Class 56

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Class 56 locomotives were commonplace on freight trains in Scotland in the 1990s.
After several years of absence, they reappeared on oil trains in 2013 operated by Colas.

56123 in coal sub-sector livery stabled at Ayr TMD in 1994. Photo: Donald Stirling

  • The first Class 56 to appear in Scotland was 56065 in December 1979 which was sent north to Motherwell TMD for trials on Hunterston - Ravenscraig iron ore trains. It's journey north on 17/12/79 was rather unusual, as it assisted the 09:35 Euston - Inverness 'Clansman' from Winsford, and was then diverted via Hexham, Newcastle and Edinburgh owing to overhead wires being down north of Carlisle.
  • 56094 hauled failed 47004 from Gateshead TMD to Eastfield TMD on 1st June 1984. It returned light engine.
  • 56022 was seen on the ECML heading to Millerhill with a train for steel rods on 12/03/85. <Flickr>
  • In the 1980s a regular cross-border working for class 56 locos was on Widdrington - Oxwellmains trains formed of HEA coal hoppers. <Flickr>.
  • On 3 July 1987, 56125 assisted failed HST on the 13:00 London King's Cross - Aberdeen from Morpeth to Edinburgh, where it terminated (and was presumably taken to Craigentinny via the Suburban line) <Flickr>.
  • During spring 1989 Class 56s worked the Blyth - Fort Willam 'Alcan' tanks to & from Millerhill on several occasions.

  • 56091 'Castle Donnington' ran from Tyne Yard to Millerhill on 24th May 1990 to commence training of Millerhill drivers.
  • 56s started working coal trains from Westfield and Thornton Yard in Fife, to Millerhill and south to York in the summer of 1990.
  • Usually the 36 wagon Millerhill to York trains had an assisting loco on the climb to Grantshouse. Initially Class 26 as pilot, later class 37 more common.
  • Similarly 36 wagon trains from Ravenstruther to Millerhill were also double-headed, with either a pair of 56s or with a class 37 leading.
  • Initially the class 56 locos were from the coal sub-sector fleet based at Toton TMD in Nottingham.
  • In May 1993 eight locos joined the Trainload Coal Scottish pool 'FCPA', still allocated to Toton but out-based at Ayr TMD for coal workings: 56104/121/123/124/125/127/128/129.
  • In Scotland during the mid 1990s in the class was primarily deployed on Merry-go-round coal trains to Longannet, Cockenzie, and south to other power stations in Yorkshire.
  • A non-coal working running in 1993-94 was scrap metal from Ravenscraig to Aldwarke, using redundant hopper wagons hauled by a Thornaby based class 56.
  • Re-organisation of BR's Trainload freight business from commodity based sub-sectors into three regional companies in 1994, ready for privatisation, saw Trainload Freight West (later named Transrail) take on a large portion of the class 56 fleet, with most allocated to Cardiff Canton, but with 13 (later rising to 14) locos based at Motherwell TMD in pool 'LGAM'.
  • From 1994 new duties included Co2 tanks from Cameron Bridge to London and dog food in vans from Deanside to Wisbech (re-routed from ECML to WCML later in the year)
  • The 56s were still primarily employed on coal trains, but were also used on Enterprise wagonload trains on the West Coast Main Line from Mossend.
  • The other regional freight company with class 56 locos was 'Loadhaul' covering north-east England with maintenance depots at Thornaby (Teeside) and Immingham (Humberside).
  • Loadhaul workings to & from Scotland (via ECML) included Immingham - Leith fertiliser vans.

Motherwell Class 56 Pool LGAM

Loco No. Transferred in Livery 5/94 Livery 3/96 Transferred out Remarks
IM-ML 5/97
~ LH
ML-IM 9/97
"British Steel Teesside" from 10/96
CF-ML 2/95
F.u ~ ML-CF 4/95 .
CF-ML 2/95
F.con F.T
ML-IM 9/97
56057 SL-ML 03/94 F.con F.T
ML-IM 9/97
"British Fuels" from 6/96.
56058 TO-ML 03/94 F.con F.T
ML-IM 9/97
56072 TO-ML 03/94 F.u F.T
ML-IM 9/97
56079 TO-ML 03/94 F.coal F.T
ML-IM 9/97
56096 TO-ML 03/94 F.coal F.coal ML-CF 2/96 * *(also at CF 2-4/95)
56101 TO-ML 03/94 F.coal F.T ML-CF 5/96 * "Mutual Improvement"
56103 SL-ML 03/94 F.con F.T ML-CF 2/96 .
56104 TO-ML 03/94 F.coal F.coal
ML-IM 9/97
56121 TO-ML 03/94 F.coal F.T ML-CF 2/96 .
56123 TO-ML 03/94 F.coal F.T
ML-IM 9/97
"Drax Power Station"
56124 TO-ML 03/94 F.coal F.T
ML-IM 9/97
56128 TO-ML 03/94 F.coal F.T
ML-IM 9/97
"West Burton Power Station" until 3/95.
56129 TO-ML 03/94 F.coal F.T
ML-IM 9/97

