Class 70 locomotives operated by Freightliner are, in 2011, the newest to run on British rails. Their appearance is quite different to anything that has gone before and, predictably, the majority of enthusiast opinion that I have read is unfavourable and has largely concluded that they are simply ugly. That will change; just look at the veneration which greets every wheel turn of the once despised class 60.

I find them to have a sturdy workmanlike appearance and it cannot be denied that they sound a lot better than any other of the new generaion of locomotives running around. At the time of writing I have taken very few photographs of the class but this will inevitably change as more of the class come on stream and are seen in different parts of the country.

70809 at Hatton Running a few minutes behind 4M71 on 5 July 2023 was the daily Westbury to Bescot departmental train on this occasion using the headcode 6X50 instead of the usual 6M50. The consist was 5 autoballasters and a railvac, the latter of which required the "X" designation. The train is routed along Hatton Down Goods Loop and it is handy to have a cloudy day as bright sun would make life a bit dificult for the photographer. Less handy was a CrossCountry Voyager heading down Hatton Bank at about the same but it was travelling probably 3 or 4 times faster than 70809 in the speed-restricted loop.
70809 at Hatton The railvac was on the back of 6X50 with 70809 as it climbed Hatton Bank in the goods loop. The pictures in both directions from this roadbridge are becoming more and overgrown and are really scenes resembling little more than green tunnel but this is the only location giving the view of a train in the loop from a publicly available spot.
70803 at Hatton A quick visit to Hatton on 27 March 2023 for a double-headed 6E11 with an added bonus in form of 70803 at the head of 6M50, the Westbury to Bescot engineeres train. This was standing in the Down Goods Loop when I arrived and it was anyone's guess if this would be released before 6E11. In the event it was and luckily routed onto the main line rather than through platform 3 as sometimes happens with looped freights. This train's load varies from nothing at all to long rakes of various wagon types. On this occasion it was closer to the former.
70010 at Leamington Spa Once the two Chiltern Railways trains had left Leamington Spa on 9 January 2023 the signals for both the up and down through roads were switched to green. The train I had gone there to photograph was on the up line and 4M55, the 4M55 0823 Southampton M.C.T. to Lawley Street F.L.T. on the down. There was a bit of angst about both workings arriving at the same time but a quick look at the Railcams map showed that 4M55 should clear in plenty of time even with the full-length train that turned up behind 70010. This isn't a great shot in the winter given the depth of shadow under the platform canopy but the sun was out and so...
70806 at Leamington Spa The sun was in and out at Leamington Spa station on 11 October 2022 but was in a clear patch when 70806 was signalled onto the main line via Hatton with 6M50, the 07.59 Westbury to Bescot. There was a bit of confusion, for me at least, about this working as it was shown as being 0M50 which was then cancelled. It ran as a light engine to Hinksey Yard where the wagons were attached for the run to Bescot and booked to run via Hatton rather than Coventry and Nuneaton.
70806 at Bentley Heath All the time that I was at Bentley Heath on 28 September 2022 70806 was just visible in the Down Loop with the 11.42 Westbury to Cliffe Hill, 6M40. It was spot on time when the barriers were dropped for it to join the main line by which time the sun was clear of the clouds.
70008 at Hatton. As I was photographing Duchess of Sutherland at Hatton on 22 November 2021 it was clear from a mapping app that Freightliner 4M55, the 08.44 Southampton to Lawley Street service, wasn't far away behind the camera and approaching quite rapidly. It passed Hatton station less than a minute after 6233 had gone south. It's a poor shot from the roadbridge lookign onto the station at Hatton especially when the sun is low in the sky but I took this one of 70008 because I hadn't seen a class 70 for quite a while.
70812 with 7M50 at Hatton North Junction. The daily Westbury to Bescot departmental train ran under an STP variation on Monday 20 September 2021 by starting at Hinksey yard, Oxford, running as 7M50 not 6M50 and being diverted from the usual route via Coventry and Nuneaton to the line through Hatton and Dorridge. This meant a relatively rare chance of a shot of it at Hatton North Junction and I was pleased to have made the effort as 70812 with 3 cranes and a load of ballast accelerated slowly away from Hatton DGL and away towards Dorridge. I imagine that the 45mph class 7 running was because of the cranes and that the routing was to keep the train away from much faster CrossCountry traffic and onto a line with pleanty of loops, all of which it used. The sunshine wasn't as lucky as it might seem from this picture because the sky to the south-west was completely clear of cloud.
70802 at Hatton There is what used to be called a departmental train, 6M50, between Westbury and Bescot and calling at Hinksey Yard going north through Leamington Spa on most weekdays. It is scheduled to run via Coventry and Nuneaton but on occasions it is diverted to go through Hatton. This is often at very short notice and it's therefore too late to get out for a photograph but on 28 October 2020 it was known about well in advance and running as 6X50 probably because a heavy crane was in the consist. I like to get these odds and ends on my local line so drove to Hatton for a shot. The train left Leamington Spa a few minutes early and its arrival at Hatton unfortunately coincided with one of the infrequent Chiltern Railways stopping services to Leamington just pulling out of platform 2. A shot from the northern side of the footbridge is possible but the crane and accompanying vehicles are not seen to their best advantage. The Autumnal colours are showing well and it to be hoped that a sunny day will come along soon.
