Some 34 years ago, I wrote a feature for the PA Features entitled “High Speed Trains for the 21st Century”, which was essentially a look at some of the then ground breaking innovation, research and ideas in development for rail transport. In 1986, we were in the grip of an explosion of ideas, and that despite the axing by the UK government of the British Rail APT, with its tilting technology. This would later come back to us via Fiat in Italy, and the Virgin operated Pendolino trains – it is perhaps equally ironic that Italy would today, in 2020, also now be operating the UK’s West Coast Pendolino trains.
The railway network of India is vast, and its cities have extensive suburban and metro networks, with Delhi seeing one of the most recent projects to build a 122 km double-track Orbital Rail Corridor. The route will run around the west of Delhi from Palwal in the south to Harsana Kalan in the north, and provide some relief for the severe congestion on the capital’s inner routes. The metro routes in and around Kolkata have also been expanded in recent years, with October seeing the first underground station on the East-West metro line opened for revenue service.
But the first electrification work for India was sanctioned by the government in August 1922, as the railway’s traffic continued to increase, and the escalating costs of coal for steam hauled services. Contracts were let to the Tata Hydro Electric company to provide the power supplies, and English Electric for the supply of substation equipment including rotary converters, circuit breakers and control panels. The 110,000V a.c. supply was delivered to three principal substations at Dharavi, Kalyan & Thane, where it was converted through the English Electric rotary converters to 1500V d.c. as the feed to the overhead catenary.
Each of the substations was equipped with a pair of 1,250 kW, 750V converters, connected in series – the total installed power was 15,000kW. At Kalyan, three of these 2,500kW units were installed, and used English Electric’s own design of automatic switching equipment. The line’s outdoor switchyard was located here too, and included electrically operated oil circuit breakers and the step up transformer for the 110,000V incoming supply, along with other control and auxiliary equipment.
First there was horse, and then steam followed by diesel and electric – and some of these concurrently – and now the future may be a hydrogen fuel cell powered train. In a tenuous link back to the atomic trains proposals of the mid 20th century perhaps, the University of St Andrews is looking to design and test a power plant for rail vehicles, using hydrogen fuel cells, and fit this to an existing rail vehicle platform.
In September, the university published a ‘Prior Information Notice’, to indicate the key boundaries of this home grown project, with a power source that further reduces the rail industry’s dependence on fossil fuels for traction. The idea itself has been around for some time – well since 2018 at least – and no doubt much earlier theoretically.
Back then Birmingham University’s Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) began development of a project to utilise hydrogen fuel-cell technology on a railway vehicle – their test bed being a former British Rail Class 319 multiple unit. British Rail Engineering Ltd. originally built these electric multiple units, from 1987 onwards, and after privatisation, they were rented by various train operating companies. A number of the class were modified, upgraded in various ways, including a number that were converted to bi-mode units in 2016.
Back in 2018, BCRRE demonstrated a 10 ¼ ins gauge locomotive “Hydrogen Hero” at the Quinton Rail Technology Centre, in Warwickshire, and in partnership with Porterbrook Leasing the Birmingham team went on to design and demonstrate the ‘HydroFLEX’ demonstrator. This was based on Class 319 No. 319001 from Porterbrook, and successfully demonstrated at Quinton in June 2019. Mainline testing followed, and the “HydroFLEX” project was awarded a £400,000 funding grant from a £9.4 million fund for innovative projects this month to develop the final, detailed design for the world’s first bi-mode electric hydrogen train.
This was the main transport story on the 4th September on numerous news outlets – well after the Covid-19 quarantine issues for travellers. What does it actually mean – work has been underway for some time in site clearances, groundworks in preparation to build a dedicated line for passengers from London to Birmingham.
