Changing Face of Amtrak’s North East Corridor – and a New Acela

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Beginnings

The North East Corridor of the Amtrak rail network has been, and remains, the most important rail route in the USA, connecting the major cities of the Eastern Seaboard with the federal capital of Washington D.C. It has been at the forefront of the deployment of high-speed trains for decades, way back to the days of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s grand electrification work, and the use of the world famous GG1 locomotives, with Raymond Loewy’s streamlining.

When Amtrak – more precisely the National Railroad Passenger Corporation in 1971, under the ‘Railpax Act’, passenger rail services were and had been run down to a very considerable extent, and the Federal Government decided it was important to rescue the most important routes. Of greatest importance were the lines in the North East States, and the infrastructure was just not fit to provide late 20th century passenger services, and so began the NECIP – North East Corridor Improvement Project.

Back in the 1980s, high-speed rail was dominating the headlines, and by 1986, the USA had experimented with, and was developing that membership of the high-speed club, and only the UK, despite the technology, research and the ill-fated APT, was being left behind. In the USA had had in mind high-speed rail transport since 1965, when it enacted the “High Speed Ground Transportation Act” in 1965, which was a direct response to the arrival of the ‘Shinkansen’ bullet trains in Japan the previous year. There followed trials of ingenious gas-turbine trains from the United Aircraft Corporation – the UAC Turbotrains – which were in revenue earning service on NEC services between 1968 and 1976. These overlapped the formation of Amtrak, and ran in Amtrak colours for a time.

A less than successful gas turbine powered train intended to provide high-speed passenger services was the UAC Turbotrain, seen here at Providence, Rhode Island in May 1974, in the early Amtrak colours. Photo: Hikki Nagasaki – TrainWeb https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48607485
Just prior to the creation of Amtrak, Budd built these ‘Metroliner’ sets to try and improve passenger ridership on the NEC. These Penn Central liveried units were perhaps the start of a transition to high-speed rail. Photo (c) Charly’s Slides

To provide improved passenger services on the NEC, in the late 1960s, Penn Central ordered and operated the Budd built “Metroliner” trains for its electrified route out of New York. These trains were sponsored by the DOT (Department of Transportation) as a “Demo Service” for high-speed inter-city working along the corridor. They were a success and led, a few later to the appearance and styling of the first “Amfleet” cars.

But, next on the high-speed agenda were the ANF-RTG “Turbotrains”, which, once again, were powered by gas turbines, with the first two fixed formation sets built and imported from France from 1973. However, these were not set to work on the NEC initially, but sent out to Chicago, where they worked services to and from the mid-west. They were based on a very successful design running on SNCF metals in France, and whilst the first 4 were direct imports, Amtrak “Americanised” the design with another 7 of the 5-car sets, to be built by Rohr Industries, and powered by the same ANF-Frangeco gas turbine. These Turbo Trains were put to use on the “Water Level Route” out of New York, and were fitted with contact shoes for 3-rail working in and out of Grand Central Terminal. These were a success – if not super fast, they were very economical, and cut oil consumption compared to the earlier designs by about 1/3.

The first venture overseas to finmd a high-speed solution for non-electrified routes around and feeding into the NEC was the ANF-Frangeco gas tubine powered sets from France. They were much more reliable and economic operationally than the UAC Turbotrains, and resulted in a design involving this proven technology, but built and ‘Americanised’ by Rohr Industries. Photo: (c) Charly’s Slides

South of New York, the Pennsylvania Railroad had electrified its main line into and out of New York back in the 1930s – and of course bought the unique and classic GG1 electric locomotives. These hauled the most prestigious passenger trains on the Pennsylvania’s lines for many years, but the dramatic collapse in passenger operations in the 1950s and 60s was a major challenge. Railroads were going bust at a rate of knots, and there were mergers that perhaps shouldn’t have been, and with railroads focussing on freight, the track and infrastructure was not good enough for high-speed passenger trains. The Government decided that something needed to be done to protect and provide passenger services in the North East, and following the examples of other countries, provide high-speed services.

The end result was the North East Corridor Improvement Project, and of course the formation of Amtrak.

First Steps

Having taken on the PRR’s ‘Metroliner’ and GG1 for passenger duties under the wires, it was time to look for replacement and improvements. The first changes came by way of 6,000hp E60CP electric locomotives from General Electric, and to marry up with the ageing passenger cars, these Head End Power (HEP) units also had steam heating fitted. Mind you, so did some of the new ‘Amfleet’ cars that were converted to provide HEP in the early days.