This is the train I was mostly interested in photographing near Bretforton on Wednesday 11 March 2020. It is a 6Z40 04.52 Carlisle New Yard to Long Marston hauled by 70814. There have been several trains with Colas 70s in charge along the North Cotswold Line and Long Marston branch such as 70809 with a better load than today's train but it was still unusual enough for a trip out. As is ususally the case I saw no postings about the train on the email groups to which I subscribe so it was a bit of a disappointment when it turned up about 10 minutes early with just a single tank wagon in tow. It hardly seems a viable financial proposition to send such a small load so far when the cost of setting up paths, access and crew costs along with the fuel used in the 8 hour journey from Carlisle. A lot of cloud was building up around the sun but the bits of shadow across the former crossing keepers house cleared just as the barriers protecting the road were lowered.
There were at least 2 diversions of freight trains on the line through Defford on 31 October 2019. First was 6M40, the 11.56 Westbury to Stud Farm empty boxes, powered on this occasion by 70813 which at least provided a bit of colour on the increasingly dull afternoon.
Another trip to Hatton on Saturday 17 August 2019. This time there was a train of 4 barrier wagons going from Leicester to Eastleigh but running a few minutes in front of this 4O29, the 05.44 Garston to Southampton freightliner hauled by 70010 and as I hadn't seen a FL class 70 for ages it was worth a shot. As I drove around the lanes to Hatton station there was a torrential downpour which fortunately had eased a little when 70010 became audible near Hatton North Junction just before it came into sight. I took this image slightly early to show the state of the 4 foot on the up line; a mass of weeds which extends all the way around the curve.
Back to my normal daylight hours on Thursday 28 March 2019. There was a light engine move, showing as Colas operated, from Bescot to Long Marston during the morning with the return being with a load of presumably oil tanks to Lindsey Refinery. As it was a warm and sunny morning I took my Morris Minor out for a drive around the lanes ending up with an arrival at Long Marston road bridge a few minutes before the locomotive was due to arrive. It had passed Evesham some 13 minutes early but clearly met with some delay after leaving the main line at Honeybourne, perhaps having to await a shunter's arrival before taking the single token from the cupboard. Anyway, 70817 turned up and was soon coupled to the 6 bogie tanks which have just been cleaned and refurbished before carrying out a brake test and pulling onto the branch. Some work is being carried on other tanks as can just be made out on the extreme right midground of this image. The sun was a bit patchy but found a clear bit of sky at the right time and lifted the scene nicely, including some early blackthorn blossom. I thought about going to Honeybourne for another shot but already had an image of 70809 on a similar train there and didn't think that I take anything as good on this occasion.
Bank Holiday Mondays usually throw up one or two diversions and 28 May 2018 was no exception with 6M50, the 07.55 Westbury to Bescot departmental train, being sent to Birmingham via Hatton instead of the longer route through Coventry and Nuneaton. The timings were convenient for me so I had a run over to Hatton to take an image in a location which showed that 6M50 was off its normal route. There was no load between Westbury and Hinksey Yard but the headcode was changed from 0M50 at Oxford so there was going to be at least something behind 70817 and DIT 66849. This service wasn't booked to run into Hatton DGL but as it was a few minutes early it had to be looped to allow a Chiltern class 168 to pass and this picture shows the last of the autoballasters crossing to the down main line.
An early morning message said that the 08.55 Freightliner from Crewe Basford Hall to Southampton was to be headed by 70015, 70004 and 70003, clearly a way to take 2 locomotives from unbalanced diagrams for work next week. This to me was a much better option than yet another shot of 37601 with a class 350/2 EMU going to Long Marston. It was a pity that 57301 wasn't still around following its trip to Warwickshire on the previous day - the choice of train would then have been more difficult. Anyway the novelty aspect of a triple-header appealed and here is 4O29 passing Hatton's banner repeater signal running 4 minutes late. This slight lateness was fortunate as a northbound Chiltern service is due here at exactly the same time and also because the sun managed to be in the middle of a large clear patch of sky.
A train running as an STP appeared in the Hatton schedule for 8 March 2018 which at first sight appeared to be some self-propelled OTP travelling from Rugby Depot Access Lines to Princes Risborough. After doing a bit of a search it seemed that a locomotive was running LD from Bescot to Rugby and collecting whatever was there and taking it up the Chiltern Line. As the locomotive was then going on to Hinksey Yard it seemed likely that a Colas class 70 would be the motive power and as these are unusal in daylight around Hatton it was worth a drive over. There were, of course, no postings about the train , 7Z45, but it wasn't really any surprise when 70815 appeared on the curve from Hatton North Junction towing what seem to be cranes used for moving track panels around in a possession. What was a surprise was that the sun came out of thick cloud as I heard the train approach.
Extensive engineering work took place on the main line south of Standish Junction over the weekend of 10/11 September 2016. Several trains were booked to return to Westbury via the North Cotswold Line and 3 of these fitted in with time that I had available over lunchtime. As usual with engineering trains things didn't work out exactly as planned and so I am a little unsure of the identity of the 2 I photographed. I think that this one led through Fladbury by 70810 may be 6C24 but in any event I was fortunate in that it just missed the slowly retreating shadow as the sun came out of a patch of cloud. There was no 3G mobile signal at Fladbury while I was there but a down class 166 passed just as I arrived and as soon as this had cleared Norton Junction Evesham's up distant, some distance behind me, flicked to green meaning that there wasn't long to wait.
