release their Winter announcements for their Branchline, Farish and EFE Rail brands. Since they moved to this quarterly announcement model at the start of this year, I have dubbed it the 'Quarterly disappointment lists' and unfortunately for me at least, this latest announcement does nothing to change that.

So, as a modern image OO gauge modeller, I'm in to Diesel and Electrics locomotives. So what is there for me in these releases? Not much as it happens...

Class 57 Diesel: 2x versions of the Class 57 model will be released shortly with both a standard version and a sound fitted option available too. 

  1. The first loco is DRS 57009 in the original DRS Compass livery. Now DRS stuff has generally sold quite well over the last few years, however the choice of this livery is somewhat strange to me. DRS now have a new livery what is often referred to as 'Flash Blue/Green'. This has been applied to 3x 57/0's (57002/3 and 57010) and most of the 57/3's that are still in service with DRS. It is just my opinion of course, but I would have felt this to have been a far better choice. Bachmann released 57011 a few years back (Product Code 32-754) and I recall it being available heavily discounted after release.
  2. The second is a WCRC Class 57/3 in the form of 57313. This is a far better choice in my opinion and should do quite well. Some posters online have pointed out that it has been modelled with the Dellner coupler still attached, but I wouldn't let this detract from what is otherwise likely to be a nice looking model. Of course, 57313 no longer carries this livery having been painted in to the 'Northern Belle' scheme in 2019.
  3. The most concerning point I'd raise regarding the Class 57 is the RRP which at £204.95 (before discount) is eye wateringly high. Just my opinion of course but I'm not sure I can justify paying that when I can get better models in the form of the Dapol Class 68 or Bachmann Class 90 for considerably cheaper.
Class 58 Diesel: Using the former Heljan tooling, the Class 58 model was a massive improvement over the Hornby offering but there was always a feeling it didn't have the 'Wow factor'. 4 liveries will be available with the RRP at £174.95 for pristine versions and an additional £10.00 for weathered options.
  1. Weathered options include 58011 in the original Railfreight 'Red Stripe' livery and 58039 in EWS.
  2. Pristine offerings include 58018 "High Marnham Power Station" BR Railfreight Coal Sector livery and 58021 'Hither Green Depot' in the attractive Mainline Freight 'Aircraft Blue' livery.
And that is pretty much that. If you are a member of the collectors club they are doing a set with 66731 'Cap. Tom Moore - A true British inspiration' with a Spitfire and a Hurricane plane included. All available for the price of £199.95 for the standard version (so all in all still come in cheaper than a 57!) and £279.95 for a sound fitted option.

So what was I expecting/could have been there?

I'm not a model railway manufacturer and don't work in sales, so I'm no expert. Plus, from previous announcements my expectations were very low and they were not surpassed in this instance. My frustrations with the industry, maybe more specifically 'the big players' is the distinct lack of products coming through and choices that in my opinion are uninspiring and out of touch with the customers. Sure, we're in a Global Pandemic, but how long can this continue to be used as an excuse? This industry has customers with disposable income, wanting to spend money but the products just aren't there. In recent years we've seen new names burst on to the scene offering products that many of us had waited years for one of the established brands to do and in turn offering levels of detail not previously seen. 

Accurascale are producing the Class 37, Class 55 Deltic and the Class 92 Electric. The Class 55 was a particularly wise choice as it has never had a model befitting these legendary East Coast workhorses. The Bachmann model introduced in the early 2000's fell way short of the mark, and although for Bachmann I'm sure this tooling has paid itself back time and time over in the years since introduction due to the various versions put out. The 92 is big though, recent years we have seen highly detailed models of both the Class 85 and Class 90 produced by Bachmann to high standards, I own several of each and couldn't be more pleased. Hornby also retooled the Class 87 and bar a rather naff pantograph, produced a fine AC electric locomotive. But with the 92, the most complex locomotive ever built for BR, this has the potential to open up so many doors for the lads at Accurascale. The 92 has a cult following amongst enthusiasts and in recent years the Class have strayed on to Class 1 passenger turns in the form of Caledonian sleeper services between Scotland and London, a far cry from the Channel Tunnel freight they were initially intended for! Accurascale are also producing the MK5 stock for these services to whet the appetite further...

Cavalex intended to do the Class 91 'Electra' another East Coast workhorse but have made the decision to pause this work after Hornby announced their own retooled version. Retailers have also started to commission their own products, and don't be mistaken, this is down to a distinct lack of products coming through to them. Hatton's have produced various steam locomotives but their biggest project to date has seen an all new 'Class 66' hit the shelves. This was a massive upgrade from previous offerings but was not without fault. Rails of Sheffield again have produced the 'Terrier' locomotive but are currently looking at working with Accurascale on the Class 89 'Badger' - a model long requested and sought after.

So what is the point I'm making with all the rambling above? There have been too many years with not enough product coming through. What would I have liked to/expected to have seen today then?

  1. Class 90 - a model with so much potential. Near enough 18 months since it's first release (after 5 years of development/production) other than a collectors club version announced since, no new liveries have been announced. I would have thought that a Virgin Trains, EWS or DB and maybe even the new Freightliner/G+W orange livery would have been good choices and tapped in to an expanded market for AC electric models.
  2. Class 47 - under threat from a newly tooled Heljan model on the horizon, there is still opportunity in the Bachmann model. Perhaps some of the more contemporary liveries' the class have carried (I see a reluctance to move beyond BR Blue/Green and sectorization. 
  3. Class 08 - The Bachmann model is inferior to the Hornby offering but still offers a lot of value for money. Most 08's these days are hired in by companies, so I've been surprised not to see a RSS Railway Support services 'Gronk' produced for sure. You also have RMS locotec and HNRC who fall in to this category. 
  4. Modern DMU/EMU's -  I haven't seen a run of the Virgin Voyager for a number of years, certainly not since the Cross-country version they produced. These models are particulary popular with the train set market and also those who focus on passener operations as well as/instead of freight. The Class 350 EMU was released back in 2011, and hasn't had any new schemes released since. A couple of options include First Transpennine Express and the later Transpennine Express Blue/Grey livery as well as the newer (rather ghastly) London Northwestern Railway livery.
Of course, the above is just my own thoughts and opinions. There will be plenty who disagree with me and my choices above but that is what discussion is all about :-) 

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Finally getting a GBRf Tug....

It was a surprise to many when GBRf purchased the 10 Class 60's from Colas Rail freight in the summer of 2018. Colas had invested in the 10 in 2014 when offered for sale by DB Cargo, with all loco's long stored and being extensively rebuilt to the same standards as the DB 'Super 60' programme. Colas used the 60's on a range of duties from tanker trains to infrastructure runs. In 2018 GBRf was looking at for a stronger type 5 locomotive to handle the heavier biomass flows from Liverpool and Tyne Dock to Drax. Class 66's were deployed to these runs, but in the case of the Liverpool trains, 2 were required with a banker needed to assist on the rear due to the climb out of Liverpool Docks.  

60095 passes through Weaver Junction on Saturday 30/05/2020  with the 6E17 1230 Liverpool Biomass Terminal - Drax AES (GBRf)
The initial trials were actually conducted with a Class 70, with 70814 hired from Colas and used on the Liverpool branch before moving on to the North East. Although the trial was considered largely a success, the announcement came shortly after that GBRf had acquired the 10x Class 60's on Colas' books. In terms of Colas, they had standardised the fleet around the Class 70's of which they have 17 and the Class 56 locomotives they have invested heavily in.

GBRf 60096 'Impetus' leads the 6E09 09:38 Liverpool Biomass Terminal - Drax Alternative Energy station through Acton Bridge this morning.
60002/021/026/047/056/076/085/087/095/096 all moved over to GBRf and entered service initially still in Colas livery. A gradual de branding saw the Colas name and logo removed and just the words 'Rail Freight' remaining. Maintenance remained contracted to DB Cargo at Toton as per the deal between DB and Colas at the time of the original sale. GBRf then sold the 10 'Tugs' to Beacon Rail Leasing and immediately took the loco's back on long term lease.  

