The Fall and Rise of The Class 60

In 2017 the Class 60 locomotive had become the mainstay of haulage on the bitumen tankers in and out of Preston Dock.

The Class 60 arose from the arrival, and subsequent success, of the Class 59 locomotive. With a haulage capacity and reliability superior to the Class 31, 37 and 47 locomotives in sector service at the time, Trainload Petroleum, Metals, Construction and Coal were prompted to lobby for a new UK designed locomotive to match it. British Rail Board eventually secured the
necessary treasury funding and following a difficult procurement process, the contract was finally awarded to Brush Electrical Machines of Loughborough on May 17, 1988 for 100 locomotives.

Brush’s design incorporated many features from the Class 59’s specification, as well as their own Sepex traction control system, tested on the Class 58, to improve adhesion. The Class 60s were geared for a maximum speed of 62 mph, the power units being eight cylinder, 145 litre Blackstone 8MB275T diesel traction engines built by Mirrlees at their Stockport works, delivering a maximum power output of 3,100hp at 1000rpm.

The bodyshell, shared with the Class 92 locomotives, was of a monocoque, stressed skin construction with diagonal trusses, the external bodywork providing support for the internal components and all were built by Procor (UK) of Wakefield.
The first locomotive was handed over to Railfreight on time, in June 1989, but extensive teething problems (many involving computer software), meant that it took sixteen months before the first of the Class were accepted and nearly four years to introduce all 100 of the Class 60 locomotives to service. By the time the Class 60 fleet entered service, Trainload’s Sector businesses had given way to “shadow” privatisation and the formation, in 1994, of Loadhaul, Transrail and Mainline Freight with the Class 60 fleet split equally between them. English, Welsh and Scottish Railway bought the whole Class 60 fleet as part of British Railway’s privatisation, reallocating the entire Class 60 fleet to Toton as a cost cutting measure and to pool common parts. By 2003/4, a number of locomotives were stored as surplus to operational requirements.
In 2007 EWS became part of DB Schenker and at the end of October 2010, the entire Class 60 fleet was mothballed, with the exception of 60040 The Territorial Army Centenary and 60074 Teenage Cancer Trust. By the end of 2011, two more locomotives were returned to service, followed by an announcement that twenty one further Class 60s were to be overhauled in 2012, this being completed by the end of 2013. In June 2014, Colas Rail purchased ten locomotives and by February 2016 there were twenty four
operational locomotives.

Many of Colas Class 60’s have become regulars on the Preston Dock working of Bitumen Tankers from Lindsey Oil Refinery. One in particular is 60087.

The first Class 60 to appear in the Colas yellow and orange livery was 60087. Built at Brush Traction in December 2003 with the works no.989, locomotive 60087 was named as ‘Slioch’ to December 2003, before then being renamed ‘Barry Needham’ from May 2004, the only Class 60 to have its original name transferred to another class member (locomotive 60069). At a ceremony at Long Marston in June 2014, 60087 was renamed once more, as ‘CLIC Sargent’ – Colas celebrated their 10th Birthday in September in 2017.

Colas Class 60’s  (2017)

002, 021, 026, 047, 056, 076, 085, 087, 095, 096

 Colas Rail is a rail freight company, formerly known as Seco Rail. In January 2008, Colas merged its Seco Rail operations with its other rail subsidiary AMEC-Spie, under the new operating name of Colas Rail, and also acquired the Plant division of Carillion Rail which was included in the new group.

In 2007, it took charge of the Kronospan timber flow from Carlisle to Chirk. This was previously in the hands of AMEC-Spie and subsequently became Colas’ first regular freight contract, run by hired-in locomotives. Also in 2007, it purchased three Class 47 diesel locomotives from EWS. All three were overhauled at Eastleigh Works and in

September 2007, commenced operating railhead treatment trains in South West England for Network Rail.

In late 2008, it commenced operating steel trains from Immingham to Washwood Heath with Class 56s hired from Hanson Traction. In 2009, it commenced a further steel flow from Burton upon Trent to Dollands Moor using its own Class 47s.

In late 2009, Colas leased four Class 66s (66841–66844) that had last been used by Advenza Freight. These were joined by 66845 that had last been used by Direct Rail Services. Following their owners concluding a deal to lease all five to GB Railfreight, it purchased five (66846–66850) that had previously been used by Freightliner. This coincided with Colas entering the UK coal haulage market. In 2012, Colas purchased four Class 56s. By January 2014, it had purchased 11. In 2012, 86701 was briefly operated on a trial service on the West Coast Main Line hauling former First Great Western Motorail wagons. In May 2012, Colas purchased the

Pullman Rail rolling stock maintenance business in Cardiff.

In April 2013, Colas formed a joint venture with the Go-Ahead Group to bid for the concession to operate the Docklands Light Railway but later withdrew. In November 2013, it placed an order for 10 Class 70s. At the same time it purchased four Class 37s.