This is what HS2 stated on its website at what was deemed the official launch day:
“HS2 Ltd has today (4 September 2020) announced the formal start of construction on the project, highlighting the large number of jobs the project will be recruiting for in the coming months and years.“
So, this controversial project continues to progress, and the objections and protests continue, but will HS2 achieve its objective? Again, according to the company’s own website, this what they are seeking to achieve:
Yes, I know it is only Phase 1, and the remaining sections will take the high speed links to Manchester, Leeds, etc. But – that’s still a long way off, as indeed is the completion of the 140 miles from London, near Euston & Paddington, to Birmingham Curzon Street. Yesterday too, Solihull gave consent to the building of the Birmingham Interchange Station, with its ‘peoplemover’ link to the NEC. Wonder if that’ll be “Maglev Revisited”? (See: Worlds First Commercial Maglev System)
Following nationalisation, new and repainted locomotives continued to appear in traffic bearing the initials of their former owners, though replaced very quickly by a complete absence of any titling. This early period saw also a number of new engines built to the designs of their former owners, outshopped with their original works/builders’ plates fitted, but with the tell tale signs of having had the initials LNER, LMS, &c., removed before the locomotive went into traffic. The appearance of evidence of former ownership was very long lasting in some cases, with ‘sightings’ of a faded ‘GWR’, or ‘LMS’ being noted in the contemporary railway press of the late 1950s.
The full title BRITISH RAILWAYS was carried by many locomotives and numerous classes, lasting, at least officially, until the arrival in 1949 of the lion and wheel emblem, or totem as it was known. The style of lettering adopted officially in 1949 was Gill-Sans, and had been widely used on the London Midland, Eastern, North Eastern, Scottish, and Southern Regions of BR, from 1948, although the Western Region perpetuated for a time the style of the old GWR, and some examples of former SR style on the newly formed Southern Region could also be found.
An exhibition of experimental colour schemes was held at Addison Road station in January 1948 involving a number of newly built LMR Class 5MT 4-6-0s (See Table). The first locomotive turned out with any indication of its new ownership was the WR 4-6-0 No.4946 Moseley Hall repainted in full GWR livery, but with the tender lettered BRITISH RAILWAYS using the old GWR style letters.
Of course, it was not just locomotives that were exhibited at Addison Road, rolling stock too was displayed, with a selection of new colours, covering express passenger, suburban, and the few multiple unit types around at that time. During the first six months of 1948, the Railway Executive was concentrating equally as hard on the new image of British Railways, as with homogenising the administrative and operating procedures of the former owners.
Officially, the six regions of British Railways were colour coded from 1st May 1948, and the colours applied across most of the range of railway activity, from posters and timetables to station nameboards.
But, locomotives and rolling stock were excluded from this level of uniformity.
The BTC published a series of Temporary Painting Schedules for its inhgerited motive power in late 1948 covering these experimental liveries:
Some of the first applications of the experimental locomotive colours were combined with similarly repainted rolling stock, and no less than 14 trains were dispatched over various routes around the country, and the public invited to comment on the new schemes. To what extent the public responded to the request is not known, and sadly, no official records of the ‘experimental’ colours now exist, other than the temporary painting schedules.The shades displayed by the locomotives came in for much retrospective comment, often incorrectly.
The 1948 trials brought LMS Class 5s, and GWR Kings and Castles in lined light green and lined blue, with incorrect suggestions that two different blues were used. The appearance of the experimental colours was directly affected by the materials used. With both oleo resinous and synthetic paints applied, the latter as an alternative for the green and lined black styles, there would be perhaps appear to be differences in the colours themselves.
Painting of locomotives could be divided into two principal stages: Preparatory Work and Finishing Processes.
Preparatory work on complete repaints comprised a number of operations: first, a coat of primer was applied, followed by whatever stopping and filling was necessary, whilst the intermediate operations were a combination of rubbing down and undercoating. Lastly, a single coat of grey undercoat was applied, prior to the finishing processes.
The Finishing Processes took no less than three days, on the first day a single coat of sealer/undercoat was applied in the livery colour, followed by a coat of enamel/finishing paint was laid down. The second day was occupied with lining and lettering, and finally, on the third day, a coat of protective varnish was applied.
The fact that two shades of blue have been reported as ‘sightings’ in the contemporary enthusiast press could be attributed to the difference between oil based and synthetic resin paints, with the addition of extra pale varnish, or equally to the effects of cleaning. However, there was only one shade of blue, in both the experimental and early standard liveries.
Lettering and numbering was also subject to variation and initially, this was affected by the regional management, and resulted for a time in the use of serif and non-serif characters, depending on whether Swindon, Brighton, or Crewe were completing the repaints. Plain white letters was the official order of the day for London Midland, whilst Swindon, independent to the last – and some would say beyond – offered its own elaborate style. But, in September 1948, the Railway Executive announced its standard instructions, whereby all letters and figures were to be in Gill Sans Medium normally be applied in gold or golden yellow, and where the outline was other than black, these letters and numbers were to be outlined in black. The statement went on to advocate not a standard size of engine cabside number, but the use of the largest possible figures that would fit in the available space.
