The Class 56 Group

Update April 2024 – Important Class 56 Group Announcement

Firtst of all apologies for the lack of updates recently, as some of you will already be aware, the C56G website had become rather unresponsive over the last few months and would not only time out for users but also for administrators trying to update the website news. This seems to have been resolved now but we plan to switch provider in the not too distant future

Update- 1/4/2024

Most will be aware 56301 had been in use by DCR until 12th January 2024 when the loco failed at Water Orton with an engine shut down. The loco was rescued by a DCR class 60.

The problem has been investigated and engine repairs are expected to commence in the next weeks.

Members will recall the sale of 56301 to Cappagh Group was dependent on the loco being operational. Discussions have taken place with DCR and the sale will be delayed until 56301 is operational and back in traffic.

Hopefully the website keeps working and updates will be posted here in due course.



The following announcement appeared in the Winter 2023 edition of Gridiron (Issue 139)

As is usual for Class 56 Group, it’s been pretty quiet for several months and then suddenly everything goes into overdrive.

The big news for this issue of “Gridiron”, is that 56301 is finally back in mainline condition. After a successful test run to Barrow Hill on the 11th July 2023, 56301 was signed off as fit to operate on Network Rail.  Better still, after discussions had taken place with DCRail, an agreement was put in place for them to hire 56301.

So during the following week, 56301 was given some minor bodywork repairs, before running light engine to Chaddesden Sidings near Derby on the 25th July. 56301 joined DC Rail’s 56091 and the next day 56091 took 4Z43 Chaddesden to Willesden empties, with 56301 dead in train to save fuel.

Then on Thursday 27th July, 56091 and 56301 worked the 09.51 Willesden to Merehead Quarry and 16.31 return. Due to the layout at Merehead Quarry 56091 led both trains.  This was then followed on Monday 31st July, where the pair ran from Willesden to Grain and back ,resulting in 56301 finally having a chance to lead.

The pair remained at Willesden, where they were commandeered to take another Merehead working after the rostered Class 60 developed a minor fault just prior to departure. Unfortunately, the fault on the normally reliable Class 60 could not be rectified in time and the pair of Class 56s took the train out instead.  This train is a very important working for the Cappagh Group (DCRail is part of the Cappagh Group), as it feeds the Express Concrete batching plant at Willesden.

56301 then returned to UKRL Leicester for some repairs, before being released in time to run light engine on Thursday 14th September, to attend the ELR’s Autumn Diesel Gala on Friday 15th and Saturday 15th September (see full write up in following pages).  As expected, 56301 was very popular with all the enthusiasts, despite the short notice of the loco’s attendance.  Several C56G members managed to attend, and encouragingly there were quite a few younger people gathering around the loco during station stops.

56301 returned to Chaddesden Sidings on the Monday after the Diesel Gala, and has since been used on duties to Chessington, Acton and Burton-on-Trent. The loco will be used as required by DCRail,so please keep an eye on the Group’s website for news on workings.

56301 was offered to the ELR as a goodwill gesture, as 56006 was not fully operational, following the rewiring of the wheel slip circuits.  This work is currently 95% complete, awaiting further volunteer visits to continue the work, before investigating the lack of power fault which stopped 56006 following its last ELR gala appearance. Unfortunately, with only three to four regular working volunteers, it is difficult to get the required minimum of two volunteers necessary to avoid lone working (which needs to be avoided for safety reasons).

So that’s an update on the current situation, but what of the future ?

56006 will continue to progress at a rate proportional to the number of working volunteers available.  We do aim to have the 56006 available for the Summer Gala next year, and hopefully we will get a chance to perform some test runs long before that. Unfortunately, the weather is our biggest issue which will result in 56006 remaining under tarpaulins for the winter.

