13th May 2016 - 071 class 40th Anniversary
Friday 13th May 2016
In recent years, the RPSI have taken to running a diesel tour on the Friday of the May "International Railtour" with the excuse this year to mark the 40th anniversay of the class 071 locos. This was actually not quite true as although the first members of the class were built by GM at their plant in La Grange, Illinois in 1976 they didn't cross the Atlantic and enter service in Ireland until 1977 but why spoil a good excuse for a celebration.
Class leader 071 had been repainted in it's original livery for the tour and looked immaculate as it backed the train, formed of the RPSI's "Dublin set" of Cravens coaches, into the platform. The crew had kindly stopped short of the buffer stop so the loco could be photographed in the sunshine and as many cameras clicked and whirred, we checked our records and discovered that our previous journey behind this locomotive was exactly 18 years ago on 13th May 1998!
We set off seven minutes late and had a slow run along the more usual route to Glasnevin Junction before crossing over to gain the line to Islandbridge Junction and the main line to Cork out of Heuston station. Passing Inchicore works it looked as if the entire workforce were lined up to admire their handiwork as 071 roared past, gleaming in the sunshine. Left hand down a bit onto the Waterford line at Cherryville Junction, still a few minutes late but with stops at Athy and Carlow to maybe make up a few minutes. The first stop was to cross a DMU but the second one was to cross a liner which wasn't running so the lost time was regained and we arrived on time at Waterford in the bay platform with the sun just right for photographs.
Waterford had changed a lot since we paid a few visits to chase the sugar beet trains in the early 1990s; the track layout was an absolute mess due to part of the layout being out of use following a landslip affecting the sheer rock face which overlooks the station meaning our loco could not run round. Sister loco 079 was on hand in the yard to assist with a shunt-release but even this was not as straightforward as it sounded as the only way into and out of the yard was at the west end so all the shunts had to go the length of the yard to Waterford West box for each move. The easiest way would have been to swap locos, as the IRRS tour had done last month but, presumably, 071 was meant to stay on the train for the whole of it's special day or was required back at Inchicore.
Leaving 14 minutes late, we then headed cross country along the secondary line to Limerick Junction with little chance of any spirited running. Our minds drifted back to the early 1990s and a previous trip over this line when we had an (authorised) cab ride on "baby GM" 182 working a liner "overload" to Limerick. It was a heavy train, right on the limit for one of these locos along this route and the loco was thrashed mercilessly in notch 8, up hill and down dale just to keep the train rolling along at anything like line speed. A conversation in the cab was impossible and it must have sounded awesome from the lineside.
Back to the present and we were held outside Limerick Junction as the Up and Down Cork trains passed before we made our way across the flat junction into what is now known as "Limerick Junction Pocket Loop"; we have always known it, or at least the far end of it as "Keane's Points". The train needed to reverse into the platform for the run back to Dublin and we were just wondering if modern operating proceedures would neccessitate two run-rounds rather than propelling a train load of passengers when the train was carefully set back into the platform. More remenicences of a bygone age when the Waterford / Limerick services (usually a "baby GM" and two coaches with a steam generator van) used to come to a stand at Keane's Points, go straight into reverse and propel at a fair old lick on the through road (now removed) past the platforms, over a hand-worked level crossing then into the south bay (also now removed) after a second reversal.
Now pointing in the correct direction it was full pelt, apart from a short stop at Thurles, back to Dublin and Islandbridge Junction where we turned left and made our way slowly along the suburban line to Dublin Connolly. It had been a good day and it was interesting to see how much had changed since our last visit nine years ago, let alone our first one nearly 30 years ago. Dinner was taken at "Eddie Rocket's", an American-style diner on O'Connell Street and though it was only a short walk away, getting there took longer than anticipated as the road traffic was horrendous due to a tram strike; at least we could get everywhere we needed to on foot.
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