Bi-mode Class 319s for Northern

Train leasing company Porterbrook have announced that some class 319 dual-voltage EMUs are to be converted into bi-mode trains for use on Northern.

It’s an interestng development. These trains were built for Thameslink in the late 1980s, operating on 25kV AC overhead along the Midland main line to Bedford, and on 750V DC third rail on the Southern Region, switching between the two at Farringdon.

It’s that dual-voltage capability that makes them suitable for conversion, since there’s already a DC power bus running the length of the train carrying traction current from the 3rd rail shoes on the driving trailers to the motor coach in the middle. The plan is to add underfloor diesel generator sets to the driving trailers, enabling the train to run on diesel power away from electrified routes while retaining AC overhead capability while running under the wires.

Rebuilding thirty-year old trains in this manner seems a bit “make do and mend” compared with shiny new trains. But it does say something about the build quality of rolling stock from the later years of British Rail that such a thing is being considered.

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4 Responses to Bi-mode Class 319s for Northern

  1. Michael says:

    Indeed it does.

    And I admit to some surprise that the stock has lasted this long.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    It’s a different world from our train-spotting days in the 1970s.

    Back then the rail industry was in decline, classes of locomotives like “Westerns” and “Hymeks” were being phased out well short of their economic lives due to declining traffic. They kept building new coaching stock for premier Inter-City routes to try and stem the decline in passengers, even though the older coaches they replaced were long from being life expired.

    Today we’ve got a situation where passenger numbers are rising year upon year, and have been ever since the late 1980s. Much new stock is being built, but not in enough quantity both to provide additional capacity and replaced existing stock purely because it’s old. Couple that with the exceptionally high build quality of the Mk3 stock constructed from the late 70s. Compare the quality of a refurbished 80s Sprinter with the state of the rattly old 50s DMUs at a similar age. And note that not only is the entire 40-year old HST fleet still in traffic bar a handful written off in crashes, but at least some are scheduled to remain in service for another decade. BREL built things to last.

  3. Michael says:

    For all their glory, the diesel-hydraulics probably had to go due to the long time it took to get the fluid up to working temperature from cold. Faster than a steam engine, but nothing like the diesel-electrics being pretty much ready to go.

    Of course the big problem with building things to last is what do you do with the workforce while you wait 40+ years for the repeat orders?

  4. Tim Hall says:

    Doesn’t seem to be a problem with the second-generation DMU fleet, most of which have hydraulic transmissions. I always understood the phasing out of hydraulic locomotives was down to economics; it made sense to standardise and there were many more diesel-electrics (512 class 47s compared to 74 Westerns). Some of the German Hymek-a-likes are still in traffic,