  • Depot Codes: ML = Motherwell, TO = Toton, SL = Stewarts Lane, CF = Cardiff Canton = IM = Immingham.
  • Livery Codes: F.con = 3 tone grey with blue & yellow squares, F.coal = 3 tone grey with black diamonds on yellow, F.u = 3 tone grey unbranded, F.T = 3 tone grey with big white 'T' on blue and red circle, LH = Loadhaul black with orange cab sides.
  • 56072 was an early recipient of Transrail big 'T' branding, noted on 2nd Sept 1994.
  • 56057 was an early recipient of EW&S red and gold livery, ready for naming at Aberdeen on 27th June 1996. 56058 followed in July 1996.

  • In 1996 the three regional freight companies were sold as one and combined as English Welsh & Scottish Railways (EWS).
  • EWS expanded the use of class 56s locos on 'Enterprise' services and they became fairly regular visitors to Aberdeen, and also made occasional visits to Inverness.
  • From September 1997 EWS concentrated the whole class 56 fleet on Immingham depot, with Motherwell and Cardiff loosing their allocation.
  • The use of the class in Scotland declined from the end of 1999 as EWS class 66 locomotives became more wide spread.
    • The last Class 56 to Aberdeen was 56018, it worked north on Saturday 12th April 2003 with loaded lime wagons for Montrose, stabled in Aberdeen over the weekend and worked south with the empty wagons on on Monday April 14th.
    • Thread:Last class 56 working before 2013
    • EWS withdrew its last class 56 locos in March 2004.

56037 and another EWS 56 roar north through Larbert with the morning Millerhill - Aberdeen 'Enterprise' circa 1998. Photo: Locoman419''

Previous Operators

Fastline acquired three class 56s and one of these, 56302 (formerly 56124), visited Shettleston on 29th August 2006. This loco was later was purchased by Colas Rail following Fastline going into administration in 2010 (see below).

Devon and Cornwall Railway (DCR) operated a handful of Class 56 locos which have occasionally visited Scotland on rolling stock moves or route learning duties in the past. (56301, 56312). 56301 is now owned by the Class 56 Group and is available for spot hire, while 56312 has since been sold to GBRF for potential re-engineering into a Class 69 locomotive.

Colas Rail

Colas Rail 56105 approaching Lochwinnoch on the 6N47 empties from Prestwick to Grangemouth (20/08/13) Photo by maynard

  • 56105 was the first to be used in Scotland, after arriving light engine as 0Z56 Carlisle Yard - Boness Junction on August 17, 2013.
  • From August 2013 Class 56s replaced Class 66 locos on the Aviation fuel trains from Grangemouth to Prestwick, Linkswood and Sinfin (near Derby).
  • The Grangemouth to Linkswood train supplied the RAF base Leuchars, and the final trains (6L82 loaded & 6N72 empty) ran on 25/06/14.
  • In the Summer of 2017, Class 56s were used on short-term fuel oil traffic from Grangemouth to Fort William and Lairg, briefly reviving former DB operated flows that had ceased in April.
  • These were the first times that the class had operated on the West Highland Line and Far North Line, and transportable RETB equipment was used on the Locos.