As soon as 70810 had passed Fladbury I drove to Briar Close near Evesham station where the station's up starter was already showing a green aspect and with no passenger trains due this meant that the next freight must be on its way from Norton Junction. With 2 minutes I saw 70805 with a short partially loaded train of spoil wagons coming around the curve in the background. I wasn't so lucky with the sun this time and 6C25 (possibly...) would have been better lit a short time later. There was still no 3G signal and so with no way of knowing where the third train might be I left for home. I saw from RTT when I was at home that there would have been more than 50 minutes to wait at the location south of Evesham I had decided upon so wasn't too bothered to have missed it.
I had a few minutes at Hatton during the morning of 16 July 2016 with the intention of taking an image of a class 68 hauled test train. First along though was 4O29, the 08.20 Crewe to Southampton Freightliner service, I didn't what class of locomotive was hauling the train until I heard power being applied as it approached Hatton North Junction, out of sight around the corner. The front portion of the long train was unloaded but the rear half was fully laden and the first of them are just visible on the bend.
An engineering possession listed as starting at Standish Junction was scheduled for the Sprink Bank Holiday weekend and in connection with this some rare locomotive-hauled trains were running over the North Cotswold Line on Saturday 28 May 2016. There were 4 photographable workings but for the sake of domestic harmony I missed the first, scheduled to pass Honeybourne at 06.19. The second was a bit more sociably timed and I arrived on the bridge by the station some 10 minutes before the due time, 07.20, to find that thanks to a late running FGW HST, 6C23, the 04.46 from Westbury, was in the region of 20 minutes late. While waiting, some early mist and cloud blew away which meant that the lighting conditions became more difficult for a work-stained 70806 with its rake of empty ballast wagons. The same locomotive led a diverted 6M50 past here last year and this comparison shows the ever-increasing lineside vegetation, not to mention the new housing development.
My final North Cotswold Line shot on Saturday 28 May 2016 was of 70807 with what I took to be 6C24, the 08.24 from Hinksey running somewhere in the region of 5 minutes early. I walked about 10 yards along the lane from the previous shot to take advantage of the roadside tree's framing possibilities in order to fill in just a little of the foreground. The hazy sun was well round towards the back of the train by this time but this is was of little consequence given the wide and distant view of the train. All three trains I had photographed this morning were empty wagons destined to be filled with spoil from the engineering works around Standish Junction. I intend to return on Bank Holiday Monday to take some shots of the loaded return workings. In the event things went awry with a locomotive failure in the possession so most trains ran very late and unwitnessed at by me.
I noted from RTT that a Honeybourne Sidings (Freightliner-speak for Long Marston) to Southampton train was running on Thursday 21 April 2016 with a departure time of 12.06. I left my gym and swimming pool at about 10.45 and while driving along the road towards the Long Marston site saw that a Freightliner class 70 was standing in the exchange sidings with the front lights switched on and looking ready for departure. I soon parked and walked to the bridge where I took this shot as the very short train, 6O33, stood as the last few checks to the wagons were made.
It was only a few minutes before 70006 began to move from the sidings at Long Marston onto the branch to Honeybourne. It was a complete surprise to me that a class 70 had been allocated to this working and I had seen no posts to email groups suggesting that this was the case although this is far from unusual these days when most people seem happy to take information provided to lists but don't want to post anything themselves. As far as I am aware this is the first Freightliner 70 to have worked over the North Cotswold Line and thus the first to this site. The sun tried to come out for 6O33's departure and there was certainly a bit of brightness; enough to cast some shadow.
I'm not all that keen on short trains as they can look a bit silly in a lot of locations but I knew that this spot on a farm crossing on the Pebworth road would be just the job for 70006 with its modest load. Just before the train arrived two Network Rail vans drove towards me on the side of the trackbed behind the camera and I hoped that they would stop rather than park in the usual spot right by the gate on the right. They did and so my shot was still on where I was perching on a load of concrete blocks which gave just enough height to include the oilseed rape plants in the field on the other side of the track. I didn't bother with a chase to Honeybourne as this train was too small for such a wide view.
Having photographed 70006 on the first visit of the sub-class to the Long Marston branch I was keen to have another shot on the North Cotswold Line itself and preferably in a completely identifiable location. I therefore went to the Briar Close road bridge to include Evesham's recently refurbished signal box in the view. The light was poor but I would much rather have a first shot of the class in the area in the bag whatever the light than wait for a sunny day; it may not happen again for a long time or indeed ever again.
I noticed from RTT that on 21 and 22 March 2016 something was running from Westbury to Worcester, Oxford, Didcot, Swindon and Gloucester. It turned out to be 70810 working light engine but with the Fugro Rail Data Automated Rail Geometry testing equipment fitted. I had heard of this but never seen it so drove over to Honeybourne where a suitably head-on shot in a recognisable location would be available. The train, 0Q01, was running on time when it appeared but with, unfortunately, the equipment on the back cab! I had placed myself on the end of the down platform so the only possible shot was as 70810 passed under the road bridge. This made for a tricky bit of RAW image post-processing as the front half of the locomotive was in daylight with the other half in the deep shadow of the bridge but at least the equipment, including cameras and GPS locaters, can be seen.
A COLAS Rail light engine movement from Washwood Heath to Long Marston was scheduled for Wednesday 29 July 2015 but with the poor weather and that I didn't really want another poor-light image of a class 56 I made up my mind not to go out. In the event the 09.05 departure came and went with no sign of anything happening and the run, along with the loaded train to Grangemouth were cancelled. During the early afternoon a new schedule appeared with something running to Long Marston from Rugby DED and a message from a friend advised that 70809 was on its way. I waited until RTT showed 0Z96 to have passed Norton Junction before going over and arrived a few minutes before the locomotive rolled down the branch from Honeybourne. It was soon attached to the 7 TDAs and I waited in the hope that the sun would appear in the mostly cloudy sky after the locomotive's lights had been switched from red to white. It took a while but the sun did appear just as the train started to move.
