The Digital Railway – Still On Time?

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Back in the 1990s, Railtrack, and subsequently Network Rail, was charged with implementing the Europe wide signalling and train control system – ERTMS. This included the emerging ETCS (Electronic Train Control System), which was intended to remove the use of optical, lineside signals completely, and use track to train communications through a system of track mounted transmitters/receivers.

But is there more to this digital railway business than simply providing a better train control, management and signalling system?

The UK is still years behind our European neighbours in implementing the ERTMS platforms – although to be fair Railtrack/Network Rail have rolled out the halfway house of Train Protection & Warning System (TPWS), and today the core routes are at the entry level for ETCS. Today’s push for the “Digital Railway” has a lot of chatter, and media speak around improving performance and capacity for economic and commercial growth, but on the technology front, there seems to be some way to go – still.

Back in the late 1990s, the TPWS platform was supposed to have a 15-year lifespan, so is now beyond its final years of scheduled life, alongside the upgraded conventional signalling systems. By 2001 we were implementing systems that conformed to ETCS Level 3, with the Alstom TCS (Train Control System), for the upgrade of the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

There were plans to fit ETCS cab equipment in new stock, but following revisions to Control Period 5 with the ‘Hendy Review’ funding was cut, and the delays in deploying the system could be said to be pushing the UK further behind.

In 2015, the Rail Delivery Group published its 3rd annual “Long Term Passenger Rolling Stock Strategy”, where it stated that:

“During CP5 and CP6, the European Train Control System (ETCS) will be fitted to many fleets
 in preparation for the operation of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS).”

2015 Rolling Stock StrategyScreenshot 2019-11-21 at 10.51.37

Originally, it was considered that the modular nature of ETCS would be attractive to introduce the technology at Level 1 on secondary routes, interfacing to the existing IECC (Integrated Electronic Control Centres providing automated route setting, amongst other functions), and SSI (Solid State Interlocking) technology. This ability to upgrade in a phased manner was and is important to the UK and other rail networks, with open communications interfaces allowing integrated working across Europe.

But has the signalling and train control system finally been implemented to the optimistic plans of 2001, when the WCML upgrade was completed?

Perhaps not, since back in 2010, the Department for Transport (DfT)was working with outside advisers to try and determine the risks and benefits of adopting – at a future date – possible adoption of the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS/ETCS) Level 3. This report came to the obvious conclusion that it was necessary, desirable, cost effective and efficient – but that was almost a decade ago.

Towards the end of 2016, and although the Rail Delivery Group, and Network Rail’s initiative for a cross-industry Digital Railway programme was progressing, the Transport Committee in its 7th Report (Rail technology: signalling and traffic management) showed that there was still much discussion on the topic:

Their conclusion:

We conclude that improvements to signalling and traffic management technology are needed to deliver a world-class rail network in the UK. In principle we support the idea that the deployment of the European Train Control System (ETCS), Traffic Management software and Driver Advisory systems should be accelerated but this should be subject to careful consideration of the Digital Railway business case, clarity about funding, and a clear understanding of how this programme would affect existing plans for work on enhancements and renewals. In particular, Network Rail’s Digital Railway business case should include a full cost/benefit analysis of all potential systems for a particular route, and consult upon it, before finalising its Digital Railway strategy. 

So, the UK’s rail network, its technology and industry does still appear to have some way to go – despite the fitting of ETCS Level 3 technology to the latest rolling stock, and plans for trials on various routes.

That said, the limited trials using Class 155 multiple units and departmental Class 37 diesels in Wales, on the Cambrian line paved the way for the application of ETCS level 2 on the Thameslink route, with GTR Class 700 trains. The trains began operating in August 2016, with a train running from St Pancras to Blackfriars, and having the ATO software overlay installed to allow automated operations. According to some reports this meant the driver would be responsible for supervising operations via instructions and guidance from in-cab screens, as opposed to controlling the train in a more conventional manner.

Currently, under the Control Period (CP) plans for the East Coast and ex-GWR main lines, ETCS will be introduced in phases – but it will take between 2024 and 2049 to complete the work. This is what is on the current plans:

  • CP6 (by 2024) – KX to Crews Hill and Hatfield
  • CP7 (by 2029) – Sandy to Peterborough; Grantham to Retford and Plymouth to Totnes
  • CP8 (by 2034) – Peterborough to Grantham; York (North) to Northallerton; Ferryhill to Alnmouth, and Paddington to Slough and Heathrow; Totnes to Exeter
  • CP9 (by 2039) – Retford to York (North); Northallerton to Ferryhill; Alnmouth to Berwick, along with Wootton Bassett to Exeter via Bristol, and Pewsey to Cogload Junction
  • CP10 (by 2044) – Didcot area (Cholsey to Wantage Road); Didcot to Oxford and Honeybourne
  • CP11 (by 2049) – Reading area (Slough to Cholsey); Wantage Road to Wootton Bassett; Reading to Pewsey

But no work will be undertaken on the ECML for Control Periods 10 and 11 – well at least that’s the current position, I think.

Thameslink trains now operate with ETCS Level2, with ATO in the central section, which puts that route at the forefront of implementing ATO with ERTMS, operating the new Class 700 Siemens “Desiro City” multiple units. These were procured under a PFI arrangement from 2013, from a consortium of Cross London Trains Ltd, which included Siemens Project Ventures GmbH, Innisfree Ltd., and 3i Infrastructure Ltd., and the trains began operating in 2016.  They were either 8 or 12-car units, and were later supplemented with an order for another 25 6-car trains – the Class 717 units, that would be used on the Great Northern line. In the end these new trains replaced no fewer than 6 older designs, from the Class 319 to Class 466.

Currently the only other ETCS Level 2 equipped and – well almost operational – trains are the Class 345 9-car trains for the Crossrail line. These actually began running in June 2017, and used at the outer ends, on the Great Eastern and Great Western main lines, as ETCS implementation is completed. In the Crossrail case, the trains are based on Bombardier’s “Aventra” design, but, unlike Thameslink, they are equipped for 25kV a.c. operation only, with no 3rd rail contact shoe. The Crossrail trains also carry equipment that allow them to use the TPWS warning system devised as a ‘halfway house’ towards ETCS in the 1990s.

Back in 2018, the DfT produced an 8-page implementation plan/technical spec for interoperability – the Control, Command System (CCS), under the slogan “Moving Britain Ahead”. On Page 4 of that document it states that the “Class B System”, which is the old “Halfway House” platform of TPWS from the late 1990s is supported by an industry wide spec. It also states that migration to ETCS will be on a “business led” basis, and implies that the “Class B System” will continue to be used in the UK.

“This specification defines all the required functionality and performance in a way which does not constrain the market to any particular supplier.” 


When ETCS was being promoted in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and when it was to be rolled out on the West Coast Main Line, in a phased manner, there were still multiple suppliers of ETCS equipment – whether for Level 1, 2 or 3. Not sure that still holds, but certainly the technology has progressed – perhaps the primary objection to speeding up its rollout is the rolling stock problem, and retrofitting to the large fleet of older vehicles. It’s great that it has been implemented for Thameslink, and there are still plans to implement – but TPWS was only intended to have a 15 year lifespan in 1999.

Following a review in 1999 of Railtrack’s West Coast upgrade, the approach to implementing train control through an ETCS platform was not progressed in the original manner, and it was recommended a more piecemeal approach, as an overlay to existing systems was taken. That is one of the ways in which ETCS can be implemented, with no need for a ‘big bang’ approach, and all that that would involve both technically, operationally, and S&T and driver training.

So, you might say, the UK’s “Digital Railway” is getting there, to misquote an old British Rail advertising slogan – but it will be sometime yet, before that objective is realised. In truth, some of us may not even be here to see that…… ah well.

-oOo-

TPWS

TPWS Feature coverClick on the image opposite, which will take you to a short feature written in 2001 about the implementation of TPWS – the UK’s initial step towards a full ERTMS/ATP train control system.

 

 

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British Rail – InterCity Catering

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I have travelled on the West Coast Main Line in Britain for many years, from the days of steam, to the days of the Pendolino, and it seems to me all that the general public are fed is a diet of stories about the curly sandwich. This seemed especially true of the nationalised network.

