Class 73s on the Highland line.

July 22, 2016

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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).

73969 Aviemore

1S25 July 2016_1

1S25 July 2016_2 copy

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.