Fantastic and special as they are, preserved lines are not the only places to find heritage railway locomotives. The British “mainline”, or network rail is full of elderly traction manufactured a long time ago. Many machines to be found on the UK railway network have their origins in the last years of steam traction around half a century ago. Even more remarkable is that many are still of use as part of a revenue earning railway system. I for one am guilty of passing by a lot of this without much of a thought, mainly due to my personal love of steam engines! However, I was determined at long last to look properly and appreciate what is on my doorstep a little more.
With this in mind, I took a short walk around Eastleigh last Saturday and here is what I found…
We begin at Eastleigh station, a place where you can regularly find Class 73 electro-diesel’s. These locomotives can operate from both 650/750 V DC third-rail or non-electrified routes with their on-board diesel engine. They are therefore very useful, especially as a “Thunderbird” rescue locomotive. They have served in many ways in their long lifespans and worn many liveries and as such are quite an interesting subject for modellers.
These two unit’s represent sub-division’s of the class – Class 73/1 Number 73109 and Class 73/2 Number 73207. Both were built in 1966 and are therefore 48 years old. They are owned by GB Railfreight and although undoubtedly are “heritage” traction, they are nevertheless still hold a commercial value.
Walking south to Eastleigh works, you can get a view of the yard and there is often plenty to see here. Not everything you see in the yard is used on commercially on network rail and the site has started to become synonymous with railway preservation. The Watercress Line’s Merchant Navy class 35005 Canadian Pacific is being stripped and inspected here, as is regularly reported in Simon’s preservation diaries (click here for more). The public are not able to see 35005 (unless by prior appointment). Another piece of rail heritage at Eastleigh is 4CEP power car 61229 (7105) and driving motor brake second open S61230. The view of this was obstructed when I visited, but Simon put together an interesting blog post on this “slam door” unit (click here to read more) and posted the picture of it below. 7105 was built in 1958 when steam engines were still being built for British Railways. It is therefore is 56 years old – older than one of the star’s of the Watercress Line’s Spring steam Gala (92212)! Remarkably it was withdrawn in 2003 – such a long working life on such heavy commuter services.
On any standard gauge railway in the country you are likely to find the ubiquitous class 08 diesel shunter and Eastleigh is no different. Further to the North an EWS shunter was parked, whilst in the yard (below) was 08947, unofficially named Howie on one side and Margaret on the other. The class 08 is the biggest single class of locomotive ever built in the UK. Built in 1962, 08947 is 52 years old and is therefore a relatively new class 08. The first were introduced in 1953, 61 years ago when not only were steam engines were built, but also being developed and designed.
The next diesel shunter below is a little more unusual. It was also built in 1962 and is 52 years old. It is a class 07, one of just 14 ever built (compared with 996 class 08!) Owned by Knights Rail Services Ltd, the locomotive has been at Eastleigh for decades. The type were built to take on duties from retired USA and LSWR B4 Tank locomotives in Southampton docks. This diesel shunter has been made famous as being the basis for Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends character Salty.
Network Rail use Eastleigh as a base for their bright yellow class 57 locomotives. Two are pictured below, taken last December (with two Black 5 locomotives in the background) when they were in a good position to frame them!
57303 is pictured more recently in the foreground of the picture below. Introduced between 1998 and 2004 the class 57 are almost outside of the scope of this article, except that they are rebuilds of class 47 locomotives with refurbished EMD engines and reconditioned alternators. 57303 used to be 47705 and was originally built in 1967 (47 years ago).
In the background of the picture above and the subject of the following two photographs is something a little out of the ordinary, in more sense than one. This locomotive is not in revenue earning service, nor are any other of its classmates. This large diesel-electric engine is owned by the Class 50 alliance. It is D431 50031 Hood built in 1968 and is the youngest locomotive featured here at 46 years old. This powerful 2,700bhp locomotive was withdrawn in 1991.
The interesting thing here is that it has clearly been renumbered 50011, after a classmate that has long since been scrapped. In fact 50011 was the first class 50 to be withdrawn in 1987. I do not know why it has been renumbered, but it was good to see it all the same. Its foray outside was quite brief and I was lucky enough to catch it whilst starting it’s massive engine, as can be seen by the clag below!
So there we have it – a number of “heritage” units that could justifiably be found on a preserved railway, but all seen within 20-30 minutes walk from Eastleigh station on the National Rail network. One thing this exercise has taught me is to appreciate what is around us a little more – heritage is not just something in the past, but it is present in and part of our lives. It also makes you think about how important it is to preserve what we can from our everyday lives, to be sure that it does not disappear – in essence within our everyday surroundings are genuine pieces of living history.
It’s remarkable how profound a short walk around an old railway town can become! Thanks for reading folks 🙂