Class 56 56004 at Croome Perry on 15 August 1997 with the 7V18 Silverdale to Llanwern MGR running 115 minutes late.

On Saturday 4 February 2016 ROG's class 56s 56098 + 56104 ran light engine from Leicester to Bristol Temple Meads High Level Sidings. They didn't appear to move during the weekend but on the following Monday they ran to Long Marston; a long way round for reasons as yet unknown. What I did guess, correctly as it turned out, was that the purpose of the visit was to collect a Railvac taken there by 56081 on 5 January. I don't always bother with a shot of a light engine move but the combination of the bleak winter landscape and the trace of exhaust smoke made this one worthwhile.
The reason for the use of 2 locomotives became clear a few moments later. It was not, as I perhaps cynically thought, because of any unreliability on the part of old (I refuse to use the ridiculous epithet "heritage") engines but because the Railvac was to be taken to Doncaster in top and tail mode. In the event though the train reverted to double-heading in Kings Norton loop; I've no idea why. The use of a long lens for this shot has exacerbated the mistiness around Long Marston but it has also made visible the rows of D Class LUL stock in the sidings, some of which will hopefully be given a new lease of life in the coming months. Within a couple of minutes all the required checks had been carried out and 6Z23 moved onto the branch to Honeybourne now with 56104 leading.
I left Long Marston straight away and drove to Honeybourne, slightly more slowly than usual because of a blue Citroen Saxo the driver of which thought that 28mph was a suitable speed on roads suitable for twice that speed although with few overtaking opportunities. The train was standing at the Staff Hut when I walked up to the roadbridge and soon moved away towards the station. It stopped at the signal protecting Honeybourne North Junction and waited until a Paddington to Hereford train had gone past and cleared the section towards Evesham.
A railvac was due to be taken from Leicester to Long Marston on Wednesday 4 January 2017. After a false start involving both changes to the locomotive allocated and the schedule the train set off and reached Worcester Shrub Hill in the late afternoon and due to reach its destination after dark. It was no surprise that it was cancelled at Worcester and allocated a new path in the light the following day. Thursday was cold but with cystal clear light so I went to Honeybourne because I feel that a short train looks better in a tight location than open countryside. I left home well before 6D67 led by ROG's 56081 was due to leave Worcester and arrived in the station car park with, as I thought, some 40 minutes to enjoy the sunshine. On arrival I checked RTT and saw that the train hadn't moved so had a look at whatever was due at Norton Junction only to find yet another schedule showing that it had left 18 minutes early and was past Evesham. There had luckily been a parking space right opposite the platform gate and footbridge so grabbed my camera bag and ran to the appropriate spot just as 56081 joined the Long Marston branch. I just had time to switch to the long lens necessary to avoid shadows cast by the footbridge and peeled off a few shots as the train passed through the station. I didn't bother with chasing it to Long Marston as the light there is useless at around midday with the sun shining straight down the lens while on the roadbridge.
Another photographer appeared with the news that one of the class 56s on 3S34, 56078, had been failed with severe wheel flats and that 56105 would be making the trip alone. I had never previously seen an RHTT set that wasn't topped and tailed so looked forward to taking an unusual image. It wasn't long before the signal flicked to green and 56105 was soon heard approaching the bridge at Lower Moor and came past the foot crossing in perfect light and surrounded by Autumnal colours. I don't usually take going away shots of wagons but thought that this one showing RHTT wagons with a tail light instead of another locomotive was worthwhile. After this shot I walked back to where I had parked in Fladbury and headed for home.
This location was one of the better in the area for this shot as it showed the unusual formation of 56105 with its RHTT wagons forming 3S34 but with no trailing locomotive as is usually the case. There was a lot of cloud in the background but fortunately for those of us on the bridge the sky around the sun was almost completely clear as the train sprayed along the track from Evesham.
After Lower Moor the obvious and probably best location for a picture of 56104 leading 3S34 was Croome Perry. There was predictably enough quite a gathering of photographers in this easy to reach and convenient location and with a lot of cloud flying around there was a lot of angst about whether a sunny shot would be had. It seemed an age before the train left Worcester Traffic Centre and, with a clear patch of sky around the sun, although probably not for long, it seemed even longer before it was heard coming from Abbotswood Junction. The reason for the long delay was apparent as soon as I saw the train as it was travelling very slowly and stopped at the signal on the long straight stretch of track between here and Defford. Something must have been amiss for at the time of writing, 16.33 on the same day, 3S34 is still showing as being in Ashchurch loop close to 4 hours late.
I was having a quick look at RTT on Friday 4 November 2016 to see if a Bescot - Long Marston - Bescot train cancelled earlier in the week had been rescheduled when I noticed that the Swindon to Gloucester Horton Road RHTT had been diverted to run to Moreton-in-Marsh and back. I understand that this was because of some heavy leaf fall on Campden Bank where FGW trains can have adhesion problems. The weather was a bit dull but with a few patches of thinner cloud appearing in the south-west sky. I wanted a shot only in a easily recognisable spot because of the rarity of the working in daylight so went to Honeybourne station where I knew that there would be a shadow-free patch on the down line should the sun appear. It nearly did with the sun just beginning to poke out of the clouds as 3S33 with 56105 and a filthy 56078 came around the curve from the Evesham direction. I wasn't able to wait for the return as a gym training session was booked for 10.15 and with a clear sky breaking out a location for a northbound shot in the sun at this time of day would have been tricky to find.
Autumn 2016 has again seen RHTT trains using Colas motive power on the Cotswold circuit with class 56 being this year's choice. Having missed the first Saturday run by a few minutes through early running I kept an eye on the weather forecasts for a sunny lunchtime during the following week. Wednesday 19 October looked promising so I went to Croome Perry for a shot of 56302 + 56078 topping-and-tailing their short train, 3S33, in the knowledge that the location would be free of shadows. It certainly was as the sun was about 10 minutes away from coming out when I heard the train appraching the occupation bridge in the background. At least there is a shot in the bag for knowing the English weather and class 56 reliability on occasions there is no absolute guarantee that a fuilly lit version will be had in the next 6 or 7 weeks.
The second train of stock to run on 20 JUne 2016 for the Long Marston rail exhibition provided a different challenge to the class 47 hauled move earlier in the day. This time it was some OTP from Scunthorpe in the hands of Colas's 56302 + 56087 which left its starting point 205 minutes late. This gave an arrival time at the destination of somewhere between 21.00 and 21.30 if it managed to gain some time after leaving the West Midlands conurbation. The evening was relatively sunny so, more in hope than expectation I made the short journey once RTT showed that 6X56 had passed Evesham. On leaving my car I heard the train on the branch and so had a couple of minutes to use the public footpath over the line to reach a spot where the line is relatively clear. The very last of the light was just disappearing behind a cow shed at Bridge Farm as the the pair of 56s with their short train passed a field of broad beans on the final few yards of the line.
For various reasons I have been unsuccessful in photographing most of the recent class 56 hauled trains that have run up and down the Birmingham to Gloucester line. On Tuesday 8 March 2016 a Cardiff Tidal to Chaddesden Sidings train of empty scrap wagons was schedules to run in a path that was convenient for me and with 56098 from the UKRL stable in charge. There was heavy cloud cover but I thought it well worth the drive to Stoke Prior, near Bromsgrove, where I arrived to find some lineside tree clearance had been carried out and that a new, non-pallisade, fence had been installed. This opened up the shot a bit and allowed for a tree in the field to act as a framing prop on the left-hand side of the frame. The train, 6Z34, ran close to time throughout its run from Cardiff and was soon approaching me under adverse signals ready to be turned into Bromsgrove Up Goods Loop.
During the 3rd week of June 2015 there seemed to be a lot of faffing about involving DCR's 56303 and various preserved class 50s. My knowledge of preserved stock is virtually in negative territory so I've no idea on what's been going on but on 30 June 56303 hauled 50031 from Eastleigh to Derby. Here it is shown passing over Bentley Heath crossing; the woman with the oushchair seeming to be completely oblivious to the action with her head, in common with 755 of the population, bowed to her smartphone. For anyone interested here is another view as 0Z53 receded towards Birmingham as 70805 approached light engine on the up line running as 0Z66 from Bescot to Hinksey.
