Class 68 is a derivative of the Vossloh Eurolight and is known by the trade name UKLIGHT. They are built in Spain by Vossloh Espana. The first examples were delivered to DRS and feature their attractive new "Compass" livery. Chiltern Railways have arranged a sub-lease with DRS for 6 locomotives which are to be used on their London Marylebone to Birmingham trains and these will, of course, appear in Chiltern's house colours similar to the class 67s currently in use.

I do like to take the odd photograph of Chiltern Railway's class 68s on the Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill trains. The best bet for good light at Hatton North Junction is the 16.45 from London to Kidderminster, 1K45. The view from the field is largely obscured by undergrowth at this time of the year and I really can't be bothered to lug a heavy stepladder around when a perfectly adequate shot is available from the bridge - I don't take my hobby seriously enough to make life awkward. On 10 May 2017 68010 was allocated to 1K45 and it was right on time as it became4 audible climbing the middle section of Hatton Bank. A large number of flying insects have clearly met their end during the journey through the Chilterns judging by the appearance of the yellow panel.
I don't often photograph the Bridgwater to Crewe nuclear flask train, 6M63, because I'm not espeically keen on very short trains but I was already at Defford on 31 May 2017 and as this was the first time that I had seen class 68, the new norm for nuclear flask workings, on such a train I was happy enough to take this image of 68005 + 68020 just after they had crossed the River Avon. It seems that the end of the line for class 37s owned by DRS may not be far off now as the majority of their core work has gone.
A test train from Derby RTC to Reading Triangle Sidings, the former DMU depot, ran on Saturday 16 July 2016. The service code was 52495113 which indicated a Colas operated train, including the OHL inspection vehicle, but despite this 1Z16 was allocated DRS locomotives 68001 + 68005. Maybe something a bit newer and more reliable than class 37s was required for wherever the testing as to take place, presumably on the newly electrified GWML. The weather at home looked as if some clear blue patches would appear but on arrival at Hatton the cloud cover was complete although not desperately thick. I decided on a shot using a bridge-side ash tree as a frame but a few gusts of wind at just the wrong time blew the foliage a bit too far to the right. Bringing up the rear of the train was the overhead line inspection coach which had its lights operating despite there not being much in the way of OHL for it to inspect.
A test train from Derby to Old Oak Common HSTD ran on 30 June 2016 and was booked via Birmingham, Hatton and Leamington Spa. This, 1Q16, is normally an HST turn but on this occasion was formed of the NMT replacement powered by 68004 and 68020, as far as I know, the first of the class to operate a NR service over the line. The passing time for Hatton was 17.38 and even though the weather was poor I went over for a shot ariving just as it was shown as passing Dorridge meaning that there was only about 5 minutes to wait. One of the problems here at that time of day is the frequent passage of northbound passenger train, in particular the locomotive-hauled 1K45 from London Marylebone to Kidderminster the booked time of which is uncomfortably close to the passing time of 1Q16. It was disconcerting to hear the unmistakeable sound of class 68s from both directions but the passenger train arrived first, just, and an obscured view was narrowly avoided.
Chiltern Railways' timetable is slightly different in 2016 compared with the previous year in that a pair of locomotive-hauled trains used to run within 20 minutes each other whereas this year they are an hour apart. On 12 May 2016 68009 was allocated to 1K45, the 16.15 from London Marylebone to Kidderminster and on a perfectly lit evening a shot framed between new growth on the left and last year's buddleia stalks on the right seemed just the job. It won't be long before a lot more undergrowth will spring up and may make some shots from this part of the footpath out of the question. A large number of flying insects were flitting about in front of the camera more intent on procreation than keeping out of my photograph and several have been clone-stamped from this picture. I have left them in this picture of 172219 as it heads towards Stratford-upon-Avon on its journey from Stourbridge Junction a few minutes previously.