With so few working volunteers it is difficult to keep on top of faults which develop on 56006, and we barely  have resources to solve and faults or issues as they arise.  Basic preservation tasks, such as keeping on top of the bodywork repairs, removing and overhauling components and carrying out the internal painting, will alas have to take a lower priority.  As a result, 56006 will inevitably deteriorate and ultimately become unserviceable.

Once we reach that stage our host railway may lose patience with us, and could ultimately ask the C56G to remove 56006 from its railway.  So far the ELR have been very understanding with us, and providing 56301 for the ELR Autumn Diesel Gala was an attempt to provide the railway with a substitute Class 56, to cover for the non-available 56006.  Hopefully that has showed our commitment to the ELR, and whereas we would normally charge for attendance of 56301 at a Gala, we offered 56301 on a free of charge basis, and DCRail kindly supported us in the movement to the ELR.

Ideally, we might like to remove 56006 from traffic and give it a full or partial overhaul.  Alas, an ongoing lack of working volunteers could see that plan take many years to complete and could even stall and fail as the small pool of available working volunteers get older and frustrated with the lack of progress, and may ultimately lose interest completely.

The alternative would be to have 56006 restored by an external firm. Unfortunately, this work would not only be very expensive but could mean that the ELR would be without a Class 56 for the duration of such work.  On top of this significant fundraising activities would be required to fund this work.

Of course 56301 is and always was, purely a revenue generating asset for the C56G.  However it can only earn that revenue if: –

  1. There is someone who wants to use 56301 and pay for it.
  2. 56301 is still in good condition and is reliable.
  3. 56301 is fully compliant with current legislation and safety systems.

A lot of thought has been given by the Class 56 Locomotive Ltd (C56LL) board of directors and the C56G committee as to the future of both 56006 and 56301. Several options were considered, as follows:-

  1. Continue hiring out 56301 until it requires a major overhaul, carry out the overhaul, and then continue to hire out 56301.
  2. Hire out 56301 for as long as possible, then retire it into preservation alongside 56006.
  3. Hire out 56301 for as long as possible and then dispose of it.
  4. Sell one locomotive and keep the other locomotive.

Option 1: – Continue hiring out 56301 until it requires a major overhaul, carry out the overhaul, and then continue to hire out 56301.

With the Class 56s becoming a smaller operational fleet, it was felt unlikely that the market for hiring a Class 56 is sustainable in the long term. GBRf are already standardising on the Class 69, and Colas currently do not seem to fully utilise their fleet as they have alternative locomotives available. Ultimately the Colas 56’s may even be converted into Class 69s as well.  GBRf still operate two Class 56s, but their duties are very specific.  DCRail also have a fleet of two Class 56s. Most of the DCRail traffic is based around Class 60 loadings, and DCRail are likely to increase their Class 60 fleet as they begin to refurbish some of the Class 60’s that they currently have stored at UKRL Loughborough.

So the future revenue that the C56G could earn is therefore uncertain, and the cost of an overhaul would be an unknown quantity.  Also, organizations with the relevant skills and knowledge to carry out such an overhaul may or may not exist at the time it would be required.  As a result, Option 1 was therefore ruled out.

Option 2:- Hire out 56301 for as long as possible, then retire it into preservation alongside 56006.

Again uncertainty over the future demand for 56301, combined with the lack of working volunteers to maintain our existing preserved loco 56006, also saw this option ruled out.

A variation on Option 2, would be to simply retire 56301 immediately and preserve it.  However the lack of preserved railways with air braked stock, combined with a lack of working volunteers, and the fact that whatever funds the C56G has in the bank, would cease to grow once 56301 is no longer earning any hire fees.  Therefore this variation of Option 2 was also ruled out.

Option 3: Hire the locomotive for as long as possible and then dispose of it.

Again, the uncertainty over future demand is a key factor. If 56301 suddenly requires a major repair or the demand for hiring her ceases, then it would be unlikely any operator would consider purchasing 56301.  This would then mean that disposal of 56301 would therefore very likely be to a scrap merchant, and the sale value would be a function of the scrap price at the time of disposal.  Risking 56301 going for scrap is not something that the C56G would want. Seeing 56040 scrapped was bad enough, so we don’t want to see a repeat of this with 56301.  For these reasons Option 3 was also ruled out.

