Bulgaria 2017 Part II

Back to Bulgaria again and returning to the usual haunts! We were a couple of weeks later than normal and consequently the weather was on the turn; the sun didn’t feature as much and the temperature was down on what is normal for us! Nevertheless, a good time as per usual so thanks to the usual crowd for the company!


44120 at Sindel with BV9620 0915 Varna-Ruse. We saw this on its inaugural working after overhaul back in June and three months later it still looks remarkably pristine – especially against the stock! Note the addition of the UIC number on the front of the loco in place of the number plate. (26.09.17)


The main event! With the influx of ex-Romanian Class 40 locos (commonly referred to as junk) earlier in the year, tracking down 87s which don’t have one shoved on the front is quite a challenge.

Today, however, on arrival at Sindel we were greeted with the phrase “Днес почитаме” from one of the BZK drivers which means “Today, we honour”. This, naturally, caused some excitement and the sun even made a slight reappearance from behind a bank of cloud for the occasion.

87029 and 87028 stand waiting for the single line working ticket for the line to Ruse with the daily trip working from Razdelna. (26.09.17)



No apologies for the repetition as 87025 stands at Sindel shortly afer sunset. It arrived from Ruse behind an EA which then ran round to top 85004 (ex 86235) before departing towards Karnobat. It would have been nice to see 87009, but one can’t complain! (26.09.17)


The weather deteriorated rapidly as we moved inland to Sofia via Pirdop. Present were 87003, 87004, 87010, 87019, 87020, 87029, 87033 with 87012 arriving behind a 40 on a train from Iliyantsi. The first departure to Razdelna had 87019 inside a 40 but the subsequent departures did not feature any 87 input. A BZK driver indicated this is because the tonnages of the trains have dropped. (27.09.17)


A number of the BDZ passenger fleet have been going through overhaul over the last year or so (including 44120 as above), and another one is 44140 which is an extremely recent entrant to traffic judging by the clean pantographs. The loco is seen here leaving Iliyantsi with BV30115 Sofia-Karlovo. Train lengths on the long distance trains have actually increased since we were last over there in June, but the same can’t be said for the locals; this was the second instance of load 1 trains we saw that week! (28.09.17)


The freight sector (BDZ-TP) seems to be particularly buoyant at the moment and a typical scene here at Iliyantsi as 46012 has arrived with a train load of sulphuric acid tanks from Pirdop. This is unusual as it is usually BZK who work these tanks. The loco was swapped and then headed up the freight avoiding line to Voluyak (and onward to, I assume, Serbia). (29.09.17)


The passenger loco shortage continues, although there weren’t as many freight engines out as we have seen before, and 61003 is on hire from the freight sector. This isn’t unusual as there are usually a couple of freight 61’s on hire working between Sofia and Blagoevgrad and around Dupnitsa. 61003 seen here arriving into Sofia with a terminating BV50110 from Blagoevgrad. (30.09.17)


Bulgaria 2017 (part 1)

Another of the customary trips to Bulgaria; two trips this year (at least) so this will be Part One featuring the Varna and Pirdop areas. As a general note, it is getting harder and harder to see 87s working on their own as the previously semi-reliable BZK workings are now dominated by ex-Romanian Class 40 junk (the fleet of which has grown considerably over the past year) and the Bulmarket trains are quite unreliable. In fact, the rules in Bulgaria say that the more powerful loco is required to be on the front of the train when under power which means the 5000hp Class 87 will always be relegated to second place.


A typical Bulgarian scene as 44151 arrives at Sindel with BV9620 0915 Varna-Ruse, unusually with a pristine rake of stock! 12.06.17


That’s more like it, a careworn 45149 along with a tatty rake of stock come clattering round the corner into Sindel with BV2612 1035 Varna-Sofia.


BDZ ‘big diesel’ 07106 seems a trifle overpowered for the two coach load it has in the rear as it stands at Devnya working KPV28204 1615 Varna-Dobrich. These powerful diesels are the only ETH fitted diesel engines that BDZ have on their books so its a case of them or nothing! 12.06.17


To release a DMU for other duties, one of the Varna-Dobrich and Dobrich-Kardam diagrams has gone over to loco haulage – how long for is unknown. 55206 and a single coach depart from Beloslav with KPV28206 1850 Varna-Dobrich. This train arrived in to Varna with 55195 in charge. 12.06.17


The driver looks back to check that the whole of his train is inside as 45163 arrives into the yard at Sindel with an empty box working off the line from Karnobat. 13.06.17



85001, 86004, 85004 and 87025 bring a tank train from Ruse into Sindel. 85001 (ex 86701 and 86205) and 85004 (ex 86235) along with 87025 form part of the sizeable fleet of ex BR traction that Bulmarket currently employ. The ex-86s were renubered, initially to Class 87/7 and then to Class 85, to avoid a clash with the Bulgarian (actually ex Danish) Class 86 ‘EA’ locos. 13.06.17


87025 at Sindel after the other three locos were detached and run round to the other end of the train. ‘Borderer’ was detached and ran light to Varna to pick up another rake of tanks. 13.06.17


The crew from DB Cargo EA 86015 take a breather with the crew from BDZ 46037 at Karnobat. The EA is heading the train from Chelopech (near Pirdop) to Burgas with product for export.


