|This article does not cite any references or sources. (August 2007)|
FM Rail Limited was a railway charter company based at Derby, United Kingdom. The company was formaly known as Merlin Rail Limited. It worked in close cooperation with Fragonset Railways By December 2006 the company was recognised as being insolvent, an Administrator was appointed, the company broken up and the parts either sold or closed down, but many of those previously employed by FM Rail reappeared in 'new' companies, Rail Vehicle Engineering Limited (RVEL), Mainline Rail and Victa Westlink. The latter two have, like FM Rail, ceased trading.
Fragonset Railways Limited
Fragonset was formed in 1997. Its first purchases were four Class 47/7 locomotives with a further class 47/7 on hire from the Lear family, which were hired to Virgin Trains due to the poor availability of their own fleet. The locomotives were soon repainted into a new livery of black with a broad maroon mid-bodyside stripe.
In 1998, Fragonset purchased several redundant Class 31 locomotives from EWS. The first of these, 31452, was quickly repaired at the company's base at Tyseley Locomotive Works. A further four Class 31s quickly followed. They were initially employed on Silverlink services on the Marston Vale Line, operating in top and tail mode with two carriages. The use of the Class 31s continued until 1999, when Class 150/1 diesel multiple units replaced them. Following this, the Class 31 fleet was employed on a variety of duties, including hire to WAGN to haul electrical multiple units between depots for maintenance.
In 1998-2004 Fragonset acquired many redundant locomotives from EWS, mainly of classes 31, 33, 47 and 73. Many of these locomotives were purchased for spare parts, and several have since been scrapped.
Fragonset has had many customers:
- Virgin Trains - hired Class 47s in 1997-2002 to cover for the non-availability of their own fleet.
- Wessex Trains - hired Class 31s to haul passenger services from Bristol-Weymouth and Bristol-Brighton. 31601 was repainted into Wessex Trains "Heart of Wessex" pink livery. Services were regular worked on Fridays and summer Saturdays. Booked services ceased in 2004, but Wessex Trains continued to use them for special events and for bank-holiday traffic until 2006.
- First North Western - hired Class 31s to work passenger trains from Blackpool-Manchester-Chester. These services ceased in 2004.
- Railtrack - hired 31190 and 31601 to haul test trains. Both locomotives were repainted into Railtrack's blue and lime green livery. Network Rail (Railtrack's successor) now has its own fleet of 31s, so no longer requires the Fragonset locomotives.
- FirstGBRf - hires Class 73s to supplement their own fleet.
- South West Trains - hired Class 33s and 73s to act as "Thunderbird" rescue locomotives.
- West Coast Railway Company - hired 31190. It was repainted into Royal Scotsman maroon livery.
- Midland Mainline - hired Class 47s and Mk2s to cover for a shortage of HSTs, running a morning Nottingham to London service and an evening London to Sheffield.
Some locomotives, notably 47355 and 73107, were repainted into a "freight" livery of all-over black with large "Fragonset" lettering.
Unfortunately, by 2004 the special niche that Fragonset had been servicing by providing spot-hire locomotives and carriages was in decline for a number of reasons, including:
- New multiple unit trains.
- Better utilisation by the customers of their own fleets.
Due to the money owed to the company by FM Rail, it was forced to go in to administration in December 2006.
Merlin Rail Limited
Merlin received its train operating licence in July 2002. It was originally very decentralised, considering itself to be a "virtual company" operating over the internet with no central office, although the control office was initially in Maidstone, Kent. As the business grew the need for a central location became apparent and offices at Wyvern House, by Derby Station, were rented from mid-2003.
Merlin saw itself as an operator of specialist, individually planned trains, and felt that such trains were not the core activity for conventional train operating companies and therefore did not always enjoy the best of operational and organisational arrangements. Merlin passionately believed that a dedicated specialist train operator in this niche market could provide a high quality total service for all potential clients requiring individually planned trains.