And these were just the first steps in achieving what today would be described as the “brand image”, with the final decisions taking into account – to some degree – regional practices. The lion and wheel emblem (icon, logo or totem) was the brand that featured strongly in the years up to 1956, when it was replaced with a genuine heraldic ‘device’. Sadly, there are too few colour images of the locos carrying the early experimental liveries, and aside from the decision not to use blue for express passenger types, the 1949 standard colours were retained until the end of steam. (Yes, I well remember seeing an ex LMSR “Coronation” class pacific running through Preston in the late 1950s, but it was an exception).
Then from the late 1950s onwards, as diesel traction began to make its progress felt and heard, green became a favourite colour choice, and there were not a few variations there too. The totem or logo changed in the mid 1950s too, and although often described as a crest, it was only the 1956 lion holding wheel crest was a proper heraldic device. See “British Railways Locomotive Crests” for more details.
The liveries and styles carried by British Railways motive power in the steam era were very much suited to the motive power of the day, and provided that essential unification – and ‘brand image’ – that the nationalised railway network demanded.
To be continued ……
Fascinating and sad story – the new Merseyrail electrics have not even entered service, but stored at Tonbridge in Kent, they’ve already received a repaint, courtesy of local vandals. The trains from Stadler’s Wildenrath test track in Germany had been sent to Tonbridge on their way to Merseyside, and are now having the graffiti removed at the Merseyrail Kirkdale depot.
These are the new Class 777 units, and 52 of the 4-car articulated sets were ordered back in 2017 from the Swiss manufacturer, with an option to buy another 60. The present Class 507 and 508 will all of course ultimately disappear. The first of the new trains was delivered in January, but this latest arrival has resulted in the need to spend a significant amount of money making the new trains look new.
This video shows some shots, courtesy of the Railmen of Kent Twitter feed – https://twitter.com/RailinKent
Merseyrail’s network features one of the oldest sections of electrified rail network in Britain, opened in May 1903, it was known as the Mersey Railway, running from Liverpool Central to Rock Ferry. It was in fact the first steam railway to be converted to electric traction. This was a complete electrification contract, awarded to the British Westinghouse Co. (later Metropolitan-Vickers Ltd) – although all of the electrical equipment was imported from Westinghouse USA. British Westinghouse was set up in 1899 on the Trafford Park estate in Manchester by George Westinghouse, hopin g to continue to expand the electric railway and tramway markets in the UK.
The other early component of Merseyrail was the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Co.’s line from Liverpool Exchange to Southport, with the section from Exchange to Crossens (just north of Southport) opened in 1904, and on to Aintree in 1906, and then Ormskirk in 1913. As with the Mersey Railway, 600V d.c. was the preferred supply, via the conductor rail, and the same supplier. Also, as with the Wirral line, the railway had its own power station, based at Formby, and the generating equipment was also supplied by British Westinghouse.
Over the years, the network has been expanded, and with some of the most extensive work taking place long after World War 2, in the 1970s, and in effect creating “Merseyrail”, which used variants of the British Rail designs of 3rd rail trains. The Class 507s and 508s, which provide services today were refurbished by Alstom between 2002 and 2005, but the new Class 777s provide and implement some of the latest thinking for suburban and commuter train designs.
Such a shame that delivery of these latest sets have been marred by such mindless vandalism. I know, all trains – condemned or just stabled at the end of the working day – have been subject to the works of amateur Banksy’s, but this incident even made it to the BBC’s news services:
Still, once they have been cleaned up and restored to new at Kirkdale, Merseyside will have some superb new trains to travel on – from Ormskirk and Southport, to Birkenhead and Rock Ferry. Still electric after 117 years.
This video shows the new trains arriving on Merseyside, and on Merseyrail lines for the first time in January 2020:
In Ireland, the new CIE Class 22000 now features a hybrid drive, from a Rolls Royce-MTU diesel engine and Li-ion battery pack. The principle is not new, and the Class 22000 have been around for the best part of a decade, but this latest development further enhances the railway’s green credentials.
