CLASS 47 – ALMOST 60

Standard

In 2022, BR’s most common – take that whichever way you like – diesel locomotive that started life in 1962, as the first of the 2nd generation of main line diesel-electric locomotives.  It came at a time when there was certainly competition between Britain’s locomotive manufacturers, and a fair degree of collaboration and partnership within the railway industry.  There was a considerable degree of collaboration between the private/commercial sector and the BR workshops, which only declined in the 1980s, until it almost completely disappeared by the turn of the century.

668 - Class 47 No. 47144 at Barrow - 1730

27th August 1979, and Class 47 No. 47144 leaves Barrow-in-Furness, with the 17:30, bound for London Eueston.  (c) RPB Collection

So, the Class 47 – which to be precise, was announced in the railway press as a new, highly innovative design from Hawker Siddeley – who had only recently become owners of Brush Traction Ltd and Brush Electrical machines.

Falcon1a

Brush’s prototype “Falcon” was the model for the Brush Type 4, but with a completely different power plant.

The most widely used, most well known, longest surviving, successful – just some of the words you might use to describe the Brush Traction design ordered by British Railways in the early 1960s. Successful was not at one time a word you would have used to describe this locomotive – a bulk order, rushed through as BR’s debts were climbing, and the ‘Pilot Scheme’ diesels were still “on trial”. Brush too, was perhaps an unlikely choice as supplier, since the company did not have the same pedigree as English Electric, AEI, Birmingham RC&W Co., or Metropolitan-Vickers in the railway field. But, as Dylan said, the times they were “a-changin”.

The PDF file below, is not intended to be a fully detailed account, there are several other, very well written books and articles that cover the individual locomotives, and its design and operational history in detail.

1052 - Unidentified Class 47 Co-Co diesel on oil train at Hathersage 1975

An unidentified 47 at speed on a train of oil tanks approaching Hathersage in 1975.                  Photo: Dave Larkin

 

Perhaps this will whet your appetite to study further – just click on the image below:

Class 47 Cover

IMG_0040

47826 in InterCity livery, but playing tail end Charlie to the restored BR Standard Class 8P “Duke of Gloucester”, which has just entered the tunnel at the west end of Dalton-in-Furness station in March 2007. © RPBradley Collection

Useful Links & Further Reading

 

 

Non-Standard Shunters of BR – Part III

Standard

To complete this little anthology, it seemed appropriate to include the least well known, and some pretty obscure examples of low-powered locomotives used on British Railways – many at small yards and depots, and dockyards.  Many locos of the sizes described here were adapted, or used for large industrial, engineering, quarries and mining operations, whilst one example remains unique from a major British manufacturer – Brush Traction.

Blue Box8 7

Ruston & Hornsby and its predecessors have a key place in the development of diesel traction, with the East Anglian company boasting one Richard Akroyd – a contemporary of Rudolf Diesel amongst its number. However, Ruston & Hornsby’s contributions to British Rail never fully extended beyond the shunting and service locomotive stock. PWM650 is seen here sporting the earliest BR livery style – used on running department stock too. This example was the first to appear in 1953 and, in common with the Brush design, an electric motor provided the drive to the wheels.                    (c) Lens of Sutton

This final selection of builders provided the least number of diesel shunters to BR in the 1950s and early 1960s, but a number of these have survived – including examples of the Rolls Royce powered shunters from Yorkshire Engine Co. Brush Traction on the other hand supplied only one diesel-electric prototype, which has long since disappeared, whilst many of the departmental varieties, included samples from John Fowler, Hibberd and even an aeroplane manufacturer from Bristol. Some of these were curious shunting types indeed for a nationalised railway, but were nonetheless an essential part of the organisation, whether on standard or narrow gauge tracks.

Clink on the image below to read on: 

Non-Std Part 3 Cover

 

Useful Links & References:

 

Non-Standard Shunters of BR – Part II

Standard

In the first of these posts, I looked at the most widely built 0-6-0 shunters, based largely around the Gardner series of diesel engines, mostly the 204bhp rated design, which was applied to a mechaniucal transmission by a number of builders, and BR workshops.  But they were not the only small diesel shunters bought from manufacturers, and in this offering I took a look at the two most well known Scottish builders.