Inter City Press Release Images March 1993 1The last time I made a journey by a main line service, all that seemed to be on offer was a vending machine, several varieties of crisp, bread rolls, burgers and a coffee from an automated dispensing device. Fast food seems to have taken a stranglehold on train travel in the 21st Century.

Well clearly that’s not much better than the impression that the nationalised system was offering nothing more than a dried up sandwich, and watery tea – or coffee.

Inter City Press Release Images March 1993Back in the later British Rail years, where InterCity was making a profit, the food offering could be quite impressive too. In fact, under BR’s Sectorisation – InterCity was set up in 1987, and made an operating profit of £57 million in its first year, £56 million in 1989, and £49 million in 1990. That despite a cut by the Government of 29% in the passenger grant for rail operations. (Yes, I know it covered other BR sectors, but it would have been impacted.)

In the Spring of 1993, under the custodianship of Chris Green, BR InterCity embarked on a marketing campaign, following a successful introduction in 1992 of what were described as “Express Diner light menus”. This resulted in a 20% increase in the demand for restaurant car meals, and in 1993 more innovation was introduced, including the “Great British Afternoon Tea”

The “Express Diner” menu had a wider choice of meals, including: Rack of Ribs with Barbecue Sauce, Cumberland Sausage and Mash, and Steak and Kidney Pudding alongside existing items such as Fish and Chips and Rib 
Steak. They also went on to include innovations as Chicken Tikka Masala, Beef Stew and Dumplings and Thai-style vegetables with rice
, Jacket Potatoes and even Pizza. (Obviously a novelty in the 1990s!) Oh, yes, and of course a selection of reasonably priced wines was available for lunch and dinner.

Now I’m not suggesting that they were all a great success – but considering the sector’s profitability as a nationalized enterprise, they were giving it a go. At the same time this was happening, of course the 1991 EU Directive about separating infrastructure from operations was being put in place, and the next few years became chaotic, and these innovations dried up.

Mark III Coach Interiors – 1980s

Mk III Coach interior

A nice spacious interior in the Mark III coaches from the late 1980s – in this case a First Class Open.

Mk IIIb 1st open Coach interior with telephone

Another generation of the Mark III design was – unsurprisingly the Mark IIIb, but in this example a First Open with an on board telephone. After your meal, why not make a phone call from the train – so long as you had cash or a phone card in 1986 you could.

Today’s fare is a staggering list of coffees – or at least, various ways of serving coffee – together wraps, bagels, burgers and ciabatta rolls, along with a range of wines, beers and spirits, and even porridge. But that’s in the on-board shop section, alongside the usual vending machines. The only way to get a meal served at a table is in first class though, and only on certain trains – and the menu, like our tastes may have changed – and now includes such as mushrooms in a pastry case with butternut squash.

Not something that was common 20 years ago – but then neither were the veggie and deli specials. Even first class travel on some trains does not mean you get a meal, it may be just wraps, sandwiches or rolls for lunch, or perhaps grilled salmon, beef and potato pie, or salad for an evening repast.

Train Innovations Too

But the on-board food and menu changes were not the only improvements to be planned for the early 90s, in BR days. The existing HST sets and coaches were goiung to be fitted with a range of facilities, many of which we take for granted today. This is what was planned in 1993 – 26 YEARS AGO! :-

  • Audio entertainment system with a selection of CD and FM radio channels available at seat.
  • Electronic seat reservation information on luggage racks and new information displays (including time and journey information using a satellite-based system).
  • Improved toilets with new vanity units and lighting.
  • Brighter entrances to provide a better, warmer welcome for customers.
  • Improved tables, seat access and luggage storage.

Inter City Press Release Images March 1993 3Changes to the internal layout of the coaches was intended to break the saloon into smaller areas, with the Senior Conductor’s office located in the centre of 
the train; near the buffet and accommodation for the disabled, for better customer accessibility.

Clearly some of these were incorporated into the Pendolino trains in later years – some 10 years after BR had planned to introduce them.

Interior of Virgin Voyager - Milepost 92 and half

Not long after the 1993 innovations, along came the likes of the Pendolino and Voyager fixed formation trains from Bombardier and other makers, and hey presto, the above seat reservation details appeared – and of course in-coach entertainment.

When all is said and done though, it has always been unfair to cast aspersions at the state of the on-board catering on British Rail, as undoubtedly, there are occasions when even 20 odd years later, there are no doubt examples of failures. It is not nationalised rail system that was the cause of these issues, but maybe it was us – our changing tastes in food and service.

Inter City Press Release Images March 1993 4

Maybe the initiatives were from BR’s InterCity Sector, but we just took a different path to get there. At least that sector was profitable – but then, maybe there is another story there too.

 

 

 

The whole idea behind this marketing campaign was to persuade travellers not to do this:

Inter City Press Release Images March 1993 2

-oOo-

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Intercity Rail in Britain a Landmark Paper-25-years-on/

 

Deltics in Retrospect – Part 2

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The 22 ‘Deltics’ lasted 20 years in high-speed main line service between London and Edinburgh, until they were replaced by the equally successful HSTs. The English Electric Type 5, later Class 55 has achieved as much fame and respect in the eyes of rail and engineering enthusiasts as the equally famous steam locomotives of Class A3 ‘Flying Scotsman’ and Class A4 ‘Mallard’ steam era 4-6-2 pacific locomotives.

D9019 at Bury on ELR

D9019 “Royal Highland Fusilier” at work on the East Lancashire Railway in the 1990s, seen here at Bury in classic two-tone green, but with full height yellow warning panels.                 © Rodger Bradley

Aside from their innovative engine design, and impressive power output, they turned in some quite remarkable performances with heavy trainloads over long distances. One of the most impressive was that of D9008 (55 008) “The Green Howards”, which, in 1978 hauled 10 coaches (343 gross tons) between York and London at an average speed of 97 mph – start to stop! (This is on record by a J. Heaton of the Railway Performance Society).

Thankfully 6 of the class have been preserved and are operating on a number of heritage lines, from the East Lancashire Railway, Great Central, Keighley & Worth Valley, and Severn Valley, amongst others, to numerous rail tours around the country.

Half of the preserved examples are now available for running on the main lines once again, although one of their number D9016 “Gordon Highlander” is undergoing a major overhaul, but back in the late 1990s it was used, along with sister locomotives on charter rail tours and specials, including the Venice Simplon Orient Express.

It is perhaps something of an irony that 16 of the class were scrapped at BREL’s Doncaster Works between January 1980s and August 1983, just as BREL was building the Class 58 freight locomotive, and Doncaster Works itself was finally closed in 2007 – though it had been run down for some years before.

When the class was built at Vulcan Foundry, the railway industry was still home to major engineering concerns – not least of which were the works at Newton-le-Willows, where these 22 locomotives were completed to the order from English Electric. Oddly perhaps, the order was placed through English Electric’s Bradford electrical works, and not from the nearby Dick, Kerr works at Preston, which had a long established relationship with the company, and where the original Deltic was built.   The production version, with the design ‘tweaks’ to the bodysides and appearance, were completed at just under two locomotives per month between March 1961 and April 1962, and were to have an operating life of just 20 years.

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D9015 “Tulyar” on a normal express service, at high-speed on the East Coast Main Line, where they were the definitive high-speed train of their day. The locomotive is in full original livery in this view. © RPB/GEC Traction Collection

Build & Operations

The Deltics were all built at the Vulcan Foundry, Newton-Ie-Willows, between March 1961 and April 1962, though the order was placed with English Electric for their construction in 1960. Listed here are the building dates:

DELTIC Running numbers

From new the Deltics were allocated to three depots; Finsbury Park in North London, Gateshead in the North East and Edinburgh Haymarket in Scotland.

The original allocations up to and including 1964 were:

  • 34G Finsbury Park – D9001 /3/7/9/12/18/20;
  • 52A Gateshead – D9002/5/8/11/14/17;
  • 64B Haymarket (Edinburgh) – D9000/4/6/10/13/16/19/21.

The allocations in 1978 were:

  • FP Finsbury Park – 55001/3/7/9/12/15/18/20;
  • GD Gateshead – 55002/58/11/14/17;
  • HA Haymarket (Edinburgh) – 55004/6/10/13/16/19/21/22.

