This page came about as a result of digging through some old hard drives looking for old livery mock-up base images for a new job. The bits and pieces I found may not be of any interest to anyone else, but I thought it would be fun to gather together examples of various design projects, photos and videos in the context of my involvement with railway preservation, mainline, and export operations. If you want someone to blame for the Bulgarian 87's green/yellow livery, or the Europhoenix livery and logo, you've come to the right place!
Locos, Logos & Liveries
My active involvement in The AC Locomotive Group stretched from its formation in 1996 through to around 2010, during which time I acted in various background roles such as Secretary, Press Officer, Newsletter Editor and Webmaster, as well as occasionally getting hands on with restoration. Perhaps the most visible contributions came in the form of the various designs and artwork that helped promote the group and its activities.
I'm not sure what the group's founder Glenn thought, when approached at Crewe Electric in May 1997 by some random guy wearing a homemade badge with an idea for an "ACLocoGroup" logo on it, but shortly after that I was acting as Secretary of the group. The logo was based on the profile of the Class 81, and went through a couple of mutations during the first few years, eventually moving from pixels to vectors, and spawning a spin-off logo for the group's newsletter, ACLines. There was even a temporary Class 89-shaped group logo in 2006 to celebrate the purchase of 89001.
Speaking of Crewe Electric in May 1997 - this was the line-up of what were then Pete Waterman's electric locos at the west end of the shed - we were still a few months off finalising the purchase at the time, but it was more-or-less a done deal. As I was looking at the photo after the event, I imagined it on the cover of a society newsletter/magazine - but there were only six of us at the time, so a newsletter seemed a bit overkill! Nevertheless, it occurred to us that more folks might want to get involved, and thus a membership recruitment drive was initiated - and Issue One of ACLines did indeed feature this image on the cover! I think I only produced 20 copies, so if you have one, it's a limited edition. The name "ACLines" derives from the catch-all depot allocation given to the early AC electrics during the first few years: "AC Lines" which included Crewe Electric, Longsight, and Allerton.
ACLines is now in a fully electronic format, but for the first 51 issues (at which point I handed over the reins) it was also printed - well, photocopied usually - with some being better quality copies than others.
With someone with a penchant for fictitious liveries involved, it was only to be expected that the group would end up with some inauthentic colour schemes in the early years (namely those on 82008 and 85101) to drum up publicity. When your locos only have one or two authentic colour schemes to choose from, given the various bodywork modifications over the years, doing something a little different keeps things interesting! And yes, I did put my money where my mouth was, spending quite a few weeks over the years in the confines of the roundhouse prepping and painting.
Applying Railfreight triple-grey livery to the 85 of course meant adding suitable diamond-shaped depot plaques to each side. For one side we acquired an authentic "Crewe Electric" plaque to represent the loco's former home depot, but for the other I suggested we use the one I'd drawn up a couple of years earlier for Barrow Hill, where the loco was now housed. In 1999, after playing around with the Barrow Hill Engine Shed Society's logo (left), or perhaps adjacent the brickworks chimneys as an emblem, I had a blinding moment of inspiration while looking at an aerial photo of the site. I realised that the roundhouse itself (with north at the top) was a diamond shape, and the layout of the internal roads off the turntable were the obvious choice for the plaque (right). Admittedly the design didn't exactly follow the BR conventions for depot symbols, but it was too distinctive not to use. These are exports from the original photoshop file, dated 3rd May 1999.
A couple of inauthentic liveries that were not applied... InterCity Mainline-ish on the 84, and 83012 named "Vulcan Heritage" and painted in the two-tone blue and white livery applied to the group's Generator Van (used to power the auxiliaries on 83012 and 82008 for a few years). 84001 came on loan to the group for several years from the National Railway Museum - their strict rules on exhibits' appearance meant that the 84 could only carry Rail Blue due to the bodywork changes carried out during refurbishment. These two images are dated October 2000 and January 2001 respectively, and pre-date the creation of the Fictitious Liveries website - my technique was still somewhat lacking! - but were definitely harbingers of its coming!
On the subject of of names, did you know that there was an official BR plan to thematically apply names starting with the letter E (presumably referring to "electric") to some of the early AC electrics? Among them was E3003 (the group's 81002), which was to have been called "Enchantress". Some consideration was given to carrying this out in preservation, and this mock-up based on the nameplate style of the Class 52 "Westerns" was created, being roughly contemporaneous with the AL1-5s. In the end it didn't happen, but one that did was the application of "Doncaster Plant 150" plates to 85101 for unveiling at the Works Open Day in 2003. I drew up a few options, but the obvious one was cast and applied.