A rake of TTA wagons was taken from Grangemouth to Long Marston on Wednesday 26 March 2015 with COLAS providing the traction in the form of 56113. The train, 6M65, left its originating point some 20 minutes late and this proved to set a precedent for the rest of the trip. To make things slightly more awkward the feed to RTT went down and no movement after Stafford was shown. One or two people posted updates to email groups and someone with access to a Network Rail system gave me further information so it wasn't too hard to work out that 6M95 was likely to pass Evesham around 17.00. The geography of the North Cotswold Line is such that afternoon photographs on a sunny are out of the question and the later a train becomes the worse it gets. The only real options are around Droitwich and on the final yards of the branch from Honeybourne and I chose the latter using the view from a footpath adjacent to the line. This type of fuel tank seems to be coming to the end of its life with most examples now being taken out of service. These particular tanks were used for aviation spirit supplying Prestwick airport and this example complete with an old style Petroleum Sector decal was part way along the rake of 28. There was a lengthy wait for the 4 photographers waiting to go back across the line to the road before the train was allowed into the Long Marston complex and thus cleared the crossing.
Once 56113 had taken the green TTA tanks into Long Marston one of the resident shunting locomotives was hooked onto the end and took them out of the exchange area to allow 56113 to couple onto the 5 or 6 bogie tanks which it was due to take to Lindsey Oil Refinery. Shortly after taking this image the sun dipped into cloud so it was time to leave but I understand that the train left 100 minutes late at 18.40.
There were 2 potentially interesting trains in my locality on Monday 14 July 2014. The first was a Long Marston to Chaddesden working with 56112 and the second a 6Z16 Llanwern to Washwood Heath train of IHA vans loaded with steel, hauled by 56113 + 56087, ultimately bound for Jaguar Land Rover at Solihull. I surmised that the Long Marston train would probably be just a couple of wagons so knocked that one on the head and made up my mind to go for the Washwood Heath job instead. There were no reports on RTT after Wantage Road, west of Didcot, although trains run by companies other than COLAS were reporting as normal. Luckily, a couple of friends let me know what was happening and I headed off towards a bridge just to the south of Hatton station where a shot of the train crawling up the Down Goods Loop would be my aim. On the way over the sky began to clear and it looked as if a sunny picture was going to be on the cards so I diverted to the only spot which would any good at all in those conditions. It didn't quite work out and the sunny spell ended just before 6Z16 made itself heard with the locomotives working hard to lift the heavy load up the final yards of Hatton Bank. The speed at which the train was running showed that with its late running a visit to the loop was not necessary. Three passenger trains were in front of it so I guess that it waited on the down main line at Leamington Spa station.
The second set of JSA hood wagons used for carrying steel products which COLAS Rail took out of Long Marston earlier in 2014 was returned on 14 April, presumably because a temporary contract had come to an end. The train headed by 56302 and running as 6Z30 left Llanwern 12 minutes early but had lost a few minutes by the time it arrived at Worcester Traffic Centre where the locomotive was due to run round. By the time it reached Lower Moor, near Pershore, it was 17 minutes late although had it come on time the sun would have been behind some thick cloud so no complaints from me. The vegetation in this location has grown a lot despite the best efforts of some gardening photographers; the worst growth being too far out of reach. This picture of 37401 was taken in March 2008 and the increase in undergrowth since then is only too evident.
One of the sets of steel wagons recently taken out of Long Marston for short-term work in South Wales was returned on Monday 31 March 2014. COLAS Rail's 56113 was used to haul 6Z30 from Llanwern with a passing time at Honeybourne scheduled to be just after midday. This suited me nicely as I had to be in the area at 13.00 to fulfil an organ playing commitment. Everything went to plan and it was close to the booked time that 56113 with its long train appeared as it came over Honeybourne North Junction. The light was never better than dreadful but at least the showery rain had stopped for the time being, at least.
Once 6Z30 had passed Honeybourne station there was a brief pause while the single line token for the Long Marston branch was collected from the hut a few hundred yards down the line. This gave plenty of time for the drive over the roadbridge over the entrance to Long Marston yard where I arrived just as 56113 came into view in the distance. The complete absence of sun allowed a shot from the north side of the line which in turn allowed the inclusion in the image of the first of the year's hawthorn blossom. There was no return load to Cardiff Canton and although I didn't wait to see 56113 leave later saw from RealTime Trains that it left 53 minutes early and made good time back to South Wales.
A train operated by DC Rail was booked to take some coaching stock from Long Marston to Crewe on Wednesday 26 March 2014. The locomotive was 56312 which ran from Washwood Heath during the morning and arrived some 10 minutes early at Long Marston ready to collect the 4 coaches waiting for it in the exchange sidings. The sun was in and out during the time that 5Z56 sat there but when it started to move away in the region of 50 minutes early there was thick cloud cover; so much so that I won't bother showing the image I took at that time. There was a short delay before 56312 appeared coming down the branch at Honeybourne but this did at least give the sun time to have a good crack at coming out. The 4 coaches made quite an unusual sight with a class 56 in charge so I had a short walk round to the station for another shot or two.
The driver of 56312, which had shut down, was out of the cab as I walked along the up platform but soon went back inside and disappeared into the bowels of the locomotive. Some loud hammering noises were heard before the engine turned over and re-started giving out a plume of black smoke. There was, according to the driver, some problem with a sticking relay which needed a bit of help with a hammer whilst the starter was operated. All seemed well and the engine settled down to a steady tickover. The driver said that he would have to wait until the booked departure, some 40 minutes away, so I went off home but not before pausing on the footbridge's ramp for a final shot showing part of the stock.
The Railvac makes fairly frequent trips from its weekday base in Hampshire to one of 2 or 3 places in the East Midlands. On Friday 7 March 2014 it was scheduled to run as 6Z56 from Totton yard to Chaddesden sidings. I initially thought that it would simply be dragged on its own by 31190 but this wasn't so and 56312 was booked for the trip along with a rake of unloaded and loaded wagons, the Railvac and 31190 on the back. I imagine that 31190 would have struggled to keep time with a relatively heavy load and with a sunny afternoon in prospect I was hopeful of taking a sunny image of 56312 at Hatton North Junction. The train ran close to time from Eastleigh to Leamington Spa but sat on the down through road there before leaving 14 minutes late. A few bits of fluffy cloud caused some angst but all was well and the clean grey locomotive soon came throbbing around the curve from Hatton station.
After missing out the previous week because of extensive engineering work in the Washwood Heath area the Llanwern to Washwood Heath steel train ran again on Monday 24 February 2014. I had to be in the Leamington Spa area during the late morning so decided to hang about long enough to take a shot of 56078 + 56113 on 6Z08. I'm not sure why a pair of class 56s was thought necessary for such a short train and the use of the 2 COLAS at Cardiff locomotives may have caused the cancellation of a Canton to Long Marston light engine move and subsequent loaded train to Llanwern. Still, it made for an impressive sight even on this largely uninteresting line to which I was making my second trip in recent weeks. I don't think that I shall feel the need to visit again in the near future. On the last 2 occasions that this train ran because of some alleged gauging issues it went via Birmingham International rather than Nuneaton and Whitacre Jnction but today it went over the Nuneaton line as originally scheduled.
A light engine move from Cardiff Canton to Long Marston originally scheduled for Monday 17 February 2014 was cancelled but later ran as a VSTP on Thursday 20th. COLAS Rail sent 56113 which left South Wales over 2 hours late but managed to arrive at Long Marston only just over one hour in deficit after missing out a few lengthy stops en-route. I arrived a few minutes before the locomotive and saw that 2 sets of JSA steel "hoods" occupied the yards through roads. Once the gates had been opened the resident shunting locomotive, named John Boy, moved about half of the rake from No.2 road and coupled it to those in No.1 before propelling the whole whole back a few yards to allow 56113 to run in and couple up. There was a quite a delay as the wagon brakes were tested and given an examination, no doubt necessary because the JSAs had been here for the thick end of 12 months after being brought in as 3 separate trains, one of which is here seen at Fladbury on 5 February 2013. Once all the checks were complete, 56113 was opened up and began to move slowly towards the main line.