Adverts

Two of the builders – advertising in the 1950s – who supplied considerable numbers of narrow gauge and mining locomotives, along with number of the smaller BR diesel shunters.

Perhaps uniquely, the world renowned North British Loco Co had build many thousands of steam locomotives over the 50 years to 1953, but its initial forays into diesel traction were less than successful.  It had of course experimented with diesels around the time of nationalisation, and had built a collection of products for mine working – appropriately named the “Miner” series.  But their choice of diesel engine paired with hydraulic transmission – whether from Paxman or MAN – was a risky venture.

2767_North_British_shunter_(30237828911)

Formerly D2420, and renumbered 06003 in the TOPS scheme, this North British built 0-4-0 is the only preserved Class 06 , and seen here at Bury, on the East Lancashire Railway in its final ‘rail blue’ colour scheme.         © Photo: Paul Miller, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4246599

Andrew Barclay, in nearby Kilmarnock had opted for a more conventional approach, and opted for the Gardner design of engine, with mechanical transmissions.

In the main, the lack of sustained success was as much down to the changing nature of freight workings, especially after the pressure mounted on BR to reduce operating overheads, and competition from road hauliers.

Click on the image below to read on ….

Shunters Part 2 cover

Blue Box8 8

North British built D2903, paired with the NBL-MAN engine and hydraulic transmission, with a 335 bhp diesel engine it was almost as powerful as the BR Standard 0-6-0 shunter, the Class 08 from English Electric.            (c) Photo: Lens of Sutton

 

Useful Links & References:

 

-oOo-

NON-STANDARD DIESEL SHUNTERS OF BRITISH RAILWAYS

Standard

British Railways standard diesel shunter was the English Electric designed 0-6-0, with almost any number of variations of the ‘K’ series engine of 1930s vintage.  This was developed from the 1930s designs used on the LMS, and was the mainstay of goods, and train marshalling yard operations – it seemed almost forever.

However, in 1962 there were no fewer than 666 diesel shunting locomotives in operation on BR, of either 0-4-0 or 0-6-0 wheel arrangement and powered by engines of less than 350 hp.  These “non-standard” types performed a variety of the most mundane tasks, and their earliest appearance was from a pre-nationalisation order to the Hunslet Engine Co. of Leeds, also by the LMS.  Following the end of the Second World War, many more were ordered from various makers.

RPBRLY-3

Captured at Bo’Ness on the Bo’Ness & Kinneil Railway in the 1990s, by then Class 03 073 in its final ‘Rail Blue’ livery, this was one of the Drewry built 0-6-0s, with the ‘Flowerpot’ chimney.     (c) Rodger P. Bradley Collection

By the early 1980s there were only a handful left in service, mainly of the Class 03 0-6-0s built at Swindon, together with samples from Andrew Barclay, Ruston & Hornsby, Hunslet, Drewry Car Co., Hudswell-Clarke, etc.

During BR days, a motley collection of some 11 different designs were in service, carrying out shunting and many other light duties at yards the length and breadth of the country. Although some of the designs dated from the 1930s, the majority were constructed after 1948.

The particular types reviewed here were built at Swindon Works, Drewry/Vulcan Foundry, Hunslet and Hudswell-Clarke.  Each featured either a 204hp or 153hp Gardner diesel engine, and various forms of mechanical transmission.

Click on the image below to read on..

PDF Cover imageUseful Links & References

 

 

 

 

The Last British Diesel

Standard

It may be a controversial observation, but the Brush designed Class 60 heavy freight locomotive was the last genuinely British built diesel-electric type. The locomotive was considered initially as a replacement for English Electric’s ageing Class 37 design – but with British Rail sectorisation, and the changed Railfreight priorities, a different approach was needed.

60_015_Bow_Fell

60015 Bow Fell in Railfreight grey livery with Transrail branding hauling a freight train through Cardiff General in 1996.         Photo: Murgatroyd49 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78385895 

In the late 1980s, a private company, contracted to haul mineral trains ordered and brought to the UK, the 2-stroke General Motors Class 59 – it was of course Foster Yeoman. The design and operation of this locomotive was a success, but it was for a niche market, although it brought some innovative ideas in its use of technology.

