Class 58s in the Netherlands
In the early part of the new millennium, while the remaining handful of operational Class 58s were still clinging on to mainline work in the UK, it was announced that Dutch railfreight/container train operator Afzet Container Transport Systeem (ACTS) was seriously considering hiring redundant UK locomotives to complement its own fleet of run-down engines. Initial reports in January 2001 said that a deal, which was described as “99% certain”, had been formalised between EWS and ACTS to supply five Class 58s for use in the Netherlands.
While negotiations were ongoing, 58049 hauled a 1,700 ton ‘demonstration’ train on Wednesday the 31st of January 2001 between Toton, Welbeck and Drakelow, witnessed by management of ACTS. It was reported that both EWS and ACTS were pleased with the performance of the ‘58’ and the Dutch operator remained keen to see the deal go ahead.
It wasn’t until August 2002 that all the necessary paperwork had been signed and the deal concluded. The lease, which was proposed for a number of years, will utilise six Class 58s, five operational with one as stand-by. These locomotives were undergoing repairs at Toton to return them to operational condition. Maintenance arrangements and staff training were also considered and it is thought that heavy maintenance will be carried out in the UK. Thus we have the prospect of the locomotives involved periodically returning to the UK for attention.
So why did ACTS opt for the Class 58s? Well, having been acquainted with British locomotives for a long time (first came the English Electric Class 600 shunters, then the EM2s – BRs Class 77s, and even some of the Dutch steam locomotives were built or designed in Britain), it seemed ideal for this ‘tradition’ to continue. Originally, ACTS planned to buy some of EWS’ Class 56s, but these were a fitter’s nightmare due to the lack of available workspace in the engine room and the cab layout was not what was required for their operations. EWS suggested the Class 58s because of their easier access to the engine room as well as a well-designed and very driver-friendly cab layout.
The initial deal with EWS was for five Class 58s. With this in mind, in November 2001, the creation of a new pool, WFGA, saw 58036, 58038, 58039, 58044 and 58046 allocated (ACTS wanted Class 58s from the later batch – 58036-050 – because they are easier to work on). In the early part of 2003, Toton depot started work on 58039 and later on 58044.
Although the majority of the lines where ACTS works are ‘under the wires’ – 1,500V DC OHL – the only section on the route of the ‘Veendam shuttles’ between Rotterdam and Veendam that is not electrified is the section between Groningen and Veendam. ACTS opted for a diesel locomotive to work the ‘Veendam shuttles’ from Rotterdam to Veendam throughout. Some of the sidings and yards along the route do not have wires and although the trips are not as economical as ACTS would like them to be, the idea was that this allows the trains to avoid changing from electric to diesel locomotive en-route and thus saves on operational costs, even once the diesel fuel has been taken into account.
ACTS owns five electric locomotives of the 1200 series, of American design. Built in Holland in 1951 as part of the post-war ‘Marshall’ plan, they were used by the national railways in the Netherlands, until becoming redundant in the late nineties. ACTS bought six which were already in the breaker's yard for scrapping! One was sold recently and another is used for parts, while four are still in service. All of these were recently overhauled and refurbished in the Czech Republic. ACTS also owns several former Belgian diesel-electric locomotives. Five of the former 62-series were bought in Belgium. Three are in service and used on the non-electrified lines around the country, one is put aside as it is in a bad condition whilst the other was written off as a result of a collision in 2002 and will soon be scrapped. For shunting, ACTS also owned three V-60 engines, formerly active in East Germany. These four-axle locomotives were mainly found on local shunting work in the vicinity of Rotterdam.
Back in the UK, it was on the 24th of June 2003, that 58039 was unveiled at Toton in its new ACTS livery for hire to the Dutch railfreight operator. The locomotive had been re-numbered into the Dutch operator’s livery and became 5811 as a press photo-call was held. A few modifications were visible and these had been done in order for it to run on the Dutch railway system, all work conforming with Dutch railway group standards: ‘A’-style headlights have been introduced – one headlight either side of the cab and an additional light above the front windows. The electrics have also been altered and this includes a lockable battery switch and revision to isolation systems. In the cabs, the heaters have been altered to operate when the power unit is shut down, while a new design of air conditioning system was planned to be fitted along with the Dutch cab signalling control equipment being installed. The seats have been replaced with a fold down unit of the type used on a Class 90. The controls have also been altered to European indications, i.e. km/h rather than mph, while all the signs in the cabs have been provided in Dutch. No alterations have been made to the power unit and this remains ‘as built’. Finally, the Dutch equivalent of AWS, referred to as ATB, had to be fitted. No problems arose dimensionally as the UK structure gauge is smaller than that in the Netherlands.
