This blog is focussed around my interests in Diesel and Electric locomotives and the modern rail freight scene. I particularly like the humble Class 08 and 09 Shunter and also anything with a pantograph, notably Class 86, 90 and 92 locomotives.

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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, or employers.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

In Focus: 4L92 Ditton to Felixstowe

Fastly approaching their 50th birthday, Class 86 locomotives can still be found racing up and down the West Coast mainline. These electrics were introduced by British Rail in the 1960's following the various trials of Class 81-85 and become the standard electric locomotive. Reliable and versatile, they have adapted to every task put to them over the years. Today though, Freightliner Intermodal are the only operator of the Class on front line duties (in the UK at least). Several pairs of the locomotives are concentrated on the Coatbridge FLT in Glasgow to Crewe Basford Hall container services. There is though, one Northbound and one Southound service daily that operates on the GEML. Service 4M42 is the 22:08 Felixstowe North FLT to Garston FLT, South Liverpool. The other service, 4L92 is the 14:03 Ditton O'Connor/Stobart FLT to Felixstowe North FLT. The electrics only operate
to/from Ipswich where they are changed to/from diesel locomotives. The latter service will be the focus of a case study here, highlighting the different operational stages to get this train going.

As mentioned above, this is booked for Class 86 haulage. As of late, single Class 90's have been appearing on the service more frequently, as well as the occasional Class 66 or 70. I'm unsure exactly as to why there was a change from 86's for a short period, I assume it was down to poor availability of the Class for a period. Indeed this week, Freightliner are suffering poor availability of their Class 90 fleet. The fleet is 10 strong, and indeed as I type this, 50% of the fleet are out of service for exams/repairs.

My day starts at Garston FLT early on the morning of Monday 05/01/2015, waiting for the 4F64 service from Crewe Basford Hall. On a Monday, this service normally has a convoy of locomotives to get the weeks services started. It's a good way of getting locomotives shifted from A to B without using too many paths. Indeed this morning, the train is led by 90016, with 86632 and 86613 tucked inside as well as the train of containers. Garston has not had a dedicated Class 08/09 shunter for a number of years now, so the Class 90 is detached from the 86's and runs round the train, to shunt it in from the back. Before the 90 shunts, the 86's are detached, powered up and run in to the holding siding next to the FLT where they will remain for the morning. Stage 1 complete, getting the locomotives to Garston. On a Tuesday to Friday though, the locomotives arrive at Garston on the 4M42 return service from Felixstowe (from Ipswich) rather than arriving in convoy from Crewe. Barring failures or the need for exams, the same pair of locos normally stay on the service for the week.

Now, service 4L92 is a service that runs from Ditton, so this requires the locos to make the short trip from Garston FLT to Ditton Reception sidings. For this, the locos run light under headcode 0F72 leaving at around 13:14. With the trip only being around 7 miles, it is timetabled to take just 14 minutes.

Ditton FLT is not electrified, so the Electrics only run as far as Ditton Reception sidings. Similar to Garston, Ditton uses mainline diesels to do the shunting in the terminal and this is done by whatever Class 66 or 70 locomotive is on hand. With the 86's sitting in the sidings, the train is brought out today by 66504. One of only two UK Class 66's currently in Freightliner 'Powerhaul' livery, 66504 was the first recipient of the scheme. Originally released with an all silver buffer beam, the loco didn't look quite right.  66416 was painted in to the scheme in 2014 and had its buffer beam painted all black which sat better on the loco. 66504 was subsequently modified to this style when its next exam fell. I've been waiting to get 66504 in its modified scheme for some time, I had seen it on 2 previous occasions with its silver buffer beam.

To my delight, yesterday morning 504 was on the 4M45 Ipswich Yard to Ditton FLT arriving at around 12:00. The loco comes off the mainline at Ditton East Junction in to the Reception sidings and continues to the headshunt allowing the whole length of the train to fit in to the sidings. Then, the loco reverses back shunting its train in to the terminal. This was good news as well because it meant the likelihood was that this loco was then going to be the loco that brought 4L92 out. Sure enough, 66504 did perform the honours. I positioned myself at the headshunt, on some wasteland adjacent to it. Here the fence sits quite close to the line and despite having some overgrown weeds, can provide you with good picture opportunities up close to the locos. When the Shed arrived at the headshunt, the shunter uncouples it from the train and the driver swaps cabs. This is obviously because when the train leaves behind the 86's, the 'Super Shunter' then runs back in to the terminal. Later on, it will either run light to Crewe (if due maintenance) or form a south bound service, normally to Felixstowe.

As for the 90, 90016 returned to Crewe on the 4K64 service at midday, a solid 90 turn (when availability allows anyway)

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