The length of the train, now running as 6Z56 and with load 35, can just about been seen through the exhaust smoke as it left Long Marston yard, as can some other JSAs. COLAS has recently begun to operate several flows of steel traffic and I assume that today's wagons will be used as traffic further increases. With any luck, the wagons left here will also be taken out and put back into service. The light remained dreadful all the while that 56113 was in the yard but it did look a lot brighter in the Honeybourne direction so it was time for a quick run in that direction.
There was plenty of time to drive to Honeybourne, park and walk to the road bridge adjacent to the station before I saw 6Z56 with 56113 in charge running along the branch from Long Marston. The train stopped at the staff hut to replace the single line token and as soon as this was done the signal allowing access from the branch to the main North Cotswold Line flicked to green. The sun was trying to come out but another 5 minutes delay would have given me a perfectly lit shot. It's a bit frustrating but I would much rather have this picture than none at all. I reckon that about 90% of rateable workings don't happen in "full sun" and I'd rather be out getting a record of interesting movements than waiting around for the unlikely combination of a decent train and clear skies.
For the second week COLAS Rail have run a 6Z08 Llanwern to Washwood Heath train with vans loaded with steel. On 10 February 2014 6Z08 was operated by 56094 + 56113 working in multiple so I thought that this would be worth a trip out to photograph. The train is routed via Swindon, Oxford, Leamington Spa, Coventry and Birmingham International; those lines beyond Leamington being quite awkward for photography. There was some prospect of clear skies between heavy showers and one of the few even half-reasonable locations that would be any good should the sun appear was from the station approach at Tile Hill. This is quite a head-on view but with just enough angle to show 2 locomotives although some care has to be exercised to avoid various lighting poles and catenary supports. Here is 6Z08 running close to 10 minutes early with both locomotives under full power with their heavy train in tow making a good spectacle for the 2 videographers with whom I was standing.
Just after I arrived home after my morning swim on 3 February 2014 my 'phone rang with a friend telling me that 56094 was heading north to Washwood Heath with some covered steel wagons and that 56302 was following with the daily Westbury to Bescot train. I was more interested in the unusual train behind 56094 than the locomotive itself because steel traffic is rarely seen in Warwickshire and well worth a shot. The train, 6Z08 from Llanwern, was routed via Leamington Spa and Coventry so that it was able to enter Washwood Heath from the eastern side but this meant that it was necessary to go to a location on what I consider to be the least interesting line in the area. The obvious place was Old Milverton so that is where I went, arriving about 20 minutes before the booked time. A couple of Arriva CrossCountry voyagers went by and then the distant signal for Kenilworth loop flicked to green. The distinctive sound and sight of a class 56 soon became apparent and here is 56094 working hard with what is presumably quite a heavy train of IPA vans. The light levels never went beyond semi-darkness but I think that the shot was worthwhile given the rarity of the subject.
COLAS Rail have taken over the operation of 6M50, the 07.55 Westbury to Bescot, and it has therefore become more of a photographic target for many than it previously was. On Monday 3 February 2014 56302 was allocated and as I was already at Old Milverton having just photographed 56094 on a Llanwern to Washwood Heath steel train it would have been rude not to have waited the 5 minutes for 6M50. It has been a while since 2 class 56 hauled trains followed one another along the Leamington Spa to Coventry line and the shots were well worth the effort despite the dreadful light. It is lucky that a box wagon was included in the train's consist as a short rake of uniform-looking flats is never the most photogenic subject.
There are quite regular trains operated by DCR of JNA wagons to and from Chaddesden depot near Derby. On Tuesday 8 October 2013 reliveried 56312 was the only DCR locomotive in the area to work such a train which on this occasion was going to Bow depot in London. Running as 6Z56 it ran early as far as Tamworth but was thereafter regulated to run close to right time. There were a few patches of clear sky above Hatton as the time for 56312 to appear approached and the sun did just about manage to find the edge of a thick cloud as I heard the distinctive sound of a 56 coming around the curve from Hatton Junction. Many of these trains have been on the short side with just 3 or 4 wagons but on this occasion there were many more, probably totalling close to 16 and therefore a much more satisfying and well balanced sight. Typically, the sun came out fully only a minute or so after 6Z56 had passed the bridge but at least the light was a lot better than the last time I photographed 56312 at Honeybourne.
Two trains were scheduled to visit Long Marston on Tuesday 1 October 2013, the first being a move of oil tanks from Robeston Sidings in West Wales due to arrive at 09.17. In view of the dark morning and the short load, 2 TEAs - seen in the background of the shot of 56303, I didn't bother with it but waited until the second working. This gave me time for a swim and to walk home before deciding if the weather was bright enough to make the effort. The timings put into the system were never going to work as the locomotive from the first train was due to take out a load back to Robeston with a departure from Honeybourne, the end of the Long Marston branch, at 12.30 whilst the incoming locomotive for the second train, 56303, was due to arrive at the same point at midday! There was therefore quite a delay for 56303 which although 4 minutes early at Evesham was 57 late arriving at Long Marston giving just 3 minutes for the work in the yard to be done. In fact it was 62 minutes before the 6 PNA wagons, four loaded with ballast, were found, brought to the exchange sidings and coupled up to 56303 ready for departure. What little light there had been earlier had long disappeared so I made do with this image of 6Z56 starting its journey to Totton in Hampshire.
That'll be a long job!
On Friday 20 September 2013 a DCR train conveying wagons for a new ballast flow was scheduled to run from Long Marston to Totton. The company's newly repainted 56312 was the locomotive used and it originally appeared that it was to run light engine from Washwood Heath to Long Marston. I wasn't too bothered about this part of the run so went for an early swim and made the journey from Stratford-upon-Avon arriving on the roadbridge at Long Marston just a couple of minutes before the train left, running close to 2 hours early. It turned out that 4 wagons had been conveyed from Washwood Heath with just a single one to be added here and here is the complete rake pulling away from the exchange sidings and onto the branch to Honeybourne. The locomotive is a dark grey colour but it reflects the colour of its surroundings which here make it appear a shade of green not unlike the GWR Middle Chrome green, sometimes called Brunswick Green. I'm sure that a better representation of the new colour would be seen on a sunny day but that will have to wait for another day.
Trains leaving Long Marston usually leave the site and then have to wait while the single branch token is collected from the ground frame and taken to the locomotive. On this occasion the train was short enough to allow it to be taken straight into the cab. This meant that there were several minutes fewer than normal to get to Honeybourne before the train. As I parked my car in the station car park I heard the train's brakes squealing a bit as it stopped by the staff hut where the token is replaced ready for the next train. This gave me just enough time to walk onto the road as 6Z56 trundled along the last few yards of the branch and take this shot on the rather overgrown trackbed. A class 180 Adelante had just run non-stop through Honeybourne on the down line meaning that there would be a few minutes delay before 56312 was given authority to proceed still nearly 2 hours early. The light had collapsed almost entirely by this time but I took a record shot as 6Z56 made a smoky departure towards Evesham and Worcester.
At the time of writing, 24 July 2013, a major railway industry event involving on-track plant is taking place at Long Marston. Several trains have taken stock onto the site but the one here seen was, as far as I know, the only one that was locomotive hauled. The whole run from Eastleigh via Westbury and Bristol was difficult for the operators to say the least. It should have run all the way to Long Marston on Monday 22 July with 47739 + 47749 in charge. After a late start from Eastleigh it managed, with quite a lot of spare time in the schedule, to make an on-time departure from Westbury. A relief driver was booked to take the train, 7Z56, on from there but was delayed by problems on the M5 so left about one hour late. The trials and tribulations continued and 47739 suffered a small engine fire which caused the train to be terminated in the loop at Bristol Parkway. COLAS Rail sent 56303 to effect a rescue and the whole ensemble was taken to Worcester Traffic Centre later the same night. A schedule appeared the following morning showing a 13.20 departure from Worcester to Long Marston so I set off for Honeybourne only to find that half the roads in the area were closed for the annual "let's wreck your car's paintwork with some quite unecessary road surface dressing with stone chippings although we won't bother to sort out all the pot holes" fiasco. This resulted in a twenty minute diversion although there wasn't a problem as 56303, 47749, and 47739 were still in the same place at Worcester Yard as they had been the previous night. After quite a while I decided that nothing was going to happen and went home via a slightly shorter diversion. Within fifteen of minutes arriving home an email arrived saying that 7Z56 had just left Worcester just over four hours late. Off I went again but this time couldn't be bothered with going any further than Long Marston even though the available angle wasn't really good enough to show the mixed and colourful bunch of OTP being dragged. On this quiet evening I heard 56303 leave Honeybourne and followed most of its progress along the branch until it came into view where the track runs along the Broad Marston road. The site of the event looked almost like a funfair from a distance, no doubt to be aided by the bright colours of some of the machinery on display such as this crane and these vehicles, the latter of which had arrived at Worcester from Fairwater Yard under their own power as 6U17 but had been tacked onto the back of this train to save a path.
