Perhaps not everyone’s favourite loco, but it was unique in a number of ways, and one of these was the fact that it was the last new locomotive type built at Doncaster Works, which in the early 1980s was part of the soon to be privatised BREL. Its power unit built on the legacy of Ruston Paxman, English Electric and latterly GEC Diesels, which were built at the historic Vulcan Foundry in Newton-Le-Willows – that too was the victim of mass closures and the run-down of the railway industry in the 1980s.
The class 58 had a less than successful career in Britain, and was dispensed with in short order under EWS, and sadly for BREL no export orders were received. But …. It was exported on hire to the Netherlands, Spain and France, where in Spain and France it provided the motive power needed when the high-speed lines were being expanded in the early 2000s, before being returned to the UK, stored or scrapped.
The design and fabrication techniques employed were very much of the mass production line process and should perhaps have been more widely employed in the UK industry, but that was not to be, and it remains a final, and curious example of a good idea that was not fully exploited. There are a number of the class in varying stages of restoration, and one is providing the base for the building of a replica of the first English Electric main line diesel, developed by the LMS and its CME H.G.Ivatt. So the Class 58 legacy remains to be seen in service on specials, and in operation on heritage services.
This small offering is based on my invitation to the handover in December 1982 of the very first Class 58 at Doncaster, where I enjoyed a tour of the works, to see the processes in action, and the unveiling on a bright sunny day of 58001 outside the main office block.
Much has been made in recent days over the cancellation of HS2, and the abandonment of Northern Powerhouse Rail, and the new Integrated Rail Plan has been greeted with considerable scepticism – in the north of England in particular. The CILT (Chartered Institute of Logistics) made some interesting observations about the impact, or affect it will have on the network’s freight capacity, and how that may change.
One intriguing observation about the ad-hoc upgrades outlined in this new plan drove me to look at some of the details. The CILT made this comment in their press release:
“CILT welcomes the creation of a new line from Warrington through Manchester to Marsden, with capacity for freight provided in the Trans-Pennine Route Upgrade (TRU), but is seeking urgent confirmation that the freight element of TRU will include gauge clearance to the full ‘W12’ standard, not merely the much smaller ‘W8a’ gauge that has been proposed thus far.”
This route follows the line on the Manchester side out from Piccadilly to Ardwick, then turns North-East towards Greenfield, Saddleworth and Diggle, and the Standedge Tunnels under the Pennines, before entering West Yorkshire and the once prosperous mill town of Marsden. According to the latest plan for improvements in the northern rail network this will replace the now cancelled eastern leg of a high-speed rail line. No mention of any extension from Marsden to Huddersfield, the nearby centre of this part of West Yorkshire.
Back in 2000, the plans now being outlined also appeared in the Railtrack Network Management Statement, so it seems this is not a new idea, and the plan was then to include the W10 loading gauge clearance across the route.
Again, according to the CILT, the Trans Pennine Upgrade is vital from an environmental perspective:
“This is critical to reducing congestion on the M62 and M60 – for passenger traffic as well as freight – since up to 1000 HGV loads per day could be shifted onto rail, saving approximately 300,000 tonnes of C02 a year and freeing up the UK’s vital HGV driver resource for other journeys (the M62 is the third busiest road freight corridor in GB, with more than 7 million truck movements pa).”
The map of routes on the rail network that were either being upgraded to meet the essential W10/12 gauge shows some interesting plans, but it seems that today’s “Integrated Plan for Rail” has a lot of work to be done on the details.
One of the most telling comments made by the CILT is this:
Building a high-speed line to the East Midlands, upgrading of the East Coast Main Line (ECML) and electrification of the Midland Main Line (MML) is welcome, but CILT believes inadequate provision for freight and logistics is made in the IRP and says urgent delivery of the following is needed:
Electrification of the key freight route from Peterborough to Doncaster via Lincoln, as this route provides the link from Felixstowe and London Gateway to businesses in Yorkshire and the North East, and there will very limited capacity for freight on the electrified 140mph ECML
Upgrading and electrification of the route from Northallerton to Teesside and Ferryhill (the Stillington route) to provide adequate capacity for freight to the North East and Scotland via the ECML
Electrification north from Corby to Doncaster and through the Hope Valley to complement electrification of the Midland Main Line from Kettering to Sheffield, which will enhance passenger services but do little or nothing for freight.
