British Rail Class 66

British Rail Class 66

66598 hauling a freight train near Chesterfield.
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Builder Electro-Motive Diesel
Model JT42CWR or Series 66
Build date 1998–2015
Total produced 485
Configuration Co-Co
UIC class Co'Co'
Gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Bogies HTCR radial
Wheel diameter 1,066 mm (42.0 in)
Minimum curve 4 chains (80 m)
  • 17.29 m (56 ft 9 in) (between bogies)
  • 4.15 m (13 ft 7 in) (bogies)
Length 21.4 m (70 ft 3 in)
Width 2.65 m (8 ft 8 in)
Height 3.9 m (12 ft 10 in)
Loco weight 129.6 tonnes (127.6 long tons; 142.9 short tons)
Fuel capacity 6,400 litres (1,410 imp gal; 1,690 US gal)
Prime mover
Alternator GM-EMD AR8
Traction motors 6 of GM-EMD D43-TR
MU working AAR system (Classes 59, 66 & 67)
Train heating None
Train brakes Westinghouse PBL Air
Performance figures
Maximum speed
  • Class 66/6: 65 mph (105 km/h)
  • Balance of fleet: 75 mph (121 km/h)
Power output
  • Engine: 3,300 bhp (2,460 kW)
  • at rail: 3,000 bhp (2,240 kW)
Tractive effort
  • Maximum: 409 kN (91,900 lbf) at starting
  • Continuous: 260 kN (58,500 lbf) at 15.9 mph (25.6 km/h)
Loco brakeforce 68 tonnes (67 long tons; 75 short tons)
Numbers 66001–66250 66301–66305 66421-66434 66501-66599 66601–66623 66701–66779 66846-66850 66951–66957
Nicknames 'Shed' 'Ying-Ying' 'Monsters'
Axle load class Route availability 7
Scrapped 2001 (66 521)

The Class 66 is a type of six-axle diesel electric freight locomotive developed in part from the Class 59, for use on the railways of the UK. Since its introduction the class has been successful and has been sold to British and other European railway companies. In Continental Europe it is marketed as the EMD Series 66 (JT42CWR).



On the privatisation of British Rail's freight operations in 1996, Wisconsin Central Transportation Systems under the control of Ed Burkhardt bought a number of the newly privatised rail freight companies: Transrail; Mainline; Loadhaul; and later Railfreight Distribution and Rail Express Systems. Controlling 93% of UK rail freight, after a public relations exercise involving the input of the general public, the company was named English Welsh & Scottish.[1]

EWS inherited a fleet of 1,600 mainly diesel locomotives, with an average age of over 30 years; 300 had been cannibalised for spares.[1] Typical of the fleet, the 2580 hp Class 47s needed a major overhaul every seven years, costing £400,000; yet had an average daily availability of less than 65% with only 16 days between major failures.[1] To enable it to offer its stated lower pricing to customers, EWS needed to reduce operating costs and raise availability.[1]

Order and specification

After reviewing the existing privately commissioned Class 59, which was more powerful, highly reliable and with lower operating costs, EWS approached its builder Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD), then a division of General Motors. EMD offered their JT42CWR model, which had the same loading gauge-passing bodyshell as the Class 59. The engine and traction motors were different models to enable higher speeds, and the Class 66s incorporated General Motors' version of a "self-steering bogie" ("radial truck", in American usage), designed to reduce track wear and increase adhesion on curves.[1]

Placing what was termed as "the biggest British loco order since steam days",[1] EWS placed an order for 250 units to be built at the EMD plant in London, Ontario, Canada.[2] The EMD 710 12-cylinder diesel engine is a development of one used over 20 years, whilst the EM2000 control equipment is the same as that used on Irish Railways IE 201 Class.[1] EWS reduced the locomotive's time into operation through specifying cab systems laid out like the Class 59,[1] whilst increasing availability with a fuel tank of 8,180 litres (1,800 imp gal; 2,160 US gal) capacity, compared to 3,470 litres (760 imp gal; 920 US gal) on a standard Class 47.[1]

