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GB Railfreight - Traction

A Lecture by Bob Tiler of GB Railfreight

Tuesday 4th October  2022, Palestra House

Written by John Doyle

Bob Tiler, a long standing railwayman, has had a distinguished career. Bob started as a British Rail apprentice at the former Western Region Old Oak Common depot (now the site of the Elizabeth line depot and new High Speed 2 station). He worked his way up through the grades as Depot Production Manager, Fleet Manager and is currently GBRf's Engineering Director. He gained experience of re-engineering HST power cars which has served him well in his current role.

Bob spoke about GBRf as a growing company and described how it is organised to focus on the specific needs of customers. He set out the company's current traction fleet comprising locomotives from a variety of classes: 92, 73, 69, 66, 60, and 56. Bob spoke with fondness of the Class 66 freight locomotive.  He described them as working out of the box, incredibly reliable, economical and robust, routinely achieving 139,000 miles between failures.

Bob went on to describe how the Company's expected growth requires additional locomotives. The option to place repeat orders for new class 66 locomotives is no longer available for legislative reasons associated with engine emissions. In fact, loco 66779 was the last new class 66 to be built. It has been painted in lined BR green livery and named Evening Star redolent of the last BR steam loco to have been built in 1960. 

n the absence of new locos he outlined how the Company has repatriated class 66 locomotives from Europe to enlarge its fleet. He explained that such locomotives required significant modification in order to equip them to work in the UK. Several of GBRf's locomotives have been given liveries to provide distinction and individuality. 

He went on to explain how GBRf had also purchased 18 class 56 locos with a view to re-engineering them as class 69 locomotives using General Motors engines. The work has been carried out on behalf of GBRf at the GM Longport (near Stoke on Trent) facility. The performance of the re-engineered locomotives has been very good.

Last new class 66 locomotive 66779 Evening Star in BR green lined livery

Bob described class 92's having been built for Channel tunnel international traffic as fiendishly complicated and difficult to maintain. The locomotives are used to haul overnight sleeper trains between London and Scotland on behalf of Caledonian Sleepers.

With an eye to the de-carbonisation agenda GBRf have placed a £180m order through Beacon Rail leasing with Stadler for 30 new class 99 locos. The locomotives, being built in Valencia,  are of a design already in use in Europe, modified to fit the UK loading gauge. The powerful Co Co locos will be bi-mode capable of being powered electrically from the 25Kv overhead or by a Cummings diesel engine. The initial batch of locos will have a maximum speed of 75mph. The first of the new locomotives is expected to be delivered in 2025. GBRf have an option for an additional 20 locomotives.

Bob took questions from the audience who showed their appreciation in the usual manner.

Re-engineered class 56 locomotive 69005

Bob Tiler at naming of 69002

Artist's impression of new class 99 bi-mode locomotive