Monster Coal Train!

On 5nd April 2008, EWS ran their first test coal train over the SAK, and it was a monster-sized working as it consisted of 66083 hauling 21 large bogie hoppers full of coal! I had heard about it in advance and was standing with friends at the new SAK link road bridge to the east of Alloa to see it.

The following pictures are a mixture of 6 digital 'esnaps' (taken with a digital camera I had recently received as a present and reduced in resolution fro web use), and still 'vsnaps' captured from my camcorder. I have sorted the images into approximate chronological order, so that they make sense when scrolling down the page!

1. The zoom of my camcorder wins hands down when filming objects in the distance, so this first picture is a vsnap of 66083 about to pass through the site of the former Hilton Road LC.


2. Only a few seconds later the coal train takes the through line at the end of the 'Alloa Loop'. On the signalling diagram this is known as 'Alloa East Junction', which I find very confusing given that this junction name was previously used in the middle of Alloa!


3. Another vsnap of the monster coal train passing the new 'Alloa East Junction', included as it is the first image I have available showing more or less the whole train.


4. Now for my first esnap (originally 8 Mpixel, reduced to 0.3 MPixel for this page), giving some idea of the actual distance 66083 was at as it passed the signals at the west end of the Alloa loop...


5. ... which is more clearly seen with the camcorder zoom on a vsnap of the train at about the same place! I was of course filming continously with my camcorder, allowing me a good choice of possible vsnaps after the event, albeit all at 0.3 Mpixel!


6. The train was getting closer steadily, and was in fact moving faster than I had thought it would, which means that the locomotive can be seen more clearly in this second esnap. My new digital camera takes wery good pictures, but it's zoom is limited and difficult to use when I am taking snaps with the camera in my left hand, and filming with a camcorder in my right hand!


7. Despite the lower resolution of the images I get from camcorder footage, the vsnaps I get that way can be very nice images, and this is a case in point as the whole coal train can be seen, 66083 is in sunshine, and as it is working quite hard it's exhaust is adding a bit of 'mood' to the image.


8. At the speed it was doing 66083 wasn't close to me for very long, but I had no trouble capturing a close up vsnap as I had managed to hold the camcorder reasonable steady on the train during this time. However...


9. ...since there is short time delay when I press the button on my digital camera, the corresponding esnap isn't quite as good! (I need more practice with it, obviously! ;-)


10. Once the train started to pass under the link road bridge, I was faced with the problem of getting across a fairly busy road to film it on the other side, and as I didn't want to be run down this caused a slight delay. As you can see from this vsnap, 66083 had almost reached the other end of the loop by the time I got the camcorder aimed at it again.


11. Once I had the camcorder sorted out, I then had time to take another digital snap. Despite not being zoomed in any way, the result is fairly interesting as it demonstrates clearly how good a location this will be for just standing and watching trains! the last time a coal train passed through here was over a quarter of a century ago, and a view as good as this simply wasn't available!


12. Back to the vsnaps, and here is a zoom view of 66083 approaching the end of the loop. As the quantity of exhaust shows, it is working very hard now as it attacks the climb up to the new bridge over the Clackmannan bypass at Helensfield.


13. The next image, as can be guess from the lack of zoom, is from my digital camera, and although the locomotive is now too far away to be seen clearly, the sheer length of this monster coal train shows up well here. And I have used other images to work out that the hopper on the left of the image is actually only the second-last one in the train!


14. Another vsnap from a few seconds later, as the locomotive is about to exit the loop. I'm old-fashioned enough to find it a little odd to see a train running through a loop 'wrong-line' but the reasoning behind the bi-directional loop configuration used here is sensible enough so I will just have to get used to it!


15. The last of my digital esnaps was almost not worth including, since even the end of the train is a bit far away in this shot, but as I only managed six pictures snapping left-handed it would be a bit mean to leave any out!


16. Since by now I could stop worrying about the digital camera, I could concentrate on my camcorder, but the amount of zoom I had to use meant that I had trouble holding it steady while filming 66083 on the enbankment leading up to the Helensfield bridge.


17. The last vsnap of 66083 as it passes over the Helensfield bridge. It managed to maintain a fair speed on the climb up to the bridge, and wasn't slowing down as it crossed it either!


18. Just because the locomotive had passed out of sight, I didn't stop filming, so to finish here is a vsnap of the tail of the train crossing the Clackmannan bypass. In 'old money' the monster coal train has passed from the 'S&D Main Line' onto the 'Kincardine branch', but it's all one route now!


While the driver route-learning working on the previous three days were in their own way very significant, to a lot of enthusiasts (including myself) the first coal-train over the entire SAK was the greatest milestone yet. Not only was it the first train to traverse the whole SAK after the line was fully commissioned, but it featured a 'proper' locomotive in the shape of 66083 (not that I mean to discount the efforts of 08756 on the eastern SAK tracklaying in November 2006 of course), and since the test was done with a loaded coal train, the line could be said to have started to justify the cost of the rebuild. And since in the short time I saw it 66083 was working very hard indeed, it did so in style!

Once I had seen the monster coal train pass through, I had to set out immediately for Fife with my friends. Although our route there took us past Kincardine and Longannet I wasn't hopeful of seeing the train again since it would have almost reached Longannet Power Station before we set out, but as it happens the train had been held up in the approaches to Longannet and we saw the back three-quarters of so of it visible on the line from Kincardine as we drove past. I have no pictures of that though - I was doing the driving! Oddly enough, at the time of writing these captions (10/4/08) I have been unable to work out when 66083 left Longannet and whether it used the SAK or the Forth Bridge to leave Fife. Perhaps I will find out some day...

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These pages are owned and maintained by Jeffray Wotherspoon. The storage space for these pages is provided by the University Of Stirling, but it is in no way responsible for the contents of these pages. Please email me at if you have any questions, comments, problems etc.