United Kingdom

The first locomotive shipped to the UK arrived at Immingham in June 1998,[2] taken to Derby for testing.[1] The second was taken to AAR's Pueblo Test Centre for endurance testing, before shipping to the UK.[1] The locomotives then shipped at a rate of 11 per month into the UK via Newport Docks, until the order was completed in December 2001.[1] After unloading, EWS engineers then simply took off the tarpaulin, unblocked the suspension, and finally as each was shipped with water and fuel, hooked up the batteries, before starting the engine and handing the locomotive into service.[1]

Each locomotive is specified and guaranteed to 95% availability, aiming for a minimum of 180 days mean time between failures.[1] It is designed to cover 1·6million km between major rebuilds, equivalent to 18 years' service, with each major rebuild costed at £200,000.[1]

The initial classification was as Class 61, then they were subsequently given the Class 66 designation in the British classification system (TOPS). In 1998 Freightliner placed an order for locomotives. They were followed by GB Railfreight, and then Direct Rail Services.

Although sometimes unpopular with many rail enthusiasts, due to their ubiquity and having caused the displacement of several older types of (mostly) British built locomotives, their high reliability has helped rail freight to remain competitive. Rail enthusiasts call them "sheds".

Continental Europe

Main article: EMD Series 66

The Class 66 design has also been introduced to Continental Europe where it is currently certified for operations in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France, and Poland, with certification pending in the Czech Republic and Italy. They currently operate on routes between Sweden and Denmark and between Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Poland. As a result of its well-known British identity, EMD Europe markets the locomotive as "Series 66".

UK importation

After an increase in UK rail traffic post the 2008 Global Economic Crisis, by 2011 EMD were running low on key parts for the design, specifically castings. After the closure of the London, Ontario plant that year after an industrial dispute, and the introduction of new EU crash and emissions regulations, it was concluded by many that the last of the Class 66 locomotives had been produced.

Due to a reduction in European freight volumes, since mid-2012 a number of EMD Series 66 locomotives have been imported by UK rail freight operators and converted to UK type specifications. These have included:[3]

However, in September 2013, GB Railfreight announced a new order of a further 8 Class 66/7 locomotives from EMD to be leased via Eversholt Rail Group, the first of the class to be built at EMD's Muncie, Indiana plant. On 2 February GBRf ordered a further 13 locomotives. These 21 locomotives will be numbered 66752-66772.[4] Numbers 66752-66756 have been shipped from America and are due to arrive at Newport Docks in July 2014. No. 66752 has been named The Hoosier State, a nickname for Indiana.[5]

Emission compliance

Numbers 66752-66772 are expected to be the last Class 66s ordered for service in Great Britain because of increasingly stringent emission regulations. The Class 66s meet stage 3a of the regulations, but not stage 3b, so no more can be delivered after the end of 2014. Stage 3b is likely to require additional exhaust treatment equipment that cannot easily be accommodated within the UK loading gauge. The same restriction will apply to Class 68 and Class 70 which is why there is a flurry of activity to beat the deadline. The restriction will not apply to second-hand locomotives, provided that they are imported from within the European Union. The purpose is to put a cap on the total number of non-compliant locomotives in the EU.[6]

Current operators

DB Cargo UK

EWS 66138 hauling a train of autoballasters

DB Cargo UK bought out EWS. Their Class 66 fleet includes five locomotives capable of banking heavy trains over the Lickey Incline. On these specific locomotives, the knuckle coupler has been modified to allow remote releasing from inside the cab, whilst in motion.[7] It also includes fifteen locomotives fitted with RETB signalling equipment, for working in northern Scotland and RETB-fitted branchlines.[7] A few DB Cargo UK Class 66s are now working in Europe as part of the Euro Cargo Rail contract.


Freightliner followed EWS by initially ordering five new Class 66/5 locomotives, and have continued to order in small batches. As of summer 2010, the 66/5 fleet had reached 98 examples; 66521 was withdrawn after the 2001 crash at Great Heck and later scrapped.

In 2000 a new Class 66/6 sub-class was built, with a lower gear ratio, enabling heavier trains to be hauled, albeit at slower speed. There are presently 25 examples of this class, numbered 66601-625. Some of these locomotives have since been exported for use with Freightliner Poland.

