Class 56 locomotives
56003 and 37324 lead the 17:20 Cheltenham - Toddington on Friday 15th July 2005. This is the view from the Bishop's Cleeve foot crossing looking south,
and the picture was taken at 17:26. The 56 has to lead because it has train air-brakes only, and the carriages are vacuum-braked. The Class 37 was included
as a brake translator, although on this trip it was powering a little on the climb towards Gotherington.
56003 on the GWR again, this time with 73129 acting as the brake translator. They're heading the 10.20 Toddington - Cheltenham as it passes
under Southam Lane on the approach to Cheltenham Racecourse. The time is 10.52, and the date Saturday 24th September 2005 - the first day of
the railway's autumn diesel gala.
Same train as the previous shot, but this time seen near Hailes. 56003 had just received a fresh coat of Loadhaul black when photographed at
10:24 on Saturday 1st April 2006. I was in the wrong spot really, the other side of the Didbrook road bridge would have been better. At that
point the train was just clearing a p-way slack, and the Grid made an enormous cloud of clag to add to the steam produced by 47105's boiler.
Sadly by the time the train had gone a further 60 or 70 yards and reached me most of this fug had been blown away by a brisk wind which was
blowing from left to right - with the result that only a small amount is visible in the picture. 56003 was sold to Hanson Traction in 2008,
and subsequently became a mainline loco again, renumbered as 56312.
The after-effects of a strike meant that 6V70, the Cliffe Vale - St Blazey china-clay
empties, ran on the afternoon of Saturday 13th August 1994. By good fortune the train loco on this occasion was 56004, still in rail blue livery, and
it was a lovely sunny day. I'd been out shooting 58002 on a Rugeley MGR train, and I turned up at Bescot just as 6V70 was leaving at about 15.25. An
instant decision was required, and I decided to race it to this spot in Wylde Green on the Sutton Park line. This is a race that I'd be unlikely to
win these days, but thankfully on this occasion I just made in time to get this shot at 15:50.
56006 climbs away from Ryecroft with 6E08 Wolverhampton - Scunthorpe. This shot was taken at 09:37 on Thursday 15th May 2003. The Walsall skyline had
disappeared behind the trees by this stage, although a three-quarter shot from the road bridge was still possible. Subsequent growth means that this is
no longer the case.
56007 drops down the incline towards Ryecroft Jct with an MGR train. This shot was taken at 11:31 on Tuesday 5th April 1994, and it's
probably a Daw Mill - Ironbridge service, although I didn't confirm the exact working. Ryecroft was always a popular spot for local
photographers due to the number of different shots available, and the relatively high number of freight trains running through
Walsall. This spot on Mill Lane was the standard mid-morning shot for trains coming off the Sutton Park line. However the once open
views have almost all been lost to tree growth and palisade fencing, so it's pretty hopeless for photographs nowadays.
56032 leads the Leicester - Cardiff scrap through Bentley Heath (Dorridge) at 13:53 on Saturday 5th September 1992. The brakevan was a regular
feature of this service, and was required for the shunting moves at Leicester.
A slightly unconventional angle for this shot of 56034 as it descends towards Ryecroft Jct with 6M47 Aldwarke - Wolverhampton. For some
reason I didn't record the date, but by a process of elimination I can narrow it down to either Wednesday 8th or Thursday 9th May 1996.
56040 had recently arrived at Brierley Hill when photographed at 09:06 on Monday 15th August 1994. It had detached from its train
of steel coil from Cardiff and was - presumably - about to run-round and shunt it into the yard. Quite what I was doing at Brierley
Hill on this day is unclear. The railway was supposed to be on strike according to my notes, and it was therefore no surprise to find
that it was the only shot I took that day. The timetable for summer 1994 showed a 6M13, 02:52 MWFO Cardiff - Brierley Hill, arriving
at 05:59. The return 6V69 empties was due away at 08:55.
56049 and 25154 parked "up the field" at Bescot. I've got no date for this one because I re-mounted the slide,
but it's late 70s or early 80s. Someone has scrawled the legend "Jake 80" in the bodyside dirt - so I guess that might just
be a reference to 1980. The top of the Down Tower signalbox is visible above the Grid. Much as I like 56s, especially in BR blue,
I'd have preferred these locos to have been parked the other way around in retrospect.
56050 heads north through Kensington Olympia at 16:28 on Tuesday 20th August 1991. I recorded the train as 6V91 14:21 Woking - Acton, which
the times suggest might have been running a little late.
