Long Rails from Austria

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Back in the 1980s, as manufacturing industry – especially the primary industries like steelmaking –was coming to an end in the UK, steel railway rails were still being rolled in England’s North West.   The then BSC Track Products division at Workington in Cumbria was rolling 250ft (76.2 metres) long rails, to UIC standards deemed ‘Normal’, ‘wear resistatnt’ and ‘premium wear resistant’ grades.  The steel rolled into rails at Workington was produced by the Basic Oxygen (BOS) process at Lackenby (Redcar) and Electric Arc furnaces at Sheffield.   

Barrow Steelworks Rail bank

The early days of steel rail production in North West England. Regrettably the source of the image is unknown.

Workington was the rail production centre in the UK, mainly from the 1950s to the 1980s, and prior to that Barrow-in-Furness had been the home of rail production.  Indeed much of the rail output produced at Barrow was shipped around the world, and can be found anywhere from the USA, to Finland and Australia.

The global centre of rail production seems to have shifted to Austria and the heart of Europe these days, with Linz, Graz and Leoben-Donawitz taking the places of Barrow-in-Furness, Redcar and Sheffield.

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Where it all starts in 2019 – the Voestalpine plant in Leoben-Donawitz. Photo: Voestalpine

Today (4th July 2019), 108 metres long rails are being carried – by rail – from Leoben-Donawitz, just to the north west of Graz, through Germany and on to Belgium, and via the Channel Tunnel to Dollands Moor, using a DB Cargo Class 66.  The rails are being rolled at the Voestalpine, before being loaded onto a special train – and this is certainly an exceptional load – the train cosnsists of 18 wagons, with each 108-metre steel rail spanning six wagons.

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The train as it leaves Leoben-Donawitz in Austria Photo: DB Cargo

DB Cargo are running four such trains across Europe to the UK from Leoben-Donawitz to Aachen West, by DB Cargo Belgium on to Antwerp, by ECR on to Calais-Frethun, before DB Cargo UK pick up the final leg on to Eastleigh.

DB Cargo UK’s International Rail Project Manager Tony Gillan said:

“It’s fair to say that this is indeed an exceptional load. Great care and skill have been required to ensure that our cargo can navigate a safe and smooth passage across the European network to its final destination.”

This impressive train with its 108 metre long rails will  be taken forward on Friday 5th July from Dollands Moor to Eastleigh’s East Yard early on Saturday morning 6th July.

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Frecciarossa 1000 – Ferrari of the Rails

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Italian State Railways (FS), will be the operator of the fastest ever high-speed service in Europe, once the latest Frecciarossa series begin running.   The new trains, designed and built in Italy are a development of the “Frecciarossa 1000” – but maybe the Ferrari of the rails is a more fitting epithet.

Saying that they will be the “fastest ever high-speed trains in Europe” – you have to bear in mind that’s comparing them with the ICE trains, TGV, and ts derivatives.  Hitachi, as the successful bidder, in partnership with Bombardier were also involved directly with the world’s first high-speed trains – the “Shinkansen” in Japan.

 

This week (4th June), FS, placed an order for 14 of these new trains in a composite contract with Hitachi and Bombardier, worth €575 million, which includes a 10-year maintenance agreement.  Each train is 200 metres long, and designed to operate at up to 360 km/h, carrying 460 passengers.  Other facilities include onboard Wi-Fi, a meeting room and bistro area.

High-speed rail across Europe continues to expand, and the current breed of tilting trains across Italy are certainly eyecatching.  Back in 2017, the Venice bound Frecciarossa was captured at Verona, just as the ETR 610 in Swiss livery was on its return trip westbound for Geneva.   Verona is on the route of the designated high-speed corridor between Milan and Venice, so perhaps when the deviation and infrastructure works between Brescia and Verona are completed, the ETR1000s may operate regularly on this line.

Frecciarossa and SBB ETR 610 at Verona - August 2017

Today’s high-speed rail in Italy, seen at Verona Porta Nuova in August 2017, an ETR 500 Frecciarossa alongside the SBB ETR 610, which is returning from Venice to Geneva. (Photo: Rodger Bradley)

The original ETR1000 series started life in 2012, but it was not until 2015 that the first 8-car sets were approved for service in Italy, between Milan and Rome, and Torino.  They were built then by a consortium of Bombardier and AnsaldoBreda, and in 2015, Hitachi bought Ansaldo.