In 2014, Colas purchased 10 Class 60s from DB Schenker with an option to purchase a further 10. In 2015, it commenced operating infrastructure trains for Network Rail. To operate these a further four Class 37s were  purchased. It also owns and operates a mixed fleet of on-track plant for maintenance operations.


Bitumen Trains – The Story So Far

The 6M32 (loaded) and 6E32 (empty) bitumen trains between Lindsey Oil Refinery and Preston Docks always attract attention as they cross the country from coast to coast – not least because it is one of the few regular freight workings over the Copy Pit line.

Just two days before Christmas 2004, the mothballed Preston Docks branch saw the return of regular rail freight operations after a nine year absence in the form of a 10 year contract to move 110,000 tonnes of bitumen a year from Total’s Lindsey Oil Refinery in North Lincolnshire to Preston’s (ex-Lanfina) facility for tar production. Damage to an overbridge on the branch in 1995 initially looked like it had brought the curtain down on the 149-year-old rail service to the docks, with the bitumen tankers diverted to the Total (ex-Kelbit) site on the Haydock branch, near Ashton-in-Makerfield. Happily, 1999 saw trains head back to the redeveloped remains of the once extensive Preston Docks rail system in the form of the Ribble Steam Railway (RSR), which was formed from the ashes of the Steamport Southport group.

Significant repairs to the line followed over the next few years, including replacement of the busy level crossing on Strand Road with automatic half barriers, a new pipeline gantry over Leeward Road, and unloading equipment to connect the Total refinery after it had been severed from the railway. Four years later, in 2003, the first of two trials ran on September 29 as EWS machine No. 66084 brought a loaded set of TEAs from Lindsey. This test train was not without its problems, with the GM Type 5 struggling on the infamous 1-in-29 incline from the exchange sidings up to Preston station, resulting in Class 60s being diagrammed to power the heavy 1400 tonne trains when services restarted the following year. The load had proved difficult in BR days, with double-headed Class 31s and 37s mixing it with Class 47s in the 1980s on the heavier workings. The much more capable Class 56s took over in the early 1990s and continued after the changeover on Ashton services right up to the end of operations on the Haydock branch. A second trial took place on October 1, 2003, with No. 60012 providing the power for a set of the VTG-owned bogie bitumen tankers  between Wigan Springs Branch and Preston Docks.

Final approval to run freight trains was provided in August 2004. A series of route learning locos then visited the branch, and who could forget the   surprising visit of Ian Riley ‘Tractor’ No. 37197 with fire-damaged Corradia No.175008 to the docks for onward road movement in November 2004.    However, it was the turn of Brush heavy hauler No.60026 to kick-start Preston Docks’ rail-freight renaissance on December 23. Unfortunately, things did not go quite to plan, with malfunctioning discharge equipment resulting in the diversion of the loaded tanks to Ashton-in-Makerfield after Nos. 60088 (Mainline Freight grey) and 60091 (Trainload Coal) were sent to recover the motley collection of TEAs six days later. The return of bitumen trains to the docks had been intended to replace the services to Ashton, which was closed the following year and taken over by Hanson  Aggregates. The service from North Lincolnshire quickly settled down to a two or three times weekly operation, operating as a loaded 6M32 westbound train and a corresponding 6E32 return, the latter powering its way over the Copy Pit route during daylight hours with a photographer-friendly departure in the morning. On the Preston Docks branch, Ribble Rail, a subsidiary of the RSR, worked the loaded set of 14 TEAs in two portions over the 1.5 miles frorn the small bank of exchange sidings to the refinery (the siding can only accommodate seven wagons), having left the discharged vehicles for the Colas (previously DB Schenker and EWS) locomotive to collect. This approach ensures a fast turnaround time for the main line engine of less than an hour.

Ribble Rail often employs RSR Sentinels Enterprise or Progress on these trains, which traverse the well known dual-use road and rail swing bridge. Built in 1968, the 0-4-0 shunters are long-term residents of the northwest town, three of the locos having been purchased by the Preston Corporation for working freight on the dock system. There is a 1965-built sister, Energy, a former Manchester Ship Canal rnachine that arrived in Preston in March 2004 (assuming the identity of the third Preston Corporation Sentinel), while other   members of the extensive RSR fleet of former BR and industrial diesels have also seen use on the trains. While Class 66s showed their limitations during the trials in 2003, the enforced run-down of their Brush rivals in 2009 saw DB Schenker turn to the GM locos to cover the heavy trains as the Class 60 fleet was slashed to just a handful of working examples. The ‘Sheds’ monopolised 6E32 and 6M32 for the following couple of years, except in the autumn leaf-fall season when they were transferred to 51-ITT duties. But in 2011, the sight and sound of the eight-cylinder Mirrlees-powered machines returned to regular all-year-round bitumen train operation over the Pennines.