On the electrified lines of the former PRR in the NEC, General Electric were commissioned to build these hge 6,000hp E60CP locomotives, which were planned to provide 120 mph running. Sadly, that objective was never achieved, and the power to weight ratio in the build of these locos was a factor. Photo: Amtrak

The E60s were not a success, and their planned operational speeds of up to 120 mph was never achieved, and in part due to the suspension and transmission arrangements, together with the less than satisfactory state of the infrastructure. The E60s had their speed limits capped at 85 mph, even after suspension design changes, and were later sold off to other railroads. High-speed passenger working was not something the American railroads and the NEC in particular had any great experience with at that time, and it was playing catch up with other countries. The next high-speed proposal out of the blocks was much more successful, as Amtrak turned to Sweden and a version of its 6,000hp Bo-Bo locomotive, which, built by General Motors in the USA was nicknamed ‘Mighty Mouse’.

An AEM7 “Mighty Mouse” built by General Motors – also offered 6,000hp but with a much greater power to weight ratio. The design was based on the Swedish ASEA Rc4, and was an outstanding success, and paved the way for further developments of high-speed rail on the NEC. Photo: (c) Rail Photos Unlimited

The imported trial locomotive was the ASEA built Rc4, and was half the weight of the General Electric E60, and more aerodynamic. It was an outstanding success on trial, and despite GE being the only US manufacture of electric locos at that time, its rival, General Motors, was licensed to built ASEA equipment, which of course made it so much simpler to introduce a modern, high-speed design to the corridor. After trials, Amtrak ordered 15 of the new AEM7 ‘Mighty Mouse’ locos from General Motors, and this was rapidly followed by another 32, bringing the class total to 47. It would be wrong to suggest they ‘revolutionised’ high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor – but they certainly paved the way for future successes – after the $multi-million NEC Improvement Project got under way.

The fixed formation sets of the ‘Metroliner’ fleet in Amtrak service on the NEC as a high-speed option dates back to 1971, when the DOT reported its preference for IHSR-1 (Improved High-Speed Rail), with the ‘Metroliners’ as the minimum investment. These self-propelled electric trains were not a great success, and were plagued with reliability problems, and even after refurbishing in the early 1970s they proved no better than the electric locos hauling the new ‘Amfleet’ cars along the corridor.

Since electrification at the time was not being progressed further – although obscure ideas such as underground tubes, STOL/VTOL aircraft and magnetic levitation systems were discussed as high-speed options – on the rail, more gas-turbine powered trains were tried. This time, the options came from France and Canada – the old UAC ‘Turbotrains’ were very heavy on fuel, alongside their perhaps questionable performance on non-electrified section.

Following the success of the French built Turbotrains, Amtrak ordered and Rohr Industries built these ‘Americanised’ versions, incoporating the technology in a style and configuration more in tune with North American design. These 5-car sets were a success on non-electrified routes feeding into the corridor, and went ‘on tour’ across the country, operating out of the mid-west. Photo: Amtrak

The new gas-turbine trials featured a French multiple unit design from ANF-Frangeco, which was already in regular use on SNCF. The two on lease from ANF were followed by an order for 4 more, and they were highly successful on mid-west routes out of Chicago, with their turbines driving the axles through mechanical cardan shaft drives. An option for more was taken up by building an ‘Americanised’ version at Rohr Industries in California – these were 5-car sets, ordered in 1974 and put to work in the mid-west, whilst the UAC ‘Turbotrains’ saw out their days on the NEC between New York and Boston. The new Rohr turbotrains were also intended for the ‘Water Level Route’ north from New York, and modifications included fitting traction motors and third rail collector shoe gear for working in and out of Grand Central Station.

Amtrak turned to Canada and Bombardier for another variant for non-electrified operations – in this casze, the Bombardier built LRC (‘Light, Rapid, Comfortable’) train, which also saw the first use of body tilting technology to enable higher speeds around curves. Here, Amtrak’s “Beacon Hill” with locomotive #38, is seen in December 1980 carrying the then current red, white and blue livery. Photo: Tim Darnell Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15751992

The poor old UAC ‘Turbotrains’ were a failure on the New York to Boston section, and the decision to scrap the extension of electrification north from New Haven left Amtrak without suitable power to run high-speed passenger services. In 1980, a pair of 5-car LRC (Light, Rapid Comfortable) trains appeared on the corridor. These were an existing design from Canadian builders Bombardier/MLW, and already in service with Via Rail, and featured automatic body tilt mechanism that would prove a useful benefit for Amtrak. In fact, the Corporation had been considering this option for Vancouver-Seattle-Portland run, but first set them to work on the northern end of the NEC between New Haven and Boston. They were initially restricted to 90 mph, but on test demonstrated that a curve previously restricted to 50 mph could safely be taken at 70 mph – a major improvement in journey times was clearly possible.