I suppose it's time for a video! Here's 81002 on 30th April 2006 having its various fans run up for the first time. If you look carefully you can see the years of dust being kicked out of the roof vents in a couple of the shots - genuine AC clag! Three sets of fans were run, though I'm not sure in what order: traction motor blowers, transformer, and rectifiers. At the end of the video, the audio of the three runs are combined for the full "Roarer" experience. Affordable digital video camera technology was not at its peak in 2006 - the original footage was 320 x 240 pixels, and the audio quality leaves a lot to be desired, but at least there's a record! Sadly I don't have audio or video of the roaring done by 82008 and 83012 in the early days of the group - but the latter especially was loud.
Cans, Vans & Mainline Plans
The period of 2004 to 2008 was insane! We set up a limited company, Electric Traction Ltd, to handle all the stuff that the unincorporated society could not, such as taking on the liability of owning and operating locos on the main line. While we'd already taken custodianship of stored 86213 at Barrow Hill, the group's first class 86 purchase was 86401, which was in working order. I have a minor claim to fame in being the first person (probably) to raise the pantograph on a preserved AC electric loco to a live overhead wire, at Crewe Electric shortly after purchase. We followed up by formally purchasing 86213 in 2005, which was by then operational within the confines of Wembley Depot as a coaching stock shunting/heating loco. At the same time we bought 86101, which we fast-tracked for restoration to mainline status. On top of that, we'd also taken unique prototype 89001 under our wing for GNER, had a main-line operating Class 87 named after us, and acquired a pair of Class 73 electro-diesels (albeit privately owned - both were eventually sold on after restoration to working order). AND still managed to send seven of our locos to Crewe Works Open day in 2005 including newly-repainted 82008 and 86401.
Speaking of Crewe Works in 2005, we had 86401 repainted into its unique Network SouthEast livery in time for the event, and had been told a celebrity footballing guest would be renaming the loco "Northampton Town" - we waited quite some considerable time in the rain for anyone official to turn up, until it became clear we were on our own! We hastily purloined celebrated railway artist Philip D. Hawkins, who was honoured to officiate, despite not being a Northampton fan. The AC Loco Group guy had to make up some impromptu introductory stuff on the spot, which is why he looked so ill-prepared and tongue-tied. Imagine his horror at discovering this video on YouTube many years later... (Video from David Hennessey's channel.)
Saving the "Badger"
In 2006 GNER suddenly put 89001 up for sale, giving us about a month to raise sufficient funds to hopefully outbid anyone trying to buy it for scrap. It was all hands on deck as our usual route of getting an appeal out in the railway press was not going to happen in time for the deadline. However, the internet proved to be our saviour. By this point, Fictitious Liveries had become a moderately well-known website, and so posting this hastily-constructed image of the 89 being cut up both there and on the ACLG site definitely focussed minds on the task. Other websites hosted "Save the 89" banners, and the TrainSim community came together to release a pack of AC electric models with the proceeds going to the fund. Within a fortnight we'd raised £10,000 and within six weeks (after GNER put the deadline back) we'd raised £28,000. In a surprise coincidence, the appeal had launched on the 20th anniversary, to the day, of 89001 being rolled out brand new at Crewe Works. Did we succeed in our bid? You betcha.
After a long restoration, 89001 moved under its own power for the first time since 2002-ish, in November 2020!(Video from Paul Steane's channel.)
As a native of Preston, I'd stood at this point at the south end of Platform 3 innumerable times in my youth, so returning on 21st March 2007 to witness one of "our" locomotives pulling in on a loaded test run was definitely a moment to savour. I can't take any credit for its physical restoration (I think I did a bit of sanding at one point, but my days of spending whole weeks at Barrow Hill had more-or-less ended with the arrival of kids. But I suppose drawing up the numbers, data panels and BR arrows counts!) however there was definitely a sense of pride in having been part of the administrative side of things during this period. Three days later, the loco hauled its first railtour - the first ever by a preserved AC electric loco - from Carlisle to Crewe and return, making a little bit of railway history in the process. And making the cover of Railway Magazine. (That's me at the back of the cab in the middle window!)
Another superbly low-res video from the archives! Some footage of 86101 at Barrow Hill during tap-changer tests, followed by the empty stock movement arriving at Crewe Carriage Shed the evening before the Ynys Môn Express railtour. And then a handful of views from the cab on the southbound run, and arrival/departure from Preston on the return.