From the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands, and for this particular route across the Pennines, this is what the Government say they will do:
“On Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), we will build a new high speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Yorkshire finishing east of the Standedge tunnels. In 2019, the Prime Minister promised to fund the Leeds-Manchester route of NPR. Of the three options for this section put forward by Transport for the North (TfN) at that time, we have chosen the first, a mix of newbuild line and upgrade via Huddersfield, and extended our commitment to Liverpool (giving 40 miles of new high speed line), and York. NPR trains will use fully electrified, expanded and upgraded conventional lines between Liverpool and Warrington, and from the east of Standedge tunnels to Leeds. Trains will run from Manchester to Leeds in 33 minutes, 22 minutes faster than now. We will also upgrade and electrify the line between Leeds and Bradford giving a non-stop journey time which could be as low as 12 minutes. We carefully examined the other options put forward by TfN, for full newbuild lines from Liverpool to Leeds via Manchester and Bradford. They would have made Manchester- Leeds journeys only four minutes faster than the option we have chosen, and cost an extra £18 billion.”
On freight, as part of the TRU (Transpennine Route Upgrade), they are proposing upgrades to the section from Marsden into Huddersfield, after having built a new high-speed line from Warrington through the Standedge Tunnels to Marsden. So to suggest this is a major new proposal for this route is a misnomer, and only partially implements what was proposed 21 years ago. This is specifically what is written in the Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands:
40 miles of new build high speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Yorkshire (to the east of Standedge tunnels);
upgraded and electrified conventional line for the rest of the route;
significant improvements to the previous Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) plans between Manchester and Leeds, including electrification of the whole route, digital signalling throughout, significantly longer sections of three and four-tracking, and gauge upgrades to allow intermodal container freight services. This will now form the first phase of NPR;
Last but not least, the map below is worth comparing with the 2001 map and proposals, and shows that there are still gaps in the major freight artery across the Pennines. And, no amount of increased pathways, or digital jiggery pokery will resolve the problem if a freight service moves from high speed to conventional lines after leaving the Standedge Tunnels.
The rest of the detail in the Government’s plans is in the attached file – short on detail perhaps – just click on the image below:
How old are container trains in the UK? Well, it’s not simple answer, although we are all familiar in 2021 with Freightliner trains, and the Eddie Stobart and Tesco container carrying trains. Of course these are intermodal services nowadays – but there have always been intermodal freight operations on the railway – transferring goods from horses and carts onto goods wagons. Railway freight traffic was never always about bulk loads of minerals, coal and oil, and it was the wagon load and part load consignments that kick started some interesting developments in British Railways days.
There were numerous methods of providing specialised containers for wagon or van load consignments of goods, whether for household furniture, or bulk transport of engineering components in a lengthy supply chain for manufacturers.
Before Liner Trains
In 1964, BR London Midland Region issued a small glossy booklet, entitled “Freight Handbook”, which, apart from the usual details of goods depot and regional telephone numbers contained brief descriptions of some of the innovations in wagonload and container traffic facilities. The services include what BR described as “demountable containers” carried on a rail wagon, and transferred to and from road vehicles at the terminals at each end of the journey. Described as a “door-to-door service” that was being constantly improved and extended, the fact that road transport by the early 1960s was entirely privately owned meant that BR had fewer road vehicles to provide the last lap of the journey.
One of the most blindingly obvious commercial errors to us, looking back from 2021 is that no charge was made for the use of containers “owned by the railway”, but just the contents. Nobody would make that mistake today – would they?!