Essentially they remained at these locations until their withdrawals began in 1980.

By June1961 the first six locomotives had commenced regular long distance passenger workings, but rostered in true steam locomotive style, since a Finsbury Park Deltic would work the down ‘Aberdonian’ on Sundays, returning the following day with the up ‘Flying Scotsman’. Similarly, Scottish Region Deltics worked out on the 11.00am Edinburgh to King’s Cross as far as Newcastle, returning with 11.00am ex King’s Cross. Later, their range was extended to work through to London and return on th e ‘Talisman’ and ‘Aberdonian’ services. Working what were traditional steam locomotive diagrams alongside English Electric Type 45, was undoubtedly an under-utilisation of Deltic power.

The first impressions of Deltic capability was displayed with some substantial accelerations of the principal East Coast services in the summer timetables introduced from June 18, 1962. It was widely recognised that the inclusion of a six hour timing between London and Edinburgh was an achievement on a par with the pre-war lightweight, streamlined ‘Coronation’ train – but. the Deltic diagram included no less than six such workings. The trains concerned in the in initial speed up were the ‘Elizabethan’, ‘Flying Scotsman’ and ‘Talisman’, the last two covering the 268.35 miles between King’s Cross and Newcastle in just one minute over four hours; an average speed of 66.8mph. Other named trains included in the accelerations were the ‘ Heart of Midlothian’, ‘Tees Tyne Pullman’, ‘ Yorkshire Pullman’, ‘Car-Sleeper Limited ‘ and the ‘Anglo Scottish Car Carrier’. Of these, the up ‘Tees Tyne Pullman’ was booked to provide the fastest average over the 44.1 miles from Darlington to York of 75.6mph. Of the night runs, some of these provided examples of the most dramatic accelerations, including no less than 77 minutes for the down ‘Car Sleeper Limited’ between London and Edinburgh with Deltic haulage. Deltics were also booked for both the 8.20pm down ‘Mail’ from King’s Cross, and the corresponding 8.20pm up train from Newcastle. With an average rostered load of over 450 tons, these services were accelerated by 40 and 33 minutes respectively.

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D9013 “The Black Watch” (later 55 013) in BR two-tone green livery and ½ height yellow warning panel enters Kings Cross in July 1966 with “The Flying Scotsman” from Edinburgh Waverley complete with the then new headboard which was carried for only a few years. By Hugh Llewelyn CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24383446

The pattern of high speed Deltic hauled services was continued into the winter of 1962 and beyond, their reliability and availability built into a reputation for all round performance a success second to none. Of the pilot scheme diesels, many were dropped, though despite the early unreliability of the medium speed engines with electric transmission, a BR report of 1965 came down firmly in favour of that arrangement. Even so, the Deltics remained, a lone example of the successful mating of a high-speed diesel engine with electric transmission.

Standardisation in 1967 kept these 22 locomotives in the BR fleet as Class 55,and with the emphasis on higher powers, the National Traction Plan listed a basic main line stud to comprise classes; 20, 25, 27, 31, 33, 37, 40, 45, 46, 47, 48, 50, 52 and 55, to be achieved by 1974. An interesting inclusion was the Class 48, an improved Brush Type 4 that never materialised.

By the time of this particular spate of rationalisation, the Deltics had of course eliminated steam from all the principle East Coast workings, and operated intensive cyclic diagrams, and broke completely from steam traditions in not being allocated to any particular depot or Region, working throughout as required. With the introduction of the Brush Type 4 locos, much secondary work was taken from the Class 40s, the Deltics early stable mates, and occasionally, the Brush types would deputise for Deltics in the relatively rare event of a failure of the latter.

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Class 55 English Electric ‘Deltic’ diesel locomotive No. 55 009 “Alicydon” roars up Holloway Bank out of Kings Cross with an Inter-City express for the North East in the mid 1970s. The green livery has gone, and full height warning panels in use. By Barry Lewis CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44987568

Mechanically, the Deltics were required to achieve a standard life expectancy of 25 years, even allowing for the fact that they were the most intensively worked of all the BR diesel types. From new this meant that they would become life expired in 1986-7, and al though the rate of deterioration was virtually nil over a period of ten years, between say 1966 and 1976, in the last couple of years of operation withdrawal began to increase steadily. The last were taken out of service in May 1982. It is interesting to note that the first five years of the life of the Deltic engines – the running in period were guaranteed by the makers. With the introduction of the IC 125s, or HSTs on the East Coast main line the Deltics were gradually relegated to lesser duties, including excursions and inter-regional running, being latterly quite frequent visitors to the LMR. On 28th February, 1981, Deltic No 55022 (D9000), Royal Scots Grey, had completed 20 years service, the first of the class to do so, perhaps not surprisingly since it was the first production loco to enter service. In the event the occasion was marked by loco No, 55022 working the 12.20 King’s Cross to York with a special headboard provided by the Deltic Preservation Society, and a photographic exhibition was opened at the National Railway Museum by Deputy Keeper Mr P. W. B. Semmens. One loco is officially preserved at the NRM, 55002 The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

Liveries

There were two main liveries carried by the Deltics, with some detail variations. The first schemes carried by these locomotives were what might be termed the standard green livery for diesel types as introduced with the first pilot scheme classes of 1957-8. The first BR schedule covering the painting of diesel locomotives in green livery was issued in 1956, and although some of the details were not really applicable to the Deltics, the basic treatment and processes were the same. It is interesting to note that in that first schedule, the green livery included a black roof (specification 30, item 36), and steam style express passenger lining and transfers – the lining being in orange and black at waist and skirt level on the body sides.

D9000

D9000 (later 55022) – the first of the class in original colours, captured on 17th August 1987 at a TMD open day – possibly Tyseley in Birmingham Photo: By Peter Broster CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31876267

The Deltics were initially painted to the modified specification 30A, and covered by a schedule produced at the time of their introduction in 1961-2. This divided the painting processes into a number of areas, but those of principal interest to the modeller are of course the superstructure (exterior surfaces), roof, bogies, running gear and underframe. Wheels, axles and bogie frames were given one coat of primer to specification30A, item 1, and one coat of black lacquer, to item 40 of the same specification- though not of course to the wheel treads! Brake gear and exterior surfaces of the main framing .was treated to a final coat of general purpose black. Bufferbeams and stocks (with the exception of the short section of fairing covering part of the stocks) were red to Specification30A, item 9, with the colour a close match to BSS 2660-0-005. On top of this was a single coat of varnish. All exterior surfaces of the fuel and water tanks were given a coat of general purpose black whilst the battery boxes were given two coats of Black Acid Resisting Varnish (Specification 30A, item 4l).

Driving cab positions

Cab interior of Deltic in build. © RPB/GEC Traction Collection

Following various preparatory processes, the main livery areas of the body side panels were treated to one coat of primer, one coat of grey undercoat, one of locomotive green sealer/undercoating paint and a final coat of locomotive green enamel. This latter was Specification30A, item 34, and extended over the entire loco bodyside panels from skirt to gutters. A deep skirt or valance on the lower bodyside stopping just short of theca b door entrance sills, was picked out in a lighter colour, known as Sherwood Green. This was carried completely around the locomotive, and following the application of running numbers and crest, a single coat of locomotive exterior varnish was applied.

The roof area between the gutters was grey, and described officially as Diesel Locomotive Roof Paint, Specification 30A item 57. Cab windscreen and side window surrounds were picked out in white, originally with small yellow warning panels applied to each nose end, surrounding the four character train indicator boxes. The colour was to BSS2660-0-003, and most of the class although built without having warning panels had them applied later, only D9020 and D9021 had them painted on from new. Other non-standard details displayed originally included white buffer heads and drawgear on some members of the class; similarly axlebox end covers were picked out in yellow, as were the equalising beams on D9020 Nimbus – for a time. Window surrounds and boiler room air intake grille beadings were bright finished metal.

Block style running numbers were carried under each of the four cab side windows, in white, and below these were affixed crests of the type first introduced in 1956. Nameplates were carried on the bodysides mid-way between the cabs, and were cast in brass, with the lettering raised from a red background. Though before the locomotives received names a large crest was carried on the bodyside in the nameplate position. Soon after the Deltics were introduced, no more than two years to be precise, the first application of standard Rail Blue livery was made to a Brush/Sulzer Type 4 locomotive, and this standard rapidly became established on principal main line types.