During 2004 the company took delivery of the most recent Class 66/9 sub-class of the locomotive, which are a low-emission variant. All new locomotives for all companies are now of the low-emission "T2" type. The original two such locomotives remain as 66951/52.

In 2011, Freightliner took on Direct Rail Services' 66411-420.

GB Railfreight

GB Railfreight initially leased seventeen Class 66/7 locomotives from Eversholt Rail Group, before increasing its fleet to 32. During April 2006 five more low-emission locomotives (numbered 66718-722) were delivered, liveried for use on the Metronet/Transport for London contracts. A further order for five more locomotives (66723-727) was delivered in early 2007, and another five locomotives (66728–732) in April 2008. 66733-746 are formed of Class 66s from Direct Rail Services, Freightliner and Colas Rail. In 2011 66720 was painted in a special "Rainbow" livery.[8] In June 2012, 66734 derailed at Loch Treig whilst working 6S45 North Blyth–Fort William and was consequently cut up on site and scrapped.[9] The final seven class 66's to be built for the British market arrived on 12 February 2016 aboard "The Happy Dragon" cargo ship at Newport docks and consisted of numbers 66773–66779. On 15 February they were towed by 66708 north to Doncaster Roberts road depot where they will be commissioned and then ultimately put to work. 66779 remained under a tarpaulin until 10 May 2016 when it was revealed at the NRM York with a special livery and nameplates to commemorate the fact it is the final class 66 ever built for the British market.[10] The locomotive has been painted in BR Lined Green and named 'Evening Star' to commemorate the fact that BR Standard Class 9F Locomotive No. 92220 Evening Star was the last BR Locomotive built in Swindon in 1960, with 66779 being the last Class 66 built for the UK and European Market. It was unveiled in a special ceremony inside the Great Hall at the National Railway Museum in York on the 10th May 2016 before staying there opposite its namesake No. 92220 for 2 weeks.[11]

Direct Rail Services

Direct Rail Services Class 66 locomotive 66412, in 'Compass' livery

Direct Rail Services (DRS), a subsidiary of British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) leased Class 66 locomotives from Porterbrook. In 2002, DRS ordered ten Class 66/4 locomotives (66401–410), employed on new Anglo-Scottish traffic, some with Stobart Rail. In 2006, ten more T2 specification units (66411–420) were delivered, a further ten (66421–430) in late 2007, and four more (66431–66434) in 2008.

After the first twenty Class 66s operated by DRS were transferred to Freightliner and GBRF, leaving just 14 in their fleet, DRS leased the five former Fastline Freight locomotives.

Colas Rail

Colas Rail took over the ex-Advenza Cemex Cement flow after the company went bust, utilising ex Advenza locomotives. During 2010 they took on 66843 and latterly 66844 which both had been on lease to GBRf, they also took on ex DRS 66410, which was renumbered 66845. They made a deal with GBRf and Colas acquired 5 ex-Freightliner Class 66s and were renumbered 66846–66850. The five class 66s that Colas had gone to GBRf and were renumbered 66742–66746, all of which have now been repainted into Europorte livery at Eastleigh.

Former operators

Advenza Freight

Advenza Freight, a Cotswold Rail subsidiary, operated class 66841-844. They were primarily used on Advenza's scrap and cement flows. The locomotives originated from the batch that DRS returned. Advenza Freight went bust in October 2009 and the class 66s returned to storage.

These locos were housed at Gloucester Carriage Sidings where Advenza Freight was based.


