Train spotted heading along the A14 and over the Orwell Bridge in Ipswich

The electric train on its way to Crewe - by road. Photo: John Day

The electric train on its way to Crewe - by road. Photo: John Day - Credit: Archant

Flat tyres are troublesome at the best of times and are even more of a problem when it happens to a large electric locomotive and the only place to get it fixed is 200 miles away.

That’s what happened to this Freightliner locomotive that got in trouble while on its way to Ipswich with a train that was due to go to Felixstowe Docks.

Train wheels have steel “tyres” that have to be smooth to operate – flat tyres lead to train failures and can also damage tracks.

This locomotive, number 90047 for enthusiasts, failed at Stratford in east London and had to be pulled to Colchester by a diesel.

With a damaged tyre it could only travel very slowly by rail for fear of causing more damage so the decision was taken to move it by road – leading to the unusual sight of a train heading up the A14, M1 and M6.

This picture was taken by Ipswich Transport Society vice-president John Day as the locomotive had just come past the Orwell Bridge. He shared it with his society newsletter, and has allowed us to reproduced it here.

A keen rail enthusiast, Mr Day followed its progress. The only place it could be loaded on to the special lorry was at Felixstowe Port – so it had to be dragged there from Colchester very slowly on a Saturday night in early December.

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He said it was eventually loaded up at Felixstowe four days later to make the long journey to Crewe.

The locomotive itself is 26 years old – it entered service in late 1990 – which makes it middle aged for an electric train.

And Mr Day said the damage did not prove difficult to repair: “Three weeks later it was back at Ipswich over the Christmas period.”

Flat tyres for trains can cause serious problems for operators – they can happen when wheels slip on rails and were the cause of the problems on Greater Anglia’s services in the autumn of 2015 when leaves on the line led to the cancellation of dozens of services.

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