Before their arrival, BR had produced its main line locomotive renewal programme, within which it was stated that 750 new freight diesels would be needed of between 750 and 2,500hp, with delivery from 1990 onwards. BR also stated it would not place orders of less than 100 locos at a time, to ensure continuity of production, and rolling replacement of older designs.

Class_60_Beeston

Class 60 passing through Beeston station in April 2007.                                                                 Photo: Zverzia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3063590

Unlike the Class 58, BR’s last heavy haul locomotive design returned to the Brush monocoque, load bearing mechanical structure – this was the company’s ‘traditional’ approach – where the Class 58 was essentially a couple of longitudinal girders with a body and power equipment ‘on deck’.

Nottingham_-_DB_Cargo_60100_with_oil_tanks

A train of empty oil tanks heads through Nottingham in 2016 behind the last of the class No. 60100, in DB Schenker / DB Cargo colours. They are on the way from Kingsbury in the West Midlands to an oil refinery on Humberside.         Photo: Geof Sheppard – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53982372

Consultants Jones Garrard, who had been involved with the styling of the class 442 “Wessex Electrics”, undertook the design of the class 60, and provided a couple of alternatives. Mock-ups were provided of both varieties, inspected by Railfreight personnel and the B.R. Design Panel, and after deliberation, the style with a positive rake to the front end was chosen. The end result was a locomotive who’s appearance bore more than a passing resemblance to the ubiquitous Brush Type 4 / BR Class 47.

This was Britain’s last truly home produced – designed and built – diesel locomotive design, and represents a fitting end to the British Rail freight chapter.

Useful Links & References:

  • Railway Industry Association (RIA)
  • DB Cargo UK
  • GB Railfreight
  • DC Rail
  • “True Brit – Class 60 in Close Up” by Roger Ford (Modern Railways – March 1989)
  • Rail Freight (House of Commons Library Briefing Paper) Number SN151, 12 December 2016; By Louise Butcher
  • Railways: privatisation, 1987-1996 (House of Commons Library Briefing Note) SN/BT/1157
18 March 2010
; By Louise Butcher

Class 60 Videos

Click on the image below for more …..

Class 60 Cover

-oOo-

60 Years of AC Electrics

Standard

60 years ago on the 27th Nov
ember 1959, Britain’s pioneer 25Kv A.C. electric locomotive was officially handed over to British Railways. Then numbered E3001, it 
was to be the first of a long series of successful 
locomotive designs for the West Coast Main
Line (WCML). Within this series there have
 come to be seven basic designs, and a number of sub-divisions of the classes ALl to AL7. Although the last of these was never actually
 introduced under the old title of AL7, but
 designated Class 87 with the new “TOPS”
 locomotive codes, the family likeness remains
 very strong despite the detail alterations to the appearance of the latest type.

AEI_4Under the Modernisation Plan proposals it was decided that two types of locomotive – ‘A’ and ‘B’ – would be required. These were for mixed traffic, and freight service, respectively, with an equal number of both types needed, with their different haulage characteristics. This was not how things turned out, with the slower progress in the adoption of continuous brakes on freight trains, only five of the first 100 locomotives were type ‘B’, freight types. Metropolitan Vickers and BTH (as AEI), and English Electric were the builders of this entirely new breed of motive power, with mechanical portions of some constructed at BR’s Doncaster Works, and the North British Loco Co., in Glasgow.

86433 and 87034 at Carlisle 1980sIn 30 years, the UK railway industry, together with British Rail’s workshops had provided innovation, specialist technical, design and manufacturing skills that delivered the high-speed rail network, with the East and West Coast Main Line routes as their backbone.

91005 passing Carstairs 1995“Electra” was in effect the final gestation of the first, second and third-generation a.c. locomotive designs to be operated by British Rail, and whilst the ultimate high-speed passenger train, the APT never materialised, it did give rise to the “Pendolino” tilting trains.

Click on the image below for a longer read ….

60 Year cover image

Useful Links

Wikipedia Pages:

Class 80 Class 81 Class 82
Class 83 Class 84 Class 85
Class 86 Class 87 Class 89
Class 90 Class 91

General Information

The AC Electric Locomotive Group English Electric Co. – Grace’s Guide
Class 90 Electric Loco Group Metro-Cammell Ltd
Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) – Grace’s Guide British Rail Engineering Ltd – Science Museum

-oOo-

 

 

British Rail – InterCity Catering

Standard

I have travelled on the West Coast Main Line in Britain for many years, from the days of steam, to the days of the Pendolino, and it seems to me all that the general public are fed is a diet of stories about the curly sandwich. This seemed especially true of the nationalised network.

