Class 58 History | Mainline Freight

Mainline Freight

In the ‘Railfreight’ article, we saw the ‘sectoring’ of British Rail in 1982 (creating five business structures: Intercity, Network SouthEast, Provincial (later Regional Railways), Parcels and Railfreight).
In the ‘Trainload Coal’ article, we focussed on October 1987 when we saw the launch of the sub-sectors of Railfreight (Coal, Construction, Metals and Petroleum) as well as the launch of Railfreight Distribution (RfD).
We now look at the temporary arrangements that were put in place in the two years in the run up to the privatisation of British Rail…
In July 1992 the UK government published a White Paper detailing how the forthcoming privatisation of British Rail was to take place.
The passenger operations of BR were to be split up into twenty-five Train Operating Units (TOUs that have now become known as Train Operating Companies - TOCs). Each of these ‘units’ would be franchised to businesses that would resource, run and operate the passenger services.
When it came to deciding how to privatise the freight operations of BR, it was it would be re-organised and split-up on a geographical basis.
Therefore, in early 1994, Trainload Freight was split into three different companies, based on geographical location. The companies were given the interim names of ‘Trainload Freight South East’, ‘Trainload Freight West’ and ‘Trainload Freight North East’. These companies were later renamed ‘Mainline Freight’, ‘Transrail’ and ‘Loadhaul’ respectively.
Traffic flows were allocated to the companies according to where the traffic originated (except for coal traffic (because coal sources can change at short notice) and a few other commodities where the division was by destination point). All three companies were given flows which went deep into each other’s territory, the idea being that when a contract for a particular flow came to an end there would be competition between the three companies to try and get the new contract. Competition was actively encouraged by the Government and from April 1994 each business was free to bid for any new traffic, even if it did not cross ‘home territory’.
Each of the three companies were allocated territories that would give them a turnover of about £150 million per annum. But this came at a price… In order to make this amount of turnover, the size of these territories varied greatly. Trainload Freight North East had the smallest geographical area, while Trainload Freight West, on the other hand, covered a much larger area, including the whole of Scotland, Wales and the West of England with longer-distance services.
The geographical basis also meant that each company had a different portfolio of commodities, for example, Trainload Freight South East handled more aggregates business because it had the important Mendip stone quarries in its area, whereas Trainload Freight North East handled the important short-distance Humberside petroleum flows and Trainload Freight West handled more steel products.
These three regional businesses also absorbed the non-trainload services previously operated by Railfreight Distribution (RfD). This left RfD to concentrate on its European (Channel Tunnel), Automotive, MoD and Freightliner operations. However, in 1994, the freightliner operations split from RfD to form Freightliner Ltd, a separate company solely to haul freightliner container wagons from the dockside to their destination. Speedlink, which was also a part of RfD, ceased operating in 1991 due to losing traffic to road and increasing financial losses.
Overall, Trainload Freight South East (the business we will be concentrating on) was responsible for freight operations in the south-east of England, East Anglia, the East Midlands and parts of Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Avon.
The entire BR Trainload Freight locomotive and wagon fleets were split between the three new Trainload companies. The actual allocations of class and sub-class of locomotives depended on the types of freight hauled by the companies.

Trainload Freight

Proposed loco fleet resource split: January 1994
(‘Table A’)
A total of 851 diesel locomotives were planned# to be split as follows:


Trainload Freight Division
Locomotives West North East South East
Class 20 16 - -
Class 31 101 - 42
Class 33 - - 25
Class 37/0 56 33 60
Class 37/3 1 9 9
Class 37/4 28 - -
Class 37/5 24 25 4
Class 37/7 18 16 10
Class 37/9 6 - -
Class 47 22 20 20
Class 56* 57 74 -
Class 58 - - 50
Class 60 34 33 33
Class 73/1 - - 25
TOTALS: 363 210  