The currently redundant trackbed of the former down line at Mill Lane, Islip has recently been cleared of vegetation in preparation for the redoubling, upgrading and electrification of this quiet rural line which sees a few passenger trains and and freights each day. I don't know what traffic will use it once all the work as far as Bletchley is finally complete but I don't imagine that the idyllic house will quite as desirable as it it as the moment. The crossing gates are left closed against road traffic and have to be opened by users after checking that the lights on either side are showing green. Anyway, here is 56303 approaching the crossing on 7 May 2013 with a slightly late 6Z91 10.53 Calvert to Didcot train of empty box wagons used to convey flyash produced by the now closed coal-fired Didcot Power station. The sides of the locomotive appear to be have been through a body washing machine using barbed wire; either that or domestic emulsion paint was used when the green colour scheme was applied!
A COLAS Rail train was booked to run from Cardiff Canton sidings in South Wales to Long Marston on Tuesday 23 April 2013. The locomotive was 56105 which had been working on the regular timber traffic and I was quite keen to get a photograph of the train, 6Z56, on the Long Marston branch especially given that the weather first thing in the morning was perfect for photography and also because I hadn't taken a shot of the locomotive since 13 July 1990 when I took this poor shot of it passing the closed station in Sutton Park. My choice of location was a foot crossing on the Broad Marston road where the scene was little different from my last visit for 66055 a couple of weeks ago. Today's train ran close to time as far as Worcester Yard where 56105 ran-round its short train of timber carrying wagons. Some time was gained up the line to Honeybourne and 6Z56 was about fifteen minutes early when it passed the small group of photographers; a good job since a lot of cloud was building up and the sun was only seconds away from being blotted out as I squeezed the shutter release.
DCR's green class 56, 56303, worked from Yorkshire to Plymouth on 11 April 2013. The following day it returned north to York with a bit of a diversion to Long Marston to pick up a long rake of freightliner flats. The light engine had a good run and arrived early at the gate and was soon given permission to enter to pick up its train, seen here in the exchange sidings having just been brought by the HNRC shunter from wherever it was stored. The departure time was given as 16.27, some 150 minutes away as I took this picture but I had a feeling that it might be a tad earlier than that so headed off around the corner to a foot crossing.
It was actually a longer wait than I had anticipated and with the sun's angle likely to be getting a bit straight I decided to move to another crossing further round the bend. Although this is nothing like as good a shot as my first choice, when the sun did come out it did at least shine at a marginally better angle although it was still too head-on for a really satisfactory outcome. The driver had just opened up 56303 as 6Z56 accelerated away from a virtual stop over a farm occupation crossing and the sound took me back to the noise these locomotives made when climbing away from Leamington Spa with heavy coal trains heading for Didcot Power Station.
After the photograph on the Broad Marston road I had a quick drive to Honeybourne without really expecting to arrive in time. As I came up to the station car park I could see that there was no chance of making it to the road bridge so instead went straight to the footbridge where the crew had stopped their train just far enough towards the signal for a decent portrait. Against all the odds the sun made another very short-lived appearance which give me a few seconds to take this photograph. When leaving the station I noticed this sign. I do hope that FGW aren't anticipating that will provide any clients!
The first visit of a COLAS class 56 to Long Marston took place on Monday 18 February 2013 when 56302 hauled the third set of redundant JSA Hoods from Llanwern to be taken for storage. The train was some seventy-five minutes late leaving because the wagons were shown on the system as being "red-carded", or not fit to travel, but this was found to be an error and by missing out scheduled stops in a loop at Cheltenham and at Worcester Yard, 6Z36 was back on time by the time it approached Honeybourne North Junction. I was really interested only in obtaining some photographs on the Long Marston branch and this spot on the station footbridge is ideal at the time of day that the train was due. Some might find the rail workers visible in the mid-ground an irritant but I have no objection to high visibility suits when it involves people actually doing their jobs. The ones I don't like are those worn by enthusiasts trying to look official when they're not, more especially if on a bridge or in a field!
I knew that there would not be a worthwhile shot of 56302 arriving at Long Marston given that the sun would be straight down the line into my lens so didn't hurry across. After a leisurely drive I arrived to find that the long train had been split to facililate its handling, with 56302 being tucked away at the far end of the yard ready to be coupled onto the return load, some blue liveried IHA steel wagons. There should have been twenty six of these to go to Llanwern but only fifteen were ready so a shorter than expected load was prepared. The shot from the roadbridge into the yard at this time of day is compromised by the angle of the sun but worth a frame just for the record.
I had hoped that the booked departure time from Long Marston, 14.55, would be advanced a little so that I wouldn't have to hang around for too long and it was just on 14.45, after a quick drive back to Honeybourne, that 56302 with 6Z37 came around the curve in the background. After stopping at the hut to drop off the branch token the driver brought his train slowly towards the small gallery on the roadbridge resulting in far too many shots being taken! Still, who wouldn't, given the light and the decent train behind 56302? I don't usually take locomotive portraits but thought that this one was well worthwhile.
It was clear that 6Z37 would have a right-time departure from Honeybourne and as I couldn't be bothered to drive one of the North Cotswold Line's spots beyond Evesham and so going further away from home, I opted instead for a picture or ten from the platform end at Honeybourne as the train crew chatted to enthusiasts. It was a bit surprising that the sun managed to be out for virtually the whole period that 56302 was in photographable locations given that the amount of cloud floating around so now I won't necessarily feel the need to go out for another such working if the conditions aren't right.
One of COLAS Rail's class 56s ran light engine from Washwood Heath to Crewe on Wednesday 13 February 2013 and the following day was scheduled to take a 6Z56 to Cardiff Canton. The train left Crewe at around 10.00 and had lost about twenty minutes by the time it had reached Park Lane Junction, at the southern end of the Sutton Park line. The lateness was not to continue and by the time it passed me near Croome Perry wood it was almost exactly one hour early, partly due to it not being able to take its booked time in Abbotswood Loop which is currently out of commission through damage caused by some recent flooding. The sun was in and out as I drove over towards Pershore and managed to stay firmly behind some quite thick cloud as 6Z56 approached. Still, this is my first shot of a COLAS class 56 working solo on a freight so at least that's one in the bag. The locomotive looked quite different on the last occasion I pointed my camera at it in March 2012 when it still carried the attractive Fastline livery.
I rarely photograph railtours but now and again the routing of a train inspires me to go out. The "The Thames Angerman" to the Angerstein Wharf branch** in South London on Saturday 22 December 2012 was booked from Birmingham to Oxford via the North Cotswold Line and this was enough to tempt me out despite the filthy weather. If it had run on the main line I would have stopped in the dry but on this occasion went to the roadbridge adjacent to Evesham station to record COLAS Rail's 56094 passing by the signalbox. Given the lashing rain and almost complete darkness I wasn't surprised to be alone although I think that there were a couple of other desperate characters on Evesham station, whom I noticed when checking to see if the signal for the up main line had been cleared. I must admit that I was tempted to join them in the dry under the canopy but decided that there would be a little more light in the open air. The train was running well to time and had a clear run through a very murky and wet Evesham; the whole scene being marred to some extent by the intensity of the falling rain. In these conditions I think it's much better to have a solid background rather than a featureless piece of countryside. **I have only one shot on the branch, this one of 33058 + 33004 grabbed from a passing EPB unit in May 1990...
