Class 92

The first member of the Class 92 fleet, No. 92001, was completed in August 1993 and commenced static tests in that month at Brush Traction's Falcon Works, Loughborough. However, No. 92002 "H. G. Wells" was in fact the first class member to run over BR metals, when it was taken from Brush Traction to the Railway Technical Centre, Derby, on the evening of 10th December 1993. This was for formal testing by BR, and one of the CM&EE's "Dutch" liveried Class 31 diesels, No. 31145, hauled the Class 92 for the move. The testing was envisaged to take little more than a week, after which No. 92002 would return to Brush Traction for modifications before being dispatched to Czechoslovakia and Austria - in the company of No. 92001 - for endurance trials.

The first locomotive to be received by EPS was No. 92020 "Milton", which was handed over at a formal ceremony at the then new Waterloo International terminal on 1st February 1995. The locomotive had been dragged "dead" from North Pole Depot, the "Eurostar" base of EPS, by Class 47 No. 47385, which hauled No. 92020 into platform No. 24. Class 73 No. 73130 then arrived to haul No. 92020 out of the platform prior to the ceremony, to allow No. 47385 to leave, after which the electric was again pushed into the same platform. As far as EPS operation was concerned, the Class 92 fleet's range would be Glasgow - Kensington Olympia - Waterloo International - Calais Ville. RfD and SNCF examples started to be delivered during the same year.

Officially, all Class 92 locomotives were allocated to "Crewe International Electric Depot". This was not a purpose-built facility for the Chunnel project, but was an existing depot which had been commissioned in the early 1960s during the first part of the WCML electrification. Completion of the whole order was to come in 1996: with a top speed of 87.5 MPH, a maximum rating of 5,000 kW (6,700 HP) and most examples bearing the names of famous composers and writers, the class was, sadly, in for a bumpy ride on introduction to service.

BR's TrainLoad business sectors were privatised on 24th February 1996 in their ''Mainline'', ''Transrail'' and ''Loadhaul'' shadow franchise forms, when they were purchased by American-based "Wisconsin Central Railway''. Initially known as "North & South Railways" on this side of the "Pond", the operation was soon re-branded as "English, Welsh & Scottish Railway" (EWS). RfD remained part of the British Rail Board during the Class 92 deliveries, but was eventually purchased by EWS on 22nd November 1997, which gave the latter a complete monopoly in UK Chunnel freight operation. The company had acquired the only BR freight locomotive authorised for Chunnel operation - the Class 92 - and also took over the yard at Dollands Moor, a compulsory stop for all continental freight.

As part of the privatisation process, BR's infrastructure came under a newly-formed body from 1st April 1994 called "Railtrack". Floated on the London Stock Exchange on 20th May 1996, Railtrack very soon began implementing draconian rules and regulations concerning the level of interference - however minimal - between motive power and signalling equipment. In light of the Class 92's high electrical power rating, the type was barred from its intended Wembley to Dollands Moor route via Redhill - only were the locomotives permitted over this line (which had been specifically electrified in 1994 for this purpose) if being dragged dead by a diesel. It became nigh on impossible for the Class 92 to adhere to most of the new signalling interference criteria laid down by Railtrack, which led to the bizarre situation of the type being banned from operating over the section of line which gave access to its home depot at Crewe. As a result, Class 92 locomotives had to be dragged there from as far away as Wembley. Indeed, as a result of Railtrack's drastic policy, EWS initially looked at acquiring the RfD business sector without the Class 92 fleet; a senior EWS official was allegedly quoted as saying that their only practical use was as "battery chicken ranches"!

Aside from the woes imposed by Railtrack, there were yet more declining fortunes on the horizon for the Class 92. The "Nightstar" sleeper project had been repeatedly delayed as a result of overrunning costs and difficulty in finding a contractor to build the carriages. A reluctant GEC-Alsthom finally stepped into the breach and assembly of Nightstar stock began, but "London & Continental Railways" (the privatised company which had assumed the EPS operation) decided to abandon the project on costs grounds, official cancellation coming on 9th July 1999. Now the seven EPS Class 92 locomotives were left without any work and, in the following year, these examples were offered for sale. Unfortunately, no buyer was found, any potential group probably being deterred by the highly complex electrical systems and the class' inability to meet existing European safety criteria. Subsequently, these examples - Nos. 92020, 92021, 92032, 92040, 92044, 92045 and 92046 - went into store at Crewe, their home depot, in April 2001.

