Dates of Entry into Service and Withdrawal of Rolling Stock.

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Roger B

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Like many of us I maintain a spreadsheet of all mainline rolling stock (going back to the early seventies!), including sighting and haulage data together with other information about each item of rolling stock – eg numbers, names, dates (month and year) built / scrapped etc.

In the good old days, many moons ago, rolling stock was either in service or withdrawn (awaiting dismantling or sale), or in industrial use or preserved. And determining the dates (month and year) when rolling stock entered service and was withdrawn was fairly straight-forward.

But over succeeding years, the position’s become much more blurred, with rolling stock: stored serviceable / unserviceable; cold / warm storage; retained out of use on/off lease, etc. And the distinction between industrial use / preservation has also become blurred, for locomotives and rolling stock. So I’m frequently struggling to determine the month (and sometimes even the year!) of entry into service and withdrawal of rolling stock.

I can’t be the only person struggling with this, so what’s the consensus? What triggers a change of status? What do other people do, and how do they source their data? Hopefully, if we can establish a definitive way forward, this will result in more standardised reporting of service / withdrawal dates on this forum and in other railway media.

Do join in the discussion.

This is not straight-forward, so please forgive this rather lengthy post!


Entry into service

There are several different approaches to consider here, and it’s not unusual within the same publication to find several different approaches being reported: eg date of first revenue use for some rolling stock, and date (or month / two month period) of acceptance by an operating company for other rolling stock. I collate information from various sources, but there are always gaps (and sometimes discrepancies) – with sometimes no dates or conflicting dates being reported.

Sometimes when the subsequent year’s P5 ‘combine’ comes out, purportedly showing the position in early January, I find that there are various items of rolling stock shown to be in service that I’ve not seen reported as such anywhere. A couple of 230s, and the reformed 170/5 & 170/6s being instances in this year’s P5 ‘combine’ (although I suspect that for the latter P5 have jumped the gun somewhat!). Another example is 195021: reported as being damaged, derailing on exit from Edge Hill depot during testing – presumably before acceptance by Northern, and confirmed as being before its first use in passenger service. But it’s shown as being in service. So sometimes it’s a challenge to determine even the year of entry into service!

The events that may signify entry into service include (and there may be others):

1) The date the rolling stock was delivered. Most people will probably agree that these days entry into service is rarely (if ever) the same date that the rolling stock was delivered. That’s because delivery is usually followed by acceptance testing, fault-free running, etc.

2) The date the rolling stock entered revenue service – eg hauled its first freight / passenger train, or was first used on a passenger carrying service. There’s no question that when rolling stock has performed its first revenue service it’s definitely in service – so this sounds reasonable. But if rolling stock has been accepted by an operating company, and is available for service, is it not in service, even though it’s not actually been used in revenue service yet? It could be being used for driver training / whatever. So for some rolling stock, perhaps using this date isn’t appropriate.

3) The date the rolling stock is accepted by the operating company (TOC, FOC, etc) that’s going to use it. The operating company may choose to use it initially for driver-training, or other non-revenue activities – or even to store it, but it is available for service, so to use a later date (eg date first used in revenue service) seems to me to be inappropriate. But rolling stock can be accepted by an operating company, and be available for service, but not actually used in service until months (years?) later – a good example being some of the 345s. So there are instances when using this date doesn’t seem appropriate either.

4) The date the loco / carriage / unit etc is shown on R2 of the UK National Vehicle Register and National On-Track Plant Register (the successor to the Rolling Stock Library) as licenced to run over Network Rail tracks. This seems to me to be the definitive data, but this information doesn’t seem to be readily available in the public domain, and is rarely referred to in railway media. And the above issue re stored new rolling stock also applies here.

Having looked at these alternatives, it seems to me that in the absence of being able to obtain dates when rolling stock is licensed to run on National Rail (ie option 4 above), the next best option would be to use the date the rolling stock was accepted by its operating company (ie 3) as a proxy for date of entry into service, in spite of the drawbacks discussed above.

It would be good to hear any other suggestions, with associated pros and cons – do join the debate.

Withdrawal date

There are also several different approaches to consider here, and it’s not unusual within the same publication to find several different approaches being reported: eg date moved into storage or date off-lease from operating company. Again I collate information from various sources, but there are always gaps (and sometimes discrepancies) – with sometimes no dates or conflicting dates being reported.

1) The date rolling stock was last used in revenue service. This is certainly the earliest date that could be used for its withdrawal, but rolling stock could be in warm storage and continue to be available for service after this date – it just wasn’t. So using the last date it was used in revenue service seems a little premature.

2) The date the rolling stock was put into storage prior to sale / scrapping. Storage can mean a number of different things – stored serviceable / unserviceable, warm / cold, on-lease / off-lease, etc. And rolling stock can be stored with its operating company fully intending to reinstate it back into service, but for some reasons plans change and it isn’t. In this instance it couldn’t be said the rolling stock was withdrawn until the operating company changed its mind and decided to dispose of the rolling stock rather than restoring it. So it seems to me that this isn’t very helpful for determining final withdrawal date – albeit it could be used retrospectively, I suppose.

3) Date off-lease from operating company. This works pretty well – other than where the operating company owns the rolling stock. One drawback is that this information can be considered to be company sensitive information, and isn’t always available. And going off-from lease can follow a long period out of use, so whilst this approach has some merits, it also has drawbacks too.

4) Date scrapped, or sold into preservation or further use. No question, withdrawal date must precede date scrapped. That said, there’s also some wriggle-room about date scrapped. Some rolling-stock is scrapped the day it arrives at a scrap-yard (eg much of the rolling stock despatched to Sims Metals in Newport). But it can languish for a while at scrap sites, even being used for internal shunting – and sometimes sold on from scrap sites. And there’s also the grey area about what’s preserved and non-preserved rolling stock – especially when stock is licenced to run on NR metals. Similarly the line between industrial and preserved status also seems to have become more blurred in recent years.

5) The date the loco / carriage / unit etc is shown on R2 of the UK National Vehicle Register and National On-Track Plant Register (the successor to the Rolling Stock Library) as no longer licenced to run over NR metals. This seems to me to be the definitive data, but this information doesn’t seem to be readily available in the public domain, and is rarely referred to in railway media. And the above issue re storage prior to withdrawal also applies here.

6) And there are further challenges in determining withdrawal dates for departmental stock, especially internal users.

Having looked at these alternatives, it seems to me that in the absence of being able to obtain dates when rolling stock is licensed to run on National Rail (ie option 5 above), the next best option would be to use the date the rolling stock goes off-lease from its operating company (ie option 3 - obviously not if it is then leased by another operator) as a proxy for date of withdrawal, in spite of the drawbacks discussed above.

It would be good to hear any other suggestions, with associated pros and cons – do join the debate.
 
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