Class 58 History | France
Class 58s in France
Sending the Class 58s to France would be perhaps EWS’ biggest Class 58 project since the company took the fleet on board back in 1996…
Following the successful hire of Class 37s to Spain, France and Italy, as well as the deals to send Class 58s to Spain and the Netherlands, EWS was keen to win more and more overseas contracts using the hundreds of stored, but perfectly serviceable, locomotives it had ‘lying around’ since the introduction of the Class 66s.
In all past LGV construction projects, SNCF has supplied almost all the traction for the engineering trains, most of them being the oldest locomotives in the fleet which had been in store in between projects. In 1999/2000, forty-two Class 37s had taken a trip ‘over the pond’ to France to assist with the haulage of the infrastructure trains along the newly constructed LGV Méditerranée that was being constructed between Valence and Orange. These ‘tractors’ had all returned to Britain by 2000. Following the success of this contract, EWS were keen to repeat work and win more overseas contracts using the hundreds of stored, but perfectly serviceable, locomotives it had ‘lying around’ since the introduction of the Class 66s – not just the 37s, but now including the more modern Class 56s and 58s.
For the building of the new LGV Est, the new high speed line between Paris and Strasbourg which opened in 2007, SNCF only provided a token number of locomotives. Instead, it appointed Fertis to supply all the traction for ballast trains. In turn, Fertis hired 40 locomotives from UK operator EWS. Originally, 24 Class 37s (37046, 37058, 37077, 37196, 37221, 37238, 37250, 37293, 37377, 37505, 37518, 37519, 37671, 37679, 37693, 37696, 37701, 37705, 37719, 37796, 37887, 37891, 37892, 37894 – many of which had been to France before) were allocated to an appropriate French pool. However, it was decided that Class 56s and 58s would be more appropriate for the work planned. The main reason being just one of these ‘Type 5s’ could be used instead of a pair of Class 37s double-heading a ballast train, so EWS chose 26 Class 56s and 14 Class 58s. The trains, which are expected to weigh approximately 1800 tonnes each when fully laden, will operate along the route in ‘top and tail’ mode and may even have to be double-headed due to the severe gradients involved (as steep as 1-in-28 in some locations) so powerful locomotives were a must. Fertis supplied its own drivers (whoi were taught the driving and fault-finding techniques by EWS), and EWS provided staff on-site for maintenance. These UK locomotives will be operating alongside a dozen or so Class BB 62400 locomotives (former NS Class 2400s) as well as ex-DB 211 locomotives. Unlike the Class 37s which worked in France before, which worked in their now tatty ex-UK liveries (EWS, Transrail, Trainload sectors etc), all the Class 56s and 58s were to be painted into the grey livery of Fertis.
In addition to the ballast train locomotive requirements, track constructors Seco and Travaux du Sud Ouest (TSO) were also looking for traction to power their engineering trains (slepers, rails, etc.) so a consortium of the two companies hired a further eight Class 58 locomotives for the duration of the two-year contract. Four of the locos were to be painted into the orange livery of Seco whilst the other four locos were to be painted into the TSO yellow/blue livery.
Work first started on the LGV Est route in Spring 2002 and was planned to take five years to complete. By June 2004, three-quarters of the civil engineering work had been done with track-laying due to begin at the end of 2004. Now completed, the LGV Est allows trains to run at a maximum speed of 320km/h (although the maximum design speed is for 350km/h running). This has a major effect on decreasing the journey times between cities along the route which is 300km in length and uses the 25000kV overhead electric system.
The route had been carefully chosen to have minimal effects on the surrounding environment by blending into the landscape as much as possible as well as avoiding built-up areas and important natural landscape features such as the important vineyards near Reims.
With track laying expected to start towards the end of 2004, the race was on to get forty locomotives operational, painted and exported ready for this deadline. This preparation proved to be a mammoth task for EWS. Locomotives were being worked on at four EWS depots: Toton, Eastleigh, Old Oak Common and Bristol Barton Hill and the programme involved a great many maintenance staff of all types working on all the different machinery. Work involved the checking, changing and re-certifying of many items. Bogies and tyre profiles were inspected in detail, being turned if required. Ultrasonic axle tests were also undertaken as a priority inspection to ensure there were no hairline cracks on the axles. The air system was also examined in detail, meticulous attention being paid to the air tanks and brake detail, to see whether any re-certification was required or not to ensure safe and reliable working under the extreme operating conditions the locomotives would have to endure. Engines were individually tested and prepared, given their next ‘balanced B-exam’ was given with any additional heavier component replacement where necessary before being tested on either Eastleigh or Toton’s load bank. Finally, any rusty bodywork was rubbed down and filled and re-plated as necessary before a full repaint was undertaken into the appropriate livery.