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English Electric Deltic class 55 diesel locomotive No. 55 012 “Crepello” arriving at Kings Cross with an express from the North East. 1976 By Barry Lewis – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44987576

On the Deltics, the use of Rail Blue to BR Specification 53, item 13, covered the entire body, including the roof areas. It was alleviated only by the yellow nose, which itself was more extensive than the earlier warning panel, over-running the corners for a few inches. The underframes and bogies remained the conventional black. In recent years however, there has been a trend away from the rather dull uniform appearance of BRs blue locos, initiated largely on the Eastern Region, and resulting in a number of Deltics sporting white cab window surrounds again.

During the change over period from green to blue livery in 1968-69, D9005/17/18 had full yellow ends whilst still in green livery: D9010 also in green, had the new double arrow symbol. In the standard form on blue liveried locomotives this was 2 foot 6 inches long, and fixed under the cab side windows at each of the four corners, with the asymmetric running number behind each cab door. The ‘D’ prefix was dropped at this time also, and with the introduction of the ‘TOPS’ re-numbering scheme in 1972, the 6 inch high numbers of Class 55, in white, were positioned behind the cab doors on the driver’s side only.

The last variation on the Deltics livery has been the repainting for preservation of D9002 (55002), King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, in the original standard two-tone green livery. A pleasing comparison with the standard Rail Blue, and perhaps with just a twinge of nostalgia, it doesn’t appear quite as dull as it did in the early 1960s, when steam was still to a great degree, supreme!

Life After Service & Preservation

No less than 6 of this unique class have been preserved, two D9009 and D9019 are operational for main line service, one D9002, is on permanent display at the National Railway Museum, whilst the remaining three (D9000, D9015, D9016) are under restoration or overhaul. Two of the cabs from D9008 “The Green Howards”, and D9021     “Argyll & Sutherland Highlander” are also preserved as static exhibits.

DELTIC preservedAfter withdrawals took place in the 1980s, British Rail banned all privately owned diesels from operating on its network, but the work towards securing and returning to operational service a member of this historic design began. However, despite an occasional run out to open days, and a trip for D9002 to its final resting place at the National Railway Museum in 1982, nothing further was seen of a Deltic in full service mode until after the privatisation of BR in the 1990s.

DP2 on Yorkshire Pullman trial run

The prototype DP2, with its new English Electric 2,700hp 16CSVT engine hauling then Yorkshire Pullman on a trial run. © RPB/GEC traction Collection

Whilst heritage railways had always been a home for these and many ex BR diesel types, it was not until the arrival of open-access train operations in the 1990s, that, for a fee, the owners of these powerful machines could take to main line running again, under Railtrack, and today, Network Rail.

Of course, as we are all aware, there was a spare Deltic body that gave birth to another famous English Electric diesel design – intriguingly at first carrying the number DP2 – later of course becoming the British Rail Class 50, with a new design of 4-stroke, 2,700hp diesel engine from the same maker. These are described in some detail in the post from the link below.

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-oOo-

Deltics in Retrospect – Part 1

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The DeItics, or rather the 22 locomotives originally designated English Electric Type 5 Co-Co diesel-electric, over a working life of more than twenty years became top favourites with all rail enthusiasts as they carried out the express passenger duties on the East Coast Main Line. And yet, initially, the design was not in tended for the Eastern Region at all, but the London Midland. Following the highly successful operation of the prototype Deltic locomotive, on LMR and ER metals, it was decided to place an order with English Electric for a production version. In essence this retained the twin I8-cylinder ‘Deltic’ engines of the prototype in a stretched body, with a number of other detail modifications, providing BR with what was at the time the world’s most powerful single unit diesel locomotive.

Deltic at NRM large_CD040355

The original “Deltic” prototype Photo courtesy Science Museum Group Collection © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum Descriptions and all other text content are licensed under a https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The first three production Deltics appeared in March 1961 and were allocated to the Scottish, Eastern and North Eastern Regions respectively. They were numbered D9000-02 in the then current numbering scheme. They were the result of six years running experience with the prototype; which remained the property of English Electric until its withdrawal and preservation in the Science Museum in 1963. The prototype had experienced only minor problems during the 400,000miles it covered in service, almost all of which centred around the Napier ‘Deltic’ engine. It was in this, in fact, that the unique nature of the Deltic locomotive was contained. The power unit was developed from a design prepared for the Admiralty in the early 1950s for its ‘Dark’ class fast patrol boats – a lightweight two-stroke diesel, opposed piston, water cooled engine. The cylinders-eighteen in all – were arranged in banks of six around the three sides of an inverted triangle – hence the Deltic name. Happily, the engines installed in the rail version had a much more successful career than those for the Royal Navy.

Original Deltic in Preston Works

Prototype Deltic in the erecting shop at Preston Works in 1956 – almost complete. © Rodger Bradley/GEC Traction Collection

The genesis of the ‘Deltic’ design was outlined in some draft notes on English Electric’s history prepared for GEC Traction’s publicity department around 1970, and included this summary:

1952

The development of a completely new ultra lightweight high speed 2-stroke diesel engine by D. Napier & Son, initiated an investigation 
into the traction potential of the new engine. In due course emerged the parameters for the design of a revolutionary single-unit diesel-electric locomotive of a power substantially greater than existed at the time (or 
for some years after it’s subsequent introduction).

Alongside the production of well established designs for export the prototype began to take shape, finally going into proving service on the L.M.Region of B.R. in 1956, the most powerful single-unit d.e. loco in the world with the highest power/weight ratio. With 3,300 hp from its two 18-cyl Napier engines, the “Deltic” loco weighed some 108 tons, max. axle loading – 18 tons.

During extensive service trials, speeds of well over 120 mile/hour were reputed to have been reached (unofficially), due, principally to the extremely smooth riding of the loco under which speeds downgrade could build up without the rougher riding more normally associated with speeds around 100 mile/hour at that time.”

The notes went on to highlight the steady development of English Electric’s diesel engines and its rail traction success. The production “Deltic” locomotives went on to become legends on a par, if not exceeding that of the Gresley or Stanier pacific steam locomotives.

Teething troubles in the design were basically the result of its transfer to rail traction use, and for the prototype, in addition to the two engines it carried, no less than three were maintained as spares. This was partly for test purposes, and partly to seek out the cause and cure for major problems of erratic valve operation. On the locomotive, with two engines, should one fail completely, it was still possible to move using only the one remaining engine.

Ironically, the prototype Deltic was withdrawn from service and returned to the Vulcan Foundry in the same month the as the first production units appeared. A piston failure occurred while the locomotive was working a Kings Cross to Doncaster service, which badly damaged one of the engines, and during March, the power plant, train-heating boiler, traction motors and control system was removed. It was planned to scrap the remaining shell, before the proposal to display it in the Science Museum was made – and fortunately this proposal was successful.

Deltic Prototype from Dec 1955 BR LM Region Magazine

The prototype as portrayed in the December 1955 issue of the London Midland Region Magazine – worth noting is the statement at the foot of the caption, stating that it had been built for export.

The table below gives the leading dimensions and other principal details of the 22 Deltic locomotives, in ‘as built’ condition.

Deltic leading dimensions

* Although when introduced, all the Deltics were fitted with both air and vacuum brake equipment, the latter being required since a majority of the passenger stock was still vacuum-fitted. The air brake equipment was for loco use only, and in 1967-8, the entire class was fitted with train air brake equipment.

DE:5001:1

The BR weight diagram of the production series Deltics, in original condition and running order.

Mechanical Details

(1) Power Equipment and Transmission

The two engines fitted into each locomotive were high-speed two-stroke diesels, each of which developed 1,650hp from eighteen cylinders. The design comprised three banks of six cylinders arranged around the sides of an inverted equilateral triangle, with all the piston heads opposite one another. This meant that instead of having the main crankshafts in the conventional position at the base of the engine, they were positioned at the three apexes of the triangle.

Deltic Engine ViewsThis complex construction, as previously mentioned was a development of a design produced by Napier for the Admiralty. In fact, the rail traction version, designated type D18-25 maintained the same size cylinders as some of the more powerful marine types, which in the 1950s had reached outputs exceeding 4000hp. One benefit gained from the triangular arrangement was the almost complete balancing of the reciprocating forces.

