From Portsmouth to Llanelli via the North Pole
Class 73 locomotive, 73 130 has a new owner and a new home. On Friday November 4th 2022 it was delivered to the Llanelli and Mynydd Mawr Railway (L&MMR) having been collected from its previous home with the Coulsdon Old Vehicle & Engineering Society (COVES) at Bicester the previous evening. The locomotive has been purchased outright by a new company set up expressly for the purpose of owning, restoring, and managing the continued operation of the locomotive, 73 130 Ltd which has been formed and funded by both members of the L&MMR and also class 73 enthusiasts from further afield who have joined forces to create this new venture. One of the latter type of members is Peter De Lacey who worked on 73 130 when it was owned by European Passenger Services, operators of the cross channel high speed rail service, he said:
'Having worked with this loco for over 40 (years on and off) it’s great to be reacquainted with it. My last contact was when it was one of two rescue locos, along with 73 118, purchased by European Passenger Services and I conducted driver training with it for the EPS train crew. We would use both locos to haul a Eurostar set from Waterloo to Dollands Moor.'
73130 arrives at Cynheidre on 4th November 2022
The project came together in a matter of a couple of months when various parties learned that the locomotive was to be put up for sale as COVES were vacating their Bicester site and disposing of all their heritage railway collection. Mark Thomas, a director of the L&MMR, was one of the first to recognise the value of such a loco to the railway and worked to get like-minded enthusiasts together and make a bid for it. He said:
'The arrival of Class 73 locomotive to the Llanelli and Mynydd Mawr Railway is a significant moment in the history of the project. Such a versatile and economical locomotive will play a vital role in the continuing development of the railway and in achieving the short, medium and long term aims of the project. The LMMR is delighted to be a part of this new organisation as am I personally.'
The project is being run independently of the L&MMR and will be self-funding, however, the railway is fully supportive of the project and recognise the value that 73 130 will have to the heritage line. It is the biggest locomotive ever to be based there since the project took over their site in Cynheidre in 2001. L&MMR Director and Press Officer, David Mee said:
'The Llanelli & Mynydd Mawr Railway are delighted to welcome 73 130 to its new home. It will no doubt prove a huge asset, both as an attraction in its own right, and in support of infrastructure projects as we plan to extend the line.'
73 130 Ltd will be spending the next few months putting the loco through safety checks and carrying out and necessary remedial work with the hope it can operate at Cynheidre during the 2023 season. In the longer term the team will make the locomotive available for hire to other railways on an occasional basis to appear at both galas and operating events, Mark Thomas said:
'We also hope that the loco can become a roaming ambassador for the railway and represent us around the UK'
Initial signs are that the locomotive is not in bad condition, having been subjected to an inspection by the team prior to any sale being agreed. Peter De Lacey, who has engineering experience was one of those who carried out the inspection, he said,
'I arranged with a colleague (who has worked for many years maintaining Class 73s) to carry out an inspection of it prior to purchase. It was found to be in pretty good condition. Yes, there are a few things that need attention, but driving it up and down, it made all the right noises I have been accustomed to throughout my railway career and – more importantly – didn’t make any unusual noises. There did not appear to be any major work needed on it. Some spare parts are available, but it would be prudent to obtain others.'
73130 is seen being shunted into the shed at Cynheidre on 4th November 2022
The good condition of the locomotive is a testament to the care shown to it by its previous owners, COVES, who were able to keep it inside a shed for the last few years to protect it from the elements. The L&MMR has also offered the loco space in its loco shed to ensure it remains in the best possible condition.
The team has stated their intention for the locomotive to remain in the condition it is now with the Scharfenberg coupling adaptors used for coupling to the original Eurostar sets and it will retain the two-tone grey Eurostar livery with the cast metal tunnel roundels on the bodyside from its time based at the North Pole International depot in West London which was the home of Eurostar's UK fleet from 1994 to 2007. The team will be looking at replacing the name plates worn by the loco prior to its Eurostar years when it was named 'City of Portsmouth', a name it carried from 1988 until 1996; the loco had been named at a ceremony held at Portsmouth & Southsea station on July 2nd 1988. The loco will be a slice of railway history that represents the very beginnings of international cross-channel rail travel. There are several class 73s still in existence but amongst them 73 130 is utterly unique.
The L&MMR railway is to hold a static open day at their Cynheidre site on Saturday November 26th where the new arrival will take centre stage and be on display for the first time. This will be a free admission event but no train rides will be on offer to visitors.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
For more information on 73 130 Ltd contact the Company Secretary at email@example.com
For more information on the Llanelli and Mynydd Mawr Railway contact the Press Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Class 73 Locomotive Fleet
A total of 49 locomotives of this class were built for British Railways in two batches, the first batch of six prototypes were built in BR's workshops at Eastleigh in 1962, the production batch were built by the English Electric Company at their Vulcan Works in Newton Le Willows between 1965 and 1967. There are only minor detail differences between the two batches. 73 130 was from the second batch and was built in 1966.
The locomotives were designed to primarily be electric locomotives drawing power from the third rail to work both passenger and freight trains with a top speed of 90mph. In addition to this the locomotives were fitted with a 600hp diesel engine to enable them to shunt in un-electrified yards and also to serve as a back-up to enable the train to continue to run should the third rail loose voltage for any reason. At the L&MMR 73 130 will only be able to operate using its diesel engine.
Amongst their many duties the locomotives were best known for hauling the Gatwick Express services which ran non-stop from Victoria to Gatwick Airport between 1984 and 2005. Several locomotives of this class remain in front line use to this day on freight, passenger and test trains and a batch have been heavily rebuilt so they will see service well into the next decade.
73 130 was one of two class 73s (73 118 was the other) selected for modification to work for European Passenger Services. The modification required the full rebuilding of both the buffer beam and front end to accommodate a Scharfenberg coupling adaptor which could be lowered into position to enable the locomotive to be coupled to a Eurostar set as they had a coupling unlike any other train running in the UK at that time and the locomotives were required to act as both rescue engines in the event that a set failed in service on the UK side of the Channel Tunnel or if vehicles needed to be shunted within North Pole International depot. The locos were never required to pass through the Channel Tunnel itself and would never have operated away from UK rails during their time in this role. When the High-Speed rail link (HS1) opened in 2007 the locomotives became redundant and were disposed of. Sister loco 73 118 went to the Barry Tourist Railway where it remains to this day. 73 130 was meant to go to a railway training college but when that project failed to get going an alternative home had to be found and the locomotive was donated to COVES in 2009.
The class 73s in service were normally restricted to operations in the south of England where third rail electrification is commonplace but over the last three decades, they have ventured further with examples having been allocated to work for periods on Merseyside and presently rebuilt examples work on the Caledonian Sleeper Services in Scotland. Class 73s have never regularly visited Wales in main line service but 73 130 is the fourth example of the class to find a home at a Heritage railway in Wales with 73 118 already at Barry as mentioned, another class member, 73 133, was also based at Barry for a few years and 73 128 was housed at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway.