Class 73

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Class 73s are Electro-Diesel locomotives, built by English Electric between 1962-1967 for the Southern Region of British Rail. Primarily intended to work on 3rd rail electrified lines, as built they were also equipped with a 600hp diesel engine for short distance movements.

From 2014, eleven of these locomotives owned by GB Railfreight have been rebuilt with a 1600hp MTU diesel engine and designated Class 73/9. Six of these are deployed on Sleeper services north of Edinburgh replacing Class 67 locos from 2016.

73968 & 73967 pass Larbert with 1S25 for Inverness. 15.6.16 Photo by gazhamilton

GBRf / Caledonian Sleeper Class 73 Loco fleet

Loco Livery Previous Numbers Delivered to EC 1st Passenger Working Remarks
73966 CS (73005, E6005) 6th Oct-2015 13th Apr-2016 (inside 67012 on 1S25 to Inveness)
73967 CS (73006, 73906, E6006) 24th Nov-2015 13th Feb-2016 (on 1Y11 to Oban. 73968 on rear)
73968 CS (73117, E6023) 5th Jan-2016 14th Feb-2016 (on 1B01 from Oban. 73967 on rear)
73969 CS (73105, E6011) 15th Mar-2016 26th May-2016 (inside 73966 on 1A25 to Aberdeen)
73970 CS (73207, 73122, E6029) $ 1st Jun-2016 2nd June-2016 (leading 73968 on 1A25 to Aberdeen)
73971 CS (73103, E6009) $ 9th Nov-2016 10th Nov-2016 (inside 66739 on 1A25 to Aberdeen)

  • All based at Edinburgh Craigentinny Depot (EC). Caledonian Sleeper 'Midnight Teal' livery (CS).
  • 73970 was named 'W. S. Sellar' (a founder member of the SRPS) at Bo'ness on 24th May 2024, the first day of the Spring diesel gala. <Nameplate photo>
  • $ There has been some debate about the previous identities of the last two 73/9s. Several sources state 73970 was 73103. However, a letter by George Toms to Rail Express Magazine (published in March 2017 issue) stated 73207 unexpectedly went ahead of 73103 in the refurbishment schedule.

Class 73/9 Re-build

  • The Class 73/9s owned by GB Railfreight were re-built by Wabtec at the Brush Traction works in Loughborough, between 2013 and 2016. Five locos for duties in Southern England are numbered 73961 to 73965, painted in GBRf livery. The locos for Caledonian Sleeper duties are numbered 73966 to 73971, and painted in 'Midnight Teal' livery.

  • The rebuilt locos have a 1600hp MTU 'R43 4000' V8 diesel engine, coupled to a new Lechmotoren alternator. The existing bogies and DC traction motors are retained. The locos are now fitted with AAR multiple working control and can also work with class 66 and 67 locos, however the old Style MW jumpers are kept for compatibility with un-rebuilt Class 73s.

Other features retained were the driving controls on both sides of the cab, the drop-head buckeye coupling, central buffing plate and retractable side buffers.

The Caledonian Sleeper locos 966-971 have several detail differences to the earlier 961-965 batch:
  • Driving Desk is more extensively modernised.
  • The cab centre window is 'unblanked' and fitted with a wiper.
  • 1-piece miniature obstacle deflectors fitted.
  • High-level air hoses removed.
  • Communications jumper socket left of coupling.
  • Additional main air reservoir pipe left of coupling.
  • NRN Radio and aerials. (NRN radios removed in 2016).
  • ETS on/off indicators on the sides of the Headlamp clusters.
  • Electric Train Supply to coaching stock increased from ETH 38 to ETH 70.
  • 3rd-rail pick-ups were initially retained, but isolated.
  • RETB-NG (fitted to the locos in Scotland during 2016).

  • The buckeye coupling and central buffing plate would later be removed in favour of drop-head Dellner couplings, with the obstacle deflectors changed to accommodate this.
  • The cab centre window (formerly a 2-character headcode display) was not installed on locos 73966 and 73967 until return visits to Loughborough in February 2016.

  • The conversion programme and introduction to service (originally intended for the 1st April 2015) was severely delayed, a major factor being the new alternators suffering from vibration problems, particularly when at full power.

