YOU can always rely on GB Railfreight to do something innovative and give back to its staff, fans, and the wider community given half a chance.
Rather like Virgin Trains in the passenger world, the freight company is good at generating positive public relations, both for itself and the wider railway industry in general.
This has included naming locos after football clubs (what chance a Leicester City soon now?), special liveries (like the rainbow colours featured on our exclusive Class 66 model on page 28), and even lending locos to heritage lines for their diesel galas (the latest being the Bluebell Railway, see page 75).
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So when GBRf took delivery of the last ever Class 66 from manufacturer EMD in February, you could be sure it would do something appropriate to mark the event.
The loco, No. 66779, duly arrived at Newport Docks wrapped in a tarpaulin to hide the surprise until it was officially unveiled at the NRM in York on May 10.
Although it was perhaps the worst kept secret in enthusiast circles, the lined green livery and name Evening Star surpasses expectations – chosen to match that
given to the last ever steam loco built for British Railways in 1960, No. 92220.
The design suits the ‘66’, and there are many excellent extra details that have been worked in, again copied from No. 92220, such as ‘9F’ above the number and a GWR-style blue spot route classification below it.
There is also a cast worksplate that says ‘Built 2015 Muncie USA’, and a bell on each cab front – a traditional adornment for celebrity locos that have crossed the Atlantic.
OFFERED TO THE NATION
GBRf has to be commended on a fitting tribute to the Class 66 fleet, which has become the backbone of Britain’s railfreight industry across several operators.
But the company’s charismatic boss John Smith had one more surprise up his sleeve. At the launch ceremony in York, before No. 66779 had even turned a wheel in revenue service, he offered the loco to the National Collection once its working life is over.
That date could be 50 years or more away from now. However, it is interesting to imagine the loco seeing out its retirement in the same way it began – alongside namesake No. 92220.
Paul Bickerdyke, editor