The next big change took place in November 2010, with a radical overhaul of the appearance of the train. Out went the ageing batch of Metro Cammell-designed CAIB/VTG 825xx and VTG 83xxx 102-tonne bitumen tankers, replaced by an impressive fleet of new ICA-G bogie wagons (UIC code Zaefns, Nos. 35 70 7790 000-29) assembled by Axiom Rail at the former Marcroft Engineering site in Stoke-on-Trent. Designed by Lloyds Register Rail with the tank barrels and underframes   manufactured by Clayton Commercials, the contract for the new tankers was signed in the summer of 2008, with delivery originally being planned from April 2009. The long delay was an embarrassment to the operator Total and the owner, VTG Rail UK. The wagon lessor had    specified an innovative design that would offer a higher level of insulation to keep the bitumen  between 160-180° more efficiently, as well as a new design of external heating coils that make cleaning the interiors a simpler and safer process. The design also called for TF25 track-friendly  bogies, a new valve system, which meant that workers no longer had to access the tops of the wagons to open the ‘manlids’, and a package of weight saving measures that would increase the payload to 74 tonnes. The wait was worthwhile, however, as the stylish black tanks – with silver strapping and yellow saddles – instantly became one of the most attractive freight trains on the network. The last revenue-earning run of the life-expired TEAs took place on November 26, 2010, as ‘Tug’ No. 60019 Pathfinder Tours worked the 6E32 empties back to the refinery at Lindsey.

The ICAs took over the following week, with both Class 60s and 66s powering the new wagons over their first month or so, with sometimes as few as seven vehicles forming a train. The usual maximum number of wagons is 14, although 15 (thus a 1500 tonne train) have been formed occasionally, testing the GM power to the limit. Currently, one of the Brush machines, usually one of Immingham’s ‘Super Tugs’, is just as likely to be in charge of the bitumen workings, which now run as often as four times weekly. However, there was a notable change from the norm on July 11, 2011, when route learner Class 59/2 No. 59205 L Keith McNair visited the Preston Docks branch with the 6M32 service some four-and-a-half-hours late after rescuing No. 66061, which had failed on the climb to Copy Pit summit.

The return service is the most favourable towards photographers. This departs the exchange sidings with the Ribble Railway in  Preston at about eight o’clock in the morning. Shots of the eastern end of the sidings are   available from the A59 Guild Way overbridge. Views along the rest of the branch are difficult, but not impossible. The first obstacle for 6E32 is the long crossing at Strand Road (A5072), which is passed after a call to Preston power box. After the steep climb to Preston station, where the RSR shunter jumps off, the bitumen empties join the West Coast Main One. The trip under the 25kV wires is short and none of the overbridges afford outstanding views. After the run to Farington Curve Junction, where the service climbs over the WCML to join the line to Blackburn at Lostock Hall Junction, there is a feast of opportunities for photographers for the remainder of 6E32’s journey east. This route was opened by the Blackburn & Preston Railway in the summer of 1846, with the line extending to Burnley in September 1848 under the auspices of the Blackburn, Burnley, Accrington & Colne Extension Railway. By this date both companies had been absorbed by the East Lancashire Railway. With plenty of overbridges along the route to Burnley there are numerous chances to catch the empties in action. 6E32 is usually recessed in the loop at Blackburn Bolton Junction for around 45 minutes, while it can also be looped at Gannow Junction in Burnley to allow Northern Rail passenger services to pass. Opened on November 12, 1849, by the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (previously known as the Manchester & Leeds Railway), the Burnley to  Todmorden line over Copy Pit summit connected the L&YR with the ELR, creating a direct route from Preston through Blackburn and Accrington to the Calder Valley route via Summit Tunnel, a few miles west of Hebden Bridge. A decade later, the LYR swallowed the East Lancs, creating an      extensive empire north of Manchester that stretched from Blackpool and Liverpool in the west to Leeds, Hull and Doncaster in the east. In its heyday, Copy Pit featured six stations at Burnley Manchester Road, Townley, Holme, Portsmouth, Cornholme and Stansfield Hall, all closing, with the exception of the Burnley halt, between 1930 and 1958. While Copy Pit itself is steeply graded, with a punishing three-mile section of 1-in-65 to the 749ft summit, the Calder Valley actually features better gradients overall than the competing    London & North Western Railway Standedge route via Huddersfield. There are three tunnels, at Townley (398 yards), Holme (265 yards) and Kitsonwood (290 yards).

In the dark days of the early 1980s, Copy Pit, the northernmost branch of the Calder Valley line and one of three remaining routes across the Pennines, almost joined the Woodhead in oblivion. Local passenger services between Todmorden and Rose Grove had been        withdrawn in the mid-1960s, while regular freight traffic had almost disappeared by the end of 1982 – by which time just a Preston Deepdale Speedlink service used the line. The move of the National & Provincial Building  Society (which became part of Abbey National in 1996) from Burnley to Bradford saw a    passenger service reintroduced, and the     diversion of freight off the Settle & Carlisle route (also then slated for the axe) meant the threat of closure was lifted. Nowadays the  passenger services over Copy Pit are supported by West Yorkshire Metro east of Hebden Bridge. The eastbound DMU between York and Blackpool North stops at Burnley Manchester Road at around 52 minutes past the hour, while the corresponding return makes its halt at 35 minutes past the hour. The eastbound climb to Copy Pit is couch easier than the opposite  direction and 6E32 traverses the line at just the right time to take advantage of several classic shots, none more so than the view of Lydgate Viaduct. There are also good views available of the early-morning 6F70  cement service from Clitheroe, as well as the loaded 6M32 bitumen service in the summer months. Other freight trains do run, but the operation of most of them is subject to frequent changes and irregular service.