As usual I went over to Honeybourne in the expectation that 70809 with 6S96 would appear withn a few minutes. The weather had deteriorated duirng the short drive and I was under thick cloud as I waited on the road bridge. I've no idea what went on at Long Marston to cause a delay of around 30 minutes but presume that a brake problem was found on one or more of the tank wagons. For once the delay was favourable and the sun was fully out as the train came round the curve alongside the North Cotswold main line. There was, with lots of cloud blowing around, no guarantee that the sun would stay out so I put on my longest lens and took this shot just as 70809 stopped at the hut in which the single line token is kept.
It took a minute or two for the token routine to be be carried out and the sun was obscured as 6S96 began to move. Luckily though, it came out again as the signal allowing access to the main line flicked to green and the train approached the bridge. The dark sky dominated the scene and I compromised the composition of this image a little to show this to the best advantage.
Tuesday 30 June 2015 was a clear sunny and rather hot day but I saw that the Stud Farm to Hinksey loaded ballast train was to run and, as I still hadn't managed a well-lit shot of this working, went over to Bentley Heath crossing near Dorridge. First along was 70011 with 4O09, the 11.52 Freightliner from Crewe to Southampton, which was running spot on time. There was a slight signal check at the peg this side of the road bridge because of a preceding Chiltern service but the aspect was cleared before 4O09 was stopped and the exhaust smoke produced by the locomotive is clearly visible as it accelerated the heavy load away towards Dorridge station.
One of the best daytime bets for class 70 haulage on the GWR Birmingham to Leamington Spa line is 4O09, the 11.52 Crewe to Southampton Freightliner service. On Tuesday 21 April 2015 I was at Bentley Heath crossing near Dorridge and decided on a ground-level shot from the fence along the road in order to better show the powerful lines of the locomotive. The train had been checked while approaching the signal just visible over the sixth container and had just been opened up once a clear aspect was displayed. Class 70s do sound good when being worked hard with a heavy train; not quite as noisy as the new class 68, but not bad all the same.
The final run along the North Cotswold Line of 6M50, the 07.55 Westbury to Bescot, took place in theory at least on Thursday 12 March 2015. The train doesn't normally run on Fridays and its normal route via Leamington Spa should be open by Monday 16 March following the clearance and stabilisation of Harbury cutting. RTT showed 70810 working light engine from Westbury to Hinksey Yard but a change in one digit of the operating code from 0 to 6 showed that some wagons were picked up for the rest of the journey. This made me head out for a final photograph and with no sun in prospect I decided on a shot from the north side of the line just outside the village of Mickleton, to the east of Honeybourne. I arrived with about 3 minutes to spare when I heard the train rolling down the 1/100 gradient of Campden Bank and it soon appeared through the slightly misty background.
The once regular COLAS coal trains between Portbury and Ratcliffe Power station have been a bit sporadic recently apparently because of some import tariff levied on imported fuel. The overnight train on Monday 9 March 2015 ran however because the returning empties to Gloucester Yard appeared in RTT the following day, albeit with a late start. As it was a beautifully sunny day I went over to Defford, a couple of miles south of Abbotswood Junction, to get a shot in case it didn't run again for a while. Despite some cloud appearing during the drive over all was well and 70809 with 4V12 came under the road bridge in the sun running just a few minutes having made up time by not sitting on various loops along the way. I had thought originally to go to Croome Perry but wanted a fairly rapid exit to get back to the North Cotswold Line for the Westbury to Bescot train and felt that the road to Pershore from Defford might be a few minutes quicker.
It seems that the week ending Saturday 15 March 2015 might be the last seeing some traffic diverted from the Leamington Spa line as a result of the Harbury landslip as the line is then due to be reopened. I hadn't thus far managed a sunny shot of 6M50 but Tuesday 10 March looked set fair so after photographing 70809 on the main line with 4V12 headed for Lower Moor for 70810. After having already taken 2 dull shots of the train here I had earlier decided to go to a foot crossing halfwat between here and Fladbury but after seeing an email setting out the consist of today's working decided that a ground level shot wouldn't show the wagons to their best advantage. I therefore joined the quite numerous gallery on the roadbridge for what was, looking at the sky, guaranteed to be a sunny image. The rest of week is forecast to be cloudy and intermittently wet so this may be last shot of 6M50 for the time being as I can't imagine that it will still run on this route once the Leamington line is fully open.
Tuesday 17 February 2015 started off well with clear skies and the plan was to photograph the 56 hauled scrap wagons running from Cardiff along the Cheltenham line along with a few other bits and pieces. It went wrong when the 56 left South Wales over one hour early meaning that the light would be virtually straight into the lens all the way from Cheltenham to Birmingham. I quite like a bit of backlighting but this was too extreme even for me especially with a scruffy plain grey locomotive so I decided instead on getting my first sunny shot of 6M50, the 07.55 Westbury to Bescot. I looked at 3 locations south of Evesham but the shadows across the line were too heavy so settled for the clear view at Lower Moor. Oh well, it's running at least until Easter or so I believe...