Work on preparing the other locomotives for the project, many of which had been in open store for months if not years, involved the checking, changing and re-certifying of many items. Bogies and tyre profiles were inspected in detail, being turned if required. Ultrasonic axle tests were also undertaken as a priority inspection to ensure there were no hairline cracks on the axles. The air system was also examined in detail, meticulous attention being paid to the air tanks and brake detail, to see whether any re-certification was required or not to ensure safe and reliable working under the extreme operating conditions the locomotives would have to endure.
Engines were individually tested and prepared before the next ‘balanced B-exam was given to the engine, with any additional heavier component replacement where necessary. Each locomotive was, in turn, attached to either Eastleigh or Toton’s load bank and full power applied to check for faults such as blowing cylinder heads which could easily be identified and changed. Fortunately, Class 56 and Class 58 engines are not as prone to water-entry as other classes, such as the Class 37s, so fewer faults have been found, but unfortunately, during preliminary inspection, 58012 was found to have a frost-damaged engine and was replaced by 58009. A full set of new batteries was fitted as was a Q-tron ‘black box’ system (this is important for monitoring performance and investigating any accidents that might occur). These are also fitted as part of the ‘reactivation’ process. Finally, any rusty bodywork was rubbed down and filled and re-plated as necessary before a full repaint was undertaken into Fertis, TSO or SECO livery (only Toton has a purpose-built paint shop and uses spray-painting techniques. Eastleigh, Old Oak Common and Barton Hill use the more traditional hand-painting method).
In June 2004, 56078 was the first to receive the Fertis livery. The repaint was done at Toton and unveiled to the French management when they came over to sign the relevant paperwork to seal the deal. They were said to be “very impressed”. Very little work was required on this locomotive as it was one of the two Class 56s that survived until the ‘end’ in April 2004.
58046 was the first Class 58 to receive the Fertis livery, being released from Toton’s paint shop towards the end of August 2004 and by the 9th of September had reached France with 56078 via the Channel Tunnel on EWS International service 4404, hauled by 92028 and 92043. The ‘56’ and ‘58’ were sent abroad first for Fertis staff driver training and for them to learn the basic maintenance on the locomotives. By the time more and more of the ‘type 5s’ arrived, driver familiarization had been completed and the locomotives could be put straight into service.
The first Class 58 to receive the SECO orange livery was 58007 at Toton and the first ‘58’ to receive the yellow TSO livery was 58033 at Old Oak Common. A further three Class 58s (58009, 58027 and 58040) were repainted into SECO colours and 58047, 58049 and 58050 received the ‘TSO’ treatment.
Each time the Class 56s/58s went to France, they all follwed a similar pattern; they were hauled to Wembley Yard, then on to Dollands Moor before being hauled through the Channel Tunnel as part of an EWS International service. In France, the locomotives arrive in Frethun before onward movement to the base at which they were required at and put into service almost immediately.
There were three construction bases along the LGV Est route from where the locomotives worked. The St Hilaire base (between Reims and Châlons-en-Champagne) is where initial work started. Whilst this is in the middle of the route, it was beneficial as it meant that staff and trains could expand both east and west from the site.
The second base to start operations was that at Ocquerre (near Meaux on the East side of Paris) which started work in mid 2005 followed by the opening of Pagny-sur-Moselle depot a few months later. Track laying was estimated at approximately 600m being completed every day!
As work came to an end at St. Hilaire, staff and locomotives moved to one of the other two operational bases and St. Hilaire was slowly run-down as the lines from all three bases started to connect up.
In late 2006, the LGV Est was in its final stages of testing and the use of engineering trains was slowly run down with the 56s and 58s slowly making their way back to the UK via the Channel Tunnel. The 56s have almost all ended up at Old Oak Common depot in London whilst the 58s have almost exclusively ended up back in store at Eastleigh depot.