I have for a couple of weeks, been meaning to go and have a shot at photographing 6Z91, the 10.45 Calvert to Didcot empty fly-ash train. I waited partly because I wasn't too bothered about getting a another picture of 56312 in its dull grey livery so when it failed and was exchanged for Fastline liveried 56301 I took a bit more notice. The morning of 5 December was nice and sunny so I headed up the M40 towards Oxford and decided upon a shot from Banbury Road, adjacent to the ARC stone terminal which still receives regular deliveries from Whatley quarry. I hadn't been in position for many minutes when a message came through saying that the train was still at Calvert being unloaded at 11.14. In the event 6Z91 left Calvert about one hour late and then had to wait at Bicester London Road crossing for the Didcot to Bicester MOD train to be locked into the sidings before being allowed to continue. The light was getting a little too straight by the time it appeared and the shadow from a mobile crane doing something to the weighbridge on the site wsas a bit intrusive. Still, not too bad all in all and I'm sure that there will be another sunny day soon.
COLAS Rail have recently been using their class 56s on timber traffic between Teigngrace in South Devon and Chirk and Carlisle. On Saturday 29 September 2012 a special run of the train to Carlisle was planned following the postponement of an earlier train because of problems with 56094. For some reason, presumably an engineering possession somewhere, 6Z53 was routed via Gloucester, the Lickey Incline and Landor Street before joining the West Coast Main Line. Because of the train's weight COLAS sent 47727 to Gloucester to pilot 6Z53 up the Lickey and as far as Landor Street from where 56094 was due to continue unaided. The departure time from Gloucester was 11.00 but luckily for me it was about twenty minutes after this time that it actually left which gave me time to drive from Hatton, where I had just missed 70019 on an early 4O29 to Southampton, to Stoke Prior on the Gloucester to Birmingham line. I arrived with about fifteen minutes to spare and first heard the train before it came into sight; I really did think that the sound was coming from an aircraft so much racket were 47727 + 56094 making as they prepared for a run up the Lickey. The sky was mostly cloudy after a fine start to the day but my luck for once held and the sun found a clear patch at the right moment. Note how faded the paintwork of 47727 is in comparison to the fresher coat carried by 56094.
As is sometimes the case on a sunny day there were several options involving decent trains to photograph. My original plan had been to go to the Stenson Junction to Sheet Stores line for a shot of a COLAS class 56 on the Boston steel but wrote this off when a class 47 was diagrammed. Then the regular Cruise Saver ECS from Crewe to Southampton was reported as being diverted from the Nuneaton to Coventry and Leamington Spa lines because of points damage caused during overnight engineering work near Coventry and finally 56312 was scheduled to run from Washwood Heath to Long Marston in order to collect some stock destined for Derby. The timing of the latter train better suited my plans so I went to Long Marston and no sooner had I arrived than I learned that the light engine was running late largely because it had gone via Stourbridge Junctiion and Kidderminster rather than the booked route via Bromsgrove. Anyway, it arrived and was hooked onto the train, two InterCity and one Virgin Mk 2 coaches as seen in the background here. I had planned on a shot from a foot crossing a little way down the branch so headed off for the short walk. I then received a message from a friend on the scene saying that 56312 had been uncoupled from the stock, presumably because of a brake defect and was going back light engine to Washwood Heath, as seen on the main picture. One would have thought that the coaches might have been certified fit to run beforehand so that the time and expense involved in setting up paths and making a crew available, there being three men aboard the locomotive, was not wasted.
Devon and Cornwall Railways (DCR) ran the first train of a new contract conveying slag from a steel making process which will be used in road building, on behalf of DBS, from Cardiff Tidal Sidings to Rotherham on Monday 20 August 2012. The original schedule showed 6Z93 running via Chepstow, Gloucester and the Lickey Incline but this was changed at quite short notice to a route via Swindon, Didcot, Oxford and Birmingham that avoided the Lickey and used instead the lesser gradient of Hatton Bank. The original departure time of around 12.30 came and went with no reports of any movement and it wasn't until some two and a half hours later that I was told that 56303 with its sixteen wagon load was on the way. I guessed that a Hatton time would be around 19.30 if no delays were encountered in the busy areas around Oxford and Banbury and sure enough some favourable running saw it pass Hatton North shortly after 19.20 after a clear run up Hatton Bank. I hadn't been here at this time for quite a while so wasn't sure how intrusive the shadows would be. It turned out that the lines were virtually clear as the sound of a class 56 at full chat, not heard here for a few years, became audible well before Hatton station. I know that we all are supposed to really like the light in the late evening but I should have preferred 6Z94 to have run in the original path some two hours earlier which would have resulted in fewer and lighter shadows in the backgound and a less head-on angle of the sun. Maybe next time...
One of the smaller freight operators, DCR, has recently gained a contract to move scrap metal from Shipley to Cardiff using their class 56 locomotives. Things haven't gone too smoothly with a certain amount of unreliablity on the part of the 56s causing some problems including an overnight run which had to be terminated at Burton-upon-Trent following the failure of the locomotive allocated to the job. On Monday 26 March, this run was booked to take place with a departure time of 12.00 from Wetmore Sidings at Burton being planned. The train, 6Z69, left about thirty five minutes late with 56312 leading a dead in tow 56302 in the consist as insurance in case of failure. I hadn't seen any times but it wasn't too hard to work out that the train would be due south of Worcester at around 3pm. I chose to go to the footbridge at Northway, just north of Ashchurch station, because 1) I knew that the sun on a perfectly cloudless day would be spot on at the right time and 2) the bridge is high enough to give a view inside the wagons to see the load being carried. Just after I had arrived, FGW's 158951 had gone north to Worcester and by about 15.10 it hadn't reappeared. This gave a clue that if 6Z69 was ahead of it by Abbotswood Junction then the freight would be looped. This is exactly what happened and here is the impressive train crawling along Ashchurch loop ready for the passenger service to pass it.
As soon as I had taken the picture above, I went back to my car and headed round the station to the roadbridge on the south side of Ashchurch station. I don't normally chase trains around the countryside but given the perfect light decided that another bite of the cherry would be worthwhile but didn't want to go too far south in case the FGW unit was close behind. As it happened, 158951 was only a minute or two behind 56312 + 56302 with 6Z69 so I had probably made the right choice although an Arriva CrossCountry Voyager also went south. This isn't the prettiest location on the Birmingham to Gloucester line but it does show the unusual working in recognisable surroundings.
A mismatched pair of locomotives, 47375 + 56302, ran south to Cornwall on Tuesday 6 March 2012 in order to collect a short rake of tank wagons previously used to convey china clay slurry to Scotland. The loaded train returned on 8 March and ran early for most of its journey from Burngullow to Burton-upon-Trent. By the time it 6Z23 reached Defford it was in the region of 15 minutes ahead of schedule and arrived just after the light had begun to pick a little after a spell when the line in the foreground was in shadow and the background, including the whole of Bredon Hill, was in clear sunshine. The former Fastline Rail 56302 was making its second appearance of recent days; here it is in the same location, although on the other side of the bridge, on 28 February 2012 again with some wagons heading for Nemesis Rail in Burton-upon-Trent. On this occasion 47375 was dead in tow and was presumably included in the consist as insurance in case 56302 ran into problems.
One of the former Fastline class 56s, 56302 has seen some rare action over the past few days with trips from its base at Nemesis Rail at Burton-upon-Trent to Wembley, Cardiff and back to Burton. Tuesday 28 February saw the final move of the current sequence when the locomotive, now operated by DCR, took a rake of box wagons for refurbishment to the Midlands base. The train, unsurprisingly running as 6Z56, left Cardiff Canton seventy-eight minutes late and this lateness had increased by a further twenty minutes or so by the time it passed me at Defford where the shocking light allowed a shot from the north side of the line. The empty oil tanks from Westerleigh to Lindsey Oil Refinery was running a few minutes in front of 56302 hauled by a filthy 60011. I don't much like the new DBS colour scheme at the best of times but think that it looks atrocious when the locomotive needs a good clean.
One of the rarely used class 56s normally kept at Washwood Heath in Birmingham ran light engine to Hither Green during the week commencing 3 July 2011 in order to collect some scrap carrying wagons. These were taken to Grimsby and on Tuesday 12 July were scheduled to run loaded with scrap metal to Cardiff. There was originally a long layover booked at Derby which meant that the train wouldn't have reached anywhere south of Birmingham until probably 6 or 7pm which meant that I had sort of written off a shot as being a bit inconvenient. As things turned though, the Derby stop was abandoned and 6Z56, with 56311 in charge, was timed to sit in Abbotswood loop for a few minutes just after 16.00. This was much better as far as I was concerned so went across to Croome Perry where, in the past, I had taken a few shots of 56s when they were in normal service. It wasn't difficult to hear 56311 run south from its stop in the loop and although the sun didn't co-operate the light had quite a pleasant almost luminescent quality as the train ran past with its 1000 tonne load.
