In the summer of 1999 some very disturbing pictures appeared on British TV of darkish looking people being violently defenestrated from a ramshackle passenger train by white soldiers. It was not pretty, and seemed a harsh response to the oft-hear “I’ve lost my ticket” nonsense all railway staff hear daily. But it wasn’t that. It was the Serbian ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. Not long after that, the OC of 79 Railway Squadron, by then deployed to theatre, hinted that the Squadron would welcome some serious locomotives bevausE the ones provided him by MOD were a bit pants.
So we called some chums, borrowed three Class 20 engines from British Nuclear Fuels, garnered 800 tons of civil aid stuck in the over-stretched lorry and ship logistics chain, and we went from Derby to Kosovo in 12 days. We make it sound easy – it wasn’t. US bombers had destroyed a bridge over the Danube, so we had to divert via Bulgaria and Thessalonika.
It turned out – in an unplanned kind of way – to be over 4000 kms – the furthest distance a British freight train has ever travelled on it’s own wheels. That record still stands and will stand until somebody runs one to Iran through the Bosphorus tunnel.
Fotos by Robby Graham