Railways Blog

A blog about trains, covering photography, railway history, transport politics and modelling, in no particular order.

Back in Black

Back in Black

Great Western’s oldest locomotive, 08483, at Paddington having bought in the empty stock for The Night Riviera to Penzance. It’s usually a main line locomotive assigned to this duty, so Great Western were presumably a loco short, needing the Old Oak Common depot shunter to fill in with a rare trip to the big station.

08483 was built in the former Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway works at Horwich in Lancashire way back in 1958, and started work on what was then an almost entirely steam-operated railway. Even the design is a legacy of the age of steam, with a layout resembling the small steam tank locomotives it was built to replace. Well over a thousand of them were built, even after more than half a century there are still a handful left in service, of which 08483 is one.

Even the freshly-applied livery is from the steam age; it’s British Railways black with the old “cat on a mangle” logo, the stanard livery for diesel locomotives prior to the 1955 modernisation plan.

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Revolution Trains announce HOA Stone Hopper

hoa-ews

Revolution Trains have announced their next proposed model, the HOA aggregates hopper. Nearly 200 of these wagons are in service with three operators in five different liveries, and they are used for stone trains from quarries in central England, the Mendips and have also seen service on Anglo-Scottish sand trains for glassmaking.

The model will again be  produced by Rapido, who produced the very well received TEA tankers, and will feature similar levels of details and attention to accuracy, It will be available in five different liveries.

hoa-dbs

As a crowdfunded model, it will only be produced if it gets a sufficient number of pre-orders; at the moment it’s still at the expressions-of-interest stage.

Revolution are still taking pre-orders for the KFA containler flat and that 1955 class B tank. The latter is still some way short of the number of pre-orders needed to nake it viable to go ahead, so if you want this model to happen, get your order in as soon as possible!

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No Wires to Hull

Plans to electrify the railway from Selby to Hull have been dropped in favour of a new fleet of bi-mode trains.

Some people are not impressed.

Labour MP for Hull North, Diana Johnson, said she was “very angry” at the decision.

“If they are really sincere about the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ then Hull has to be included in infrastructure investment,” she said.

Grandstanding MPs aside, the decision to invest in bi-mode trains which can take advantage of electrified sections of the route while being able to run on diesel power to serve destinations off the wires is probably with wise one now that the concept has proved viable.

Back in the old days of the 1960s and 70s, when long-distance trains were locomotive-hauled, they simply changed engines where the wires ended. So an Inter-City from London to North Wales would be electrically-hauled as far as Crewe, then a diesel would take the train forward.

All that ended when everything went over to fixed-formation unit trains. Now services from London to places like Chester or Hull must be formed of diesel sets running under the wires for almost the entire journey because they need diesel power for those last few miles. At the moment Virgin Trains even uses part of the class 221 “Voyager” fleet on services that are completely under the wires just so they have diesel-powered trains available for weekend diversions.

Now that technology has reached the level where it’s possible to equip a high-speed multiple unit with both diesel engines and transformers without carrying around too much dead weight, bi-mode trains change that equation. Great Western’s  new inter-city fleet is entirely bi-mode, which means they can enter service before the long-delayed electrification is completed,  as well as reaching “off the wires” destinations like Camarthen or Weston Super-Mare which aren’t proposed for electrification. They’re also looking like an optimum solutuon for places like Hull which are close to but not on the electrified network.

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Croydon Tram Disaster

Photo from RAIB report

Photo from RAIB report

While everyone was still in a state of shock over the news from across the Atlantic, news reports filtered through back home that a tram had overturned in Croydon and people were trapped.

By mid-morning it was clear it was quite a serious incident. Then came the news that there were multiple fatalities as well as more that fifty injured, and the tram driver had been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter. It had gone from a serious incident to a major disaster.

The Rail Accident Investigation Board (RAIB) has put out a preliminary report, possibly to quell media speculation. It stated that the curve on which the tram derailed had a speed limit of 12 mph, and, as ought to have been evident from the aerial photographs in the media, the tram had been travelling well in excess of that.

It’s the first multiple-fatality rail accident in Britain since the Ufton Nervet crash way back in 2004.

You don’t associate trams with accidents on this scale. Since the opening of the Manchester Metrolink in 1992, trams have returned to the streets of several of Britain’s cities, with a good safety record. While there have been a few fatal incidents involving pedestrians or other road users, I don’t recall a single fatality to a tram passenger before.