On to Pirdop now where the invasion of GFR 40 (let’s just refer to them as junk) continues. 87 activity was minimal with the majority of trains hauled by or topped by the junk. It was mainly limited to shunting activity in some rather attractive lighting conditions. 87026 is seen here being retrieved from the stabling line to go become the inside loco on the evening Pirdop-Burgas departure. 14.06.17


87012, still looking good and slightly workstained is retrieved from the stabling line. The two locos pictures here went on to work the first departure for Razdelna conveying a rake of loaded sulphuric acid tanks. 14.06.17


As part of the same renumbering scheme mentioned above with the Bulmarket Class 85’s, the Class 92 fleet employed by DB Cargo Bulgaria has been reclassified as Class 88 and 88030 stands at Pirdop having arrived from Chelopech quarry. Since the bulk Burgas-Pirdop copper ore train has gone over to BZK, these locos don’t have any regular booked work so it is quite difficult to see them. They still do appear on the Chelopech/Pirdop-Burgas loaded wagons occasionally, but not solidly. Indeed ‘Ashford’ was sent back into the sidings shortly after this photo was taken. 14.06.17


Unfortunately not quite what it seems, 87019 is pan up at Pirdop, but only to undertake a shunt manouvre into the station area. After being brought out of the sidings earlier in the day during a mega shunt, it was promptly put back again after this! 15.06.17


It was left to the last minute to catch something ‘interesting’. Unusually worked by a pair of 87s with the junk dead on the rear, 30580 arrives into Pirdop with 87004 and 87003 in charge. The driver seemed happy (as did we)! 15.06.17


87020 has tended to be one of the more elusive machines in the last 5 years, not really appearing much. Looking rather worse for wear with peeling paint on the bodysides, it stands in the departure roads at Pirdop waiting to leave on a train for Serbia as the tail loco behind 87003 and 87004. 15.06.17


On its first working after 8 years out of traffic, 44120 stands at Iskar with BV1621 Sofia-Dimitrovgrad which it worked to Plovdiv. 46208 was tucked inside as insurance. Note despite the UIC numbering taking hold of the fleet, this loco hasn’t succumbed as yet despite the repaint and works attention – NB as of a week later, the UIC numbers had been fitted. 16.06.17

Breaking New Ground

To celebrate 15 years of GBRf operation, a series of charter trains were run by the operator for charity. Taking 20s to Inverness and Swanage, 73s to Kings Cross and various 66s all over the place, the four day railtour covered various outposts served by the railfreight operator.

The main event (certainly as far as I’m concerned) was saved for day four when 87002 broke new ground, not only for the class but for electric locos in general; it became the first to work over the newly electrified line between Wigan and Liverpool via St Helens.


It would have been nice to be able to get a shot of it somewhere en route, however this will have to suffice; Royal Sovereign stood underneath the trainshed roof at Lime Street station after arrival from Edinburgh.


Bulgaria 2016

Off to the East again in search of 87’s…

First day in Varna; the morning Ruse was, naturally, headed by some 40junk with 87003 inside so was duly ignored. That left 87004 and a rake of cargowaggons on site. These disappeared early afternoon.


44126 clatters into Beloslav with a late morning train for Varna. 23/05/16

Something we’ve seen previously but only once with an 87 on the front; the evening Bulmarket path seems to run every day, producing an EA on the first day (naturally in full sun) then when an 87 produces the weather is bilge. Nevertheless, a welcome sight as 87025 runs in with a short rake of tanks from the Ruse line before running round and heading towards Karnobat. The whole run round procedure was completed in a matter of minutes – as usual (for BG) it would put the UK to shame!



Next day and there was nothing at Raz other than 87004 and a rake of cereal wagons (parked separately) and no sign of any movement. On speaking to the staff, 004 wasn’t due off until the afternoon (we guessed the same path as yesterday). Further research indicated it was a public holiday so putting 2+2 together guessed there would be no Ruse train today. To the beach (naturally after a shot of 004 in the early morning sun).


Returning early afternoon, 87004 was now hooked up to the wagons so looking good for a departure. Britannia seen here looking workstained and faded before departure with the famous cereal train for Nova Zagora. Compare it to THIS PHOTO shortly after arrival in Bulgaria in 2010.


A couple of days later, 92025 and 92030 stabled at Pirdop awaiting departure for Burgas. As the line between Koprivishtitsa and Iganovo was shut, the train was travelling the long way round via Plovdiv (R/R). Note 92030 (having lost its Ashford nameplates when it left the UK) has now gained stick on letters in the old style since it arrived in BG! 26/05/16


44001 nips through light engine, heading round to the depot, after bringing in an arrival in from the Plovdiv direction. It would later go out on a departure for Burgas, although the trains were terminating short at Koprivshtitsa for an autobus forward. 28/05/16


45173 arrives into Sofia with train BV20202, the 0500 departure from Ruse. To the left of the loco is a Class 41 loco which has been permanently wired to the overheads to act as a shore supply. 28/05/16


They aren’t all as pristine as that however! Veteran 43309, bearing many battle scars, arrives into Sofia with a train from Dupnitsa. 28/05/16


Class 61 electric locos are still out working with four of them observed on passenger trains. 61012 arrives at Sofia from Blagoevgrad. 28/05/16


44001 passes 87012 at Pirdop, the bent skoda (known locally as ‘banana’ on account of its livery, arrives with a train from Koprivshtitsa while the passengers came from Burgas via bus!