My primary reason for being just to the south of Abbotswood Junction on 5 May 2016 was to take a shot of 6M63, the 11.58 nuclear flask train from Bridgwater to Crewe. For the first time, this working was worked by the unusual combination of 68011, in Chiltern Railways colours, and 57003 and it was fortunate that the 57 had apparently failed and was on the tail of 6M63 with 68011 doing the work, albeit not much of it on such a light load. I wanted a shot that was close to being a broadside view but with an attractive background so decided on this spot from the roadside on the Litleworth to Wadborough road. Despite the short train it was possible to hear it coming for quite a while and it was good to get a "first" in some warm sunshine. I'm sure that this class of locomotive will become the norm on flask trains when the next batch arrive from the manufacturers and DRS shed their older traction. I seem to remember that 68011 has been out of service for a while following a fire involving the exhaust system but stand to be corrected as I don't follow what's going on with individual locomotives especially closely.
After photographing 960014 + 55020 in the loop at Hatton I went round to the station to take, hopefully, a better shot of the pair. While waiting for 5T00 three trains went north including 68010 with Chiltern's 1G25, the 10.45 from London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street. Despite this being a picture taken against the edge of the down platform I quite like the view here as it shows a decent background, always desirable, including on this occasion an LPG lorry delivering gas to the white house in the car park.
There was a lot of disruption to rail traffic in the Leamington Spa area on 26 August 2015 following what appeared to be a complete failure of the Leamington Spa Signalling Centre. Many trains were heavily delayed or cancelled but by late afternoons things were getting back to normal and when the sky unexpectedly cleared around 16.30 I began to consider going to Hatton North for the 2 locomotive-hauled passenger trains from London Marylebone which run within 20 minutes of each other. The first along was 68014 with 1R55, the 16.47 to Birmingham Moor Street. It won't be long before the shadows start to impinge on the track by 18.00 so this will probably be my final visit for these trains this summer. There was still a bit of colour in the buddleia so I tried to include some of this into the picture before the flowers having faded completely. For those concerned about "verticals" the signal on the Hatton Curve does actually lean at the angle shown because the branch track is canted slightly and the signal appears truly vertical to the train driver.
The second hauled train from London Marylebone during the evening rush hour is the 17.15 to Kidderminster and on 26 August it left 1 minute late, a deficit which it maintained at least as far as Hatton North Junction. The motive power was DRS liveried 68008 which I pictured coming out of the increasingly shadowed curve from Hatton station. Even during the 20 minutes since the previous train had passed the shadows had lengthened by quite a margin and although the the growth of lineside vegetation has slowed a little the locomotive only just fitted in the gap between various bushes.
It's been a while since last I photographed a charter train, in fact nearly 7 months, with the sole exception of the Hastings DEMU which came to Stratford-upon-Avon station on 4th July 2015. So, as I had to drop my wife off somewhere first thing on the morning on Saturday 18 July I decided to go and have a shot of a Newport to Carlisle train, 1Z68, which was routed via Swindon, Oxford, Leamington Spa and Coventry. There are only a couple of even half-decent locations within a convenient distance of my home, neither of which I much like, so I plumped for Old Milverton on the single line from Leamington to Coventry in preference to the the occupation bridge at Whitnash just south of Leamington. At least at the former it is possible to hear the train coming whereas at the latter it is dropping down the gradient to the station so that the sound of brakes being applied is louder than the exhaust note! On arrival at Old Milverton it was apparent that there was a lot more shadow across the line than I remembered but with 20 minutes to go the situation would improve a little. The train, headed by 68004, was running to time and by the time it appeared there was just about a big enough gap between the shadows for the locomotive. I was lucky on this occasion that all 3 headlights were caught shining. The pulse width modulation control for the LEDs means that the shutter on a still camera can catch one or more of them in the "off" cycle; this is also seen on video images as flashing lights.
The morning lists on Wednesday 15 July 2015 showed that 68009 in DRS colours was on Chiltern Railways' diagram 3 which includes the 16.47 from London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill, 1R55. This is one of two locomotive-hauled services that pass Hatton just after 18.00 and for which the sun is favourable for the next few weeks. There didn't seem to be much chance of sun earlier in the day but by the time 5pm approached the skies had cleared so I drove over to Hatton North Junction in the hope of completing my set of class 68 colour schemes in decent light. Everything worked out perfectly and here is 68009 on the final few yards of Hatton Bank running just 2 minutes late and passing the first of the Buddleia, commonly known as the butterfly bush because of its abundant nectar, to come into flower at this location.
