I’ve been scanning a new batch of old slides which has taken me on a real trip down memory lane, to the 2nd of June 1994 to be precise, and a day out from London to Bescot marshalling yard in the West Midlands nearly 24 years ago. The pictures I took of what seemed quite ordinary, everyday scenes during the last years before rail privatisation are now rather special as they show just how much has changed on Britain’s railways since then. I’d been visiting Bescot since the late 1970’s. It was always a good place to observe rail operations as it was a busy marshalling yard with a loco depot that had a station right next door! This meant the place was popular with railway enthusiasts and there’d normally be a gaggle of people on the station footbridge. Here’s a look at what was happening that day…
Class 08765 shunting the Down Yard at Bescot. These ubiquitous engines used to be seen up and down the network and still survive in service today – although in vastly reduced numbers.
Class 47 no 47478 shunts a Seacow ballast wagon in the Up yard which is full of Civil Engineers wagons which lie idle until the weekend. This particular locomotive survived in service for a few more years working hauling engineers trains after being relegated from mainline work. A former Intercity loco based at Crewe, it was cut up by EMR at Kingsbury in 2006
Class 20 No 20187 had recently been repainted in British Rail Telecoms livery. It was one of only 4 class 20s that ever carried these colours. The locomotive still survives today as part of the DRS fleet.
56056 arrives from the North with a train of MGR coal hoppers. I always liked the two-tone grey Trainload livery with its sector decals. The only problem was, the locos never stayed in their sector, hence a Trainload Construction logo’d loco on a coal train!
Class 304 EMU No 304032 pulls away from Bescot station on its way to Birmingham. Introduced in 1960 these units only had another couple of years left in service. The last survivors went in 1996. I’ve fond memories of travelling in these trains as they were used on Liverpool-Crewe services which I used regularly back in the 1970s.
A pair of Class 31s (31147 and 31237) in the ‘Dutch’ livery of the Engineers sector pass the station en-route to the stabling sidings. In the background is a long line of their cousins. These locos would be sat in the stabling siding all week until it came to the weekend when they’d be started up to work engineers trains on various possessions around the area. It was a terrible use of resources and the failure rate of these engines was high. They also created a hell of a cloud of clag when they were started up!
08543 shunting the Down Sorting sidings. Note the chap walking next to the loco. He was one of the yard shunting staff. PPE was pretty rudimentary in those days! He had the luxury of a long orange coat, most staff wore small tabards.
The driver of 37107 gets his instructions from one of the yard staff. They’re both wearing the high-vis tabards I mentioned in the last picture. They were tied on by the thin strips you can see hanging down at the back of the chap on the ground. Most staff didn’t bother, which meant thy were pretty useless as they flapped around a lot.
A Class 60 in Trainload Petroleum livery arrives light with a Class 37 before heading off to the depot fuelling point. The last of these locos had only been delivered the year before but they’d already established a reputation for unreliability. The were the last diesel locomotives to be built for BR.
A long line of Class 47s stabled in the former Up reception sidings. These sidings had been severed at the North end to create a fan of four to stable Engineers loco in during the week. Here you can see 47333. 47332. 47334. 47353 and 47478 which had been working shunting the yard earlier in the day.
86255 speeds past the station with an Intercity service for the North. The line through Bescot was a useful diversionary route for Intercity, but I can’t remember if it had regular weekend services or if this was a diversion due to problems elsewhere.
A worker carries a jack into the yard, presumably to fix a track defect somewhere. In the background are a couple of Engineers locos stabled in the shed yard. Bescot shed was responsible for the maintenance of Engineers locos, but the depot had a poor reputation for the quality of the locos it looked after and turned out.
A Class 58 approaches the station with a mixed rake of empty MGR coal hoppers (some with hoods, others not) watched by a gaggle of railway enthusiasts (including a couple, not a sight you’d see that often).
As I scan more old slides I’ll be taking other trips down memory lane so my intention’s to turn this into a series. Watch out for another one soon….