All 14 of the latest high-speed trains will be built in Italy.  They have a reduced noise and vibration characteristic compared to previous models, with a very low environmental impact, generating only 28 micrograms the CO2 emissions per passenger/kilometre.  On top of this, it is claimed that the materials used in the building of this new gereration is close to 100%.

The Bombardier/Hitachi partnership is also bidding for the UK’s own high-speed train order – for the HS2 project – and recently released an image of what the design could look like.

New HS2 train design image - Hitachi-Bomb copy

 

Of course, both Hitachi and Bombardier are lready involved in the UK, be it new builds, or support and maintenance, including the Class 800 series of trains, now running n the GWR main line and on the East Coast Main Line.  These are all derived from Hitachi’s “A-Train” concept, and have been very successful, although restricted to a maximum of 125mph.  (With ETCS and in cab signalling, the max line speed is increased to 140mph).

But even the latest  Class 800/2  “Azuma” designs running in LNER colours on the East Coast Main Line, still have a bit of ground to make up on Frecciarossa 1000.

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You couldn’t make it up!

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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)

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From Preston to Montreal

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The first efforts to electrify the railway in and around the harbour at Montreal in Canada came after 1915, and in part were driven by the British Government’s desire to increase its trade within the empire, and expand and develop resources.  They even set up a Royal Commission to look into how that could be achieved just before the start of the First World War.  One of the commissioners appointed was Sir William Lorimer, Chairman of the North British Locomotive Co., and yet it would be one of his company’s newer competitors who won an order for locomotive power for the Montreal Harbour Commissioners’ impressive project.

In 1915, the Harbour Commissioners had had a report prepared on the benefits of electrifying the railways around Montreal Harbour.  The following year, 1916, in the company’s annual report, they made this statement:

“It was ascertained that, in addition to the primary object of overcoming the smoke nuisance, the application of electricity would prove to be economical and flexible and especially advantageous for the elimination of the corrosion of steel and galvanized iron by acid gases.   Although preparations were made to urge forward the completion of this important work, the Commissioners decided that under existing conditions it would be advisable to postpone the expenditure for this undertaking until after the War.”

The “corrosion of steel and galvanised iron by gases” might well have been an early reference to acid rain.

Prior to the electrification of Montreal Harbour’s lines, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNR) had constructed a new line from the town of Mount Royal, to downtown Montreal, and had also introduced the first main line electrification to Canada.  Mount Royal is a town to the North West of central Montreal, and lies on the north west of the mountain from which it takes its name. In 1910 the CNR first proposed constructing a 5-km-long tunnel under Mount Royal, and developed the town as a “Model City”, originally laid out after the style of Washington, DC.  The line then made a connection with Montreal’s harbour lines, and a new central station was built, with a freight station located near the Lachine Canal and what is now described as Montreal’s old Harbour.  The newly electrified track to downtown Montreal used Bo-Bo electric locos built by General Electric at Schenectady, New York, whilst the Canadian GEC supplied the overhead equipment and power systems.    The point of this first scheme was to handle both suburban and main line trains from the new passenger station in Montreal to the suburban territory beyond Mount Royal, wherethe mainline traffic wastransferred to steam haulage.  

The electrification of the Mount Royal Tunnel section was electrified at 2,400V d.c., completed in September 1918, with the first train running through on 21stOctober that same year.

This period – marked both by enormous growth in freight traffic, and by the collapse of the Canadian Northern Railway (amongst others) – was a very difficult time.  The Federal Government nationalized the railway, and later took on board the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR), alongside others, and by 1923, Canadian National Railways became the major Railway in Canada. 

This photograph originally appeared on the cover of English Electric booklet No. 55 of its ‘Railway Electrification’ series, and published in 1931, shows some indication of the harsh conditions faced by electric traction in Canada.

It is speculation to suggest that this work and the GE built locomotives – which were completed between 1914 and 1918 – encouraged the Montreal Harbour Commissioners to press ahead with their plans to electrify the harbour lines.  It was 7 years later that the Harbour Commissioners were able to complete the electrification of the harbour lines, in 1925, and in order to conform to the standards adopted by CNR for the Mount Royal Tunnel, again, 2400V d.c. was adopted throughout.