Having passed through on a train from Sofia earlier in the day, we decided to return to see whether there had been any movement.  87007 was still in the same position but staff were in attendance so we stayed around to see what happened. 28/05/16


87019 ran in light, we presume from Poduyane as it was observed there earlier in the day, and was attached to the front of 87026 to form the evening departure for Dimitrovgrad (and on to Serbia). 28/05/16



87007 leaving with a short rake of tanks up the Mezdra line. 28/05/16


43510 and 44068 arrive into Iskar with a train from Plovdiv (and probably Turkey via Dimitrovgrad). 28/05/16


After last nights activities with 87s, I decided to back to the new favourite spot. On arrival 87019, 87026 and 87012 were parked up.


87026 and 87012 were put on the sharp end of a train of boxes while 87019 was run around to the rear, just visible in the photo below. 29/05/16


After some mass shunting (and avoiding the clouds floating about), 87026 and 87012 depart with a lengthy train for Dimitrovgrad (Serbia). 87019 was on the rear. 29/05/16


The Pines Express

UK Railtours ran a 2016 recreation of the Pines Express from London Euston to London Waterloo via Manchester Piccadilly and Bournemouth. Originally billed to feature an 86 from Euston to Manchester for a GBRf 66 to Bournemouth and a pair of GB 73s back to London Waterlook.

Thankfully the 86 was substituted for 87002, giving the first sight of an 87 back in the trainshed at Piccadilly since the final Virgin West Coast train in 2005. 30/04/16.


Tottenham get all the fun

87002 has had quite a bit of action of late; a few GBRf operated footexes for Thomas Cook/Tottenham Hotspur FC and also the occasional foray out onto the sleeper. Seen here passing through Kidsgrove with an ECS for Crewe from Stoke. 18/04/16


Bulgaria 2015 – part 2

And here we are again! 🙂

This was more of a ‘travelling holiday’ and after flying into Sofia, it took us to Kazanlak (via an afternoon at Pirdop), Varna, Ruse and then into Romania.


45182 rolls into Svoge station, through the town with its houses nestling on the sides of the gorge, working the 0535 Lom-Sofia service.


87003 – one of the last two of the fleet sporting round buffers – stands at Pirdop during one of their famous shunts. Patriot was the middle of the the line of locos and required extraction before becoming the second loco at the front of the evening departure to Razdelna.


44002 buzzed in with an afternoon Burgas-Sofia local – running (late) from Koprivshtitsa due to digging up in the middle of the day with all the passengers bussed around the block.


Tail loco for the evening departure was 87012. Still looking rather clean, the loco has just been prepped ready for departure. It was nice to be able to get a shot of it ‘pan up’ rather than just being dragged dead (as last time we came).


Another shot of 012. Cue the bemused looks from the staff as we wandered up and down the station taking photos – you’d have thought they would be used to it by now!


Skoda electric 44117 departs from Pirdop with 30116 local that was supposed to be from Koprivishtitsa however due to digging up it started somewhere short of that.


The other loco in the fleet still with round buffers was also stabled at Pirdop. 87033 is looking rather tatty of late and could do with a bit of a spruce up. An ex-GFR Class 40 can be seen behind the 87.


On to Varna now and the usual morning activity of heading out to see what was on the morning Razdelna-Ruse trip freight which is usually a good bet for having an 87 on. Before it arrived however, something completely new for us in Bulgaria was the appearance of a pair of OBB Taurus’. They arrived from the Ruse direction before running round and heading off towards Nova Zagora and Turkey thereafter.


A short rake of hoppers this morning for the Ruse wagonload freight and the ‘regular’ 87026 was at the sharp end (on its own) seen heading through Sindel.



The afternoon was spent in the pub (vice the beach as the clouds and drizzle had come in) but the evening cleared up so we went out for the evening trains. The others went off in search of winning engines, but on seeing that 87012 had arrived and was crewed up I decided to stay at Razdelna to watch it leave.


Foreign engine #2 – while waiting for the 87 to leave, 46124 came round the corner with a rake of box wagons which had originated in Varna docks. With the sun out, it seemed rude not to get a shot of it – perhaps my anti foreign trains stance is softening 😉


Not long after the 46 left and just after I lost the sun, 87012 snaked its way out of the yard with an evening departure for Pirdop. In the 3 or so years we have been coming to Varna, we haven’t seen anything leave in this time slot so can only assume it was something related to the engineering block between Kazanlak and Pirdop. Unusually, it was on its own with no tail engine!


Not seen one this far in before! 87028 stands at Ezerovo waiting for the single line section. We were on the train opposite and while the single line working tickets were being issued, took the opportunity to jump off for a quick photo. You wouldn’t get away with doing that in boring old UK…!


We were heading out to Sindel for the usual morning Razdelna-Ruse trip freight but on passing Razdelna the unwelcome sight of ex-GFR Class 40 junk on the front of the train with the 87 inside. I declined to take a photo, but settled for this one of 44066 with a train to Ruse.


Last shot of the trip, heading from Ruse to Gorna Orjahovitsa we crossed this lash up coming out of the terminal at Polski Trambesh. This was the best of a bad lot – it was raining and early morning so the light wasn’t up to much. Still, never seen 3 of the 4 Bulmarket ones on the front of a train before so worth including. With the news that Polish PKP Cargo are interested in buying Bulmarket, who knows what this will mean…

Back next year? Of course…

Bulgaria 2015 (part 1)

The first of hopefully two trips to Bulgaria this year, with this one primarily about seeing as many of the 87s out there as possible. Unfortunately much of the BZK freight runs at night, and with limited gen on timings, it was a bit of a gamble as to what we would see.