* Class 56 locomotives includes stored and withdrawn locomotives.
# It should also be noted here that although this was the proposed distribution of the locomotive fleets, individual locomotives could (and were) swapped between companies as and when required, making the actual number of locomotives belonging to any one business completely variable as we can see in ‘Table B’.
Not only were the locomotive and wagon fleets split between the companies; the major depots that serviced and maintained them were also divided out depending on their location.
However, as locomotives would regularly operate to and from each other’s areas, fuelling points would be open to all and fuel would be charged accordingly.
The maintenance structure that evolved saw the creation of a “super depot” for each division with a number of smaller out-bases around the region undertaking regular servicing and examinations as required:
Trainload Freight North East’s ‘super depot’ was Immingham
Trainload Freight West’s ‘super depot’ was Cardiff Canton
Trainload Freight South East’s ‘super depot’ was Toton
The entire Trainload Freight South East fleet locomotive allocation was to be split between the company’s main depots at Toton and Stewarts Lane, but other smaller depots in the Trainload Freight South East region where locomotives could be out-stabled were located at:
  • Shirebrook
  • Leicester
  • Peterborough
  • Hither Green
  • Stratford
  • Eastleigh
  • And finally, a new servicing shed was to be built at Didcot

The creation of the new identity for Trainload Freight South East..