I was in 2 minds about waiting for the 2nd class 68 hauled train at Hatton North on 15 July 2015 but with only 20 minutes to go and with 1K57 showing just to the south of Leamington Spa I did hang on. I went for a shot towards the bottom of the footbridge to emphasise the powerful-looking locomotive. This train was also running a couple of minutes late but there was no mistaking its imminent arrival as I heard it climbing Hatton Bank after the stop at Warwick Parkway. The sound with the train in the distance was reminiscent of a jet bomber heard from a long distance as it begins its take-off run. The volume didn't quite reach the same levels...
Clear blue skies were forecast for the whole of Thursday 9 July 2015 and by and large this was the case. I have been interested in obtaining a sunny shot of a class 68 in DRS colours on one of the evening Chiltern services and hoped that this would be the day but on seeing the morning allocations saw that 68008 and 68009 were not on the appropriate diagrams. Still, given the beautiful light I had a trip across to Hatton North Junction to take a couple of shots from the footbridge rather than the field which I had done on previous occasions. The first train was 1R55, the 16.47 from London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street, and RTT showed it, hauled by 68010, running spot on time for much of its journey. I heard it pass Hatton station on the climb from Warwick and although they do make a decent sound on these very light trains I don't think that some of more extreme adjectives one sees applied to the exhaust note are completely accurate!
The locomotive allocated to Diagram 4 on 9 July 2015 was 68013 and the train I was out to photograph was 1K57, the 17.15 to Kidderminster which runs just 20 minutes behind 1R55 as shown above. Just before it was due at Hatton North Junction a Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon train, 2D63, had just crossed over onto the branch and as soon as this had cleared the junction the road was reset for the main line and 1K57 came around the curve from Hatton at quite a leisurely pace; probably because it had been slightly checked by the passage of 172212 + 172222. Despite this, it was still running right on time. It's interesting to note how the light had changed in the 20 minutes since the picture of 68010 was taken. There was no cloud around but the sun was just that bit little lower in the sky and around 5 degrees further round to the west.
The barriers protecting the road at Bentley Heath crossing stayed down after 66507 had gone south on 30 June 2015. This could only mean that 1R37, the 13.15 from London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street, was about to pass non-stop through Dorridge station. Sure enough I soon heard the sound of a class 68 approaching and within a few seconds 68011 came around the curve past the up and down loops.
Another sunny afternoon on 23 April 2015 so I headed off with the intention of taking photographs at Budbrook of the 2 Chiltern Railways locomotive hauled trains which run up Hatton Bank within 20 minutes of each other. I left home with what I thought would be plenty of time but suffice it to say that the traffic between Hatton Country World and the road leading to Warwick Parkway, the M40 and therefore Budbrook was such that there would have been no chance of making it in time. After a quick turn round in a convenient driveway I was left with only the Hatton North Junction option where I arrived only about 3 minutes before 68013 with 1R55, the 16.47 from London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street, which luckily was running 2 minutes late, came around the curve from Hatton station.
Chiltern Railways is now using class 68 on the majority of their locomotive hauled services between London and Birmingham although 67008 was still being diagrammed with one set on 22 April 2015 when I pictured 68010 accelerating noisily though Dorridge station with the 13.15 to Moor Street on 21 April 2015. There is presumably a speed restriction through the platform as the locomotive was heard to accelerate quite hard once its train was clear of the station at which it is not booked to call.
My final image from Hatton North Junction on 14 April 2015 was of 68013 hauling 1K57, the 17.15 from London Marylebone to Kidderminster. The wind was blowing from the west and this, along with the incessant traffic drone from the nearby M40, made hearing trains climbing Hatton Bank a little less obvious than at other times but the exhaust note of class 68 does make itself heard for quite a while before the train appears on the bend from Hatton station. It seemed sensible to come over and take this shot before the trackside vegetation started to put on its growth spurt and began to restrict the wider view from the field-side footpath. If left to grow unrestricted the bushes nearest the Stratford-upon-Avon branch will become intrusive within a very short period of time.