The train joins the Calder Valley at Hall Boyd Junction, which has several good road bridges providing excellent vantage points in both directions. This location is set to change dramatically as Network Rail is reinstating the north to west curve as part of its Northern Hub project, allowing direct Burnley to Manchester Airport services. After a booked stop in the loop at Heaton Lodge Junction (west of Mirfield), the train completes the first stage of its journey to Healey Mills, still in former L&YR territory. Both the stations at Hebden Bridge and Sowerby Bridge are good for photography, but it is the area around Mirfield that has the most notable opportunities to record the progress of the empties. Crew changes used to take place at the now-closed Healey Mills yard, but these are now done at Wakefield Kirkgate station instead. 6E32 passes the former hump yard just after midday, with the road bridge at the east end and several bridges down the line in Horbury still enabling iconic shots of the transformation of trans-Pennine motive power and trains over the years. Taking the Knottingley line at Wakefield Kirkgate (Calder Bridge Junction) and the main line to Doncaster at Crofton West Junction, the bitumen service then joins the former Great Northern Railway at Adwick Junction to bypass Doncaster, where it meets the Great Central (ex-Manchester Sheffield & Lincs Railway) at Hatfield & Stainforth. This far east, with the clock nearing 13.30, photography of the train becomes difficult. The most popular view of 6E32 is paralleling the wide Stainforth Keadby Canal at Crowle, in North Lincolnshire. There are other locations, especially where the line turns south east, but the flat landscape and paucity of overbridges makes life difficult. East of Scunthorpe, the empties from Preston Docks are on the freight ‘racetrack’ to Immingham Dock, ticking off the popular enthusiast hotspots at Barnetby, Melton Ross and Brocklesby in quick succession before finally completing its journey to the huge Lindsey Oil Refinery just before three o’clock in the afternoon.






Super Class 60 Overhaul Programme

At the end of 2013 DB Schenker had overhauled 21 locos, realising their heaviest trains were beyond the haulage capabilities of a Class 66 on certain routes and using 40% less fuel, a good business case for overhaul could be made. 21 locos have been through the works at Toton and the drivers say they are better now then ever, far superior to a Class 66 by far. It seems another 9 locos may be selected for phase 2 of the overhaul program.
At the time of writing the following have been through the works: 60001, 7, 10, 15, 17, 19, 20, 24, 39, 40, 44, 54, 59, 62, 63, 66, 74, 79, 91, 92 and 100. The last loco to be overhauled was 60066 and emerged in a silver Biomass branding for a new traffic flow supplying Biomass to Drax power station. All have appeared on the bitumen trains apart from 60066, which sustained damage to a cab roof, in early 2014, after coming into conflict with the structure at the Liverpool bulk handling terminal and has only emerged back into service, during February this year, after being repaired at Brush works Loughborough where the class were assembled.
Early in 2014 after much speculation, a deal was struck to sell and refurbish 10 locos to Colas for their increasing freight traffic wins, with an option to buy another 10 locos after the first 10 have been completed.
To date in late January 2015 the following locos have been overhauled: 60002, 21, 76, 85 and 87. The last un-refurbished loco to visit the railway fell to 60035 on December 11th and the final DB Schenker train was brought in on 17th December 2014 by 60091.
It was announced that starting in January 2015 Colas Rail Freight had successfully bid for Total’s contract to deliver the bitumen train from Lynsey to Preston on a 5 year contract using recently purchased and overhauled Class 60 locomotives.