Option 4: – Sell one locomotive and keep the other locomotive.

A number of parties have recently expressed interest in purchasing either 56006 or 56301.  The sale of 56301 has been anticipated by the Group for quite some time, as we have neither the finances nor the working volunteers to preserve two Class 56s.  By selling one locomotive we can raise much needed funds for the restoration of the remaining locomotive.

So Option 4a: – Sell 56006 and retain 56301.  A recent offer on 56006 was rejected on the basis this locomotive is the flagship of the Group and holds a significant value to our members.  Although 56301 is currently in better condition than 56006, it is 56006 which is the C56G’s main preserved locomotive.  56006 is also unique in representing the only remaining Romanian example of the Class.  We are also have to consider the potential de-motivational aspect of disposing of a locomotive into which the Group’s working volunteers have poured countless hours of restoration effort into.

Or Option 4b:- Sell 56301 and retain 56006.  This sub-option was only to be considered ifan acceptable agreement could be made.  On the basis that a certain amount of income could be guaranteed, the option to sell 56301 was deemed to be the only viable option, and with this in-mind discussions were held with the Cappagh Group (DCRail is part of the Cappagh Group). DCRail has a long and healthy working relationship with C56G, and unlike other interested parties, after the sale to DCRail, 56301 would remain in operation as a Class 56 locomotive in the UK for the foreseeable future.  So even if the C56G no longer owns 56301, we can at least do the very best possible to secure her future as a fully intact Class 56.

Detailed discussions took place with the C56LL board of directors, who subsequently recommended to the C56G committee that the proposal for sale of 56301 to Cappagh (for operation by DCRail) be accepted by the C56G committee.    

What does this mean for 56301 now ?

In essence 56301 went on hire to DCRail from the end of July 2023, and this hire will continue until Sunday 31st March 2024.  Then from Monday 1st April 2024, 56301 will (subject to still being in an operational condition) be transferred to the ownership of Cappagh (for operation by DCRail).

Apart from the income from the sale, certain additional terms apply to the sale which were negotiated by the Directors of C56LL to ensure ongoing interest in 56301 specifically, and the Class 56 in general, provide a PR benefit to the C56G, and provide opportunities for C56G members to see and travel behind 56301.  These additional terms include:-

  1. 56301 to be repainted by DCRail, into a heritage livery appropriate to the Class 56s.
  2. 56301 to be named “The Class 56 Group”, and the naming ceremony may well take place at the ELR.
  3. DCRail will provide a Class 56 locomotive for a Diesel Gala at a railway specified by C56G, for the next three years.
  4. C56LL will have the option to purchase 56301, if it is disposed of as a complete Class 56 locomotive at some point in the future.

The C56LL board of directors and C56G committee believe the above additional terms give you the C56G membership a further six months to enjoy 56301 working freight trains, while it is still owned by the Group and earning revenue for the Group.  After the sale, 56301 will continue to be seen out and about on the mainline network, being a mobile advert for the C56G, and generating media interest in the Group.  

Attendance at diesel galas will create further good PR and strengthen the Group’s relationship with the ELR.  If 56006 and 56301 are both available, they will be a big draw for enthusiasts to the diesel gala. If 56006 is out of service having an overhaul (at the ELR or another workshop facility), then either 56301 or possibly another DCRail Class 56 would fly the Class 56 flag while 56006 is unavailable.

Of course the combined income from both the six months hire period and the sale itself, would also be a massive benefit, and should fund the care and attention 56006 will need to keep it in reliable operation for many years to come.  The cash injection could open up the possibility of using an external supplier to carry out some of the work required on 56006, which will take a lot of pressure off the small group of working volunteers, and speed up the time taken to carry out the work required.