Merlin was the first train operator to receive approval through the stringent Railway (Safety Case) Regulations, 2000. Merlin held one of the widest Railway safety cases, allowing full geographic coverage of the network with all classes and types of conventional locomotives, passenger rolling stock and loaded and unloaded freight vehicles. Merlin was specifically authorised to operate new, unusual and novel vehicles.
With its website, Merlin set out to differentiate itself from its competitors. There was a complete section on "Inspiration", with quotations ranging from Rudyard Kipling to Niccolò Machiavelli, and a section on "How We Think", explaining the company's special philosophy on matters ranging from World Class Values to Strength of Character.
Merlin expected to make a loss for the first few years as business was built up and was expected to be profitable in 2005.
FM Rail Limited
Merlin Rail limited was renamed to FM Rail in January 2005 with the close working relationship with Fragonset Railways. In a speech to the staff to announce the new company, Bob Gordon, the Managing Director (who had been the old Merlin Managing Director) assured everyone that under his management the new company would be very profitable and everybody's job was secure. Even though Bob Gordon had promised a strong, profitable company, FM Rail made £1,500,000 loss during 2005. Bob Gordon left during 2005 and Andy Lynch, who was Fragonset Railways Technical Director, took over.
FM Rail launched its new livery in September 2005, when 47832 was repainted for the Crewe Works open day.
In an attempt to increase turnover, in mid-2005, FM Rail purchased railtour operator Hertfordshire Rail Tours. In January 2006, the "Blue Pullman" was launched, and two Class 47 locomotives were repainted into a Nanking Blue livery to match the coaching stock. In 2006, FM Rail purchased the assets of Pathfinder Tours, another railtour operator, in conjunction with Riviera Trains. From the FM Rail point of view, this deal seems to have been bungled as most Pathfinder trains continued to be operated by EWS.
In 2006, FM Rail concluded a deal to lease the former depot site at Coalville in Leicestershire. It was planned to move most of its withdrawn stock there to reduce costs. Other locomotives were disposed of once they had yielded spare parts.
Even though Bob Gordon had promised a strong, profitable company, instead of a good profit the insolvency Administrators later reported that FM Rail made £1,500,000 loss during 2005 and that the company was poorly managed and the financial administration was very poor.
It became clear that FM Rail's management were unable to properly control the company and it continued to make big losses, £2,300,000 up to September 2006. It had borrowed heavily, up to £2,000,000 from a combination of asset finance, director and shareholder funds and Barclays Bank. The company came to the end of its banking facilities and several county court judgments were received demanding payment. The company was badly in arrears to the HM Revenue and Customs in respect of unpaid PAYE and NIC and the landlord to the premises where FM Rail operated was owed circa £150,000 and was threatening legal action.
On 19 December 2006 a firm of insolvency specialists, Begbies Traynor, were appointed as Administrators. The Administrators sold the Fragonset Railways Maintenance business to Rail Vehicle Engineering Limited, a business run by Andy Lynch, the former FM Rail Managing Director. The Merlin Rail train operating licence and railtour operator Hertfordshire Rail Tours was sold to Victa Westlink Rail. Several locomotives have been sold or put up for sale.
Begbies Traynor reported to the creditors in a report dated 9 February 2007 and a Creditors Meeting held at the Midland Hotel, Derby, on 26 February 2007. The meeting was very well attended. Bob Gordon, the original FM Rail Managing Director who had promised so much, and Jyoti Ferguson, the Finance Director from November 2005 to November 2006 were conspicuous by their absence. The business affairs were not resolved until June 2013, when unsecured creditors received payments of 1.88p in the £.
