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.

If you have a spare minute please visit my Flickr page

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.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Shunter Update - Warrington's latest arrival plus 08737 runs again

08428 to Warrington

Warrington received another Class 08 shunter on Monday 23rd February in the form of veteran 08428. Moved down from Carlisle by road, it had been stored since the ill fated 'DB shunter cull' in summer 2014. Despite being officially stored, and reportedly having some kind of engine issue, it had continued to see some use in Cumbria. The removal of the loco sees the yard left with no Gronk on site, so marshalling duties will be in the hands of whatever is there and available, at least for now...

I was fortunate enough to be able to photo the loco sitting outside the front of the shed by the gate, indeed i was lucky as about 20 mins after I had arrived and taken my photos, it was moved in to the shed for repairs to start/continue. Warrington Arpley is primarily a servicing shed, essentially providing quick, light maintenance to keep the fleet of mainline locos going. As such, these are the priority and the nature of this means that the shunters or locos requiring slightly longer repairs, can be shifted in and out of the shed as required with maintenance done in bits and spells. Locations such as Warrington and Knottingley are starting to see shunter repair work coming their way as it is said that DB have essentially banned shunter maintenance from its premier depots at Crewe EMD and Toton, with space and staff hours allocated to its core mainline fleet. This is believable as DB now have a dedicated team monitoring what every mainline loco is doing on the network at any time, and as such if a loco is sitting on a shed not out earning its keep, there has to be an answer for it, all in the name of efficiency.

Having a quick look at the loco there are a few interesting things with it. This particular loco is fitted with both auto coupler and instanter couplings. It also has wooden doors, as fitted to all 08's from new up until 08705 which was the first to appear with steel doors. A couple of technical points as well regarding this loco, the biggest being that it was never fitted with an electric fuel pump which means that prior to use, fuel has to be pumped manually by train crew. The loco is also fitted with TPWS, and did indeed see mainline use when allocated to Knottingley a couple of years ago.

I'm still not entirely sure what the extent of work that it is to receive here at Warrington, whether it just be engine repairs or more. My feeling is that in terms of the old exam system, Warrington is capable of anything up to a C exam. Indeed this work was undertaken on 08623 recently and afterwards, 09106 departed Arpley for a D exam at Knottingley.

08428 underwent a D exam at Bescot last year before being finished of at Toton (prior to the 'ban'). It was also intended to repaint it in to DB Schenker Red/Grey as per 08623/632/907 and 09106 but the loco was pressed back in to use before it was done. From a personal point of view I'm rather glad it retains EWS livery. This livery was, besides BR Blue/Green/Black probably the most common carried by shunters but with the active fleet dwindling in numbers, you have as much chance of seeing a DB red one as you do EWS these days (barring stored locos obviously). Hopefully it'll be up and running soon and no doubt will be tested within Arpley yards.

08737 returns to pilot duties

In other news my personal favourite Class 08, 08737, is back in use at Crewe EMD as depot pilot although is still officially classed as stored. The loco arrived in mid 2013 for a D exam that in the end was not sanctioned and it joined the line of stored shunters at the site. I had returned to attempt a photo of it a few months ago and noticed it was no longer in the stored line. A few enquiries were made but nothing conclusive emerged. That was up until the 'Tugging Shedmaster' tour that ran through Crewe EMD. Amongst the photos of Class 90's and 92's I noticed a photo of 08737 at the Chester end of the shed, the photo gave me the impression it was being used, as it was stabled ahead of an active Class 90 on one of the centre roads outside the shed. Again I enquired with my contacts and it appears to shunter is indeed being used as one of the depot pilots. The loco is being used as mentioned earlier at the Chester end of the shed whilst 08495 (again officially stored) appears to be the Crewe end pilot. The pciture I am referring to is not mine, but can be viewed here

