There has been much talk, and quite a few examples in recent years of what are described as “Bi-mode” trains – in the UK, these are the 800 Class multiple units on the GWR, together with the 10 DRS Class 88 locomotives. Across Europe these are becoming more common too, and Bombardier’s “Mitrac” is another recent hybrid offering, with power from overhead contact systems, and a diesel engine.
But, these are not a new idea, just the latest incarnation of an idea more than a century old, with the first claim being made in 1889. This was the “Patton Motor Car”, which was followed in what was known as a “gas-electric hybrid system” applied to a tramcar at Pullman, Illinois. Also quick on the take up was Belgium, where in the 1890s, a petrol-electric vehicle was taking to the rails, also fitted with a generator and traction motors. British Westinghouse built a similar example, with a 100hp diesel engine, for the Great Central Railways in the early years of the 20th century. After the First World War, the hybrid approach took a step further forward in Belgium, with batteries – a collection of accumulators – an equally important step in hybrid developments.
It was not until the 1950s that a class of main line locomotives able to operate on electrified and non-electrified lines. During the early British Railways era, there was no example of main line ‘hybrid’ or electro-diesel locomotive, although the former private companies had begun experiments in non-steam traction, but with little significant growth.
Many of British Railways’ electro-diesel locomotives for the Southern Region are, amazingly perhaps, are still in regular operation. It was a unique solution to implement in the early 1960s, to provide go anywhere motive power, for a wide range of mixed traffic and shunting duties. The BR Modernisation Programme was in full swing, and diesels were replacing steam, but future electrification was on the overhead system, and the Southern’s 3rd rail network had limited potential.
This is a brief look at what BR developed, and its operations over many years:
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.
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.
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.
The firm of Davey Paxman, then Ruston Paxman, and in its final guise of GEC Diesels Ltd was established in 1865, in Colchester, Essex. Their original product line included agricultural machinery, steam boilers, portable steam engines, and stationary engines, with a wide range of applications in mind.
It was not until just before the First World War that they took an interest in the possibility of ‘oil engines’, with some of the early designs arranged horizontally, just like the company’s steam designs. From around 1925 they began designing and building engines in the more conventional, vertical layout.
What was to prove revolutionary in diesel traction’s use of quick-running engines, allied to innovative mechanical and ovcerall design. This view shows the very first diesel locomotive on British railways, built by the LMS, with its Paxman engine, on what was essentially a steam engine chassis. Photo; Lens of Sutton
Only 5 years later, in 1930, as the LMS railway began its experiments with diesel rail traction, and the first diesel engine was installed in LMS prototype shunter No. 1831. The engine was a 6-cylinder machine, developing 412hp at 750rpm, and designated type 6XVS. The railway company constructed the mechanical portion of the locomotive, based around the frames of a steam engine, and other details, whilst the Paxman engine was the first rail traction diesel engine, installed in the first diesel locomotive on the standard gauge, for a major British railway company.
However, Paxman’s global reputation was based around quick-running ‘vee’ form diesel engines, and it began to make inroads in this area from around 1932, and with that step they were wholly successful, be it marine, stationary or rail traction. Davey Paxman’s fortunes were assured.
The Second World War provided a pivotal platform for the technology, and the Paxman 12TP engine – originally designed for a special assignment – was used in the British Landing Craft, and of course played a key part in the D-Day landings. From that event 75 years ago, more than 4,000 Paxman 12TP engines were used in every assault operation carried out by Allied Forces in Europe. This same engine design was refined for wider commercial use in the 1950s, including rail traction, and re-designated type RPH.
The early 1950s saw the introduction of the YH range, direct fuel injection, and 4-valve cylinder heads. The refinements of these designs, with ease of maintenance, provided an ideal platform for railway locomotives, with many examples used in branch line, shuntin, and in later develoipments for main line operations. The quick-running 4-stroke diesel had certainly come of age. By the end of the decade, a further development of these engines appeared in the shape of the “Ventura” range.
The latest design was developed to meet the requirements set by British Railways, building on the design and construction of the RPL and YH engines, incorporating advanced engineering features, and competing with the best European builders were offering. In fact, these engines were built under licence by Breda for Italian State Railways’ Class 343 locomotives, whilst further east in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), “Ventura” engines were fitted to a fleet of diesel hydraulic locomotives for shunter/trip and main line duties.
On British Railways, the first of these new engines were fitted and trialled in one of the Western Region’s Swindon built “Warship” Class diesel-hydraulic locos – No. D830 ‘Majestic. The “Ventura” engines were also retro-fitted to 20 of the North British Bo-Bo diesel-electrics, developing 1,350-hp at 1,500 rev/min engines, following the disappointing service experience with the locomotives’ original power units.