|Key:||Not in Use||Preserved||Sold for further use||Scrapped|
|31105||31||-||Trans-Rail||1999||ex-EWS||Sold to Network Rail in 2003|
|31106||31||Spalding Town||BR blue||1999||ex-EWS||Never owned by Fragonset - property of Howard Johnston|
|31107||31||-||Black||1999||ex-EWS||Scrapped Rotherham in 2009|
|31128||31||Charybdis||Fragonset Black||1999||ex-EWS||Always privately owned|
|31154||31||-||Civil Engineers||2001||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2006|
|31190||31||-||BR Green||1999||ex-EWS||Sold to Network Rail in 2006|
|31233||31||-||Civil Engineers||2000||ex-EWS||Sold to Network Rail in 2003|
|31285||31||-||Civil Engineers||1999||ex-EWS||Sold to Network Rail in 2003|
|31289||31||-||BR Blue||1999||ex-EWS||Sold to Northampton & Lamport Railway|
|31301||31||-||Railfreight Grey/Red Stripe||1999||ex-EWS||Withdrawn|
|31407||31||-||Mainline Freight Blue||1999||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2006|
|31411||31||-||Departmental Grey||1999||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2005|
|31412||31||-||Civil Engineers||1999||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2006|
|31417||31||-||Departmental Grey||1999||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2005|
|31422||31||-||InterCity Mainline||1999||ex-EWS||Stored serviceably - used as static generator.|
|31426||31||-||Civil Engineers||1999||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2006|
|31433||31||-||Civil Engineers||1999||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2006|
|31452||31||Minotaur||DCR Green||1998||ex-EWS||Sold to Mainline Rail|
|31454||31||The Heart of Wessex||InterCity Swallow||1999||ex-EWS||Sold to Mainline Rail|
|31459||31||Cerberus||FM Rail Black||1998||ex-EWS||Sold to Network Rail in 2006|
|31460||31||-||BR Blue||1999||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Stockton-on-Tees in 2006|
|31461||31||-||Civil Engineers||1999||ex-EWS||Sold to Cotswold Rail in 2007|
|31462||31||-||Departmental Grey||1999||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2006|
|31468||31||Hydra||Fragonset Black||1998||ex-EWS||Sold to Mainline Rail|
|31524||31||-||Civil Engineers||1999||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2006|
|31549||31||-||Civil Engineers||1998||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2005|
|31558||31||-||Civil Engineers||1998||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2005|
|31601||31||DCR Green||1998||ex-EWS||Sold to Mainline Rail|
|31602||31||-||unbranaded Network Rail Yellow||1998||ex-EWS||Sold to Hanson Traction|
|33019||33||Griffon||Civil Engineers||2003||ex-HNRC||Privately owned|
|33021||33||Eastleigh||Fragonset Black||1999||ex-EWS||Privately owned|
|33103||33||Swordfish||BR Blue||2002||ex-EWS||Sold to Nemesis Rail|
|33108||33||Vampire||Fragonset Black||1999||ex-EWS||Preserved on Swanage Railway in 2005|
|33202||33||Fragonset Black||2002||ex-EWS||Sold to Cotswold Rail|
|37255||37||-||Civil Engineers||2002||ex-EWS||Privately owned|
|47053||47||-||Railfreight Distribution (Revised)||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47186||47||-||Railfreight Distribution (Revised)||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47201||47||-||Railfreight Distribution (Revised)||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47211||47||-||Railfreight Distribution||2001||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Eastleigh in 2004|
|47219||47||-||Railfreight Distribution||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47226||47||-||Railfreight Distribution||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47228||47||-||Railfreight Distribution (Revised)||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47229||47||-||Railfreight Distribution||2000||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Stockton-on-Tees in 2006|
|47236||47||-||Railfreight Distribution (Revised)||1999||ex-EWS||Withdrawn|
|47280||47||-||Railfreight Distribution||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47285||47||-||Railfreight Distribution (Revised)||2000||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2005|