56051 sweeps around the curves on the approach to Hamstead station with 6M47 Aldwarke - Wolverhampton. This shot was
taken at 12:07 on Tuesday 17th February 1998. Twenty years later there's virtually no freight traffic on this stretch
of line, daytime usually seeing only a couple of Wolverhampton steel trains. By contrast this day in 1998
saw the following while I was there: 60038 on 6M80 Margam - Wolverhampton at 11:45; 56051 on 6M47 at 12:07; 56071 on
6E31 Wolverhampton - Lackenby at 13:24; 90140+90133 on 6G42 Wembley - Bescot at 13:48; and finally 47535 on 6G75
Brierley Hill -Bescot at 14:03. Five freights in a little over two hours, of which all bar 6M80 were regular daily
runners. By 2018 this is nearly as many trains as you'd see during the whole daytime at Bescot on many weekdays.
56061 climbs around Bescot Curve at 12:44 on Tuesday 9th March 1993. The train is 6T44, the Bescot - Round Oak/Brierley Hill metals trip,
on this day comprising just a single BDA. This was the penultimate week of operations on the Curve, the last scheduled trains ran on
Friday 19th March.
56065 heads east past Melton Ross with MGR empties to Immingham. This shot was taken at 11:39 on Wednesday 10th September 1997.
56077 takes the second portion of a Handsworth - Aldwarke scrap train back past the scrapyard at 15:45 on Friday 19th July 1996.
The loco would have had to run-round at Queen's Head sidings, and again at Langley Green or Stourbridge Jct (I can't remember
which). As I recall the first portion had already been recessed at Bescot and the two portions were combined there before heading
north. This flow became a regular working, but without the portion working and routed via Snow Hill with a single run-round at Tyseley.
Work on the Midland Metro trackbed was underway in the background, but it would be another three years before it opened for business.
Well over two decades will have elapsed before a second Metro line is open.
56077 again, this time heading through Burton with a lightweight 6M99 Immingham - Washwood Heath. This shot was taken at 10:46 on
Wednesday 2nd October 1996.
EWS's last operational Grid in Britain was 56078, seen here parked at Saltley depot on the morning of Sunday 4th April 2004. 56115 was
also on Saltley at this time, both locos were moved to Bescot later the same day.
The first proper outing for 56087 in Colas livery was 6E07 Washwood Heath - Boston on Tuesday 11th September 2012.
It had sister loco 56094 in tow for insurance purposes when it passed Washwood Heath yard at 12:27.
56090 stands in Bescot Down Yard at 08:31 on the morning of Wednesday 6th October 2004. This fertis-liveried loco was en-route
from Bristol Barton Hill to Toton, and it departed from Bescot in 6D44 at lunchtime the same day. At the same time as this photo
was being taken 56038 was at the other end of the yard. This was another one in fertis livery; it was being shunted into 6M76
Mossend - Wembley as part of its move from Toton to France.
56093 was in charge of the 6V89 Doncaster - Briton Ferry coal empties on Saturday 27th April 1991. The train is seen here passing
Longbridge at 11:32, running six minutes behind 20081 and 20016 on a Sheffield - Bristol railtour.
56094 worked the 6E07 Washwood Heath - Boston steel on Wednesday 5th September 2012. The sun played ball on a lovely early autumn day,
and a shot was duly bagged at 12:17.
56094 heads towards Ryecroft with a 6Z56 Shrewsbury Coleham - Doncaster Up Decoy special, formed of MPV DB98909 and DB98959.
It was photographed at 13:38 on Tuesday 27th June 2017.
56094 again, this time passing Leamore on the climb from Ryecroft to Bloxwich, with a 1Z25 Westbury - Trafford Park railtour. 66122 had been swapped for the
Class 56 in Bescot Down Through Sidings. I wouldn't normally have bothered with this shot on a dull and cold morning, but this may be one
of the last chances to photograph a loco at this location before the wires go up and the shot is lost. The tree in the right foreground had
recently been cut-back to facilitate the planting of the mast base in the centre bottom of the frame. The photo was taken at 11:02 on
Saturday 16th December 2017.
56095 approaches Mexborough with empty MGRs. Photographed at 13:26 on Wednesday 31st August 1988.
The autumn equinox in 2017 fell on Friday 22nd September. However a more tangible sign of the change of season is the arrival of the
RHTT wagons used for cleaning railheads of fallen leaves and other detritus. This is 56096 arriving at Bescot with 6Z56 from York. The next day,
Sat 23rd, 56096 took one of the wagons sets forward to Gloucester.
56110 climbs away from Ryecroft Jct at 12:44 on Saturday 3rd November 1990. The box wagons were
forming the Witton - Toton stone empties, the loaded train ran from Whitwell Quarry near Worksop. This normally ran MWFO I believe, with
the empties coded 6D08. Whether this Saturday additional used the same code I don't know, but my notes indicate that it also ran on
Saturday 27th October with 56078. Photo taken on XP1 monochrome film, with a yellow filter.
