FM Rail

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Class 31 31128 Charybdis at Bristol Temple Meads on 23 July 2004. This locomotive was previously hired to Wessex Trains to operate trains from Bristol Temple Meads to Brighton and Weymouth.

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Insolvency[edit]

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 £.

Fleet details[edit]

Key: Not in Use Preserved Sold for further use Scrapped


Number Class Name Livery Year
Acquired
Previous Operator Status
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
31415 31 - BR Blue 1999 ex-EWS Withdrawn
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.
31423 31 - InterCity Mainline 1999 ex-EWS Withdrawn
31426 31 - Civil Engineers 1999 ex-EWS Scrapped at Rotherham in 2006
31433 31 - Civil Engineers 1999 ex-EWS Scrapped at Rotherham in 2006
31437 31 - Civil Engineers 1999 ex-EWS Withdrawn
31439 31 - Regional Railways 1999 ex-EWS Withdrawn
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
47363 47 - Railfreight Distribution 2000 ex-EWS Withdrawn
47368 47 - Trainload Grey 2000 ex-EWS Withdrawn
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
47489 47 - Parcels Red 1999 ex-EWS Withdrawn
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
47550 47 - InterCity Mainline 2000 ex-EWS Withdrawn
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
47744 47 - EWS 2005 ex-EWS Stored
47767 47 - EWS 2005 ex-EWS Stored
47780 47 - Rail Express Systems 2004 ex-EWS Stored
47803 47 - Infrastructure 2000 ex-EWS Withdrawn
47832 47 Driver Tom Clark OBE Victa Westlink Rail Black & White 2004 ex-FGW Sold to Victa Westlink Rail
47972 47 - Central Services 2000 ex-EWS Withdrawn
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
73103 73 - InterCity Executive 2002 ex-EWS Withdrawn
73104 73 - InterCity Executive 2002 ex-EWS Stored
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
73139 73 - InterCity Executive 2002 ex-EWS Stored
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

References[edit]