The sound of BR Class 20 whistling their way through North Staffordshire can be heard once more, courtesy of a new freight contract awarded to DC Rail. Based in Derby, DC Rail is an established freight company offering bespoke services to the UK rail industry. They have recently won a contract to transfer spoil to a newly created waste recovery site on the former Esso Sidings of the Pinnox branch in Longport (Stoke) for Land Recovery Ltd. Using redundant ballast from Network Rail, once transferred from Crewe to Longport the ballast is to be cleaned and sold on to the construction industry for use elsewhere.
Due to the unavailability of their own Class 56 locomotives for this work, DCR have hired in Class 20’s from Harry Needle Railroad Company. Initially the locomotives have been used for Route Learning purposes between Cheddesdon Yard (Derby) and Longport, but a regular working has already appeared seeing the locomotives work spoil from Crewe Basford Hall to Longport. Running in pairs as per traditional for Class 20s, the first outings have seen 20118 and 20132 operate together – bringing memories of the late 80s and early 90s back for many enthusiasts as they are currently in the old British RailFreight Red Stripe livery. 20096 & 20107 have also been noted on some of these runs, in the more common BR Blue livery.
Class 20s in Staffordshire will one day become a regular occurrence, with the overhaul of D8057 (20 057) ongoing at Cheddleton. Purchased in December 2015, the engine has been removed for a full overhaul whilst all the electrics are reserviced and rewired too. It is hoped to have the locomotive make its preservation debut within the next 18 months on the Churnet Valley Railway. They are known as choppers due to the sound of their exhaust when operating sounding like a helicopter.