Friday, 31 December 2010

And so 2010 shuffles away to make way for 2011.

The last day of 2010 gave a good illustration of what the Eastleigh is all about now with 5 x GM locos on site.

Three class 59s ( 005,102 and 103) were on the Works for maintenance and upgrades to their fuel system. At the same time 66845 has been repainted into COLAS house livery in the new paint shop, whilst finally 66709 is the latest 66 into the Van shop for bogie overhaul.

Five modern locos, with three different operators being worked on by several companies.

So what can we look forward to in 2011?

Well more EMU overhauls as the Desiro programme continues and grows.
We can also expect 66s to continue to operate from the Works, for repairs, overhaul and stabling.
Wagon overhaul is now a significant activity for us and we have a full programme for 2011.
Finally we hope that the year will see significant progress with the recycling of old trains, something that has been in the offing for a while now but may at long last be due to gear up to commercial levels

Perhaps the best part of all is that over the next 12 months there will be unplanned jobs that we can't even begin to imagine and that is what makes life at Eastleigh so interesting. I'd like to see a Bulleid back on the Works but there are a few plans for other historic traction to "come home"
Finally we all look forward to seeing D6515 ( 33012 ) running on the Network again.

So I will finish off by wishing all of our supporters and friends a Happy New Year and the best of fortune in 2011

Sunday, 12 December 2010

So as we pass the 4th anniversary of the rebirth of Eastleigh Works its worth a few moments to consider just how much has been achieved and what a change has been wrought in those years.

Back in late 2006 the Works was a strange place to be. Alstom still held the lease and seemed intent on razing the site to the ground. All of the track to the south end of the site had been ripped up in the preceeding months and wherever you looked there were contractors removing equipment and scrapping vital machinery. Even the 3rd rail system was within days of being ripped out for the scrap value of the conductor rails.
Yet at the same time there were many tangible signs of the fact that the place had been in full use only a few months before.
At first we were only able to use the tracks for storage although we took very little time to fill them with DMUs and 442 Wessex Electrics. We had no shunting engine and hired 73136 to move the stock around until we were able to buy D2991 / 07007 from ERPS. Even that was surreal for the little loco was covered in a film of rust and grime and looked as if it would never run again.

Moving the clock forward a few months, what really started the change was when we agreed to rent part of the Lift shop from Alstom, intially to store rolling stock but then to allow us to maintain trains. It was at that time that we started our relationship with Arlington Fleet who had 2 x 47s that had been purchased from a scrap yard and that needed to be fully overhauled for COLAS. Within a few months they had the locos in sparkling condition and we hosted a naming ceremony/ press day to launch the locos into COLAS service. The significance of overhauled locos leaving a Works that was supposed to be shut caught the imagination of the industry and was the catalyst for many of the projects that were to become so critical to the future of the Works.
Hot on the heels of Arlington came Wabtec who set up a full production line to overhaul 153s and 158s in Bay 4. Although Wabtec have since vacated Eastleigh, their role in re-establishing the Works as a place where rail vehicles were overhauled once again can't be overstated. At their peak they had 40 or so people working on their projects, many of them former Eastleigh staff who were happy to come back to the Works.
Alongside all of this we had Network Rail's MPVs operating out of Bay 3 and then taking a much larger area in Bay 2 on a long agreement. It was through their experience of operating MPVs from the Works that they brought the overhaul programme for the rail grinders into Bay 3, making this the third area within the main building where overhauls were taking place.

A programme of test runs for the 442s was another demonstration of the value of the Works and kept the fleet in good order.

No review of the past 4 years can be complete without mention of Eastleigh 100. In many ways this was a microcosm for the story of the four years. It started in a small way through our desire to tell the world that we were still here, as well our understanding of the historical significance of the place where we worked. Left to our own devices we would probably just had a small celebration, but Chris Milner from the Railway Magazine had different ideas and offered the support of his team to make it a much bigger event. It was also interesting to talk to the local council when we planned the event. They didn't even realise that the Works was open again and the look of delight on their faces when they found out was priceless. Like the RM they were to give us invaluable help with what was becoming something completely unrecognisable from the small celebration we had originally planned.