The loco has been a long term North West resident with long spells at Allerton and Crewe. In the 90's the loco received Railfreight Distribution livery which I have always thought was one of the best schemes applied to any loco. In the early to mid 2000's when I was starting to become more interested in the hobby, the loco as apart of EWS's WSNW pool based at Allerton and could be found on Allerton or at Trafford Park or Warrington. I was extremely lucky in 2003 to have my work experience placement at EWS' Allerton TMD arranged by a family friend who was a fitter at Allerton. This was an opportunity that I will always be extremely grateful for and was probably the best 2 weeks in work I have ever had. At the time, 08737 was outstationed at Trafford Park and along with fellow Trafford Park resident 09020, was due an exam. For small routine exams (A+B) these were done out 'in the field' so again I went along to the Euroterminal at Trafford Park.  At this point the loco was had its RFD branding crudely painted over with black paint on one side and was starting to look scruffy. But on the inside, there was nothing wrong with this workhorse. In the years afterwards it made it back to Allerton when due bigger repairs. EWS had a major shunter cull in 2004 and 08737 was stored, the official/technical reason for storage was an 'Oil Leak'. The loco languished outside at Allerton for months, but was never touched for parts as such. It was not uncommon at Allerton (similar to how Crewe are using shunters at the moment) for shunters that had stood outside out of use for months on end, albeit with minor faults, to be brought in for quick repairs and to be used as Depot Pilots. 08737 is an example of this as well as 08802,08925 and 08946 to mention over the years. This was the case with 737 and it did see use as pilot. In late 2005, a major overhaul was sanctioned and this heavy work was undertaken at Allerton. This also saw the loco receive a repaint in to EWS colours, but the revised 'More yellow' version which saw the yellow/gold band extend to the top of the bonnet doors. After repairs the loco was reinstated and was based on Allerton for some time before being moved on, again seeing use at Trafford Park amongst other places. With EWS moving away from regional allocations and being more central, in recent years the loco has stretched its legs working in the North East, South Wales and the South West.

With that history lesson out of the way, The Chester end of Crewe can be quite hard to photograph. Passing trains are a possibility depending on whether anything is blocking the view. There was also a view from a fence that is in the perimeter of a nursing care home but this has recently been taken over and the owners have installed new 'Private Land' signs on the car park so isn't advised. I'm kind of hoping that with the issues being seen with the DB fleet, and the shortage of serviceable 08's, 737 may eventually get back out. It appears to have been an extremely reliable and dependable machine over the years and surely should be authorised this exam! :-p Joking aside, never rule anything out with this one.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Local scene Monday 23rd February

With the weather not forecast to be that great, I decided not to venture too far today. As it happens, the sun came out and despite the wind, it was actually a rather pleasant day. A quick check of the loco lists in the morning set the itinerary for the day.
First of all, the Monday morning 4F64 Crewe Basford Hall-Garston FLT service is generally used as a loco ferry to begin the weeks services. Shown down for this today were Class 86's 86612+86622 accompanied by 90042. They are pictured below amongst the shadows.

The pair of cans scheduled to later run light engine 0F72 to Ditton and then down to Ipswich on service 4L92. The locos normally stay on the service for the remainder of the week, however, typing this on Tuesday the locos are showing as being due back at Crewe from Garston (4K64) this afternoon with 66954 scheduled to work to Ditton (and Ipswich) later. I'm not entirely sure why this is, I can only assume an exam is due or there is a minor fault with one of the locos. Regardless the pair did indeed run light in glorious sunshine on Monday and I caught them on the approach to Ditton.

90042 formed the usual 90 return 4K64 to Basford Hall, and for this I scooted across to Runcorn station

Whilst on Runcorn station, Class 66 66623 arrived on the Folly Lane branch with the 6F33 Bredbury-Runcorn Folly Lane. The loco currently carries an interim livery, based on the blue of its former Bardon Aggregates scheme. With the Bardon contract now in the hands of GBRf, the loco has had all the branding removed and has had it replaced with the new Freightliner logo. Sadly the sun sits in the wrong position for trying to get a perfect photo of this train at the time of day it arrives.

After arrival the terminal, the loco is detached and runs round were it is hooked up to the waiting wagons to form the 6H36 13:30 Runcorn Folly Lane-Northenden return.

The loco stays on site for just over an hour, before departing and rejoining the WCML at Runcorn before veering off at Hartford jcn.

At Runcorn East station, the Arriva Trains Wales 09:50 Manchester Piccadilly-Holyhead 'Loco Hauled' service had a loco change. ATW liveried 67001 which must have needed surgically removing from the set was on a B exam at Crewe and was replaced with EWS liveried 67020. DVT 82308 was on the rear.

Back to Halebank and the Fiddlers Ferry-Liverpool Bulk Terminal coal empties was in the hands of DB Schenker's 'Super 60' 60044. A new loco to me, I was aware it was on the circuit but hadn't had an opportunity to get out and see it for myself. Until now...

Another loco that had been in the area over the last week was GBRf 66721. The loco carries a special livery commemorating the London Tube and was on the Liverpool-Ironbridge Biomass circuit along with 66708 and 66713. Today the loco was forming the 4F61 Ironbridge-Tuebrook Sidings empties. After weighing up where best to go for it, Acton Bridge, Earlestown, Warrington Bank Quay, Winwick Junction, I decided due to the time of day, position of the sun, and the disappearing light that Rainhill station would be best (and most convenient!).