Colas Super Class 60’s:
After much speculation about DB Shenker putting up stored Class 60 locomotives for sale. A deal was announced in early 2014 to sell and overhaul 10 Class 60’s for Colas Rail Freight to the same standard as the 21 locos DB Shenker had refurbished as part of it’s ‘Super 60’ Project. An option to purchase a further 10 locos may be taken after the first 10 locos have been completed and more traffic wins made to employ the Class 60’s.
The locomotives were ordered in May 1988 at the cost of £120m for the 100 locos. The super structures where assembled at Procor works in Wakefield taking five weeks to assemble and pre-paint before road shipment to Brush Traction at Loughborough where final assembly took place. The engine chosen to power the locos was a fuel efficient Mirrlees Blackstone eight cylinder 145 litre 8MB275RT set to deliver 3100hp, this was a state-of-the-art inline eight cylinder engine from the same stud as the six cylinder units then operating in four refurbished class 37/9 locomotives 37901-37904. The first completed loco emerged in June 1989 but teething problems delayed many of the earlier build locos into traffic by several months and the final loco was completed in November 1992.
As the locos clocked up the hours they gradually started to be stored by EWS as the deliveries of Class 66’s was completed and during the summer months demand for Class 60’s was low however with the start of the leaf fall season the locos were brought back out of storage to cover Class 66’s being used on rail head cleaning duties and some 70 class 66s exported to work in Europe on new traffic flows taken over by EWS and then later DB Shenker.
In 2007 tests where carried out to evaluate fuel costs of class 60 verses class 66 locos and on a certain route on the same load a class 60 was found to average 6 litres of fuel a mile compared to 10 litres burnt by a class 66. So a program of overhaul was considered as many locos had clocked over 10,000 hrs and never received a general overhaul since being built. How ever a down turn in the economy put the this program on ice.
EWS found to their cost on the bitumen train on Copy Pit that on a bad rail day a class 66 was pushed to haul 12 or 13 of the old 1960’s rail tankers, and stalling or late running could only be avoided by rostering a class 60 on the job.
So the ‘Super 60’ program was announced in 2011 to overhaul a core number of locos required to handle DB Shenker’s heaviest trains and giving the locos another 15 years front line service. To date 21 locos have been refurbished and a second batch of 5 locos may be started after the present locos being overhauled for Colas have been completed by DB Shenker at Toton.

To date in March 2015 six locos have been rebuilt for Colas, 60002, 021, 076, 085, 087 and 096 The next locos due out is 095. And 60002,021,076 and 087 have been employed by Colas to deliver the bitumen train to Preston since starting the contract in January.

(compiled by Mike Mac / Ribble Rail Preston)

The Ribble Steam Railway’s Class 14 D9539

The Ribble Steam Railway’s Class 14 D9539 celebrated its 50th birthday in April 2015, Fred Kerr celebrates its life with a biography – including WHY D9539 had an important part to play in the life history of the class.

Date  :  26/07/14 Loco  :  D9539 [TnT D9537] Location  :  Townsend Fold [ELR] Working  :  15:40 Rawtenstall - Ramsbottom [Rear]

Date : 26/07/14
Loco : D9539 [TnT D9537]
Location : Townsend Fold [ELR]
Working : 15:40 Rawtenstall – Ramsbottom [Rear]

The origins of the Class 14 trip locomotive lie in a discontinued project from the early 1960s when the Eastern and Western Regions (ER / WR) of British Railways (BR) approached the British Transport Commission (BTC) to seek approval for a small fleet of locomotives to undertake empty stock and station pilot duties, particularly at the Regions’ London Terminals.
Whilst the BTC was considering the request, the ER reviewed its traction policy and opted to use its existing Class 30 (later Class 31) fleet to undertake the duties thus withdrew its request leaving only the WR request to consider.
With the withdrawal of the ER request, the WR decided to review its request and seek approval for a fleet of locomotives better specified to replace its fleet of varied 0-6-0 Pannier Tank locomotives. A specification for this was drafted requiring a small locomotive capable of main line speeds of upto 45 mph and powerful enough to handle freight, passenger and empty stock duties.
The Swindon Works of the WR designed a locomotive to meet both this specification and the latest BR standard of a centre cab for main line locomotive designs. The final design was based on a standard GWR 94xx 0-6-0 chassis and used a Paxman 6-cylinder 6YJXL “Ventura” engine rated at 650 hp at 1500 rpm coupled to a Voith / North British L217U hydraulic transmission and Hunslet “650” gearbox. In essence the locomotive was a pure WR bottom half allied to a modern BR top half.

The fleet of 56 locomotives was built to complete the Dieselisation Programme west of Severn Tunnel Junction but, even as locomotives were under construction, their intended workings were disappearing as fast as the new locomotives were appearing. By the time that the last locomotive was delivered in October 1965 there was very little work left to power.

Date  :  26/07/14 Loco  :  D9539 Location  :  Ramsbottom [ELR] Working  :  Sidings to station move

Date : 26/07/14
Loco : D9539
Location : Ramsbottom [ELR]
Working : Sidings to station move

D9539 was delivered from Swindon Works to Cardiff Canton in Period 4/1965 (a period then being one of 4 weeks) and worked on local trips until placed in store during Period 5/1967. In an attempt to find work for the class, 33 locomotives were transferred in 2 tranches to Hull Dairycoates depot as replacement for the WD Class 2-8-0s; the first batch of 24 moved in January 1967 followed by a further 9, including D9539, in May 1967.
The move to Hull proved useless as the locomotives lacked multiple operation equipment and revealed engine problems, albeit due to design faults, that caused the fleet to be withdrawn en masse on 1 April 1968. BR, however, realised that there was a demand for shunting locomotives from industry and arranged a demonstration on 8 October 1968 at the Harlaxton Quarry, south of Grantham, of the British Steel Corporation (BSC).
D9539 was demonstrated to a number of firms with the result that D9539 was immediately bought at a cost of £4000:00 for trials at the Corby site of the BSC Minerals Division; the company subsequently bought a total of 23 Class 14s to replace steam traction in its various quarries in both Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire. Of the other 10 Hull locomotives, 5 were bought by the National Coal Board (NCB), 2 were bought by Associated Portland Cement and 3 were scrapped.
Those locomotives that remained on the WR were also withdrawn in tranches between July 1968 and April 1969 although the final 10 were officially condemned on 3 May 1969, with many spending lengthy periods in store prior to official withdrawal. The successful sale of the Hull-based locomotives encouraged BR to repeat the exercise with the result that of the remaining 23 14 were bought by the NCB for its Northumberland collieries, 4 sold to industrial concerns and 5 were sold for scrap.

