Rail (UK)

In­side re­built ‘69’

- Richard Clin­nick Head of News richard.clin­nick@bauer­me­dia.co.uk @Richard_rail

Class 56s re­vived, re­built and re­booted: GB Rail­freight plans to start test­ing on the first Class 69 in Jan­uary.

GB Rail­freight has an­nounced that test­ing of the first Class 69s should be­gin on the Sev­ern Val­ley Rail­way in Jan­uary, with the lo­co­mo­tives en­ter­ing traf­fic later in the year.

Ten Class 56s are be­ing con­verted into ‘69s’ by Progress Rail at its Long­port fa­cil­ity, near Stoke-on-Trent. They are re­quired to meet GBRf’s grow­ing port­fo­lio.

Speak­ing ex­clu­sively to RAIL, GBRf En­gi­neer­ing Direc­tor Bob Tiller said that work was un­der way on seven lo­co­mo­tives, with three more to fol­low. The con­tract in­cludes an op­tion for a fur­ther six if re­quired.

The idea to re-en­gine Class 56s, which were built in 1976-84, first sur­faced just after the Train­load freight com­pa­nies set up just be­fore pri­vati­sa­tion (Load­haul, Main­line and Tran­srail) were ac­quired by Wis­con­sin Cen­tral to cre­ate what be­came Eng­lish, Welsh & Scot­tish Rail­ways (EWS). The Amer­i­cans looked to up­grade ex­ist­ing Bri­tish Rail fleets (such as the ‘56s’) be­fore in­stead or­der­ing 250 Class 66s, so no de­sign was ever taken for­ward.

Why res­ur­rect the idea al­most 25 years later?

Tiller ex­plained: “We need mo­tive power. Luck­ily I have been able to find Class 66s abroad.”

GBRf is us­ing 66747-66749 that ar­rived from the Nether­lands in 2012, 66750/751 (which ar­rived in 2013), and 66790-792 (which ar­rived in 2019), while 66793797 are now ar­riv­ing with all five due by next year from Ger­many. Along­side ten ‘66s’ bought from DB Cargo UK (for­merly EWS), ten ‘60s’ and three ‘47s’ from Co­las Rail­freight, these helped GBRf to meet its re­quire­ments at the time.

The ‘56’ owes its her­itage to sev­eral classes, in­clud­ing ‘37s’, ‘47s’ and ‘50s’, while its elec­tronic con­trols were sim­i­lar to those used on High Speed Train Class 43 power cars. How­ever, the

‘56’ was of­ten ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to main­tain, with its power unit re­quir­ing ex­ces­sive fuel con­sump­tion.

The plan to re­build ‘56s’ as ‘69s’ was based on the need to im­prove emis­sions, to save costs through im­proved fuel econ­omy, and to have a re­li­able lo­co­mo­tive while also en­abling GBRf to en­cour­age a stan­dard­i­s­a­tion across its fleet.

Tiller said the con­ver­sion work is much more in-depth than when Brush Trac­tion re­built Class 47s as ‘57s’, or the re­build of ‘73s’ (which, along with fit­ting MTU en­gines to HST power cars, was also one of his projects).

He ex­plained: “It’s not quite as easy as it sounds. The cooler group is proven from an EMD GT42AC lo­co­mo­tive, the al­ter­na­tor is from a one-me­tre GP40 lo­co­mo­tive, and the elec­tri­cal cu­bi­cle was specif­i­cally de­signed for the Class 69 project to fit within the Class 56 bodyshell.

“The cab in­side is all new - the Brush con­trols have gone and it’s much more sim­i­lar now to a ‘66’.

We have kept the curved Class 47-style desk, but other than that it’s very Amer­i­can­ised. The front end has been re­designed and all the draughts have now gone.

“The ‘56’ bo­gies, wheelsets and trac­tion mo­tors have all been over­hauled to a very high stan­dard.

“One of the prob­lems the ‘56s’ had was when ac­cel­er­at­ing from a stand, the fourth pow­ered wheel would in­vari­ably raise up and suf­fer wheel spin, due to weight shift. So we have fit­ted a bet­ter trac­tion con­trol sys­tem, which should make it more con­trol­lable.”

Tiller added that the brak­ing sys­tem has also sur­vived from the ‘56’: “If we had changed that, it would have needed a much big­ger re­design, so we have kept the

D&M sys­tem through­out as well as up­grad­ing all the in-cab safety sys­tems to lat­est ver­sions - for ex­am­ple, TPWS4.”

The cost of all this re­mains lower than buy­ing brand new lo­co­mo­tives. Also, there is cur­rently noth­ing avail­able that meets one of the main cri­te­ria - stan­dard­i­s­a­tion. Where pos­si­ble, GBRf wants its ad­di­tional lo­co­mo­tives to be sim­i­lar to the Class 66 that has proven so suc­cess­ful for the busi­ness.

“We looked at ways of en­hanc­ing the GBRf fleet, but keep­ing as much stan­dard­i­s­a­tion with the Class 66 as pos­si­ble,” said Tiller, who added that be­cause GBRf has a ten-year main­te­nance con­tract with Progress Rail, it made sense for the com­pa­nies to work to­gether to ad­dress the is­sue.

Class 56s, ‘47s’ and ‘60s’ were con­sid­ered for re-en­gin­ing and re­build­ing, but the dif­fer­ence was that the ‘56s’ were avail­able straight­away. They were ac­quired from UK Rail Leas­ing, which had sev­eral ex­am­ples stored at its Le­ices­ter de­pot.