The pistons themselves were oil-cooled with an aluminium alloy skirt, and a dished alloy crown, screwed and shrunk onto the skirt. Three separate camshafts were fitted to the outer faces of the crankcases, with the fuel injection pumps mounted on the camshaft casings. Lubrication of the engine was based on a ‘dry sump system’, and all bearings and gears were supplied with oil under pressure.
The engines were constructed from three separate cylinder blocks and crankcases, secured by high tensile steel bolts – a method of construction reckoned to give a very strong and rigid structure. At the generator end of each engine a set of phasing gears was provided to drive a common output shaft. From the phasing gearcase, two flexible shafts passed through the uppermost crankcases to drive a centrifugal, double entry scavenge blower. The 5 1/8 in bore cylinders were fitted with steel ‘wet’ type liners with nine exhaust ports arranged around part of the circumference at one end of the liner, and 14 inlet ports around the full circumference at the opposite end.

Deltic D9001 - Vulcan Works Photo March 1961

D9001 the second of the class seen here fresh from the paint shop at the Vulcan Foundry works in March 1961. Sporting the two-tone-green livery and BR’s lion and wheel crest on the body side, with white-framed cab windows. © RPB/GEC Traction Collection

The generators attached to the output shaft of the phasing gearcase were self-ventilated DC machines, with a continuous rating of 1,650 amps at 660 volts. The phasing gearcase output shaft to which the armatures were attached rotated at 1,125rpm – the speed being stepped down from the crankshaft speed of 1,500 rpm. The auxiliary generators were mounted above the main generators and driven by a take off shaft from the phasing gearcase at 1 2/3 the crankshaft speed. The 110-volt supply was used for excitation of the traction generator field coils, lighting and various ancillary circuits.

With both engines in operation, the load was shared between the auxiliary machines, and the main generators were connected in series to supply the six traction motors. Should one power unit fail, the system was designed to provide full tractive effort, but at only half normal road speed. The six English Electric Type EE 538 traction motors were nose suspended, axle hung machines, driving the respective axles through a pinion mounted on the end of the motor armature shaft, and a gear wheel on the axle. The motors were force ventilated, from blowers mounted in each nose end, and electrically connected as three parallel groups of two motors in series.

In order to improve the speed characteristics over which full locomotive power was available, two stages of traction motor field weakening were provided. Engine cooling was by means of two roof mounted radiator fans, each engine having a pair of fans driven through gearboxes and cardan shafts with universal joints.

(2) Control systems

Control of engine speed was by means of air pressure actuators acting on the spring loading of the engine governors. Excitation of each main generator was altered through the load regulators – multi contact rotary switches. The opening and closing of the contacts was via the engine governor and oil driven vane actuator. This in turn varied the resistance in the main generator field circuit, keeping the respective engine at full load for that specific position of the power handle.

All auxiliary circuits were supplied at 110volts, for the operation of pumps, blowers, compressors, etc. An electrical control cubicle was provided behind each cab bulkhead, and housed all the principal circuit protection devices. General protection devices included automatic correction of wheel slip, which involved a slight reduction in traction motor voltage and application of sand.

This arrangement for controlling wheel slip was also in experimental use in 1961 on the 2000hp English Electric Type 4 No D255.

In the event of high cooling water temperature, or low lubricating oil pressure, the engine affected was shut down automatically. Faults such as these would be indicated on the control desk in the driving cab, together with boiler shut down and general fault lights. The general fault light was linked to secondary fault indication lights in the engine compartment detailing particular faults, such as traction motor blower failure, low water or fuel level. The low fuel level indicator meant that enough fuel for only 50 miles of running remained.

Grey Folder GEC - 1 5

Just a couple of years after the first production locomotives entered service – DP1, the original ‘Deltic’ was presented to Science Museum in September 1963, after 45,000 miles running. This view was taken on the day of the presentation.       (c) GEC Traction / RP Bradley Collection

(3) Bogies, Running Gear -General Constructional Features

The bogie main frames and bolsters were fabricated assemblies with the headstocks riveted to them. The general arrangement was similar to the prototype locomotive, though the wheelbase at13ft 6in, equally divided, was shorter. Underhung equalising beams of forged steel were fixed to stirrups incorporated in the axlebox assembly, with the stirrups and equalising brackets being provided with manganese steel liners. Similarly, liners were fitted to the wearing faces of the roller bearing axlebox guides, bolsters, side bearers and centre pivots. The load was transmitted to the bogie through the bolster side bearers and four nests of coil springs to two spring planks suspended by swing links from the bogie frame. Dampers were fitted between the bolster and spring planks. Four pairs of coil springs distributed the load from the solebar to the equalising beam.

Deltic in build at Vulcan_RPB Collection

A Deltic bogie alongside the body framing for one of the class in build at the Vulcan Foundry works, at Newton-le-Willows. All 22 were built at Vulcan between March 1961 and April 1962.    © RPB/GEC Traction Collection

This design of swing bolster bogie was also fitted to the English Electric Type 3Co-Co locomotives, and in June 1961,fractures were discovered in the transom webs of two locos, and as a result all locos with this type of bogie were withdrawn whilst a modification was made. This involved the provision of thicker gauge steel for the particular component, and no further trouble was experienced from this source on either the Type 3s or the Deltics. An interesting arrangement of ducting for traction motor cooling air was used, involving a flexible connection to two of the motors through the hollow bogie centre via the bolster, with similar ducting and flexible connections to the third motor. Clasp type brake rigging was fitted, and could be operated directly through the driver’s air brake valve, or operation of the vacuum brake on the train would cause a proportional application of the loco’s brakes to be made. In1967-68 all the Deltics were equipped with a train air brake system for working the latest stock, including air conditioning.

The underframe and body framing was designed as a load bearing structure, built up from cold formed steel sections and carried on two centrally positioned longitudinal members, and rolled steel channel solebars. A steel plate decking was welded to the top of the underframe with wells under the engine/generator units. All exterior and interior panelling was welded with joints ground flush. Fibreglass insulation was provided between the bodyside panels and in the cab, reducing noise and temperature variation. A more than usual proportion of fibreglass was used in the Deltics, with sections being adapted for battery and sand boxes, main cable ducts, instrument panels, cab and equipment compartment doors. The underslung fuel and boiler feed water tanks were welded up from light alloy sheet, and carried between the bogies. Water tanks were insulated and fitted with heating coils. A characteristic steam locomotive fitting was also provided on these advanced diesel locomotives – a water pick up scoop for use on troughs fitted between the rails.

Basically, the body could be divided into five compartments, which were as follows: No 1 end cab, engine room, boiler compartment, engine room, No 2 end cab. In front of each cab, a nose compartment housed various items of equipment. At the No 1 end these included two exhausters, CO2 fire extinguishers and a traction motor blower and air filter. The nose end in front of the No 2 cab – in addition to the traction motor blower and fire fighting appliances – also housed a toilet and the air compressor. In each case, in view of the height of the nose, both Driver and Second man’s positions were on a raised platform within the cab proper, which was provided with an access door on either side. Due to the restriction of space caused by the intrusion of part of the control cubicle into the cab, the two outer doors were sliding, whilst the engine room access doors opened into the cab.

The engines were positioned in. the engine compartments so that the generators faced outwards, ie, towards the cab, and separated by the train-heating boiler. This latter occupied a space12ft I Din in length at the mid-point of the locomotive. It was a Spanner ‘Swirlyflow’ Mk II, with a steaming capacity of 15001b/hr.

D9005 - The Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire copy

D9005 ‘The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire’ on a typical high-speed service on the East Coast Main Line in the 1960s. The change when compared to later 1970s and 1980s, when HST sets were used, and today, with electrification is quite dramatic.                               © RPB/GEC Traction Collection

Follow this link for Part 2 – Build & Operations

Further reading & Useful Links:

British_Rail_Class_55  (Wikipedia)

The Deltic Locomotives of British Rail – Brian Webb.  Pub. David & Charles 1982; ISBN 0-7153-8110-5

 

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The Deltic Preservation Society  Screenshot 2019-09-26 at 15.46.24

 

 

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HS2 Hits the Buffers

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So now we know – too costly, and at least another 5 to 7 years to go before Birmingham is reached.  Controversial from the beginning, and 10 years in the making – a bit like Crossrail – the cost has seemingly outweighed the benefits.  It was begun in 2009, and yet now seems to be at an end, due to the ever increasing budget overspends.  HS1 – the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) was also very much delayed, and the connection to the Chunnel was initially at an embarrassingly low speed, until the train emerged on the French side of the Channel.  The UK it seems, is still waiting to catch up with the rest of Europe when it comes to high-speed, high-tech trains.