BR London Midland offered 12 different types of covered container, and three described as ‘open’. The covered versions were of either ventilated, refrigerated, and insulated, or just simply a wooden box with doors on, and able to carry 4 to 5 tons. Some had two compartments and bottom doors, whilst others – for meat traffic – had roof bars and hooks for hanging carcasses. The handbook actually shows images of what BR called the ‘SW’ type – which was essentially a container on wheels that could hold about 1 ton, and could be loaded onto a rail wagon/van by two men.
Manual handling of some of these containers would clearly have been very hard work, but it was not uncommon activity in the 1960s workplace, and mechanical handling appeared over time to both reduce the physical strain and increase efficient load handling.
A couple of interesting examples are illustrated too of the handling of ‘palletised traffic’, where boxes of baked beans on pallets are then loaded into one of the then new ‘pallet vans’. Judging by the examples in both BR’s own ‘handbook’ and other publications – “Transport Age” – the railway was responding to changes in traffic types by designing and building bespoke vehicles, from pallet vans to specialist ferry vans. The latter take us away from container trains a little, but perhaps serves to highlight the challenge the industry faced in competition with road hauliers, and standardisation of containers carried at sea on international journeys.
But the most important development to precede the Liner Train project was the “Condor” service, which carried the existing designs of container – essentially a cut down covered van – on a train of specially designed four-wheeled wagons: “Conflats”. The train began service in 1959, running from Hendon in North London, to Gushetfaulds in Glasgow, and hauled by a pair of the new Metro-Vick 2-stroke, 1,200hp diesel locos. From Glasgow to London, the load included manufactured goods from Scotland, and in the reverse direction, imported raw materials were shipped from London’s docks to the factories around Glasgow. The service was door to door, using British Road Services lorries at either end, and with customers paying £16 or £18 to hire a container to carry their products.
The Condor service was a success, and a second route between Birmingham (Aston) and Glasgow in 1963 – the year of the Beeching Report – but it succumbed in the end to Beeching, although it was also the route operated by the first Liner Train / Freightliner service in 1965.
The Liner Train project
Ironically too, the BMC and BR operated ‘Charter Trains’ between Cowley, Oxford and Bathgate – on specially designed flat wagons – to transport Morris Minor cars to Scotland, and vans and commercial vehicles from Scotland to England. A few years later, cars were being transported by road, on transporter lorries in ever greater numbers, and liberalisation of commercial road traffic dealt a bit of a blow to the door-to-door service of the ‘Condor’.
The famous “Liner Trains” proposed by Beeching was really a development of existing modular, palletised, and containerised goods services, which ultimately led to the intermodal and company train services of today. Amongst many other – some would say disastrous – changes proposed under Beeching some radical proposals around “open goods depots” were put forward.
In Appendix 4 of the Beeching Report, the concept is described specifically as:
“…. A conception of transport based upon joint use of road and rail for door-to-door transport of containerised merchandise, with special purpose, through running, scheduled trains providing the trunk haul.”
So there we have it – what we now call inter-modal services, albeit introduced, or at least considered mainly to reduce the financial burdens of non-train-load goods traffic. In its original concept, the Liner Train was described as a series of permanently coupled flat wagons, for carrying containers, and running to a schedule that would demand high utilisation of the stock. Each train would have a gross load of 680 tons, with a 360-ton payload, and running at between 50 and 75 mph.
The traffic itself – given that the early 1960s were the years of huge investment in motorways, and roadbuilding – was optimistically described as goods which would be suitable for rail if the right conditions were met – heavy and full loads, on specific routes at reasonable rates. Having said that this idea was optimistic, it also has to be said that the report considered that the potential tonnage identified for this service was ‘conservative’ at 93 million tons. Traffic studies had shown that 16 million tons of freight carried annually on the roads, could transfer to rail on this service.