It is history now that the E100 weekend was an astonishing success, bringing both enthusiasts and the local people onto site to show their support for the Works that refused to die. Nineteen thousand visitors came to the Works and we had peak time live broadcasts on both the BBC and ITV news programmes that weekend.

My own memories of that crazy weekend are of being overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of the 40 locomotives that came home, in particular the steam engines that were such an integral part of the history of the place. One warm evening when the public had gone home I found myself alone with 3 Bulleid engines in light steam standing outside the shed where they were built and maintained throughout their life. It was one of those rare moments in life when everything is just perfect and can't be improved. I still get shivers up my spine when I recall the emotion of the weekend and all that we were able to achieve.

Since 2009 the big development has been arrival of Siemens for the overhaul of their EMUs. Since it was the winning of the South West Trains order for new trains by Siemens that was the final coffin in Alstoms tenure of the Works, it is completely fitting that the major work in Bay 4 is once again the overhaul of EMUs for the Waterloo services. Siemens are excellent people to work with and we all hope that they will be with us for many years to come.

And so to the present.

Looking around the Works last week I counted the number of synchronised (Mechan) jacks on site and was surprised to find it that there are 40 0f them in use. If you had told me that this would be the case on a cold December day in 2006, when I was shutting down the first 153s to come on site, I would have laughed in your face.

Now we have a Works where you can find skilled staff employed on the overhaul and repair of modern EMUs and class 66 diesels, alongside wagons and track mainteinace machines. There is even an Eastleigh built steam engine under overhaul in the Van Shop and apprentices halfway through their training at the Works.

I can't possibly guess where the Works goes from here. At some stage in the future we will have to spend large amounts of money undoing the neglect and under-investment of the Alstom years and to do that we will need continued success in winning big contracts. Whether or not the rail industry needs Eastleigh Works will depend on factors outside our our control and decisions made by politicians who know nothing about the railways.

Whatever else happens we have the satisfaction of knowing that in small corner of Hampshire we have proved that those people who say that we can't or shouldn't do heavy engineering in Britain in the 21st century are wrong.

Here's to the next 4 years

Friday, 10 December 2010

4th Anniversary of Re-Opening - 11th December 2011

During a conversation last week I became aware that it was approaching the 4th Anniversary of the Works re-opening. It was 11th December 2006 when four Class 153s (302, 308, 355 and 374) arrived under their own power for storage at the re-opened site. The driver was Chris Smetham of GBRf.

How much the place has changed in those four years with established overhauls and maintenance now being undertaken by several companies on all kinds of stock from wagons to EMUs, Locos and MPVs. Whilst the yard is once again full of stored stock mainly comprising various wagon types and Mk2 coaches, there is plenty of other activity going on too.

Here's looking forward to the next year!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Well I had to moan, didn't I. After much freezing last night fuelling the 66, this morning South Hampshire was blessed by 6 inches of the white stuff. After a 30 minute journey in through Christmas card scenes, I was rewarded with a nice exhaust plume in the yard as I inched my way up the ( ungritted) bridge approach in Campbell Road.
Richard, our Railway Manager had lain awake last night wondering if he had left the traction key in 73119 and come in early to make sure it was OK. Fortunately, all was well, with the ED humming away nicely on the 3rd rail. A small number of trains were venturing out on the network around Eastleigh Station but ours was the only diesel I could see working.

We fuelled the two GBRf 73s which needed a bit of TLC from Arlington Fleet's John to coax back into life after standing on a cold siding for too long (The EDs not John).

I can't recall seeing this much snow around here before and I'm told that it is pretty unusual.
The Works is open for business although one of the Siemens lads came in on Ski's from West End. I took the opportunity to shoot some handheld video of the site in the snow. Look up" 73119 in the snow" on youtube if you want to see it

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Its minus two out there and I'm sat waiting for a 66 and 73s to come in for fuelling at 6 o'clock.
Fuelling is something that we only started to support NR's test trains but is gradually growing to become an important part of our business. I have noticed however that the loco's never seem to come on shed during daylight hours or on nice sunny days. Still we'll take our business from wherever it comes, or at any hour.

The driver of tonight's loco is an old friend, being one of the first people to deliver off lease DMU's to us almost four years ago this month. Funny how much has happened in those four years. It was cold then too I seem to recall

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The aim of this blog is to provide information and promote positive discussion about what's happening at Eastleigh Works