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When the locomotive’s engine was first filled with coolant, a leak was found on the water pump that is bolted onto the engine, and was particularly bad when the engine was cold. The water was subsequently drained out of the cooling system and the water pump dismantled. In mid-June 2009, the water pump was repaired and the pump re-assembled using new seals. The water pump was then reattached to the engine and all the water pipes reconnected. The water system was refilled and the engine barred over. On 20th June 2009, the engine was restarted and allowed to run for around three hours to help recharge the batteries. However, it was not possible to allow the engine to run any longer as the cooling fan motor fuse had been temporarily removed pending repairs to the defective fan motor.

In July 2009, the fan blade was removed from the cooling fan motor in an attempt to find out the reason for the excessive vibration that resulted in A3R being stopped back in 1999. Once the blade was off, an attempt to turn the fan motor by hand was made, but it was found to be very stiff, when it should have rotated very easily. The bearings on the fan motor were greased and the fuse replaced so that an attempt could be made to test the motor properly. The fan started turning when it was first switched on, but rapidly stopped once the power was switched off. However, after a few more attempts the fan motor freed up and eventually started to rotate quite freely. The fan blade was then refitted to the motor and the protective grill replaced. The fan was then tested once again, and seemed to revolve well enough without any rattles and bangs. However, the cooling fan motor does not appear to be kicking-in at the correct speeds as the engine temperature rises. Further examination of the wiring in the fan motor control box still needs to be carried out, and also to the thermostats that control the fan speed. However, with the need to remove this locomotive from Inchicore works, Dublin, by the end of November 2009, work on returning locomotive A3R to full working order was halted for the foreseeable future.

Locomotive A3R was moved by low-loader from Inchicore Works, Dublin, to the West Clare Railway, Moyasta, Co. Clare, at the end of November 2009 for display in a museum that is due to be constructed at the site.

003 at Howth Jn, 20.05.89. Photo - Jonathan Allen

Locomotive A3 was built for Coras Iompair Éireann (CIE), the Irish State owned transport company, by Metropolitan Vickers in their premises at Dukinfield, Manchester, in 1956. A3 was part of a class of 60 Co-Co locomotives designated ‘A’ class and numbered A1-A60 inclusive, which were ordered as part of the drive to eliminate the majority of steam traction from the railways of the Irish Republic in the late 1950s. The contract to build these locomotives was signed at Heuston Station, Dublin, on 5th May 1954. The bodies for the sixty ‘A’ class locomotives were constructed by Metropolitan Cammell at their Midland Works in Birmingham between 1954 and 1956. The English Steel Corporation constructed the bogies in Sheffield, and Crossley Brothers at Openshaw, Manchester, supplied the engines. The electrical equipment for these locomotives was provided by Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Co. Ltd. The completed locomotive bodies were then transported by low loader to Metropolitan Vickers’s premises at Dukinfield, Manchester, for fitting of their engine/generator sets, bogies, and for testing prior to shipping to Ireland.

A3 eventually entered traffic with CIE on 27th September 1955, being the first of its type to enter traffic. When built, these locomotives were originally fitted with a Crossley HSTV8 engine of 1200hp. However, the Crossley engines proved to be extremely troublesome and unreliable. In 1968, the decision was taken to re-engine the whole class with General Motors 12-645E engines of 1325hp. A3 itself was re-engined on 10th March 1971, and subsequently re-numbered A3R. Eventually, the letter classification system was dropped by CIE and the locomotive was renumbered to 003.

In early 1994, the Irish Traction Group was asked by Iarnród Éireann to nominate three 001 (A) class locomotives for possible preservation by the Group. The three locomotives selected by the Group as being in the best condition at the time were 001, 003 and 039. Locomotive 001 was subsequently ruled out as it suffered a cracked fuel tank, which left 003 and 039 as the two locomotives to be preserved by the Group. 003 was selected by virtue of the fact that it was the last ‘A’ class locomotive to receive a rewire and a body overhaul in 1993.

Locomotive 003 was also the last ‘A’ class locomotive in regular service with Iarnród Éireann, being officially taken out of traffic on 5th April 1995. During its final few weeks in service it was based at Limerick Depot, being used to transfer cement wagons between Limerick and the nearby cement factory at Castlemungret. This locomotive also had the honour of hauling the last regular passenger service by a member of this class, when it operated the 09:50 Limerick to Ballybrophy and 10:20 Ballybrophy to Limerick services on 1st April 1995. Its final official working was to transfer wagons from Castlemungret cement factory to the yard at Limerick on 5th April 1995. However, this was not the end for 003, as staff at Limerick kept 003 in working order, using it to perform occasional shunting duties at Limerick Wagon Works. However, 003 was only running on four traction motors at this time, both the defective motors being on the same bogie.

Following the ‘farewell’ railtour utilising locomotive A39 on 23rd September 1995, everybody thought that this was going to be the last passenger working of an ‘A’ class in Iarnród Éireann ownership,  but this proved to be incorrect. Just two weeks later, 003 put in a very welcome, if

totally unexpected, appearance on the ITG’s ‘Flying Pig’ railtour, when it was used to haul the railtour the short distance between Limerick station to Limerick Check and back on the section from Limerick to Foynes.

Locomotive 003 was eventually purchased by the ITG on 6th December 1995, aided by a grant of I£ 10,000 from the Irish Heritage Council. At this point 003 remained stored at Limerick Depot. As part of the sale agreement, Iarnród Éireann had agreed to replace the two defective traction motors. On Saturday 9th March 1996, 003 was hauled to Limerick Junction and back, to enable the locomotive to be turned on the triangle at Limerick Junction, so that the bogie with the defective motors could be positioned under the overhead gantry crane within the main workshop. However, following further testing, it was found that a third motor, on the other bogie, was also defective. Three recently overhauled traction motors were then sent down from Inchicore Works to Limerick and were fitted during mid-April 1995. Other electrical and mechanical work was also carried out on 003 at the same time to ensure that it was now in full working order once again.