Between this first mention of “Liner Trains” and their appearance in traffic, the political landscape changed, not to mention the review of the “Beeching Proposals”, which were in full swing by late 1964. In October that year, the General Election resulted in yet another change, and railway policy was about to change again, but the “Liner Train” / Intermodal concept was still a popular option, although none were at that time in operation. In December 1964, and in answer to a question raised in Parliament about the delay, the new Transport Minister made this statement:
“The Railways Board hopes to introduce the first experimental liner trains next summer, if early agreement is reached with the unions on the principle of “open” depots. My predecessor approved investment of £6 million for liner trains; of this about £700,000 will be spent in 1964. Investment for 1965 will depend on the date of introduction of the services.”
At the time, the “open” depots referred to were the subject of negotiations on working arrangements with the railway trades unions. The “Liner Train” proposal was given a boost in this early period, with British Railways and the Post Office’s plans to concentrate the handling of parcels and what they described as “sundries” at a small number of larger centres. Exactly as the road based parcels delivery companies operate today with their distribution hubs and centres – history repeating itself?
An interesting paragraph in the report about the loss of the traffic in small manufactured components to road hauliers, it states that such traffic would not pay the railway to carry it, yet it is just that type of traffic that is “expected to grow”. In the next paragraph it states too that there is likely to be a growth in the shipment of containers overseas – classic intermodal from rail to seaport – with containers built to “international standards”. Each of which has proven an accurate prediction.
By 1967, work had progressed, and was even the subject of a Pathe Newsreel report, as the extract shown in the link describes: https://www.britishpathe.com/video/freight-liner-trains . That said, the clip only shows the early “Freightliner” liveried stock being loaded onto a ferry for the Dover to Dunkirk service. Two years earlier, the trials and testing of the liner trains with their new ‘flat cars’ was under way, as the Government had approved the funding, and in a parliamentary debate, this was what one MP commented:
“It seems to me that all those who have studied this matter are satisfied that the liner trains will succeed in attracting a very considerable volume of traffic which is now carried on the roads. They will do so only if new specialised railway vehicles are constructed for the purpose. These vehicles are now being constructed in the railway workshop at Derby, and I do not think this would be a proper time for me to have a review of the whole principle underlying the substitution of the existing stock of vehicles by these new ones.”
The discussion had centred around the obsolescence or otherwise of existing wagon designs, and some people seemed to think that the new liner train vehicles would not be interchangeable with existing types – which was of course the point in many ways. Other goods traffic was declining, and most of the professional railwaymen, including the NUR, were very supportive of the project were anxious to press ahead.
In 1965, British Railways published a further report on the “Development of Trunk Routes”, looking ahead to the 1980s, and based on existing and forecast rail and road traffic flows. It was also based on the location of industry – from mining to manufacturing – with the principal traffic centres of London, the West Midlands, Merseyside – Manchester – Hull, and Glasgow and around Newcastle. But the prospects outlined could not take account of the exploitation of North Sea oil and gas reserves, or the ‘offshoring’ of most of the UK’s manufacturing, and dramatic social and economic changes that began in 1979.
Huge investments in road transport were ongoing, with enormous expansion of the motorway network, and little if any thought of integration or collaboration. So, the “Liner Train” concept was largely on the back burner for many years, with limited – if any innovation – in multi or intermodal services, and certainly no consideration of environmental impact.
That argument about “could transfer from road to rail” has featured prominently about rail freight services for over 50 years now, as roadrailer, pocket wagon and piggyback concepts have all come and gone. But, maybe the intermodal services need to be looked at again now, and mimic some of the networks used by the parcel delivery companies, who themselves seem to follow the old railway marshalling yard (hubs), to regional (distribution centres) and local goods (local depot) depots mechanisms.
Currently there are 11 Freightliner depots – Cardiff, Southampton, London, Felixstowe, Birmingham, Cannock, Doncaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow. The services are now owned and operated by a company from the USA– Genesee & Wyoming Inc. – with its headquarters in Connecticut, and in 2015 the company purchased the UK’s Freightliner Group Ltd. This separate business is a mix of the traditional bulk mineral haulage that are traditional railway fodder, and the container traffic that, at least on the surface, shows interaction between carrying goods on a flatbed lorry, and its equivalent on rail.
