Wednesday the 17th February brought down the curtain on the career of possibly the greatest Class of AC Electric locomotive ever built in the UK. The humble Class 86, or AL6 as they were introduced, have been an ever present since they were introduced in the 1960's. Equally at home on express passenger services or freight, the class has stood the test of time.
They have been an ever present in the Freightliner fleet since privatization, with an initial fleet of 30 locomotives. In recent years, the operational fleet was maintained at a static 16 locomotives with additional locomotives purchased for spare parts etc.
2020 saw the first withdrawal's as Freightliner planned to remove the type from service with the ex Greater Anglia Class 90's, which themselves were being replaced on the Intercity services between Norwich and London Liverpool Street. The COVID-19 pandemic saw this accelerated with reduced timetables coming in to play. The type working their last passenger services in March 2020 and 13 locomotives released to Freightliner shortly afterwards.
As the Class 86's become due more expensive attention, they were removed from traffic, with 86610 becoming the first to be stood down in January 2020. The reason for it's withdrawal being that it's wheelsets were worn down and needed replacing. With no major exams/repairs being sanctioned, it was initially kept 'warm' at Crewe pending developments. In the end nothing came and the loco has remained stored for the duration, now parked at the head of the storage line at Crewe in an unwired siding.
|In miserable conditions, with a dark grey sky and the rain coming down, things soon brightened up with the appearance of 86610 and 86609 on the Saturdays only 4K64 0916 Garston FLT - Crewe Basford Hall intermodal run on 02/11/2019.|
86614 was the second to be stood down in April followed by 86627 in May. An unlikely reprieve came for 86614 however with the loco reinstated in May lasting a further 5 months until finally being stood down in October. 86605 and 86612 were both removed from traffic in June and 86628 with a blown transformer followed in July. The fleet was maintained at 11 locomotives until 86614's above mentioned second storage in October.
|86614 86639 4L60 Halebank 13/07/2020.|
The final 10 being 86604, 86607, 86608, 86609, 86613, 86622, 86632, 86637, 86638 and 86639. Only 9 would see 2020 out with the first 'Powerhaul' liveried member of the Class 86622 succumbing in November to brake rigging issues.
|86637 86638 4M45 Halewood East Jn. 22/12/20|
On Friday 20th November, 86632 along with 90049, was dragged to Leeds Midland Road for tyre turning. On site until the 17th December, the pair were returned to Cheshire behind 66590 on 0M86. 86632 returned to action on the 21st December working with 86607, initially running light engines to Garston FLT along with 66518 and 66567. The pair worked the 4L60 19:46 Garston FLT to Felixstowe later that evening as far as Ipswich. By the middle of the week the same pair were working between Trafford Park and Ipswich with 86637 and 86638 having taken over on the 4M45/4L60 Ipswich - Garston circuit. Wednesday 23rd December 86638 and 86637 worked 4L60 off Garston and the next mornings return from Ipswich as far as Crewe, where they were replaced by a 66543. I believe this was the final working of 86637 which was out of hours and due for a B exam.
|86609 86604 4M11 Hartford. 21/10/2020.|
Although no longer booked for Anglo-Scottish turns, the services they had long been in charge of, there was a return to these workings in December with 86609 and 86604 appearing. Seeing in 2021 the final 9 were all in a serviceable status on New Years day with the exception of 86637 which was showing in 'X' status at Crewe indicating it was receiving attention. The loco did not return to service and with no action in 2021 for it, was officially stored on the 5th January.
|86604 86613 4M45 Halewood East Jn. 27/11/2020.|
86604, which had been quite the survivor having been run on very thin tyres for some time, could not escape the chop any longer and it's last working was the 0Z47 15:00 Trafford to Crewe Basford Hall Route Learner on 15/01/2021.
|86604 86613 4M45 Halewood East Jun. 26/11/2020.|
|86607 86608 66420 4K83 Halebank. 16/01/2021.|
86638 quietly slipped out of service on 21st January despite having 120 hours left available for it to run. It's final working by my records being the same as 86637's on Christmas eve and had sat at Basford Hall, received an exam between Christmas and New Year (hence the 120 hours) before a mechanical issue surfaced and the loco was not to run again.
|86608 86607 4M83 1033 Coatbridge F.L.T. to Crewe Bas Hall S.S.M. 17/08/2019.|
86608 and 86639 worked from Ipswich with the 4M87 11:13 Felixstowe North-Trafford Park on 21/01/2021. After running back to Crewe from Manchester, 86608 was put to store. 86639 worked for one further day to use up it's hours, with some training runs between Crewe BH and Trafford Park FLT. It's final run back to Crewe being the 0Z43 13:05 from Trafford.
The final 2 loco's standing being 86613 and 86632. On the 25th January 86613 was sensationally allocated to 4M98 23:09 Crewe Basford Hall to Garston FLT and the 4O14 return the following morning.
|86613 86632 0K83 Acton Bridge. 19/10/2019.|
The final Southbound liner was the 4L60 Garston to Felixstowe North FLT (to Ipswich) which saw 86632 and 86613 perform the honours on the 4th February. The pair to Crewe the next morning on 4M45 and were replaced there by 66508, as that evenings departure from Garston was planned to take the cross country route requiring the use of diesel traction and running as 4L61.
|86632 86613 4L60 Hartford. 04.02.2021.|
86613 lasted until the 9th February, it's final runs being 0Z90 Crewe BH to Northampton 'Route Learner' and 0Z91 return.
86632 as the 'Last Can Standing' was deployed to these route learners also. Although planned to run on for a couple more days, a split pipe on the compressor brought its career to an end, and on the 16th February the loco ran back to Crewe BH on 0Z91 for the final time.
|86632 86605 4M45 Halebank. 22.01.2021.|
As for the future, no one really knows what it holds anymore. Freightliner had themselves, prior to Covid, stated that they intended to withdraw the locos, before putting a number of them through an overhaul programme at a later date, to allow it to expand its electric operated services. Depending on who you ask this is/isn't happening. Time will tell what the future holds for 16 of the most resilient and battle tested locomotives to ever run on British Rails.