After the final few modifications were complete and a ‘proving run’ on the load bank was satisfactorily completed, 58039 was ‘fit for service’. The locomotive was then hauled by GWR-green 60081 Isambard Kingdom Brunel from Toton to Immingham on Wednesday the 25th of June as 0Z60 10.55 which ran via Nottingham, Lincoln and Barnetby. Once at Immingham, 58039 was loaded onto a road lorry and after an overnight stop set sail over to the Netherlands. Upon arrival, it was transported to Kijfhoek yard and unloaded. A few days later, on the 29th June, the ‘Bone’ was hauled to ProRails Zutphen works where the Dutch ATB (safety system) was fitted and final acceptance tests were undertaken. Finally, during the first few days of August 2003, 5811 hauled its first train since December 1999 from Rotterdam to Veendam and back. The train reporting number was 60244, and this was one of the ‘Veendam shuttles’, a train that ACTS specifically required the Class 58s for.
Some minor technical problems were experienced with 58039 during its first few months working in the Netherlands. These would be down to drivers not quite knowing how to handle the locomotives or due to the fact that the locomotive had been stored for so long before being brought ‘back to life’. Fortunately, there were only two major problems during its introduction: the pipe work was a weak point with the vibrations causing minor oil/water leaks and there were also ‘teething’ problems with the locomotive’s ATB system. Occasionally the system would make an emergency brake application every now and again for some unknown reason, but a modification to the safety system has seen this problem eradicated. Having settled down to a regular routine and after only a month in service, September 2003 saw 5811 become a ‘regular’ performer on the ‘Coevorden shuttle’ to and from Rotterdam, a train which is fairly light – between 1200 and 1400 tons. The reason for the ‘58’ working these shuttles was due to technical failures on some of ACTS’ electric locomotives. These arrangements didn’t last and it wasn’t long before 5811 was back on the ‘Veendam shuttles’ – the service the company hired the Class 58s for.
Back in the UK, work was progressing on transforming 58044 into 5812. At the beginning of October 2003, the ‘all clear’ was given for it to make its way over to the Netherlands. Firstly, it was hauled from Toton to Immingham on the 15th of October, this time traction being provided by 47750 and the train headcode being 0Z74. Once again, after an overnight stop at the Humberside port, the locomotive was loaded onto a lorry and in turn loaded onto a ship. Upon arrival in the Netherlands, the locomotive underwent the same trials before being accepted into service. Needless to say the acceptance of 5812 into traffic did not take as long as accepting 5811 as the ‘58s’ now had a safety case to operate for ACTS and just one week later the locomotive was hauling the ‘Veendam shuttles’ .
At the end of November 2003 ACTS ran its two Class 58s in multiple. 5811 and 5812 at the head of a 2500 tons container shuttle train was certainly not something to miss! Not surprisingly, the two ‘Bones’ got the train up to service speed in no time at all and no problems were reported throughout the trip. It should be noted however that it is not common to see more than one Class 58 heading any trains although it does happen occasionally for positioning moves or unless there has been a failure, etc.
Back in the UK, work was progressing on 58046, which was allocated to the WZFH pool and was planned to be the third Class 58 to go to the Netherlands on hire to ACTS. It probably came as a shock to a few people when in September 2004 it was out-shopped from Toton’s paintshop in the grey livery of Fertis, being the first Class 58 to receive these French colours. 58046 was soon re-allocated to the WZFF pool and went off to work in France!
On the 18th of April 2005, work was obviously finished on the third ACTS Class 58, 58038, as it was admitted into Toton’s paintshop for repainting. Just over a week later the locomotive emerged sporting a variation of the ACTS livery and the number 5814. The black and red/orange livery is that of ‘Vos Logistics’, a major customer of ACTS. The number 5813 has allegedly been missed out of the sequence on superstitious grounds! They specifically requested that the number ‘13’ (i.e. 5813) be left out.
58038/5814 touched down on Dutch soil on the 8th May 2005 at Rotterdam Harbour and was hauled to the Strukton workshop in Zutphen by ACTS loco 7101. On the 17th May, 5814 undertook its first test runs from Zutphen-Hengelo-Bad Bentheim and back which was a success and the loco accepted into traffic that day as it was pressed straight into service hauling Veendam shuttle train 60243 (complete with the other two ACTS 58s in tow!) from Veendam as far as Amersfoort – this was the first time all three Class 58s had been seen on the front of one train! The next day (19th May), 5814 piloted 5812 northbound from Amersfoort to Veendam before hauling its first train solo on the return run southbound.
With three Class 58 locos now in traffic with ACTS, the ‘Veendam shuttle’ service almost continuously ran with Class 58s at the helm. As the service is normally an out-and-back turn (with occasionally an additional second service with a second loco), this means that the third loco can be found on either other ACTS container train services (Leuwarden or Coevorden services), or could be found on local shunting duties around the Rotterdam area. With drivers gaining more and more experience on the locomotives as well as a well-planned maintenance schedule, the 58s are frequently achieving a 100% reliability record.
However, in early 2008 rumours started doing the rounds that ACTS were to dispose of their fleets of Class 58s as well as their 1200s and 6700 locomotives. Whilst no official announcement has been made as to their replacements, it is thought that the company is investing in further Class 66 locomotives as this type is fast becoming one of the European standard diesel locomotives. What happens to the locomotives at the end of the year? We suspect they will return to the UK and after a few modifications may possibly be heading off to Spain, although we will have to see.