However, and perhaps due to British Government influence, the Harbour Commissioners looked to the UK and English Electric for their project.  The Preston based company not only provided the nine, 100 ton locomotives, but also the motor generator sets for the substations that provided the traction power supply.   For the infrastructure work, three 1000kW motor generator sets were supplied to the initial installation, with the last two being manufactured at English Electric’s Stafford Works.  Subsequently, the Harbour Commissioners ordered two more machines from English Electric, each of which consisted of a 2,300kW, 63 cycles, synchronous motor, coupled to a pair of 1200V d.c. generators, connected in series.

The locomotives

No. 103 in original condition, and newly arrived from Preston, prior to embarking on its 70+ years of work in and around Montreal Harbour, and the Mount Royal line.

The new locomotives were a Bo-Bo design of 1720hp, and were supplied against two orders, and at the time, considered to be the most powerful units of their type, anywhere in the world.  The orders were placed in 1923, with the first four locomotives entering service in February 1925, and the second batch of five in operation from August the following year.  The locomotives were built at the Preston Works, and shipped across the Atlantic to Montreal.  In design, the units were a simple box cab layout, with a driving cab at each end, although one of these was provided with projecting lookouts so that the driver could have unobstructed vision during some shunting operations.  The cab with the projecting lookouts had duplicate controls, a further advantage for shunting service, whilst the cab at the opposite end, with only a single set of controls, and no lookouts, would be used predominantly for long haul operations.

Up until the completion of electrification works around the harbour, and arrival of these new locomotives, the Harbour Commissioners had been renting two electric units Canadian National Railways. It was a temporary measure, and to some degree an experiment in the use of electric traction, and the rented locos were from the six boxcab units built at GE’s Schenectady Works.

CNR blueprint diagram of the EE locos for Montreal Harbour. This diagram – also showing the position of the illuminated number board fitted in later years, was originally published in the journal of the Canadian Railroad Historical Society in January 1962.

Power equipment layout consisted of four; 430hp force ventilated traction motors, each being axle hung, and driving the wheels through single reduction spur gearing.   Given the harsh winter conditions in Canada, the traction motors received some interesting design attention.  To avoid condensation in the traction motors in cold weather, after the locomotive had completed its roster, all the field coils were connected in series, and heated through a connection to an external 220V power source.  Not without some irony perhaps, but the UK’s own problems with electric traction some 60 years later surfaced with a newspaper headline about service failures due to the ‘wrong kind of snow’ falling in Britain!  Most European rail networks – especially in Scandinavia – paid far more attention, like Canada, to the effects of freezing weather on traction systems than British Rail.

The locomotives were capable of exerting a tractive effort of 70,000 lbs at the wheel treads, and soon after their introduction, one of their number demonstrated these abilities, by hauling a train of some 5,240 tons, the heaviest then recorded.  Within the body of the locomotive, the remaining equipment was installed in cubicles along either side of a central gangway. This hardware consisted of a motor generator set, air compressors and banks of resistances, with standard English Electric camshaft control.  

With the English Electric version of this form of control, the operating current was not switched at the camshaft itself, but on line breakers, connected in series with the camshaft controller.  Special provision was made for the high-tension equipment, which was housed in a separate compartment, included access through substantial, interlocked, sliding doors, and which could not be opened unless the main switch was closed, isolating the equipment.

In view of the harshness of the Montreal climate in winter, important amongst the numerous design considerations, was the provision of adequate ventilation and heating. Provisions were made to guard against condensation in the traction motor field windings, which could be connected in series to a 220V shore supply, and the driving cabs were double glazed, and heavily insulated against the cold.

Leading Dimensions, Numbering & Withdrawal

For their time and size these were very powerful machines, and the maximum tractive effort they were able to exert was actually a little more than one of English Electric’s most famous diesel locomotive from the 1950s – the 3,300hp “Deltic” prototype.

CN No. 186 with commuter train in Montreal with the running number applied in 1949, and renumbered 6722 after 1969.
Photo © A.J.Schill/Joseph Testagrose Collection

The locomotives were numbered 9180 to 9188 when they were taken into CN service, as Class Z-4-a and renumbered as 180 to 188 in 1949, before a final renumbering in 1969, with numbers 6716 to 6724.  They were finally withdrawn from service in 1995, when carrying this number series.

In the same year, 1923, English Electric also received an order for a pair of 760hp Bo-Bo electric locomotives, for operation on the Niagra-St Catherines-Toronto route, which was electrified at 600V d.c., and used a ‘trolley pole’ form of overhead contact.  The 1920s were perhaps the last decade when electric tramway, inter-urban or other light rail networks used this form of electrification.