  • From October 2016 the Sleeper Class 73/9s were only providing ETH, with Class 66 providing traction, rather than working in multiple.
  • Delivery of the final conversion 73971 was postponed until November 2016, while a solution to the alternator issue was sought.
  • Further changes to the locomotive were required to operate with the new Mk5 sleeper coaches which have dellner semi-automatic couplings.
  • The first to be equipped was 73971 which went south to Brush at Loughborough on 19th of April 2017 and returned to Craigentinny on 9th July 2017 with its new drop-head Dellner coupling fitted, but covered up.
Loco Mk5 Coupling Modifications
(at Loughborough)
3rd Rail Shoes Removed
(at Eastleigh)
73966 Oct-2017 Apr-2019
73967 Aug-2017 Jul-2019
73968 Oct-2017 Jun-2020
73969 Jan-2018 $ Aug-2019
73970 Feb-2018 Oct-2019
73971 Jul-2018 Mar-2019
$ 73969 also received repairs to a damaged cab after an incident at Craigentinny in December 2016.

  • The class 73/9s had initially retained 3rd rail pick-up shoes, but these were removed when the six locomotives visited Eastleigh Works for new wheelsets in 2019/2020.

Early class 73/9 movements in Scotland

  • 73966 moved north on 6th October 2015, as 0Z73 Loughborough to Craigentinny (picking up 66732 at Doncaster Decoy Yard).
  • The loco then remained at the Edinburgh depot until a driver training trip on Thurday 5th November, light loco to Mossend (0Z73) via Shotts and back to Craigentinny (0Z74).
  • On Friday 6th November, 73966 hauled its first Empty Caledonian Sleeper train, 5B26 08:19 Edinburgh to Polmadie (with 92032 in tow). The Class 73 returned east as 0Z73 10:05 Polmadie to Craigentinny.
  • On Monday 9th November 73966 again hauled the ECS 5B26 Edinburgh - Polmadie (this time with 67009 dead on the rear). Its next move was to Preston on the rear of a 3Z26 1200 Polmadie to Wembley Depot ECS move (hauled by 92018), then returning light engine as 0Z73 1630 Preston to Craigentinny (originally heading for Polmadie).
  • On Tuesday 10th November, a driver training trip took 73966 north as 0B73 1010 Craigentinny to Aberdeen (via Stirling). The loco encountered problems on the 15:00 return (0B74) and terminated at Perth. It was hauled home to Craigentinny by 67007 the following day.
  • 73966 was back in action on Tuesday 17th November, running light to Polmadie, and returning to Edinburgh with 67011 and 5C11 Empty Sleepers for London and 87002 on the rear.
  • The second Class 73 for the Sleepers, 73967 arrived at Craigentinny on Tuesday 24th November, that evening 73966 on 5C11 suffered loss of air at Carstairs, arrived at Edinburgh 1 hour late.
  • 73967 hauled its first train on 27th November, the ECS 5B26 Edinburgh - Polmadie (with 67010 on the rear).
  • On 4th December 2015 a pairing of 73966+73967 hauled the ECS 5B26 Edinburgh - Polmadie (again with 67010 on the rear).
  • Early on 9th December, 73966 ran south from Craigentinny to Tyne Dock to collect loco 47847 and Mk2 coach 1200, retuning north as 5Z73 11:21 Tyne Dock to Polmadie.
  • Monday 14th December saw 73967 and 73966 hauling 8 SRPS railtour coaches over the Forth and Tay bridges as 5Z73 Bo'ness to Aberdeen Clayhills. Next Morning (15th), 73967 and 73966 ran top and tail to Dundee and back with 5 of the SRPS maroon coaches. This was repeated on Thursday 17th. 73966 did the last trip on Tuesday 22nd, solo, running round at Dundee. On 23rd December 2015 73966+73967 returned the 8 coaches home, running as 5Z73 08:40 Aberdeen Clayhills Car.M.D - Bo'ness (via Stirling), with the locos staying at Bo'ness.

  • The 73/9s made their passenger debut during the Winter Diesel gala on the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd January 2016. 73966 was paired with 26038 on the 11:30 Bo'ness to Manuel Saturday, and later paired with 73967 on the 15:30 departure.
  • The 73/9s returned light engine to Craigentinny on 10th January.

Use on the Sleepers

  • Three weekends of engineering work between Crianlarich and Fort William during February 2016, saw the West Highland Sleeper portion diverted to Oban. With Class 67s loco deemed to heavy for the line, the Class 73/9s were given their first passenger workings on the national network.
  • The trains were worked top and tail, Saturday Morning northbound 1Y11 04:50 from Edinburgh, with the Empty coaching stock heading south as 5Y11 10:30 to Polmadie depot in Glasgow. On Sundays the ECS ran north as 5B01 13:02 Polmadie to Oban, and the southbound passenger working as 1B01 19:35 Oban to Edinburgh.
  • 73967 & 73968 were the two locos used on all the Oban Sleeper workings in February 2016. 73967 was on the North end for Sat 13th, Sun 14th, Sat 20th and Sun 21st. 73968 was on the North end for Sat 27th and Sun 28th.