I don't often take photographs of light engines but the composition of this scene at Small Heath, Birmingham on 5 March 1986 appealed to me at the time. It shows 56048 just after arrival and running forward towards the crossover hidden behind the crane before reversing onto the scrap wagons in the middle distance. The train had been loaded earlier in the day by the crane using an electro-magnetic device to pick up the scrap metal. Also visible are a couple of DMMUs going to and from Moor Street station all overshadowed by the unmisteakable outline of Birmningham city centre shrouded in the usual haze of pollution found over the conurbation. This was quite a busy location during the early evening at the time and I took one of my favourite class 20 photographs here on the same day as 20125 passed by on a rake of mineral wagons.
Another three class 87s destined for export to Bulgaria were taken to Crewe from Long Marston on Wednesday 16 September 2009. Unusually, COLAS Rail sent one of its class 56s, 56311, to do the job, the locomotive having been stabled overnight in the centre siding at Worcester Shrub Hill station. Here is the ensemble complete with 86401 still in Network SouthEast livery making an early departure from Long Marston as 0Z57. The other electric locomotives are 87013, 87014 and 87004, the latter still in BR rail blue albeit with the Bulgarian numbering system applied. For a closer look at the rear two locomotives please click on this hyperlink. The class 86 is not for export but presumably will be taken to Crewe either for storage or refurbishment to main line standard.
The light on 16 September was mostly very poor but with occasional and brief sunny spells. In the hope that one of the latter would coincide with 0Z57's departure from Honeybourne, I went home via this location just to the east of Evesham. A clear patch was approaching the sun as the barriers across the road in the background were being lowered but it arrived about two minutes too late and after 56311 and its load had passed. This is not really a typical North Cotswold Line location with the nearby scrapyard but I quite like to show the different viewpoints along the line, and in reality, I don't have much interest in photographing these workings once they have reached the busier lines north of Worcester. For another look at 87401 as the train receded towards Evesham, use this hyperlink.
A rare move for one of the COLAS class 56 locomotives and on-track plant was scheduled for Monday 2 March 2009. The train, 6Z56, was booked to run from Rugby to West Ealing via Nuneaton, Water Orton, Birmingham and Solihull thus giving me the chance to photograph a member of the class on their old territory at Hatton, where they once were a daily sight on MGRs to and from Didcot Power Station. The departure time from Rugby was around 09.30 but it didn't actually take place until nearly 2 hours later meaning that the clear blue sky and lovely morning sun became covered with thick cloud. Here is 56311 approaching Hatton station having picked up about 30 minutes by being able to miss out various pathing stops.
There was some more Long Marston activity on Friday 14 November 2008, this time including a couple of "firsts". Two class 56s were scheduled to run from the Nene Valley Railway, near Peterborough, to Worcester and then on to Long Marston in order to pick up a long rake of flats, with temporary sheeting covers to protect the load, soon to be used on a new flow of steel coil from Immingham to Swindon, for use by Honda Motors. The trains are to be operated by COLAS who will be using 56311 and 56312, the latter in a striking new livery. Everything went exactly to plan (except the weather!) and here is 0Z56 passing the signalbox at Evesham a few minutes early. These are the first 56s I have photographed under their own power on the Cotswold Line, although 56103 hauled a returning charter organised by Hertfordshire Railtours from Worcester Shrub Hill to Paddington via the line on 2 May 1993, Worcester Rail Open Day, and a few MGRs to Didcot Power Station ran this way in the 1980s. Thanks to Steve Widdowson for the historical information.
I do know that no class 56 locomotive has previously worked along the Honeybourne to Long Marston branch under its own power, the only members of the class having previously been along it are those derelict examples dragged there for storage within the site. I was therefore keen to obtain this shot of 56312 and 56311 arriving so didn't hang about at Evesham. I arrived with a good 5 minutes to spare so it wasn't long before the unprecedented sight of a pair of the heavyweight engines appeared in the distance. The gates were already open and here is the pair about to run into the exchange sidings, where their load can be seen waiting in road No.2.
In the relatively short time that 6Z56 was standing in the exchange sidings at Long Marston, there was just one very brief patch of sunlight. The almost spotlight effect shows off the wagons forming the train as well as the variety of other stock stored in the yard, including the PGAs that arrived earlier in the week. I don't think that I've ever seen quite so many high visiblity jackets surrounding a train here - no doubt a function of the new operator visiting here. Shortly after I took this shot, 56311 was started up and the smoke effect had to be seen to be believed. I was, unfortunately, in the process of changing lenses at the time so wasn't able to record the eruption...
The smooth running of the operation continued and a slightly early departure was made, once all the requisite checks of the vehicles and brakes had taken place. It was good to hear the sound of a class 56 working as the train was slowly moved onto the start of the One Train Only branch to Honeybourne. I can't imagine that this will happen again in the near future so was more than happy to have witnessed it, despite the poor weather and lighting conditions.
Once 6Z56 had left Long Marston I made a bee-line for Honeybourne as there was no way that I wanted to miss a shot of a new class for the line standing on the former East Loop. The light reached a nadir during the drive over and didn't improve whilst the train was standing which was a great pity because of the attractive Autumnal colours on the trees all around here. It was still running early at this point and it seemed as if a path to Evesham was going to be available so I took just a few shots before heading off for another attempt on the main Cotswold Line.
I received a text message from a friend whilst jogging back to my car saying that the down FGW train had gone but that the up was still north of Evesham, meaning that 56311 and 56312 would have to wait there until it arrived at the station. This gave plenty of time to get to the nearest decent location, Lower Moor, between Evesham and Pershore. There was already a small gallery of photographers in situ and the news was that the up HST had already gone. There wasn't long to wait before the rounded front end of 56311 appeared under the bridge at Fladbury. The light had picked up a little but I chose to use a standard f1.8 50mm lens to make the most of it as this piece of glass always performs well in low light conditions. This is a sight that I shall remember for a long time, especially as I can't foresee a repeat performance.
Since I photographed 56311 + 56312 on and around the Cotswold Line on 14 November 2008, the pair have been working loads of imported steel from Immingham Nordic Terminal to Washwood Heath on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with the empties returning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I didn't see any point in rushing out to photograph the southbound working in poor light so decided to wait until a day came along when some sun was more or less guaranteed. This happened on Tuesday 25 November 2008 and I made my way to the bridge in Kingsbury, adjacent to the junction for the oil terminal and the Birch Coppice branch. This wasn't really my first choice of location because the sun's angle is a little too straight at 10.30 but does obviate the chance of a missed shot should the train, 6Z57, be routed to use the slow line via Whitacre Junction. This picture shows 56312 + 56311, both under power, taking the heavy train of loaded covered flats past Kingsbury on the final stage of their journey, with 66615 shunting its oil tanks ready to form 6E47 to Humber Oil Refinery.
The daily trains from Bescot to Birch Coppice and return were popular with enthusiasts because of the variety of locomotive classes that were turned out to work them. On 15 August 2003, 56117 was in charge and this photograph shows the return working, 6G42, on the slow lines from Kingsbury Junction and joining the Nuneaton to Water orton line at Whitacre. As can be seen, the shot nearly wasn't on because of the passing of a shadow, but I forget whether the sun had just cleared the cloud or was about to obscured; not that it matters now. 645
Class 56 has seen something of a resurgence of late as a result of Fastline using their 3 locomotives on a service from Doncaster to Thamesport. Here is 56301 in its rather smart new Fastline livery passing through Berkswell station on 16 June 2006. I do wish that this train would run via the far more sensible route via Solihull, Hatton, Leamington Spa and Oxford where there are far more and better photographic opportunities in my view. The platform shot was fortuitous given the loading of 4O90. One loaded flat behind the locomotive lends itself to a fairly tight angle as it doesn't accentuate the poor loading too much.