Inter City Press Release Images March 1993 1The last time I made a journey by a main line service, all that seemed to be on offer was a vending machine, several varieties of crisp, bread rolls, burgers and a coffee from an automated dispensing device. Fast food seems to have taken a stranglehold on train travel in the 21st Century.

Well clearly that’s not much better than the impression that the nationalised system was offering nothing more than a dried up sandwich, and watery tea – or coffee.

Inter City Press Release Images March 1993Back in the later British Rail years, where InterCity was making a profit, the food offering could be quite impressive too. In fact, under BR’s Sectorisation – InterCity was set up in 1987, and made an operating profit of £57 million in its first year, £56 million in 1989, and £49 million in 1990. That despite a cut by the Government of 29% in the passenger grant for rail operations. (Yes, I know it covered other BR sectors, but it would have been impacted.)

In the Spring of 1993, under the custodianship of Chris Green, BR InterCity embarked on a marketing campaign, following a successful introduction in 1992 of what were described as “Express Diner light menus”. This resulted in a 20% increase in the demand for restaurant car meals, and in 1993 more innovation was introduced, including the “Great British Afternoon Tea”

The “Express Diner” menu had a wider choice of meals, including: Rack of Ribs with Barbecue Sauce, Cumberland Sausage and Mash, and Steak and Kidney Pudding alongside existing items such as Fish and Chips and Rib 
Steak. They also went on to include innovations as Chicken Tikka Masala, Beef Stew and Dumplings and Thai-style vegetables with rice
, Jacket Potatoes and even Pizza. (Obviously a novelty in the 1990s!) Oh, yes, and of course a selection of reasonably priced wines was available for lunch and dinner.

Now I’m not suggesting that they were all a great success – but considering the sector’s profitability as a nationalized enterprise, they were giving it a go. At the same time this was happening, of course the 1991 EU Directive about separating infrastructure from operations was being put in place, and the next few years became chaotic, and these innovations dried up.

Mark III Coach Interiors – 1980s

Mk III Coach interior

A nice spacious interior in the Mark III coaches from the late 1980s – in this case a First Class Open.

Mk IIIb 1st open Coach interior with telephone

Another generation of the Mark III design was – unsurprisingly the Mark IIIb, but in this example a First Open with an on board telephone. After your meal, why not make a phone call from the train – so long as you had cash or a phone card in 1986 you could.

Today’s fare is a staggering list of coffees – or at least, various ways of serving coffee – together wraps, bagels, burgers and ciabatta rolls, along with a range of wines, beers and spirits, and even porridge. But that’s in the on-board shop section, alongside the usual vending machines. The only way to get a meal served at a table is in first class though, and only on certain trains – and the menu, like our tastes may have changed – and now includes such as mushrooms in a pastry case with butternut squash.

Not something that was common 20 years ago – but then neither were the veggie and deli specials. Even first class travel on some trains does not mean you get a meal, it may be just wraps, sandwiches or rolls for lunch, or perhaps grilled salmon, beef and potato pie, or salad for an evening repast.

Train Innovations Too

But the on-board food and menu changes were not the only improvements to be planned for the early 90s, in BR days. The existing HST sets and coaches were goiung to be fitted with a range of facilities, many of which we take for granted today. This is what was planned in 1993 – 26 YEARS AGO! :-

  • Audio entertainment system with a selection of CD and FM radio channels available at seat.
  • Electronic seat reservation information on luggage racks and new information displays (including time and journey information using a satellite-based system).
  • Improved toilets with new vanity units and lighting.
  • Brighter entrances to provide a better, warmer welcome for customers.
  • Improved tables, seat access and luggage storage.

Inter City Press Release Images March 1993 3Changes to the internal layout of the coaches was intended to break the saloon into smaller areas, with the Senior Conductor’s office located in the centre of 
the train; near the buffet and accommodation for the disabled, for better customer accessibility.

Clearly some of these were incorporated into the Pendolino trains in later years – some 10 years after BR had planned to introduce them.