^ The morning of the first day was spent at Ilyantsi where 87006 was stabled for most of the morning. A GFR 40 on hire to BZK arrived (far left of picture) to pick it up and take it to Pirdop. Seen here being shunted out of the yard.


^ After arrival from Sofia, 87022 was the tail loco on 30581 to Razdelna. Sidelined last year after a fire when a member of the crew was attempting to defrost the air system, it was repaired and received a full repaint into GBRF blue livery. 21/04/15


^ The second day didn’t start off particularly nice weather-wise as can be seen by the picture of 87004 with 87010 shortly after being detached from 30584 from Razdelna. 22/04/15


^ The weather did steadily improve as can be seen by the picture of 92034 waiting for the off from Pirdop to pick up a train of wagons from a nearby quarry. The 92 works the train for the haulage capacity, diesel locos being insufficient. 22/04/15


^ Some of the native traction now; 44001 leaves Klisura with 3621 Sofia-Burgas. Only two of these type exist (44001 and 44002) and were refurbished in the 1990’s at Koncar works, being basically a modernised version of the traditional Skoda Bulgarian passenger engines. 23/04/15


^ 87013 was part of the final batch of locos transferred over to Bulgaria – accompanying 87004 and 87014. Unfortunately, of the three, 87014 was never accepted into traffic and survives as a spares loco at Podujane works in Sofia having donated its transformer to 87010. 87013 – along with 87010 and 87007 as tail loco – arrives into Pirdop with 30580 from Razdelna. Tail loco was 87007. 23/04/15


^ Immediately after arrival, 87013 was detached and run onto the front of another trainload of tanks which left shortly after. Seen here with partner 87010 and also 87028 as the tail loco on the next departure. 23/04/15


^ 87007 was detached from the rear and this begun the mother of all shunts! 23/04/15


^ 87007 collected 87028 from the other set of tanks, then collected 87010 from the tanks that had just arrived from Razdelna…


^ …before dumping the other two locos out of the way and then running back to be attached to the rear of the formed up departure. 87028 can be seen on the right hand side waiting to be shunted. 23/04/15


^ 87012 has been the first of the class, since arrival, to be fully overhauled. One of the first pair of locos to be exported in 2007, it went to Craiova in Romania for attention and much to everyone’s surprise, was repainted in full Network SouthEast livery. It is seen here on arrival from Podujane depot behind 87003. 23/04/15


^ 87012 and 87003 joined 87010 and 87028 waiting to be shunted into the stabling siding, alongside 87006 also waiting to be shunted. 23/04/15


^ 87007 went out as tail loco on 30580 to Razdelna behind a 40 with an UID 87 inside. 23/04/15


^ Just outside Pirdop for the morning Burgas arrival and the driver winds 44100 up for the run to Anton and onward to Karlovo with BV30111, the 0545 from Sofia.


^ 87033 and 87029 at Pirdop the next morning. 87033 arrived as tail loco from Razdelna with 30582. 87029 arrived shortly after with train 30584 and both were shunted out of the way on top of some junk and a rake of tanks from Serbia. 24/04/15


87007 arrives with 30580 which was formed of a full rake of tanks, but unusually one loco was on the front. 24/04/15


^ After arriving with 30580 from Razdelna 87007 was shunted straight round on top of 87029 to form 30587, seen here heading up the incline out of Pirdop. At this time of day the sun is virtually head on but with a pair of 87’s on the front, it was a shot that couldn’t be missed…


^ …and bringing up the rear as tailgunner was 87033. 24/04/15

All in all, over the 5 days in Bulgaria all of the operational BZK 87s were seen, with only 87012 not under power. We didn’t see any Bulmarket locos this time however.

Back in September…

Royal Sovereign to the Rescue

After the Caledonian Sleeper operation became a separate franchise on April 1st 2015 and GBRf were contracted to provide locomotives, it was expected that Class 92’s would be the motive power for the electric portions with Class 73/9’s doing the diesel parts north of Edinburgh. Delays in the locos coming out of Brush led to Class 90’s and 67’s being subhired from DB Schenker. After a number of failures in the first couple of weeks, 87002 was drafted in to provide support to the ailing fleet. Initially thought to be just for one week, it continued into a second week and at the time of writing is about to commence a third week of operation – running faultlessly throughout.


^ Shortly after the arrival of 1B16 from Aberdeen and the Class 67 was detached, 87002 stands waiting for a shunter to attach to the stock.


^ Seen here on arrival from Edinburgh Waverley with 1M16 Inverness-Euston at destination after a storming run down the West Coast. 16/04/2015

87s – life after death

Since 10th June 2005, the 87s retired from Class One passenger duties were left with no booked work and nothing on the horizon (at the time). Prior to this date, 87013 and 87014 had been taken as standby locos by GB Railfreight for mail traffic which had just returned to the rails. These two were rather long in the tooth so, once released by Virgin Trains, 87002  87012 and 87019 transferred to GBRf and were put straight to work hauling dead Class 325 mail units about (this was around the time they were having problems with the motor coaches).


Above: One of the first passenger duties after the ‘end’ on the West Coast was for the ACORP weekend at Norwich. Two special trains (London-Norwich and Norwich-London) were booked for 87 haulage along with the associated return legs which ran as service trains. Originally planned to be a single 87 working with a DBSO (think this would have been a first), it changed to 2 locos due to concerns over the TDM. 87019 and 87007 were the chosen locos and worked top and tailed with a full Mk2 rake. 87019 seen above at Liverpool Street waiting to head for Norwich with the last train of the day, 24th September 2005.