Time for a shot of 6M50, the Westbury - Hinksey - Bescot engineering train including a bit of railway infrastructure so over to Evesham station on a dull Tuesday 10 February 2015. This time 70805 was in charge of a lengthy train which was running close to right time as the enthusiastic and friendly station manager announced its progress through Moreton in Marsh and Honeybourne over the tannoy system for the small group of photographers assembled on platform 2. Evesham station is rather cluttered with lamp posts and other impedimenta these days but I do like to take a photograph of these temporary workings in a completely recognisable location just, as they say, for the record.
Monday 9 February turned out to be a sunny day despite the weather forecast predicting thick cloud. This caused me to change my plans for another cloudy shot of 6Z50, Westbury to Bescot engineering train diverted via the North Cotswold Line and saw me heading to a location near Honeybourne, via an extremely uneven and muddy footpath, where a shot from the south side of the line was possible. The train became over 90 minutes late through being held at Didcot but made up time by not having to call at Hinksey Yard and was 47 minutes early at Oxford. There was a very slim chance that, as a non-stop train, that it might be allowed to precede 180108 running as 1W29 from Paddington to Great Malvern but this didn't happen and it was just 14 minutes before the booked time that 70803 came into sight on a stretch of track which being south of Honeybourne sees virtually no locomotive-hauled traffic. It was unfortunate that a small patch of cloud appeared just before 6Z50 but at least it managed to leave 70803 in clear light. I'm not fond of spotlight illumination but I prefer it this way round.
It seems that the Westbury - Hinksey - Bescot engineering train 6M(Z)50 is set to run via the North Cotswold Line until such time as the Harbury landslip is sorted. Thursday 5 February 2015 was an exceptionally dull day with misty conditions and light rain falling which gave an ideal opportunity to photograph the train from the north side of the line and show the novelty of 4 locomotives and some wagons from a reasonably wide viewpoint. The train had run from Westbury to Hinksey with just a single wagon but fortunately, from a photographic point of view, had picked up a more worthwhile load from the yard at Oxford before continuing north. I had just finished a gym class a couple of miles from Honeybourne so made the trip to the station bridge for the short wait before RTT showed 6Z50 having passed Moreton-in-Marsh. It was only a few minutes later that rather grubby 70806, 70805, 70808 and 59201 came into sight on a stretch of line that sees virtually no freight services other than very occasional wagon moves to and from Long Marston or even more occasional ballast trains when engineering work is scheduled. The Long Marston branch is the track on the left of the picture which hasn't been used for a while as much of the trackwork in Long Marston itself is being renewed.
The recent landslip and line closure just to the north of Harbury tunnel, between Banbury and Leamington Spa, has been widely reported with current estimates for re-opening ranging from a couple of weeks to over 2 months depending on the severity of damage to the cutting sides and tunnel portal. Most freight on the line is container traffic to and from Southampton and this is being diverted via the WCML and the GW main line. There are other smaller traffic flows including some ballast and engineering trains and one of these, 6M50 from Westbury to Hinksey Yard and Bescot was sent along the obvious route, the North Cotswold LIne through Evesham, on 3 February 2015. This line is out-of gauge for containers because of Chipping Campden tunnel and some bridges but other freights are able to use it subject to paths being available. Here then is 70809 with 66176 DIT and a shortish rake of various wagons passing Lower Moor some 12 minutes ahead of the booked time. The sun is shining in the background and may or may not have been on the line a few minutes later but I was happy enough to get this image of what is currently a very rare scene. I shouldn't be at all surprised if 6M50 comes this way again along with, possibly, one or two other freights but if this doesn't happen I have at least one shot, albeit in cloud, in the bag.
The weather forecast for Saturday 23 December 2014 was for perfectly clear skies and little wind so with the prospect of a few southbound trains around Hatton I had a drive and then a walk to the footbridge at the northern end of Shrewley cutting. First along was 70013 with 4O54, the 05.27 Leeds to Southampton Freightliner service which was running exactly on time. There are few locations free of shadows on this stretch of line during the winter months but this, even though a bit anonymous, is one of the better bets to find at least a locomotive-sized gap.
During the evening of 18 August 2014 I noticed from an allocation list that 70803, on hire to Freightliner, was working an overnight Southampton to Leeds service. I thought it possible that it might be allocated to 4O54, the 06.12 from Leeds back to Southampton and as luck had it, this was the case. I didn't bother to look at the Freightliner locomotive allocations so didn't know until the train appeared that 70018 was also allocated. I went to the footbridge at the southern end of Hatton cutting and was lucky enough to see the heavy cloud blowing away from the sun at the same time as I heard 4O54 coming down the bank from Hatton North Junction. The patch of sun wasn't long-lived as can be seen from the background of this image but the shadowed bank of trees alongside the Grand Union canal make a pleasing contrast to the sunny foreground. If I were to be picky I should have preferred 70803 to have led the train but there we are...
Freightliner hired a couple of COLAS Rail's locomotives during the week of 15 August 2014 and one of them, 70803, was rostered to work 4O55, the 12.12 Leeds to Southampton service. These locomotives will never be commonplace of container trains so even though the light would never be brilliant at Hatton shortly after 17.00 I felt that a trip to take at least a record shot was worthwhile. The train ran early between Burton-on-Trent and Landor Street because of a missed stop at Branston Junction but it seemed unlikely that it would be allowed to run far from its scheduled path south of Birmingham during the evening peak hours. My hunch was correct and here is the train approaching Hatton station spot on time after being audible for quite a while as it began the run down Hatton Bank.
