|British Rail Class 66|
66 598 hauling a freight train near Chesterfield.
The Class 66 is a type of six-axle diesel electric freight locomotive developed in part from the Class 59, for use on the railways of the UK. Since its introduction the class has been successful and has been sold to British and other European railway companies. In Continental Europe it is marketed as the EMD Class 66 (JT42CWR).
- 1 History
- 2 Current operators
- 3 Former operators
- 4 Sub-classes
- 5 Names
- 6 Poor working environment
- 7 Accidents
- 8 See also
- 9 References and sources
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
On the privatisation of British Rail's freight operations in 1996, Wisconsin Central Transportation Systems under the control of Ed Burkhardt bought a number of the newly privatised rail freight companies: Transrail; Mainline; Loadhaul; and later Railfreight Distribution and Rail Express Systems. Controlling 93% of UK rail freight, after a public relations exercise involving the input of the general public, the company was named English Welsh & Scottish.
EWS inherited a fleet of 1,600 mainly diesel locomotives, with an average age of over 30 years; 300 had been cannibalised for spares. Typical of the fleet, the 2580 hp Class 47s needed a major overhaul every seven years, costing £400,000; yet had an average daily availability of less than 65% with only 16 days between major failures. To enable it to offer its stated lower pricing to customers, EWS needed to reduce operating costs and raise availability.
Order and specification
After reviewing the existing privately commissioned Class 59, which was more powerful, highly reliable and with lower operating costs, EWS approached its builder Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD), then a division of General Motors. EMD offered their JT42CWR model, which had the same loading gauge-passing bodyshell as the Class 59. The engine and traction motors were different models to enable higher speeds, and the Class 66s incorporated General Motors' version of a "self-steering bogie" ("radial truck", in American usage), designed to reduce track wear and increase adhesion on curves.
Placing what was termed as "the biggest British loco order since steam days", EWS placed an order for 250 units in May 1996 to be built at the EMD plant in London, Ontario, Canada at a cost of £375 million. Financed by Locomotion Capital (later Angel Trains), the first locomotives were ready in early 1998; the fastest delivery of an all-new locomotive type by GM. 
The EMD 710 12-cylinder diesel engine is a development of a two-stroke engine used for over 20 years, whilst the EM2000 control equipment is the same as that used on Irish Railways IE 201 Class. EWS reduced the locomotive's time into operation through specifying cab systems laid out like the Class 59, whilst increasing availability with a fuel tank of 8,180 litres (1,800 imp gal; 2,160 US gal) capacity, compared to 3,470 litres (760 imp gal; 920 US gal) on a standard Class 47.
The first locomotive shipped to the UK arrived at Immingham in June 1998, taken to Derby for testing. The second was taken to AAR's Pueblo Test Centre for endurance testing, before shipping to the UK. The locomotives then shipped at a rate of 11 per month into the UK via Newport Docks, until the order was completed in December 2001. After unloading, EWS engineers then simply took off the tarpaulin, unblocked the suspension, and finally as each was shipped with water and fuel, hooked up the batteries, before starting the engine and handing the locomotive into service. The ability to simply start up '66s' on the dockside and drive them under their own power to depots to enter service was nothing short of a revelation compared with many other BR locomotives, particularly the BR Class 60s
Each locomotive is specified and guaranteed to 95% availability, aiming for a minimum of 180 days mean time between failures. It is designed to cover 1·6million km between major rebuilds, equivalent to 18 years' service, with each major rebuild costed at £200,000.
The initial classification was as Class 61, then they were subsequently given the Class 66 designation in the British classification system (TOPS). In 1998 Freightliner placed an order for locomotives. They were followed by GB Railfreight, and then Direct Rail Services. The last of more than 500 built over an 18-year period was No 66779, Evening Star, delivered to GB Railfreight in spring 2016.
Although sometimes unpopular with many rail enthusiasts, due to their ubiquity and having caused the displacement of several older types of (mostly) British built locomotives, their high reliability has helped rail freight to remain competitive. Rail enthusiasts labelled the type "The Red Death" as they displaced many older types of locomotive whilst also acquiring the nicknames of "sheds" for the EWS (now DBS) locomotives (due to their upturned roof looking like a shed roof) with the Freightliner locomotives being called "Freds" as a portmanteau of Freightliner and Shed.
The Class 66 design has also been introduced to Continental Europe where it is currently certified for operations in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France, and Poland, with certification pending in the Czech Republic and Italy. They currently operate on routes between Sweden and Denmark and between Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Poland. As a result of its well-known British identity, EMD Europe markets the locomotive as "Series 66".