|47293||47||-||Railfreight Distribution||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47307||47||-||Railfreight Distribution (Revised)||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47313||47||-||Railfreight Distribution||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47314||47||-||Railfreight Distribution||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47335||47||-||Railfreight Distribution||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47348||47||-||Railfreight Distribution (Revised)||2001||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2006|
|47355||47||Avocet||FM Rail Freight Black||2000||ex-EWS||Reactivated by WCRC 2010|
|47360||47||-||Railfreight Distribution (Revised)||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47375||47||-||Rail Blue||2000||ex-EWS||Nemesis Rail,|
|47471||47||-||InterCity Executive||2002||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2005|
|47488||47||-||BR Two Tone Green||1997||ex-EWS||Nemesis Rail|
|47525||47||-||Railfreight Distribution (Revised)||1999||ex-EWS||Withdrawn|
|47526||47||-||BR Blue Large Logo||1999||ex-EWS||Withdrawn|
|47547||47||-||Network SouthEast||2002||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2005|
|47574||47||-||BR Parcels Red||2002||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2005|
|47628||47||-||Rail Express Systems||2000||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2006|
|47640||47||-||BR Blue||2003||ex-EWS||Privately owned|
|47701||47||Waverley||BR Two-tone Green (with silver roof)soon to be repainted into Network Southeast livery||1997||ex-Rail Charter Services (RCS)||Purchased direct from RCS by The Lear Family, based (2011) at Dartmoor Railway|
|47703||47||Hermes||Fragonset Black||1997||ex-EWS||Sold to Cotswold Rail in 2007|
|47704||47||-||Rail Express Systems||2000||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2006|
|47707||47||-||Rail Express Systems||2000||ex-EWS||Withdrawn|
|47710||47||-||Fragonset Black||1997||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47709||47||Dionysos||Blue Pullman||1997||ex-EWS||Sold to Direct Rail Services, 2007|
|47712||47||Artemis||Blue Pullman||1997||ex-EWS||Sold to Direct Rail Services, 2007|
|47715||47||Poseidon||Fragonset Black||2000||ex-EWS||Sold to Cotswold Rail, 2007|
|47716||47||-||Rail Express Systems||2000||ex-EWS||On loan to Dartmoor Railway|
|47717||47||-||BR Parcels Red||2000||ex-EWS||Sold for scrap in 2007|
|47780||47||-||Rail Express Systems||2004||ex-EWS||Stored|
|47832||47||Driver Tom Clark OBE||Victa Westlink Rail Black & White||2004||ex-FGW||Sold to Victa Westlink Rail|
|56011||56||-||EWS||2005||ex-EWS||Stored at Coalville|
|56021||56||-||Trainload Freight||2005||ex-EWS||Stored at Coalville|
|56022||56||-||Trans-Rail||2003||ex-EWS||Scrapped at EMR Kingsbury in 2012|
|56061||56||-||Trainload Metals||2005||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Stockton-on-Tees in 2006|
|56066||56||-||Trans-Rail||2004||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2005|
|56125||56||-||Fastline||2003||ex-EWS||Sold to Fastline|
|73105||73||-||Civil Engineers||2002||ex-EWS||On loan to Battlefield Line Railway|
|73107||73||Spitfire||Fragonset Black (Freight)||2002||ex-EWS||Sold to RT Rail, 2007|
|73114||73||-||BR Blue Large Logo||2002||ex-EWS||On loan to Battlefield Line Railway|
|73117||73||-||InterCity Executive||2002||ex-EWS||On loan to Dartmoor Railway|
|73132||73||-||InterCity Executive||2004||ex-EWS||Scrapped at Rotherham in 2006|
|73134||73||-||InterCity Executive||2002||ex-EWS||On loan to Dartmoor Railway|
|86212||86||-||Virgin Red/Black||2004||ex-Virgin Trains||Stored serviceably|
|86217||86||-||Anglia Railways||2004||ex-'one'||Stored serviceably|
|86223||86||-||Anglia Railways||2004||ex-'one'||Stored serviceably|
|86229||86||-||Virgin Red/Black||2004||ex-Virgin Trains||Stored serviceably|
|86231||86||-||Virgin Red/Black||2004||ex-Virgin Trains||Stored serviceably|
|86233||86||-||BR Electric Blue||2004||ex-Virgin Trains||Stored serviceably|
|86235||86||-||Anglia Railways||2006||ex-'one'||Stored serviceably|
|86250||86||-||Anglia Railways||2004||ex-'one'||Stored serviceably|
|86251||86||-||Virgin Red/Black||2004||ex-Virgin Trains||Stored serviceably|