Originally unsure if I'd get one 60, then two turned up! Running almost 40 mins late, 60026 'Jupiter' leads classmate 60076 'Dunbar' through Winwick with the 6E17 1230 Liverpool Biomass Terminal - Drax.

GBRf have started to paint the loco's now but this has been a gradual affair with (as of today) 3 loco's painted and 7 outstanding. All have been treated as Arlington's (Eastleigh Works) as is standard for GBRf.

Availability has seemed pretty poor as of late with a number of loco's out of service awaiting/receiving attention. At the time of writing this at 17:30 on Saturday 06/06/2020, 60% of the fleet are available for traffic with 4 loco's awaiting/receiving attention (60002/21/85/96).
60085 'Adept' 6E09 Daresbury 08/02/2020.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Freightliner Update

86604 86639 4L60 19:46 Garston FLT - Crewe Basford Hall seen at Halebank on 02/06/2020.

The last few months have been the strangest time in many of our lives, with the world consumed in a pandemic. COVID-19, or Corona Virus as it is more commonly referred to, has affected all of our daily lives. The railways are no exception with passenger operators running with reduced timetables, some operators such as Grand Central by Arriva decided to suspend all services indefinitely. During the lock down, trains would continue to run to provide key workers an opportunity to be able to get to and from their places of work.

Whilst waiting at Halebank, the familiar roar of the GE PowerHaul P616 engine disturbed the peace as 70005 ran light from Garston FLT - Ditton FLT.  This was under headcode 0F45 and was to position the loco to work the 4K45 12:52 Ditton FLT - Crewe Basford Hall service. Seen here at Halebank, the loco is heading for a runaround at Garston Yard 21/03/2020.

Rail freight has continued also and in many ways has kept the country going with vital flows of foodstuffs, drinks and biomass to name just a few. One area that is only now really starting to feel the impact of COVID-19 is the inter modal container market. Most of the things we buy and use every day are made in China. With this virus seemingly starting in Wuhan, the Chinese went in to an early lockdown and with it the halting of industry. Many many deep sea container ships leave Chinese ports every day, carrying goods all over the world. In the case of the UK, a journey from China may take 6-7 weeks, so the last ships (in theory) to leave prior to China's shut down have arrived. 

Operators such as DB Cargo UK, Freightliner and GBRf are all big players in the inter modal market with services running all over the UK. Freightliner is the largest in this market, being originally a business built around the transport of containers all over the country. They have diversified in to other areas now with their Heavy Haul side of the business shifting anything from aggregates to household waste. But the containers are still very much the beating heart of the business. Operations are centred on the ports at Felixstowe and Southampton and serve inland terminals such as Coatbridge (Glasgow), Ditton (Widnes), Garston (Liverpool), Lawley St (Birmingham), Leeds, Trafford Park (Manchester), Teesdock (Middlesborough) and Wentloog (Newport)  - this list is not exhaustive.

Also during the global pandemic, Abellio Greater Anglia, have replaced their loco hauled Intercity services between Liverpool St and Norwich with modern units by Bombardier and Stadler. This has seen the delayed transfer of 13 Class 90's (90003-90015) to Freightliner. With reduced traffic levels at the moment and less pressure on the fleet, these 13 as well as the entire Class 70 fleet (19 locos) and several 66's have been placed in to temporary store until traffic levels pick up again. The 90's will all receive modifications and a repaint in to G+W orange before they enter traffic with 90014 expected to be the first. 90014 received a heavy exam at Crewe TMD and was shipped over to Basford Hall VMF where work has continued. The other 12 currently sit in the depths of Basford Hall yard awaiting the call. 
86637 86632 4M45 Felixstowe North FLT - Garston FLT, Halebank 17/03/2020. 

