New carriages for the Caledonian Sleeper have appeared on the West Highland Line for the first time, on daytime trial runs. Photographers got a glimpse of the eagerly-awaited Mk 5 coaches during several weekdays in April, when a Class 73 locomotive worked from Glasgow to Arrochar and back.
10 April saw the first of the four-coach test runs take place, with a 12.15pm arrival at Arrochar & Tarbet station, where the locomotive ran round to the other end of the train, before returning to Glasgow Polmadie depot. This remains the northernmost point on the line reached so far for the new rolling stock, which is being manufactured by CAF in Spain. Both the sleeper vehicles themselves (with smaller berth windows) and the lounge/restaurant cars could be seen, resplendent in Serco Caledonian Sleeper’s ‘teal’ liverywith ‘Highland Stag’ logo.
Testing of the coaches has also taken place on the Scottish ‘Lowland’ sleeper route south of Glasgow on the West Coast Main Line, with the stock being maintained at Polmadie. The first five coaches arrived in January, following gauging trials at the Velim Test Centre in the Czech Republic. Their introduction into revenue-earning service has been delayed though, with a phased introduction on the ‘Lowland’ sleeper to commence in October 2018, before the Mk 5’s reach the ‘Highland’ routes.
£150 million is being invested by Serco in building the state-of-the-art new carriages, which will feature en-suite toilets in the ‘club car’ sleeper berths and a plush dining area serving more local Scottish dishes. They will replace the existing British Rail Mk 2 and Mk 3 stock introduced on the WHL in 1983; the first electrically-heated carriages to be used on the line at the time. A similarly big step forward back in those days, the move to Mk 3 sleepers temporarily resulted in the creation of the ‘ETHEL’ electric train heating units (former BR Class 25 diesels), as the Class 37s hauling the sleeper were only equipped with steam heating equipment at the time.
Also clearly visible on the recent test runs to Arrochar were the modern Dellner couplings on the locomotive and coaches. Class 73s are the only locomotives running on the WHL to be so equipped.
Published 07/05/2018 G. Webster