Also noted on the day, was Northern Rail 319364 on test between Crewe and Liverpool South Parkway. The loco carries a sleek version of Northern Rail livery with 'Northern Electrics' branding. A lot of promotional material for 'Northern Electrics' has started to appear on board trains and stations however Northern have no idea at present when exactly the electrification works will be finished allowing the introduction of these units on services between Liverpool and Manchester.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

LH Group, Barton-under-Needwood

LH Group services in Barton-under-Needwood has for the past few years been one of the major shunter overhaul/repair centres. Now a part of the Wabtec Rail group, the company has customers such as Freightliner, GBRF and more recently East Midlands Trains, sending Class 08/09 shunters for attention. The company also receives a lot of the industrial classes of shunting locomotives so are kept busy!

I had several reasons for wanting to visit the site in Derbyshire. Besides the fact that I am a Gronk fan, it was the arrival of EMT 08690 at the end of January that made a visit a priority! Normally based at Leeds Neville Hill, its not exactly one of the easiest shunters to spot. Coupled to the fact that it carries a variation of Stagecoach EMT Livery, a livery that sits well on the 08 I might add, I knew I had to take this chance, this chance was Monday 2nd February 2015.

Also as mentioned above, this is the base were Freightliner's 0-6-0 fleet are maintained. Freightliner's fleet has struggled over the past few years, with availability on the floor in more recent times. Locations such as Felixstowe, Southampton Maritime and Trafford Park still have dedicated pilots, whilst locations such as Coatbridge FLT in Glasgow and Garston FLT have lost theirs. With Trafford Park being the only location named there that is 'local' to myself, it is quite rare for me to see a 'Green Team' 08 these days.

Listed as being on site that day from the FL fleet were 08530, 08575 and 08891. 08530 arrived here in January for a D exam, and unfortunately was tucked up inside the shed (doors closed) so was not viewable. 08575 arrived in 2014 and has joined long stored 08891 in the compound. 575 was involved in a shunting accident at Southampton a few years back, which also involved a Class 66 and 08077. The 08's were pushed through the buffer stops and 08077 never worked again. 08575 did see some use as the pilot but has been laid up for sometime now. 08077 was the spares donor at LH group after the accident and was scrapped on site last year. 08575 appears to have taken its place, although appears largely intact 6 months on. The same can not be said however for 08891, which has been robbed of parts and makes a sad sight. This loco is another reason for my visit, having a bit of a personal connection with it. For many years, it was based at Garston FLT in faded BR blue. Maintenance was done locally at Allerton TMD so I'm more than familiar with it. It was removed from Garston circa 2004 (replaced by 08624 for the record) for some major attention. Following a full overhaul and repaint in to Freightliner Green/Yellow it appeared to have a bright future ahead of it taking up residence at Southampton. Sadly, it was never the same and suffered reliability issues over the next couple of years. Eventually it was laid up at Maritime and transferred over to Barton in May 2008 for repairs to it's cylinder heads and gaskets amongst other things. Sadly the repairs have never happened and the loco is now one of the spares donors on site, it's future looking somewhat bleak.

Also onsite was GBRf's 08934 which had arrived for repairs from Cardiff Tidal in Summer 2014. The Cardiff job is a rather punishing one for the shunters and shifted cranks are a regular occurrence. Owned outright by GBRf, it carries what is a variation of BR green. At the time of my visit, the shunter was outside the shed having the finishing touches done to it. It was moved on to Whitemoor Yard, March just 3 days later, in turn releasing former Allerton Gronk 08925 to take on the Cardiff job.

Hunslet Engine Company had 08913 on site undergoing a major overhaul. The loco is in bits, with the empty frame sat in the yard whilst the interior components are no doubt being overhauled. The radiator nose end is sat on the floor next to the loco making an interesting sight. This loco carries Malcolm Rail livery, which consists of a yellow roof and a yellow/blue/green body. Despite being rather unusual, a far cry from the standard BR Blue painted enmass from the 70's, the livery actually looks quite good! The loco had arrived from Daventry after being replaced by DRS Class 37 'Super Shunters'.

Also from Hunslet is 08393 still carrying EWS livery. The loco was bought from the EMR Kingsbury scrapyard, initially for spares but was found to be in very good condition so is here for repairs. Not much appears to have happened so far and presumably with the works current workload, its fairly low down on the list of priorities.

All in all, a very productive visit.

