There’s precious little freight traffic in the south west of England nowadays, with reduced volumes of china clay, and most other flows short-term spot traffic. So this train rather took me by surprise, especially since I’d been told earlier that it was no longer running. It’s the timber flow from Heathfield near Newton Abbott, and this is the empties heading west.
The operator is Colas Rail, one of the smaller “open access” freight operators. Their locomotive fleet is a mixture of new General Motors class 66s and refurbished older British-build power, including this class 56 dating from the late 1970s.
The locomotive is a lucky survivor. Freight operator EWS inherited the class 56 fleet when British Rail was privatised in the 1990s, and soon retired them in favour of new-build GM power. Many of the locomotives were scrapped with a handful sold to preservationists or smaller operators. This one was actually sold for scrap in 2011, only for the scrap dealer to resell it to Colas Rail along with four others, to be overhauled and returned to service.
So the appearance of this loco in its colourful black, yellow and orange livery was quite a sight, especially as the class 56 wasn’t seen this far west in BR or EWS days.