The concept of intermodal – from the dockside to a depot has changed – but it appears that the majority of seaborne containers that arrive at ports are still ultimately carried on the roads, to an importer/supplier’s regional hubs and distribution centres. The lorry’s engines may be more efficient and less polluting than before, but multiple engines are needed to carry 20 or 30 containers on a 100 mile journey from port to inland depot. The likes of the UK’s major supermarket chain and ‘traditional’ road hauliers do run specialised long-haul trains carrying those seaborne containers, but it may be true to say there is still some way to go before a truly intermodal containerised goods traffic is operated in Britain.
There have been many useful ideas in the past, but none have really got to grips with the obsession of road transport for long distance traffic – and is it really that convenient for business?
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.
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:
Useful Links & References:
BR Diesel & Electric Locomotive Directory; Colin Marsden; Pub; OPC 1991; ISBN: 0-86093-486-1
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.
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.
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 ….
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:
BR Diesel & Electric Locomotive Directory; Colin Marsden; Pub; OPC 1991; ISBN: 0-86093-486-1
Barclay 150; Russell Wear; Pub; Hunslet-Barclay Ltd 1990
Giants Of Steam: North British Locomotive Co.; Pub; OPC; 1996; ISBN 0 86093 505 1
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.
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..
Useful Links & References
BR Diesel & Electric Locomotive Directory; Colin Marsden; Pub; OPC 1991; ISBN: 0-86093-486-1
Barclay 150; Russell Wear; Pub; Hunslet-Barclay Ltd 1990
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.
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.
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’.
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.
If there was ever a reason to refer to diesel and electric locos. as tin boxes on wheels, then surely this class was the ideal example. Mind you, the EM2s were only a development of’ their smaller, EM1 (Bo-Bo) brethren of 1950, which in turn were designed by the LNER even before nationalisation. This company had plans to electrify the former Great Central Railway route over the Pennines from Manchester to Sheffield, through the Woodhead Tunnel. But, delayed by WWII, amongst other things, the project was not completed untilthe1950s, under British Railways guidance.
The Bo-Bo predecessors of Pandora were based on a design from the LNER, before nationalisation. Here, 26054 “Pluto” is seen in BR days at Sheffield – complete with the early yellow warning panel. The original loco 26000, was built in 1941, and the remainder – 57 more – were intended for freight service over the electrified Wood Head route through the Pennines.Photo” RPBradley Collection
The EM2’s were all built at Gorton in 1954, and were then the most powerful locomotives in operation anywhere on B.R. – I am ignoring the two gas turbine prototypes of course, since these were only experimental. The Class’ predecessors, the EM1s were 1868hp, and intended for mixed traffic duties, and although the Co-Co development could be seen on such workings, these seven locos. were primarily passenger types. Their ‘substantial’ construction was undoubtedly responsible for the low power/weight ratio, and this general heaviness in appearance is noticeable in any photograph.
Construction of the mechanical parts was carried out at Gorton, with Metropolitan-Vickers supplying the electrical equipment. The first locomotive, No. 27000, entered service in February 1954, working instructional and test trips between Wath and Wombwell Exchange, and Trafford Park to Wath. The catenary was finally energized over the Woodhead route from Manchester to Sheffield, including the opening of the new Woodhead Tunnel, by mid 1954.
Construction, basically, with these early electric locos., involved a superstructure divided into three compartments, with driving cabs at either end, separated by a control compartment containing resistances and other H.T. equipment, such as motor generators, traction motor blowers etc. A pantograph was mounted in the roof well at each end of the locomotive. Since, of course, only steam heating was provided on the available rolling stock an oil-fired boiler was fitted. The corridor running along one side of the locomotive, not only gave access between the driving cabs but, also to the separate high tension, and resistance compartments, through an interlocking door. The body was not designed as a load bearing structure, and consequently, a hefty underframe was provided, built up with rolled steel sections, and extensively cross braced to support the body and equipment. Buffing and drawgear was mounted on the underframe – not following the trend set by the S.R. diesels, in having these items attached to the bogie.