The petrol-electric crane/servicing locomotive built and delivered by English Electric in 1929.  Seen here in Preston shortly after completion, and before shipping to Montreal.

The Petrol-Electric Locomotive

Even these were not the only motive power designed and supplied by English Electric for Canada’s early electrification projects. In 1929 the Montreal Harbour Commissioners ordered what was described as a general service locomotive for repair and construction work – this was a 54ton petrol-electric locomotive, fitted with a 100hp 6-cylinder engine.  Attached to this petrol engine was a 52kW, 500 volt main generator and a 120 volt auxiliary generator, powering the traction motors through a 12-notch controller that provided fine control over the loco’s speed, up to a maximum of 12 mph.   Its unique feature – clearly because of its intended use – included a roof mounted jib crane, and a swinging/collapsible gantry, for maintenance and service personnel to reach whatever equipment was in need of attention on the overhead system.

 English Electric received yet another order from Canada – the company’s last, in 1952 – but this time for the Toronto Transit Commission, and perhaps sadly from Preston’s view, the order was only for motorcoach control equipment. That said, the 1952 order consisted of no less than 140 sets of that control equipment, with the mechanical parts and assembly from Canadian Car and Foundry (CC&F), from its factory in Montreal.  Today, CC&F is part of the Bombardier Transportation business, as its railcar facility in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The original nine locos for Montreal Harbour had a very long service life, and were only withdrawn fully in 1995 – more than 70 years after their delivery and initial operation.  In later years the class ceased working around Montreal Harbour after 1940/41.This extract from a discussion on these locomotives appeared in the January 1962 edition of the newsletter of the Canadian Railroad Historical Society:

“The Montreal Harbour electrification, however, did not prove to be too successful. Technically it was fine but the financial burden was too great and at the close of the 1940 navigation season, electric operations were brought to a halt. During the following months, the National Harbours Board wire crews took down the expensive overhead and dismantled the electrification works. The electric locomotives, however, fitted admirably with the CNR’s need for additional motive power for the National System’s expanding Montreal Terminals electrification. The locomotives, therefore, were transferred to the Canadian National Railways in 1942 in exchange for nine steam-powered 0-6-0 switchers numbered 7512 to 7518 inclusive.”

In its final guise for CN, No. 6716 and a sister locomotive head a commuter service near Mount Royal in July 1983.  Although the headlight is still in the original position, the loco now has an illuminated number board just above the central cab window.
Photo © Clayton Langstaff

The electrification work, and the provision of these new boxcab locomotives was an important milestone for English Electric, and whilst the mechanical parts were sub-contracted to Beyer-Peacock in Manchester, this marked a major success for the company. These first orders for substation power equipment and locomotives were received only 4 years after the company came into existence, brining together the years of experience, and expertise already shown by the Dick, Kerr Co., pushing forward with electric traction. 2019 marks the centenary of what was for half a century perhaps the most famous electrical engineering company in the UK, and it was only just over a year ago that the doors on the factory in Preston, Lancashire were closed for the final time.

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Useful Links:

BBC thinks British Rail Did Not Work?

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On the BBC’s Breakfast show today a comment was made when interviewing a representative from the “We Own It” campaign group and a Rail Delivery Group spokesman.

Screenshot 2019-04-30 at 11.22.12The interview at Birmingham New Street Station was reviewing a proposal by the RDG to end the current rail franchising arrangements.

The idea is patently going to be considered under the Government review. But during the interviews, this comment was made in closing the piece:

“We know British Rail did not work”

A clearly absurd statement – quite apart from being factually incorrect.

Whilst British Rail had many problems, it is plainly the UK privatisation model that has failed. The proposal from the RDG about “localising” control and regulation of commuter and suburban services is just regurgitating the PTE formats set up during BR days.

Half baked schemes – like open access services – are just that, half baked. These latest suggestions just seem to add complexity to an already complex and badly managed arrangement.

Disappointing from the BBC – what next, repeat the myth about curly sandwiches on trains and in refreshment rooms?!!

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Siemens New Rail Factory in Goole

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The name of Siemens has an exceptionally long history with railway equipment and rolling stock manufacturing in the UK. To be precise since 1864, when the Woolwich factory was established in London, although the company had been set up in London in 1850, and over the next 30 years, William Siemens was responsible for the arrival of electric traction. Amongst many other innovative developments and delivering what we might today call ‘disruptive’ technology.