CIE have a 10-year strategy for investment in ever more sustainable rail transport, and back in October 2019, the Government approved an order worth €150 million for 41 new “22000 Class” railcars/multiple units, on top of the current 234 car fleet. The new rolling stock will enter service in late 2021 in the Greater Dublin area, and according to CIE, will provide a 34% increase in capacity on peak commuter services.
The 22000 Class vehicles began operations in 2007, and were paired with the MTU diesel engine and Voith transmission, and were intended primarily for the Dublin – Belfast services. Between 2008 and 2011, their range of operations was extended; more vehicles were purchased, and operated as 3-car, 4-car and 5-car sets.
This latest order for the hybrid variety is actually part of a longer term plan to operate up to 600 battery-electric hybrid carriages on the network by around 2029. These railcars have been operating for around 12 years now, although not without some operational issues.
As ever with railways in the 21st century, buying new trains, or even power trains, is an increasingly complex process. The latest order was placed in concert with Porterbrook Leasing, who also bought the new MTU-Rolls Royce hybrid power pack, which was unveiled at Innotrans in Berlin some 4 years ago.
For CIE, the hybrid power pack marks the start of much greener rail operations, and follows the path that many other national railways have started on, and whilst initially the new trains will primarily used the MTU diesel engine, too is one of the most environmentally friendly in its class. The option to link to the batteries, which are recharged during braking, will soon be the commonplace driving mode – initial starts on electric motors, then following on with the diesel that complies with EU Stage V emissions, and as the train slows, the charge used by the batteries is replenished.
But this video is a great explanation of the concept and operation.
This is a rough translation of the text with this video:
“With its Hybrid PowerPack®, MTU has been nominated for the 2018/19 innovation award by Privatbahn magazine in the Energy & Environment category. The award ceremony will take place on April 2, 2019 as part of the Hannover Messe.
The MTU Hybrid PowerPack® was developed further from the previous MTU underfloor drives. The hybrid concept consists of a modular system with various drive elements. The power-tight electrical machine is individually scalable and extremely compact. Depending on requirements, the MTU EnergyPack (scalable energy storage) can be positioned in the roof or under floor area of the railcar. This enables flexibility to procure new vehicles or to convert existing vehicles.”
MTU-Rolls Royce and CIE announced the arrival of the new Class 22000 trains with this press release:
The Wellington Suburban Electrification
Well, not strictly suburban, but the second major electrification on New Zealand’s railway lines that involved English Electric; this time on the main line linking the capital, Wellington, with Auckland, 400 miles away to the north. This was the first stage in electrifying the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT), across some of the world’s most spectacular, and challenging terrain.
English Electric were pioneers of electric traction, and were especially successful around the world, notably of course in former British colonies, whether India, Australia, and of course, New Zealand. In the 1930s, increasing traffic around Wellington, and the success of the Arthur’s Pass project almost a decade earlier, the North Island electrification work led to an order for tnew main line electric locomotives. These were the first heavyweight (my italics) locos in service on the route from Wellington to Paekakariki, which later became the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT).
At the same time, the fortmer Dick, Kerr Works of English Electric received an order for multiple units to provide faster, more efficient suburban passenger services.
The locomotives introduced a number of new, novel features, even by the emerging ‘new technology’ of the day, and yet oddly, their wheel arrangement was initially described as that of a steam loco – i.e. a 2-8-4 – but later a 1-Do-2. It’s hard to know which sounds more compex.
The locos had a long life, and although only two survived to be preserved as static exhibits, they marked at least the start of electric traction progress in New Zealand. The Preston company received further orders from ‘down under’ after the Second World War too, with a Bo-Bo-Bo design in the 1950s, as the “Ew” class, and as late as the 1980s English Electric – as GEC Traction – were still supplying electrical equipment.
Hopefully the overview of this design will whet your appetite further.
Please click on the image below:
The earlier project is described here: “Over The Southern Alps via Arthur’s Pass”
- New Zealand Railway & Locomotive Society
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.
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.
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.
Perhaps this will whet your appetite to study further – just click on the image below:
Useful Links & Further Reading
- Vickers and The Brush-Sulzer Class 47
- Cuba’s Class 47
- List of Preserved Class 47s
- British Rail Class 47
- British Rail Class 57
- The Sulzer Engine in Diesel Traction – 1912-1990
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.
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
- British Rail Class 07 (Wikipedia)
- British Rail Class 02 (Wikipedia)
- British Rail Departmental Locomotives