BR Weight Diagram of Class EM2
The bogies themselves were also quite heavily built structures, fabricated from steel sections, with a double bolster carried on two cast steel cross stays. The weight of the body was carried through spherical bearers and leaf springs supported by swing links from the bogie cross stays. The equalising beams were fitted inside the bogie frames, on top of the axle boxes, and in addition, of course a 415hp traction motor was hung from each axle, driving the wheels through spur gearing.
Electro-pneumatic control equipment was fitted, and was more or less conventional for d.c. traction, and indeed, similar arrangements are still used on most modern locomotives, including the latest designs. On the EM2, and other d.c. rolling stock, the traction motors are first arranged in series for starting, an intermediate stage of two parallel groups of three motors in series, and finally, three parallel groups of three motors in series for normal running.
Under running conditions, the traction motors were designed to act as generators - regenerative braking – through the Westinghouse supplied straight air, and air controlled vacuum brake for engine and train. Compressed air for the brakes from the Westinghouse compressor also operated the electro-pneumatic controls, sanding gear, and the “Pneuphonic” horns.
In operation, the locomotives were housed in the newly constructed depot at Reddish, and in company with the smaller EM1 Bo-Bo must have presented a considerable contrast to steam traction in the early days of the MSW electrification. The problem of declining cross country traffic, 25kV a.c., Beeching, et al, to say nothing of B.R.’s National Traction Plan, led to the sale of this small class to the Netherlands Railways (NS), in 1969.
Here, they remained in everyday use on inter-city services, as NS class ‘1500’. However, only six remained in use in the early 1980s, since 27005 was scrapped in 1969/70 to be used for spares, and due to traffic increases on the Dutch railways, many of the older loco. types, including the EM2’s had their working life extended. Overhauls and repairs put back their planned withdrawal until 1985/6, instead of 1981/ 2.
In BR days they were initially treated to a modified mixed traffic livery, as applied to steam locomotives. The modification in fact being the addition of a thin red line marking out the bodyside panels and cab front, with the lion and wheel emblem in the centre bodysides, and running numbers under each cab side window. Bogies and underframe were, naturally black. Later, steam loco. express passenger green was used, and the panelling was lined out in orange and black, with the 1956 style of lion and wheel crest, and nameplates attached to the bodysides. They were finally, before their sale, classified as ’77’ by the TOPS classification scheme, though of course, they did not last long enough to carry the TOPS running numbers, which first began to appear in 1972/3.
1954 (as new):
27000 – 27006, 9C Reddish
27000 – 27006, 9C Reddish
Class EM2 Co-Co – Names & Current Status:
Their healthy service life in the Netherlands, which, in the 1970s included passenger trains between Den Haag and Venlo, and freight services from Rotterdam Kijfhoek yard to Roosendaal, the arrival of new ‘1600’ class locos in the early 1980s brought that to a close. The first two of the six in service – ‘Pandora’ and ‘Aurora’ were scrapped in February 1985, and ‘Juno’ in October the following year.
No fewer than three of the class have been preserved as representatives of the early BR plans to electrify main lines on the 1,500V dc system. One of the class – ‘Diana’ – is preserved in the Netherlands, where it is still possible to run rail tours, whilst the other two are essentially static displays at the Midland Railway Centre and Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. That said, the EM2 Locomotive Society rescued ‘Electra’ and restored it to working order, and it had a number of successful tours in the Netherlands, before its return to the UK, to its present home in Butterley.
“Ariadne” seen in October 2018 at the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry, sporting her final colour scheme as used when in service with Netherlands Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen). Photo: Rodger Bradley
Back in the 1950s, when British Railways was beginning work on the “Modernisation & Re-Equipment Programme” – effectively the changeover from steam to diesel and electric traction – the focus in the diesel world was mainly between high and medium speed engines.
On top of which, there was a practical argument to support hydraulic versus electric transmission technology – for main line use, mechanical transmission was never a serious contender.
