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Michael Rhodes reports on ‘Big Boy’s steam comeback after a 60-year hiatus, as the famous locomotive spearheaded the ‘Golden Spike’ celebrations at Promontory Summit, Utah, to mark the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869.

Many would argue that an ‘A4’ is the most iconic steam engine in the UK, and there is no doubt the Union Pacific ‘Big Boy’ takes that accolade in North America.

Twenty five of the class were built by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) for Union Pacific (UP) between 1941 and 1944. Originally, the engines were supposed to be called ‘Wasatch’ after the mountain range they were designed to conquer, until some wag in the ALCO factory scrawled ‘Big Boy’ on the boiler. The name stuck! 

‘Big Boy’ No. 4014 at rest, having arrived at Rawlings on the evening of May 5, on the trip from its base in Cheyenne to Promontory Summit, Utah. EIKI SEKINE

The locomotives, complete with tenders, weighed in at 600 tons and were 132ft long. They ran on low-quality Wyoming coal from UP-owned mines, generating about 7,000HP. They were capable of a maximum speed of 80mph, as they hauled 4,000-ton freight trains between Cheyenne and Ogden until their replacement by diesels in 1959.

A ceremonial Golden Spike is tapped in by VIPs at Promontory, Utah, re-creating the 1869 ceremony. UNION PACIFIC 

Eight examples of the class were saved, but none of them were operational. Static exhibits in Cheyenne, Denver, St Louis, Scranton, Green Bay, Frisco, Omaha, and finally Pomona, California, were all in various stages of disrepair when Ed Dickens, head of the UP heritage fleet, received the go ahead in 2013 to restore a ‘Big Boy’. 

Read more and view more images in the June 2019 issue of The RM – on sale now!

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NEW timetables came into force across the UK network on May 19, adding around 1,000 additional services.

However, many of the promised new trains have still not materialised. 

Highlights of the new timetable include the introduction of an hourly Transport for Wales (TfW) service linking Liverpool and Chester/Wrexham via the revived Halton Curve, which is now open in both directions. 

‘Norwich in 90’ is one of the new timetable initiatives to operate some services for the 115 miles to and from the capital in 90 minutes, No. 90001 having arrived on May 21 with the 09.00 from Norwich in just 88 minutes. The 17.00 from Norwich and 11.00 and 19.00 return from Liverpool Street are also scheduled for 90 minutes. JAMIE SQUIBBS

Greater Anglia introduced ‘Norwich in 90’ trains on May 20. Two additional train pairs leave Norwich at 09.00 and 17.00 and Liverpool Street at 11.00 and 19.00, reaching Ipswich in 55 minutes.

The trains are timed for the new Class 745 ‘FLIRT’ EMUs, but will initially be worked by Class 90+Mk3 sets, with pairs of bi-mode Class 755s taking over once they are authorised. 

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Exciting times are ahead as the first trains of two new fleets entered service during April and May. A total of 22 new or fully refurbished fleets are due for introduction by 12 train operators over the next three years, and The RM will be taking a closer look at these trains. To kick off the series, Chris Milner samples the LNER ‘Azumas’, built by Hitachi, and VivaRail’s Class 230 ‘D’ train.

Enter the ‘Azuma’!

THE transition to new trains for passengers who use LNER services along the East Coast Main Line got underway on May 15 when the first Hitachi Class 800 ‘Azuma’ – No. 800113 –
worked the 11.03 King’s Cross-Leeds. The following day set No. 800102 was used on a Hull diagram.

The inaugural LNER ‘Azuma’ revenue-earning service, with No. 800113 passing Adwick with the 11.03 King’s Cross-Leeds on May 15. GEOFF GRIFFITHS

It’s an exciting step forward for the state-backed operator, but one which will also lead to the start of withdrawal of the immensely popular Class 91 and Mk4 trains, and also HST sets. Three Class 91s are due to be handed back to the leasing company by the end of June, rising to seven by August 31 as the ‘Azuma’ rollout progresses. 

A lot has happened since the East Coast franchise was under the tenure of Stagecoach and Virgin, with the first ‘Azuma’ unveiled at King’s Cross on March 18, 2016. There have been many changes since then, but crucially the same team has remained involved to provide the continuity to deliver these new trains, and provide a new passenger experience. 

In Standard Class, bright red seating is the order, the majority of seating lining up well with the windows. 