Interior of Virgin Voyager - Milepost 92 and half

Not long after the 1993 innovations, along came the likes of the Pendolino and Voyager fixed formation trains from Bombardier and other makers, and hey presto, the above seat reservation details appeared – and of course in-coach entertainment.

When all is said and done though, it has always been unfair to cast aspersions at the state of the on-board catering on British Rail, as undoubtedly, there are occasions when even 20 odd years later, there are no doubt examples of failures. It is not nationalised rail system that was the cause of these issues, but maybe it was us – our changing tastes in food and service.

Inter City Press Release Images March 1993 4

Maybe the initiatives were from BR’s InterCity Sector, but we just took a different path to get there. At least that sector was profitable – but then, maybe there is another story there too.

 

 

 

The whole idea behind this marketing campaign was to persuade travellers not to do this:

Inter City Press Release Images March 1993 2

-oOo-

Useful Links:

Intercity Rail in Britain a Landmark Paper-25-years-on/

 

Electric Traction Revolution?

Standard

60 years ago on the 27th Nov
ember this year, Britain’s pioneer 25Kv a.c. electric locomotive was officially handed over to British Railways. Then numbered E3001, it
was to be the first of a long series of successful 
locomotive designs for the West Coast Main
Line (WCML). Within this series there have
 come to be seven basic designs, and a number of sub-divisions of the classes ALl to AL7. Although the last of these was never actually
 introduced under the old title of AL7, but
 designated Class 87 with the new “TOPS”
 locomotive codes, the family likeness remains
 very strong despite the detail alterations to the appearance of the latest type.

gec092

87005 – the final design of the 1st generation electric traction for British Rail, provided the motive power for the completion of the 400+ miles of route from London to Glasgow in 1974.

The choice of 25kV a.c. electrification to be used on B.R. was the subject of exhaustive investigation and comparative examination with other arrangements. Indeed, as there was no a.c. overhead
 main line contact system in regular operation, B.R. decided in 1951
 to convert the Lancaster-Morecambe-
Heysham section to 50 cycle, 6,600 volt, to
 evaluate the potential. The only alternative to 
an untried a.c. system was the l500v d.c. arrangements favoured by the former LNER for its Manchester-Sheffield-Wath and Liverpool St.-Shenfield lines.

However, by the time of the announcement in 1955 of B.R.’s multi-million pound modernisation and re-equipment programme, a not inconsiderable degree of experience of operation of an a.c. system had been acquired. It was perhaps the potential of the system, using 25,000V from the National Grid, rendering it economically superior to the d.c. system that finally won the day.

The decision was announced on 6th March 1956, that 25Kv a.c. would be the system of electrification used by British Railways on the WCML between London (Euston), Manchester and Liverpool, and additionally on the East Coast Main Line (ECML), between London (King’s Cross) and York and Leeds. The optimism generated through the Modernisation Plan for the electrification of two main routes was relatively short lived however. By 1959, it was seen that this would not be possible within the time limits proposed in the 1956 White Paper, and consequently a re-appraisal of the Modernisation Plan provided for the introduction of diesel
 traction “without prejudice to eventual electrification” on the main line where this was to be deferred. Another factor in this re-evaluation was the enthusiasm with which the private car, road building, and the removal of some restrictions on licensing of road haulage, and goods transport.

Another interesting statistic is the total route mileage electrified in Britain. There is a Wikipedia entry that states: “In 2006, 40%—3,062 miles (4,928 km) of the British rail network was electrified, ….”   But, in a BR publication (“Railway Electrification – A Discussion Paper”), dated May 1978, the route mileage electrified was 2,341 miles, or 21% of the total network.

So, does that mean that between 1978 and 2006, the increase in the electrified network was only 721 miles, and the 2006 total route mileage was just over 7,600 miles, but 38 years earlier the route mileage was 11,100 miles. A reduction in the size of the network of 3,500 miles, and at the same time adding just under 400 miles to the electrified main lines with the East Coast Main Line project – delayed from 1956.

