A diesel locomotive bought for the Steam Railway at a cost of more than £400,000 has been out of service awaiting repair for a whole year.
And an access to government information request reveals that since being delivered two and a half years ago, the engine has hauled just 34 passenger trains.
The Manx Independent has learned that expressions of interest are being sought for the repair of the diesel electric loco’s two bogies, including manufacture of new frames, new brake gear, ‘re-manufacture’ of the gearbox and inspection and repair of traction motors.
Meanwhile, with irony that will not be lost on many, the railway museum at Port Erin is preparing to unveil its latest attraction - a train driving simulator based on the trouble-prone, out of service diesel.
Diesel no.21 was shipped to the island by its US manufacturer in December 2013. It was designed for commuter services and the dining train as well as banking and firefighting duties, recovering broken down trains and hauling works trains.
Transport bosses claimed it would pay for itself in 13 years and help make savings of almost £40,000 a year.
But the green machine was soon taken out of service with engine problems. A new engine had to be fitted, at the manufacturer’s own cost, but there were still teething troubles involving the air intake. It was finally declared ‘serviceable’ in July 2014.
But in TT week last year it was withdrawn from service after a routine inspection found a problem with two loose tyres. It has not worked since.
Our access to information request that the cost of the diesel locomotive was £417,570,69 including delivery. Payment was made in phased payments of £237,859.71 in 2012-13, £162,139.23 in 2013-14 and £17,571.75 in 2014-15.
In its response, the Department of Infrastructure said the unit has been out of service since its inspection on June 11, 2015.
It said: ‘The locomotive is not serviceable due to having two loose tyres.
‘Unfortunately with the other difficulties the railways have suffered this winter, the department has not been able to progress the repairs as quickly as we would like. These include the steam railway and bus workshops being flooded on December 6, which repairs are still in hand, and also the substantial damage to the Snaefell Mountain Railway.
‘The department has had to ensure that repairs were carried out in time for the season opening and other more significant repairs are completed before TT.’
The DoI confirmed that the loco’s bogies are off-island at a specialist for assessment with non-destructive testing but added that ultimately the tyres may need to be destroyed to help find the cause. ‘We are considering how to progress this,’ it said.
It said initial testing which revealed the faulty engine happened before the department accepted the loco. The engine change was a decision by the manufacturer at its cost under warranty.
The cost of replacement parts fitted under warranty is not known as most were supplied free of charge from the USA, the department said.
The unit was finally commissioned in July 24, 2014.
Between that date and the loco being taken out of service in June last year, the diesel had missed service for one day on five occasions when it was planned to be in operation, the department said.
The reasons were software problems twice, electrical contactor failure once, and fuel restriction twice. ‘You will appreciate we have taken a cautious approach to its use while we continue to make fine adjustments to its control systems,’ the DoI added.
The department said it does not record mileage. But it said No.21 had operated on 34 journeys for the commuter trains and the dining train.
It operated on weekdays over 11 weeks in the previous closed season pulling works trains and assisting any failed trains but the DoI could not say how many times.
UK-based Graham Morris Engineering has advertised for the repair of the diesel loco’s bogies in the June edition of Railway Magazine. Curiously, the advert makes no mention of Isle of Man Railways. Companies interested in carrying out the work have until June 13 to get in contact with the Daventry-based engineering firm.