The development of the new identity for Trainload Freight South East was developed jointly between the company management and London-based corporate design specialists Halpin Grey Vermier (HGV). HGV had already worked for a wide variety of organisations, including the Child Support Agency, Mobil and Barclays Bank. The senior management of Trainload Freight South East felt it was important to have a definitive, professionally produced corporate identity which would reflect a modern and forward-looking railfreight company but with a traditional approach, and by working with HGV, this was achieved.
When deciding upon a new business name for Trainload Freight South East, the company wanted to distance itself from descriptive names and wanted to avoid using words which would imply a limited scope for its business. Any reference to railway geography was also barred because the company ultimately had nationwide aspirations similar to those of its two competitors. Also outlawed were words which referred to one type of operation such as the previous ‘Trainload’ branding.
The name Mainline fulfilled all the company’s requirements perfectly because it immediately brought the image of railways to mind as well as indicating that the business was always on the move.
From the outset, the three companies were told to create a logo/brand that could be applied to all their locomotives as a stop-gap. Full repaints could be undertaken at a later date as and when required. So for a new Mainline Freight company logo, Halpin Grey Vermier came up with a sequence of superimposed wheels placed on a horizontal line, clearly and simply symbolising the idea of movement by rail. The business name Mainline was spelt out in a bold, modern typeface beneath the line.
The colours chosen for this logo were blue and yellow (similar colours to the Trainload Construction livery) which worked well visually with the two-tone grey livery.
This new logo was applied temporarily to one Class 37 (37203) and one Class 60 (60079) locomotive for display at Toton depot on the 7th July 1994. This gave Mainline management and Halpin Grey Vermier the opportunity to see the logo in context, to check its sizing and to assess its durability when passing through the washing plant. A Class 58 was also examined in detail because the logo would have to be carried across the bodyside doors. The application of the Mainline logo to the 37 and 60 was only for a few hours, before being removed.
Once the finished logo design was approved, it was applied to the Mainline locomotive fleet to eventually replace the now obsolete sub-sector decals of Trainload Freight.
The Mainline identity was also applied to some wagons as well as being used on a variety of promotional materials, letterheads and other official paperwork and also at depot entrances and reception areas, etc.
Just for the record, the following Class 58s carried the Mainline Freight blue/yellow logo on the triple grey livery: 58001 / 003 / 004 / 006 / 007 / 009 / 010 / 011 / 012 / 015 / 016 / 017 / 018 / 019 / 020 / 022 / 025 / 026 / 027 / 028 / 029 / 030 / 031 / 033 / 034 / 035 / 037 / 039 / 040 / 041 / 043 / 044 / 045 / 047 / 048 and 58049 (36 in total)
In 1994, a new livery for Mainline Freight was developed. In contrast to the approach of Trainload Freight North East (Loadhaul) who developed a completely new livery (a striking black and orange colour scheme) and Trainload Freight West (Transrail) who simply stuck its big ‘T’ logo on the existing liveries, Trainload Freight South East (Mainline) chose to develop a more traditional blue and silver livery.
The reason blue was chosen as the main colour was because Trainload Freight South East wanted a strong colour that was in line with the old railway family of colours (like the Southern green and the Midlands maroon). The blue with silver logo seemed to fit what was trying to be achieved - something modern with echoes of a glorious past, reminiscent of the famous BR Blue era.
The Mainline Freight ‘rolling wheels’ logo retained its existing design but was changed in colour to an all-silver version in order to stand out more clearly from the blue locomotive bodyside. At the time, it was hoped that silver light-reflecting paint could be used so that the logo stood out in the dark, but at the time no such paint was available!
The locomotive chosen to be the first to be painted into the corporate blue and silver livery was none other than 58050, the same locomotive chosen to launch the Railfreight/Trainload Coal sub-sector markings.
58050 was duly repainted in secrecy into the new livery at Toton depot in the week leading up to the ‘Freightconnection 94” event. The locomotive was then hauled to Ilford depot (Essex) on September 29 before being transported to ‘Custom House’ in London Docklands by road for the event.
It was on the October 4 1994, during the “Freightconnection ‘94” event in London’s Docklands, Mainline Freight unveiled its new ‘aircraft blue’ livery for the first time. The unveiling of the livery was performed by Kim Jordan, the Managing Director of Mainline Freight, when he drew back the curtains to reveal the new-look locomotive.
From late 1994 onwards the aircraft blue livery was progressively applied to the main core Mainline locomotive fleet, mainly Class 37s and 58s, although a handful of Class 60s and 73s were repainted. Even the odd ‘Gronk’ succumbed and a sole Class 31 received the ‘blue’ treatment! For obvious reasons, the blue livery was not applied to locomotives with a short life expectancy such as the dwindling ranks of Class 33s although at least two 33s (33063 and 33204) carried the Mainline grey ‘livery’ (small Mainline logo on triple grey).
Here is a full list of locomotives known to have carried the Mainline Blue livery:
Class 08 : 08523/909
Class 09 : 09006/007/019/024
Class 31 : 31407
Class 37 : 37023/047/055/065/074/077/198/203/216/219/242/248/372/375*/379/383/798/803
Class 58 : 58002/005/008/013*/014/021/023/032/036/038/042/046/050
Class 60 : 60011/044/078
Class 73 : 73114/133/136
*Note: 58013 and 37375 were repainted into Mainline Blue livery but due to the impending take-over by Wisconsin Central, the loco never received any Mainline Freight silver stripe or logo (i.e. ‘unbranded’ blue)
Also of interest, we at the C58LG cannot find any record of 58024 carrying ANY Mainline branding whatsoever! We do know that the locomotive had the Trainload Coal decals removed and was later repainted into EWS livery, but we have no record of this locomotive carrying the Mainline logo on grey.
The official launch of Mainline Freight (marking the full transition of Trainload Freight South East to Mainline Freight Ltd) came on Monday November 14 1994 which was marked with a series of events at traincrew and maintenance depots all around the Mainline Freight region: at Worksop, a group of Air Cadets organised a sponsored locomotive wash whilst at Toton and Stratford depots, flags were raised. Stewarts Lane TMD celebrated with the naming of Class 73 electro-diesel 73114 as Stewarts Lane Traction Maintenance Depot (which was done by Mainline Freight’s Engineering Director, Brian Harris). At Hither Green recently-repainted 37023 was shown off in the new Mainline Blue livery and took part in other events at Acton, Didcot and Stratford depots whilst at Eastleigh, staff and their families filled a hopper wagon with toys before donating them to children at the local hospital.