Not content with going mainline once, we did it again the following year with 87002. In what was probably the best kept secret in preservation at the time, we'd managed to strike a deal to purchase 87002 and had it restored to working order without anyone getting wind of the scheme. The first anyone knew was at Long Marston open day in 2008, when it was displayed in a fresh coat of Rail Blue, refitted with cab-end jumper cables, and reunited with its original "Royal Sovereign" nameplates. (Its previous name was deemed a bit ostentatious to retain after purchase!) With our other mainline loco 86101 in the train for insurance, the photo shows 87002 leading into Carstairs with its first test run on 16th July 2008. Both locos went on to operate regularly on the main line for a few years, 86101 with Hull Trains and later both with GBRf as ice-breakers and stand-by locos for Royal Mail services. After my time at the helm of ETL, these two were joined by 86401 and used by Caledonian Sleepers for empty stock movements and the occasion cover for Class 92s.
Some footage at Crewe of 87002 undergoing a power test, followed by the loaded test run at Carstairs. 87002 has run around the rake, and 86101 hauls the formation to the up goods loop, before 87002 takes the train south, non-stop through the station.
A little more from the two blue machines - the pair are seen departing Edinburgh on a GB Railfreight staff special in November 2008.
As you may know, the 86s and 87s are no longer in the group's collection. So it's worth noting from this future perspective that when we first looked at purchasing locomotives from classes 86 and 87 we were clear that the locos could not be just static exhibits, and would have to earn their keep. While the four locos we bought were "preserved" insofar as we wanted to keep them in working order for as long as possible, it was always conditional on their being able to support themselves. Unlike main-line registered preserved diesels, there's no fall-back of being able to run them on heritage lines: it's pretty much main-line running or static exhibit. In the years following my active involvement, the group made the no-doubt difficult decision to pass the 86s and 87 on to new owners - I know from my time as ETL's MD that running four locos on the main line was not something volunteers could reasonably do in their spare time, and keeping them maintained in that condition during fallow periods was expensive to say the least. So while I may have felt a twinge of railway-enthusiast sadness on hearing that the group's epic collection was losing some of its elements, I also recognised the practicalities of the decision. It's to the group's credit that three of the four locos it originally preserved are still available for operational on the mainline in the UK, while the fourth went on to work in Bulgaria.
Cutting the Vinyls
Being a stickler for correct colour schemes (even fake ones), in the early 2000s, before the Rail Alphabet font found its way online, I digitised facsimiles of most of its alphanumeric characters from reference photos. From these I was able to produce convincingly accurate number and data panel artwork, along with correctly proportioned BR arrows, for BR TOPS-era colour schemes. The Group's locos were, of course, recipients of the resulting vinyls, but they also found their way onto a number of other preserved locos at Barrow Hill and elsewhere.
The largest application was on the Cargo-D fleet of blue-and-grey Mk2 and Mk3 vehicles, all of which featured the Inter-City branding, numbers, data panels and other details created from the digitised characters. Other vinyl artwork produced included later-style INTERCITY and left/right Swallow logos (86213 and 50031 carried these), 'Westie' symbols, the Shields Road 'leaping salmon', Network SouthEast lettering (86401), and depot stickers. The giant Porterbrook "swoosh" logo plus corporate branding needed for 87002's livery modifications when it was named after the group were also drawn up - amusingly the leasing company couldn't find their original artwork for the logo at the time. Even the APT logo was digitised - though as yet, no-one has asked for that one! In some instances I'd attempt to recreate any distinctive or unusual spacings or sizes to add to the overall look - 26007's non-standard number spacing (right) was based on photos of the loco during the period being recreated. And if anyone wants to repatriate 86235 and restore its "Rainhill 150" livery, give me a call - I've got the big yellow panel for you.
On The Internet
And everyone remembers this event from 2008! When you're the experts on everything AC electric, you're going to be asked for help with the repaint of a DC electric that was based on one of your AC electrics, into 1960's BR "Electric Blue" several countries over. And of course, we did!
Exporting 86s and 87s
The subterfuge surrounding 87002's preservation and restoration to working order was made possible by the sale of most of the rest of the Class 87 fleet to the Bulgarian Railway Company - the preparation of the locos for export was undertaken by Electric Traction Services Ltd (later subsumed into Europhoenix, and not to be confused with Electric Traction Ltd), which had a close relationship with the group. While a number of 87s went abroad with a mixture of recent paint jobs, the more tired-looking were repainted into BRC's corporate colours of green and yellow. It fell to yours truly to try to find some kind of scheme that would be easy to apply and look reasonably interesting on the locos. Whether the scheme is to your subjective tastes is out of my hands, but BRC seemed to like it, and it weathers quite well if you like your weathering very grungy. A number of green and yellow options were drawn up - a non-alternating version of the angled idea can be seen on the right. Particular challenges were getting the Cyrillic lettering correct, and drawing up BRC's logo for the cast plates fitted to 87004 (which shipped out in Rail Blue, reunited with its "Britannia" nameplates). The eagle-eyed will have noticed that the green and yellow exported 87s all went out with "proper" Rail Alphabet running numbers. Well, that's what's going to happen if you ask me to draw up all the bodyside lettering!
