…taken on what was International Photography Day. The north bound 1S25 Euston-Inverness sleeper was bang on time at Aviemore with GBRf Class 66 No. 66 705 in charge, paired up with Class 73/9 No. 73 966. This is probably the only daily Class 66-hauled scheduled passenger train operating in the UK at this time – at least I am aware of. I must confess to liking this Class 66 plus 73/9 arrangement on the sleeper!
For the first time in ages, I have been able to catch up with the Highland Line Sleeper, the 1S25 Euston-Inverness service. I had heard reports that double-headed Class 73/9s had finally taken over from Class 67s to hear that they tend to overheat on the steeply graded Highland Line. The current traction arrangement north of Edinburgh Waverley as of July 21st is to use GBRf Class 66s for traction with a single Class 73/9 tucked inside to provide power for the train (Class 66s are freight locomotives and unable to provide power for on-train systems).
I was not sure of meeting this particular working on this beautiful morning (unfortunately, I was not heading off into the mountains but to a photo-shoot in Kirkaldy). 1S25, the northbound Caledonian Sleeper service from London Euston, managed to loose 85 minutes between Willesden West London Junction and Watford Junction on the night of 20th July when I checked its progress the night before. It must have been a lively ride up the West Coast Main Line because it appeared to make up 70 minutes by the time it arrived in Edinburgh Waverley! Arrival in Aviemore the next morning was eight minutes early, nearly catching me out (the south bound 1B08 06.50 Inverness-Edinburgh was 15 minutes late at Aviemore which allowed the 1S25 to advance against it and cross at Aviemore instead of Kincraig loop).
In a way, it is fascinating to see such a Southern Region thoroughbred in regular service here in the Highlands, despite the awful modifications made to it. Still, it retains its third-rail collector shoes (and flash guards) and the boxy but classic shape of the class is still there to be seen. Class 73s in their original form had it where it counted – under the body! The Caledonian Sleeper is a long way from this Class 73’s original home in the south and the Highland line is a very different situation for such locomotives, no matter how well they have been rebuilt, compared to the third-rail routes of the former Southern Region.
Long shadows of Autumn are making early morning photography increasingly challenging, so this is probably the last time I shall head out to photograph the 1S25 London Euton-Inverness ‘Caledonian Sleeper’ until next year. Notably, the date of these images is October 1st – the original planned date for introduction of Class 73/9s. On this particularly bright morning, the nags in question are Nos. 67 011 and 67 007, both in EWS colours.
Virgin Trains’ domination of Anglo-Scottish Intercity services has caused some disquiet in some quarters and understandably so. With Virgin winning the East Coast franchise, a new livery has started to appear on the Highland Chieftain. These images of the 1E13 Inverness-Kings Cross service were grabbed in a hurry at Kingussie on October 1st – I was heading out into the mountains.
Caledonian Sleeper services are no longer the responsibility of the ScotRail franchise, having been separated and contracted out as a separate operation to Serco. With the change in the operation comes a new livery and a future change in traction as DBS (formerley EWS) are replaced as traction providers by GBRf. As a keen follower of the former Southern Region of BR, I am fascinated to hear that the now long term incumbents, the Class 67, are to be ousted by rebuilt but considerably older former Southern Region Class 73s, working in pairs. As an aside, GBRf Class 92s have already replaced Class 90s south of Edinburgh.
Following a problem with a Class 67 recently where one over-heated on the Inverness-Euston service (eventually cancelled) when climbing to Slochd Summit (together with a few strange management decisions by those in ‘control’); Caledonian Sleeper services are now double-headed on the Highland Line leg (most of the time). On a recent visit to Aviemore (on the way to another mountain climbing day on Thursday August 13th), I noted No. 67 009 leading No. 67 004 on the 1S25 north-bound service.
Both No. 67 004 and the leading Mark 2 coach, No. 9802 have the new CS livery of dark blue applied. Given that this is a night-time operation, I think some much brighter colours would have stood out better in stations after dark…
Class 67s look as if they will be a thing of the past on Caledonian Sleepers after this October and there’s little other scope for their use in the Highlands these days, so they may become rare visitors to Fort William and Inverness in the future. It’s been a long reign and even though I like Class 73s, the enigmatic and not always reliable Class 67 will be missed from the Highlands. I wonder how the Class 73/9s will cope… I am not one for pessimism, but I give them six months, especially as they will debut at the start of a Highland winter with all that means for weather over Rannoch Moor, Druimuachdar Pass and Slochd.