  • Aviation fuel was conveyed by rail to the Rolls-Royce factory in Sinfin, Derbyshire. The trains ran as and when required, often pathed as 'STP' schedules. However, the southbound typically departed Grangemouth between 1700 & 1900. (This Flow ended in May 2022)
6M80Grangemouth - Sinfin(Q) Loaded
6S95Sinfin - Grangemouth(Q) Empty

  • As of 2018, despite a sufficient surplus of Class 70 locos moving to Scotland to make their stay as Colas' primary locos on freight traffic and the subsequent selling of their Class 60s to GBRF, Colas still use Class 56 locos for the Prestwick Aiport (Monkton Sidings) aviation fuel flow:
6R460632 Grangemouth - PrestwickTThFO Loaded
6N471651 Prestwick - GrangemouthTFO Empty
6N471327 Prestwick - GrangemouthTThFO Empty (Alternate Path - Q)

These workings can run any day of the week as required. It's worth noting that Class 70s may also sometimes work the trains.

Engineers Trains

  • Colas Class 56s locos started being used on some Engineers trains from December 2013.
    • A highlight was 56094 working train 6Y82 from the East Kilbride branch into Glasgow Central (top & tail with a DB class 66) on morning of Sunday 15/12/13.
  • 56078 hauled a Kirow crane as 6Z56 Mossend Down Yard - Aviemore on 11th February 2014. The crane was used to install a bridge on the Strathspey Railway extension to Grantown. The loco and crane returned south on 17th.
  • During July and September of 2019, Class 56s were used on spoil trains during platform extension work in Glasgow Queen Street High level station.

  • From April 2019, Colas Rail took over operation of the Doncaster - Millerhill engineering materials train for Network Rail.
    • Class 56 locos regularly feature on this, although Class 70 and class 66 are also used.
6S31Doncaster Up Decoy - Millerhill S.S.M-F .
6E36Millerhill S.S. - Doncaster Up Decoy MTWO .


Railtours and related movements in Scotland

Date      Loco Tour Name Link  Route Remarks Photo
12.Jun.1993 56074 The Skirl Revisited SBJ link Glasgow C - Ayr - Flickr
13.Jun.1993 56128 & 56123 (T&T) The Skirl Revisited SBJ link Ayr - Stranraer - Ayr Top and Tail Flickr 1, Flickr 2
04.Sep.1993 56011+56007 The Coal Scuttler 2 SBJ link Derby - ECML - Edinburgh (56011 red-stripe livery) Flickr 1, Flickr 2
05.Sep.1993 56092+56083 The Coal Scuttler 2 SBJ link Edinburgh - WCML - Worksop (overnight) Flickr
17.Oct.1993 56104 The Aberdonian - Dunfermline Townhill - Perth Assisting Steam 60532 SmugMug
19.Mar.1994 56124+56128 The Worksop Wanderer SBJ link Ayr - Chalmerston (Waterside) (Top & Tail with 37403+37408) Flickr
06.Aug.1994 56104 The Grampian Highlander SBJ link Mossend - Inverness (Rose St Curve) - Flickr
07.Aug.1994 56101 The Grampian Highlander SBJ link Aberdeen - Edinburgh - Flickr
03.Aug.1995 56072 Whisky Galore SBJ link Edinburgh - Cumbernauld - Carstairs - Edinburgh (Transrail livery) Flickr
03.Aug.1996 56058 The Road To The Isles SBJ link Glasgow Central - Shotts - Edinburgh (EWS livery) Flickr
03.Jul.1997 56074 (British Pullman ECS) n/a Glasgow Central - Shotts - Edinburgh Loadhaul livery (with 47763 on rear) SmugMug, Flickr
09.Aug.1997 56079 The 39 Steps SBJ link Motherwell (Braidhurst DGL) - Cumbernauld - Edinburgh - Niddrie - Carstairs - Glasgow Central (Transrail livery) Flickr
04.Jul.1998 56011 The Scottie SBJ link Glasgow Central - Deanside - City Union - Sunnyside Jn - Motherwell (Braidhurst UGL)* - Coltness (EWS livery) *56067 attached to rear Flickr
56067 The Scottie SBJ link Coltness - Motherwell (Braidhurst DGL)* - Bellshill - Kirkhill - Glasgow Central (EWS livery) *56011 detached from rear. =
31.Jul.1999 56059 The Spinning Haggis SBJ link Dundee - Dalmeny - Glasgow Central (EWS livery) Flickr
19.Jul.2003 56058 The Grampian Gyrator SBJ link Carlisle - Mossend & Edinburgh - Newcastle - Carlisle (EWS livery) Flickr
22.Sep.2018 56113 GBRf 2018 - Out of the Ordinary Timings. Mossend - Fort William Jn (and return to Inverkeithing) with 73141 & 73107 Flickr

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