The Anonymous Widower

The Part-Time Electric Train

Nearly all diesel trains are not pure diesel, where a large engine drives the wheels mechanically, but mostly diesel electric, where the diesel engine generates electricity and this is then used to drive electric traction motors that actually power the train. This may seem a bit complicated, but it isn’t really any less so than the transmission of a hybrid car, such as a Toyota Prius. It does have advantages though in terms of efficiency, acceleration and reliability.

When I went to Sheffield, I travelled in a train called a Class 222 or Meridian.  These are diesel-electric multiple units with one diesel engine, one generator and two traction motors in each coach, which are capable of 200 km/hr.

I found the train comfortable, but some have criticised them because of the vibration caused by the diesel engine underneath the coach floor.

It is often said that the best ideas come in the hardest of  times and Modern Railways this month had a long comment about converting these trains and the similar Voyagers to a bi-mode diesel-eletric/electric operation.

As on the southern part of their route north from St. Pancras to Sheffield and Nottingham, they run under the wires of the surburban electrics until Bedford, why not add an extra coach with a pantograph and the associated electrical equipment to each train.  This would bring a much-needed increase in capacity, but with several other advantages.

  1. As the train would be electrically powered at the southern end, there would be an increase in efficiency and a decrease in costs and direct carbon emissions.
  2. There would be considerable savings in the cost of maintaining the diesel engines as these have to be replaced regularly.
  3. There would be a certain amount of decrease in noise and vibration.
  4. As to passengers and most staff, they would just be a train that was one carriage longer, there would not be the same familiarisation process and working in, that usually accompanies any new rolling stock.

But the biggest advantage would come, if it was decided that London to Nottingham and Sheffield were to be electrified. As each new section of electric line is added, the trains could immediately use the new line, thus saving more in costs.

Ultimately, when the eletrification was to be complete, you would prefer to switch totally to either new or cascaded electric trains. But you actually have flexibility in when they are built and enter service, as they don’t have to be immediately ready, when electification is completed, but at the time that is optimum with respect to cost, passenger numbers and having a new use for the lengthened and modified Meridians.

So what might seem a crazy idea has a lot of things going for it!

If we do electrify substantial parts of the rail network, these bi-mode trains would not be short-term white elephants after being replaced by electric trains on the London to Sheffield route, as a similar progressive electrification could be applied on the services out of Paddington to Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea, as it has been stated that electrification on this route will be applied in stages.  Electrification is also starting between Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Blackpool, so perhaps Trans-Pennine is another route, especially as at the eastern end it uses the East Coast Main Line.

It also has to be born in mind, that these trains would obviously be modified in the UK, so would create and sustain much-needed jobs.

There has been talk of replacing the HST with a bi-mode train, but the economics of that are very questionable, as that would be complete new trains, whereas the bi-mode Meridian/Voyager is a clever stop-gap. that makes electrification much more affordable.

Even after the electrification is substantially complete, the bi-mode trains would have substantial use on routes, which are effectively branches off the main electrified network, such as Bristol-Penzance, Doncaster-Hull, Peterborough-Ipswich,  Edinburgh-Aberdeen, Edinburgh-Inverness, Ely-Norwich etc., where extra capacity is much needed.

They could also be used to effectively prove if a route would benefit from modern trains or a frequent service, by running the trains in diesel mode only.

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Transport | | 3 Comments

Wikileaks Gets Nasty

I’m not sure about Wikileaks.  I’m all for it, when it exposes injustice and cruel regimes around the world.  On the other hand, if the founder has commited sex crimes in Sweden, then I would of course not condone that!  But that has nothing to do with Wikileaks.

But now that their supporters are supposedly attacking the likes of Mastercard and PayPal, I’m not sure.

I’m also very much against people leaking information they have been given in confidence.  Unless of course, that information exposes crime, injustice or incompetence. But a lot of the Wikileaks disclosures would appear to be diplomatic or political tittle-tattle, available in many autobiographies of the supposedly great and good.  So have Wikileaks ruined the value of these memoires, which no one buys anyway?

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Computing, News | , | 1 Comment

The Day I Stood on the Queen

Putting up the story of the Queen’s Award Reception yesterday, reminds me of one of my other royal stories.

One Saturday, C and I were at a loose end, so we took the Cessna 340, Delta-Delta, and flew into Newbury racecourse.  It had an airstrip in those days in the centre of the course.

I,m not sure if we had a runner, but it may have been the day that Vague Shot ran in the Newbury Spring Cup, with the great, Steve Cauthen, in the saddle. When they assess the history of British racing at the end of this century and they rate the great jockeys, it will not be Lester Piggott, Frankie Dettori or Fred Archer, who will be rated the greatest, but the quiet impeccable American from Kentucky, Steve Cauthen. On the track, few could ever match his skills and especially his judgement of pace.  Vague Shot’s victory under top weight in the Royal Hunt Cup in very heavy going, could never have been achieved by any other jockey.  It was just one of many where he was totally at one with the horse in an impossible situation.  He did the same at Nottingham on a horse of ours called Golden Panda, that was named after a Chinese restaurant, which he coaxed home on the 8th of August 1988, which was a day the bookies regretted, as every Chinese restaurant in Suffolk helped themselves to odds of 12-1.

But it is Steve’s personality that made him the greatest.  To him every owner and horse was a friend to be treated the same.  If you were the local greengrocer with a horse in a selling plate, you got the same treatment as the Queen would have in a  Group race. One of my memories pf Steve was of him at Haydock Park, between rides, where he spent perhaps twenty minutes talking to a young man in a wheelchair by the entrance to the weighing room. How many sportsmen would do that?

But to return to that day at Newbury and the Queen.  We were in the paddock with the trainer of Vague Shot, Clive Brittain, waiting to put the jockey up on one of his runners.  A horse in front of us, decided to rear up and as one does, C and I took a few steps back. However, at the same time another horse spooked at something and did the same thing, with those in between taking avoiding action.

I ended up stepping on the Queen.  When I realised what I had done, I apologised profusely.

She just gave a knowing smile and walked to a safer place.

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Sport | , , | 1 Comment