[BG] Englishmen in Bulgaria: DB Cargo Class 88 (British Rail Class 92) – fleet overview

Following the high interest in our recent publication about the homologation trials of 472 005 (former British Rail Class 92 005) in Croatia, we decided to shift the focus to DB Cargo Bulgaria, where such locomotives are also being used.

Built by ABB and Brush Traction in the early/mid ’90s, British Rail Class 92 was originally designed to operate trains between Britain and France through the Channel tunnel. With a total of 46 units, the fleet is capable of achieving а maximum power of 5 MW on overhead 25 kV AC or 4 MW on third rail 750 V DC.

It has been some time since the first Class 92 electric locomotive set foot (or rather wheels) on Bulgarian railway lines. Although initially there were some serious doubts whether those complex electrics would be able to prove successful operation in the harsh Balkan environment, the four Englishmen have been successfully pulling some of the heaviest trains in the country for almost six years now.

92 034 seen in Elin Pelin on a sunny spring afternoon, 16.04.2015 Photo: Konstantin Planinski

Kipling was the first one to arrive: 92 034

Back in June 2012, 92 034 (named “Kipling”) was the first to arrive. After some technical modifications, executed by BDZ-Koncar in Sofia and a successful homologation procedure, Kipling was assigned to work on the heaviest train DB Schenker was operating back then. This was the 2500-3000 ton copper concentrate daily service from the port of Burgas to the Aurubis copper smelter and refinery – the biggest facility of this type in South-Eastern Europe.

92 034 is seen leaving the Port of Burgas on one of its first runs with the heavy copper concentrate train to Pirdop. 13.10.2012 Photo: Konstantin Planinski

92 025 & 92 027: a good way to start 2013

In the very beginning of 2013, Oscar Wilde and George Elliot followed as a New Year gift.  Their numbers are 92 025 and 92 027 respectively. The copper concentrate trains could now be seen operated by pairs of 92s, although Danish ex-DSB EA3000s would still remain a common sight on them as well.

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Winters in Bulgaria can be harsh, even by the Black Sea. 92 025 is arriving to the coastal city with the inbound copper ore train from Chelopech 31.12.2016 Author: Konstantin Planinski
George Elliot, partnered by Kipling in the back is leaving Burgas with the heavy copper concentrate train for the Aurubis plant in Pirdop 19.10.2013 Author: Konstantin Planinski

And then there were four: 92 030

The fourth Class 92 representative, 92 030, arrived three years later, in August 2015. Named Ashford, the locomotive quickly made appearance on the familiar sub-Balkan routes, and completed the second pair of the series.

92 030 and 86 013 are on the final stretch to the port with the full train from Chelopech 08.03.2017 Author: Konstantin Planinski

Slight modifications

Of course, railways in the UK and Bulgaria are quite different and several technical modifications had to be carried out throughout the years. The installation of a modified headlight and the third rail shoe contact removal were applied to each locomotive prior it’s entry into service. The two-segment snow ploughs that are inspired by those used on old BDZ Class 04 diesels, appeared rather later – in 201X? It is also worth mentioning that so far, all of the units have managed to preserve their original British Rail sub-sector railfreight two-tone gray livery, including their original names, Channel Tunnel  ‘O’ shaped logos and cast British Rail arrows.

Class 92 are not the only Englishmen in Bulgaria. BR Classes 86 and 87 are also working in the Bulgarian railway network but for other private operators: BRC & Bulmarket. On the picture: 92 025 with its newly installed two-segment snow ploughs, awaiting permission to leave. 87 006 is seen in the back. 09.09.2014 Author: Konstantin Planinski

88 is the new 92

Last year, following a global re-numbering procedure, issued by the Bulgarian Railway Administration Executive Agency, the fleet lost its iconic identity number “92”. The locomotives were added to the newly formed Bulgarian class 88. without losing their original consecutive numbers. This explains why while most of the photographs used in the article depict the locomotives numbered as class 92, while in fact, at present they have been all renumbered to class 88.

