A Tribute to the Class 86 Electric Locomotive
Our resident photographer (James “Spike ” Windows) has been in touch again with a collection of photos of this iconic loco that spent so many years on the West Coast Main Line.
Here is some history from Spike:
A class of locomotive synonymous with Stafford for the last 50 years plus, could be about to come to an end with Freightliner possibly ending the use of the class 86 locos on their liner services. Split between English Electric at Vulcan Foundry in Newton Le Willows and the British Railways Workshops at Doncaster, 100 of these versatile machines were built between 1965 and 1966 for services on the West Coast Main Line from London Euston to the Midlands, North West and later Scotland. The locos had a maximum speed of 100mph and were designed to work express passenger trains but were also employed on postal trains and all manner of freight services. Originally designed as AL6 locos and numbered E3101-E3200 but with British Rail starting to use the TOPS (Total Operations Processing System) in the early 1970s they were all classified as class 86 with various sub classes to denote various modifications over the years to gearing, suspension and heating. The largest of the sub classes were the 86/2 which were predominately used on Express passenger trains. In the run up to privatisation the class was split up between various business sectors and continued to ply their trade and also started spreading their wings further afield with the onset of more electrification schemes around the country, but withdrawals soon followed as newer locos and stock took hold especially after privatisation of the railways. The class has carried a multitude of liveries over their 50 years of service from original electric blue through to the latest privatisation colour schemes. Stafford has seen daily visits of the class for the best part of 55 years now but that could soon be coming to an end. The only regular work for the class today is double heading lengthy Freightliner services from the North West (Ditton, Trafford Park and Crewe) to the ports of East Anglia and the Thames Estuary. With Freightliner about to receive more modern cascaded electric locos, time could soon be running out for this venerable class. All is not lost as at least three members of the class have a future with private owners, locos from West Coast Railways and Loco Services (Saphos) will be occasional visitors to the area hauling charter trains. Below is a selection of my photos celebrating the class and their pending retirement from front line service. Unfortunately, my photography did not start seriously until the mid-1980s so missed the early liveries and body styles, but I have put together a montage of this colourful class.
Photo 1 – Not having any photos of the early liveries, my collections start with the late rail blue era. 86230 in the standard BR blue livery waits to depart Birmingham New Street for the north west on 23rd July 1988. The class were originally built with four-character headcode blinds which were later plated over and replace with two marker lights.
Photo 2 – Rail blue again as 86402 waits at Stafford with a London Euston bound train on 26th February 1989. Note the jumper cables for working in multiple with other members of the class and the high intensity light fitted below the marker panel.
Photo 3 – With sectorisation a large proportion of the class were allocated to the inter-city sector here 86210 shows of a grubby inter-city livery while stabled at London Euston in June 1986 along with three other members of the class waiting for their next working north.
Photo 4 – A variation on the intercity livery with black painted headcode panel on an immaculate 86427 waiting to depart London Euston in June 1986 with a train for the north west.
Photo 5 – The later version of the inter-city livery with the addition of the swallow logo is seen on 86259 as it arrives at Stoke on Trent in November 1995 with a service from Manchester to Birmingham and possibly onto the south west.
Photo 6 – The only member of the class to receive Network Southeast livery 86401 pauses at Stafford on the evening of the 25th July 1987. Allocated to the Network Southeast sector, its normal workings were commuter trains from London Euston to Northampton.
Photo 7 – A number were allocated to the parcels sector for use on parcel trains from the Willseden Railnet centre in North London to Parcel terminals in Stafford, Warrington, Glasgow, and also Newcastle. They wore a variation of the Railfreight livery with red and grey with pale blue flashes. Here 86425 draws into the parcel platform at Stafford in Autumn 2001.
Photo 8 – The locos chosen to be dedicated freight locos upon sectorisation were renumbered into the 86/6 number range after having their electric train heating isolated, here 86607+86610 pass through Manchester Piccadilly with a Freightliner train from Trafford Park in June 1995. Both Locos carry the triple grey Railfreight livery with Distribution sector red and yellow diamond logos.
Photo 9 – Railfreight grey livery with General red and yellow logos 86613 working a parcels train through Crewe on 30th March 1991.