Fastline Freight, part of Jarvis PLC, which operated intermodal services between Doncaster and Birmingham International Railfreight Terminal (BIFT), and Thamesport, in North Kent, using refurbished Class 56 locomotives, ordered five Class 66/3 locomotives to operate a coal flow from Hatfield Colliery. They were delivered in 2008.[12] Following the demise of Jarvis in 2010, and Fastline going into administration on 29 March 2010,[13] these locomotives were placed in store, being towed to DRS Carlisle Kingmoor or Crewe Gresty Bridge depot for storage.[14] During 2011, DRS repainted the five ex-Fastline locomotives and took them on in their own fleet keeping their original numbers


Minor differences between different orders, and different operating companies have resulted in a number of subclasses being defined.[15]

Subclass Number built TOPS number range Operators Comments
66/0[2] 250 66001-66250 DB Cargo UK The original order of 250.[2]
66048 is stored at Toton TMD after serious Carrbridge derailment.
60 EWS locomotives lent from EWS stock to EWSi subsidiary Euro Cargo Rail although some are back in the UK now. DBS are now sending locos to Poland.
66/3 5 66301-66305 Direct Rail Services Originally ordered by Fastline Freight. Now in use with Direct Rail Services.
66/4 10 66411-66420 Freightliner Acquired from DRS in 2011. Three exported for use in Poland (FPL), 66411, 66412 & 66417.
66/4 14 66421-66434 Direct Rail Services Intended use is on intermodal traffic. Occasionally used on nuclear flask traffic – for which they are overpowered.[2]
66/5 99 66501-66520, 66522-66572, 66585, 66587-66599 Freightliner Replaced Class 47s and Class 57s on Intermodal freight.[2]
66521 written-off after Great Heck rail crash. 66582, 66583, 66584 and 66586 have been exported to Poland, the operating subsidiary Freightliner PL.
66/6 25 66601-66607, 66610, 66613-66623 Freightliner Top speed of 65 mph (105 km/h) – reduced gearing to cope with heavier oil, aggregates and cement trains.[2]
66608, 66609, 66611, 66612, 66624 and 66625 have been exported to Poland, the operating subsidiary Freightliner PL.
66/7 79 66701-66733, 66735-66779 GB Railfreight Operates on coal, intermodal services and also engineering / departmental work for Transport for London and Network Rail on London Underground and National Rail lines.[2]
(66733 to 66737 Formerly Direct Rail Services 66401-66405.)
(66738 to 66741 Formerly Freightliner 66578-66581.)
(66742 to 66746 Formerly Colas Rail 66841-66845 and prior to that where numbered 66406-66410 with Direct Rail Services.)
(66747 to 66749 are a former Dutch fleet converted at the Midland Railway Centre.)
(66750 and 66751 are former Beacon Rail locos from mainland Europe.)
66734 has also been written-off after it was involved in a serious derailment at Loch Treig.
66/8 5 66846-66850 Colas Rail Former operated by Freightliner 66573-66577.
66/9 7 66951-66957 Freightliner A lower emission variant – fuel capacity reduced to compensate for the increased weight of other components.[2]

Cab design problems

The British trade union ASLEF has complained that the locomotives are unfit and unsafe to work in, citing a lack of air conditioning, and poor seating and noise levels.

In April 2007 ASLEF proposed a ban on their members driving the locomotives during the British summer 2007 period. Keith Norman, ASLEF's general secretary, described the cabs as "unhealthy, unsafe and unsatisfactory". Research showed that in July 2006, when the weather had been extremely hot, the number of times a driver had passed a red signal increased.[16] EWS entered into discussions and made amendments to a series of trial locomotives,[16] GB Railfreight and Freightliner also investigated cab improvements.[17] In June 2007 progress on the issue led ASLEF to withdraw its threat of industrial action.[18]

In Norway CargoNet related complaints about the noise levels in the CD66 variant of the Class 66 resulted in higher pay rates for drivers.[19]


On 28 February 2001, 66 521 was involved in the 2001 Great Heck rail crash which resulted in 10 deaths including the driver Stephen Dunn.[20] The locomotive was written off and scrapped as a result of major damage sustained in the accident.[21]

On 9 February 2006, a freight train, hauled by English Welsh & Scottish 66 017, derailed at Brentingby Junction, near Melton Mowbray. Having passed a signal at danger the locomotive and the first three wagons were derailed at catch points at the end of the Up Goods Loop. There were no injuries.[22]

66 048 lies in the snow and trees following the Carrbridge derailment.