There was of course a Department of Transport / BRB report on the subject of main line electrification in 1981, which offered a number of options to expand the network. From the perspective of the 25kV a.c. schemes, the final report’s “Option II’ – the ECML, Midland Main Line, Glasgow to Edinburgh, and Edinburgh to Carstairs was the option followed.   This was described in the report’s accompanying table as a “modest” expansion of the network. Ironically the recently completed electrification from Preston to Blackpool was included in the “Base Case”, and for completion in 1984 – a mere 35-year delay for that particular line. Slightly less of a delay was incurred by the Western Region (now GWR) main line out of Paddington. That scheme was included in the more advanced “Option III” ‘Medium Case’ for completion by 1996 to Bristol, and by 2002 to Plymouth – ah well, some of it got completed, but all has been hampered by the tragedy of privatisation.

87034 - William Shakespeare at Carlisle

Penultimate days of British Rail operations, with the classic motive power for the West Coast Main Line, here seen at Carlisle in the late 1980s.

 

 

Today we are still waiting on the possibilities of the HS2 / HS3 developments, and have pressed ahead in the last 10 years or so with the Paddington to South Wales, Midland Main Line, Glasgow to Edinburgh central belt, and a number of smaller connecting lines. These latter have mainly been around big cities; Manchester, Leeds, etc., with additional links to Blackpool, and specialist lines such as that connecting London with Heathrow Airport, or the Crossrail projects.

Looking back at the 1978 BR discussion paper, the current routes and electrified network was covered then by Options B and C for the Inter City Routes strategy. Had the strategy been implemented back then as Option C – the electrified network would have reached 5,300 miles, some 2,200 more than was achieved by 2006. However, the real issues that delayed the strategy was the lack of will to invest, and the mounting subsidies paid to BR during the later 1970s and 1980s.

So this was Richard Marsh’s plan in 1978:

InterCity Route Miles Strategy


In the nearly 40 years since, some work has been done, but the UK’s once extensive railway industry – both private and BR’s own workshops – has largely disappeared, and any achievements have been wholly dependent on the success of imported technology. One of the most telling observations in the 1978 discussion paper was in the concluding paragraphs, where the BRB stated:

“A railway system needs to be provided which enables our successors to run an economic transport system in the year 2000 and beyond If railway electrification is to be part of that, as now seems probable, a start needs to be made now. If the country has available the capital for regeneration of industry and preparation for the energy conditions of the next century, it would require only a very small proportion of this investment to convert the main public bulk transportation system to electric power.”

In that same booklet, it was pointed out that the UK was well behind in the proportion of its network that was electrified, coming 17th out of 21 countries, from Norway to Belgium and Japan.

Table A1

Today we are still waiting on the possibilities of the HS2 / HS3 developments, and have pressed ahead in the last 10 years or so with the Paddington to South Wales, Midland Main Line, Glasgow to Edinburgh central belt, and a number of smaller connecting lines. These latter have mainly been around big cities; Manchester, Leeds, etc., with additional links to Blackpool, and specialist lines such as that connecting London with Heathrow Airport, or the Crossrail projects.

By 2016/17 that position had changed, and the UK had slipped 3 places to 20th, or second from bottom, and yet the % of the network now electrified had risen to 33%.

Country Network Length Electrified length % Electrified
 Switzerland 5,196 5,196 100%
 Luxembourg 275 275 100%
Sweden 10,874 8,976 83%
 Belgium 3,602 2,960 82%
Italy 16,788 13,106 78%
 Netherlands 3,055 2,314 76%
Japan 27,311 20,534 75%
 Bulgaria 4,030 2,880 71%
 Austria 5,527 3,826 69%
 Norway 3,895 2,622 67%
 Portugal 2,546 1,633 64%
Poland 19,209 11,874 62%
Spain 15,949 9,699 61%
France 29,273 15,687 54%
Germany 38,594 20,500 53%
Russia 85,500 43,700 51%
 Slovakia 3,626 1,587 44%
 Hungary 7,945 2,889 36%
 Czech Republic 9,567 3,237 34%
United Kingdom 16,320 5,357 33%
Romania 10,774 3,292 31%

Source of table: (Wikipedia) List_of_countries_by_rail_transport_network_size

So according to this latest table, another 5,120 miles of route have been electrified in the UK since 1978. By far the longest route to receive its 25kV a.c. overhead contact system was the East Coast Main Line, from London (Kings Cross) to Edinburgh, which was completed in 1991 – so that was another 400 miles. After that, there was a plan to electrify the route from London (St Pancras) to Sheffield – although that’s only reached as far north as Leicestershire, before being controversially abandoned. The completion of the Channel Tunnel was the driver to construct a high-speed link between the tunnel and London (Waterloo), and with minor extensions added a further 100 miles by the time HS1 was opened in 2003.