Above: A couple of weeks later on 19th October 2005, there was a special train from London Euston to Birmingham New Street in the morning and a return in the evening which were being operated by Cotswold Rail. Problems which meant GB Railfreight had to step in and provide 87012 and 87019. The latter brought the ECS into Euston in the morning and then spent the rest of the day dead in tow, on the back to Birmingham and behind 12 on the return to Euston. 87012 Birmingham New Street 19/10/05.


Above: Cotswold Rail had a number of locos on lease, two of which saw semi-regular use (despite regular rumours of new freight flows for them). 87007 was repainted into their silver livery, followed by 87008 although that never saw use and languished at Wembley until storage at Long Marston in early 2008. 87007 stands at Rugby with a stock move between Wembley and Oxley on 17th February 2006.


Above: Use on mail traffic continued throughout 2006 with the 87s getting continuous use. At one stage, the motor coaches were all removed, making the 325s 3 car units and necessitating loco haulage. 87002 (along with 87006 and 87026) was a late addition to the GBRf fleet, never working again after 10th June 2005, it was moved to Oxley for repairs in February 2006 and emerging again in late March under its own power. It worked with GBRf until (again with 87006 and 87026) Virgin started its loco hauled training in June 2006. Seen here at Carlisle passing through with 1M44 Shieldmuir-Warrington. 11 April 2006.


Above: Over the Easter weekend 2006, the mail traffic was diverted via the East Coast. At the time, this gave the (then) unusual sight of an 87 working in daylight on the ECML. 87002 worked Northbound and 87026 worked Southbound. The former is held for a signal check at Peterborough on 18 April 2006.


Above: Whilst they were using 87002, 87006 and 87026 as mileage accumulation before going over to Virgin, the two original GB locos 87012 and 87019 also saw use. 87019 seen here at Rugeley Trent Valley heading 1S96 to Shieldmuir on 25 April 2006.


Above: As thoughts turned to handing 002, 006 and 026 over to Virgin, the time came to replace them in the GB fleet. 87022 and 87028 which had been stored at Oxley since DRS finished with them, were brought back to Wembley and underwent reactivation work as replacements. 87022, on one of its initial runs hence the inclusion of 87002 dead in tow, passes Rugeley Trent Valley on 1A97 Warrington to Wembley PRDC on 25 April 2006.


87028 at Stafford working 1S96 Willesden PRDC-Shieldmuir gets looped at Stafford for a late running Pendolino on 31/05/06.


Above: Fast forward a few months to July, the 325s were getting back on their feet and 22 and 28 were settled down, and the first few days of the month were 87012’s last runs in the UK. Up on 30th June on 1S96 to Shieldmuir, stable at Polmadie over the weekend and back to Wembley on 3rd July with a demic 325. Suitably spruced up to mark the occasion, it was back to Wembley where it sat until December 2006 when it went to Dollands Moor and onwards to Bulgaria.


Above: FM Rail started a new luxury train operation called the Blue Pullman in January 2006. Predominantly hauled by a pair of similarly liveried 47s, there were times when an electric loco was called for and a number of 86s were leased with this intention. Until they were ready, GBRf stepped in and provided an 87 (plus driver) whenever this was required. The 86s never made it into traffic and 87s kept going until the operation was wound up in late 2006. 87028 seen above accelerating away from the 50mph speed restriction at Morpeth with an outing to Edinburgh on 12th August 2006.


Ab0ve: Another outing on the East Coast with the Blue Pullman but this time from London to Darlington for the ACORP festival being held there. This trip was 87028’s first outing sporting its new ‘Lord President’ nameplates. The train went back South top and tailed and the day after they worked a GBRf staff trip from London to York and returned to Barking! 87022 and 87028 seen here at Newcastle with the ECS from Darlington to Heaton TMD on 23 September 2006.


Above: 87028 sits spare at Wembley with 87006, 86213, 87007 and 87008 for company, 11th May 2007.


Above: Another outing for an 87 to the Northern part of the ECML with 87022 working London Kings Cross to Berwick upon Tweed. The eagle-eyed observer will notice that the stock is no longer the Blue Pullman set. FM Rail collapsed at the end of 2006 which saw the entire rake of coaches sold off to Cotswold Rail. Hertfordshire Railtours (which had been part of FM Rail) remained solvent and continued trading with the luxury tours using Riviera stock. 87022 brings the empties into Berwick upon Tweed ready to head back to London 23 June 2007.


Alongside the mail traffic with the occasional poshex, another unusual working took place during 2007. A brand new rake of coal hoppers needed transferring from London to Doncaster and it would have been rude not to use something unusual to haul them. Cue 87022 and 87028. The pair hauled the train, in multiple, before returning light engine to London. Seen above at Newark Northgate on 1st July 2007.


This may well have been the final ‘Blue Pullman’ hauled by an 87. A London Kings Cross-Prestonpans and return weekend trip (for guests to visit the Edinburgh Military Tattoo) saw 87028 decked out with 18 WB stickers and gold buffers (that had become synonymous with the class in the final days). Lord President seen above under the trainshed at York on 4 August 2007.