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Great Western Electrification Woes

gwr-800The Great Western Electrification project has been going badly off the rails for a long time, running massively late with knock-on effects on subsequent electrification projects such as the Midland Main Line.

Now several sections are being deferred:

We have been clear that there have been difficulties with this programme. These were set out last year in the review of Network Rail’s delivery plan by Sir Peter Hendy. Following the re-planning of work that followed this review, the programme has been placed on a more efficient footing. A key part of this is the ongoing assessment of investment decisions so that passengers and taxpayers get maximum value.

As a result of this scrutiny from the Hendy review I have decided to defer 4 electrification projects that are part of the programme of work along the Great Western route. The 4 projects being deferred are:

  • electrification between Oxford and Didcot Parkway
  • electrification of Filton Bank (Bristol Parkway to Bristol Temple Meads)
  • electrification west of Thingley Junction (Bath Spa to Bristol Temple Meads)
  • electrification of Thames Valley Branches (Henley & Windsor)

This is because we can bring in the benefits expected by passengers – newer trains with more capacity – without requiring costly and disruptive electrification works. This will provide between £146 million to £165 million in this spending period, to be focused on improvements that will deliver additional benefits to passengers. We remain committed to modernising the Great Western mainline and ensuring that passenger benefits are achieved.

This looks worse that it is. Since the new class 800 trains are bi-mode they can run on diesel power for the last few miles into Bristol. The one deferment that makes less sense is the Didcot-Oxford section, which would prevent the use of GWR’s new class 387 EMUs on Paddington-Oxford semi-fasts. Will these trains terminate at Didcot with a DMU shuttle to Oxford in the interim?

The reasons for the delays in the Great Western electrification are many, but the biggest has got to be the fact that there hasn’t been a major main line electrification project in Britain for a generation, and the knowledge base has been lost. The people who managed the East Coast Main Line electrification in the late 1980s have long retired.

Commenter “Phil-b259″ on RMWeb (There are an awful lot of knowledgable people on that forum) lays out some of the reasons why the project has run into so many difficulties:

  • NR having hardly any experience in undertaking electrification projects thanks to Governments of all colours not undertaking any such schemes since privatisation.
  • NR not having key historic data due to much if it being thrown out as ‘not needed’ by Railtrack and the IMCs who were supposed to manage the infrastructure in the years immediately after privatisation.
  • NR making lots of mistakes (sometimes repeatedly) as it tries to re- learn all the skills necessary or rebuild its route knowledge to overcome (1) and (2)
  • The fact that most of the work all has to be contracted out leading to extra interfaces and potential sources for delay / dispute compared to 30 years ago when the work was all done ‘in house’
  • Poor project management on the part of NR and the seeming inability to get on top of things – though this again is in part due to the sheer size of the project.
  • Health and Safety regs having got tougher since the late 1980s with knock on effects on costs and what can be achieved in any given possession, etc.
  • The various big railway contractors (e.g. Balfour Beatty) having no recent experience of electrification work in the UK – for the same reasons as NR, i.e. a lack of Government action for over 20 years.
  • The Government dumping several big electrification schemes on NR within the space of six months and not taking into account its lack of action in the previous 20 years.
  • The Government pushing ahead with train procurement themselves resulting in the most expensive to lease in the Uk trains being delivered before the wires will be ready for them.

Is anyone else getting flashbacks to the 1955 Modernisation Plan?

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Mk5 Coach Construction Starts

mk5-metal-cuttingmk5-interior

It begins. CAF have begun cutting metal for Trans-Pennine’s new rolling stock at their factory at Beasain in Spain.

CAF are building a total of 66 coaches, 13 five-car push-pull sets plus one spare driving trailer. They will be used on the North Trans-Pennine corridor between Manchester and Leeds, running from Liverpool in the west to Newcastle and Scarborough in the east,. Hauled by class 68 locomotives, they should enter service from 2018.

They’re the first daytime locomotive-hauled carriages to be delivered since the Mk4 stock on the East Cost Main Line at the end of the 1980s.

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Some rolling stock additions

There is little progress to report on the layout, so to fill the game, some of the rolling stock I’ve acculumlated over the past year ir so.

Dapol Class 33

The most recent purchase, the new and long-awaited Dapol class 33, a locomotive always associated with the Southern Region. In the days of the 1955 Modernisation Plan, the SR management concluded their motive power needs were quite different to other regions. With all their main lines scheduled for electrification and relatively little heavy industry they had no need for an express passenger or a heavy-haul freight locomotive. What they wanted was a one-size-fits-all locomotive suitable for passenger work on non-electrified secondary routes and for general freight work across the network, able to operate in pairs on what little heavy traffic their was. They rejected the Modernisation Plan type 2 designs as underpowered, came up with their own specification for a medium-power machine, and Birmingham Carriage and Wagon were the successful bidders.