After an increase in UK rail traffic, post the 2008 Global Economic Crisis, by 2011 EMD were running low on key parts for the design, specifically castings. After the closure of the London, Ontario, plant that year, after an industrial dispute, and the introduction of new EU crash and emissions regulations, it was concluded by many that the last of the Class 66 locomotives had been produced.
Due to a reduction in European freight volumes, since mid-2012, a number of EMD Series 66 locomotives have been imported by UK rail freight operators and converted to UK type specifications. To date:
- GBRf bought three ex-Dutch locos, in 2012, which have been numbered 66 747-749. The former identities of these were DE6316, DE6313 and DE6315 respectively.
- GBRf bought two ex-German "Rush Rail" locomotives, in 2013, which have been numbered 66 750 & 66 751. The former identities of these were DE6606 (also T664025) and DE6609 (also 2906) respectively
- GBRf bought three ex-Swedish locomotives, in 2019, which have been numbered 66 790-792. The former identities of these were T66403, T66404 and T66405 respectively.
In September 2013 GB Railfreight announced a new order of a further 8 Class 66/7 locomotives from EMD, the first of the class to be built at EMD's Muncie, Indiana plant. On 2 February GBRf ordered a further 13 locomotives. These 21 locomotives are numbered 66 752-772. Numbers 66 752-756 were shipped from America and arrived at Newport Docks in July 2014. No. 66 752 has been named The Hoosier State, a nickname for Indiana. A further seven locomotives (66 773-779) were later added to the fleet, utilising six power units that had been in the UK, plus one recovered from the scrapped 66 734. The presence of these power units in the UK circumvented European emission compliance regulations and permitted them to be exported to EMD Muncie for installation in further class 66 bodyshells.
Numbers 66 752-779 were the last Class 66s ordered for service in Great Britain because of increasingly stringent emission regulations. 66 779 was the last Class 66 to be ever built. Although the Class 66s meet stage 3a of the regulations, they do not meet stage 3b. Stage 3b would have required additional exhaust treatment equipment that could not easily be accommodated within the UK loading gauge. The same restrictions apply to the Class 68 and Class 70. The restriction does not apply to second-hand locomotives, provided that they are imported from within the European Union. The purpose of the regulation was to put a cap on the total number of non-compliant locomotives in the EU.
Colas Rail took over the ex-Advenza Cemex Cement flow after the company went bust, initially using the five former Advenza and DRS locomotives (66 406-410) which had been renumbered 66 841-845. Subsequently, as part of a deal with GBRf, Colas replaced them with five ex-Freightliner Class 66s (66 573-577) which were renumbered 66 846–850. The five ex-DRS class 66s were transferred to GBRf and renumbered 66 742–746.
DB Cargo UK
DB Cargo UK bought out EWS. Their Class 66 fleet includes five locomotives capable of banking heavy trains over the Lickey Incline. On these specific locomotives, the knuckle coupler has been modified to allow remote releasing from inside the cab, whilst in motion. It also includes fifteen locomotives fitted with RETB signalling equipment, for working in northern Scotland and RETB-fitted branchlines. A few DB Cargo UK Class 66s are now working in Europe as part of the Euro Cargo Rail contract.
Direct Rail Services
Direct Rail Services (DRS), which at the time was a subsidiary of British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), ordered ten Class 66/4 locomotives (66 401–410) in 2002, employed on new Anglo-Scottish traffic, some with Stobart Rail. In 2006, ten more T2 specification units (66 411–420) were delivered, a further ten (66 421–430) in late 2007, and four more (66 431–434) in 2008.
After the first twenty Class 66s operated by DRS were transferred to Freightliner and GBRf, leaving just 14 in their fleet, DRS leased the five former Fastline Freight locomotives.
Freightliner followed EWS by initially ordering five new Class 66/5 locomotives, and have continued to order in small batches. As of summer 2010, the 66/5 fleet had reached 98 examples; 66 521 was withdrawn after the 2001 crash at Great Heck and later scrapped.
In 2000 a new Class 66/6 sub-class was built, with a lower gear ratio, enabling heavier trains to be hauled, albeit at slower speed. There are presently 25 examples of this class, numbered 66 601-625. Some of these locomotives have since been exported for use with Freightliner Poland.
During 2004 the company took delivery of the most recent Class 66/9 sub-class of the locomotive, which are a low-emission variant. All new locomotives for all companies are now of the low-emission "T2" type. The original two such locomotives remain as 66 951 & 952.
In 2011, Freightliner took on Direct Rail Services' 66 411-420.