“With the as­sis­tance of UKRL En­gi­neer­ing Direc­tor Alan Lee, I looked at sev­eral de­signs that could work with the lo­co­mo­tives,” said Tiller.

“We looked at fit­ting a twinengine Cater­pil­lar de­sign, an MTU V16 en­gine or even two Cum­mins en­gines, be­fore set­tling on the EMD12N-710. These are what’s fit­ted in a Class 66, and these are ten brand new en­gines.”

De­spite the en­gines be­ing brand new 3A emis­sions-com­pli­ant, they are still of a de­sign that had been dis­con­tin­ued due to emis­sions reg­u­la­tions im­posed on the in­dus­try. This meant that GBRf 66779 Even­ing Star, which ar­rived in the UK in 2016, was the fi­nal brand new ‘66’ to be built for this mar­ket.

How­ever, GBRf was able to prove that their emis­sions were an im­prove­ment on what had been in the lo­co­mo­tive pre­vi­ously. Fur­ther­more, be­cause the Class 56 re­tains Grand­fa­ther Rights on the net­work, the ap­proval process is a lot quicker.

Re­tain­ing the main struc­ture, weights, bo­gies, mo­tors and drawgear en­ables GBRf to re­tain the track dy­nam­ics and rail in­ter­face of a Class 56, and thus the project can be clas­si­fied as an up­grade.

“These are a very clever de­sign by be­ing able to shoe-horn every­thing into a UK de­sign, with the work car­ried out here in the UK,” said Tiller.

Longer-term, should GBRf want to buy brand new lo­co­mo­tives, these would have to meet Stage 5 emis­sions rul­ings. Cur­rently there is noth­ing avail­able that would fit into the UK load­ing gauge.

Cur­rently, bodyshells are be­ing trans­ported from Long­port to nearby Mar­croft En­gi­neer­ing, which is shot blast­ing them and pre­par­ing them for even­tual paint­ing. The bo­gies are be­ing over­hauled by Pull­man Rail at Cardiff Can­ton. When the fin­ished ‘56’ bodyshell re­turns to Progress Rail, the con­ver­sion be­gins.

Donor lo­co­mo­tives are cho­sen on ac­count of what works. A lo­co­mo­tive may have been stored for many years, or in the case of 56128 even been sold to a scrap mer­chant. But pro­vided its bo­gies and trac­tion equip­ment can be sal­vaged, then it can be re­built.

As for the progress of the project, it has been de­layed only by the COVID-19 pan­demic - in­clud­ing lock­downs in the United States.

Said Tiller: “We should press the but­ton to start 69001 soon, and then it will be­gin load bank test­ing at Long­port. After that, in the first week of Jan­uary, it should go to the Sev­ern Val­ley.”

GBRf will work on get­ting

69001 type-tested, but once it has com­pleted its stint at the SVR it will move to Eastleigh Works, where it will join 69002, with Ar­ling­ton Fleet Ser­vices con­tracted to re­paint the ten lo­co­mo­tives.

The first to be re­leased is likely to be 69002 in cor­po­rate GBRf colours, with the pi­o­neer re­leased in a liv­ery de­signed to rep­re­sent the part­ner­ship between the op­er­a­tor and Progress Rail. After that the plan is to re­lease one lo­co­mo­tive a month from Long­port.

The Class 56s were bought out­right by GBRf. But as with the Class 60 fleet, the op­er­a­tor has com­pleted a sale/lease­back deal, in this in­stance with Progress Rail (the first time the man­u­fac­turer has leased lo­co­mo­tives in the UK).

Once in traf­fic, the lo­co­mo­tives will be used on gen­eral pur­pose du­ties rather than be­ing ded­i­cated to any par­tic­u­lar flow, al­though it’s likely they will be based in one part of the coun­try for ease of main­te­nance and driver knowl­edge. Tiller de­clined to com­ment where.

With a need to have as­sets in place ahead of new con­tracts (de­spite the pan­demic), com­bined with the lack of any­thing avail­able ‘off-the-shelf’ that would not need a lengthy ap­proval process, up­cy­cling re­dun­dant Bri­tish Railde­signed lo­co­mo­tives makes sense for GBRf.

“These are nearly Class 66s in ‘56’ cloth­ing,” con­cluded Tiller.

 ?? GBRAILFREI­GHT/BOB TILLER. ?? Stand­ing in­side Progress Rail’s Long­port fa­cil­ity, 69001 is the first of ten for­mer Class 56s to be re­built with new, greener en­gines. It is due to be started for the first time in the com­ing weeks and en­ter traf­fic next year.
GBRAILFREI­GHT/BOB TILLER. Stand­ing in­side Progress Rail’s Long­port fa­cil­ity, 69001 is the first of ten for­mer Class 56s to be re­built with new, greener en­gines. It is due to be started for the first time in the com­ing weeks and en­ter traf­fic next year.
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 ?? RICHARD CLIN­NICK. ?? On Jan­uary 15 2016, UK Rail Leas­ing 56031 stands stored at Le­ices­ter. This was one of 18 Class 56s ac­quired by GB Rail­freight, and has been re­built as 69001. This has in­volved sig­nif­i­cant changes to the lo­co­mo­tive’s bodyshell.
RICHARD CLIN­NICK. On Jan­uary 15 2016, UK Rail Leas­ing 56031 stands stored at Le­ices­ter. This was one of 18 Class 56s ac­quired by GB Rail­freight, and has been re­built as 69001. This has in­volved sig­nif­i­cant changes to the lo­co­mo­tive’s bodyshell.

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