It is well known that examples of British Rail classes 14, 20, 37, 47, 56, 58, 59, 66, 77, 86, 87 and 92 have been exported to countries on the continent, and indeed some still operate on freight services in their adopted homes. However, less well known is that another TOPS-numbered “BR” machine from the 1970s remained in front-line passenger-carrying service in Italy until 2017.
OK, so maybe this is scraping the barrel somewhat, but it gives a small example of the very many things of wider railway interest that can be found in Europe with little difficulty.
15 British Rail train ferries gained TOPS numbers as “class 99”; of these, only four remained in service at the beginning of 2017 – one in Canada, one in the United Arab Emirates, one in Cyprus, and one in Italy. The latter was 99013 – the former MV Saint Eloi – and it was withdrawn in March.
Saint Eloi began its story on 24th November 1969, when a ro-ro passenger and train ferry was ordered by Sealink’s French subsidiary, the Société Anonyme de Navigation Angleterre-Lorraine-Alsace (ALA). Named after the patron saint of metalworkers – to whom a large church in Dunkerque is dedicated – after protracted delays the vessel finally entered service on the Dover to Dunkerque route on 12th March 1975. Saint Eloi, as well as the ALA, became fully owned by the British Railways Board on 23 March 1977.
As a multi-purpose ship, Saint Eloi was mainly used for freight services, but also conveyed the Wagons-Lits sleeping cars of the London to Paris and Brussels “Night Ferry” service, which ended in October 1980. She sailed her last voyage on the Dunkerque route on 24th April 1988, being switched to the Dover to Calais route, where her train ferry capability would not be required. After a brief sojourn covering other ships for refit in the Irish Sea, she was renamed Channel Entente, but her service in the Channel under this guise was to be short-lived.
She was sold to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company in 1990, and she was quickly pressed into service on that company’s services between Douglas and Heysham and Liverpool. Later in the year, she was sent for refit and was renamed King Orry, and settled in as a Manx staple throughout the 1990s.
The King Orry’s final day in service with the “Steam Packet” was 28th September 1998, after which she was sold to the Italian firm Moby Lines. She sailed to the Ligurian Sea the next month and gained the name Moby Love and a rather garish white livery, prominently featuring the line’s whale logo (as in Moby Dick!).
In April 1999, she entered service on Moby’s route between Piombino, on the western coast of Italy south of Pisa, and Portoferraio, on the island of Elba – and she remained in use on this route until March 2017, when she sailed to Genova, where she is now laid up.
The above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by JustFerries showing the ferry in its final guise.
If you’re enjoying the content of this website, please could I invite you to have a look at how you could support it? Thanks!