What surprises me, and perhaps many others, is that we have had the technology – be it, power control electronics, signalling systems, infrastructure technology – for over 30 years, and the last high-speed main line (excluding HS1) was completed in 1990.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, British Railways managed to electrify the West Coast Main Line (WCML) from London to Manchester and Liverpool, and then to Birmingham – completed by 1967.  This was at a time when the technology and techniques were new, novel, untried and untested on a UK main line, and complete in just 8 years – 2 years LESS than it has taken work on the single route from London to Birmingham for HS2 to even begin construction.  On top of that, the west coast route was electrified to Glasgow by 1974 – just 15 years after work began.

OK, maybe I am comparing apples and oranges in some areas, and the WCML was not an entirely new railway, but maybe that is offset by the fact that in the 1960s, the technology was brand new, and the railway was much more complex than it is today.

According to the latest report – before the latest delays were announced – the new high-speed railway would not reach Crewe (where no interchange station was planned) until 2031, and Manchester Piccadilly by 2035.  That’s a full 26 years after HS2 Ltd was set up, and 22 years after the Act of Parliament gave it the go-ahead, and now if the 5-year delay is included, that means Crewe by 2036 and Manchester by 2040.

It seems it’s not just money that is affected by inflation, but major infrastructure project time lines – what took 15 years in the 1960s/70s, takes around 40 years in the 21st Century!  Oh, yes, and there’s the cost spiral too from around £55 billion in 2015 to £88 billion in 204? – an increase of 60%.

Back in 2014 HS2 Ltd submitted its case for the new route as both an engine for growth and rebalancing Britain – the report was quite thorough, but with little by way of reference to the environment as a whole.  Of course, it was not possible 5 years ago to see the growth in importance of climate change – although it was possible to estimate a significant growth in the UK population by 2040.  Maybe HS2 Ltd was not aware of the connection between the two.

HS2 Key Principles 2014

But one of the key principles mentioned in the document, and an aspect of the project that is not being addressed is transport integration.  HS2 is about separation, and it is not a network of rail routes – it is just a number of new links between centres of population, with almost no attention paid to freight transport.

It goes on to suggest that the Crewe hub, with links to Liverpool, will be “transformative” for businesses.  What it does not say is how, or even take account of current information systems technology where business travel is being rendered unnecessary.

Transformative for business

Fascinating statement here, where it states that having the link to Manchester will make it easier to work in both London and Manchester, with a 60 minute reduction in journey time.  In 2014, the authors of this report were clearly unaware of the ability of people to work on trains, whether by using the on-board WiFi, or any of the various sophisticated ‘telepresence’ systems, that allow people to be present in meetings from different locations.

The element of the rail infrastructure that demands much more attention is the East-West routes to link Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle – NOT a link from London to Birmingham.  This diagram in the 2014 HS2 document shows the right place to start:

East West & North South

Still, all that seems to be behind us now, with the Government review likely to be underway soon, progress of this project has now followed the pattern of most UK train journeys in the 21st Century – delayed or cancelled.

Useful Links:

Alstom Proposed HS2 Train Design

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High Altitude Steam

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In  1871,  the first mountain railway  in  Europe using the rack and pinion system,  the Vitznau Rigi Bahn (VRB) was opened, and not surprisingly perhaps, it  was in Switzerland. It was not the first mountain railway, since just 3 years ealier, the Mont Cenis Railway, linking France and Italy was opened, using the unique ‘Fell System’.  The new railway climbed from  Vitznau  on the shores of Lake Lucerne to  the  summit  of Mount  Rigi – the ‘Queen of Mountains’ – some 6,000 feet above sea level. Apart from its position as the first rack railway in Europe, the Vitznau Rigi Bahn (VRB) is unusual, in being built to the 4ft 8 1/2ins gauge, where most other railways in Switzerland are built to the metre gauge, or less. Of course, it  was not possible to climb the mountain by conventional means, and the first  steam locomotives also saw the introduction of  the  “Rig­genbach” cog wheel, or rack railway system. With this, a toothed rack  was placed in the centre of the two running rails, and  the cogwheels  on  the locomotives engaged tooth by tooth  with  this rack, to enable the train to maintain a grip.

Other rack systems had  been developed, all more or less dervived from Blenkinsop’s toothed wheel locomotive design for the Middleton Colliery near Leeds. Blenkinsop’s rails had a toothed rack cast on the outside of the running rails, to allow a pinion on the engine’s wheels to engage, and provide the essential grip for traction. The system was patented in 1811, but apart from mineral and colliery lines, by the 1830s it was proven that adhesion only locomotives were the best fit for a conventional railway. The only exception was of course where to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, some very steep graients and sharp curves were needed.

Other systems to provide extra adhesion or braking force, such as the ‘Fell System’, adopted  for  the Rimutaka line in New Zealand, where additional wheels, driven by auxiliary steam engines, and pressed horizontally against a central rail were used. Back in central  Switzerland, as the expansion in the use of true rack and pinion railways grew, a near neighbour of Mount Rigi – Mount Pilatus –  needed to adopt an entirely different system. So, in  addition to the first, and oldest mountain  railway in Europe, the Lucerne area also boasts the world’s steepest rack railway.

Vitznaurhof & Rigi 1989-1

Classic view from the station at “Rigi Kulm”, looking down over Lake Lucerne, with a train making its way down to Vitznau. (c) Rodger Bradley

In this case, climbing over 7,000 feet, to the  summit of  Mount  Pilatus, where the three miles long Pilatusbahn was opened  in 1889, nearly twenty years after the Vitznau Rigi  Bahn (VRB). On Pilatus, the Lochner rack system was used, where  the teeth on the central rack projected sideways, and the cog  wheels on the vehicles engaged on either side of this rack, to give even greater  grip. Pilatusbahn was still steam hauled until about the time of the First World War, when  the vertical boilered  steam railcars  were superseded by electric vehicles.

The  Riggenbach Rack system, and the Vitznau Rigi  Bahn (VRB) hold a particularly special place in railway development in Switzerland and Europe. To this day, the “Queen of Mountains” – Rigi  – continues to see steam locomotives hauling people to  one of the most famous Alpine summits. A famous visitor, one Mark Twain, likened his experience on the Rigi to sliding down the balusters of a staircase!

En-route, the line climbs through lush Alpine  meadows, on quite severe gradients to an intermediate junction station  at Rigi Kaltbad – over 4,400 feet above sea level  –  to its ultimate destination Rigi Kulm. There are some six  interme­diate stops possible, although some of these are halts only,  and on request, or for other technical, or operational reasons. From the  summit, on a clear day it is possible to see for many  miles around, with superb views across Lake Lucerne, towards the  ‘Roof of Europe’ and the Bernese Oberland. Nowadays, steam traction on the VRB terminates at Rigi Kaltbad, and the journey behind one of the  two  steam  locomotives – Nos. 16 or 17  –  takes  about  45 minutes, according to the timetables.

The  early motive power used on the Vitznau  Rigi  Bahn (VRB)  was composed of vertical boilered steam  locomotives,  and not  the ‘kneeling cow’ variety more commonplace in later  years. In  fact, the very first of this type, was also the first  to  be built  by SLM (Schweizerische Lokomotiv and Maschinenfabrik),  in 1873, and carried works number 1. This locomotive was taken  out of  normal service in 1937, and for a time was on display at  the station  in  Vitznau, and eventually found a home  in  the  Swiss Railway Museum in Luzern.