A jammy patch of light this morning as 90048 and 90016 pass through Red Bank under a moody sky. The service in question was the 4S50 06:03 Crewe Basford Hall - Coatbridge FLT liner. 05/06/2020.

The other loco's in the Fleet, the ever present Class 86's, continue to play an important role with the company. The fleet are largely concentrated on workings south of Crewe working various services to an from Ipswich but do retain at least one booked turn on weekdays to/from Coatbridge.
The fleet has remained static for the last few years at 16 operational locomotives. Some have spent periods out of use such as 86627 and 86632 which had Transformer and Wheel set attention before returning to active use, but were never formally stored. Since the start of the Corona Virus pandemic several examples have been stored. First to go was 86610 which requires new wheels, thankfully the loco is being kept 'warm' at Crewe and hopefully should be returned to traffic in due course. 86614 was then the next to be stood down. That in the past week has been reinstated and is currently back in traffic. At the expense of this reinstatement was 86627 which has been stood down at Basford Hall. Time will tell whether this one comes back, with Freightliner describing rumours of the 86's demise as 'Fake news'. I believe a core fleet will be retained with a couple of locos probably becoming spares donors to keep them going.
This afternoon 86605 has been moved to store but this should be a temporary stint as the loco is receiving attention at Crewe.

86608 86638 4L60 19:46 Garston FLT - Felixstowe North FLT at Hartford on 14/05/2020.

90043 90016 4S59 20:59 Crewe Basford Hall - Coatbridge FLT at Hartford 04/03/2020

90016 was in the news in late May, when it failed near Mossend whilst paired with 90047 on an evening departure from Coatbridge. The train was shunted back in to Mossend yard where the errant 90016, which reportedly had caught fire and was scorched, was removed before 90047 continued south solo. The reports of 90016's demise where premature and somewhat exaggerated as, after being transferred back to Crewe the next day, was back in service by the end of the week once again paired up with 90047 on Anglo-Scottish flows.
At the time of writing 90044, the only electric to carry the G+W Orange+Black scheme, is out of traffic pending the arrival of parts at Crewe.

90044 90046 4M11 Hartford 04/03/2020

90047 90045 4M11 18:03 Coatbridge FLT - Crewe Basford Hall, Acton Bridge 14/05/2020.

08530 Trafford Park FLT 18/01/2020.

66517 66522 4K83 12:13 Garston FLT - Crewe Basford Hall, Halebank 30/05/2020

Thursday, 10 October 2019

08691 - Basford Hall's pilot

Crewe Basford Hall welcomed the return of a Gronk back in August when 08691 'Terri' arrived from the Port of Felixstowe. The loco was last at Basford Hall circa 2002 when it wore a plain grey livery.

The loco will mark 60 years since delivery at the end of this month having started life back in October 1959 as D3858, as a product of Horwich works. The loco was delivered to Walton, Liverpool and would remain in Liverpool for the first decade of it's career with spells at Edge Hill, Speke and Allerton. Staying in the North West the loco was allocated to Wigan Springs Branch in 1970, had a brief return to Allerton a year later, before once again becoming a Springs Branch engine until being sent to store in 1984. A call to Swindon followed for overhaul and upon release in late 1984 headed to York.

It's probably best remembered for being the Sheffield Station pilot whilst being allocated to Tinsley.
Like most of Tinsley's fleet at the time the locomotive received an unofficial name as well as livery embellishments. In this case the name 'Escafeld' was painted on in 1987 and a light grey roof applied to it's BR Blue livery. The loco later received BR Green with grey roof and cast BR Arrows.

Relocation from Tinsley came in 1994 with the loco once again allocated to Allerton. Time was spent in the Crewe area but by 1997 it was laid up at Crewe Diesel. Repairs followed and the now nearly 40 year old Gronk began it's Freightliner career with a spell at Trafford Park FLT in 1998.