Thus the demonstration by D9539 had resulted in 48 locomotives out of 56 built being sold into private industry where their futures were secured.

Date  :  06/05/1979 Loco  :  D9539 = 8411/51 Location  :  Shotwick Quarry Working  :  Shotwick - Corby ironstone

Date : 06/05/1979
Loco : D9539 = 8411/51
Location : Shotwick Quarry
Working : Shotwick – Corby ironstone

At Corby the locomotives, including D9539 with its BSC number (8311) 30, settled down to a hard working life hauling ironstone from the quarries to the steelworks in 500-ton trainsets over unballasted tracks in the quarries. The engine problems that bedevilled BR were quickly resolved by the exchange of the installed alloy heads by cast iron ones whilst other problems were resolved by adopting modifications that BR would have implemented had the locos been retained in service.
By 1974 the Lincolnshire quarries were closed and the locomotives moved to Corby where they continued working the heavy ironstone trains; part of the move involved a fleet re-numbering in which D9539 now became (8411) 51. In 1979 plans were formulated to re-engine a number of locomotives with Rolls Royce engines and contracts were being negotiated when the decision was taken to cease iron ore mining and the Class 14 fleet became redundant.
The final trains ran on 4 January 1980 but D9539 was already in store awaiting its fate; it remained at Penn Green depot until moved to the Steelworks Disposal Site in December 1980.

The next stage in the life of D9539 occurred when members of the nascent Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway (GWR) arrived at Corby to inspect D9537 with a view to purchasing it; they also bought D9539 and both locomotives were transferred to the GWR’s base at Toddington on 23 February 1983. The pair of locos initially provided motive power for the GWR’s trains but as the line grew and further locomotives arrived on site the Class 14s became surplus, leading to the sale of D9539 to Ribble Steam Railway chairman Dave Watkins in 2005. D9539 worked its GWR Farewell Train on 23 July 2005 and on 26 July – only 3 days later – it was off-loaded onto Ribble Rails at Riversway.

Date  :  05/04/14 Loco  :  D9539 Location  :  Riversway Siding [RSR] Working  :  Photo charter - station pose

Date : 05/04/14
Loco : D9539
Location : Riversway Siding [RSR]
Working : Photo charter – station pose

Since its arrival D9539 has not had a happy time. After working the “Santa Specials” during December 2005, it was withdrawn from service to seal the oil leaks that were discovered emanating from the cylinder heads. Whilst in the workshops awaiting parts further problems were found and it was decided to give the locomotive a major overhaul that took until July 2011 to complete. It appeared for the Diesel Gala held in August 2011, although there were minor faults still to be corrected, and worked the “Santa Specials” in December 2011 before failing with starter motor problems on the final day.
The return to service took a little longer to accomplish due to delays in obtaining parts and shortage of volunteers hence it was October 2013 before D9539 re-appeared in traffic – just in time to participate in the Diesel Gala – but continuing starter motor problems saw a rapid return to the workshops.
D9539 was fitted with a replacement starter motor that came from an HST Power Car and re-appeared in April 2014 when it was taken to the East Lancashire Railway (ELR) to participate in the ELR’s “Class 14 at 50” Gala held in July 2014; the early arrival allowed some “shakedown” running to be undertaken and minor repairs completed.

Date  :  26/07/14 Loco  :  D9531 Ernest + D9520 + D9513 + D9555 + D9521 + D9526 + D9539 + 14901 + D9537 Location  :  Burrs [ELR] Working  :  19:00 Bury - Rawtenstall Beerex

Date : 26/07/14
Loco : D9531 Ernest + D9520 + D9513 + D9555 + D9521 + D9526 + D9539 + 14901 + D9537
Location : Burrs [ELR]
Working : 19:00 Bury – Rawtenstall Beerex

The ELR Gala helped showcase the continuing success of the Class 14 fleet and their value to Heritage Lines, including Ribble Steam Railway. Having returned to Preston in August 2014 D9539 was readied to take up its position within the RSR’s operational fleet and receive the credit that it deserves for its contribution to the preservation of 19 Class 14 locomotives.
That contribution has seen 10 of the Hull-based locomotives enter preservation, 48 out of the 56 locomotives built be rescued for re-use in industry and – as of January 2015 – 19 class members now preserved.

