Sunday, 22 February 2015

Bother with the Bodysnatchers

It's been a while since my last railway related post so I thought I'd blog about something which is a pretty hot topic at the moment - First Great Western and their class 57's.

Back to back HST powercars haul 1C99 with 57310.
Photo thanks to Alex Nevin-Tylee.
As the majority reading this will know, First haven't had the greatest luck with their own, or the hired in Class 57 "Bodysnatchers". More than ever over this last few weeks we have seen various odd workings, from loaned Direct Rail Services 57's, to double heading on the Sleeper and HST powercars dragging sleeper sets!

DRS 57306 - thanks to Elliott Farrell.
 There has also been cases of the Sleeper service being formed of HST sets with ordinary daytime coaches!

In Summer 2014, Network Rail yellow liveried 57305 was loaned to FGW from Direct Rail Services for the Night Riviera Sleeper service, and even saw use on the "Day Sleeper" Exeter-Penzance working on Saturdays. This is due to native 57602 being away for refurbishment, and the other three suffering problems from time to time. Sadly, I never manage to sample a ride behind 57305 and it returned to DRS and was later painted into "Northern Belle" livery towards the end of the season.

57312 working the Northern Belle - thanks to Ben Sweeney.
With the continued unreliability issues into the winter, Direct Rail Services sent down 57310 to cover with breakdowns. Unfortunately 310 was probably the most notorious for breaking down and after several uncompleted journeys on the Night Riviera, was sent back to DRS in exchange for 57312. Not only was 312 a far better locomotive in terms of reliability with only one failure that I'm aware of, but it was looking stunning in it's "Northern Belle" livery. Unfortunately, I never managed a trip on either 57310 or 57312. In early February 312 was required for a run on the Northern Belle so had to be returned to DRS.

57604 "Pendennis Castle" at London Paddington
The next Bodysnatcher on loan was 57303, followed closely by 306 which joined it. Fortunately, I had a trip to Leeds planned for the 7th February, which involved a bash to London on the Night Rivera. Days before, First Great Western had started double heading the Sleeper, and I was lucky to have 57604 (my favourite FGW one) and loaned 57303 on the rear turn up at Newton Abbot. Also in my favour that night was the Yeovil diversion which entailed the train reversing at Exeter St David's resulting in haulage from both of the locos. With 57303 being on the rear from Penzance, so that meant I had it for the latter, and most interesting leg of the journey. After being reluctant to build air at Exeter, we finally set off around 01:48, some 40-odd minutes late towards London via Yeovil. Despite the slow start, the "Pride of Carlisle" delivered a rather beastly performance up the bank to Exeter Central, which I did film! After an enjoyable ride, we arrived into London Paddington 45 minutes late but thankfully I still had over an hour to catch my connection at Kings Cross. Although my time for bus 'spotting' in London was cut short, I did receive a healthy £23.40 in delay repay, 50% of my fare so I can't complain too much!
57303 "Pride of Carlisle" at London Paddington

Although the 57's seem to be woefully unreliable at First Great Western, and the passengers and staff are being caused headaches, it's certainly been an interesting period for us enthusiasts. There is talks of FGW replacing the Class 57's with Class 67 "Skips" in the Autumn, but who knows...