The news came through during the morning of 14 July that the 4O90 11.01 Doncaster - Thamesport was conveying 7 containers. This is about 5 more than usual so I decided this rare event should be recorded. Just as I was thinking about leaving home, another message arrived from   Andy Williams   at Aston that the train was running about 30 minutes early. My original plan had been to go to Tame Bridge near Bescot, but the early running meant somewhere closer to home would be more sensible as although it was likely that the train would be held at Birmingham International until right time, I didn't want to risk missing it. I arrived at Berkswell at 15.30 and set up my camera just as 4O90 came into view in the distance. It passed at 15.25, some 35 minutes before its usual time, showing that it had not been held at BHI.
Before leaving Whitacre Junction after taking a few shots on 18 September 2007, I hung for a couple of minutes in case the road was switched to allow 56302 with 4O90 from Birch Coppice to Thamesport to come off the slow lines from Kingsbury Junction. Nothing happened so back again to Lea Marston! There was a small gallery in situ by this time so I knew that it hadn't gone. There is always an element of doubt with the train's routing at this location, but after a short while the distinctive front end of a class 56 came into view. This is a train I feel sort of guilty about not photographing very often; in fact this is only my 3rd shot of it, despite it running 5 days a week, either from Doncaster or Birch Coppice. It has become so popular that most locations north of Birmingham are well patronised on sunny days, and one thing I dislike is jostling for elbow room on a railway bridge. Lea Marston was fine on 18 September with only 6 photographers spread about in a orderly fashion, but some places do tend to become a bit overcrowded for my misanthropic tendencies.
I spent a hour or two at Wigston Junction, Leicester on 20 February 1986. The sun had only just come out after a foggy and freezing cold day when 56133 came by, being routed onto the relief line, with a rake of stone hoppers. I mis-judged the length of the train when setting up the shot and made the unforgiveable error of chopping off the back of the train. Still, as pretty much everything except the basic railway has gone from this location, perhaps I will be forgiven...
This picture shows a relatively short-term flow of steel from Sheerness in Kent to Wolverhampton. 56065 is seen near Culham, virtually in the shadow of Didcot Power Station during the morning of 26 March 1993. At this time, the line from Leamington Spa to Didcot was very busy with freight. On this morning I saw class 60s on MGR traffic, class 47s on Automotive trains, this class 56, a sister locomotive on the Calvert to Bath Binliner and a 37 on a train from Kineton MOD. The Oxford to Paddington services had recently gone over to Turbo units, but all the InterCity traffic was in the hands of class 47s. In a little over 3 hours I photographed 11 locomotive-hauled trains, and that means only northbound services as no decent photograph of up trains is available because of the main road immediately behind the camera. 645
Class 56 was the prime mover of stone from the Mendip quarries to the South East in 1989. Here is 56044 with a train of empty hoppers passing the yard at West Ealing en-route to Acton where the loco ran-round the hoppers, on 16 February of that year. It is passing 33053 which had earlier arrived from the London direction with a heavy train of ballast wagons, which it deposited in the yard before returning light engine, presumably to the South Eastern sector. 645
It seems a long time since the M40 extension to Birmingham was completed, but in 1989 construction was ongoing. Vast tonnages of stone were taken from Merehead quarry in Somerset to the Reservoir Sidings just north of Banbury station. One such train 6A27 hauled by 56050 is here seen passing Kings Sutton during the late afternoon of 8 May 1989. Stone is still taken by rail to Banbury in 2006, but is now sourced from Mountsorrel in Leicestershire. 645
In November 1993, class 56 had begun a short-term takeover of some of the MGR coal traffic to Llanwern steelworks near Newport in South Wales. Here is 56102 passing the well-known photographic location of East Usk with such a train on the 18th of that month.
This picture was taken on Saturday 16 May 1992 in Harbury Cutting, between Leamington Spa and Fenny Compton. The train is the 6V20 10.06 Mountsorrel to Banbury utilising the Redland self-discharge set. This innovation gave an enormous amount of flexibility to the users of stone from the Leicestershire quarry. Trains from Mountsorrel still run to Banbury, but not on Saturdays and usually with class 66 power, although 60s do appear from time to time. 645
Here is a view of a 56 in "as-built" condition. 56077 is passing Leamington Spa with an empty MGR from Didcot Power Station on 7 May 1983. At this time, it is likely that the train would have been heading for Coalville for staging before going to one of the local railheads for re-loading. Note the shunting "dolly" on the extreme left of the picture. This was still controlled by lever and wire from the signalbox at the other end of the station, although there was not much time left for this mechanical device.
This is the view from the northern end of the main down platform of Leamington Spa station on 31 May 1985 as 56059 accelerates along the up main line with a Didcot-bound MGR. There is quite a severe gradient at the rear of the train, locally known as "The Dip", and it was customary for the signalmen to do their utmost to avoid checking a heavy freight at the signal protecting the junction with the Coventry line, as it was not unheard of for a stall to occur. This obviously led to delays if an assisting locomotive had to be summoned from the Birmingham area.
Another shot of a blue 56 shows 56021 under the semaphores at Banbury South with a Didcot PS to Baddesley empty MGR. The light was that lovely warm evening colour one gets late on spring evenings: this was taken on 4 May 1989. 645
Just as I was about to set off for work on the morning of Friday 3 March 2000, my mobile telephone rang. A signalman friend of mine was calling to tell me that not only was a class 37 booked on the Daw Mill to Bicester coal, but also that 56007 had earlier taken an MGR to Didcot power Station. This was very rare by this time so a diversion to Hatton (where else?!) had to be made. The 56 turned up right on cue and the sun just managed to stay out long enough for the locomotive to be illuminated. 645
The combination of a sunny morning and a Loadhaul 56 has always been irrestible to me, so when I found out that 56100 was diagrammed for the 6M04 Toton to Round Oak steel service on 30 April 1999, a quick drive over to Stoke Prior was in order. It was a bonus that the train consisted of the new wagons, which were still clean at this time. The train will turn right a few hundred yards to the south of this location and run to Worcester where the locomotive will run round before returning north to Round Oak via Kidderminster and Stourbridge Junction. 645
One of the aspects of the railway scene I miss in 2005 is the prospect of an unusual locomotive class appearing on a one-off working. On 23 July 1999, 56043 appeared near Cheltenham on a unknown northbound engineering train, narrowly missing being obscured by a southbound Virin HST. 645
On 15 July 2005 I made one of my infrequent visits to a privately owned line. 56003 was booked to work all services on the GWR (Toddington to Cheltenham Racecourse) and I quite fancied a shot of this. When I left Stratford-upon-Avon at 08.50 the sun was shining, but by the time I reached Hailes, just outside Toddington at 09.20, the light was awful. I had hoped to get the ECS working from Winchcombe but this had run before I arrived. By 10.30, departure time for the first public train of the day, the light had picked up quite a bit, although the sun was still well hidden, which was a bit of a shame because it would have been an attractive scene with the bank of Rosebay Willowherb (Angustifolium Epilobium) in the foreground. Here, 56003 with 37324 are passing Hailes bridge. The 56 is air-braked but the GWR's stock is vacuum-braked, meaning that a VB loco has to be included in the consist. I had rather hoped that the resident class 73 would be used if only for the novelty value...
This is the only time I have seen a class 56 on the Bridgwater - Sellafield nuclear flask train. The picture shows 56044 at Defford on 1 May 1997. The white polythene sheeting used by the farmer to protect his crop does not exactly help the attractiveness of the scene, but I suppose it does show the different seasons and farming practices.
In November 1997 the very short branch from Moira Junction, on the Coalville line, to the site of the former Rawdon Colliery was reopened to facilitate the removal of a large amount of coal left in situ. The six-month contract involved a couple of trains per week which originated at Toton, were loaded by mechanical grabs at a newly-built pad and then ran to Immingham. The second of these trains ran on 16 November and 56097 is seen snaking into the sun and onto the branch at 08.45. The subsidence for which this line is famous can clearly be seen towads the rear of the train. 645
This rather shadowy view shows 56097 on the Rawdon branch as it powers its train towards the loading pad. I really would have liked a shot of the train departing and thanks to the signalman who kindly kept me supplied with hot drinks on this very cold 16 November 1997, had arranged to take my picture from the signalbox gallery. Unfortunately, due to the sheer incompetence of railway management (not exactly how the signalman put it!) there was a delay of several hours while they decided whether the track was safe or not to run the loco round the train - noting that this was the second train and that the first had operated without any problems in the absence of management! By the time they had sorted themselves out it was virtually dark so no shot was obtained.