The first main line diesels had appeared in the very last days before nationalisation, and the choice of prime mover was shaped to a great extent by the experience of private industry, and English Electric in particular. The railway workshops had little or no experience in the field, and the better known steam locomotive builders had had some less than successful attempts to offer examples of the new diesel locomotives.
In Britain, the changeover from steam to electric traction became a very hit and miss affair during the 1950s and 1960s. Orders for the rail industry, and especially the locomotive industries, was subordinate to the railway workshops – which in the ‘experimental’ years received the lion’s share of the work. That said, the supply chain included companies like English Electric and Metropolitan Vickers, who had had considerable experience in non-steam traction, especially in export orders.
Examples operated in British Railways experimental period between 1948 and 1956 was powered by ‘heavy oil engines’ – the use of the word ‘diesel’ seemed to be frowned on by the professional press in some quarters. The few main line types that had been built were based around medium speed, 4-stroke power units, with complex valve gear, and perhaps over-engineered mechanical components. Power to weight ratios were poor.
In the USA in particular, where fuel oil and lubricating oil costs were much less of a challenge for the railroads, 2-stroke diesel engines were common, with much higher power to weight ratios, but equally higher fuel costs. Indeed, the Fairbaks-Morse company had designed and built opposed piston engines, long before English Electric’s ‘Deltic’ prototype appeared.
A fascinating glimpse into the workings of the 2-stroke ‘Deltic’ engines. In this animation, the source of the power unit’s name as an inverted Greek letter ‘Delta’ is perhaps more obvious.
Eventually, BR produced its modernisation plan, and included numerous diesel types, for operation and haulage of the very different services in all regions of the UK – they were dominated by medium speed 4-strokes, and only two examples of the 2-stroke design. The two examples were at opposite ends of the league – both in terms of operational success – and perhaps in the application of the 2-stroke to rail traction.
They remained the only two examples in main line use until the 1980s/1990s, when as a result of privatisation of rail services, many more 2-stroke powered examples were ordered and delivered from the major manufacturers in the USA. It may be though, that this technology will see only a brief life, as further electrification, and other technology changes take place.
This is just a brief overview of some aspects; please click on the image below for a few more thoughts:
“The Freight Network Study sets out the rail industry’s priorities for enhancing the rail freight network, so it is fit for the future. The dominant issue is the need to create capacity on the network. This will enable it to serve the future needs of the rail freight market, ensuring the sector remains competitive and expands.”
One of the objectives of this forward view seems to have been to “reduce road congestion” – great idea. Given both the speed and weight (44 tonnes) of HGV lorries on Britain’s roads – especially trunk and ‘A’ class roads, that’s got to be included too – yes?
Some of the internal statistics from the DfT and ORR make interesting comparisons with figures produced by Eurostat too, and whilst in general, this is an optimistic view, strict comparisons are difficult. More importantly perhaps it stated that the overriding need was to create more capacity in the network, to cope with the projected increased market share with the internal road network. These priorities were defined as:
Increasing the future capacity of the network – to enable more trains to operate
Enhancing its capability – to make more efficient use of the rail freight network.
This interesting little graph shows the tonne-km of freight trains in the UK, showing the result after 30+ years, is that freight tonne-km, are slightly ahead of where they were in 1980:
The second graph in comparison shows the volume of freight carried – no international through services, just internal workings. However, compared to the previous chart, you could say this was less positive.
Longer distances, but lighter weights perhaps.
In 2015, the Government published its “Road Investment Strategy”, which included this interesting quote:
“It is, however, important that we continue to invest across the tranport system as a whole, with the aim of enabling more choice and smoother journeys for all.
Road and rail, for instance, can often offer different options for passengers and freight.”
In its introduction, the Executive Summary indicates that 70% of freight travels by road in the UK, on a handful of principal arterial routes and motorways, whilst at the same time indicating that road congestion is an enormous cost to hauliers. Actually, the % share of net road freight tonne/kilometres is more than that, and taking the DfT/ORR/ONS statistics from https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/rai04-rail-freight#table-rai0401 and comparing road and rail with the total movements over the years from 1996 to 2016, it is 88%. The greatest share achieved by rail freight during that period occurred between 2013 and 2015, when the rail freight industry’s share reached the dizzy heights of 15%, or 22.7 billion net tonne/km.
