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Locomotive B146 was built for Coras Iompair Éireann (CIE), the Irish State owned transport company, by General Motors at their premises at La Grange, Illinois, USA in 1962. B146 was part of a class of 37 Bo-Bo locomotives, designated ‘B’ class and numbered B141 – B177 inclusive.  

The 141 (B) class locomotives could be seen working all over the Irish Rail network, operating both local and express passenger, and also freight and engineering services, either singly, or in multiple with other 141 (B) class, 181 (B) class and even 121 (B) class locomotives.

B146 entered traffic with CIE on 14th December 1962. The letter prefix ‘B’ was dropped from 1972 onwards, and the locomotive eventually became 146.

The 141 (B) class locomotives were originally fitted with a GM 8-567CR engine of 950 hp when built. During the course of their operating lives several of the 141 (B) class locomotives had their original engines exchanged with GM 8-567CR engines from 121 (B) class locomotives and also with the more powerful GM 8-B645E engines from 181 (B) class locomotives. In addition, several examples of the 141 (B) class locomotives were also fitted with GM 8-B645E engines recovered from former 201 (C) class locomotives. Eventually, all the remaining GM 8-567CR engines were modified and upgraded to the equivalent of the GM 8-B645E engine, but still retaining the original engine block. Locomotive 146 still retains the original GM 8-567CR type engine block.

The first locomotive of the class to be withdrawn was locomotive 174, which was taken out of service in October 1993 in need of a body overhaul. Other early withdrawals were locomotives 161 (May 1996), 158 (March 1999), 150 (May 2003) and 157 (July 2003). Between 2006 and 2009 most the other remaining members of this class were gradually taken out of service by Iarnród Éireann, either following major failure, mishap, due major repairs, or simply surplus to requirements, with only a handful of examples remaining in service by the end of 2009.

The last surviving members of the class were withdrawn from main line service in February 2010, although 162, 171 and 175, were retained in operational condition for pilot duties at Inchicore Works and North Wall. These were finally withdrawn during 2011, 171 being the last to go in November of that year.

Locomotive 146 spent around the last 2 years in traffic operating freight services and engineer’s trains, mainly around the Limerick and Mayo area. It was eventually taken out of traffic and withdrawn in March 2010 then sold to the Irish Traction Group in May 2010 for preservation. It was finally moved from Inchicore Works, Dublin, to the Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway (DCDR), Downpatrick, Co. Down, by Allelys low-loader on 27th November 2010.

Attempts to start locomotive 146 shortly after its arrival failed due to the locomotive’s batteries being flat. Subsequent attempts over the weekend of 27th/28th November 2010 to re-charge the batteries and start the locomotive also failed as it was found that several of the batteries were defective. Following two weeks on charge, and the replacement of the defective batteries by new ones, another attempt to start locomotive 146 was made at 11:40 on 11th December 2010. This time the locomotive started first time.

146 at Limerick Jn 31.03.07. Photo - Aidan Kehoe

146 is winched off the Allelys low-loader and onto the rails at Downpatrick station 27.11.10. Photo - Ken Manto

146’s engine bursts into life for the first time in preservation, 11:40, 11.12.10. Photo - Ian Cross

146 hauling the passenger and buffet sets into the station at Downpatrick. Photo - Johnny Bridle

Replacing corroded cab sides on 146.  New sheet metal is welded into place, the old paint is stripped back and primer is applied.

Photos - I Mennie

As the paint was removed, the original livery and number (B146) was revealed under 50 years of paint!

Photo - I Mennie

Following an examination to ensure everything on the locomotive was working correctly, 146 was then used to undertake light shunting duties. Following this, locomotive 146 was driven slowly, light engine through the platform road at Downpatrick Station to check clearances. It continued light engine to North Junction, from where it was reversed into the back Loop Platform at walking pace in order to check the clearances there. Locomotive 146 was then coupled to the empty stock for the DCDR Santa Specials, which it proceeded to propel out of the back Loop Platform to a point just beyond the South Junction.   From there, locomotive 146 hauled the empty stock directly back to Downpatrick Station via the other face of the Loop Platform, again passing through the platform at walking pace to check clearances.

The following day, 12th December 2010, locomotive 146 was successfully started first time, and was used to haul the empty stock for the Santa Specials to the back Loop Platform. Following this, locomotive 146 then ran light engine to Inch Abbey and back to check platform clearances there. Following completion of the day’s operations, locomotive 146 returned the empty stock back from the back Loop Platform to Downpatrick Station.

This marked the start of locomotive 146 being back in regular use and the locomotive has been in almost constant service ever since, except for a period during which No. 2 end cab was fully refurbished. This is a process which is now being carried out on No. 1 end cab as operational requirements and resources allow.  See the pictures below for an idea of the work involved.

146 continues to constitute a valuable member of the DCDR diesel fleet, carrying out a wide range of duties, including shunting, empty stock movements, and operating passenger services when the regular steam locomotive is unavailable.

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