LNER is having 65 ‘Azuma’ trains built by Hitachi at Newton Aycliffe. This new fleet is a mix of electric and bi-modes, both five- and nine-car units with a design speed of 140mph, although 125mph will remain the maximum for the time being. The ‘Azuma’ name comes from the Japanese language and means ‘east’.

The traffic light seat reservation system is easy to understand.

Speaking to The RM at the press trip to Peterborough on May 14, Hitachi managing director Karen Boswell said: “For me it’s a really important day. I know first hand the impact these trains will make, having been involved in East Coast for more than five years. The train will be a transformation. 

“You have capacity, performance and the on-board environment. Passengers will be excited. It’s the next generation of technology.”

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After almost 44 years of sterling service, the InterCity 125 – which transformed long-distance travel for British Rail – has ended its association with London Paddington. Chris Milner joined in the commemorations and rode the last timetabled HST from Brunel’s famous terminus.

THOUSANDS of enthusiasts flocked to London Paddington station on the evening of May 18 to witness the final timetabled HST workings of the venerable InterCity 125 train.

It really was the end of an era on Great Western, which first began in October 1976, and for 43 years and eight months, has seen IC125 operation on routes from Paddington form the backbone of BR and GW services – and indeed services elsewhere in the country. 

It’s 17.40 on May 18 and all four HSTs are at Paddington station for the last time, enthusiasts witnessing the historic moment not deterred by the rain. The power cars are (from left) Nos. 43198, 43009, 43162 and 43188.  FINBARR O’NEIL

From May 19, all InterCity services were being operated by modern Class 800 and 802 trains, built by Hitachi as part of the on-going transition of the railway. 

For the Paddington finale, four HSTs stood side-by-side in a fitting choreographed salute across platforms 1 to 4, the workhorses surrounded by crowds of enthusiasts and photographers, many of whom had been enjoying their last ride on the trains. Some even opted for a Pullman-style dining farewell, regardless of cost. 

Sir Kenneth Grange is interviewed by Tim Dunn during a live broadcast on social media site Facebook, as NRM head curator Andrew McLean looks on. CHRIS MILNER

Passengers alighting from inbound HSTs and other services, utterly bemused at the crowds, were thinking there was a famous star at the station, not realising it was the trains themselves which were the ‘celebrities’.

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SOME of the worst trespass incidents seen since ‘A3’ No. 60103 Flying Scotsman returned to the main line in 2016 occurred on May 5 as the Pacific was returning from York to London Paddington on the final day of the Railway Touring Company’s ‘Great Britain XI’
nine-day tour. 

Trespass was most evident between Burton-on-Trent and Tamworth, especially around Elford, where sightseers had climbed through fencing to stand on the ballast of a 125mph line 

A male and female photographer stand on the lineside halfway between Elford and Wichnor Jct. Behind is CrossCountry’s 10.25 Plymouth-Glasgow Central, from which the driver had got off to take this and other images, which were passed on to British Transport Police. ANDREW YOUNG

Many had their backs to oncoming traffic and had placed themselves in great danger, leading to calls for Network Rail to review its fencing at these locations to see if they are adequate. 

As drivers reported the trespass to control, trains were cautioned, and more than 50 were late or terminated short, with aggregate delays of nearly 1,000 minutes. 

Read more in the June 2019 issue of The RM – on sale now!

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THE Gospel Oak to Barking line got the first of its new trains in May 23 when two Class 710 four-car EMUs were launched into service late morning. 

The two sets worked two full diagrams the following day.

The announcement from Transport for London came with less than 24 hours notice.

Class 710 No. 710261 at Upper Holloway with the first public service using the new trains – the 11.36 Gospel Oak-Barking, on May 23. JAMIE SQUIBBS

The move will be a welcome step for users of the route, who have had to endure a 30-minute rather than 15-minute frequency since mid-March, as well as chronic overcrowding.

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MAY 15 was an historic day for state-backed train operator LNER, which introduced the new Hitachi Class 800 ‘Azuma’ on its first revenue-earning service from London King’s Cross to Leeds and Hull.

The previous day, LNER invited the railway press and other stakeholders on a trip
to Peterborough to sample the train (see also feature on p16). 

Eventually, LNER will be operating 65 ‘Azuma’ trains, some five-car, some nine, with Class 800s as bi-mode and Class 801 as electric only. 