87022_Oxley 87022_Oxley_2

Above: The final curtain call for the class came at the end of 2007 with OTMR being made mandatory for all vehicles operating on the main line after 31st December. With the overhaul of the 325s having been completed and the fleet restored to full health, it wasn’t deemed cost effective to fit such a small number of locos with the kit (GB only had 2 in their fleet by this time). The news came that Porterbrook had sold the remaining members to a company called Romic Ace who then sold a number to the Bulgarian Railway Company (a private open access operator). A final railtour was organised on the 29th December 2007 which would have run from Birmingham International to Glasgow Central (and return). I say “would” because that was the intention – if it wasn’t for West Coast Railway Company! A problem with the stock (lighting and heat) and then a guards door falling off its hinges meant it was cancelled, everyone went home and a day or two later the loco was hauled dead to Wembley, never to work on the mainline again.


Above: Thankfully, in addition to the non-runners 87001 in the NRM and 87035 at Crewe Heritage Centre, 87002 also escaped oblivion (or being sent half way across the world). Officially ‘preserved’ in early 2008, it returned to the main line in July of the same year working occasional railtours, stock moves and more notably being hired to GB Railfreight for their mail train standby and winter ice breaking work amongst other things. Having failed at operating the ‘final’ railtour, a comeback railtour was run by Spitfire Railtours (remember them?!) between Birmingham International and Glasgow in October 2008 – seen on arrival at Glasgow Central.


Above: One further high profile railtour job was for the 2010 ‘Three Peaks Challenge’ which it hauled from London Euston to Crewe on the 24th June 2010 – seen here on arrival. It handed over to a silver Class 67 for the run to Bangor (for Snowdon) and then on to Ravenglass (for Scafell) and finally Fort William (for Ben Nevis).

One Golf Two One (and associated)

With all the hype surrounding the end of the ‘Pretendolino’ Mk3 set at the time of writing,  I would like to take the opportunity to remind all viewers that the ‘real’ end of the West Coast was on December 22 2006.

This gives an opportunity for a trip down memory lane and relive 1G21/1B05 from June-December 2006.


17/05/06 …. Crew training kicked off in May 2006 with 87006 and a full rake. The full rake was then stood down for work to bring it up to standard which saw a load 4 (TSO+RFM+FO+DVT) scratch set made up and come out to play with 87026.

Being based in Birmingham for uni, it was ideal really and Virgin helped with their YP availability in the morning/evening peaks for trips to London. Trips in the early days were non-existant due to working in Newcastle over the holidays. First chance I got was 19/06/06…


19/06/06 part 1…. the lesser known of the turns booked for an 87 at the time was the 0620 Rugby-Euston. I decided to do it one day to London for a day out and return to Birmingham on 1G21. Oh how wrong I was, turning up at Rugby at 0600, this greeted me. 87026 had been failed by the driver. 😦


19/06/06 part 2…. never mind, off to London and wait for the return in the evening. The gen was that 87006 was being put back on the set so all good to go. On arrival, 87026 had run round and led into Euston and was sat on the blocks.


19/06/06 part 3 …. wandering to the front of the train, it was loaded and looked good to go. Then the guard made an announcement that there would be a delay due to technical issues. A fitter was summoned, scratched his chin and then shook his head. Caped. Set went ECS to Wembley. Jinx.


26/06/06 – there was the inevitable farce with TDM! This saw the set running in reverse formation for a week or so. 87006 leads South from Coventry to Euston with 1B05.


The jinx continues! 17/07/06 saw 87002 kicked out for 1G21. On leaving Euston it became clear that something was wrong as 2 struggled to achieve anything near line speed. Eventually relegated to the slow lines (I think at Hanslope), on passing MKC the guard announced the train would be terminating at Bletchley. The drivers said it hadn’t had any work carried out on it and was no surprise it wouldn’t go.


87006 5B05 Euston 22/09/2006


87002+87006 (dit) 1G21 Euston-Birmingham 10/10/06. 87006 was still DIT reportedly due to a points failure at Wembley so couldn’t be removed from the set. First appearance of 87002 since its failure at Bletchley on 17/07.


87002 5B05 Euston-Wembley ECS 11/11/06


87002 1G21 Birmingham International 16/11/06

Timetable change was 10th December 2006 and was supposed to see the end of the Mk3 set with the diagram going over to plastic filth. The last day on Friday 8th December was caped due to high winds or something like that causing chaos and we thought that would be it, a damp squib.

Famous last words…

Continuing tilting plastic shortages saw it come back out for more (including some daytime runs too!) which saw some extremely spirited running and early arrivals!


87002 Birmingham International 1G13 Euston-New Street


15/12/06 …. This, yet again, was supposed to be it. 87002 waits to leave Euston with the ECS for Wembley.


21/12/06 …. and its still going strong! 87002 stands at International with, yet again, 1G13 to New Street. It worked 1B65 back to Euston before going back to Birmingham on the more normal 1G21 ex Euston.


22/12/06 …. this is the final day! 87002 back at International. A plastic bag on the OHL at Adderley Park was causing chaos that afternoon but was cleared in time for a final run into New Street.

And that, as they say, was that.

Bulgaria 2014

Time for the annual pilgrimage to Bulgaria. In addition to the 87s which went over in the late 2000’s for private operator BZK, 3 Class 92’s went over in 2012/2013 and can now be found working freights for DB Schenker and finally and most recently, 4 more 87’s went over to work for private operator Bulmarket with the last two, 87009 and 87025 only entering traffic in early 2014.


