Foster Yeoman: launch customer
Foster Yeoman was launch customer of the Class 59 in the early 1980s. Poor reliability of the locomotives provided by British Rail resulted in the decision of the company to order four JT26CW-SS locomotives to form its own locomotive fleet. In December 1985, 59001-004 were loaded onto the MV Fairlift and subsequently shipped to Southampton, where they were unloaded on January 22, 1986.
After successful trial runs, the locomotives were approved for service on the British network in May of the same year. At the time, the locomotives were still driven by British Rail personell. A month later, on June 28, the locos were named at Merehead:
59001: Yeoman Endeavour
59002: Yeoman Enterprise (renamed Alan J Day on June 21, 1996)
59003: Yeoman Highlander
59004: Yeoman Challenger (renamed Paul A Hammond on June 21, 1996)
Increased demand resulted in an order for an additional locomotive in 1988. Unloading of loco 59005 from MV American Condor happened on June 4, 1989 at the port of Felixstowe. On June 25, 59005 was named Kenneth J Painter at Merehead.
ARC: Order No. 2
Whitnessing the successful Class 59 operations of Foster Yeoman, the Amalgamated Roadstone Corporation (ARC) decided to order a small fleet of the type in June 1989. The general design of the ARC Class 59 locomotives was similar to the Foster Yeoman locomotives, but there are some differences. As result, the four ARC locomotives were numbered in the Class 59/1 number series: 59101-59104. Amongst some other changes, especially the front light configuration is noticeable, as well as different dampers to enable an increase of the maximum speed from 60 to 75 mph.
In 1989, ARC was acquired by Hanson PLC. The locomotives were still delivered in the yellow/(silver)grey ARC colour scheme and remained in this livery for several years before being repainted into the blue/white Hanson livery.
In contrast to the Class 59/0 locomotives of Foster Yeoman, 59101-104 were produced at GM-EMD's facility in London, Ontario, Canada. The locomotives were shipped in via Newport, where they arrived on October 19, 1990. One day later, on October 20, the four were unloaded and officially touched down on British tracks. In November, the first locomotives had entered service, but still without any nameplates. In 1991 and 1992, the locomotives received the following names:
59101: Village of Whatley
59102: Village of Chantry
59103: Village of Mells
59104: Village of Great Elm
1993: the start of Mendip Rail
For efficiency reasons, Foster Yeoman and the Amalgamated Roadstone Corporation (ARC) set up Mendip Rail in 1993. All assets remained property of the individual companies, but the newly formed Mendip Rail Ltd. took over the operational rail activities from the two companies.
A special case: 59003
Locomotive 59003 was modified for use on the European mainland in 1997 as part of a joint venture between Foster Yeoman and Deutsche Bahn: DB Yeoman GmbH. In 2001, the locomotive was acquired by Heavy Haul Power International (HHPI), also for use on German rails. On August 19, 2014 the locomotive was purchased from HHPI by GB Railfreight after which it returned to the UK.
2006: Foster no more
In 2006, Foster Yeoman was merged into Aggregate Industries, owned by the Swiss Holcim Group.
2018: Freightliner takes over
Although DB Cargo UK and its predecessors managed the Mendip Rail contract for quite some time, Freightliner took over in 2018. As part of the renewed contract, Freightliner took over all Mendip Rail operated 59s: 8 locos. As a result, Freightliner became the biggest operator of the Class, with GB Railfreight owning 1, and DB Cargo UK owning 6 locos.