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Binary Stars

Image of Stuart JordanSTUART JORDAN looks at two historic locomotives with a common name.


The British Railways Standard Class 9F was designed by R.A. Riddles for hauling heavy goods trains and the class was built between 1954 and 1960. 198 locomotives were built at Crewe and 53 at the old GWR Works in Swindon. This rather short-lived class started to be withdrawn from service in 1964. Despite being used across the network the 9F was completely withdrawn by 1968 to make way for dieselisation.

The very last 9F was built in 1960 at Swindon Works. Not only was it the last in its class, 92220 was also the last steam locomotive built by British Railways, and the 999th Standard Class locomotive built. A competition to name the locomotive was run in the Western Region staff magazine, with 'Evening Star' the winner. Three different staff members had suggested it, and it had some historical significance as it was also the name of one of the earliest GWR locomotives. At the naming ceremony of Evening Star, it was promised for the national collection.

9f 01.

To mark the special nature of the locomotive it was painted in BR Locomotive Green, rather than the usual unlined black for freight locomotives. Because of the locomotive's celebrity status Evening Star received more maintenance and regular cleaning during its work running freight trains on the Western Region. It ran passenger services a few times between Cardiff and Paddington, but this was cut short by BR management as they did not want to unduly wear out the running gear.

Evening Star 02.
92220 Evening Star at the NRM with Class 7 70013 Oliver Cromwell.

Evening Star was withdrawn for service in 1965 after only five years and prepared for life in restoration. It was sent to Crewe for overhaul and restoration after sustaining buffer beam damage at Cardiff Yard. After briefly being stored at the old Pullman carriage workshops at Brighton, it moved to Keithley & Worth Valley Railway in 1973, and on to the NRM two years later. After being loaned to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and the West Somerset Railway during the 1980s, Evening Star was held at the NRM in Shildon. In 2008 the locomotive was moved to Swindon STEAM Railway Museum, and then in 2010 arrived at the NRM in York where it is still on display.

While 92220 was at Shildon, more changes were occurring on the regular network. In 1996 BRs freight operations were privatised. Wisconsin Central Transportation Systems bought Transrail, Mainline, Loadhaul, Railfreight Distribution, and Rail Express Systems and amalgamated them into one single company which was to be named English Welsh & Scottish (EWS), to make control by an American company more palatable to the public after years of British Rail.

EWS inherited the aging fleet of BR Diesels. The average age across the fleet was thirty years, so to reduce operating costs and raise availability a new solution, and new locomotives, would be needed. The company approached Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) in North America, and ordered 250 JT42CWR locomotives, which would be named the Class 66 when running in the UK. These locomotives were built at the EMD plant in London, Ontario.

The first Class 66s arrived at Newport Docks in 1998, with 11 arriving each month until December 2001. The 66 was innovative in that it arrived in the UK fully fuelled and ready to go, so it could be started up and run straight off the dock under its own power.

Evening Star 03.
'The Red Death'.

Freightliner, GB Railfreight (GBRf), and Direct Rail Services (DRS) all placed ordered for the Class 66, making it a ubiquitous site around the country. It is also in use in several countries in Europe, with some second-hand locomotives being bought by companies in the UK.

Problems were caused by the closure of EMD's London Ontario plant. This caused a scarcity in spare parts which threatened to damage the Class 66s good running reputation, a reputation which did not extend fully to rail enthusiasts. Because of the way that they displaced several older classes, the new 66 in EWS livery was nicknamed 'The Red Death'. They also attracted the name 'Sheds' due to the shape of the roof (Freightliner 66s were known as 'Freds').

Evening Star 01.
Both Evening Stars at 66 779s naming ceremony.

Between 2013 and 2014 GBRf ordered another 28 Class 66 locomotives from EMD. These were built at the EMD plant in Muncie, Indiana. Although not the highest running number, the last locomotive to built in this order was numbered 66 779. On 10th May 2016 it was unveiled at the NRM that this locomotive was to be named 'Evening Star', like its BR 9F predecessor. It was even finished in BR Locomotive Green and like the 9F was promised to the national collection on retirement.

Class 66 locomotives are still a common site on UK railways - currently being run by Colas Rail, DB Cargo UK, DRS, Freightliner, and GBRf. It is nice to know that there is a common link between the railways of today and their steam ancestors, and that these two binary stars will live on in preservation.

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Modelling "Evening Star"

Bachmann B32-983 Class 66 779 Evening Star GBRf.

The Class 66 version of Evening Star is currently at time of writing produced in OO Scale by Bachmann (above) and the recently released Hornby version (R3747) An N Scale version was produced by Graham Farish, but is now no longer available.

Dapol DAC049 Kitmaster Evening Star 9F Static Locomotive Kit

The 9F version is also a bit scarce at the moment. Dapol produce a non-motorised plastic kit version (above), but aside from that it is not currently in production in any scale. Hornby and Bachmann both produced the locomotive in OO Scale, and Dapol and Minitrix produced it in N Scale. These may be found second-hand.

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