The first freight train I saw during a short visit to the footbridge at Hatton North Junction on Monday 14 July 2014 was 4O09, the 10.18 Trafford Park to Southampton Freightliner service. As is often the case at the moment it was hauled by a class 70, on this occasion 70014 and was, according to RTT, running spot on time. It was odd that a COLAS Rail train coming the other way wasn't reporting and it seems that this was due to some failing with that company's reporting system rather than a fault with RTT which simply collects and disseminates data provided from many sources. Much of the line in this area is becoming heavily overgrown and some care has to be taken to avoid shadows, although for this shot the sun wasn't really strong enough to be an issue.
The rail event at Long Marston finished during the afternoon of Thursday 19 June 2014 and the rail-borne stock was moved out the following day. A train, operated by COLAS Rail, was due to leave at 06.40 but I thought this unlikely to happen and when I arrived nearly 3 hours later this was the scene from the road bridge. A train of OTP, running as 7Z66, was being assembled by the resident shunter and 70810 was running round ready to couple up for departure. The COLAS Track machine just visible at the back of the consist had to be uncoupled as it would have made the train too heavy for 70810 to take up the Lickey Incline without assistance so would be taken out in a later and arguably more interesting departure.
It wasn't long before 7Z66 was ready for departure on 20 June 2014 and 70810 drew its long train slowly out of the exchange sidings at Long Marston just as the sun begun to break out mof some cloud. There were several departures due during the day and because the branch to Honeybourne is a One Train Only single track a man in a van had to shuttle between Honeybourne Staff Hut and Long Marston to return the token so the ground frame at the latter could be unlocked to release the next train.
Once 70810 had left Long Marston and cleared the yard's points the single line token had to be removed from the ground frame and taken to the driver of 70810. This gave me time to drive around the corner to a footpath crossing the line for another shot. The Long Marston to Honeybourne branch isn't all that well off for photographic locations and few are sufficiently open to allow a decent view of the whole train. This location certainly falls into that category but does allow for a reasonable locomotive portrait of the still clean 70810. Because of the token exchange formalities I had plenty of time to go home before the next train so that I could I collect my smartphone, which I had forgotten earlier, and therefore see any email and RTT updates. What a change from the days when one plonked oneself by the lineside and waited for whatever turned up...
After a quick lunch and checking on RTT for 7Z66's progress I headed back to Honeybourne to hopefully take my first photograph of a class 70 on the line. The light was dreadful but it was some consolation to be told that it is was still much better than on the afternoon of the first visit when 70810 took a long rake of loaded ballast wagons to Long Marston. Today's run, on 16 June 2014, saw 70804 dragging a number of on-track plant vehicles for exbition at the event. My knowledge of such vehicles is limited to say the least so I shall make no attempt of a description of them...
Once again I left Honeybourne as soon as the train had passed and went back to Long Marston to record its arrival. The light was no better than it had been at Honeybourne but a first shot is a first shot so worth taking. With luck a better may be possible on a future occasion. When 7Z66 had gone into the exchange sidings 70804 propelled the train around the loop adjacent to the road. This is quite unusual as the resident shunter normally performs such a move but the undergrowth is so dense that any form of photograph of the event was impossible.
The train of ballast wagons to which I alluded above was due to be taken of Long Marston by 70804 and before the track machine went on its way to the exhibition on the other side of the site it pulled slowly out of the exchange sidings. The undergrowth has increased hugely over the warm Spring and early Summer so I settled for a head-on view as 6Z67 went off towards Honeybourne and Bescot. I didn't feel like yet another drive around the lanes towards Honeybourne so went home after a longer than expected day out.
For the second day in succession, 70019 was hauling 4O09, the 10.18 Freightliner from Trafford Park to Southampton on 1 April 2014. In contrast to the previous day the sun came out for the train at Hatton North Junction, the tree-lined cutting beginning to show some signs of Springtime blossom with hawthorn bushes coming into flower. Shadows are always a bit of an issue on this section of line but there are gaps and it possible to minimise their intrusion by using an appropriate focal length lens.
Some messages were posted during the evening of Saturday 23 March 2014 to the effect that COLAS Rail's 70802 + 70803 were running light engine from Westbury to Bescot in order to work an engineering train to a possession near Kemble on the Gloucester to Swindon line which is currently undergoing redoubling work to the single track. The return, 6C81, was scheduled for Sunday morning and with mostly clear skies at home I made the 30 minute trip to Stoke Works Lane just to the south of Bromsgrove. The weather deteriorated on the way over and I passed through a torrential hailstorm near Hanbury but this soon went over and it was dry on arrival at the road bridge over the line. RealTime Trains reported that 6C81 was running a few minutes late but it soon came into view just as the sun began to clear some cloud with 70802 leading and 70803 trailing the assortment of rail carrying (I think...) wagons. It strikes me that the COLAS colour scheme better suits the class than the Freightliner livery and that they hardly deserve the puerile name apparently given to them in some quarters.
One of the best bets for class 70 haulage on the Hatton line is 4O09, the 10.18 Trafford Park to Southampton freightliner train. On 4 March 2014 70017 was provided and as can be seen wsn't over-taxed by its load of 4 or 5 containers. The shadows at Hatton North Junction have just about become OK now that the sun is higher but it will be a few weeks before a completely clear southbound shot will be on the cards. Running just in front of the 'liner was an Arriva CrossCountry Voyager which managed to make a crossing shot with 172337 which was leaving the Stratford-upon-Avon branch.
