Freightliner Heavy Haul and Network Rail cleared the final portion of the Network Rail HOBC from Fairwater Yard on December 30th 2014. Freightliners Class 66/5 No.66546 hauled the third and final portion of the HOBC from Fairwater Yard as the 6Y07 17:05 to Parkeston routed via Bristol Temple Meads and Bath Spa. The HOBC has been based at Taunton's Fairwater Yard for the past 7 years. The first and second portions ran on Sunday 28th December and Monday 29th December with evening departures. All that remains in Fairwater Yard are now are a few 'Sleeper Carriers', 2 'VM80' Vacuum Vehicles, and a 'Pike' wagon.(Photo: Jason Prole) *Photo taken with permission by trained & qualified personnel with permission.


The Network Rail TRT/TRS made a rare visit to Taunton for around a weeklong period. The set arrived int he early hours of the 15th December as the 6X04 from Crewe. It then spent the following weeknights working at Wokingham replacing track. Over the weekend of the 20th/21st. The track replacement 'system' was used at Wokingham on the night of the 20th/21st and returned briefly to Taunton before being sent back to Crewe, where its normally based. Running a total of 169 minutes late, Freightliner Class 66/6 No.66606 leads the 6X04 07:50 Wokingham - Fairwater Yard through 40 Steps and into Fairwater Yard. (Photo: Brian Garrett)
Trailing on the rear of the 6X04 was Frieghtliner Class 66/6 No.66620 coupled with five Network Rail autoballasters. Upon arrival at Taunton the set was recessed in Fairwater Yard before departing at 16:11 to return the set to Crewe Basford Hall. This view also shows the continued building of the Taunton NIDR which seems like the longest building project in history. The latest estimates seem to suggest that the road will now not be complete until the Summer 2015, some six to eight months later than planned. (Photo: Brian Garrett)


After a build taking over a year from closure to opening the new disabled ramps have finally been opened at 40 Steps. The ramps on the Chip Lane (Post Office) side of the bridge offer no new viewpoints to the railway. However the ramps to the Cyril Street side of 40 Steps do. The change of direction landing area provides a good view of the Up Mainline and also affords a view into Fairwater Yard. Crucially, while the guardrails are high they do allow a 70mm lens to fit through the spacing without it's lens hood fitted. Alternatively steps would be an advantage, or the use of the lower handrail to stand upon could also afford a view over the top of the railings. We have provided some images below which show the views which are currently possible. These will come into their own on more cloudy days and for shots in the late summer evenings once the sun had crossed the line. It is however likely that Network Rail could erect palisade fencing to replace the current herrace fencing which is in place.


You would of thought that having had such a poor performance on the 11th/12th December that FGW may have thought the worst was over with their current Class 57 reliability issues. However the 19th December proved to be just as embarrassing. The 1A40 21:45 Penzance - Paddington sleeper arrived at Taunton with DRS Class 57/3 No.57303 which was unable to release it's brakes in the northbound cab. Customers on board with connections for flights were woken up and put into taxi's to get them to Heathrow on time. A loco swap then took place whereby No.57303 joined the front of 1C99 23:50 Paddington - Penzance and Class 57/6 No.57603 would return to London on the front of 1A40. As a result 1A40 departed Taunton 150 minutes late, and 1C99 departed 92 minutes late.
First Great Western suffered perhaps one of their worst nights of Night Riviera availability in quite some time on the 11th/12th December. The 1A40 21:25 Penzance - Paddington sleeper failed at Plymouth with Class 57/6 No.57603 leading the train. Sleeper passengers were transferred onto a HST set. Class 57/6 No.57604 also failed after working the ECS into Paddington Station, thankfully this didn't delay the departure of the 1C99 23:50 Paddington - Penzance sleeper (which was hauled by DRS Class 57/3 No.57310), however No.57310 only made it as far at Dawlish Warren where the engine kept shutting down. The sleeper finally made it to Penzance 20 minutes late. Because of the cancellation of the 'up' sleeper No.57603 was repaired at Laira during the day only to be sent out to London empty stock, where it failed on the mainline at Hemerdon less than 3 miles from the depot. It was eventually rescued by a Class 08 shunter from Laira depot.
Network Rail's HOBC set based at Fairwater Yard has exclusively been hauled by Class 66's since it's arrival in 2006. Owing to the failure of No.66510 on the night of the 11th November, the 6Y07 17:33 Fairwater Yard - Grateley was hauled solo by No.66620 to Westbury. Once at Westbury a replacement second locomotive was hired in from Colas Rail Freight. Class 70/8 No.70807 became the first Class 70 to haul the Network Rail HOBC set. The locomotive is seen arriving back into Fairwater Yard hauling the 6Y07 04:00 Basingstoke - Fairwater on the 12th December 2014. (Photo: Jason Prole) - Trained and qualified personel.
Double Colas Class 56's were used on timber traffic from the South West on the 10th December. Colas supplied Class 56 No.56078 & No.56096 to operate the 6V54 05:33 Chirk - Exeter Riverside log empties. The pair are pictured passing Fairwater Yard while on route to Exeter. Exeter Riverside will be the new loading point for logs in the South West, operationally the nature of a yard provides a much easier location to load the logs, without the need to do two run rounds at Newton Abbot to access the Heathfield Branch. Those having arrived into Exeter by train will of noticed the new log mountain which has already been stockpiled. (Photo: Stephen Ginn)
During the 5th December 2015 Network Rail operated one of their GWML Electrification Trains from Swindon to Taunton on a a driver training run. No.99 70 9131 005 is pictured at 40 Steps while waiting to return to Swindon. The rear MPV has now been named 'Brunel' by Network Rail. Also captured in the image is a clear view of the latest progress on the Taunton NIDR, with the new roundabout on Staplegrove Road now taking quite good shape. (Photo: Adam Snow)
DCR Class 31 No.31601 was used to haul Network Southeast liveried Class 50 no.50026 'Indomitable' from Meldon to Derby Gas Works Sidings on the 5th December. The Class 50 (which had been towed to the Dartmoor Railway during November) had suffered a turbocharger problem. The locomotive was later replaced with Nemesis Rail's Class 47/7 No.47701 'Waverley' which would make a return to service on the Dartmoor Railway for the Christmas season having been sold by its previous owners. (Photo: Adam Snow)



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