NS Class 6400

The class 6400 of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS; Dutch Railways) is a fleet of four-axle MTU-engined 1,580hp diesel-electrics, built by MaK to replace NS’s ageing diesel fleet from the mid-1980s.  120 were built, in two batches – the first ordered in 1985 (64016460) and the second in 1989 (64616520) – and have been almost entirely freight-only machines for their whole careers to date.

Saying that, 15 of them (64616475) were adapted in order to be able to provide ETH to coaching stock – however, whilst doing this, they are unable to simultaneously provide power (so are effectively ETHELs whilst heating).  Their use in this “energieloc” capacity has been minimal – one example, however, was a Royal Train working in 2004 (photo here) where 6473 can be seen therming away inside 6430 on the far end of the train.

These Cargo sector locos, along with NS Cargo itself, passed to Railion in 2000 when NS Cargo merged with the DB Schenker group.  As such, these locos are now DB’s and are generally in their livery.  However, only about half remain in traffic with DB Cargo in the Netherlands.

The above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user De TreinenGast showing 6505 getting into its stride away from Apeldoorn.

Away from the Netherlands

Through their careers, 6400s have spread their wings away from the Netherlands – some temporarily, and some on a more long-term basis.

The first to do so (although technically not a departure from the Netherlands, as it had not yet been delivered from MaK) occurred in 1990 when 6443 went on loan to Norway for three months.  Norges Statsbaner (NSB; Norwegian State Railways) were looking into a freight-only loco design to replace their class Di3 NoHABs.  Their need for traction was urgent and from late Summer 1993 six 6400s (6434643964416454 and 6457) were loaned to NSB.  This hire period did not get off to an auspicious start, when 6454 was involved in a fatal accident at Nordstrand on 3rd October 1993, in which it was implicated.  Its damage was sufficient for it to be returned to the Netherlands and replaced by 6437, although this too sustained collision damage and in turn required replacement by 640964106423 and 6451 also supplemented the fleet in Norway from 1994.  The hire period concluded in late 1996, when the 20-strong Siemens class Di8 was well into its delivery stage, and these locos returned to the Netherlands.  (MaK had passed to Siemens in 1994; class Di8 was a direct descendant of the NS class 6400.  Many of these locos can now in fact be found at the Tata steelworks in Scunthorpe!).

Class 6400 has now returned to Norway, and Grenland Rail now own 6446 and 6448 – which they procured in early 2016 – and 6419 and 6449, which followed them north in January 2018 (link to photo here).  Additionally, 6452 has headed north for a new life with NJD Maskin (photo here), and 6407 and 6420 have recently left for Norway as new purchases of NRC Group.

For 20 years or so, 6400s have been adapted to operate from the Netherlands into Belgium and Germany – and have gained the nicknames “Vlaamse Reuzen” (“Flemish Giants”) and “Duitse Henders” (“German Shepherds”) respectively!

Those working to Belgium have traditionally been the highest-numbered members of the fleet.  Initially, only 6515 to 6520 received the necessary modifications in 1997 in order to work liners across the border to the docks at Antwerpen.  Two years later, the class received diagrams to work much further into Belgium – to Kinkempois – and, consequently, firstly 6512 to 6514 and then 6509 to 6511 also received the mods.  By 2015, 6502 to 6520 of DB had all become “Vlaamse Reuzen”; though, sadly, 6514 was scrapped following collision damage sustained at Barendrecht in 2009.

The most recent additions to the DB “Vlaamse Reuzen” fleet, and to bring the story up to date, are three 64xx machines – 6463, 6466 and 6468 – as of early 2018.

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6506 at Dorinne/Durnal on the Chemin de Fer du Bocq, 12/08/17.  This was one of the machines hauling the tank train that derailed at Wetteren in 2013 (JW)

These are not, though, the only 6400s to be found in Belgium these days – Railtraxx have recently acquired four (647564816482 and 6484) and these – now wearing a garish but very eye-catching green livery – entered traffic in late 2017, including on heavy steel trains from La Louvière to Antwerpen (see an excellent photo here).

Five have also been taken on by Eurotunnel for Channel Tunnel shunting, rescue and maintenance work – 6447 (now 0008) and 6450 (0009) in 2010, and 6451 (0010), 6456 (0006) and 6457 (0007) in 2016.  These join similar locos which were purchased new in the 1990s by Eurotunnel.

Lastly, DB Cargo have sent a fair number of its machines – initially 11, but now closer to 30 – across to its Polish subdivision DB Cargo Polska, for use on heavy freights mainlyin the Górny Śląsk region (see press release from 8th September 2016 here).

Other Owners

A couple have also passed into private use in their home country.  6406 and 6409 are now to be found with LTE Netherlands, and now carry a smart blue and white livery.

Accident Withdrawals

As with any sizeable class with three decades of history, some of the class have inevitably fallen by the wayside as a result of accident damage over the years.

Only two have, to date, been scrapped.  These were 6415 and 6514, which were paired when involved in a head-on collision with ERS Railways class 66 no.6616 at Barendrecht following a SPAD on 24th September 2009.  Tragically, the driver of the 6400s died.  Trivially by comparison, all three locos were cut up as a result of the damage sustained.

There have also been plenty of accidents from which the locos were recovered.  Aside from the Nordstrand accident mentioned above, probably the most vivid in the memory came on Saturday 4th May 2013.  Whilst hauling an overnight tank train of industrial chemicals from Kijfhoek to Gent Zeehaven, 6506 and 6519 derailed at Schellebelle, near to its destination.  Single line working had been in place, and the train took the crossover back to the correct line at too high a speed; the locos remained on the rails and did not suffer damage, but the loaded wagons derailed. Three of the wagons caught fire, a fire which burned for quite some time.  Although there were no direct victims of the accident, the toxic gases released as a result of it ran off into sewer systems and caused significant health problems for local residents – including tragically killing a man and his dog who actually lived hundreds of metres away from the accident site – and over 100 were hospitalised.  More than 2,000 people were evacuated from their homes for up to three weeks.  The locos returned to use in the Autumn.

Forthcoming Workings

As befits their very nature, opportunities to ride behind 6400s are few and far between.  However, negotiations are underway to provide at least one member of the class to haul trains at the “Festival” at the Chemin de Fer du Bocq on 11th and 12th August 2018.