One of the NBL built Type 2 engines after refitting with Paxman engines proved much more successful.
Another order from British Railways, was for power unist for the last diesel-hydraulic type used on the Western Region – the Class 14 0-6-0 – together with 6-cylinder versions for the Southern Region’s “Electro-Diesels”.
The experience with the “Ventura” design also provided background for the next step in the development of the Paxman range. Paxmans’ working with British Railways and the MOD (Royal Navy), a new range of high-speed diesels, in the shape of the “Valenta” series were created. These new engines were the same size and shape as the “Ventura”, but although of the same bore and stroke, gave 40% – 50% more horsepower.
The heart of high-speed, the Paxman Valenta engine. Powerful and efficient too – a good combination for rail traction use.
It was these engines that were fitted to the HST, IC125, high speed trains that provided the mainstay for British Rail’s express passenger services for more than 45 years. Some are of course still in service today.
On the Western Region, the HST sets – or IC125s were the mainstay of high-speed services. This is a typical view of 253003 running through Sonning Cutting between Reading and London Paddington. Photo; British Rail
The prototype HST was fitted with a 12 -cyl. Valenta 12 RP200L, charge-air cooled engine developing 2,250 bhp (UIC) at 1,500 rev/min. Announced in 1970, the production sets would consist of a pair of power cars equipped with these powerful diesels at eaither end of a 7-car formation of Mark III coaches, which included two catering vehicles. British Rail’s plan was to order 150 of these trains over a 5-year period, which it was suggested could be extended to 10 years up to 1985, starting in 1975. They were set to work on both the London to Cardiff and London to Newcastle routes.
This diagram shows the compact layout of the prototype HST power car. The buffers were of course not used on the production series.
In their HST guise, Paxman’s “Valenta” engines were definitely at the top of the tree. They achieved no less than three world speed records. The first was on 12th June 1973, when the prototype reached a speed of 143.2 mph between Northallerton and Thirsk on the East Coast main line. The second, 22 years later, when on 27th September 1985 the Tyne-Tees Pullman, with Paxman power ran from Newcastle to London King’s Cross (268 miles) in under 2 hours 20 minutes, achieving a start to stop average speed of 115.4 mph. Finally, just two years later in 1987, with power cars 43102 and 43104, the world speed record for diesel traction was broken again. Over a measured mile between York and Northallerton, a speed of 148 mph was recorded, with peaks at just under 150 mph.
Still on active service in the 1990s, 43113 is seen here running through the approaches to Edinburgh Waverley, but westbound through Prines Street Gardens. (c) RPBradley
The longevity of their success suggests that Paxman high-speed diesels were probably the finest diesel power plant designed and operated on rail.
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’
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
If there was ever a reason to refer to diesel and electric locos. as tin boxes on wheels, then surely this class was the ideal example. Mind you, the EM2s were only a development of’ their smaller, EM1 (Bo-Bo) brethren of 1950, which in turn were designed by the LNER even before nationalisation. This company had plans to electrify the former Great Central Railway route over the Pennines from Manchester to Sheffield, through the Woodhead Tunnel. But, delayed by WWII, amongst other things, the project was not completed untilthe1950s, under British Railways guidance.
The Bo-Bo predecessors of Pandora were based on a design from the LNER, before nationalisation. Here, 26054 “Pluto” is seen in BR days at Sheffield – complete with the early yellow warning panel. The original loco 26000, was built in 1941, and the remainder – 57 more – were intended for freight service over the electrified Wood Head route through the Pennines.Photo” RPBradley Collection
The EM2’s were all built at Gorton in 1954, and were then the most powerful locomotives in operation anywhere on B.R. – I am ignoring the two gas turbine prototypes of course, since these were only experimental. The Class’ predecessors, the EM1s were 1868hp, and intended for mixed traffic duties, and although the Co-Co development could be seen on such workings, these seven locos. were primarily passenger types. Their ‘substantial’ construction was undoubtedly responsible for the low power/weight ratio, and this general heaviness in appearance is noticeable in any photograph.
Construction of the mechanical parts was carried out at Gorton, with Metropolitan-Vickers supplying the electrical equipment. The first locomotive, No. 27000, entered service in February 1954, working instructional and test trips between Wath and Wombwell Exchange, and Trafford Park to Wath. The catenary was finally energized over the Woodhead route from Manchester to Sheffield, including the opening of the new Woodhead Tunnel, by mid 1954.