The Mainline Freight policy on Class 58s

Both Transrail and Loadhaul had the entire Class 56 fleet split between them (see ‘Table A’), but these allocations also included withdrawn or stored 56s. The actual working fleet of Class 56s was about 50 locomotives to each company.
Mainline Freight was not allocated any Class 56s, but instead was allocated the entire fleet of fifty Class 58 locomotives. Coupled together with a fleet of 33 Class 60s and a handful of ‘heavyweight’ Class 37/7s, they provided the ‘core’ locomotive fleet for Mainline.
With the introduction of Trainload Freight South East and later Mainline Freight, the tradition of using Class 58s solidly on coal circuits was broken and the fleet were deployed alongside Class 60s on some of the heaviest and biggest trains run by Mainline. These included the stone, infrastructure, chemical, aggregates and petroleum oil trains as well as the all-important coal services around the area.
With their top speed of 85mph (25mph faster than the ‘60s’), the ‘58s’ were also diagrammed to work some of the faster freight services such as the intermodal and express freights.
In the Midlands area, around Toton, Worksop and Shirebrook, the 58s were also deployed on the fast and heavy services which included coal services to those all-important power stations in the area: West Burton, Cottam, High Marnham, Ratcliffe, Drakelow, Rugeley, Ironbridge and Didcot to name but a few.
Not surprisingly, coal traffic haulage accounted for approximately one-third of Mainline Freight’s revenue. However, this was in steady decline with the inception of nuclear power plants. By 1994/95, coal traffic was still Mainline’s biggest source of income, but accounting for only 41% of the total traffic hauled.
Apart from the eight Class 58 locomotives that were modified with spring-loaded drawgear for working on the Asfordby Mine complex (these were 58001, 58003, 58004, 58005, 58009, 58010, 58013 and 58046 and were fitted with drawgear from Class 47s especially for working on the Asfordby complex due to sharp curves), all other Class 58 duties were on an “any one will do” basis.
Although the whole fleet were still allocated to Toton depot (ENBN pool), some of the fleet were often out-based at Eastleigh, Hither Green, Didcot and Stewarts Lane for use in the Western, Southern, Anglian and London areas. Because of this out-stabling, some interesting new workings for the Class 58s came about, mainly aggregate trains from the East Midlands to East Anglia and the Home Counties, taking the ‘Bones’ to new locations such as Diss, March, Barnham and Kennett. Class 58s could equally be used in place of Class 60s on trains to Norwich, Acton, Bedford, Radlett, Stevenage, Broxbourne and Cambridge as well as on the Bardon to Angerstein Wharf stone trains and the Chessington coal trains.
The cement trains from Ketton to King’s Cross, sand from Middleton Towers to Barnby Dun and Monk Bretton, oil sludge from North Walsham to Harwich, LPG trains from Furzebrook to Hallen Marsh, and the Avon ‘Binliner’ from Calvert to Bath, Bristol and Westerleigh were just another few of the ‘new’ services which the Class 58s were frequently diagrammed to work on.
As usual, the fleet were actively requested and made appearances on railtours providing some ‘rare’ freight traction for the enthusiasts.
Class 58 maintenance and availability
Since the introduction of more effective planned maintenance programmes, or ‘balanced’ examinations, at Toton, the fleet of 58s were running better than ever before with performance and reliability consistently above target.
In mid-1996 there were 41 diagrams for Class 58s, a planned 82% availability. In practice the daily availability was usually higher – on average at 86% (43 locomotives) but was known to be as high as 92% (46 out of the 50 locomotives).
On a typical day during 1995/1996, there would be one Class 58 at ABB Doncaster undergoing an ‘F Exam’ overhaul and between three and four Class 58s out of service at Toton (or other) depots for ‘balanced B exams’. The Class 58s no longer received ‘C-‘, ‘D-‘ and ‘E-exams’, instead they would go through the process of nine ‘balanced B’ exams.
With 41 locomotives needed daily, this meant that up to four other Class 58s could be stopped at depots for other out-of-course (or ‘non-classified’) maintenance such as basic engine repairs and traction motor defects.
Because of these improvements in the maintenance strategy, the Mainline Freight fleet of Class 58s were becoming more and more reliable which was evident from them being utilised further afield on more and more different types of trains.