As with the disposal of 56040 many years ago, this is yet another tough decision made with the long term interests of the C56G and its remaining locomotive as the main objective.  That said, 56301 is going to a good home, where it will continue to be used as a fully operational Class 56 able to haul the heavy freight trains, exactly as it was designed to do back in the late 1970s.

The C56LL board of directors and the C56G committee are looking forward to feedback from the membership on this matter, but we are sure that there will be some re-occurring questions, and we felt it would be useful to anticipate some here: –

Why was this not put to a C56G membership vote ?

In essence the directors of Class 56 Locomotive Limited are elected to make decisions concerning the Limited Company and its locomotives.  The positions on the C56LL board or C56G committee are regularly voted on at the respective AGM’s, and despite annual appeals for fresh blood to join either the C56LL board as a director, or the C56G committee as a committee member, the various board or committee positions are still usually uncontested.

So the electedC56LL board of directors put the proposal to the C56G committee prior to any final decision.  The C56G committee were fully in agreement with the decision.  All the directors and committee members applied well thought out logic to the decision making process, and believe that the decision to sell 56301 best fits with the objectives and aims of the C56G, namely to preserve one or more Class 56 locomotives, and to promote interest in the Class.

We should have preserved 56301 ?

Soon after 56301 was returned to mainline use, the prospect of its long term future were considered and the possibility of 56301 being a ‘cash cow’ to generate revenue to fund the C56G’s activities on 56006.  As the Group struggles to muster sufficient working volunteers to work on 56006, the prospect of preserving 56301 as well, and then allowing it to deteriorate due to a lack of working volunteers wasn’t an option we were willing to consider, as 56301’s worth would become significantly reduced.

Preserving one Class 56 locomotive to a high standard was considered a far better alternative, than making an unsuccessful job of preserving two Class 56 locomotives.

Why can’t we just continue hiring 56301, to make the same or more income than we’ve made from its sale?

If the demand for the loco was guaranteed that could have been considered, but 56301 isn’t guaranteed to have work every day.  A hire contract with a fixed monthly rate or a guaranteed minimum number of days of use, would be commercially unacceptable to any potential hirer. Similarly such a deal would be unacceptable to C56LL, as there is a risk that we would have to forego income if the hirer used the locomotive for more than the calculated days per month.  Signing up for such a deal, with such a level of uncertainty, wouldn’t see the C56LL board or directors fulfilling their professional duties.

Couldn’t we just hire out 56301, until it needs an overhaul ?

We could do this, but its resale value would be greatly reduced, as anyone purchasing 56301 would have to spend a significant sum of money on an overhaul before they could use it again.  In addition, the amount of time spent by the C56LL board of directors in liaising with any locomotive hirer is not insignificant, and this is perhaps not fully understood by the C56G membership.

Hopefully the actions of both the C56LL board of directors and the C56G committee meet with the general approval of the C56G membership, even if it is always sad to dispose of any locomotive.

The C56LL board of directors and the C56G committee had the foresight to purchase 56301 and dispose of 56040 all those years ago.  No one could have anticipated how the railway hire market has changed over the years, and certainly not the length of time it has taken to get 56301 back into service after the Peak Forest hire period.

The possibility of the sale of 56301 has been raised several times over recent years, both in “Gridiron” and at the C56LL and C56G AGM’s, so now that the actual sale has come to the fore, it should come as no surprise to our members.  Also, the lack of working volunteers to work on 56006, has also been raised many times previously, alas with minimal results. This lack of working volunteers, combined with a lack of certainty over future hire income, have both been major factors in the decision to finally sell 56301.

This isn’t a decision which has been made easily, but it is a decision made with the long term interests of the C56G, our remaining locomotive 56006, and the C56G membership in mind.


Keith Bulmer

On behalf of the Directors of Class 56 Locomotives Limited and the Committee of the Class 56 Group