The Class 56 Group

56301 ELR Autumn Gala- some words and pictures-Keith Bulmer

56301 is currently on hire to DCR but following some repairs at UKRL Leicester, the loco happened to be available and DCR willingly agreed the loco would be ok to attend the Gala. From the Class 56 Group point of view it was important because the although repairs on 56006 are progressing well the loco was just not going to be ready in time. Our friends at the ELR have been patient and understanding but we felt it was the right thing to do to try and have a class 56 represented at the gala.

So DCR set to work investigating how to get 56301 from Leicester to Bury. Options included running via Warrington and across Chat Moss, run to Preston and down through Blackburn, get to Crewe and come up with LSL’s 37667. In the end a DCR driver would take the loco to Doncaster Down Decoy and Chris Gunrtip -a DCR driver gave up his rest day to go across to Doncaster and collect the loco. Chris has a wide route card but as it didn’t cover Doncaster to Castleton via Toddmorden, a route conductor had to be provided and we are grateful to GB Railfreight for providing this.

I arrived at Baron Street around 9-30 in plenty of time to check over 56301 and carry out the drivers prep duties which involve a general check around the outside and inside of the loco and checking of fluid levels( Lube oil, Hydrostatic oil, coolant, governor oil , compressors, sandboxes ). DCR locos carry supplies of bottled water , rolls of blue towel , glass cleaner and general surface cleaner . Before I started to give the cab glass a clean, I spent a few minutes just sat in the second man’s seat and just savouring the moment. We shouldn’t forget that although 56301 belongs to the C56G, it is not very often us regular volunteers get to go near it as it a mainline registered locomotive and understandably the staff working on her need to be fully approved by the rail authorities to do so.

The time we were due of the shed was 14:25 so I had time to open up 56006 and nip up some of the connections on the freshly rewired wheelslip circuits.


56006’s wheelslip circuits- just need a hover out to remove and remaining debris- cable tie offcuts and once we check the 16 cylinders have not suffered any water ingress, we can start thinking about a start up and see what the loco does (or doesn’t do!) .

Our rostered driver, Chris Guntrip arrived well before his official time and I confirmed the prep was all done and Chris put the Battery Switch in and then the Lighting Switch so we could start the loco up.

Once the power unit started a quick check was made to confirm the engine lubricating oil pressure was around the 55 to 65 psi mark at idle. With the master controller in ‘Engine Only’ the power handle can be moved to speed up the engine revs and this in turn makes the compressors run faster and build up air more quickly in the brake system. Once the main reservoir reached 10 bar the system allowed us to’ get the brake pipe’ which is announced by the click of the contactor in the cubicle and the needle on the main brake pipe gauge comes of its 0 position and swings round to the 5 bar position. Chris then made a check of the brake system , checked the loco took power in both directions and we were all set.

At this point I was really glad we had an experienced driver like Chris. That was because Danny Sladdin – who works for DCR and knows 56301 as well as anybody , who had planned to be available to ride the locomotive had texted me at 0402 to say he’d been called away to ride one of DCR’s class 60’s on a train from Willesden to Merehead. The diagram the 60 was on didn’t get back to Willesden around 21:00 ( by which time I hoped to be in the pub reflecting on a successful first day). So as a mechanical guy- I was a little apprehensive as any issues were likely to involve electrikery .(although I’d ridden 56006 several times in the past – this just felt more critical).

Departure time came and we were taking the class 24 down with us ready for its first working.

We trundled into platform 4 and waited for the Class 105/104 DMU to leave before drawing forward to the signal. We were then to draw forward through the tunnel at the Noth end of Bolton Street station . There we would uncouple from the Class 24 which would then go back into the station to couple to its train and we would follow onto the rear of our train. Once we were coupled on I went into the rad compartment and isolated the E70 so we could be dragged by the train engine (which should have been 50015 but due to some issues caused by that Electrickery stuff being in the wrong place we ended up with 40012 in its place ) . A brake continuity test carried out we departed for Heywood. Once there the E70 was made operational again as we were now the train engine and would lead all the way through to Rawtenstall.

Above and below- a couple of pictures of 56301 at Heywood about to work her first train of the day 1J67 15:30 Heywood – Rawtenstall.

We were joined by our Secondman , Emma and the loco performed very well. The run back down to Bury is generally on a falling gradient until the rise to go over the Metrolink Bridge on the approach to Bolton Street. Even with additional deadweight of the tail loco 56301 had to be handled carefully as with so much power the 25mph limit was reached almost without effort. We arrived at Rawtenstall and the E70 was isolated for the drag back to Bury. Once there we had an hour or more to wait for our next working which was the 18:50 BeerEx. We were lead loco to Rawtenstall -where the trailing locos ,40012 and the 50 ( -which had its Electrikery in the right place now!) became the train engines and took us back to Heywood. Chris was still our driver but we were joined by Paul Warburton as second man on this trip.

E70 put back in, and we were ready for the final run of the evening as 1Z03 20:47 Heywood to Bury- seen on arrival at Bury

56006 was already tucked up in bed when the ‘dirty stop out’ slunk back in.

Once we were back on shed the loco had the parking brake applied and was shut down and a wooden scotch applied to one of the wheels-just in case! The battery switch and lighting switches were knocked out and off we went for a swift half and a bag of scamp fries at the Trackside In on the station.

Saturday was another late start- we were off shed at 13:25 . Fortunately Danny was able to make it over as the 60 on the Merehead had performed faultlessly the day before.

Our Driver for the day was Graham Thornton with Jonathon Wilcox as secondman

View from the pit- shortly before 301 remembered it was a Class 56 .

It was fortunate Danny was there as at 13:17 , 301 decided it was getting fed up of behaving itself and it threw up a fault on the SSF system.

In about 10 minutes flat Danny had the SSF box off 56006 and he was still fitting it to 56301 as we were given the call from the Bury South signalman. All I did was unlock 56006 and get tools as Danny shouted for them-but if anyone saw me and Danny looking a bit hot and bothered when we rolled into the platform that’s the reason!

We went on the back of 40145’s train an then worked back from Heywood to Rawtenstall. The 40 was uncoupled at Bury and we did a proper trip- i.e we ran round at Rawtenstall and ran back to Heywood where we ran round and worked back to Bury.

56301 after arrival back in Bury for the final time after a really enjoyable and hopefully successful gala.

56301 was put away for the night and was due to leave the ELR on Monday morning.

Big thanks to our drivers and secondmen over both days- all very professional in their duties but also nice friendy people who made us really welcome as always. A great weekend.