Mainline Freight Facts: 1994/5

MAINLINE FREIGHT resources 1994/95
(‘Table B’)
  • Class 08/09 x 56
  • Class 31 x 35
  • Class 33 x 30
  • Class 37 x 71
  • Class 47 x 19
  • Class 58 x 50
  • Class 60 x 33
  • Class 73 x 23
Total locomotive fleet: 317

In addition, Mainline Freight had:

  • 7,344 wagons
  • 10 locomotive depots
  • 7 wagon repair depots
  • 13 traincrew depots
  • 2,500 staff

MAINLINE FREIGHT at a glance… 1994/95

(‘Table C’)
  • £190million turnover per annum
  • 1,200 trains operated every week
  • 5 million train miles every year
  • 26 million tonnes of freight carried every year
  • 5,000 infrastructure/engineers trains

The MAINLINE FREIGHT business… 1994/5

(‘Table D’)

  • % of revenue:
  • Coal 41%
  • Infrastructure 22%
  • Construction (inc. Steel) 18%
  • Petroleum 5%
  • Waste 5%
  • Loco and traincrew hire 9%
Created in 1994, Mainline Freight (along with sister companies Transrail and Loadhaul)lasted for just two years before being sold to an American railroad company in 1996.

The Mainline Freight livery in detail...


Triple Grey Unbranded

In this period of ‘shadow privatisation’, the complete fleet of Class 58s were transferred to Mainline Freight. The BR Double Arrows and Coal sub sector logos were progressively removed though locos retained their depot plaques. Most locos carried this livery at some stage but as it was transitory it is difficult to say which locos carried it and for how long. 58004, 58011, 58021, 58035, 58036 and 58049 are known to have carried this livery.

Mainline Triple Grey,

This livery was basically the same as the two liveries above with the addition of the Mainline Logo of three rolling wheels in blue with a yellow circular trim and the word Mainline underneath in black. The logo was placed in the middle of the locomotive across the body side engine room doors. The depot plaques were retained but the BR double arrows had been removed.
Most but not all of the 58s carried this livery. 58050 was one loco never to carry this livery as it was the loco chosen to launch Mainline’s corporate Blue and Silver colour scheme. It is possible that a few of the other early Mainline Blue repaints also never received this livery, one likely candidate being 58042.
Variations on the triple grey Mainline livery are as follows:
58035 carried full Mainline branding in addition to a cast BR Double Arrow for a short period.

Mainline Blue & Silver

Executive dark grey roof, Aircraft blue body and cabs including the window surround area, Silver Mainline logo and wording with a full body length silver stripe midway up the body side. The Mainline rolling wheels logo sat directly on top of this stripe. Silver running numbers were applied at the standard size cab side below the driver’s window and standard size loco numbers were applied in blue on the front ends of the cab on the yellow warning panel. The locomotive solebar was painted black.
The following locomotives carried this livery: 58002, 58005, 58008, 58014, 58021, 58023, 58032, 58036, 58038, 58042, 58046, 58050, all of which were named except 58008. Depot plaques (where fitted) and names were painted with a silver background with blue raised letters, symbols and edges. They were positioned on the secondman’s cab side.
Variations on this livery were minimal and mainly revolved around the positioning of the blue numbers on the loco front. 58050 and 58042 were of note as their numbers were applied high up on the yellow warning panel.
Other variations that existed:
  • 58013 was painted in this livery but the silver stripe and Mainline logos were never applied as this was the first loco out-shopped under EWS ownership and they had not at this stage decided on their corporate colour scheme. Component swaps since had led to some of the body side doors being swapped with other Mainline blue locos producing a broken silver stripe along the body side.