Ribble Steam Railway and Preston Docks

During the development of Preston into a major manufacturing Lancashire town a small dock was built on the east bank of the River Ribble together with a warehouse for the import and export of goods. In 1845 with the coming of the North Union Railway a branch line was built from the west side of Preston station down a steep curving gradient with a short tunnel to cross what is now Strand Road to serve the dock warehouse and its associated, and later other, businesses. In 1882 Preston Corporation acquired the Dock Navigation Company and the railway in order to develop Preston as a major port. The river channel was diverted and deepened, and the Albert Edward Dock of 40 acres was opened in 1892; the railway was extended to serve the docks, yards and warehouses, and at the time of greatest activity there were one and a half miles of quays, and 28 miles of railway track. There was never a passenger service; the line was exclusively freight and was always owned by Preston Corporation.

Goods which passed through the docks were both coastal and international; cargoes such as timber, petroleum products, fishmeal, coal, china clay, horses, cattle, esparto grass (for paper making), and bananas. These bulk loads were moved by the dock railway system and its 8 steam locomotives. The shunting locos, steam until 1968 and later Sentinel diesel industrial shunters, marshalled wagons into up to 12 trains each day and these were then hauled up the branch line with its fearsome 1:29 gradient via Preston station to the main line south and Ribble Sidings. Notable engines for this work were the old ex LNWR class “G2,” 0-8-0 tender engines, known as “Super Ds” some of which were fitted with steam heating for the substantial banana traffic. Although these engines had a reputation for moving anything on a whiff of steam, they would need all their power to keep the trains moving up the gradient, and when at work could be heard miles away. Heavily loaded trains often had another engine pushing at the rear. One of these engines, 49395, has been preserved in the National Collection and is at present in working order.

Among the shunting locos was a fireless steam loco named “Duke” for use in the timber yards and the oil terminal. We hear that it was occasionally necessary to dispatch a Preston shunting engine down the Dock Branch as it was known to re-charge this engine when it was short of steam. Interestingly, in view of what was to come, in the late 1930s the Armstrong-Whitworth Co provided a prototype 250hp 0-6-0 diesel-electric shunter for trials on the dock system, and this loco was later purchased by Preston Corporation. Steam haulage ceased in 1968 and was replaced by Sentinel diesels.

Despite being the first port to use the new system of containerisation, the estuary and the river channel to the dock were continually subject to adverse tidal conditions and silting, and this, combined with the rise of Liverpool and the general decline of West Coast ports as trade and traffic patterns changed, caused operations to become increasingly uneconomic; the docks closed in 1979. Buildings and installations were dismantled and the dock area earmarked for redevelopment to be known as Riversway. However, the Dock Branch was retained to serve the business park, although the track was realigned from its original layout on the north side – the area now occupied by Morrisons Store. An hydraulically operated swing-bridge was erected across the western end of the dock for road traffic and boat access to the marina, and also to allow a limited service for bitumen and tar rail traffic, diesel hauled down the branch, which continued until 1995.

As you see it today: 

In 1999 the heritage railway at Southport quit its less than adequate site there and moved to Preston with ambitious plans to develop and operate a heritage steam railway appropriate for a Lancashire city. Plans were drawn up for the station, a platform, museum, sheds, workshops and sidings, with a large car park for visitors. The work required substantial re-equipment to national railway standard of the level crossing at the busy Strand Road, and also the three crossings at the dock development. The running track was re-equipped with signal control gear to permit the safe running of passenger trains monitored from the distinctive control tower seen at the Marina entrance.

An important development from the operating and revenue aspect was the resumption in 2004 of the bitumen trains to the Total Fina Elf plant adjacent to the site. These trains are loaded at Lindsay Oil Refinery on the East Coast and travel overnight to Preston via Hebden Bridge three times each week. The train is delivered by main line diesel loco to the Dock Railway sidings near the Odeon cinema, from which our Ribble Rail Sentinel diesel locos of 1968 shunt the tank cars into the Total Fina Elf plant for discharge, processing, and onward distribution by road.  

So freight has returned to Preston Docks; the train trip you can take today still has echoes of the sounds of what once was a busy day to day steam railway at Preston Docks, even if the dock itself is now occupied by small boats, and the steam locos which pull passenger coaches and not trucks are rather smaller than their burly predecessors. We like to think that our passenger coaches give you a pleasant ride to the foot of Strand Road where our line ends, and an opportunity to see the marina and the redeveloped site of the former docks from a new perspective, whether you live locally or have travelled to see us.

As well as our varied and extensive collection of typical industrial locomotives some artefacts from the former dock system can be seen in the museum, together with historic photographs and a map dated 1957 for comparison with the present layout.

The Bitumen Trail

The regular delivery of bitumen by train to Preston Docks provides a steady income for Ribble Rail, the commercial arm of Ribble Steam Railway, yet most knowledge of these workings is centred on the local delivery only. Fred Kerr looks at the background to these trains from loading at Lindsey Refinery to final use on the roads of Britain.

