Early in the new year we received an invitation to send practically all our electric fleet to the Crewe Works Open Days in September. Although a good eight months were available, it would be a tight squeeze to get everything ready in time! In the meantime, attention was turning to our new arrival, 89001, which we were storing for GNER.
Following an initial survey of the 89, a dedicated team set to work testing and checking components wherever possible, and assessing what work would be required to a) move the 89 by rail and b) restore it to working order. Members of GNER's Engineering Team visited Barrow Hill in late January and presented a framed portrait of 89001 in action on the East Coast Main Line to the group.
Progress was also being made elsewhere in the fleet. Major bodywork repairs to 81002 started in earnest, with large sections of the cab skin and superstructure requiring replacement or repair. Initial repair work revealed more serious problems beneath the surface, meaning that the work was ongoing throughout the rest of the year. 86213 (at that time still owned by HSBC) was moved down to Wembley for attention, having been away from the wires for several years. By April the efforts of the restoration team had paid off and the loco was returned to working order (but not main-line condition).
The big news of the second quarter was the naming of 87002 after the group - with grateful thanks to Porterbrook for the offer! The loco, in Porterbrook purple livery, had its colour scheme modified and nameplates applied at the end of April during a routine exam. The loco then returned to service before being used as back-up loco on the Virgin 87 Farewell service on 10th June. As far as we are aware, this was the first time any locomotive society has been honoured with the naming of a loco in regular service.
The big news of the summer was the purchase of two more Class 86s: 86213, as might be expected, and sole-surviving 86/1, 86101. The latter had already been moved to MoD Ashchurch when the sale was announced, and remained in store for the rest of the year.
Of course, event of the year was the Crewe Works Open Weekend on 10th/11th September. Whilst 81002 was in no condition to make the move, efforts were put in to the rest of the fleet to ensure they were ready to travel. 89001 received a considerable amount of attention before being certified fit to run; 82008 was repainted into authentic InterCity Executive livery during August (finally losing its "temporary" Large Logo livery, applied in 1999!); 83012, 84001 and 85101 all received attention to ensure they were fit to run; 73138 was drafted in as an additional exhibit to replace 81002. Meanwhile at Crewe, 86401 was moved to LNWR's Carriage Shed at Crewe, repainted into Network SouthEast livery (with sponsorship from the Open Day Committee) for unveiling and naming during the gala; in addition, efforts by the Wembley team ensured that 86213, 87001 and 87002 were also able to attend.
The group took some considerable pride in having sent no less than eight locos from its fleet to the event (an unprecedented achievement, as far as we are aware), as well as having played a major part in getting the two 87s on site. Sadly we didn't get much in the way of publicity from subsequent press write-ups.
Three of the Crewe attendees (73138, 84001 and 89001) were commandeered to take part in the Norwich ACoRP festival two weeks later, and moved to Norwich station for display. Unfortunately it took another three months to get the locos back to Barrow Hill from Crewe and Norwich, after both venues failed to arrange return moves before the Fitness To Run certification expiry dates; the Norwich three didn't return until January 2006.
Outside the group three other AC electric locos reached preservation. 86259 was bought for preservation by Les Ross, to be based at Tyseley, 87035 was handed over to The Railway Age at the Crewe Works Open Days, and finally for 2005, 87001 was handed over to the National Railway Museum in November.
The final event of the year was the NRM's "Cab-It" weekend on 12th/13th November, when 87001 was put on public display for the first time in preservation. Group members had assisted with 87001's repaint and preparation the previous weekend, and the loco made one last run under its own power up the East Coast Main Line on the 11th before being shunted into the museum. Group members manned the cabs and talked to visitors over the two days.
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