56115 heads 6M47 Aldwarke - Wolverhampton through Stenson Jct, in a shot taken at 11:41 on Thursday 16th October 2003. Stenson Jct had become
a rather messy shot by this date, and it was one of those locations where there always seemed to be p-way work in progress. If there wasn't a
white van in the shot when you arrived one would usually be along a few minutes before the train you were photographing.
56115 again, this time propelling a Queen Mary brakevan into Walsall Midland Yard at 09:05 on Friday 27th February 2004. This is the 6G29
Bescot - Walsall steel trip, with no inbound traffic on this occasion. A brakevan was required for the move between Walsall station and
Midland Yard, which was propelled in both directions. Two vans were used on this service, the original was ADS56286, subsequently replaced
by the one seen in this shot, ADS56299. After taking steel wagons back to Bescot the loco worked another steel trip from Bescot to Wolverhampton
Steel Terminal (see below).
On the same day as the previous shot 56115 heads a rake of four BYAs on the 6G71 Bescot - Wolverhampton trip working. This picture was taken
at 10:55. This loco was one of the last two operational Grids working for EWS, lasting until 31st March when it worked the farewell railtour.
A light dusting of snow covered the West Midlands on this morning, but it had almost all melted by 11:00.
56091, 56115 and 56117 were among a large batch of Class 56s sold by DBS in autumn 2011. They were moved by rail from Eastleigh
to Bescot in early November, where they lingered for the next three months. 56091 was sold to BARS who collected it by rail on
Thursday 2nd February 2012. The other two, which had been sold to Europhoenix, were collected by road and taken to Burton. An
Allelys lorry arrived for 56117 on the afternoon of Monday 6th February 2012. It's seen here at about 15:15, the lorry having
climbed the depot driveway and stopped so that the trailer height can be adjusted and the chains securing the loco checked. Final
departure was at 15:20.
56119 arrives back at Bescot with a weekend ballast on Sunday 30th March 2003. The train was 6P12 from Kings Heath, and the time was 13:37.
I don't recall a great number of weekend ballasts in the hands of Class 56s during this era, as their numbers must have been in serious
decline. The other two trains I photographed on this outing were both in the hands of Class 66s, specifically 66049 on 6R03 from Tamworth
Low Level and 66170+66206 which had crane 78214 amongst the consist of 7R02 from Tamworth Low Level. 56119 was withdrawn from traffic when
EWS dispensed with all their remaining Grids in March 2004.
56132 climbs out of Walsall with 6V70, the Cliffe Vale - St Blazey china clay empties. This shot was taken at 19:10 on Wednesday
8th June 1994, at which time this was a regular Class 56 job. The slurry tanks behind the loco would have been added at Bescot.
56302 on 4O90 Doncaster - Grain, slowing for the junction at Aston on Friday 14th July 2006. Seven containers were conveyed on
this occasion, something of a big load for this train, and enough to make a worthwhile photograph for a change. Pete Tandy also covered this
train - Pete's shot was taken at Berkswell. I used to go to Aston
from time to time in the 1980s and early 90s to photograph 4O90, which in those days was a lunch-time Lawley St - Southampton train that
used to run on Saturdays only via Sutton Park, Aston and Coventry. For a period in the mid-80s that 4O90 could also get a 56, although it normally came
off at Banbury.
This shot was taken on Thursday 10th September 2009 and shows 56303 working the 6Z57 Boston - Washwood Heath steel train. This train,
and the outbound 6Z56 working, were 56303's first outing since being painted in green livery. I couldn't see from my perch, but the Grid
must have been re-starting from the loop because it was screaming its head off when it passed me at 10:30.
A shortage of serviceable Fastline 56s meant that Hanson traction locos were being used in summer 2008. This is 4O90 Doncaster - Grain,
photographed on Monday 9th June. It didn't depart Doncaster until 15:30 and ran via Newark and Nottingham. A gallery of nine had assembled
at Wichnor Jct by the time 56311 passed at 18:13, and we were treated to something of a horn-fest by the enthusiastic driver.
56311 is seen east of Droitwich, about two miles south of Stoke Works Jct on the main line. The train is 6Z56 Shipley - Cardiff,
running about 30 minutes late when photographed at 18:41 on Friday 25th May 2012.
56312 and 66148 head north through Dunston, between Penkridge and Stafford, with a 1Z66 Bristol - Carlisle railtour. This shot was
taken at 09:10 on Saturday 22nd May 2010. The 66 had hauled the train as far as Bescot, but it wasn't removed there as I'd expected.
Instead 56312 was just dropped on the front for the run to Carlisle and back.