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.

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 :-)