Indian Summer for the Irish Rail Class 121s—Part 1

 

General Motors Single Cab Diesels

Irish Rail class 121
Irish Rail 124 with Mark 3 Push-pull at Oola with on 19 April 2003. Exposed with a Nikon F3T and Nikor 85mm lens on Fujichrome Slide Film.

My favorite Irish Rail diesels were the Class 121s. This single cab General Motors type was derived from the standard American switcher, as typified by the various NW and SW models.

However, unlike switchers built for North American railways, the 121’s were intended for road service and worked freight and passenger trains. The fifteen locomotives were delivered in 1961, and were not only the first La Grange built diesels in Ireland, but are understood to have been the first production-built diesels from La Grange to work in Western Europe.

I liked the way the looked and sounded as they reminded me of the locomotives I grew up with in the USA. Also, we have a Lionel O gauge NW2, which was among my favorite locomotives as a kid.

In early 2003, Irish Rail retired and scrapped most of the 121s. However two survived in service for another five years. Numbers 124 and 134 continued to work in a variety of services after all the others of their class. They had been fitted with multiple unit connections, so they could work as pairs with other ‘Bo-Bo’ General Motors types (the class 141s built in 1962, and class 181s built in 1966.)

In Spring 2003, David Hegarty and I made several trips to photograph the last surviving 121s. Number 124 was the easiest to find, as it was assigned to push-pull service on the Limerick to Limerick Junction shuttle. While these were by no means my final images of these locomotives, I considered myself fortunate every time I photographed them from that time onward. The 121s were clearly running on borrowed time.

Irish Rail Class 121
Irish Rail 124 near Dromkeen, County Limerick with Push Pull 19 April 2003. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 105mm lens on Fujichrome Slide Film.

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