Loco's on site that day included,

08393 - Hunslet - EWS livery 
08530 - Freightliner (inside shed)
08575 - Freightliner 
08596 - Wabtec black 
08690 - East Midland Trains 
08891 - Freightliner 
08913 - Hunslet - Malcolm livery

08934 - GBRf - BR Green

Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Liverpool Rail Scene - A year on

After having lost a little bit of interest in the rail scene, it was the arrival of 08924 at Garston terminal in February 2014 that changed that. The transfer of the car contract from DB Schenker to GBRf may have stopped daily DB Class 90's to Garston, but the sight of the humble Class 08 shunter making a comeback in South Liverpool more than made up for that. I grew up with the sound of Class 08 shunters everyday, living in front of Allerton depot. With the closure of the depot back in 2009, the sight and sound of these machines going about their business, which I had took for granted in later years, came to an abrupt end. The arrival of 08924, a former Allerton engine brought it all back, the thrash and the growl out of the 0-6-0.  But this was just the start, I didn't realise how interesting and varied the local freight scene had became. As well as GBRf operating the car traffic, they also have a biomass contract running several trains daily between Ironbridge Power Station and Liverpool Bulk Terminal. Later this year, they will also start running trains to Drax as well as introducing a fuelling point at the Bulk Terminal.
 DB still have a presence in the area, with the Fiddlers Ferry coal circuit as well as the thriving Halewood Jaguar traffic that runs to Southampton. DB currently provide traction for Network Rail test trains (as well as DRS). Freightliner have perhaps the largest influence in the area, with the Freightliner terminal at Garston generating plenty of intermodal traffic, and also the yard at Garston for which is used by their Heavy Haul division with the trains operating on the Ellesmere Port and Fiddlers Ferry circuit.  Ditton Yard just outside of Liverpool is busy with both DB Schenker an Freightliner.

So one year on from picking up the camera once more, I've been fortunate enough to capture some interesting movements. This post is just to highlight the variety on offer with the local scene, long may it continue!

Below are a selection of my favourite pictures.

Liverpool Lime Street

47790 is started up at Liverpool Lime Street after arriving on the rear of the Northern Belle from Edinburgh to Chester on Saturday 09/08/2014. 57307 'Lady Penelope' was at the other end of the train, marking the start of the changeover to Class 57's on the Belle. 47790 is now, 6 months on, still soldering on and is still putting in regular shifts on the Belle, despite now being classed as the 'Stand by' loco. Considered to be probably the most reliable 47 in the DRS fleet, the loco is currently in Norwich for the Anglia 'Short Set' workings.

Garston FLT

90049 arrives light engine on 0F64 from Crewe Basford Hall. The loco later formed the 4K64 service back to Crewe. Monday 29/12/2014

86612+90047 have just arrived at Garston Church Road with the 4F64 Crewe Basford Hall-Garston FLT on 24/11/2014.  The locos are seen running round the train to shunt it in to the Freightliner Terminal. 86612 would go on to work the lunchtime 4K64 Garston FLT-Crewe Basford Hall return (normally a 90 turn) and 90047 would run light to Ditton 0F72 to then work the 4L92 Ditton to Felixstowe (normally an 86 turn)

90048 drags 66418+70015 on the Saturdays only 4K64 09:12 Garston to Crewe Basford Hall. The 90 would then spend the weekend at Crewe with the 'Shed', but 70015 was dragged to Leeds Midland Road depot for maintenance shortly after arrival in Cheshire. The date was 27/10/2014.

Garston Car Terminal

08924+66760 sit in the sidings at Garston Car Terminal. Whilst the shunter is well over 50 years old, this particular 66 was just months old when pictured on 19/01/2015. The loco had just worked up from Dagenham with a train of Ford vehicles which is normally in the hands of a Class 92 electric, hence the need to have a diesel shunter on site.

A few weeks later, and after a brief return to Class 92 haulage, 66709 'Sorrento' is the weeks loco for the 6X41 00:32 Dagenham Dock to Garston Car Terminal. Currently carrying a special livery that celebrates the 10 year partnership between GBRf and Mediterranean Shipping company (MSC). 66709 is no stranger to special liveries as prior to its current application, it carried a variation of GBRf livery for 'Medite'. The loco will work back south with the empties on 6L48 15:49 to Dagenham Dock.

08924 is hard at work on Bank Holiday Monday 05/05/2014 bringing out the empty wagons after unloading and forming the train for the return to Dagenham to do it all over again the next day. This picture was taken from the road bridge on Speke Hall Avenue. The stretch between Liverpool South Parkway/Garston FLT and Halewood is particularly difficult for photography with the lineside being occupied by warehouses and factories and the next open station being Runcorn. As ever with this hobby, being imaginative you can find and create opportunities. Google Earth/Maps is actually a really useful tool here. Long live the Gronk!


