The Irvine – Dollands Moor china clays

In January 2008 a new china clay flow was established from Antwerp Docks to UPM-Kymmene’ paper mill, Irvine Scotland . The former NACCO “Silver bullet” tanks with a 90 ton GLW carried china clay from Brazil via Antwerp docks through the Channel tunnel and WCML to Mossend and then Irvine. This replaced the Burngallow – Irvine “silver bullets” domestic china clay flow.

The Northbound train (6S94) passed locally around 6am each Wednesday with a single EWS 92 as power with a heavy load of 20-25 loaded tanks in tow. The return empties (6M76) would leave Mossend around 2140 each Thursday night passing the local area around 0810 each Friday morning, again with a 92 as power. By Oct 2014 EWS (now DB) opted to withdraw their 92’s on the WCML and replace them with pair’s of 90’s. This was the first and only use of pairs of 90’s on freight locally and a pretty impressive sight the train made on passing.

Dec 2016 saw DB operate the clays for the last time with 90037 and 90036 working the final up turn on 23rd December 2016.

At least the following electrics have featured on 6S94/6M76 during 2008 – 2016.

90018, 90019, 90020, 90021, 90028, 90029, 90035, 90036, 90037, 90039, 90040

92001, 92002, 92003, 92007, 92009, 92011, 92013, 92015, 92016, 92017, 92018, 92019,

92020, 92024, 92026, 92027, 92029, 92030, 92031, 92034, 92036, 92037, 92039, 92041,


DB power on the clays phot spot

 92011 passes Leighton station with 6M76 china clay empties on 200614

  “Silver Bullets” no more but still a distinctive train, 92024 takes the now very work stained “Silver bullets” South through Old Linslade on 240114

 Beasts emerge from the October Ledburn fog. 90020 and 90029 on a foggy 021015.

 A “shed” was quite unusual on the clays locally. 66097 pases a frosty Old Linslade with 6M76 on 190216 

 Double headed DB red liveried 90029 and 90018 pass Ledburn with 6S94 loaded china clays on 060716

 And heres the consist at Ledburn, 19 loaded tanks 060716 

 90020 passes still Grand Union canal waters with 6M76 empties on 260816

 And so the last DB operated 6M76 went South through Old Linslade on 231216 with 90037 and 90036.

Into 2017 and beyond

GBRf took over the turn using, once again, a 92 locally as far as Carlisle New Yard for 66 power over the GSW to Irvine. 92032 worked the first GBRf operated “tanks” Northbound on Wednesday January 4th 2017. Returning South locally on Friday January 6th 2017. Whilst Northbound times remain about the same as the DB working, the return empties pass the local area around 0615am so the GBRf tanks will operate under the cover of darkness locally for a good few months yet.

Problems with the 92 restarting the heavy loaded China Clays on the DC/AC changeover point on the North Pole Incline near Willesden saw rush hour chaos on several mornings. A change saw a 66 used on the Dollands Moor – Wembley section , for a 92 pilot added for the long Wembley – Carlisle section, with the 66 forward to Irvine.

By 2018/2019 with GBRf  class 66s taking over all legs of the china clays but its operation in 2019 became uch more irregular. A Colas operated China clays from Irvine to Aberdeen for ship transfer has become the regular China clay flow with 56 power so now the china clays locally is a fairly rare event these days  .

GBRf  on the clays Phot spot

92044 approaches Ledburn with 6M74 early (0600) on April 14th 2017

66724 pilots 92044 past still canal waters at Chelmscote with 6M74 on July 7th 2017

92032 pilots 66717 on 6S94 Dollands Moor – Irvine through Leighton Buzzard on September 6th 2017

The normal power these days for 6M74 (when it runs) 66710 approaches Ledburn on June 21st 2019

66789 in retro BR large logo looks good at Ledburn with 6M74 1855 Irvine – Dollands Moor on a sunny July 16th 2021


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