2008 at Long Marston - 87026 is shunted into the shed to become the first to receive BRC green and yellow livery. A few weeks later it is hauled away for recommissioning with 87007 and 87008.
The export expertise developed during the Bulgarian project led to further opportunities when the remainder of the Class 86 fleet was made available. Europhoenix was created to market the possibilities of reconditioned AC electric locos to European and UK operators, and I took on much of the branding and publicity in the first couple of years. The company created a "demonstrator" loco, using 86247 as the donor, modifying the cab appearance, and repainting it into Europhoenix's colour scheme with the distinctive phoenix logo in silver. (For a while the logo was going to be of a phoenix facing left, with wings raised "behind" it in profile, as you can see on the right, however this soon became two wings, facing forwards but with head turned to the left. The "flames" at the base of the logo were also dropped in favour of a red panel behind the bird, framed by the wings, when applied to bodywork. The choice of silver for the phoenix vinyls was to give a sort of "flash" effect as a loco went past, catching the light and briefly highlighting the logo in contrast to the rest of the paint job. From footage of Europhoenix locos in action, it seems to work!)
Hungarian operator Floyd took a number of 86s - their company name and choice of livery colours were a deliberate reference to Pink Floyd. The remit was "pink and grey, grey running gear, and they like the style of the green Anglia livery." Not long into the export project, Floyd was sold to another owner whose house colours were blue and red, so the livery was modified accordingly, such that existing pink-striped locos could easily be adapted to match. An earlier Bulgarian-style angled pink and grey proposal was judged a bit too pink, and probably wisely so. Also - Rail Alphabet numerals, because, you know, proper.
Rollout of Europhoenix "demonstrator" 86247 in January 2009, alongside the first 86 for Floyd, 450001.
With 86101 and 87002 being in demand, a need for at least one additional stand-by locomotive, and with neither 86213 or 86401 in a suitable condition for main-line restoration at the time, Electric Traction Ltd and Europhoenix took a gamble on restoring two 86/2s to UK mainline condition from the European export pool. The locos were given overhauls to allow them to run at 110mph, potentially making them attractive as Class 90 stand-ins on the WCML, and reclassified as 86/7. A further four or five locos were identified as possible candidates for overhaul, should the demand arise. The initial two were both painted in ETL's red and grey livery with a silver flash logo - the mock-up on the right shows "86265" (the 86/7 idea had not been mooted when it was made) with raised numbers and a matching rake of Mk3s - in reality 86101 en route to its job with Hull Trains. The livery was again designed to be easy to apply, using readily available paint colours, but simple and visually distinctive. The darker solebar band and silver logo placement also echoed the Europhoenix scheme. The sketches on the left date from 2007 when I was seeking a better version of the logo than the word-heavy early version above!
In addition the locos were named, with a "constellation" theme being chosen. This required special plates to be cast by Newton Replicas, with the constellations being marked out with dots in a left-hand panel, whose sizes reflected the visible magnitude of each star depicted. For Orion (left) the nebula was depicted as a circle with the centre drilled out and painted. I drew up plates for a dozen or so constellations, some of which were later carried by Europhoenix Class 37s.
The 86/7s entered traffic alongside the two preserved locos and operated on Royal Mail and ice-breaking duties with GBRf. Meanwhile, Europhoenix similarly and speculatively prepared two Class 87s that had been surplus to the Bulgarian export program for UK use, this time outshopping them in Europhoenix livery similar to that carried by 86247, but with yellow warning panels and their original West Coast Main Line nameplates. Although no use was found in the UK, the locos were acquired, along with the 86/7s and a handful of others from both classes, by Bulmarket in Bulgaria, fitted with dual pantographs and exported for further use.
