Aggregate Industries are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the class 59 locomotives by commissioning a special plaque, one of which will soon be attached to newly painted loco 59004.
The plaque bears the inscription “30 years” and has a background of tiny photographs of members of staff associated with the 59s over the years.
The class 59s have been a great success and their story is now the stuff of legend. The tale begins in the early 1980s when Foster Yeoman had serious concerns about the reliability of the locomotives provided by British Rail to work the company's growing number of stone trains. The business entered into negotiations with BR to obtain permission to acquire and operate its own locos on the national rail network. On 16 November 1984 the contract for four locomotives that would become the first of BR's class 59 was signed by Foster Yeoman, General Motors and BR at La Grange, Illinois, in the USA. The locomotives were ready for shipment just before Christmas 1985, and on the 8 January 1986 began their ocean crossing to the UK. They arrived at Southampton Western Docks on 21 January and were unloaded the following day.
Once at Merehead, the four locomotives were commissioned by GM engineers before being towed to Derby for inspection and testing by BR's engineering development unit. On 29 January two of the locomotives returned to Merehead for further tests to assess performance. During these trials the 59s showed what they were capable of, one hauling a record-breaking load of 4,639 tonnes on 14 February. Following the successful conclusion of the trials the locomotives went into service on 17th February, hauling trains leaving the quarry for Eastleigh, Theale and Purfleet. Since then they have travelled millions of miles and hauled many millions of stone from Torr Works.