Whilst walking across the Millenium bridge tonight (14th June 2018) I spotted a pair of Class 73s entering Blackfriars from the south. Even though I was walking towards London Bridge, I decided to divert to the station itself and see what was happening. Rather than retrace my steps I instead took Thameslink to London Bridge.
I’ve never seen Class 73s at Blackfriars although I have seen Class 33s on engineering trains a number of years ago. The one and only time I have seen 73s on the Thameslink route was at Farringdon in 2009 when I wrote about them here.
The 73s at the far end of Blackfriars’ platform 4, with 700017 in platform 3
The locomotives were GB Railfreight 73961 (Alison) and 73962 (Dick Mabbott.) They were top and tailing Network Rail’s track recording unit, which consists of converted mark iii coaches and a mark one luggage van in the now familiar bright yellow departmental livery.
Mark three coaches converted for departmental use
The unit was making a visit to most of the southern London terminals, London Bridge, Cannon Street Victoria, Waterloo, and recording the track across a good extent of the lines to the south of the capital.
The track recording unit’s mark one luggage van
In a nutshell the Class 73s had begun their journey at Woking up yard at 17.43pm, going via Addlestone, Staines, Clapham Junction, Brixton, Loughborough Junction with Blackfriars being its first London terminus.
‘Alison’ by the buffers at Blackfriars
From there the departmental unit’s itinerary throughout the night consisted of the following: A run down to Orpington. A return trip on the direct lines to Victoria. Back to Orpington and then a trip to Waterloo via Nine Elms.
73961’s name plate
The next section of the trip was from Waterloo down to Streatham and thence the Mitcham/Sutton line, continuing to Guildford via Effingham. The North Downs line was next, leading to Redhill and then up the Brighton main to South Croydon where a reverse was to be effected at 03.15am approximately.
Comparison of the front end of 73 and a 700
The class 73s then took their track recording train back down to Redhill and via the Tonbridge line, going as far as Paddock Wood where another reverse was carried out, before taking the main line direct to London Bridge and thence Cannon Street at 05.14am. From there the unit was to make its way to Hither Green yard where I assume it would be stabled until the next turn of duty. That’s it in a nutshell!
The driving console in Class 73961 (Alison)
The train operative was kind enough to let me see the interior of Class 73961, which was a first for me! Plus to have a glimpse at the schedules for that night. I was quite surprised at the amount of travelling the unit would be undertaking throughout the night. It is obvious from these this work has to be done by Network Rail far more regularly and more intensively than any of us would ever realise. Not only that it takes a lot of timetabling to fit the trains’ operations in between normal passenger services.
One of the Class 73s drivers, sorry I do not know his name. My bad!
Btw I sought acknowledgement that it was okay to put these itineraries as well as his picture on the blog and I would like to extend thanks to the staff for taking the time to communicate with me despite my disabilities. I dont want my pictures or posts to be purely trains, trains, trains, and would like a little bit variety, some human interest, maybe some timetables, any other stuff that is of interest and of course its why I would like to show the staff at work where appropriate (and doubly ensuring that I am not getting in their way.)
73961 with 700017 – a nice comparison of frontages
The Class 73s are now at least 50 years old, the first were built in 1962 although I think these are the later batch. The above picture shows the 73s still look quite modern despite their age and its the nicely styled box look with very subtle rounded edges and corners that has given these locomotives a quite dateless look. Of course a 700 is ultra modern in terms of styling and design but what do you expect!
The 73s are extremely versatile locomotives, I would think there’s little track across the network they have not done (plus a good bit of trackage which no longer exists too.) Presently, to my surprise, there’s currently a pair working the Highland main line to Inverness as this tweet shows.