Sadly the LRC sets were returned to Canada at the end of the trial period, as Amtrak once again came up against its perpetual enemy – budget and funding constraints.

Today

So where is the Corporation today? Well, it has genuinely embarked and delivered on a high-speed rail offering for the Northeast Corridor, with over 700 miles of track, serving the most densely populated part of the country, and now has genuine high-speed trains and technology. But it took almost 20 years to deliver the first of the fixed formation train sets.

Once again, Amtrak turned to European expertise to test and determine what was the most suitable offering, and following on from the experience gained with the successful ‘Mighty Mouse’ AEM7 paired with Amfleet cars, returned to Sweden and borrowed an X2000 tilting train set in 1992. With support from ABB, the X2000 not only worked on the NEC, but toured the USA – obviously in part to raise awareness and popularity for trains and railroads. Its regular – if not full time – working was between New Haven, New York and Washington, and during the X2000’s stay, Amtrak agreed with Siemens to test the German ICE train on the same route.

Swedeish State Railways X2000, built by ABB proved a game changer for Amtrak in its view of high-speed electric traction with tilt technology and was instrumental in paving the way for the current and future generations of NEC high-speed trains.

A year later, Amtrak went out to look for bidders to build a new high-speed train for the Corporation, and of course, both Siemens and ABB were in the running, but there was also the Bombardier/Alstom consortium. Bombardier of course had already had some exposure in the USA with the trials of its LRC tilting train. It looked in the 1990s as though Amtrak was heading towards membership of the high-speed club.

The end result was the Acela Express, with an order for 20 of the high-speed fixed formation trains to be designed, tested, built and delivered by the Alstom/Bombardier consortium. The train was operationally intended to be an ‘incremental improvement’ rather than a step change in rail technology as the Japanese “Bullet Trains” or France’s “TGV” had been. It was necessary to further improve the right of way in the northeast, with extensive replacement of existing track with continuous welded rail and concrete ties/sleepers, as well as provide three new maintenance facilities. Some of the right of way work had been carried out under the NEC improvement programme in the 1980s, but even more was needed before “Acela” could be fully operational. This included the rapid completion of electrification work from New Haven to Boston.

The most recent and successful high-speed trains on the NEC are the Alstom Acela design, and will be joined in 2021 and 2022 by the even more technically advanced Avelia series, and continue to expand hgh-speed rail transportation in the USA. Here, a northbound Amtrak Acela Express is captured passing through Old Saybrook, Connecticut in 2011 Photo: Shreder 9100 at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19261912

In November 2000, the Acela Express made its inaugural run. This was a train like no other seen in the USA before, with 12,000hp available from two power cars, and 6 trailers sandwiched between, to provide a smooth, quiet ride at speeds of up to 240 km/hr. No less than 20 of these trains were built between 1998 and 2001, and their popularity with the travelling public dramatically raised Amtrak’s share of the passenger market. Between New York and Washington DC, passenger share grew from 36% to 53%, and between New York and Boston it was even more marked, going up from 18% to 40%. At the same time, airline passenger share declined from 64% to 47% between the Big Apple and Washington.

America’s rapidly growing network of high-speed rail corridors that perhaps owe their inclusion following the achievements of successive Northeast Corridor Improvement Programs.

It has been a huge success, and in part at least has driven the demand for kickstarting investment in other high-speed rail corridors, from 1992 to 2009. The five corridors defined in 1992 were:

  1. Midwest high-speed rail corridor linking Chicago , IL with Detroit , MI , St. Louis MO and Milwaukee WI
  2. Florida high-speed rail corridor linking Miami with Orlando and Tampa.
  3. California high-speed rail corridor linking San Diego and Los Angeles with the Bay Area and Sacramento via the San Joaquin Valley.
  4. Southeast high-speed rail corridor connecting Charlotte, NC, Richmond, VA, and Washington, DC.
  5. Pacific Northwest high-speed rail corridor linking Eugene and Portland, OR with Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Six years later in 1998 the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century designated another group of high-speed rail corridors, and extensions to existing plans including:

  1. Gulf Coast high-speed rail corridor.
  2. The Keystone corridor
  3. Empire State corridor
  4. Extension of the Southeast corridor
  5. Extension of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Corridor (now called the Chicago Hub corridor)
  6. Improvements on the Minneapolis/St. Paul- Chicago segment of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Corridor.