At the same time, there has been little or no investment in rail freight, and intermodal services are essentially static, with little development beyond a comparison with the 1970s “Liner Train” concept and services. Of course, there will be isolated examples of improvements to intermodal services, such as that envisaged for the “Exeter Science Park”. This extract from the Government strategy document makes an interesting observation:
“Improvements to the SRN are also designed to bring economic benefits to the local area and wider region. For instance, a new junction arrangement on the A30, near M5 Junction 29, substantially enlarged junction capacity and opened up access to the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point. This is a strategic development targeted at driving economic growth and prosperity in the area, which includes the Exeter Science Park and Skypark business developments. Taken together, these developments are expected to create more than 10,000 jobs and generate £450 million in private sector investment, as well as featuring an intermodal freight and distribution facility. The improvements to the A30 were delivered by Devon County council, in partnership with the Highways Agency.”
The “intermodal freight and distribution facility” mentioned is nowhere to be seen on the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point web site, and only referred to in a Devon Council briefing paper 8 years earlier.
But, a comparison, however rough, between freight carried by rail and the charts below – based on ORR/ONS data clearly show a wide disparity between rail and road, and an unsustainable future for road freight at these volumes.
On the basis of these two charts, it seems that freight lifted by road has increased at a greater rate than that lifted by rail, although the distance moved has perhaps not increased at the same rate. Are the roads just carrying heavier loads over the same distances?
Over the 10 years from 2006 to 2016, freight lifted by road peaked in 2007/8, as did the distance moved, and whilst it did pick up a little from 2009, it has never reached the previous levels. At the same time, rail freight has basically remained static, and even reduced significantly since 2014/15.
The suggestion contained in the Government’s “Road Investment Strategy”, that 70% of freight is transported in and across the UK by road is a significant underestimate. Back at the beginning of November 2018, Stephen Glaister, chair of the Office of Rail and Road, was keen to outline that reform of the ORR, Highways England and Transport Focus is achieving success, going so far as to state:
“Broadly, I would judge that the reform has been a success. Crucially, the budget for RIS1 has fended off raids in a way it probably would not have done under the old regime.”
Under its latest plans, the road network has adopted the railways’ own 5-year planning methodology, but it does appear on the evidence so far, that there is, and will be little or no change in improving rail freight services in the UK. 2019 may be a watershed year for many reasons, but if the lack of expansion of intermodal, or investment and support for the rail freight industry, the outlook appears grim
By 2017/18, the total goods lifted by rail was down to only 75 million tonnes annually, and according to ORR estimates, represented less than 5% of total freight moved. On that basis, with little or no investment in the likes of intermodal and road-rail interchange facilities, whether at ports, or other locations, it seems that rail represents little by way of a economic options for growth.
Just 3 days into 2019, PD Ports issued a press statement with this eyecatching headline:
As the Northern Powerhouse continues to wither on the vine, and rail improvements fail to materialise, the Government is being taken to task over its complete failure to include any rail freight proposition to connect Leeds and Manchester. So, two of the biggest economic centres in the north have little or no rail freight improvement in the pipeline.
Just over 4 years ago, a £3million+ intermodal facility was opened at Teesport, and PD Ports has seen its customers choosing to use intermodal platforms, with a “significant modal shift” continuing. Perhaps the most telling comment made by this port operator is this:
“There is a significant demand from our customers to be able to move freight east to west through this Northern corridor allowing shorter distances to be covered by rail. Without a viable alternative route for rail freight with the necessary capacity and gauge, the growth we are experiencing will be limited and at risk of reducing due to transport restrictions.”
In addition then to the lack of investment in rail freight generally, there is a very considerable difference in any economic strategy to enable the oft-quoted “Northern Powerhouse” to actually fulfil its aspirations. What is needed is action.