The line through Hatton sees many Freightliner workings most of which are in the hands of class 66 locomotives. Now and again, class 70s appear as was the case on Monday 13 January 2014 when 70001 worked 4O48, the Mondays only 11.26 from Hams Hall to Southampton. This train can originate from either Hams Hall or Birch Coppice but the timings beyond Washwood Heath are identical with Hatton station due to be passed at 12.18. On this occasion an early start was wiped out by Tyseley and 70001 went by me spot on time in some decent winter light although cloud was rapidly building to the south-west and soon became thick enough to obscure the sun completely. This wasn't my first choice of location but had the early running continued this far south I shouldn't have had time to walk to the spot I had in mind so I made do with this roadbridge. As it happened this was a good thing as 67008 had just gone north with a Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street train and it would have almost certainly blocked the shot at Shrewley footbridge.
The only freight that I saw at Hatton on Saturday 25 May 2013 was 4O29, the 08.14 Crewe Basford Hall to Southampton Freightliner service. This train had run consistently early as far as Landor Street in Birmingham but stuck close to its booked timings thereafter. This was a bit of a shame as the light started to cave in just as I heard the distinctive sound of 70019 hauling its heavy train around the curve from Hatton North Junction. Had it run even five minutes early it would have been in perfect light.
On Saturday mornings there are several Freightliner trains heading south on the GWR line from Birmingham to Leamington Spa. This is a much more photogenic line than the Coventry to Leamington branch so when the conditions are right I like to have a trip across. I knew that 70009 was working 4O29, the 08.14 Crewe Basford Hall to Southampton, and as this is the best train for favourable lighting I went over to Hatton on 26 January 2013 for a picture of it. There was more snow on the ground here than there was at home in Stratford-upon-Avon and as snowy shots without sun are always disappointing I was pleased to see a reasonable amount. This location still suffers from shadowing at this time of the year but as the lineside trees are deciduous the shadows from the bare branches are not too intrusive and it was good to see a good mix of colours on the train's load of containers.
Class 70 locomotives appear now and again on 4O02, the 11.11 Freightliner service from Lawley Street to Southampton but on Saturday 14 April, 2012 a numerically sequential pair, 70008 + 70009, were allocated to the train. I hadn't previously seen double-headed 70s so, even though the weather wasn't brilliant, went to Hatton for a photograph. It was about five minutes after the booked time that the pair came around the curve from Hatton North Junction with the visible part of the train well loaded, although there were empty flats towards the back of the consist. Only 70008 was under power and I imagine that 70009 was being taken to Southampton to replace 70018 which suffered an on-board fire earlier in the week. In the past, this train was usually double-headed and I have photographed pair of classes 47, 57 and 66 together with various combinations of the three over the years.
The Saturday morning 4O02 Lawley Street to Southampton leaves the Birmingham site at 11.11 but because of its circuitous routing through Sutton Park takes just over one hour to reach Hatton. On 10 March 2012 the clouds over Stratford-upon-Avon had just about cleared by 11.45 so I went to Hatton in the hope of taking my first sunny picture of a class 70 there. As I drove through the countryside heavy cloud again began to blow in from the south-west and on arrival in the station park the light was just as bad as it had been a couple of hours earlier. The only positive things were that 70018's train was well loaded as it came around the curve from Hatton North Junction and that the locomotive hadn't failed as it had recently on a previous journey along here.
I had been out during the morning of 21 February 2012 and on returning home at 11.00 found a message on my PC to the effect that brand new 70018 working the 07.00 Birch Coppice to Southampton Freightliner service had failed near Widney Manor, between Solihull and Dorridge. A text message arrived a few minutes later saying that 66416 had run from Lawley Street to Dorridge via Coventry and a reversal at Leamington Spa to effect a rescue. I didn't know the exact situation so went straight to Hatton to await the train which was by now close to four hours late. The up line had been completely blocked by the failure and I assumed that once 66416 had been attached to 70018 it would take the train into Dorridge up loop to allow the passenger services behind it to get on with their journey. I was wrong and the first southbound train that I saw was the 'liner coming around the curve from Hatton North Junction. Unbeknown to me at the time was the location of a down freight, the 08.50 Eastleigh to Stud Farm, 6M26, which was right under the roadbridge as 66416 + 70018 passed by. Luckily, the northbound train was moving very slowly having been checked by adverse signals otherwise some profane language might have been heard...
I had just arrrived at Leamington Spa station on Friday 3 February 2012 when the signal for the up main line was cleared to green. Within a few minutes 70001 appeared coming around the curve from the Coventry branch with 4O27, the 05.40 Garston to Southampton Freightliner service, running in the region of ten minutes early. The driver opened the regulator to bring the heavy train onto the main line and the resulting exhaust smoke is clearly evident, although the accompanying sound, sadly, isn't; these new diesel locomotives are quite noisy when under power.
At the time of writing, 25 October 2011, the best bet for a photograph of a class 70 running north on the Leamington Spa to Birmingham line is on the occasions that one is diagrammed for 4M28, the 09.32 to Southampton to Ditton Freightliner. The weather was much better than had been forecast for early afternoon so I went across to the south end of Hatton cutting in the hope of getting a decently lit record shot as 70007 climbed the bank. I had seen no reports of the train's progress but heard it coming something like ten minutes early on the booked time. Class 70s are quite noisy but the sound seemed to be taking quite a long time to reach me and it wasn't hard to deduce that 4M28 had been routed into the Down Goods Loop to allow a Chiltern Railways class 168 to pass it. The sun was just coming out of some cloud as the train went by on just about the only piece that a picture of something in the loop is possible.