Above: The bitumen is loaded at Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire where special equipment maintains the heat at 160 degrees Centigrade to ease loading; the temperature is maintained during transit by the insulated bodyshell of the tanks.

To many members of Ribble Steam Railway the bitumen train is noted because it arrives by train, is handled by Ribble Rail between the Interchange Siding and Total’s unloading point and provides a sight of commercial activity in the docks at Preston. There is little appreciation of the importance of Preston as a commercial point for bitumen or for its contribution to the sales of bitumen throughout Britain.
Bitumen is one of 35 products, representing 15% of the total output, produced at the Lindsey Refinery in North Lincolnshire which is now part of the industrial complex in the hinterland of Immingham Docks. The refinery was opened in 1968 and has built up its processing capacity to the present day level of approximately 10,000,000 tons of crude oil per year, or 200,000 barrells per day via two pipelines which connects the refinery to the 1,000-metre jetty five miles away at Immingham Dock.
Bitumen is a product derived from distillation of crude oil, using the residue left over after gas oil has been drawn off, which is subject to further processing to produce different grades of bitumen for use mainly for road surfaces or roofing. The basic product is produced at Lindsey but the site at Preston is responsible for the production of all the specialist products for markets throughout the UK.

This need to move the bitumen between the production centre at Lindsey and the sales centre at Preston may sound simple but is complicated by the need to keep the temperature of the material higher than 120 degrees Centigrade in order that it can be moved and retain its viscosity – under that temperature the material begins to solidify.
The transport of the bitumen therefore requires the use of specialist wagons; the current fleet of 30 was introduced into service during November 2010 and now operates as a pair of 15-wagon trainsets. Each wagon is loaded with 74 tonnes of bitumen at a temperature of 180 degrees Centrigrade to maintain liquidity; this is maintained throughout the journey by thicker insulation to reduce heat loss during  transport supported by a system of external heating coils which aids cleaning tank interiors and avoids potential steam leaks into hot bitumen.

In November 2010 the wagon fleet was replaced with a dedicated fleet of 30 specially designed wagons which operate in 15-wagon consists. The design of the new wagons included improved insulation to maintain high temperatures during transit and a new bogie design to reduce track wear and access charges.

A typical trainset begins its journey from Lindsey in the early hours after being loaded during the night.
Initially diagrammed for a heavy haulage Class 60 locomotive, the train is now hauled by a ubiquitous Class 66 locomotive as it leaves the refinery at 02:42 on its Trans-Pennine journey.
The train leaves the industrial complex via Ulceby to join the main Great Northern Rly Cleethorpes – Doncaster route at Brocklesbury where it continues via Barnetby [pass 03:14], Scunthorpe [pass 03:37] to Stainforth [pass 04:04]. Here it forks right onto the West Riding and Grimsby Joint Rly [later Great Central / Great Northern Joint] line to Hare Park [pass 04:59] where it takes the right hand fork to Wakefield Kirkgate where it passes at 05:09. The train now uses the old Lancashire & Yorkshire Rly [L&YR] route westwards through Healey Mills and Mirfield [pass 05:53] onto the Calder Valley route to Hallroyd Junction [pass 06:27] where it diverges right onto the L&YR Copy Pit route.
After passing the summit of Copy Pit at 06:41 the train descends to Gannow Junction [pass 06:54] where it joins the one-time L&YR Blackburn – Colne route. At one time this line made an end on connection with the Midland Railway Skipton – Colne line to provide a through Blackburn – Skipton transit but Beeching closures have now truncated the line at Colne. The bitumen now continues westwards through Rose Grove (one of the last steam locomotive depots to operate at the end of steam in 1968) [pass 06:56], Accrington [pass 07:02] and Blackburn [calls 07:12 – 07:21 to collect a shunter to uncouple / couple trains] before arriving at Preston Ribble Sidings at 07:46.

At this point the train descends to Strand Road level crossing, where Ribble Rail staff wait to pilot /  accompany the driver to the Interchange Sidings, and the train comes to a halt at 08:08.

At this point the train becomes the responsibility of the Ribble Rail staff to handle, thus the Class 66 now detaches from its trainset to run round and couple onto the second 15-wagon trainset which is now waiting to be returned to Lindsey for re-loading and return to Preston.
When the train of empties has been released from Ribble Rail and returned to the national network [usually accomplished within 45 minutes], it returns to Lindsey via the same route, stopping at Blackburn to drop off the shunter collected on the inward journey.
The current train timetable shows this train to operate on Tuesdays excepted thus giving 4 trains per week but it is shown as a “Conditional Service”  or “Q-train” which means that it will run as and when required.
Each train load consists of 15 wagons, each carrying 74 tonnes of bitumen, thus delivering a full load of 1110 tons of bitumen and this successful service is reported to save 100,000 road journeys per year.
Unseen it may be by many but this service is not only a vital source of income to Ribble Rail but has a vital role to play in the operation and maintenance of the UK’s road network.

My personal thanks go to Ribble Rail staff and Total Oil Press Office for assistance gathering info.

Fred Kerr