In later years these versatile machines spread their wings as declining freight traffic made more of them available for other work. They worked on the Western Region in Devon and in West Wales, on the cross-country route from Cardiff to Manchester, and even into North Wales. None were allocated outside the Western Region, instead working complicated cyclic diagrams that took them back to their home region for maintenance. The majority were withdrawn in the 1990s, but even today a handful remain in traffic. Several more survive in preservation.

Minitrix Cisalpino

Something completely different, an addition to the Swiss-outline fleet. It’s the Minitrix Re484 in Cisalpino livery with matching EC coaches. Cisalpino was a joint venture between the Swiss Federal Railways and the Italian State Railway operating through trains between the two countries, using dual-voltage trains to avoid needing to change locomotives on the border. The rolling stock was a mixture of Italian Pendolino multiple units and Swiss locomotive-hauled trains. As ought to be obvious from the picture, this train is one of the latter. They were a common sight on the Lötchberg main line during the mid-noughties.

Dapol Grange and Farish Hawksworth

And next, a couple of kettles for when the layout is running in transition-era mode. This one’s the recently-introduced Dapol Grange class. The GWR had several classes of mixed-traffic 4-6-0s, and the Granges combined the smaller driving wheels of the Manors with the larger boiler of the Halls. The result was a locomotive with the same overall power as the Hall class but with a greater tractive effort at the expense of reduced maximum speed. This made them especially useful for fitted freight work in the west of England, the sort of versatile machine that would work freight during the week and heavy holiday trains at weekends. The coaches are Farish Hawksworths in the older blood and custard livery, since Farish have yet to released them in 1960s BR maroon.

Dapol 2884

And finally, another Dapol model, this time the Collett 2884 class. These locomotives were were the Great Western’s equivalent to the LMS Stanier 8F. The GWR didn’t build eight-coupled freight locomotives on the scale of the LMS or LNER, preferring to use mixed-traffic 4-6-0s on much of their freight traffic, but despite this the 2884s were found all over the system, including a couple based at St.Blazey in Cornwall for china clay traffic. The china clay wagons are made by Farish as an exclusive model for Kernow Models.

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Huge cuts at DB Schenker UK

Britain’s largest railfreight operator, DB Schenker, plans to cut 900 jobs, a third of their total workforce, and significantly reduce the size of their locomotive and wagon fleet.

The reason is a dramatic decline in steel and especially coal traffic as the UK moves away from burning fossil fuels in favour of renewables. The one growth area in rail freight is distribution and logistics, largely intermodal, and that’s not enough to offset the loss of bulk traffic to heavy industry.

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Class B Tanks

No, Revolution Trains crowdfunded model is not the first ready-to-run example of the 1955 Class B tanker in N. That honour goes to these beasties, made by Lone Star in about 1960.  Though extremely crude by the standards of even a decade later, they’re clearly not based on the older steam-era short wheelbase tanks. The 1955 long wheelbase tanks look like the more likely inspiration.

This trio resulted from my making a speculative low eBay bid and turning out to be the sole bidder. I only really “needed” one…

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Revolution Trains announce crowdfunded class 92 in N

revolution-92Revolution Trains have annnounced a Class 92 as their next N gauge crowdfunded model. It will be available in six liveries including DB Schenker Traffic Red and the recently-introduced Caledonian Sleeper colours, as well as the original Railfreight grey from their introduction.

These locomotives were introduced with the opening of the Channel Tunnel, and still haul all freight services through the tunnel itself. They are the only duel-voltage locomotives in Britain, able to work in the Southern Region third rail as well as the 25kV overhead in the tunnel and on the WCML.

Though they have never worked deeper into France, they haul many international trains through to their destinations in Britain, which sees them working the length of the West Coast Main Line. They also work as a heavy haul freight locomotive for some domestic traffic, as well as being the motive power for the Caledonian Sleeper.

As the one significant present-day locomotive that’s not available in ready-to-run form (unless you count the hand-made CJM model), it ought to be a popular choice, and complements Revolution’s existing Pendolino. So it’s unfortunate that we have ended up with two rival crowdfunding projects underway for the same locomotive, the other being from DJM. Hopefully at least one of the two will get a sufficient number of backers to go ahead.

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