‘Azuma’ No. 800113, working the 11.03 London King’s Cross-Leeds, passing Brookmans Park with the first revenue-earning service on May 15. KEN BRUNT

Their introduction will lead to the retirement of Class 91 locos, along with Mk4 sets, as well as HST sets, on a rolling basis over the coming months.

From the one diagram beginning on May 16, LNER has announced its intentions to ramp up diagrams by the end of June to six. 

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TWO of 12 GWR Class 387 110mph EMUs to be branded in a new Heathrow Express livery were released from Ilford Works on May 22. 

Set Nos. 387130 and 387140 were hauled to Reading by ROG Class 57 No. 57305 Northern Princess.

Currently, the sets have not been refitted internally, but this will happen over the next few months before a launch in the 15-minute frequency service from Paddington.

Using Class 387s based at Reading will allow that part of Old Oak Common depot to be vacated, and the 20-year-old Class 332s to be retired. 

It was announced slightly more than a year ago that GWR would operate the service as part of a management contract running from August 2018 until 2028. 

JAMES BUSNELL

Read more News and Features in the June 2019 issue of The RM –on sale now!

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For this month’s Practice & Performance , Keith Farr takes a nostalgic look at some notable steam rail tours from the 1960s

One fine June evening in 1967, a friend and I were enjoying dinner in the restaurant car of the 17.05 Euston-Carlisle. During the soup course we were discussing our plans for recording steam over Shap when the brakes came on and, like Edward Thomas’s express train at Adlestrop, we came to a stand unwontedly, but somewhere in Cheshire.

Apparently, our Brush Type 4 diesel did not want to go any further; so, after a commendably short interval, we were rescued by an ‘8F’ 2-8-0, which trundled on to Warrington to be replaced there by another Class 47.

GWR ‘2884’ class 2-8-0 No. 3863 pauses at Yarnton on the line to Witney and Fairford with the LCGB’s ‘Western Ranger’ tour on August 15, 1965. This loco was attached to the special at Reading General. COLOUR-RAIL

What has this to do with railtours? Twice have I experienced main line haulage behind an ‘8F’, on the occasion mentioned and on the ‘Eight Counties Railtour’ in March, 1966. Organised by the Railway Correspondence & Travel Society (RCTS) and starting from Northampton, the ‘special’ was powered by Stanier ‘8F’ No. 48467 from Leicester to Nottingham, where a ‘B1’ took over for a ‘track-basher’s delight’ via the Notts/Yorkshire coalfield to Wath Exchange sidings. Gresley’s prototype DC electric loco, No. 26000 Tommy, then crossed the Pennines via Woodhead to Godley Junction, where steam haulage was resumed in the form of a ‘Jubilee’, No. 45596 Bahamas, continuing via Northwich to Crewe. 

Crewe North’s No. 46251 City of Nottingham waits for departure time from Edinburgh Princes Street station at 3.45pm with the return ‘Duchess Commemorative Railtour’ to Crewe on October 5. 1963. COLOUR-RAIL

The return to Northampton was behind another Bo-Bo electric, this time AC and more dashing in style and behaviour than Tommy.

How did the ‘8F’ perform? The log in Table 1, obtained from the Railway Performance Society’s electronic archive and recorded by RPS member Bruce Nathan, demonstrates  the ability of a Stanier 2-8-0, designed to haul slow, heavy freight trains, to attain express passenger speeds.

Rapid exhaust beats merged into a continuous roar as No. 48467 accelerated away from Leicester, nudging no less than 70mph on a level and slightly downhill road before slowing to bear right for Nottingham. And, after negotiating the Trent junctions, the ‘8F’ was quickly up to 68mph at Beeston. Despite a signal stop, the ‘Eight Counties Railtour’ came to a stand at Nottingham (Midland) within the scheduled time.

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Spanish train manufacturer CAF has been awarded the contract to design, manufacture and supply a fleet of 43 trains for the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) by Transport for London (TfL). The contract will include a Fleet Support Agreement to provide technical support services and spares supply.

The five-car trains will be based on CAF’s hugely successful Metro vehicle design, with the first entering passenger service from 2023.

Thirty-three trains will replace DLR’s oldest rolling stock which is nearly thirty years old and the additional ten will increase frequency and capacity across the network.   

The new trains will be a similar length to the current 3-car trains currently operating on the DLR but providing a number of customer improvements, including the latest audio and visual real-time travel information, air conditioning, mobile device charging points, multi-use areas – which can accommodate pushchairs, bicycles and luggage – and dedicated wheelchair spaces.

Full story in the July issue.

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