Kipling is seen sporting his new number, 88 034, in Pirdop. 06.10.2016 Author: Konstantin Planinski
88 025 (previously 92 025) has arrived in Burgas Central station with the full copper concentrate train from the mine in Chelopech 07.11.2017 Author: Konstantin Planinski

92 022: Spares only

August, 2017 marked the arrival of a fifth locomotive from the same series to Bulgaria. This was 92 022, named Charles Dickens. Unfortunately, although the purpose of its appearance in the country was to strengthen the fleet, it was in the form of spare parts, rather than a fully functioning separate unit. While photographic material of the locomotive in Bulgaria is rather scarce, it is believed that it is stationed permanently in the DB maintenance facility, located inside the Aurubis plant. To compensate for the missing imagery, we are presenting you a few landscape images of the full concentrate train, taken near the village of Balgarovo.

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Springtime. Kipling & George Elliot are seen pulling away the copper concentrate train from Burgas to Pirdop with Balgarovo in the background. 03.03.2016 Author: Konstantin Planinski

It’s Christmas Eve and the train to Pirdop is leaving Balgarovo station (in the back), as the last rays of the sun are illuminating 92 025 & 92 024.

Pairing with Vectron 193 822

In 2015 Siemens Mobility delivered their test unit, Vectron 193 822 in order to pass homologation tests for the Bulgarian railway network. DB Cargo was the chosen operator to perform the trials. This meant that a very interesting partnership between the British Co-Co electrics and one of Europe’s most modern locomotives would take place. 92 025 was the chosen one to bring the Vectron to Pirdop from Tulovo, while Kipling (or 92 034) would be the actual helper locomotive during all of the tests.

92 025, 86 014 and 193 822 are seen leaving Tulovo on their way to Pirdop, which is also the home depot of DB Cargo. 26.03.2015 Author: Konstantin Planinski
Two quite different designs were brought to work together on the special trial trains that traveled in different locations of the country: Siemens’ Vectron 193 822 and 92 034 of DB Cargo Bulgaria. The uncommon pair is seen in Karlovo after the successful completion of all trials.18.04.2015 Author: Konstantin Planinski

Losing a contract

Since the beginning of 2017 DB Cargo lost the Aurubis plant contract for copper concentrate transport from Burgas. Those trains are currently operated by the GFR-owned BRC (Bulgarian Railway Company). However, the company is still operating a second copper ore train which goes travels in the opposite direction: from Chelopech (near Pirdop) to Burgas. Pirdop remains a central hub of DB’s activity in Bulgaria, as the German company is also in charge of most Aurubis factory marshalling activities, which are executed mainly by ex-DB V100 (now renumbered to Class 56) and 232s Ludmillas (now renumbered to Class 07).

After a heavy snowfall, 92 025 and 86 015 are pulling the very last copper concentrate train from Burgas to the Aurubis plant in Pirdop, operated by DB Cargo. Nonetheless, we will keep seeing them on the tinier copper service that DB is still running: the one between Chelopech and Burgas.


See (and hear) them in action

Now that you’ve seen all four locomotives in photos, it’s time to take the experience to the next level by presenting you a compilation of videos, taken in the six year period the British locomotives have been operating in Bulgaria. Be sure to turn your speakers on and…Lights, camera, action!

Class 92 in Central and Eastern Europe

Apart from the ones sent to Bulgaria, DB Cargo also used such locomotives in Romania as class 472, where they were seen wearing a red DB Cargo Red livery. However, those were recently acquired by the Russian company LocoTech and will most likely be transferred to Croatia, where they will work for a private operator, called Transagent Špedicija. As Railcolornews previously reported, 472 005 (ex 92 005) is already undergoing homologation trials.

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472 005 (ex 92 005) seen in Lokve as a light engine, 12.01.2018 Photo: Siniša Sinkec Abramović