On 4 January 2010, a freight train hauled by 66048 derailed at Carrbridge in snowy weather, blocking the Highland Main Line.[23] Having passed a signal at danger the train was derailed at trap points,[24] subsequently falling down an embankment into trees and injuring the two crew members. The locomotive was hauling container flats from Inverness to Mossend Yard on behalf of Stobart Rail.[25] The line was reopened on 12 January.[26]

On 21 November 2011, 66 111 derailed between Exeter Central and Exeter St David's on working an engineering works service.[27]

On 28 June 2012, GBRf operated 66 734 derailed at Loch Treig whilst working the 6S45 North Blyth to Fort William Alcan Tanks.[28][29] Due to its position and the environmental risks associated with recovery, after agreement from owners Porterbrook it was cut-up on site and the mechanics recycled as spare parts.[30]

On 1 August 2015, 66 428 was hauling an engineering train that ran into the rear of another engineering train at Logan, Ayrshire. It was severely damaged.[31] The train that was run into was hauled by 66 305.[32]

See also

References and sources


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 "EWS workhorses will deliver savings". Railway Gazette. 1 April 1998. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "rolling stock : class 66 [sic]". 16 August 2006. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  3. "Import of EMD Series 66 increases due to lack of UK motive power". Railway Gazette. September 2013.
  4. "GB Railfreight expands Class 66 fleet". Railway Gazette. 4 September 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  5. Railways Illustrated. August 2014. p. 9. ISSN 1479-2230. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. Rail Express. No. 217. June 2014. p. 9. ISSN 1362-234X. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. 1 2 Fox, Hall & Pritchard 2008
  8. "GB Railfreight goes for the unusual look to brighten a dull day". Railway Herald. No. 274. 11 July 2011. p. 4. ISSN 1751-8091. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  9. "Now scrapped GBRf 66734 down the bank at Loch Treig Scotland". 2015. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  10. "Brand new Class 66s delivered to Yorkshire". RAIL magazine. 16 February 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  11. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. "Fastline Freight's 66/3s arrive at Newport". Railway Herald (137). 30 June 2008. p. 3. ISSN 1751-8091. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  13. "Fastline Ltd". Archived from the original on 9 April 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  14. "End of the Line: Withdrawn & Stored Locomotives UK". WNXX. List: Class 66. Archived from the original on 13 November 2010. (subscription required (help)).
  15. "Class 66 :: Electro-Motive Diesel JT42CWR". Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  16. 1 2 "Boycott threat over 'dirty' locos". BBC News. 30 April 2007. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  17. "Positive moves from operators on 66s". Locomotive Journal. ASLEF: 7. April 2007.
  18. "Progress on 66 cabs leads to normal working". News Archive. ASLEF. 14 June 2007.
  19. "Enighet mellom NLF og CargoNet" (in Norwegian). 5 October 2004.
  20. "Tragic results of driver fatigue". BBC News. 13 December 2001.
  21. " page on 66521".
  22. "Rail Accident Report: Derailment of a freight train at Brentingby Junction, near Melton Mowbray – 9 February 2006". Rail Accident Investigation Branch. January 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  23. "Snow derailment problems continue". BBC News. 4 January 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  24. "Investigation into an accident involving a freight train at Carrbridge, Inverness-shire, on 4 January 2010" (PDF). Rail Accident Investigation Branch. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  25. "Probes into SPADs in Devon and Scotland". RAIL Magazine (635). Bauer Media Group. 13 January 2010. pp. 8–9.
  26. "INVERNESS-PERTH ROUTE REOPENS AFTER A WEEK OF ENDEAVOUR". Network Rail. 13 January 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  27. "VIDEO: Derailed train causes services to be cancelled". Exeter Express and Echo. 25 November 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  28. "120628 : 66734 Loch Treig Derailment". WNXX. June 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  29. "Man winched to safety in Scotland after floods derail train". The Daily Telegraph. 29 June 2012.
  30. Chris Milner (31 January 2013). "Derailed Class 66 to be cut up on site". Railway Magazine. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  31. "Collision near Logan". Rail Accident Investigation Branch. 14 August 2015. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  32. "Freight train collision near Logan, East Ayrshire 1 August 2015" (PDF). Rail Accidents Investigation Branch. 13 July 2016. Retrieved 16 July 2016.


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