Extensions has already been approved to the Southeast corridor in 1995, with further extensions to the Chicago Hu, and the Northern New England route and a new South Central Corridor in 2000, and to date further extensions and expansion of these key corridors are either in plan or approved. On top of this, for the original corridor – the NEC – new generation of Acela high-speed trains has been promised, and already under test, as the attached video shows.

Finally, after almost total dependence on the automobile for long distance as well as commuter travel, the age of the train in the USA is coming into its own. Environmental credentials are high, it is sustainable mass transportation, and popular.

A superb view of a new Avelia Liberty trainset passes Claymont, Delaware on a test between Race Street (Philadelphia) and Ivy City (Washington DC). These are set to enter service with Amtrak in 2021, with all sets in by 2022, replacing all current Acela Express trainsets. Photo: Simon Brugel – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93569932

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Useful Links & Further Reading

Hyperloop – Not A New Idea At All

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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.

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Preston to Mumbai

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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.

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Hydrogen Power for Scottish Rail in 2021?

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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.

The British are coming – Class 319 converted to hydrogen fuel cell operation – the ‘HydroFLEX’ – and one of many innovative ideas from Birmingham Centre for Rail Research and Education (BCRRE)
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HS2 – We’re Off – Officially

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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)

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British Railways First Locomotive Liveries

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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.

252 - Lens of Sutton - West Country at Waterloo

Bulleid “West Country” pacific at Waterloo still in ex-Southern Railway colours, sporting its new 1949 BR number – but still carrying the 1948 ‘British Railways’ on the tender sides. Photo: Lens of Sutton

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.

LMR Class 5 LiveriesOf 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.

BR Regional colours 1948

The BTC published a series of Temporary Painting Schedules for its inhgerited motive power in late 1948 covering these experimental liveries:

1949 Liveries Table

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.

1949 Loco Liveries

BR’s first standard locomotive liveries, adopted from 1949 onwards. Later regional variations included some interesting changes for the Class8P passenger types in particular.

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.

A4 Sir Charles Newton at York in 1950

Grelsey’s A4s certainly suited that express passenger blue – here 60005 “Sir Charles Newton” is captured at York in 1950.           Photographer unknown.

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.

GW Sharpe COLLECTION-4

Jubilee Class 45575 “Bahamas” immaculately turned out in the standard BR lined green livery for express passenger types, sporting the 1949 ‘totem’, and shedplate for Kentish Town.     Photo: (c) G.W.Sharpe

Cab and side panelsLettering 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).

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Castle Class 4-6-0 – probably 5079 “Lysander” on “The Cornishman” around 1950, complete with red & cream coaches. 5079 was previously converted to oil-burning in the late 1940s, but here seen back as a coal burner. Sadly not in colour, but it would be in standard lined green livery.             Photo: Lens of Sutton

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 …… 

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Merseyrail Trains’ Messy Graffiti

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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.

New Merseyrail with original

The leading coach is one of the 1920s build from Metro-Vick, but still coupled to three of the original 1903 cars of Westinghouse USA design

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:

BBC News story image

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:

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Going Greener with Hybrid Diesels

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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.

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The classic 22000 Class dmu entering Drogheda station on 10th August 2015.  By 2011, Hyundai Rotem had supplied 63 of these, originally operated as 3 or 6-car units, later changes to 3, 4, 5, or 6 car sets provided more operational flexibility.   Diesel power was provided by the MTU 6H, 6 cylinder engine.                                                                                                         Photo:  Milepost98 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50261722

 

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.

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Rolls Royce MTU Hybrid Power Pack

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:

RR Press Release Page 1

 

-oOo-

 

Wellington to Paekakariki

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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.

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This is an image of the first of the class built in New Zealand – No. 102 is seen here in 1938 ex-works, without the skirt applied to the very first of the class, built in Preston.                               Photo Courtesy: Ref: APG-0320-1/2-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22545501

 

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.

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One of the “DM” series of multiple units, supplied by English Electric, here seen at Khandallah Station, on the opening day of the service – 4th July 1938.                                   Photo Courtesy: Ref: APG-1483-1/4-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23252719

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:

Wellington Cover

 

The earlier project is described here: “Over The Southern Alps via Arthur’s Pass”

Useful Links:

 

 

CLASS 47 – ALMOST 60

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Class 47 Cover

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

Useful Links & Further Reading