The Western Region main line, or after privatisation, the GWR main line from London (Paddington) to Bristol and South Wales has only been completed in the last couple of years – but only as far as Bristol Parkway. The piecemeal, stop-start nature of progress on electrification of main lines since the mid 1990s has spectacularly affected interoperability across the whole network. The latest trains on the old Western Region main line to Bristol are hybrids, and have to operate as diesel trains in the non-electrified sections, obviously at lower speeds. The plan to electrify the main line to South Devon, Plymouth and possibly Penzance is not even on the horizon in the 21st Century.

The additional 4,000+ miles that have been electrified since 1978 includes the completion of the Edinburgh to Glasgow corridor, and the link to the West Coast Main Line at Carstairs, together with numerous other ad-hoc changes and extensions. This activity included work to extend the overhead out of London (Liverpool Street) into East Anglia; Cambridge and Kings Lynn.

In 1981, the Government published a final report advocating the case for main line electrification, and in a couple of key points made a recommendation that more, and not less electrification at a faster rate would offer best value for money. These are two of the key paragraphs that make those points:

Para 13 - 1981 DoT ReviewPara 14 - 1981 DoT Review

So how did we do? Well, not so good really.

Currently, in 2019, Crossrail – which links in to the GWR main line west of London – is still not complete, and the plans for a route between Oxford and Cambridge, and a north-south Crossrail2 are still only on the drawing board. The very latest activity on the London (Euston) to Birmingham – HS2 – is looking more likely to be cancelled than progressed, whilst the demand for increased electrification between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and beyond is growing by the day. The so-called Northern Powerhouse Rail is clearly an essential need, to link the economic centres in the North of England, which, between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds/Bradford, and Tyneside/Wearside has a population of well over 7 million.

In February 2019, “The Engineer” carried out a poll of its readers to see what form of motive power would be 1st choice to replace the diesel trains – all of which will be gone by 2040. In the poll some 43% of respondents advocated full electrification.

Another 29% were in favour of batteries+hydrogen power, with another 12% advocating pure hydrogen powered trains.

If the recent progress of electrification is anything to go by, I doubt if any of these will progress very far, and we will, as usual be subject to the same uncertain, start-stop process that we have seen for the past 20 years. But, electrification is, and remains the only sustainable option – both in energy cost, and environmental impact.

So, 60 years on from the handover at Sandbach in Cheshire, in November 1959, we have come so far, but there is still a long way to go. The ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ proposals include some aspects of planned 25kV electrification from the 1950s, 1960s, and late 1970s, and the line from Manchester to Leeds is more than 40 years late. There has been very limited activity on rail, and especially electrification work over the past 20 years, and today’s ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ ideas are not a fitting reflection of the work completed in 1959.

Northern Powerhouse Rail Map

The lines shown on this map in light green are for new electrified routes, and the connection from Manchester to Leeds was identified as needing electrification almost 40 years ago – and it is still pending!

Useful Links:

 

Azuma_and_HST_at_Leeds_station_(geograph_6187255)

One of the new generation Azuma high-speed trains alongside one of the remaining IC125 (HST) sets at Leeds Station. By Stephen Craven, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79978602 

-oOo-

 

 

 

Electro-Diesels & Hybrids

Standard

There has been much talk, and quite a few examples in recent years of what are described as “Bi-mode” trains – in the UK, these are the 800 Class multiple units on the GWR, together with the 10 DRS Class 88 locomotives.  Across Europe these are becoming more common too, and Bombardier’s “Mitrac” is another recent hybrid offering, with power from overhead contact systems, and a diesel engine.

