In places like the USA and across Europe, locomotive haulage is still very much a common aspect of railroad and railway operations. Different locomotives, with different weights, power, traction and equipment traverse a variety of routes with gradients, curve radius and length all factors in determining what should pull a train.
But in modern day Britain, the use of locomotives on main line passenger services has dwindled as Diesel and Electric Multiple Units (DMUs and EMUs) have taken over. The days of regular Class 50s from Exeter to London and Class 86s on the West Coast Main Line have long since gone and in general, main line passenger locomotive haulage is now confined to a selection of services, often with specific needs. There are of course many main line rail tours that bring the old days back to life and introduce locomotive haulage to newer British railfans and heritage railways are majority loco-hauled, both steam and diesel.
But below we've listed 2022's only main line loco-hauled passenger trains. For further information on availability and times, please check the websites of their respective operators.
We featured the Class 43 HST a fair bit in 2021 and even spoke to a driver of these iconic machines for one of the first episodes of the We Are Railfans Podcast and though many have been withdrawn and some scrapped, there's still a fair number of opportunities to travel behind (and in front) of these impressive locomotives as they top and tail throughout the Britain. ScotRail acquired a number of ex-GWR HST power cars for their Inter7City services and these, along with short-set GWR services from Cardiff and southwest England and the occasional CrossCountry set (though these have become increasingly rare since November 2021) are the main opportunities to still travel with 'top and tailed' Class 43 HSTs. There is also the Midland Pullman rail tour service. GWR HST power car 43194 runs to Plymouth from Cardiff, passing through what will soon be the new Marsh Barton Station south of Exeter. Photo by Joe Rogers. Our previous article on 'Highland Railfanning' depicted a ScotRail HST at Kingussie. This shot of another Inter7City service shows 43033 heading to Inverness. Photo by Joe Rogers.
Similarly the days of the InterCity 225 can still be appreciated on the few remaining Class 91-hauled services in operation with LNER. Unlike Class 43 HSTs, these aren't 'top and tailed' but instead make use of a DVT (similar to Cab Cars in the USA) to control the locomotive from the rear of the train when required. Though these locomotives, with their distinctive 'blunt end', were used extensively at one stage, they have become increasingly rare and in many cases their diagrams are run by the modern Azuma Class 800 service instead. Many Class 91s are in storage and others have begun to queue up at the scrap yard. Class 91 amongst the rape fields in Nottinghamshire. Photo by 'Martin arrand 1965' used under Creative Commons License Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.
The use of the DVT now extends beyond the IC225 sets to a selection of routes hauled by Class 68 locomotives. Chiltern Railways currently uses these for their service between London Marylebone and the West Midlands and the locomotives are fitted with equipment derived from the Association of American Railroads (AAR) to facilitate the 'Push-Pull' nature of the trains and the use of the DVT Cab Car at the rear. These locomotives replaced the Class 67s on the same route. The Class 68 can be 'bashed' (the railfan term for riding behind locomotives) in the north too with TransPennine Express's Nova 3 trains that use modern Mark 5A rolling stock, as opposed to the Mark 3 carriages used by Chiltern. A Class 68, no.68013, pulls into Kidderminster Station (above) in its Chiltern Railways livery. At the other end is DVT no.82304 (below) which then heads the train in the other direction to stable at Stourbridge. Photos by Joe Rogers.
Though the Class 67s no longer run passengers between Birmingham and London Marylebone, they do take them up and down the length of Wales courtesy of the new Premier Service offered by Transport for Wales between Holyhead and Cardiff. Dining options and first class travel are offered to passengers making use of this route, which like the Chiltern services, features a DVT but differs with its Mark 4 coaches and Class 67s leased from DB Cargo UK. 67008 is thought to one of the DB Cargo UK locomotives used on the TfW Premier Service in 2022. Photo by kitmasterbloke, used under Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic (cropped to 16:9 format).
The GWR Night Riviera sleeper trains connect the bustling capital of London to the quiet coastal towns and villages of Cornwall through a service between London Paddington and Penzance. Class 57 locomotives, which are effectively overhauled and re-engined Class 47s, haul the Mark 3 sleeper cars (some seated and others with beds) across the southwest. Elsewhere in the country Class 57 were known for their 'Thunderbird' duties, which assisted failed trains, including Voyagers and Pendolinos when such failures occurred. Class 57 no.57603 'Tintagel Castle' calls at Truro before the overnight journey to London Paddington. Photo by Joe Rogers.
Britain's only other sleeper service instead heads right up to the far reaches of Scotland from London Euston, via the West Coast Main Line. Between London and Edinburgh Waverley the train is hauled by a Class 92, an electric locomotive designed instead for hauling mixed traffic through the Channel Tunnel to France. At Edinburgh, the train is divided and splits into three services bound for Fort William, Aberdeen and Inverness through Class 73 locomotives. Class 73s are notable for previously being compatible with third-rail electric, making them very versatile. In recent years, the occasional substitution of loco class has enabled railfans to 'bash' other units. GBRf Class 66s have supplemented Class 73s to Inverness and others now largely considered heritage locomotives, like Class 86s, 87s and 37s have been hired in from external operators to conduct stock movements and run the occasional passenger service. Class 73 no.73967 works the Calendonian Sleeper along with GBRf Class 66 no.66761, calling at Kingussie. Photo by Joe Rogers. Class 92 at London Euston. Photo by Jaymyang used under Creative Commons License Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.
Of course an honourable mention must go out to the popular rail tour operators that run locomotive-hauled heritage trains regularly on the UK main line. Steam, diesel and electric traction can all be enjoyed throughout the year on unique and wonderfully diverse routes, often harking back to a particular time or historic working. West Coast Railways, LSL, along with freight operators DRS, DB Cargo and GBRf all offer their services on such tours promoted by Rail Tour Companies like Pathfinder Tours, Statesman Rail and Belmond British Pullman. Class 37s, 47s, 60s, 66s, 86s, 87s and 90s are all planned to run in the first few months of 2022 along with famous steam locomotives like Flying Scotsman and Duchess of Sutherland. A first class heritage rail tour snakes through the curves before Clysthayes Bridge in Devon with Class 47s double-heading. Photo by Joe Rogers.
Similarly, the vast majority of heritage railway services utilise locomotives and carriages, supplemented on occasion by a heritage multiple unit. Diesel groups at the East Lancashire, Severn Valley and West Somerset Railways along with other private loco owners and groups ensure fans of Class 33s, 35s, 37s, 40s, 45s, 50s and 55s get to see them in action throughout the year. A wealth of steam locomotives similarly operate across many of these lines and for railway galas a full host of operational formations are used, including 'top and tailing', double-heading and more. BR Standard 9F no.92212 hauls a passenger train at New Alresford on the Watercress Line, Hampshire. Photo by Joe Rogers.
Information for this article was gathered from the websites of each of the main line Train Operating Companies (or TOCs) as well as sources such as www.railtourinfo.co.uk
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