A full overhaul came in 2003 at Doncaster works with the loco outshopped in Freightliner Green/Yellow which it carries to this day. During it's FL career it has served at Felixstowe FLT, Tilbury FLT, Trafford Park FLT and Southampton Maritime FLT and once again Crewe Basford Hall.
The name 'Terri' is inspired by an Ipswich girl who at 6 years of age received significant burns in a house fire. Terri named the locomotive herself at the Port of Felixstowe in 2003.

It is believed that it will be joined shortly by another Class 08 in the form of 08891 currently being repaired at Nemesis Burton Rail. The one time Garston FLT pilot having not worked for FL for over a decade after being laid up at Southampton in 2008. It was removed to the LH Group, Barton-under-Needwood the same year for repairs but has ended up donating a lot of parts to other members of the fleet. Removal to Burton came in 2017 along with fellow spares donor 08575.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Autumn of the Class 86

86608 86607 4M83 1033 Coatbridge F.L.T. to Crewe Bas Hall S.S.M taken at Red Bank, Newton-le-Willows 17/08/2019

Freightliner's Class 86 fleet have served the company well with well over 50 years service. With the introduction of large fleets of new trains within the UK over the past few years, the merry go round redeployment of replaced trains mean the 86's time appears to be running out.

From December, Abellio Greater Anglia will start the withdrawal of their Class 90 and Mark 3 coach fleet with the introduction of their new Stadler Class 745 FLIRT units on the Intercity route between Norwich and London Liverpool Street. The 15 Class 90's, who are currently owned by Porterbrook, already have new homes with 2 destined for Locomotive Services Ltd (LSL) at Crewe and the remaining 13 to Freightliner Intermodal. This should allow for the withdrawal of the 86's from FL use. The irony here being that once released from West Coast duties in the early 2000's, the 90's also replaced 86's on these Anglia duties.

Freightliner were up until earlier this year, last year considering an overhaul scheme for the 86's which would have seen a number be retained for a further 20 years service. It is believed that the company is now considering withdrawal instead. From November, Freightliner take over the Mendip Stone contract from DB and will inherit the Class 59/0's and 59/1's. The Class 66/6's which are currently focussed around the Tunstead traffic are believed to be headed to the Mendips with their duties being taken over from some reinstated Class 70 locomotives. Whether enough loco's will be in position to allow for a complete 86 withdrawal remains to be seen but here's hoping not.

86608 86637 4K64 11:46 Garston FLT - Crewe Basford Hall taken at Acton Bridge 22/06/2018.

It is believed that from around October the Anglo-Scottish intermodal trains, long in the hands of pairs of 86's, will be taken over by pairs of Class 90's. Freightliner currently have 11 90's on the books, 10 of which are serviceable but 3 remain on hire to GBRf for Caledonian Sleeper duties. This hire contract should have ended by now but due to delays to the new CAF MK5 stock remain in use. This should however be resolved in the coming weeks. A refresh and training programme has been underway with Mossend based drivers on the type and once the combination of trained staff and loco availability is where it should be, the 86's should give way on these north of Crewe workings.

86627 86609 4M42 2152 Felixstowe North FLT to Garston FLT service at Acton Bridge 27/06/2019.

Other than the Anglo-Scotland workings, Class 86's are currently the booked traction for the following workings:

4L41 0603 Crewe Basford Hall - Felixstowe FLT (as far as Ipswich)
4M42 2152 Felixstowe FLT - Garston FLT (from Ipswich)
0K64 1146 Garston FLT - Crewe Basford Hall (light engines)

4L91 0210 Trafford Park FLT - Felixstowe (as far as Ipswich)
4M87 1113 Felixstowe FLT - Trafford Park (from Ipswich)

 Get them while you 'Can'!!!

86612 86638 4K83 12:13 Garston FLT - Crewe Basford Hall service taken at Acton Bridge 21/09/2019

86622 86638 4K64 11:46 Garston FLT - Crewe Basford Hall service taken at Halewood 05/05/2016

86628 86639 0K64 11:46 Garston FLT - Crewe Basford Hall light engine movement taken at Halebank 20/09/2019