During February 2007, there was light at the end of the tunnel for five members of the stored EPS fleet. In this month, Chunnel operating body ''Eurotunnel'' purchased EPS locomotive Nos. 92020, 92021, 92032, 92040 and 92044 for a cumulative total of £2 million. This indeed proved to be quite a steal, for in nominal terms, the five together cost £15,000,000 to construct in 1993, which equates to some £21,120,000 by 2006 prices. However, these locomotives were by no means ''ready-to-run'', and their considerable time in storage required each example to be fully overhauled before use. Their condition, combined with EPS' desire to relinquish their responsibilities with them, would appear to be reflected in the final asking price. Eurotunnel undertook the overhaul task in conjunction with the original manufacturer, Brush Traction Ltd, on the French side of the operation at Coquelles. As far as the British railway network was concerned, it was intended that the revived Class 92s would reach only as far as the Cheriton Terminal once in service. Their acquisition formed the beginnings of Eurotunnel's venture into open access freight operation, which at the time revolved around breaking onto the scene on the continent. Any venture into the British market was being considered as having future potential.

Number Name Original Operator Latest Operator
92001 Victor Hugo RfD DB
92002 H.G. Wells RfD DB
92003 Beethoven RfD DB
92004 Jane Austen RfD DB
92005 Mozart RfD DB
92006 Louis Armand SNCF GBRf
92007 Schubert RfD DB
92008 Jules Verne RfD DB
92009 Elgar RfD DB
92010 Moliere SNCF GBRf
92011 Handel RfD DB
92012 Thomas Hardy RfD DB
92013 Puccini RfD DB
92014 Emile Zola SNCF GBRf
92015 D.H. Lawrence RfD DB
92016 Brahms RfD DB
92017 Shakespeare RfD DB
92018 Stendhal SNCF GBRf
92019 Wagner RfD DB
92020 Milton EPS GBRf
92021 Purcell EPS GBRf
92022 Charles Dickens RfD DB
92023 Ravel SNCF GBRf
92024 J.S. Bach RfD DB
92025 Oscar Wilde RfD DB
92026 Britten RfD DB
92027 George Eliot RfD DB
92028 Saint Saens SNCF GBRf
92029 Dante RfD DB
92030 Ashford* RfD DB
92031 The Institute of Logistics & Transport** RfD DB
92032 Cesar Franck EPS GBRf
92033 Berlioz SNCF GBRf
92034 Kipling RfD DB
92035 Mendelssohn RfD DB
92036 Bertolt Brecht RfD DB
92037 Sullivan RfD DB
92038 Voltaire SNCF GBRf
92039 Johann Strauss RfD DB
92040 Goethe EPS GBRf
92041 Vaughan Williams RfD DB
92042 Honegger RfD DB
92043 Debussy SNCF GBRf
92044 Couperin EPS GBRf
92045 Chaucer EPS GBRf
92046 Sweelinck EPS GBRf

*Formerly named "De Falla". Renamed in 1996.
**Was to be named "Schiller" when new. Anonymous until receiving present name in 2001

29th October 2000

A grubby No. 92039 "Johann Strauss" is seen at the original home of the Class 92 fleet, Crewe International Electric Depot. Alongside can just be seen a Class 86, which was one of a series of "domestic" electric locomotives which also used the depot. © David Glasspool Collection

July 2002

Finally, a Class 92 under its own power! EWS locomotive No. 92016 "Brahms" is seen passing northbound through Wandsworth Road with an "enterprise" working. The locomotive wore the British Rail "Arrows of Indecision" logo on the left-hand cab sides, indicating it was originally from the RfD pool. Those Class 92s for overnight sleepers had "EPS" logos on the left-hand cab side instead and, as earlier seen, French-owned members wore the "SNCF" insignia. Class 92s were finally authorised to run under their own power between the Channel Tunnel and Wembley - excluding the Redhill to Tonbridge line - in July 1996. © David Glasspool Collection

1st June 2003

By 1999, former RfD locomotive No. 92001 "Victor Hugo" had been repainted into EWS red and yellow livery, and is seen here at Crewe Works Open Day. Note the three cast roundels, which were affixed to both sides of every Class 92 locomotive, and rectangular buffers. © David Glasspool Collection

21st February 2006

EWS No. 92003 "Beethoven" is seen rumbling over the Gothic arches of Eynsford Viaduct with the 09:48 Wembley to Dollands Moor "enterprise". The two-tone grey livery reigned supreme long after RfD ceased to exist, and just two examples of the class were repainted into the full EWS red and yellow scheme - Nos. 92001 and 92031. © David Glasspool

3rd May 2006

The trees had grown some new leaves and the fields were green when this later view of Eynsford Viaduct was observed. Another Dollands Moor working, headed by a two-tone grey Class 92, is seen cruising over the structure. © David Glasspool