Construction, basically, with these early electric locos., involved a superstructure divided into three compartments, with driving cabs at either end, separated by a control compartment containing resistances and other H.T. equipment, such as motor generators, traction motor blowers etc. A pantograph was mounted in the roof well at each end of the locomotive. Since, of course, only steam heating was provided on the available rolling stock an oil-fired boiler was fitted. The corridor running along one side of the locomotive, not only gave access between the driving cabs but, also to the separate high tension, and resistance compartments, through an interlocking door. The body was not designed as a load bearing structure, and consequently, a hefty underframe was provided, built up with rolled steel sections, and extensively cross braced to support the body and equipment. Buffing and drawgear was mounted on the underframe – not following the trend set by the S.R. diesels, in having these items attached to the bogie.
BR Weight Diagram of Class EM2
The bogies themselves were also quite heavily built structures, fabricated from steel sections, with a double bolster carried on two cast steel cross stays. The weight of the body was carried through spherical bearers and leaf springs supported by swing links from the bogie cross stays. The equalising beams were fitted inside the bogie frames, on top of the axle boxes, and in addition, of course a 415hp traction motor was hung from each axle, driving the wheels through spur gearing.
Electro-pneumatic control equipment was fitted, and was more or less conventional for d.c. traction, and indeed, similar arrangements are still used on most modern locomotives, including the latest designs. On the EM2, and other d.c. rolling stock, the traction motors are first arranged in series for starting, an intermediate stage of two parallel groups of three motors in series, and finally, three parallel groups of three motors in series for normal running.
Under running conditions, the traction motors were designed to act as generators - regenerative braking – through the Westinghouse supplied straight air, and air controlled vacuum brake for engine and train. Compressed air for the brakes from the Westinghouse compressor also operated the electro-pneumatic controls, sanding gear, and the “Pneuphonic” horns.
In operation, the locomotives were housed in the newly constructed depot at Reddish, and in company with the smaller EM1 Bo-Bo must have presented a considerable contrast to steam traction in the early days of the MSW electrification. The problem of declining cross country traffic, 25kV a.c., Beeching, et al, to say nothing of B.R.’s National Traction Plan, led to the sale of this small class to the Netherlands Railways (NS), in 1969.
Here, they remained in everyday use on inter-city services, as NS class ‘1500’. However, only six remained in use in the early 1980s, since 27005 was scrapped in 1969/70 to be used for spares, and due to traffic increases on the Dutch railways, many of the older loco. types, including the EM2’s had their working life extended. Overhauls and repairs put back their planned withdrawal until 1985/6, instead of 1981/ 2.
In BR days they were initially treated to a modified mixed traffic livery, as applied to steam locomotives. The modification in fact being the addition of a thin red line marking out the bodyside panels and cab front, with the lion and wheel emblem in the centre bodysides, and running numbers under each cab side window. Bogies and underframe were, naturally black. Later, steam loco. express passenger green was used, and the panelling was lined out in orange and black, with the 1956 style of lion and wheel crest, and nameplates attached to the bodysides. They were finally, before their sale, classified as ’77’ by the TOPS classification scheme, though of course, they did not last long enough to carry the TOPS running numbers, which first began to appear in 1972/3.
1954 (as new):
27000 – 27006, 9C Reddish
27000 – 27006, 9C Reddish
Class EM2 Co-Co – Names & Current Status:
Their healthy service life in the Netherlands, which, in the 1970s included passenger trains between Den Haag and Venlo, and freight services from Rotterdam Kijfhoek yard to Roosendaal, the arrival of new ‘1600’ class locos in the early 1980s brought that to a close. The first two of the six in service – ‘Pandora’ and ‘Aurora’ were scrapped in February 1985, and ‘Juno’ in October the following year.
No fewer than three of the class have been preserved as representatives of the early BR plans to electrify main lines on the 1,500V dc system. One of the class – ‘Diana’ – is preserved in the Netherlands, where it is still possible to run rail tours, whilst the other two are essentially static displays at the Midland Railway Centre and Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. That said, the EM2 Locomotive Society rescued ‘Electra’ and restored it to working order, and it had a number of successful tours in the Netherlands, before its return to the UK, to its present home in Butterley.
“Ariadne” seen in October 2018 at the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry, sporting her final colour scheme as used when in service with Netherlands Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen). Photo: Rodger Bradley
Earlier in March, there was an announcement by Vivarail that the disappointing delayed entry into service of the Class 230 battery trains had a piece of better news for us – the development of a new fast charging feature. That said, the first of the delayed 2-car units did make its way to the Marston Vale Line in the West Midlands in late February.