The very cold and frosty morning of 14 December 1996 produced the rare sight of type 5 power on the Stratford-upon-Avon branch when Pathfinder's "The Rooster Booster" traversed the line. 56032 is seen on on the inward journey to Stratford passing Claverdon station in a small patch of sun. The train, 1Z56, had started at Bristol Temple Meads and ran to Stratford via Worcester and then went on to Guildford, Kengsington Olympia, Northampton, Birmingham New Street and back to Bristol. Class 58, 58005 preceded the tour down the line to Stratford to haul it to the Southern via Leamington Spa. To see the return from Stratford at Hatton, please use this link. 58005 at Hatton.
In 1991, work started on renovating the historic dockyard at Chatham in Kent. This entailed the removal of many tonnes of dangerously contaminated spoil from the site, all of which ended up in the landfill site at Forders Sidings, near Bedford. The majority of the trains to and from the dockyard were hauled by construction sector class 33s whose trans were staged in the yard at Gillingam and eventually made up into one load for a 56 to haul to the Midlands. On odd occasions through, a 56 worked into the docks as evidenced here by 56037 which has just joined the rather tight branch with its load of empty and sheeted-over wagons.
One of my favourite areas for railway photography used to be the freight lines around Buckinghamshire. Saturday mornings were the best time to be there especially if the Akeman Street fertiliser train ran. There was time for several shots of this and once it had cleared the single track at Bletchley the morning stone train from Whatley quarry to Wolverton, 6M24 would be on the way from Claydon Junction. 56056 is seen here passing the site of Swanbourne station with this working on 29 June 1991. The train was audible for several minutes before it came into view. Once again, it would have been good for a video sequence if I had had the equipment then.
Class 56s worked some of the heavy oil trains through Manchester Victoria. Here, 56106 moves away from a signal check with a good show of exhaust as it prepares to tackle the stiff eastbound climb up Miles Platting bank. The 31 on banking duties ws not required to help. I think the Pacer unit also visible would have been a more likely candidate for a shove up the hill!
One of the the last 56s in red-stripe livery was 56018. This loco is seen here on 3 February 1996 with a loaded MGR probably heading for Ironbridge Power Station. The location is on the main line at Lea Marston - luckily for me, the train ran this way rather than via the Kingsbury loop.
The same location is seen here some 7 years later on 17 April 2003 when 56038 was caught passing Lea Marston with the 6G42 Birch Coppice to Bescot train. This working has been one of the more popular in the West Midlands as it has regularly produced 37s and 56s. This situation still holds true as far as 37s are concerned, but 56s have sadly been consigned to history. There was no danger of the train being routed via the Kingsbury loop on this occasion as the slow lines via Whitacre Junction were closed for engineering work.
From July 1990 a new aggregate service was incorporated into the freight WTT after working as a "special" for a while. 6DO8, the 14.23 Witton to Toton empties (later to form a service to Whitwell quarry for reloading) passes the remains of Sutton Park station on 13 July 1990 somewhat early at 12.31 behind a rather scruffy 56105. The train used 23 PQAs leased from Tiger Rail.
This location near Castle Donnington was one of my favourite locations on the freight-only line from Stenson to Sheet Stores Junction. I say "was" because Castle Donnington power station, the focal point of the scene looming in the background is no more, having been flattened. 56099 is pictured passing by with an empty MGR heading for one of the Nottinghamshire loading points.
One of the more attractive liveries to be carried by class 56 was, to my eyes, the black and orange branding of Loadhaul. 56090 is adorned with this colour scheme as it passes Claydon, Gloucestershire with the 6V14 Hull Saltend to Baglan Bay acetic acid tanks. This was a nearly solid 37 turn at this time, 23 May 2001 but a phone call during the late morning alerted me to this more unusual power for the train and enabled me to arrange an afternoon away from the office at short notice.
Two more Loadhaul examples were rostered for the annual Worksop Open Commitee charter on 2 August 2003. The train, 1Z56 "The Worksop Riviera" is pictured at Ashchurch en-route to Paignton behind 56118+56107 on a gloriously sunny morning. The return working the same evening also ran in perfect light but the shot at Defford was slightly marred by a southbound Virgin Voyager intruding into the scene. It was worth the slight disappointment to hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth from some of the assembled masses! 645
In perfect lighting conditions on 22 January 1994, 56129 was photographed hauling the 07.55 Toton to Bicester COD coal train past Hatton Station Junction. This train ran roughly once every 2 weeks during the autumn and winter supplying coal in HEAs to the Army camp. Sadly, the Bicester line's geography is such that photography at the time the train arrived was difficult when the sun was as brilliant as it was on this day.
Three weeks after the photograph above was taken, the Bicester coal ran again in equally beautiful light. This time, the locomotive was 56058. I've included this shot even though it's virtually a duplicate of the one of 56129 to show the livery difference between the two locos. 645
Although it was difficult to photograph the "Bicester coal" arriving at its destination because of the direction of the light, it was a different matter when it left later on the Saturday afternoon, at least if the sun co-operated. On 12 February 1994 this was the case as 56058 approached Banbury Road Road, Oxford with the empty HTAs slip-worked from the previous fortnight's train at 15.23 precisely. This locomotive was a regular on this job in early 1994 - I photographed on at least four separate occasions that year.
This another of those pleasant but slightly bland locations. It is to be found just north of Burton-on-Trent and the picture shows 56100 on a northbound empty MGR heading from Rugeley Power Station to Toton on 10 September 1997.
Moving into the outskirts of Burton-on-Trent, 56090 is seen at 09.58 on the morning of 17 August 2001 heading north with the morning Wolverhampton Steel Terminal to Scunthorpe working. I photographed 3 56s within an hour this morning which for the time was quite noteworthy and certainly worth posting out on rail-gen. Another picture from the day is shown below.
Exactly one hour after the picture of 56090 shown above was taken 56027 appeared on the Aldwarke to Wolverhampton steel. The plain black of partial Loadhaul livery without the large logo doesn't quite look right to my eyes but it is good to get a record of these odd paint schemes.
The Calvert to Bath and Bristol binliner featured class 56 power for a while in 1993. Here is 56055 powering away from Bicester London Road with the empty containers on 6 May.
Going back to Loadhaul locos, here are 56112+56118 making Hatton station shake with 6P18 Coventry to Washwood Heath spoil train on Sunday 21 July 2002. The train ran from Coventry to Leamington Spa where the locos ran-round their train before heading for their destination via Hatton. The racket this pair was making was quite incredible as my video taken on the day witnesses. The vibration was such that my car alarm was set off as they passed and the misty appearance of the photograph is down to a smoky bonfire in one of the gardens adjacent to the station.
Steel trains to and from Llanwern were occasionally 56 hauled even towards the end of their working lives. Pairs of grids were less common and on this occasion was the result of a derailment at Oddingley. 56103 was the loco involved and was taken to Cardiff Canton for examination. When all was found to be in order it returned to the North East on 6E39, the 16.47 Llanwern to Lackenby on 27 June 2002 where I shot it at Defford. The pilot engine is 56056.
In contrast to the image above this pair of grids was diagrammed for 6E35, a working returning empty steel slab carriers from Llanwern to Lackenby on the afternoon of Saturday 22 March 2003. News of this train didn't escape far and I was the only photographer in evidence at Croome Perry when it passed, a bit late at 15.45. The driver was clearly enthusiastic as can be seen by his waving arm and by the noise from the locos, 56032+56078, as he opened up while approaching the bridge - some good video footage resulted.
The former coal concentration depot at Aylesbury saw regular stone trains from Mountsorrel in the early 1990s. These conveniently ran on Saturdays and this picture, taken on 3 March 1991 shows 56061 shortly after leaving the depot and heading towards the station where the loco will run-round the Redland hoppers before returning via Claydon, Bletchley and Bedford.
This view shows the same working as the one above but on 17 February 1992. Unusually for a block stone train, a brake had to be included in the consist because of the proplling movement into the depot. This location has changed beyond comprehension since this picture was taken.