Quick wrong side of the sun shot from a passing train; 87012 at Karlovo with a Pirdop bound tank train. 87003 was on the rear. 11/05/14

87010_029_Sindel Looking absolutely filthy and consequently not doing the photo any good, 87010 and 87029 pass through Sindel with the daily Razdelna-Ruse freight working. 12/05/14


A day later, and it was the turn of 87012, 87013 and 87003 on the Razdelna-Ruse trip which only had 1 wagon in the consist. That’s 15,000hp for just 1 wagon – almost DRS standards. 13/05/14

87025_Sindel As the light starts to die, 87025 (the most recently returned to traffic) stands at Sindel on the rear of a tank train heading for – we assume – Ruse. This one, along with the other three operated by Bulmarket are notable in the fact they are fitted with two pantographs which has necessitated the removal of the fire supression system. Hopefully this doesn’t mean if one catches fire, it is game over! 13/05/14

92027_Razdelna 92027 stands at Razdelna having brought in a train of empty box wagons for loading at Varna docks. Seems this was the first visit of a 92 here as it was attracting quite a bit of interest from the BZK and BDZ staff based here. This one hasn’t had the snowploughs fitted that the other two have had. 14/05/14

87023_VarnaSp 87023_VarnaSp-2 87023 was one of the two Europhoenix liveried locos exported which have retained their livery, albeit with Bulmarket branding added. Velocity stands at Varna Spirka next to an ex-Danish ‘EA’ (also operated by Bulmarket) which are numbered in the 860xx series – so there’s a Class 86 and 87 sat together. 14/05/14

87019_Pirdop On to Pirdop now, on paper at least, the base for the BZK 87 fleet. Still carrying its pseudo-LNWR black livery which is looking a little worn now, 87019 stands in a brief burst of sunshine with an ex-DB 232 diesel for company. 87019, along with 87012, was one of the first two to be exported from the UK, being accepted into traffic in June 2007. The others soon followed. 16/05/14

92034_Pirdop Also at Pirdop was 92034, doing a bit of shunting prior to heading down the line towards Sofia to pick up a rake of box wagons loaded with quarried product. 92034 was the first of the three 92’s exported to Bulgaria and unlike the other two that were exported to Romania which were quickly repainted in DB livery, these three are all in near to ex UK condition. Only the top headlight, snowploughs an DB sticker on the front end gives it away. 16/05/14

92034-87034-87004_Zlaticha 92034 stands at Zlatitsa. A track machine (that can just be seen in the picture of 87019 at Pirdop) had failed in the section between Pirdop and here necessitating a rescue mission by 92034 87034 and 87004. The 87s had come  light engine from the Sofia direction. Not sure if this is the first time that an 87 and 92 have worked together in Bulgaria, but I certainly haven’t seen any pictures of it! 16/05/14

87034-87004_Zlaticha The former William Shakespeare and the current Britannia shunt the demic track machine onto another road at Zlatitsa before continuing on their journey to Pirdop. 16/05/14

Early morning sortie before the flight home sees 61012 and 61007 (which had powered also) on arrival at Sofia Central with the 0505 Kulata-Sofia. 17/05/14.

Not your conventional night shoot

Crewe Heritage Centre held a night photography session in late April coinciding with 57307 and 90034 being on site for an event weekend they were running.

As I was there anyway, it seemed a good idea to take some pictures and have a bit of a play around.

Instead of using conventional lights with bulbs, they used LED lights which allowed the colours to be changed and played around with for a few unconventional effects.




57307 and 87035. The LED spotlights gave a much more precise area of lighting and allowed effects like this to be created.


90034 stands over the pit with a conventional floodlight placed in the pit itself highlighting not only the front of the loco but also certain raised elements of the trackwork.


Another one of 90034 with the floodlight placed almost underneath it, highlighting just the front end and the underneath.

As per the title, not your conventional night shoot, but aren’t conventionally lit 3/4 views so boring these days…?


Ex-pats in Bulgaria

Bulgaria 2013 and a selection of British locomotives enjoying the sunshine. 87026_Burgas 87026 stands in the yard at Burgas with a trainload of vans waiting for a late evening departure for Pirdop. 87006_Burgas 87006 and 87007 (with some Romanian Class 40 junk) stand in the sidings adjacent to Burgas after working in overnight on trains from Pirdop. 87017_Ruse 87017 ‘Iron Duke’ – only just recently arrived in Bulgaria – prepares for departure from Ruse with a departure for Varna Spirka. 87023 ‘Velocity’ was tail loco. 92027_Burgas 92027 stands in the yard at Burgas. In essentially British condition, the only visible differences are the addition of wing mirrors, removal of the ETS jumpers and the DB stickers. 92034_025_Burgas 92034 was the first Class 92 exported to Bulgaria and spent a number of weeks on test around the Burgas area. They are predominantly used on the Burgas-Pirdop circuit taking imported raw product to the copper works.

Bulgaria 2012

Just a few shots from 2012 in Bulgaria – featuring mainly 87026 and 87033. This was the first trip we made and we had absolutely no gen on what the 87s worked.


Spent a couple of days in the Plovdiv area before heading to Varna. 07126 was working an (apparently rare) diesel turn up to Dimitrovgrad and is seen there before working BV1672 1635 Dimitrovgrad-Sofia which it worked to Plovdiv for an electric loco forward to the capital.


Over to the Varna area now and we just happened to be in the right place at the right time for this one. 87026 leads 87033 through Sindel heading what we later found out to be the daily trip working to Ruse. 25/09/2012


Having seen the Ruse train yesterday we had a go at getting to Razdelna early on to watch the train being formed up. Yesterday’s locos have evidently made their way back via a return working and are on the front of the train which is formed of a rake of box wagons. 26/09/2012


As the sun rises, 87026 sits silently with just the tick of the spirex valves expelling moisture from the air system and the occasional whirr of the compressors to keep the air pressure up. 26/09/2012


Unfortunately the sun didn’t stick around for the departure; 87026 and 87033 notch up through Sindel heading for Ruse, 87012 was on the tail end of the long rake of boxes (below). 26/09/2012



One day later and the morning pilgrimage to Razdelna saw 87012 stabled in the main yard (having arrived back from Ruse) before being moved over to the ‘messroom’ for an exam.