GB Railfreight (GBRf) initially leased seventeen Class 66/7 locomotives, before increasing its fleet to 32. During April 2006 five more low-emission locomotives (numbered 66 718-722) were delivered, liveried for use on the Metronet/Transport for London contracts. A further order for five more locomotives (66 723-727) was delivered in early 2007, and another five locomotives (66 728–732) in April 2008. 66 733-746 are formed of Class 66s from Direct Rail Services, Freightliner and Colas Rail. In 2011 66 720 was painted in a special "Rainbow" livery. In June 2012, 66 734 derailed at Loch Treig whilst working 6S45 North Blyth–Fort William and was consequently cut up on site and scrapped.
The final seven class 66's to be built for the British market arrived on 12 February 2016 aboard the cargo ship Happy Dragon at Newport docks and consisted of numbers 66 773–779. On 15 February they were towed by 66 708 north to Doncaster Roberts Road depot where they were commissioned and then ultimately put to work. 66 779 remained under a tarpaulin until 10 May 2016 when it was revealed at the NRM York with a special livery and nameplates to commemorate the fact it is the final class 66 ever built for the British market. The locomotive has been painted in BR Lined Green and named Evening Star, in reference to BR Standard Class 9F Locomotive No. 92220 Evening Star was the last BR Steam Locomotive built in Swindon in 1960. It was unveiled in a special ceremony inside the Great Hall at the National Railway Museum in York on 10 May 2016 before staying there opposite its namesake, No. 92220, for two weeks. At the same ceremony, the boss of GBRf, John Smith, handed the curator of the National Railway Museum a document offering 66 779 to the national collection when it is retired in about 40 years time.
In addition to those locomotives sourced from domestic operators (Direct Rail Services, Freightliner, Colas Rail and DB Cargo UK), eight further locomotives have been obtained from European operators.
Advenza Freight, a Cotswold Rail subsidiary, operated class 66 841-844. They were primarily used on Advenza's scrap and cement flows. The locomotives originated from the batch that DRS returned. Advenza Freight went bust in October 2009 and the class 66s returned to storage.
These locos were housed at Gloucester Carriage Sidings where Advenza Freight was based.
Fastline Freight, part of Jarvis PLC, which operated intermodal services between Doncaster and Birmingham International Railfreight Terminal (BIFT), and Thamesport, in North Kent, using refurbished Class 56 locomotives, ordered five Class 66/3 locomotives to operate a coal flow from Hatfield Colliery. They were delivered in 2008. Following the demise of Jarvis in 2010, and Fastline going into administration on 29 March 2010, these locomotives were placed in store, being towed to DRS Carlisle Kingmoor or Crewe Gresty Bridge depot for storage. During 2011, DRS repainted the five ex-Fastline locomotives and added them to their own fleet, keeping their original numbers.
Minor differences between different orders, and different operating companies have resulted in a number of subclasses being defined.
|Subclass||Number built||TOPS number range||Operators||Comments|
|DB Cargo UK||The original order of 250.|
66 048 written off after Carrbridge derailment.
60 locomotives were transferred to subsidiary Euro Cargo Rail, in the English, Welsh & Scottish Railways era, although some are now back in the UK. Others make regular visits to the UK for attention at Toton depot.
Further locomotives have been sent to the Polish division of the DB Cargo group, DB Cargo Polska.
In December 2017 the company sold ten of its domestic fleet Class 66s to GB Railfreight: 66 008, 016, 046, 058, 081, 132, 141, 184, 238 and 250. These were modified to sub-class 66/7 specification and renumbered as such, using the numbers 66 780-789 respectively.
|66/3||5||66 301-305||Direct Rail Services||Originally ordered by Fastline Freight. Now in use with Direct Rail Services.|
|66/4||10||66 411-420||Freightliner||Acquired from DRS in 2011. Three exported for use in Poland (FPL), 66 411, 66 412 & 66 417.|
|14||66 421-434||Direct Rail Services||Intended use is on intermodal traffic. Occasionally used on nuclear flask traffic – for which they are overpowered.|
|Freightliner||Replaced Class 47s and Class 57s on Intermodal freight.|
66 521 written off after Great Heck rail crash. 66 527, 66 582, 66 583, 66 584, 66 586 and 66 595 have been exported to Poland, the operating subsidiary Freightliner PL. 66 573-581 have been sold to Colas Rail and GB Railfreight and renumbered 66 846-850 and 66 738-741 respectively.
|Freightliner||Top speed of 65 mph (105 km/h) – reduced gearing to cope with heavier oil, aggregates and cement trains.|
66 608, 66 609, 66 611, 66 612, 66 624 and 66 625 have been exported to Poland, the operating subsidiary Freightliner PL.
|GB Railfreight||Operates on coal, intermodal services and also engineering / departmental work for Transport for London and Network Rail on London Underground and National Rail lines.|
(66 733 to 66 737 were formerly Direct Rail Services 66 401-405.)
(66 738 to 66 741 were formerly Freightliner 66 578-581.)