In fact, VRB locomotive No.7, as  pre­served,  is  the third oldest steam locomotive  in  the  national collection, behind “Limmat” and “Genf”, which were built for more conventional  railways  in Switzerland. VRB No.7 has a  pair  of outside cylinders, carried either side of the central boiler,  on what  could  be  described as an 0-4-0  wheel  arrangement.  The driver’s position is immediately behind the vertical boiler, with a  small fenced platform to the front. With a cab roof as  well, for  1873,  No.7 was a fairly advanced  design, even considering  the comforts  of the crew! Not surprisingly perhaps, it is  far  too valuable  to be used in regular service today.  However,  during the  VRB’s 125th anniversary year 1996, No.7 was used  for special  excursions from May onwards. It is now a quarter of acentury older, and this historic railway continues to draw many thousands of visitors every year. Those special excursions are still possible today, in 2019.

Rigi_vertical_boiler

The oldest vertical boilered steam locomotive in the world – No. 7 is seen here at the summit stations ” Rigi Kulm”. Built by SLM in 1873.                        Photo: Audrius Meskauskas – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7157010

Switzerland was amongst the very first countries in the world to adopt electric traction, and its unusual mountain  rail­ways  were in almost every aspect pioneers of this form of  trac­tion. On the Rigi though, steam traction and the Riggenbach rack system  are  still in action today, with  two  more  conventional locomotives, also built by SLM. The 0-4-2 locomotives Nos. 16  & 17  are at work every year on the Rigi, normally one Sunday  each month.  Both  are now ‘getting on’ a bit, having been  built  in 1923, they are perhaps well into pensionable age. As the  photo­graph shows, the construction of the locomotive is almost conven­tional, with a horizontal boiler, rear cab, and a pair of  inside cylinders  carried  under the smokebox. The coupled  wheels  are separated by a jackshaft, which connects both the outside wheels, and  the cog wheels connecting with the Riggenbach rack,  in  the centre of the tracks. As the train climbs upwards of course, the boiler  becomes  parallel, rather than tipped  forward,  ensuring that the water level is horizontal. These are fascinating  loco­motives  to watch in action, as the inside cylinders  drive  onto the  centrally  placed jackshaft, which transfers  power  to  the coupling  rods, and finally, the wheels. The diminutive  locomo­tives  –  only 7 metres, or just under 23 feet long –  wease  and struggle  to the top of the mountain.

Luzern -8

No.16 making ready for the ascent from Vitznau. The experience of riding to the summit of the “Queen of Mountains” being propelled by one of these is truly amazing.                             (c) Rodger Bradley

Today  the  VRB’s main motive power is  electric,  with multiple units climbing to the summit and back every day, in only 30  minutes. The electric railcars reach Rigi Kaltbad in a  mere 18  minutes. Once at Rigi Kaltbad, the VRB is joined by  another line,  rising from the opposite side of the mountain –  the  Arth Goldau Bahn. The ARB too has its unique characteristics, includ­ing some of the oldest working electric railcars in  Switzerland. One  of these dates back to 1899, and is one of the oldest  vehi­cles  specially designed to transport winter sports  enthusiasts. The  ARB  route from Arth Goldau to Rigi Kulm includes  five  in­termediate  halts  in the long climb, and takes around 30  to  35 minutes for the journey.

There have been upgrades and changes in rolling stock over the years, but steam traction is still available – even down to the oldest vertical boilered loco – No.7 – and the infrastructure has been renewed in places. In the autumn of 2017, the plan to buy new rolling stock was progressed, not by simply replacing the older stock with newer designs, but by procuring new, up to date vehicles with the latest ideas and technology.

The main project “Zielkonzept Betrieb” underway is to enhance the operating environment to take account of the complexity, and interchangeability, of running services with such a variety of stock. The infrastructure changes have included renewing catenary sections and replacing all rectifier stations along the line, and a new control system. The new trains, which are scheduled to be in service This procurement project is planned to see the first vehicle of the newest generation on the rails in time to celebrate the 150th anniversary in 2021.

The new two-car trains will feature more passenger space, barrier free access, and of course, state of the art technology. That technology will include regenerative braking, where instead of burning the braking energy through banks of resistors, on descent the trains will simply feed the energy back into the supply network. A neat, sustainable solution, and in a sense perhaps, the downhill trains will power the uphill operations.

 

New 2-car sets

Planned new railcars for the VRB.

Central Switzerland still boasts more than one regular­ly  steam worked mountain railway, including  the  800mm gauge Brienz-Rothorn Bahn,  which also uses the Riggenbach rack system. The  BRB  was steam hauled until the 1960s, and in fact,  it  was the  last all steam hauled rack railway in Switzerland.  The BRB celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2017, and continues to attract thousands of visitors every year. In later years, the BRB’s fleet  of  steam locomotives was supplemented  by  modern  diesel railcars  (the railway has not been electrified), which now  work regularly  at  off-peak periods, in turn with the  steam  locomo­tives. There are no less than seven steam locomotives stored at Brienz,  and they are used to provide the main services  on  this railway to the top of the Rothorn.   The BRB starts from the base of the mountain, at Brienz, and climbs to the summit, some  2,252 metres, or nearly 7,400 feet above sea level.

BRB 1

Classic BRB locomotive about to set off from the station at Brienz – still carrying the bulk of traffic up until the 1990s.   (c) Rodger Bradley

New BRB steam loco No12

One of the then new SLM built steam locomotives, with the latest steam technology, and coupled to a new passenger car.

In 1992, the BRB, together with Austria’s Schafbergbahn ordered new steam locomotives from SLM – some 40 years after the last steam rack locomotives were built. The new locomotives took account of the latest ideas and technology available for the new locomotives, which have now been operating on the BRB for almost 30 years!

Given the Swiss reputation for reliability, and  acces­sibility,  it is a pleasure to be able to reach easily,  and  see these  fascinating  steam  locomotives still  in  use.  For  the Vitznau Rigi Bahn, now approaching its 150th birthday in 2021, the sight of some of the oldest Riggenbach locomotive in operation will be a memorable occasion.

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Useful links:

 

 

 

 

Coal Dust Powered Steam Engines

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In 1919, ‘The Engineer’ carried a short reference in its January 13th issue to experiments in using ‘coal dust’ in locomotive fireboxes, describing them as powdered fuel engines:

Of the Great Central powdered fuel engine we can at the moment say no mote than that we hope before long to place a complete description before our readers. We dealt in our issues of Aug. 23rd and 30th, with the device employed on American locomotives for coal-dust burning, and we may note now that, whilst the general principles followed by Mr. Robinson are naturally not very different, the arrangement of the parts has been worked out afresh. The Great Central experiments are being watched with interest, and in view of the present desire to economise fuel, and the now proved fact that coal-dust can be used satisfactorily in locomotive fire-box, we shall not be surprised to see other engineers following Mr Robinson’s lead.

Original entry:

GCR coal-dust extract

To be honest, I’d not considered the idea of pulverised fuel as a source for steam locomotives before, considering the availability of considerable quantities of black coal from mines in the UK. There were perhaps other countries where good steam coal was not so readily available – the USA, Italy, Germany, and Australia – at least in some areas can be considered in that category. Aside from the efficiency, the complexity or otherwise, of burning, handling and distributing pulverised fuel, the economic conditions might well have a part to play in its use.

EPSON scanner image

The GCR’s experiment with coal-dust firing started with this heavy freight design, seen here in later years in LNER days.  This Sunday line-up of heavy freight locomotives is seen at Whitemoor Depot, March cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Ben Brooksbank – geograph.org.uk/p/2333255

Take the Great Central example above, that was in the immediate post First World War era, so along with compounding, it was seen as a way of improving the efficiency of motive power through the use of a wider range of fuels. Primarily though, a combination of increased fuel cost and poorer quality coal led to J.G. Robinson’s experiments in using coal-dust, or pulverised fuel. In addition to economics, there was a belief that this would increase the level of combustion, and hence operating performance and efficiency.

The first trials took place with four 8K Class 2-8-0 freight locomotives (later Class O5 in LNER days), between 1917 and 1924. The 2-8-0s were fitted with a bogie tender, housing a container holding the coal-dust, which was then fed to the locomotive’s grate, through pipes. The conventional fire grate and ash pan had been replaced by firebricks, and the fuel blown into the front of the firebox, using a system of fans, driven initially by a petrol engine, and later by a small steam turbine. The coal-dust used in these trials was recovered from colliery screens, and then dried before use on the locomotive, where it was mixed with air for combustion. Amongst the downsides to the use of this arrangement was getting the air to coal-dust mixture right, and the design and layout of the firebox, and even mixing the coal dust with oil (colloidal fuel) proved equally problematic.