It looks as if class 68 has just about taken over the locomotive-hauled trains run by Chiltern Railways. From the beginning of April 2015 several of the trains previously allocated to class 67s have been in the hands of the new motive power and on Easter Sunday, 5th April, 68008 in DRS colours was in use on one of the diagrams. I didn't know how long this locomotive would remain on the services between London Marylebone and Birmingham Snow Hill so had a trip to Hatton North Junction for a shot of it on the 14.06 down service, 1R42. The light was up and down but managed to be firmly down when I heard the impressive sound of the new order climbing Hatton Bank. There were extra hauled services over the Easter weekend to cater for passengers displaced from the Euston Line by major engineering work but it wasn't possible to see how many were on board 1R42 because of the tinted windows used on the "Silver Set". I imagine that some passengers were enthusiasts getting some DRS liveried 68 mileage under their belts as this will be a lot more difficult than Chiltern branded examples without a trip to Scotland.
There have been quite a few sunny days recently and 20 January 2015 was no exception, the sky having cleared almost completely during the late morning. By the time that 68012 came north through Hatton a few minutes late with 5J68 to Stourbridge Junction some cloud was beginning to build up from the East. Luckily though, it didn't look as if it would reach the sun for some time and so yet another shot of the blue & grey "Banbury" set with one of Chiltern's new locomotives was in the bag. Once crew training has finished this set of coaches will be a rare set on this stretch of line as it will appear only on occasional weekend specials.
Chiltern Railways is still running its class 68 crew training train, 5R69, between Marylebone and Birmingham Moor Street sidings although now under a WTT rather than STP classification. Here is 68012 pulling away from a brief stop at Warwick Parkway on Friday 16 January 2105 and making quite a decent sound in the process even with its relatively lightweight train. Unusually for me I took a second shot as the train went away largely because there is a conveniently sized clear gap at the end of the field. It's a shame that there isn't a shot looking forwards to this gap but the topography of the land here means that one is looking up into too small an area. Just north of here was the original start of Hatton Goods Loop which was approximately twice its current length, no doubt necessary because of the much more intensive freight service in days gone by and the much slower pace of steam-hauled traffic.
The second run of 5J68 from London Marylebone to Stourbridge Junction with 68012 took place on Tuesday 16 December 2014 and in contrast to the previous day the light was perfect. I make no apology for going again to Hatton North Junction because apart from Leamington Spa station this locatioin offers the best light angle on the line. On this occasion the booked short stop in Hatton Down Goods Loop was again missed out and 68012 hauling the blue and grey "Banbury Set" passed the footbridge some 14 minutes early. I imagine that Chiltern Railways branding will be applied to the locomotive and its classmates at some point in the not too distant future to complete the corporate image.
The main, in fact only reason for being at Hatton North Junction on Monday 15December 2014 was to take an image of 68012 on the first loaded run over the line for its type. A light engine move had taken place the previous week but with a proper train imminent I didn't bother with that. The train pictured here is 5J68, the 09.30 from London Marylebone to Stourbridge Junction ECS which passed the group of 4 photographers about 7 minutes early by dint of missing out the booked trip along Hatton's Down Goods Loop. The locomotive wasn't being worked hard because of the light load but the sound is quite distinctive and although not much louder than a 67 has more of a throb to its exhaust note.
As was sarcastically and rudely pointed out to me at Hatton on 5 August 2014, I "don't photograph light engines or short trains". Partially true, but when the first run of a brand new locomotive takes place over a line on which I have been photographing for well over 30 years I will, like it or not, make an exception. DRS's 68002 was used by Chiltern Railways to run as 0J68 from Wembley to Stourbridge Junction Depot where, I believe, noise tests were to be carried out before Chiltern start to use the class on their Marylebone services. In a way I pleased that a DRS example was used because as things stand at the present it seems unlikely that many DRS trains will run on the GWR Leamington Spa to Birmingham line. It was unclear from the schedule whether 0J68 would sit for its booked stop in the down goods loop to the south of the station or run into platform 3. I hoped for the latter as it may have given the opportunity to photograph a class 67 going by on a Moor Street service, but in the event the former happened. The weather was dire but it had at least stopped raining, as it had been when 66743 on 6M26 from Eastleigh to Stud Farm passed by. When 68002 pulled across from the loop and through platform 2 a small clue to the sound of the new locomotive class was given. Suffice it to say that I look forward to hearing one on a heavy train...