The morning Ruse had some 40 junk on the front and 87033 on the rear so was ignored at Sindel. 27/09/2012.

Bulgaria 2011

The second PTG tour featuring a Class 87 ran in October 2011. A couple of photos from Pirdop and then a few from the tour making its way from Varna to Sofia via Stara Zagora and Plovdiv.


87007, 87012 and 87003 at Pirdop 05/10/11


87033 and 87026 at Pirdop 05/10/11


Not technically brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but a record shot as to our knowledge it’s the only one that’s been in! 87006 stands at Varna with BV8694 0725 Varna-Sofia via Karnobat, Stara Zagora, Plovdiv and Septemvri. 06/10/11.


87006 at Stara Zagora – 07/10/11


87006 Chirpan – 07/10/11


The crew take a breather at Septemvri on the final leg back from Plovdiv to Sofia – 07/10/11


87006 Septemvri – 07/10/11


87006 at Sofia Central after arrival of the tour. 07/10/11

Magnificent Seven to the Black Sea

PTG ran their third Bulgarian railtour (entitled Magnificent Seven to the Black Sea) featuring some very shiny 87s in May 2010. It featured (in order) 87003, 87020, 87028, 87004, 87008. An excellent week, great traction, superb weather and – as we found out – a fantastic country – it was this tour that got us hooked on Bulgaria! 🙂


87003 took us from Sofia Central station to Pirdop via Iskar and the direct route. Seen here at Bunovo – one of a few photostops on this section of the journey, but probably the most photogenic.


The first loco change was scheduled to take place at Pirdop and sure enough, 87020 was waiting in the station to relieve ‘Patriot. Looking back, it is notable that there were very few stabled locos in the siding to the left – nowadays there are usually one or two stood waiting for work. Perhaps it was just chance, or perhaps the fleet was busier back then? The full fleet never made it out here due to a downturn in work around this time…


After a long distance run with North Briton, the second loco change took place at Razdelna and 87028 was bolted on to take us the relatively short distance to Varna. 87020 seen here waiting to be detached with 87028 looking on. 87004 was in the sidings…ready to appear the next day.


87028 took the train out of Varna the next morning as far as Razdelna – a somewhat shorter run than I would have liked with it but beggars can’t be choosers! On arrival, 87020 was present from our arrival the previous day and had been joined by 87034 overnight. There was nothing in the sidings.


87028 detached from the tour and ran into the stabling siding with 87034 and 87020.


87004 took over at Razdelna, initially for the short journey ’round the corner’ to Varna Ferryboat where there is a station, but no booked passenger trains. Freight traffic does pass regularly, heading down to the gauge changing facility at the end of the line. Once they have passed through, they are loaded onto a rail ferry to head to either Russia or Ukraine.

The route between Varna and Sochi (Russia) is reportedly extremely busy and has been described as “the best economic connection between Bulgaria and Russia” transporting over 50,000 tonnes of goods in both directions in 2011.

87004 ran round at the station and we did not venture any further into the complex.


After a run via Shumen, Gorna Oryhovitsa, Resen and back to Gorna, we arrived at Veliko Turnovo for the night where 87004 was stabled up. Despite looking absolutely pristine, the traincrew (who obviously had great pride in their steed) got out the bucket and brush and gave the front end a clean before Britannia was put to bed for the night.

The next day saw us head up the short distance to Tsareda Livada for a run round and then to Gabrovo (normally a unit only branch line) – so unusual was the visit of a loco hauled train that the local news turned up at the station to witness it all! It was then back to Sofia via a lunch stop at Kazanlak and a loco change at Pirdop (but not before another photostop at Klisura!).



It was somewhat pleasing to see 87008 waiting to drop onto the train when we arrived – and in hindsight probably even more fortuitous given that it was “coppered” a year or so later and has never worked again. The sidings were somewhat fuller than the outward visit; 87012 and 87033 were on rakes of tanks and just to the right of the picture there was a line of locos – 87003 87028 and 87019.

The run back to Sofia was pretty uneventful, until we received a police escort to go round the Sofia avoider, through the “slightly dubious” suburbs of Sofia!

Oh, and there is one foreign piffle picture, during a tour of the depot in Varna, 07087 was sat on the turntable in sun so would have been rude not to take a picture…



Pan Down

A day before they were due to be panned down for the final time, 87028 87002 and 87022 stand in the yard at Wembley ICD after a bit of a spin around the depot. 22 and 28 went to Bulgaria and 2 remains in the UK – but for how much longer…



Visit was by kind invitation of The Chief. Wembley ICD is a working depot and unauthorised access is not permitted.

ACORP Gala Weekend

The first ACORP gala weekend was held over the weekend of 24/25 September 2005 and featured a display of locos in the yard at Norwich station and also a series of special trains between Norwich and Great Yarmouth and Norwich and Lowestoft. Finally, there was a number of trains between Norwich and London hauled by 87019 and 87007 open to special ticket holders only.

On the Saturday shuttles were 47832 and 33103 (45112 failed) with 20905 and 20901 appearing on the Sunday.