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Golden oldies continue to play their tune

The ‘86/1’ and ‘87’ were already certified for main line work, but had seen little use in recent years before the CS deal and there were concerns regarding their future. The ‘86/4’ had a far bleaker future before the CS deal came to fruition but it returned to the main line more than a decade after EWS withdrew it and it subsequently became the first Class 86 to be preserved. Unlike the ‘86/1’ and ‘87’ it has yet to haul a CS train between England and Scotland, but it has hauled a passenger train from Euston to Wembley when the ‘Sleepers’ were diverted via the East Coast Main Line due to flooding at Carlisle. 

Finally, 59003 Yeoman Highlander entered traffic with GBRf in October 2015, hauling trains between Port of Liverpool and Tuebrook Sidings. It was bought in 2014 having been out of use in Germany, where it had been exported in 1997 after Foster Yeoman (which owned it at the time) felt it was surplus to requirements in the UK. Its haulage capabilities were attractive to GBRf and in October 2014 it arrived back in the UK and was returned to traffic by Arlington Fleet Services. The ‘59/0’ is the only member of its class in GBRf’s fleet, something that is likely to remain the case. 

Back to HNRC. The company, as well as supplying locomotives to GBRf also supplies Colas Rail with Class 37s.

The freight operator was awarded the Infrastructure Monitoring (IM) contract by Network Rail in 2015, replacing DB Schenker (DB). This meant a change in traction. Previously IM trains were hauled by NR Class 31s and Class 37s hired from DRS. Additionally Class 67s hired from DB were also used, as were Class 73s. The latter deal remains in place, but Colas has started using its own Class 37s for these duties; and all were bought from preservation. 

Colas currently owns nine Class 37s (37057, 37116/146/175/188, 37207/219/254, 37421) of which five are operational (37057, 37116/175, 37219, 37421).

Before it won the IM deal, Colas had bought four from preservation (37116/175, 37219, 37421) and two had been returned to traffic (37175, 37219) last year. Initially used on railhead treatment trains they were sent to HNRC for repairs before entering traffic on the NR trains.

HNRC reached an agreement to hire its own Class 37s to the operator. There was an urgent need for Class 37/0s capable of 90mph for these trains, and so a deal was agreed that preserved D6757 (37057), which had only just been returned to operational condition and which had been withdrawn by EWS in December 2004 would be hired to Colas. A need for up to ten Class 37s had HNRC charged with finding suitable locomotives.

It identified a number of suitable candidates, and, following negotiations, it bought 37146 from a private individual who also owns preserved 37674 and 47785, 37188 from John Ball at Peak Rail and 37207 from the Plym Valley Railway. 

None had worked in preservation. HNRC told RAIL in July that the reason for buying locomotives that had never worked in preservation made sense because of the economics. 

Operational locomotives were more expensive, which meant that the budget provided by Colas Rail would not go as far. Included in the six-figure sum for each locomotive was the purchase price, overhaul cost and equipment purchase. Each locomotive required fitting with relevant safety systems and HNRC also had to make a profit to make the project worthwhile.

HNRC reports that some deals were scuppered because of the high prices quoted by some preservationists. Some of those bought were partially restored (37207) or work had stopped following the beginning of restoration (37146/188). When they return to traffic this year, 37188 and 37207 will not have hauled trains in 20 years, having both been withdrawn by EWS in 1996, while 37146 was withdrawn in October 2000 having returned from hire in France.

A deal was subsequently agreed for Colas Rail to buy the locomotives from HNRC. The freight company then took its chequebook out and after HNRC identified locomotives, it bought them directly from preservation. 

The stranger in the fleet is 37254, which was bought from preservation by Colas Rail. It was operational at the Spa Valley Railway and requires less work than the others. Not surprisingly it has jumped the overhaul queue at Barrow Hill. It is expected to be the sixth ‘37’ entering the main line fleet and will be released in January. 

The company is believed to be in the market for more Class 37s. Rumours persist that another ‘37/0’ and a ‘37/4’ could be bound for the main line, with the former replacing 37421 in the IM fleet and the two ‘37/4s’ being used by Colas Rail on a new contract. 

Additionally, Colas Rail is working on using its three Class 47s on IM trains capable of running at 100mph. This, so far, has not required HNRC to supply some of its own Class 47s, with Colas confident its own 47727/739/749 can be used. However, HNRC has spoken in recent months of the possibility of its ‘47s’ being made available for Colas for various work.

Colas Rail has not just been buying ‘37s’ and returning them to traffic - Class 60s have also been reactivated.

The company bought ten of the Type 5s from DB and the last of these returned to action this year. The majority had been stored for several years as DB downsized its need for the Class 60 fleet. 

Colas identified a number of opportunities to win new flows across the UK that would make use of the strength of the Class 60s, and so all ten were put through the ‘Super Sixty’ overhaul programme at Toton. 

DB was contracted for this work, which entails the locomotives being stripped and rebuilt using overhauled components. This was the first time the class has been put through such work, and the Colas ten follow 20 completed by DB. 

HNRC was also responsible for returning 47830 to traffic for Freightliner (FL). The Type 4 was resurrected to haul wagons for repair between Leeds and York, releasing Class 66s for this duty. It was repainted into two-tone BR green, and has been hired to West Coast Railways for charter work. Rail Operations Group (ROG) has also used the locomotive on several occasions. 

The work the ‘47’ was reactivated for has stopped operating. It is based at Leeds Midland Road and was named Beeching’s Legacy at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Freightliner at the National Railway Museum in November 2015. 

FL owns two other Class 47/8s (47811/816) and these are now unlikely to be re-activated. RAIL understands there is interest from other parties in buying.

HNRC itself has been active in the locomotive purchasing market. It has added 20087, 20110, 31235/255/285, 31465 to its main line fleet, while 08500/578, 08653, 08700/701/711/714, 08824/865/877, 08944/994, 09006 and 09201 have been added to its shunting fleet. Of these, only 08711 will be broken up for spares with the rest having a future with Needle suggesting that there is a growing need for Class 08s and 09s. All but two were bought via DB tender lists, with 08700 and 08944 bought from preservation. Already 08700 is on contract hire to Bombardier at Ilford. 

The Class 31s were bought in 2015 from preservation (31235/255) and Network Rail (31285, 31465). So far none have returned to use, but HNRC has plans to certify all four for main line for contract hire. The need for locomotives is high among companies contracted by Network Rail to operate National Supply Chain (NSC) contracts. 

The two bought from preservation have yet to leave their current bases. At the Mid-Norfolk Railway 31235 remains stored having suffered a major engine failure in October 2014 before HNRC bought it. The locomotive is sat on good quality bogies, which attracted HNRC. It was withdrawn by Transrail in September 1995 and had been a regular performer at the heritage railway.

At the Colne Valley Railway (CVR) 31255 is operational. It was withdrawn by EWS in January 1999. Both these Class 31s are destined for Barrow Hill and reactivation, but have been overtaken in the queue by 31285 and 31465. Both were sold by NR this year, with the former at Exeter Riverside having failed with a wheelset problem, and the latter deemed ‘life-expired’. The Class 31/1 is destined for Barrow Hill, while the latter has moved by road to Long Marston where it will be used for shunting purposes before it is hired to main line operators.



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  • FrankH - 25/02/2016 03:51

    I'm surprised no freight operator took an option to to buy any of the refurbished class 86 and 87's that went to Europe. The Wembley Euro Freight centre - Daventry - Coatbridge/Mossend route would've been ideal for them. It's a pity the 92's rotting at Crewe arn't in anyones minds, 1 of those = a 1600 ton train over shap and beatock vs 2 66's or 2 86's/90's. DB reckons they're a lot more expensive to run vs a 90 which may be why they've stopped using them, or is it because they now have spare 90's having lost the CS sleeper contract.

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