(66 742 to 66 746 were formerly Colas Rail 66 841-845 and prior to that were numbered 66 406-410 when with Direct Rail Services.)
(66 747 to 66 749 are a former Dutch fleet converted at the Midland Railway Centre.)
(66 750 and 66 751 are former Beacon Rail locos from mainland Europe.)
(66 008, 016, 046, 058, 081, 132, 141, 184, 238 and 250 were formerly DB Cargo UK, these are 66 780-66 789.)
66 734 was written off after it was involved in a serious derailment at Loch Treig.
66 790 to 66 792 are being imported by Beacon Rail from Sweden.
|66/8||5||66 846-850||Colas Rail||Former operated by Freightliner as 66 573-577.|
|66/9||7||66 951-957||Freightliner||A lower emission variant – fuel capacity reduced to compensate for the increased weight of other components.|
Six DB Cargo UK locomotives have been painted in blue Maritime Intermodal livery and named:
- 66 005 Maritime Intermodal One
- 66 047 Maritime Intermodal Two
- 66 142 Maritime Intermodal Three
- 66 051 Maritime Intermodal Four
- 66 162 Maritime Intermodal Five
- 66 090 Maritime Intermodal Six
A further DB Cargo UK locomotive has been painted in the dark blue PD Ports livery and named:
- 66 109 Teesport Express
One Freightliner locomotive has been painted in the magenta colours of Ocean Network Express (ONE)
- 66 587 As One We Can
One GB Railfreight locomotive is also in Maritime Intermodal livery
- 66 727 Maritime One
A Freightliner locomotive was named at Shildon, on 30 March 2009, as part of the Stephenson Locomotive Society's 100th anniversary celebrations:
- 66 957 Stephenson Locomotive Society 1909 - 2009 
Poor working environment
The British train drivers' union ASLEF has complained that the locomotives are unfit and unsafe to work in, citing excessive heat, noise levels and poor seating.
In April 2007 ASLEF proposed a ban on their members driving the locomotives during the British summer 2007 period. Keith Norman, ASLEF's general secretary, described the cabs as "unhealthy, unsafe and unsatisfactory". Research showed that in July 2006, when the weather had been extremely hot, the number of incidents where a driver had passed a signal at danger (SPAD) increased. EWS entered into discussions and made amendments to a series of trial locomotives, GB Railfreight and Freightliner also investigated cab improvements. In June 2007, progress on the issue led ASLEF to withdraw its threat of industrial action.
On 28 February 2001 66 521 was involved in the 2001 Great Heck rail crash which resulted in 10 deaths including the driver Stephen Dunn. The locomotive was written off and scrapped as a result of major damage sustained in the accident.
On 9 February 2006 a freight train hauled by English Welsh & Scottish 66 017, derailed at Brentingby Junction near Melton Mowbray. Having passed a signal at danger, the locomotive and the first three wagons were derailed at catch points at the end of the Up Goods Loop. There were no injuries.
On 4 January 2010 a freight train, hauled by 66 048, derailed at Carrbridge in snowy weather, blocking the Highland Main Line. Having passed a signal at danger the train was derailed at trap points, subsequently falling down an embankment into trees and injuring the two crew members. The locomotive was hauling container flats from Inverness to Mossend Yard on behalf of Stobart Rail. The line was reopened on 12 January. The body of this loco is in Stoke-on-Trent.
On 21 November 2011 66 111 derailed between Exeter Central and Exeter St David's on working an engineering works service.
On 28 June 2012 GBRf operated 66 734 derailed at Loch Treig whilst working the 6S45 North Blyth to Fort William Alcan Tanks. Due to its position and the environmental risks associated with recovery, after agreement from owners Porterbrook it was cut-up on site and the mechanics recycled as spare parts.
On 1 August 2015 66 428 was hauling an engineering train that ran into the rear of another engineering train at Logan, Ayrshire. It was severely damaged. The train that was run into was hauled by 66 305.
On 14 August 2017 66 713 was hauling a freight train that derailed near Ely, due to defective suspension on the wagon that was first to derail. The railway between Ely and Peterborough was closed for a week.
On 4 September 2018, 66 230 was hauling a freight train which collided with a vehicle on a level crossing at Dollands Moor Freight Yard, Kent. One cab was extensively damaged in the post-impact fire.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to |
- "Nothing stops a Class 66". RAIL. Bauer Media Group (492). Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. reprinted via pigeonsnest.co.uk
- "Class 66 :: Electro-Motive Diesel JT42CWR". class66.railfan.nl.
- "Special Report: The Class 66s" (PDF). Railway Herald (127): 19–25. 18 April 2008. ISSN 1751-8091. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2011.