But, these are not a new idea, just the latest incarnation of an idea more than a century old, with the first claim being made in 1889.  This was the “Patton Motor Car”, which was followed in what was known as a “gas-electric hybrid system” applied to a tramcar at Pullman, Illinois.   Also quick on the take up was Belgium, where in the 1890s, a petrol-electric vehicle was taking to the rails, also fitted with a generator and traction motors.  British Westinghouse built a similar example, with a 100hp diesel engine, for the Great Central Railways in the early years of the 20th century.  After the First World War, the hybrid approach took a step further forward in Belgium, with batteries – a collection of accumulators – an equally important step in hybrid developments.

Electro Diesel in Rail Blue liveryIt was not until the 1950s that a class of main line locomotives able to operate on electrified and non-electrified lines.   During the early British Railways era, there was no example of main line ‘hybrid’ or electro-diesel locomotive, although the former private companies had begun experiments in non-steam traction, but with little significant growth.

Many of British Railways’ electro-diesel locomotives for the Southern Region are, amazingly perhaps, are still in regular operation.  It was a unique solution to implement in the early 1960s, to provide go anywhere motive power, for a wide range of mixed traffic and shunting duties.  The BR Modernisation Programme was in full swing, and diesels were replacing steam, but future electrification was on the overhead system, and the Southern’s 3rd rail network had limited potential.

This is a brief look at what BR developed, and its operations over many years:

Electro-diesels cover

 

Useful Links:

 

-oOo-

You couldn’t make it up!

Standard

Yesterday, the DfT issued a press notice asking for suggestions/volunteers to make use of redundant, soon to be removed Pacers from rail services in the north. According to the DfT’s proposals, they are launching a competition for community groups to provide ideas and plans to take one of these vehicles – no they don’t actually say if they mean a single vehicle or a 2-car set – into a new “public space”.

In their lives to date, those Pacers have indeed created public spaces, but I wonder how this “initiative” will pan out.

Any takers out there for a garden shed?

The Rail Minister (Andrew Jones) actually said this:

“The Pacers have been the workhorses of the north’s rail network, connecting communities for more than 30 years, but it is clear that they have outstayed their welcome.”

Really?!  He might have added that they have been a source of misery, complaints, discontent and overcrowding for about the same length of time.  An opinion piece in the Guardian put it rather more interestingly:

Turning Pacer trains into village halls?

The Managing Director (David Brown) of Arriva Rail North made this interesting comment too:

“Northern is introducing 101 new trains worth £500 million, the first of these new trains will be carrying customers this summer, and at the same time we will start to retire the Pacer trains. Using a Pacer as a valued community space is a very fitting way to commemorate the service they have provided since they entered service a generation ago.”

Ironically, just a short while before the Metro Mayors of Greater Manchester and Merseyside both called for Northern to have its franchise terminated immediately.  According to a report in the Guardian today (29th May), both Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham believe:

” ….has consistently failed to show it is able to take the action required to restore public confidence or deliver its legally-binding franchise requirements …”” ….has consistently failed to show it is able to take the action required to restore public confidence or deliver its legally-binding franchise requirements …”

It is perhaps ironic too, that the first of the “Pacers” were out to work 34 years ago in May 1985, in the Greater Manchester area, although as is common knowledge, a number of prototypes were built before a major order was placed. Officially, they were described as lightweight diesel multiple units, developed for use on lightly loaded and suburban services.

The first days went reasonably well – apart from the ‘blacking’ by the rail unions of a later design – but quite soon after their introduction they ran into some operational challenges.  They were also used after privatisation on longer distance workings, including one between Middlesborough and Carlisle – a distance of over 100 miles, and well out of their intended working.  When these twin-units were sent to the south west, they were nicknamed “Skippers”, and reportedly ran into difficulties keeping to time on the South Devon banks.

RPBRLY-12 copyWhilst the entire fleet had their Leyland engines replaced by a Cummins design in the 1990s, some ‘refurbishment’ was carried out on each of the classes, from Class 142 to Class 144.  The original prototype was initially preserved, and BREL did try to sell this idea to various countries around the world, from the USA to Malaysia – but there were no takers.

Perhas fitting that some should be turned into garden sheds or community facilities, where people can reminisce about the good old days of travelling by “Pacer”.

Here’s a link to a piece I wrote earlier:

Pacers Cover

Lee Worthington Facebook - off to Lime Street

Class 142 at Manchester Oxford Road in Northern Rail livery, en route to Liverpool Lime Street. (Photo © Lee Worthington)

-oOo-