Class 70 locomotives have recently become quite frequent visitors to the Leamington Spa area on either early morning runs to Southampton or evening trains coming north, the latter being routed via Coventry along the largely unphotogenic line from Leamington. On Friday 24 June I received a text message saying that 70008 was working 4M28, the 09.32 Southampton to Ditton Freightliner which runs via Hatton where it is due at around 13.15. I didn't read the message until 12.55 thanks to being in my garden without my 'phone but soon established that 4M28 was running late. This gave me time for a fast drive followed by a quick walk/jog to Hatton North Junction, hopefully to arrive before the train. In the event I made it with nearly twenty minutes to spare; 4M28 following a couple of sections behind a down Chiltern Railways class 168 unit. Unfortunately, the train was very poorly loaded on this occasion and I really don't find empty Freightliner flats at all satisfying to photograph, but I think that this was the first northbound run of a class 70, in daylight at least, along this section of line. I always consider these early workings to be worth a shot in case diagrams change and the locomotives end up on different duties in other parts of the network.Thanks to David Weake for the information on 4M28.
Class 70s don't seem to have worked much in recent weekends but on Saturday 28 May 2011 70008 was allocated to work 4O27, the 05.26 Garston to Southampton liner. This train passes Hatton at around 09.10 and this fitted in nicely with my plan for an early walk around some of the footpaths between Hatton, Budbrooke and Warwick. One never knows how long these new locomotives will work these trains before moving on to a different set of diagrams so it's worth making time to obtain a shot or two. I reached the footbridge at the south end of Hatton cutting just after 09.00 and heard 70008 powering down Hatton Bank a few minutes later. The light was dreadful and certainly a lot less favourable than when I photographed the same locomotive a couple of weeks earlier.
Freightliner's new class 70 locomotives are currently seen on the GWR line between Birmingham, Leamington Spa and Reading on a daily basis. On Friday 13 May 2011, 70008 was allocated to the 07.00 Birch Coppice to Southampton train which is here seen approaching Fenny Compton. There is not much point in being north of Leamington Spa for this working on a sunny morning as the sun is completely wrong for it hence my making the short trip here for it, unlike last week when it was sufficiently cloudy for a shot of it at Hatton. If a class 70 happens to be allocated to a later train, such as 4O49, then a shot at Leamington Spa is just the job. I had considered the bridge at Whitnash, just south of Leamington Spa, but thought that the deep cutting there would not have allowed the sun onto the track at the time that the train was due. Given that the shadows had only just cleared the track here I made the right choice, I think. The early morning sun didn't last long and some ominous looking wisps of cloud were beginning to appear by 09.00 so I left. By the time I had reached my health club in Stratford-upon-Avon for a swim some 30 minutes later the cloud cover was almost complete.
Freightliner switched around some of their locomotive diagrams during the week commencing 1 May 2011 and one of the results was that 4O14, the 07.00 Birch Coppice to Southampton, was turned over to class 70 operation. My plan for Friday 6 May was, if the weather followed the forecast, to head towards Banbury for a nicely lit sunny shot of 70009. As it happened, the day dawned cloudy but reasonably bright and as I am less and less inclined to go far for photographs in poor light just went to the bridge adjacent to Hatton station for my first shot of a class 70 on this line. The train arrived a few minutes early and even though the up line is on a falling gradient the exhaust note of 70009 could be heard for some time and above the racket from the nearby M40.
This was my first view of a class 70, the picture having been taken at Croome Perry on 17 December 2009, not long after the first batch of locomotives had arrived in the country. The train is a 4Z60 empty power station coal running from Rugeley to Stoke Gifford. My first impressions were quite favourable in that the class gives an entirely new look to the UK railway scene and at last we have a locomotive that gives a bit of auditory entertainment; they are certainly not silent, having a powerful and deep throb to the exhaust note not unlike an HST under full power.
I had been at Hatton on 19 February 2010 but after the train I had targetted had passed decided, rather than go home and waste the good light and snowy conditions, to drive over to Defford on the Birmingham to Gloucester line. I knew that 70003 was on the way with the Rugeley Power Station to Stoke Gifford empty coal train and that I should be able to get to the roadbridge that I had in mind in time. Croome Perry was an alternative but I thought that the sun would still be too head on there and I already have a shot of 70003 on the same train there. I had been at Defford only for two or three minutes when 4Z70 rolled quietly around the corner, having made it from the Birmingham area in not much over 35 minutes. There is currently a small permanent-way yard on the site of the station at Defford in connection with forthcoming engineering work and there was a lot of activity while I was there, with various road/rail vehicles being fired up and tested prior to the weekend's work. Some of the debris that always seems to accompany p-way work is clearly visible on the left of the up line and the new rails ready to be laid on the down line are also visible.
The second batch of class 70s ordered by Freightliner arrived in the UK early in 2011 and some were immediately put to work on revenue earning trains while others seem to be doing very little. One of the regular trains in recent days entrusted to a brand new locomotive has been 6M12, the Portbury to Rugeley Power Station coal service, which runs early in the morning, and the return, 4V06 to Stoke Gifford. As the light around lunchtime on 3 February 2011 was close to perfect after a dull start, and as the train was running late which helps with the angle of the sun at Croome Perry, I thought that it would be good to get a picture of the locomotive while it was still in a nice clean condition. Here it is then coming under the occupation bridge in Croome Perry wood at 13.25 making it about 75 minutes late.