Photo 10 – With the onset of privatisation brought with it a multitude of new liveries. With the west coast and cross-country franchises both being won by Virgin this saw their trademark red colours applied to various members of the electric fleet they inherited, here 86240 departs Stafford with a Cross country service to Manchester in April 2002.
Photo 11 – With the American company, Wisconsin Central, taking over the three major freight operators and formed English, Welsh and Scottish (EWS) they also later took over the parcels sector as well, so started to repaint there small fleet into their maroon and gold livery seen her on 86401 passing Stafford while on hire to Virgin trains for their West coast franchise in early 2002.
Photo 12 – Freightliner inherited a fleet of the class for hauling their heavy intermodal trains. With most if not all the fleet in the triple grey railfrieght livery the company added their red triangle logo, 86604+86618 pass Stafford on the down fast hauling a lengthy train in April 1997.
Photo 13 – Freightliner slowly repainted its fleet into their corporate green livery with large bodyside logo. My last photo of the class, before the current lockdown, took place on the 19th February 2020 as 86607+86632 in the green livery round Queensville curve south of Stafford with 4L97, 05.00 Trafford Park to Felixstowe service.
Photo 14 – A few of the Freightliner fleet have received the newer Powerhaul version of their livery as seen her on 86622 coupled to classmate 86608 at Stafford while on a test run from their base at Crewe after maintenance on 6th June 2019.
Photo 15 – Preserved by the AC Loco group in 2005, 86101 was later hired out to GBRF for use on the Caledonian sleeper empty stock moves to the depots at either London or Glasgow with the very occasional use on the long-distance sleeper services. On a rare daylight run out with a special train 86101 is seen passing Rugeley Trent Valley at Speed working 1Z87, 11.19 London Euston to Liverpool Lime St “Footex”. on 2nd April 2016, taking Tottenham supporters for the game against Liverpool. This loco has recently been bought by Loco Services at Crewe and will no doubt soon be seen working charter trains around the country.
Photo 16 – Preserved 86259 is an occasional visitor through our local area on the WCMl charter trains operated by West Coast Railways which usually change to steam haulage further north. The loco is owned by ex BRMB/BBC WM local radio presenter Les Ross after which the loco was named during its days with Virgin Train. It now wears an approximation of its first livery of electric blue but still with its sealed lights instead of four-character headcode as built and mandatory modern high intensity light. It is seen here passing Stafford on one such trip 1Z86, 07.10 London Euston to Carlisle on the 9th September 2017. Luckily, my son Josh and I managed a ride from Preston to Crewe behind this loco recently on a return charter.
Photo 17 – Freightliners class 86 usually ran in pairs on the heavy liner trains but an exception to that was 86501 see arriving at Stafford on the 14th July 2009. It was renumbered in 2000 when it was experimentally re-geared to allow it to haul trains single handed like the fleet of class 90 electric locos operated by Freightliner. It reverted to its old number of 86608 in 2016.
Photo 18 – After replacement by more modern forms of traction 30 were sold for further use in Bulgaria and Hungary of which 16 were exported with the remainder used for spare parts during refurbishment, here the ex 86250 is seen being dragged north through Stafford on the 15th May 2009 with three class 87 electric locos also for export The locos had been in storage at Long Marston where they had also been refurbished and were being taken to Crewe for electrical testing prior to being exported. The loco was exported in 2009 for Hungarian private open access freight operator Floyd Zrt and the class 87 were for open-access operator Bulmarket in Bulgaria.
Photo 19 – With the electrification of the Great Eastern mainline from London to Norwich in 1985 fifteen members were transferred to Norwich for use on the newly electrified lines. Still wearing BR blue livery 86219 waits to depart Norwich in July 1987 with a London bound train.
Photo 20 – Intercity liveried 86216 passes Colchester with a Norwich to London Liverpool Street train in July 1987.
Photo 21 – Wearing the later Anglia turquoise and white livery 86238 waits to depart Norwich with another London bound train in August 2004. The class were replaced on these services by newer locos, the class 90, that had been displaced from west coast services, one of which can be seen to the right. A case of history repeating itself as the class 90s had replaced some class 86s on West Coast services The class also saw use on East Coast parcel and charter trains so have worked on most of the 25kv electrified main lines in the country except the recently electrified western mainline.