Class 66

Having acquired three of the freight train operating companies and merged them to form the English, Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWS) the new concern's largely American owners surveyed the native locomotive stock and were far from impressed. What followed was the most remarkable renewal of rolling stock ever experienced on British Railways with construction and delivery of the new Canadian built General Motors class 66 locomotives at a quantity, rate and success which has stunned (and pleased) those used to the British way of doing things.

Being derived from and externally similar to the class 59 introduced by Foster Yeoman the class 66 is a different locomotive for a different purpose. It is a modern reliable replacement for elderly type 3, 4 and 5 locomotives for medium weight faster speed freight services. The significant differences from the class 59 are the use of a GM type 710 prime mover (class 59 has type 645), a self steering bogie, revised side grille layout, smaller silencer, and the front headlight mounted centrally above the windscreen.

The first delivery for EWS was on the 18th April 1998 and thereafter regular bulk deliveries ensured that the final (250th) locomotive was delivered only 26 months later on the 21st June 2000. The class 66 is used, subject to line clearance, system wide and whilst its main work is on most types of freight trains it is also used on a limited number of passenger services - principally charters - and also to rescue failed passenger locomotives. Due to the lack of ETH (HEP in its maker's terms) a generator van is needed when working passenger trains. The swift introduction of the class has seen the equally rapid withdrawal native locomotives such as class 31s, 33s, 37s, 47s, 56s and 73s.

The renaissance of British freight? EWS class 66019 heading northbound at Kensington Olympia on 8th June 1999.

photograph by Michael Taylor

66019 A close up view of the corrugated sides on 66019

photograph by Michael Taylor

66146 approaching Factory Junction Wandsworth Road on 18th July 2000.

photograph by Colin Duff

66147 66147 running round at Meldon Quarry on 17th February 2001.

photograph by Colin Duff

66182 photographed whilst working light engine at Basingstoke on 18th September 2000.

photograph by Michael Taylor

66130 EWS 66130 on an engineers’ train at London Victoria (Chatham side) on Sunday 23rd June 2002.

photograph by Ray Soper

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This page was last updated 14 August 2003

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