On Friday 19th September 2014, 57009 powers through Halewood with an evening Northern Belle charter from Chester to Barrow via Liverpool LS (and return). 57302 'Chad Varah' was on the rear of the train. I've always had a soft spot for the 57/0's ever since they would scream through Allerton/Liverpool South Parkway stations with Freightliner workings from Seaforth....those were the days.

90046 passes through Halewood working the 4K64 11:50 Garston FLT-Crewe Basford Hall liner on 09/09/2014.This service runs Monday-Friday at this time and slightly earlier on a Saturday, and is booked for Class 90 haulage. In reality, any class of locomotive in the Freightliner Intermodal fleet can turn up on the job. 90046 along with 90047 are probably my most photographed Class 90's (if not locomotives)

Ditton Reception Sidings

90049 powers out of Ditton Reception Sidings with the 14:03 Ditton O'Connor-Felixstowe North FLT. Normally in the hands of a pair of Class 86 locomotives, this diagram has seen 90's being used more regularly as of late. I had been waiting sometime to get a Powerhaul liveried Class 90 at Ditton for sometime!

66192 drags 92016 in to Ditton Reception sidings from the Foundry Lane Complex. The 92 had brought service 6M14 north from Dollands Moor earlier that morning carrying coiled aluminium. The service originates from Germany and makes its way across DB's European network to the Channel Tunnel, Dollands Moor and then on to Cheshire. It is believed the aluminium is then forwarded by road to Carlisle. The return working to Germany (6O16 to Dollands Moor) is also loaded. With the small complex at Foundry Lane not being electrified, the use of a class 66 is needed to shunt the train in and out of the yard. The 66 runs light from Warrington Arpley to the headshunt at Ditton where it stables until the 92 arrives. The 92 runs right up to the 66 and the whole train is coupled up and pushed back in to the terminal. This is the reason why the pantograph is down in this picture. A minute or two later and the Pan is up, locos uncoupled and the 92 is ready to run light to Crewe EMD. The 66 either returns light to Arpley, or can run light to Halewood Jaguar to take over from one of the locos on that circuit that may require an exam/maintenance. As of late, this traffic has been in the hands of Class 66's to/from Dollands Moor. This is believed to be down to DB Schenker looking to send more Class 92's overseas due to the expensive operating costs of the Class 92's. They are rumoured to be getting replaced with Class 90's (in pairs in some cases). I live in hope that a 90 (or even a pair) turn up on this working in the near future.

66504 at Ditton Reception sidings after shunting the 4L92 service out of Ditton FLT. I wrote about this service in more detail on this blog a couple of weeks back here

Warrington Arpley 

In a scene that would more likely be several years ago, two shunters in Warrington Yard at the same time. 09106 on the left sits between duties whilst 08623 is at the tail end of its C Exam. A few days later and 09106 was sent up to Knottingley and 08623 became yard pilot at Arpley. Again, a few weeks back I spoke about these shunters on this blog here

60024 is shunted into the servicing shed at Arpley by 09106. Although a rather large oil stain is visible on the side of the loco, it must not have been too serious as it was back in traffic on the Fiddlers Ferry circuit just the next day.

08623 sits in the yard at Arpley after taking over pilot duties from 09106 after its departure to Knottingley that morning.

Winwick Jcn

90034 powers south with the 4M25 Mossend-Daventry intermodal. Despite the rather uninspiring livery and branding, this service is DB Schenker operated and is normally a Class 92 turn. The 90 was thrown on at the last minute after the booked 92 couldn't be woken up that morning. It returned north later on with a lighter loaded northbound working. The date was 16/01/2015.

Recently reinstated 90035 slows as it nears journeys end (Warrington Royal Mail Terminal). This was an extra service that ran during the month of December with the extra mail generated during Christmas season. The result was quite pleasing personally despite the dull conditions of 22/12/2014!

90043+90045 roar through Winwick with the 4M01 Coatbridge FLT-Crewe Basford Hall on Saturday 20/09/2014. Again the light wasn't ideal but the sight of a pair of Freightliner 90's on the front a train makes an impressive sight no matter the conditions.

Now my pictures aren't the best in the world, and aren't necessarily for the purist. Photography is new to me and I'm learning everyday. I take these photos for the enjoyment of the hobby first and foremost and to be honest I'm thrilled with some of my more recent work.

To keep up to date with my adventures, please visit my flickr page and follow me, I will always follow back.

Other good reference sites for the hobby in the area are 8A Rail and wwwagons (for daily loco lists as well as lots of information posted daily).
Realtime trains is an essential tool now and can provide live information on freight and passenger services.

As ever, thanks for reading!