The locomotives were all worked very hard during their stay in France – with trains being almost two thousand tonnes in weight and with the gradients involved, it was not uncommon to see regular double-heading on the ballast trains and inevitably several locos suffered failures of which the majority were rectified. The only Class 58 to suffer major problems was 58016 which suffered an alternator failure whilst on the Class 56 front, the most well-known incident involved 56118 which decided to catch fire! All in all, a very successful period in the history of the Class 58s and it is understood that EWS are keen to hire the 58s and 56s to France again, especially with the news that there is a new Rhine-Rhone service being worked on in the very near future…
French Class 58 Data File:
Fertis: 58004, 58010, 58011, 58015, 58016, 58018, 58021, 58032, 58034, 58035, 58046
TSO: 58009, 58027, 58033, 58040
Seco: 58007, 58047, 58049, 58050
Rejected: 58012 (replaced by 58009)
|Loco||Date of departure to France||Date of arrival back in UK||Length of stay overseas|
|58004||15 October 2004||15 September 2006||698 days|
|58007||14 October 2004||27 October 2006||742 days|
|58009||3 November 2004||17 January 2007||804 days|
|58010||23 June 2005||1 December 2006||525 days|
|58011||30 June 2005||11 October 2006||467 days|
|58015||7 October 2004||17 January 2007||831 days|
|58016||14 May 2005||25 May 2006||375 days|
|58018||23 August 2005||3 December 2006||466 days|
|58021||13 July 2005||16 November 2006||490 days|
|58027||21 October 2004||1 November 2006||740 days|
|58032||19 October 2004||27 December 2006||798 days|
|58033||28 October 2004||13 August 2006||653 days|
|58034||21 October 2004||24 November 2006||763 days|
|58035||27 October 2004||5 May 2007||919 days|
|58040||13 November 2004||13 August 2006||637 days|
|58046||9 September 2004||24 January 2007||866 days|
|58047||28 October 2004||10 August 2006||650 days|
|58049||17 November 2004||1 November 2006||713 days|
|58050||17 November 2004||26 October 2006||707 days|
The French Liveries In Detail
The ‘SECO Rail’ Livery
The Seco livery is black, orange and yellow. Locomotives have black roofs with orange body and cabs. A narrow yellow band runs from end to end including across the cabs intersecting the cab side windows. All grilles are body coloured including the yellow band with the exception of the radiator grille which is black. Full yellow front ends are applied and window frame beading is black. The underframe is predominantly black however the uppermost ridge is painted yellow and this carries on over the bottom part of the cab sides to the front of the cabs. Locomotive numbers are again in the EWS Gill Sans font but are black. They occupy the same position as EWS red locomotives on the front end and are the same size. One minor difference however is that there is a dash between the ‘58’ and the loco number so, for example, numbers read 58-007. Cab-side numbers are the same size as on the front of the locomotive and are positioned centrally below the driver’s side window. Below the secondman’s window is the SECO logo which is a white vertical rectangle with an orange hard hat with a yellow stripe and the word SECO Rail below the hard hat. Buffer-beam, bogies and tanks are black. An orange cantrail overhead wires warning stripe runs the length of the body and where it crosses the orange of the central body is defined by means of two thin parallel horizontal black lines. On cab roofs this falls within the black of the roof so it is not a problem. There are no known livery variations.
The ‘Fertis’ Livery
Locomotives in this livery have a mid grey roof, not unlike the old Railfreight grey as originally applied to 58s when introduced. The horn grille on the front is also mid-grey. Body and cabs are a very light grey, in fact almost white, and cab window surrounds on the front are also in this colour. The window beading is black. The rest of the cab front end is yellow as per EWS red locomotives and the buffer beam is black. The underframe is mid grey as per the roof with the lower most part painted in a cherry red strip, the same as the yellow warning stripe on EWS locomotives. Bogies and tanks are black. Locomotive numbers are on the front end in a purple version of the EWS Gill Sans font in the same position as EWS locomotives. They are applied in a slightly bigger format centrally under the driver’s side window and a small Fertis logo is below this. This is repeated in large format on the body side centrally across the engine compartment access doors. The Logo is a cherry red and blue/grey gentle wave with the word Fertis below in purple. The large radiator grilles are black with all other grilles body colour. Orange cantrail overhead wire warning stripes are applied.
The ‘TSO’ Livery
There were four Class 58s to carry this livery: 58033, 58047, 58049 and 58050. The livery is a white roof, yellow body and cabs including full yellow ends. In this respect they look rather like Network Rail liveried locomotives bar the white roof although the yellow is slightly paler. Underframes and buffer beams are a light blue colour similar to the former Network SouthEast original light blue. Bogies and tanks are black as is the beading around the cab windows. The large radiator grille is black, while all other grilles are yellow. Large TSO logos are applied centrally on the cab front below the windows and again on all cab sides. There is no logo on the bodyside doors. Numbers are once again in the Gill Sans font and in a similar position to EWS red locomotives but are near the headlight to allow for the TSO logo on the loco front. On the cab side, numbers are positioned near the bottom towards the back of the cab, again to allow for the TSO logo under the cab side windows. Numbers are the same light blue as the underframes and again have a dash in the same position between the number 58 and the loco number in the same manner as the SECO Rail locomotives. The TSO logo is a white circle with a light blue broken dashed rim on its outside edge. The cross section of a rail is depicted in the centre of the circle in light blue which is intersected by the TSO letters in the middle. Standard orange cantrail warning stripes are applied. There are no livery variations.