  • Following the first weekend on the Oban sleepers, 73967 was the first of the class to work to Inverness, when it was paired with 67007 on 1S25 from Edinburgh on the morning of Monday 15th February 2016, the pair also worked the evening 1M16 from Inverness to Edinburgh, with 73967 again leading.

Use on Freight & Engineers trains

  • On 28th January 2016, a pair of 73s were given a test run on the 6S45 North Blyth to Fort William freight train between Millerhill and Mossend via Shotts. 73966 and 73968 hauled dead 66737 and 24 loaded 'bulk alumina' PCA wagons (photo).
  • On 17th August 2017 Colas 56094 failed at Ayr Station whilst running round the 6R46 Grangemouth - Prestwick Airport Fuel Terminal tanker train. 73970 was sent from Kilmarnock to Ayr to haul the train to its destination. (Photo).

  • During the early months of 2021, a period of COVID-19 related timetable reductions when only the Inverness train was running north of Edinburgh, there were several instances of Class 73s working engineering trains in Scotland.
  • On Sunday 24th January 2021 73967 worked a 6X21 21:29 Millerhill Yard to Dunbar with a RailVac machine, returning early next morning.
  • On Wednesday 10th February 2021 73967 worked top and tail with 66756 moving High Speed Milling machine as 6X69 2246 Carstairs Yard to Westerton, via Glasgow Central Low Level & Dalmuir Down Siding. The return working next morning was 6X69 0435 Westerton to Carstairs via Maryhill, Gartcosh Jn, Holytown Jn.
  • On Saturday 27th February 2021, 73969+73971 worked train 6K02 23:21 Millerhill Yard to Inverkeithing East Junction. On the Sunday the locos were seen at Burntisland sandwiched between JNA open ballast wagons and flat wagons with track panels (Photo). The return working back to Millerhill ran early on the Monday morning.
  • On the evening of Saturday 6th March 2021, 73968+73971 worked 6K10 23:17 Millerhill Yard - Dalmeny, returning with loaded spoil wagons on Sunday 7th as 6K10 10:00 Dalmeny to Millerhill Yard via Dunfermline Townhill (run-round) Alloa and Stirling <Photo on Flickr>.
  • On Monday 15th March 2021, 73970 ran light as 0M73 from Craigentinny to Carlisle to work 5 loaded ballast hoppers as 6K35 19:30 Carlisle Kingmoor Yard to Lochwinnoch (via Annbank and Troon) <Photo on Flickr>. Next morning the loco took the empty hoppers forward as 6K35 04:40 Lochwinnoch to Millerhill Yard (via Shields & Shotts).
  • On Saturday 27th March 2021, 73971+73969 worked a Rail Delivery train as 6K30 16:06 Millerhill to Carlisle Kingmoor Yard, then 6K30 21:10 Carlisle Kingmoor Yard to Abington. On Sunday the train returned home as 6K30 08:55 Carstairs South Junction to Millerhill Yard via Motherwell & Shotts (Photo).

Class 73 visit to Craigentinny in 2005

  • Two GB Railfreight Class 73 locomotives visited Scotland in 2005 to assist in a transfer of HST trailers from Craigentinny to Plymouth Laira. The class 73 locos have drop-head buckeye couplings and were able to couple to the non-buffer fitted HST stock.
  • On 30 October 2005, 87012 hauled 73204 and 73205 from Willesden in London north to Shieldmuir Royal Mail Terminal (0Z49).
  • Next day on 1st November, 73205 hauled 73204 and 87012 from Shieldmuir to Craigentinny (0Z73). The 73s were then attached either end of the HST stock and 87012 hauled the train (5Z73) south to Willesden via the West Coast Main Line.

73204 acting as barrier vehicle behind 87012 at Craigentinny. Photo by GuyHouston


  • Locomotive 73119 was at one time based on the Keith and Dufftown Railway. It was moved to Dufftown in September 2004, but saw very little use and was bought by Knights Rail and moved South in July 2008.

73119 at Dufftown, 28th May 2005 Photo by big55012

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