At around this time, preparations were being made for the ‘Inchicore 150’ anniversary celebrations over the weekend of 15th/16th June 1996, to which 003 had been invited. Locomotive 003 was hauled up from Limerick to North Wall on Saturday 8th June 1996, and then tripped from North Wall to Inchicore Works the following morning and placed in Diesel No. 2 Shop. Work immediately commenced on repainting the locomotive into ‘black and tan’ livery, and renumbering the locomotive back to A3R. Repainting was finally finished just a few hours before the gates at Inchicore Works were opened. Locomotive A3R was positioned at the head of a display of diesel locomotives outside Diesel No. 2 Shop for the duration of the event. Following the ‘Inchicore 150’ event, A3R was returned to Limerick for storage on 8th July 1996, where it was to remain for the next two years or so. Locomotive A3R did venture out briefly once during this period when it was exhibited at Thurles station on 6th April 1998.

A3R in the  running shed at Inchicore Works

Following the securing of the necessary insurance cover to enable the ITG to operate its locomotives under their own power on Iarnród Éireann tracks, A3R was hauled up from Limerick to Inchicore Works over the weekend of 18th/19th December 1998 to have its CAWS and train radio equipment refitted and for it to be certified fit for main line running. This work was completed on 1st March 1999, and the locomotive was certified fit the following day. Its first booked passenger working was due to be on the ‘Back in Black’ railtour on Saturday 27th March 1999. Its first run under its own power on Iarnród Éireann tracks under ITG ownership was on 23rd March 1999, when it ran light engine to Kildare and back. Even this run was delayed by two hours after the fuel pump burnt out just before the locomotive was due to leave Inchicore Depot, and had to be replaced with one recovered from spares donor locomotive 015.

A second loaded test run took place on 25th March 1999, when A3R hauled a rake of steam vans and Cravens coaches to Lisduff and back. All went well on the outward journey, but A3R started to suffer from a loss of vacuum on the return journey, and a fault also developed with the train radio. Unfortunately, the faults could not be repaired in time for the railtour on 27th March 1999, and so locomotive A39 was used in its place. Following repairs, A3R undertook another loaded test run to Portlaoise and back on 17th May 1999, in preparation for its next booked appearance on the ‘Mayo Metro-Vick’ railtour on Saturday 12th June 1999.

On Friday 11th June 1999 locomotive A3R ran light engine from Inchicore Depot to Dublin Connolly ready to work the railtour.

A3R operated faultlessly on the day, working the train from Dublin Connolly to Ballina and back, the locomotive putting in an impressive, if somewhat smoky performance. A3R returned to Inchicore Depot light engine two days later.

Locomotive A3R’s next scheduled appearance was to be on Saturday 9th October 1999, operating the ‘Leitrim Leprechaun’ railtour from Dublin Connolly to Dromod, and back to Bray. However, a few days before the railtour, locomotive A3R developed a serious vibration problem with its cooling fan, which prevented it being used. A replacement cooling fan motor was fitted on 9th November 1999, but this did not rectify the vibration problem. At this point the ITG had decided not to renew its main line insurance cover due to the excessive cost and dwindling passenger numbers, and so the repair work to A3R was put on hold indefinitely.

Between 2000 and 2008, the locomotive remained stored out of use at Inchicore Works, with very little work being carried out on it except to try to protecting it from the elements. However, following the completion of restoration work on A39 in early 2009, work restarted on A3R in order to try to return locomotive to working order once again.

The old batteries had to be removed and safely disposed of as they were no longer fit for purpose. Over the next few weeks, replacement batteries were acquired and fitted, and the brushes, brush arms and commutators in the main and auxiliary generators were also checked. Some of the starting contactors had to be replaced as they were found to be sticking. The engine was also barred over and was found to be relatively free, it having been several months since it had last been done. The tarpaulin that had been covering the locomotive was removed, as was the plastic sheeting that was placed over the exhaust ports when the engine was drained down in November 1999 which, as it turned out, had done its job well. The locomotive’s cooling system was filled and the fuel tank treated with biocide. Oil was also poured over the top of the cylinder heads, camshafts and injectors inside the cam boxes.

On Saturday 9th  May 2009 the engine in locomotive A3R was successfully started for the first time since November 1999. However a faulty battery caused A3R to be shut down after a short period. Once the defective battery had been replaced, locomotive A3R was then restarted, and all was found to be well. After a couple of hours the engine sounded quite smooth while it was running, and the smoke that it was giving off when it first started had disappeared. The auxiliary generator also appeared to be charging the batteries correctly.

As the locomotive had been out in the open for several years, the traction motors would no doubt have been rather damp, so no attempt was made to move the locomotive under its own power until further work had been carried out. However, the air system was found to be working as it should, although one horn valve and one wiper motor were found not to be working, both on the second man’s side in No. 1 cab. The heaters in both cabs were operating correctly, as were the headlights and marker lights at both ends. The hot plate in No. 1 cab was working, but not the one in No. 2 cab. The bulb in the cab light was blown in No. 1 cab, otherwise the only non-functioning lights were those located next to the fuel fillers. All these faults were repaired over the following couple of weeks.

A3R starts for the first time in almost 10 years on 9th May 2009. Photo - Aidan Kehoe

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