This week – April 23rd – it was announced that the company had submitted their plans to build a new factory in Goole, East Yorkshire, for the construction, testing and support for new rolling stock for UK train companies. The application is for outline consent to enable the development to be delivered in phases, with the first phase – the manufacturing facilities expected to open in 2023, with the factory fully operational in 2025. The new facility will manufacture and commission the latest development of the “Desiro” family, which itself – in the UK – dates back to 2000, when the first emu’s were ordered for service with First Great Eastern, and owned by Angel Trains.

Goole Infographics V2-02 (002)The new £200 million factory uses land on a 67 acre site, adjacent to the Guardian Industries UK glass factory, and the Goole intermodal rail terminal – a clearly appropriate location from a rail perspective – and is also close to junction 36 of the M62 motorway. The plans submitted include 80,000 sqm of manufacturing, commissioning, warehouse buildings and stabling sidings, as well as a four-storey, 5,000 sqm office building. Siemens Mobility is planning to create up to 700 jobs as part of this project, and 250 during the construction period, with an estimated additional 1,700 in the UK supply chain.

But Siemens Mobility is not just planning to build trains in Goole, as the company’s UK rolling stock engineering and commissioning team will be based here, and is planning to locate its Digital Operations Centre onsite, collecting and analysing train borne data for train operators.

Ntfl-exterior-platform

Artists impression of the new tube rolling stock design Photo: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44094899

The driver to carry the proposal forward was of course the £1.5 billion order for new trains for the Piccadilly Line for London Underground. The Piccadilly Line had the distinction at one time of being London’s longest tube line, and is now 113 years old. Under the Deep Tube Upgrade Programme, Siemens Mobility Ltd’s contract will supply 94 small-profile metro trainsets, following their successful award from the tender process that began in 2016. Siemens’ success was achieved against stiff competition from Alstom, Bombardier, CAF, and Hitachi, and which included three of the companies launching legal challenges that automatically prevented award of the contract. Suspension of the contract award was lifted by the High Court on 2nd November 2018, and the contract placed.

Whilst it is true that Siemens already have a considerable presence in the area, supporting the offshore and renewables industry, manufacturing turbine blades, this new factory is an important step in the re-growth of the UK’s rail manufacturing industry. It is interesting to reflect too that between 1957 and 1972, GEC Traction (later merged with Alsthom), secured orders for 720 sets of motorcoach power equipment for the Piccadilly, and the Heathrow Extension.

Some useful links:

 

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Is Leeds Station Being Short Changed?

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Back on the 7th March – the BBC carried a short story about the inability of Northern Rail to run longer trains out of Leeds City, due to ‘constraints from platform length’  That is, they were suggesting the platforms were not long enough to accommodate any multiple unit longer than a 3-car set.  This is the story they carried:

Northern’s long six-carriage trains delayed by two years

A bit odd perhaps, especially considering the huge upgrades, platform lengthening, additional tracks, facilities, etc., etc., etc. that were delivered by the “Leeds 1st” rebuilding project of 2001.  So how long are these Northern Rail trains going to be?  Because back in the days of old fashioned steam and diesel, Leeds City was handling 8, 10 and 12 coach main line services, after the 1967 remodelling and rebuilding.

At the time of the Leeds 1st Project, the Class 333 three-car electric emu’s were ordered from Siemens and CAF, and based on the Class 332 Heathrow Express sets.  Some were fitted with a fourth car, to cope with the extra passenger numbers in the mid 2000s, but the funding for the extra capacity came from South Yorkshire PTE, with the remaining funding from West Yorkshire.

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Northern Rail (leased from Angel Trains) Siemens class 333 four car 25kV AC overhead electric multiple unit number 333011 of Neville Hill T&RSMD approaches Steeton station on the Up Shipley Main line forming the 14:15 Skipton to Leeds (2H23). Sunday 14th December 2008.                                                                                                  Photo David Ingham – icensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

So these trains as 4-car sets have been operating for more than 10 years into and out of Leeds station – as excuses go, this one from Northern Rail is about as lame as they come.

These trains have cars that are a little under 24 metres in length – 96 metres -ish for a full train.   Back in BR days, a standard coach was around 23.5 metres long, so an 8-coach train would be 188 metres long – if Leeds City could manage a train of that length 50 years ago – why are the platforms too short for the new trains?

Still, Northern Rail are still keeping the good old ‘Pacers’ operational and the overcrowding continues.

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