Interestingly the six former 86s (including formerly-preserved 86213) in the Bulmarket fleet all now carry the ETL livery, albeit with Bulmarket branding - one might say the ETL 86/7 fleet finally happened, just not in the UK! The former 86701/2 retain their constellation nameplates, 86213 is still named "Lancashire Witch", and one other now carries the name "Lady of the Lake" - a name originally allocated by BR in the 1980s to an 86/2, but rejected in favour of a publicity-stunt name. The two Europhoenix liveried 87s also retained the colour scheme (and nameplates), minus the phoenix logos, after export, while others of the class were painted in Bulmarket's black and red scheme.
Photo by Spookywestie CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Cropped, rotated and resized.
As the Editor of the Group's newsletter I had the opportunity to inject a little fun every so often, particularly when the newsletter dropped on 1st April. Having collected one of each from classes 81, 82, 83 and 85, the missing link was class 84 - wouldn't it be great if by some miracle, another example of the class had survived? A "Late News" bonus section in ACLines issue 4 in 1999 revealed that 84004 had been found locked in between buildings in an industrial site, used since the early 1980s as a static transformer, accompanied by photos of the loco on site. The contemporary Vauxhall car in the background was enough to persuade a handful of readers that the story was real! This was my first attempt at "photoshopping" before I even had Photoshop, and was edited, I think, in MS Paint. The photo was actually of a frosty 84001 at the NRM but with all the background buildings replaced and some rusting up and fading of the paintwork.
A good few years later, in 2009, and with classes 81-89 under our wing, the next "logical" step was, of course, a class 90. At the time, 90050 had been out of traffic for a number of years, stripped heavily for spares, so a poor candidate for preservation or restoration to operational condition. Which made it the perfect bait for another April 1st news item. This time we had photos of the loco on the back of a Heanor's truck, and in the platform at Barrow Hill, along with an article about how we were planning to restore it for main line use. Again a couple of people gave the images a double-take!
Taking a Step Back
In 2010 I stepped back from my various roles, but since then have occasionally been called upon to provide artwork, colour schemes and drawings for various locomotives. The most visible are probably the Europhoenix liveries applied to a Class 56 in 2012, and to their Class 37 fleet from about 2014. Starting with the 56, the phoenix emblem was increased in size for additional impact, while from the first of the 37s, the blue elements of the livery were replaced by dark grey, as per the ETL livery, to give a tougher, more workhorse-like appearance. The mock-up on the right is the original "large logo" proposal for the 37s from March 2014, and shows how things might have been had the blue remained. The adopted livery simply had the blue bands desaturated!
Living where I do, it's been a little frustrating that I've never actually cast eyes on a Europhoenix 37 for myself - I also missed seeing the 87s and the 56 (for the record, the Europhoenix Class 91 livery is not one I had a hand in). But it always gives me a smile to see photos of the phoenix in the railway press and to see miniature versions running around people's model railways, and to think, hey, I've got the original files for that just over here on this hard drive!
Most recently I drew up the numbers and logos for 89001's repaint into Swallow InterCity livery, and created drawings to manufacture replica works plates for the loco (see above) - still sticking fingers in here and there!
Mentioned above briefly, I and another AC Loco Group member acquired two Class 73s in the early 2000s - 73119 and 73138. Both were returned to working order at Barrow Hill, with 73138 repainted into large logo livery (I think my speciality was painting huge BR arrows on locos) and used as the group's shunting loco for a time at Barrow Hill and Long Marston. It was later sold to Network Rail and returned to the main line. 73119, in rail blue, however, was sold shortly after restoration to the Keith & Dufftown Railway in Moray, Scotland (perhaps not unrelated that I lived an hour's drive from there and was a volunteer driver at the time). Anyway, the loco was duly moved by road and shortly after its arrival in late 2004, I went along to familiarise the railway's engineering manager with the loco. Thus it might be that I was the first person to drive a Class 73 in Scotland - certainly for a while 73119 was the most northerly travelled of its type. These days, of course, heavily modified 73s operate up here on the Caledonian Sleepers, but unless someone knows of a works or open-day visit by one of the class prior, I'm going to claim the title!
As for the familiarisation run, I drove the loco to Loch Park at the summit of the line, whereupon my colleague ran the loco to and fro while we got some photos - and a tiny bit of very low-res video:
As far as I'm aware, this may have been the only time the loco ran along the line - the railway's requirements changed and it was sold to GBRf for a return to the main line.
Where Are They Now?
Well, the AC Loco Group and Electric Traction Ltd are still going strong - go check them out at www.aclocogroup.co.uk
86213, 86701 and 86702 are part of the Bulmarket operational fleet in Bulgaria
And those were some memories of life in the late 90s and early 00s around AC locos and the spin-off organisations that spawned from the original preservation project. If only I didn't live a seven-and-a-half hour drive from everywhere...