A Class 66 locomotive has run the full length of the Oban branch in Scotland for the first time.
Previously, only lighter locomotives, such as Class 37s, had been permitted to use the single-track line which branches off the main Glasgow to Fort William route at Crianlarich.
GB Railfreight (GBRf) worked with Network Rail for two years to approve the use of Class 66s on the line, so as to facilitate ‘Royal Scotsman’ excursions along one of the most scenic railway lines in the world, taking in the remote mountainous west coast of Scotland, on board an overnight luxury train.
The result was that, on Thursday 12 September 2019, locomotive 66 746 successfully headed the Royal Scotsman into Oban Station, and a limited number of charter Class 66 locomotives a year will now be able to run on the line, which sweeps along the edge of Loch Awe, past Ben Cruachan (the highest point in Argyll and Bute), where travellers can take in the ruins of Kilchurn Castle, before heading to Loch Etive and then to Oban. From Oban, travellers can then take ferries on to Mull, Iona and the Outer Hebrides.
GB Railfreight managing director John Smith said: “This is an historic achievement and a lot of hard work has gone into making Class 66s on the Oban branch a reality.
“The first journey was a resounding success and just goes to show the expertise of the GBRf team in meeting and exceeding challenges to deliver innovative services for our clients across the whole of the UK. The whole team is very excited to see further Class 66s arrive at Oban station.”
Network Rail’s freight delivery director Andy Saunders added: “Network Rail were delighted to support this important charter service through the Oban line and being able to permit a limited number of Class 66 movements a year for the operation of the Royal Scotsman.”