Class 58s on Passenger duties
Hired specifically for the ‘Veendam shuttles’, it was not uncommon to see the Class 58s working other trains; the ‘Covorden shuttles’ as mentioned previously occasionally featured, as did any engineering train work as required by ProRail. Being powerful and versatile machines, the 58s were well sought after for heavy work. However, in the five years that the Class 58s have been in the Netherlands, only four public excursion trains have been run for the enthusiasts and all three locomotives have featured.
On Wednesday the 23rd of June 2004, 5812 became the first Class 58 to work a passenger/charter train for almost two years when it hauled a special charter train for Netherlands Railways infrastructure owner ‘Prorail’. It did a round trip from Rotterdam to Maasvlakte Yard via Utrecht and Amsterdam which was organized for a member of staff who was retiring. The Class 58 was made available by ACTS who hired in an extra Class 66 to haul the normally solid-Class 58 Veendam shuttle service. However, this was a private excursion.
On the 30th of April 2005, 5812 worked a charter railtour to celebrate Queen’s Day for the Dutch enthusiast group, the NVBS. This was the first public train to be Class 58-hauled for many years. The route taken was Amersfoort-Dieren-Venlo-Eindhoven-Utrecht-Apeldoorn and was formed with a handful of preserved VSM coaches.
On the 7th July 2007, Vos-black 5814 became the second Class 58 to work a passenger train in the Netherlands when it was in charge of Mercia Charters’ “That Which Survives” railtour which ran south from Rotterdam to visit the Moerdijk and Oosterhout branches, Utrecht, Dieren, Amersfoort, Amsterdam Biljmer, Gouda and back to Rotterdam. This tour also featured ACTS’ 1251 and 6703 working in multiple.
Completing the set, 5811 hauled Mercia Charters’ second (and third) tours on 21st/22nd June 2008 when it powered parts of the “All Good Things” and “Blaze of Glory” tours which ran from Rotterdam-Utrecht-Amersfoort Pon-Utrecht-Arnhem-Venlo-Maastricht-Tilburg-Rotterdam on the Saturday and Rotterdam-Den Haag HS-Amsterdam CS-Schipol-Rotterdam-Vlissingen-Rotterdam on the Sunday.
The Dutch Liveries In Detail…
The ‘ACTS’ Livery
Two 58s are currently employed by this company in the Netherlands. 5814 (formerly 58038) will be next in line and has recently been out-shopped at Toton. 5814 brings a new version of the ACTS livery, details of which follow the description of the original livery. This livery is that of ‘Vos Logistics’, a major customer for ACTS in the Netherlands.
The original livery consists of dark grey roof except the cabs roofs where it is blue. Body and cabs are a darkish blue with a yellow/orange band, slightly wider than the gold band on the EWS locomotives, running from end to end and around the front. On the cab front the band widens to a centre point apex on its lower edge creating a triangular effect. The underframe is the same blue as the body but bufferbeams are bright red. Bogies and tanks are black. Identification numbers are placed centrally on the front of the locomotive in the yellow band and are repeated in the centre of the yellow band under the centre of the cab side windows. The numbers are black. A large ACTS logo is positioned centrally on the body side doors. It sits in the top half of the yellow stripe with the top half of the logo overlapping onto the blue. It is best described as a white sausage shape with a black rim and black ACTS lettering centrally inside it. Orange cantrail stripes are not present. Radiator grilles are black with the other body side grilles in the blue body colour. Two new additional headlights have been fitted. An LED headlight sits centrally between and slightly above the cab front windows as seen on Class 66 locomotives. Another headlight has been fitted under the light cluster on the secondman's side and is the same style as the original headlight fitted under the cluster on the driver's side. The original marker lights have been replaced with LED tail lights and the former tail lights have been plated over.
The livery applied to 5814 is a dramatic change from the original livery. It is painted all over black. The only non-black areas are on the cab fronts, these being yellow below the cab front windows and in exactly the same triangular style as applied in the original ACTS livery. The second area is a body side stripe running the entire length of the locomotive. This stripe is positioned slightly lower than on the blue locomotives and is also slightly narrower. It is approximately the same size as the gold band on EWS red locomotives. This band is deep orange, almost red in colour. Other major changes are the lack of the large centrally placed ACTS Logo. This has been replaced by smaller versions of the logo on all four cab sides. These are situated centrally under the cab side windows and intersect centrally the top of the red band and the black area above it. Identification numbers are now white and are situated centrally below the red band on all cab sides with the locomotive data panels (translated into Dutch) next to them. On the locomotive fronts the numbers are also white and have been repositioned away from their former central position. They are now located under the driver's side window next to the tail lamp. The front buffer beam remains red as on the original ACTS livery. Front end handrails are black instead of blue. This livery is that of ‘Vos Logistics’, a major customer for ACTS in the Netherlands. The ‘Vos Logistics’ logos have been applied to the black body side at Zutphen depot on the 12th of May 2005. A handful of Dutch Class 6700 diesels have carried this livery, as has Class 1200 electric, No. 1255.
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