The following is an extract from a book entitled “Brown Coal”, published by Australia’s Victoria State Electricity Commission in 1952 gives some insight into Robinson’s experiments on the Great Central.

“The Great Central Railway Company had fitted two locomotives for burning, respectively, pulverised black coal and colloidal fuel, the latter a mixture of about 60 parts of pulverised coal and 40 parts of oil. The pulverised fuel locomotive was in regular service on one of the heaviest runs in England, between Gorton near Manchester and Dunford, a distance of nearly 18 miles; it had to take, its place with a 500-ton load among similar trains; half a dozen of these were following trains, all of which were likely to be held up if the pulverised fuel locomotive failed. All this indicated the confidence of the Railways officials in the reliability of the pulverised fuel locomotive under everyday working conditions. During August 1921 the author had a run on the footplate of the pulverised fuel locomotive on a day when the general traffic conditions were as described above. Running, tests had bees made previously with the two converted locomotives and with another using lump coal; for maintenance of steam pressure and rate of travel on the heaviest portions of the run, colloidal fuel showed best and pulverised coal next best. Two separate engines on the tender, which was specially built for this service, drove the feed screw for the coal and the blower fan. Technically these experiments appear to have been quite successful, but the official view of the company was that there would be no commercial gain in pulverising its high-grade black coal.”

These experiments with alternative fuels were not uncommon on a number of railways in the early years of the 20th Century, as William Holden’s oil-fired examples on the Great Eastern Railway testify. However, in the UK at least, the likelihood of more ‘coal-dust fired’ locomotives was unlikely to grow, and indeed it did not, and remains a curiosity.

It wasn’t just the Great Central that was experimenting with pulverised, the Southern Railway carried out some work in the 1920s, based on those developments in the USA. In 1916, The New York Central converted a 4-6-2 to burn pulverised coal, and although not leading to great numbers of similarly fuelled steam types, these experiments were important in looking in detail at the performance, and efficiency of a steam locomotive over a wider range of fuel types. Brown coal and lignites were relatively common in European countries, such as Italy and Germany, where perhaps they were more fully developed.

In Germany, six of the Prussian “G12” Class 2-10-0swere converted to ‘coal-dust burning’ in 1930, but because of the considerable deposits of lignite/brown coal, a much softer coal with a high water content, new ‘coal-dust burning’ locomotives were being built in the 1950s. In the former East Germany, the state railway Deutches Reichsbahn (DR), constructed a pair of 2-8-0s in 1954/5 – the DR Class 25.10. The second of these was designed and fitted for coal-dust firing, and intended for both heavy passenger and goods workings.

Dampflokomotive 58 1894, BR 58

The first coal dust locomotive for Deutsche Reichsbahn (DRG), the former East Germany, with fuel from lignite. The performance was claimed to be significantly higher than a conventionally fired locomotive. The image shows the machine with tender and bunker. Bild 102-11602 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5415387

The initiative started in the early 1920s in Germany, when the state railway organisation brought together the loco builders and the coal industry, and established a business to conduct research on the use of pulverised fuel for firing steam locomotives. This organisation – SLUG (Studiengesellschaft) – introduced the ‘Stug’ system, working with Henschel & Sohn, and at the same time a parallel development was being trialled by AEG. In both cases, the initial work was for stationary boilers. In later years, the system used in East Germany, was ascribed to the GDR’s Hans Wendler, and unsurprisingly known as the Wendler coal-dust firing system, which is the system used on the later DRG 2-10-0s.

Kohlenstaublok 25 1001 (BR 25)

One of the 20 Class 44 2-10-0 locomotives converted to coaldust firing in the 1950s, for work on lines in the Thuringian Forest region. Several of the class have been preserved, but sadly perhaps none of this particular variant.

During the 1950s, coal-dust fired steam locomotives continued to work in Germany, and in East Germany, the DRG converted 20 of the Class 44 2-10-0 heavy freight locomotives, of which almost 2,000 had been built since the 1920s. The system was ultimately replaced – largely due to the complexity of the fuelling system needed – by oil-fired locomotives, which were still in use in Germany in the mid to late 1970s, up until the end of steam traction.

The Southern Railway had built a new class of 2-6-0 locomotives, under its then CME, Richard Maunsell, for passenger duties, with two outside cylinders, weighing in at 110 tons, and developing some 23,000lbs of tractive effort. These new “U” Class moguls included number A629, built in 1928, and fitted with the German design of pulverized fuel system, supplied by AEG. The idea, unsurprisingly, given this was taking place during the great depression of the 1920s and 1930s, was to improve the operating efficiency of the steam engine. The trials took place on the London to Brighton line, and were used as a means of deciding whether it was more economical to convert to the poorer grade of fuels for steam traction, or implement widespread electrification. It was a short lived experiment, and brought to an end following a minor explosion that occurred when the coal dust came into contact with the hot sparks being ejected through the chimney. It was subsequently found that the blast of the steam engine in normal operation was drawing more coal dust/pulverised fuel through the boiler, without being burned.

31629

The experimental “U Class” 2-6-0 in later BR days as No. 31269

The locomotive itself was returned to normal coal burning in 1935, and renumbered 1629, and survived to BR days, and finally withdrawn from service in 1964, as BR No. 31629, and of course the Southern Railway embarked on major electrification schemes.

Another intriguing attempt at using ‘cheaper’ fuel, was to mix the coal dust/pulverised fuel with oil, and described as “colloidal fuel” in some quarters. In fact this too wasn’t a new idea, and had been used in ships during the First World War, when fuel supplies were becoming low. The idea seems to have been useful only where the mixture of oil and pulverised coal could be injected into boiler furnaces through an atomising burner, and the complexities of using such an arrangement on a steam locomotive footplate can only be imagined. Well on Britain’s railways in the 1920s and 1930s perhaps, since normal bituminous coal was readily available.

Curiously, the idea was raised again towards the end of the Second World War, in the UK’s parliament, when this observation was made in Hansard:

Locomotive Fuel - Pulverised Coal

But, in the end, even the UK’s experiments with oil-firing steam traction was not a success, and the increased march and takeover by diesel and electric traction was the death knell for this idea. But, elsewhere, trials and developments continued, including ‘down under’.

Australia – too little too late? As mentioned earlier, a study carried out on behalf of the State Electricity Authority of Victoria looked in great depths at the use of brown coal/lignites for boilers, and including steam locomotives. The work began in the immediate Post Second World War period, and was driven by industrial action on the New South Wales coalfields, and dwindling supplies of hard, black coal, and the coalfields in Victoria were exhausted. To combat this, for the railways, a large number of locomotives were converted to oil-firing, and the experiments with pulverised brown coal began by fitting the 2-8-2 freight locomotive X32 with the necessary ‘Stug’ equipment from Germany.

X32_dynamometer_car

X32, after conversion to PBC firing, on a test train with the VR and South Australian Railways joint stock Dynamometer car. Note plume of steam from the turbine motor on the tender, which drove a conveyor screw and blower to force coal dust into the firebox.          By Victorian Railways photograph – State Library of Victoria, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23956450

This experiment was a success, and in 1951, the remaining 28 members of the class were converted to coal-dust, or pulverised fuel firing, and even one of the prestigious ‘R Class’ 4-6-4 passenger types – No. R707 was converted. The “R Class” was built by the North British Locomotive Co. in Glasgow, and worked some of Victoria’s prestige, express passenger services.

Whilst the experiments – and indeed operational running with the “X Class” and R707 was a success, time was not on the side of this technology, since dieselisation of Victoria’s rail system was rapidly gaining ground, and in 1957, the decision to abandon ‘coal-dust fired’ steam locomotives was taken. R707 was returned to normal lump coal as fuel, and was rescued and fully restored to operations as a preserved example of a fine class of steam locomotive.

58_1261-5_1 copy

The last of a pair of the ex-Prussian Railways design of 2-10-0 that were rescued for preservation. 25.281 is seen here at Potsdam in 1993.         By MPW57 – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3726331

 

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