These trains have been re-engineered from London Transport’s ‘D78’ stock units, originally manufactured for London Transport by Metro-Cammell in Birmingham, with electrical equipment from GEC Traction and Brush. The D78s were used on LT’s 600v DC surface lines, and started service between 1979 and 1983, with the Bombardier refurb taking place between 2004 and 2008. Vivarail bought 150 of the driving motor cars and 300 non-powered cars. These would be used to build not just these new battery powered trains, but additional, low emission diesel-electric multiple units, and hybrid sets for non-electrified routes.
In their new guise, the aluminium underframe and bodyshell is retained, but the vehicles have been completely stripped out and re-equipped internally, and fitted out with low emission diesel engines, and other energy saving elements. The batteries are lithium phosphate (LiFeMgPO4), with multiple cells in each unit. ‘Valence’ battery modules, examples of which are already at work on ‘Optare’ buses in the UK, were fitted in the original test train. More recently, Vivarail have signed a contract with Dutch firm ‘Hoppecke’ for ongoing supply of battery packages for the on-board systems as well as the charging points. The diesel engines, for traction, and powering gensets are, like most modern cars equipped with stop-start technology, adding further to their green credentials. These are 200hp Ford diesel engines, and meet the EU’s Stage IIIB emissions standard, and have been modified by Revolve in the UK, to the requirements for the rail traction environment, and these re-engineered trains from Vivarail.
Overall, the new trains themselves are a highly innovative way of recycling older designs of rolling stock, and adopting the latest technology in battery, control and traction systems, extending, and expanding their working life. The Vivarail designs can be built in either diesel-electric, battery, hybrid, or just about any combination of traction power required, and in a variety of configurations, in a 2-car and 3-car layout.
Next up – how about a hydrogen fuel cell powered train? Such plans are already well advanced, and would suit the Vivarail approach to development in the UK, whilst Birmingham University’s Centre for Railway Research and Education faculty is already moving down that path.
Back in the 1950s, when British Railways was beginning work on the “Modernisation & Re-Equipment Programme” – effectively the changeover from steam to diesel and electric traction – the focus in the diesel world was mainly between high and medium speed engines.
On top of which, there was a practical argument to support hydraulic versus electric transmission technology – for main line use, mechanical transmission was never a serious contender.
The first main line diesels had appeared in the very last days before nationalisation, and the choice of prime mover was shaped to a great extent by the experience of private industry, and English Electric in particular. The railway workshops had little or no experience in the field, and the better known steam locomotive builders had had some less than successful attempts to offer examples of the new diesel locomotives.
In Britain, the changeover from steam to electric traction became a very hit and miss affair during the 1950s and 1960s. Orders for the rail industry, and especially the locomotive industries, was subordinate to the railway workshops – which in the ‘experimental’ years received the lion’s share of the work. That said, the supply chain included companies like English Electric and Metropolitan Vickers, who had had considerable experience in non-steam traction, especially in export orders.
Examples operated in British Railways experimental period between 1948 and 1956 was powered by ‘heavy oil engines’ – the use of the word ‘diesel’ seemed to be frowned on by the professional press in some quarters. The few main line types that had been built were based around medium speed, 4-stroke power units, with complex valve gear, and perhaps over-engineered mechanical components. Power to weight ratios were poor.
In the USA in particular, where fuel oil and lubricating oil costs were much less of a challenge for the railroads, 2-stroke diesel engines were common, with much higher power to weight ratios, but equally higher fuel costs. Indeed, the Fairbaks-Morse company had designed and built opposed piston engines, long before English Electric’s ‘Deltic’ prototype appeared.
A fascinating glimpse into the workings of the 2-stroke ‘Deltic’ engines. In this animation, the source of the power unit’s name as an inverted Greek letter ‘Delta’ is perhaps more obvious.
Eventually, BR produced its modernisation plan, and included numerous diesel types, for operation and haulage of the very different services in all regions of the UK – they were dominated by medium speed 4-strokes, and only two examples of the 2-stroke design. The two examples were at opposite ends of the league – both in terms of operational success – and perhaps in the application of the 2-stroke to rail traction.
They remained the only two examples in main line use until the 1980s/1990s, when as a result of privatisation of rail services, many more 2-stroke powered examples were ordered and delivered from the major manufacturers in the USA. It may be though, that this technology will see only a brief life, as further electrification, and other technology changes take place.
This is just a brief overview of some aspects; please click on the image below for a few more thoughts: