The Anonymous Widower

The Kettering To Oakham Line

I took this picture, where the Kettering to Oakham Line branches away from the Midland Main Line, a few kilometres north of Kettering station at Glendon Junction.

The Kettering To Oakham Line Leaves The Midland Main Line

The Kettering To Oakham Line Leaves The Midland Main Line

I was surprised to see that the junction is only single-track.

Glendon Junction To Corby

This Google Map shows the layout of the lines to the South-East of Rushden.

Rushton And Glendon Junction

Rushton And Glendon Junction

Note that there is no chord allowing trains from the North to go towards Corby.

The Station Road, which crosses the Midland Main Line was probably the site of Glendon and Rushden station, which closed in 1960.

The junction is towards the South-East corner of the map, with the Midland Main Line going towards the North-West and the Kettering to Oakham Line to the North-East.

This second Google map, shows the actual junction.

The Junction

The Junction

It clearly shows the single-track nature of the junction. The line is single-track all the way to Corby station.

This Google Map shows Corby station.

Corby Station

Corby Station

The Kettering to Oakham Line goes virtually North-South through the station.

Note that there appears to be an old railway going away to the South-East.

Future Services Between London and Corby

Wikipedia says this will happen in the future.

It is planned that a half-hourly London St Pancras to Corby service will operate from December 2017 using new Class 387 trains, once the Midland Main Line has been electrified beyond Bedford as part of the Electric Spine project. Network Rail has also announced that it plans re-double the currently singled Glendon Junction to Corby section as part of this scheme.

I don’t think it will happen like that, as I can’t see Bedford to Corby being electrified in time. There’s also the problem of the arguments about who gets the Class 387 trains, that I wrote about in Are The TOCs Arguing Over The Class 387 Trains?

However, this article on the Network Rail web site, which is entitled Work to upgrade railway between Corby and Kettering enters next phase,  It talks about the installation of a second track between Glendon Junction and Corby to pave the way for additional passenger and freight services from the end of 2017.

I would assume that improving from Kettering to Corby, will not only allow more trains, but also improve speeds and reduce energy consumption.

Could this mean that Class 387 trains with an IPEMU capability could be used on the St. Pancras to Corby route, as they’d only have to go from Bedford to Corby and back to Bedford on a full load of electricity in their on-board storage device?

I estimate the distance is probably about 25-30 miles both ways, so it might just be possible.

As I wrote in The High Speed Train With An IPEMU Capability, it could be easier for an IPEMU running efficiently at high speed on entry to bridge a gap in the electrification.

Remember that 159 miles of the Midland Main Line is cleared for 125 mph running, so a Class 387 IPEMU could be running at its full speed of 110 mph at or through Kettering station. If it was to stop at Kettering station, as much as possible of the train’s kinetic energy could be used to top-up the on-board energy storage, so that the train had as much on-board energy for a short run to Corby and back on a fast efficient line with no stops.

Is this Network Rail’s Plan B to get electric trains to run a half-hourly service to Corby?

But as electrification proceeded North from Bedford, this would make running Class 387 IPEMUs easier, as every mile of electrified line, would take two off the total needed to be run using on-board energy storage.

So could we be seeing creeping electrification along the Midland Main Line, as every mile erected would gradually bring more destinations within range of St. Pancras?

I certainly think, that as spare Class 387 trains will be available from later this year and an IPEMU capability could be added fairly easily as it was to the Class 379 train demonstrator for IPEMU technology, that we could be seeing electric trains running to Corby before the date of 2019, which is quoted as the date, when Corby will be electrified.

Aventras For East Midlands Trains

I have assumed that the only electric train, that will be available for East Midlands Trains would be Class 387 train. These could be given an IPEMU capability and they would probably be able to reach Corby, when track improvements and additional electrification allowed.

But Bombadier’s Aventra is coming.

A 125 mph Aventra was reported as possible by Ian Walmsley in the April 2015 Edition of Modern Railways.

In his article about the Aventra, Ian Walmsley said this about an order  for Aventras.

But the interesting one to me is East Midlands Trains electrics. As a 125 mph unit it could cope well with Corby commuters  and the ‘Master Cutler’ crowd – It’s all about the interior.

So the same train could do all express routes and also act as the local stopping train.

But as Bombardier have stated that all Aventras will be wired so they can be fitted with on-board energy storage, we have a train, that can thunder up and down the Midland Main Line with its sections of 125 mph running and then take to the branch lines like Corby and Nottingham using the energy storage.

I don’t know where 125 mph running is possible, but as IPEMUs have regenerative braking as standard and charge the batteries when they stop, ready for a quick getaway, there must be an advantage in having a battery high speed train, as energy in a moving body is proportional to the square of the speed. I investigated this more in A High Speed Train With An IPEMU-Capability, where I came to the conclusion that faster IPEMUs may give more advantages than slower ones.

Class 800 Trains For East Midlands Trains

Until Ian Walmsley’s statement about the 125 mph Aventra, I’d always thought that Class 800 trains, in either bi-mode or electric variants were a shoe-in for the Midland Main Line.

They are the right size, with the right performance, but they do have three problems.

  • Corby needs an increased service now.
  • Unless some of GWR’s order is diverted to the East Midlands, the trains could not be delivered for some years.
  • Political lobbying would press for trains to be used in the East Midlands to be built there.

But they are a possibility.

As an electrical engineer though, I like the concept of Bombardier’s IPEMU, as I think that designed into a new train, it could offer savings in electrification and electricity costs.

Take Leicester station, shown in this Google Map.

Leicester Station

Leicester Station

It needs to be upgraded for electrification and because of its prominent position on the Midland Main Line, closing the station to install the overhead wires would be difficult to say the least.

Supposing the overhead wires were not installed in Leicester station, how would a bi-mode Class 800 handle the  station? It would put the pantograph down as it was slowing for the station and use its diesel power in the station. On leaving, it would wait until the wires started again and then raise the pantograph.

An IPEMU would use a similar procedure, but would use its on-board energy storage to bridge the electrification gap. But it has one great advantage in that all of the energy dissipated in the braking for the station would be used to top-up the on-board energy storage, which is used to restart the train.

So if the IPEMU route is chosen I see the following advantages.

  • Stations like Leicester, Derby and Nottingham don’t need to be electrified with all the problems that entails.
  • The route through the World Heritage Site of the Derwent Valley can be left without electrification.
  • The electrification doesn’t need to be capable of handling regenerative braking, as the trains look after that method of valuable energy saving.
  • East Midlands Trains get an electric train only fleet.

The only problem is running electric freight trains.

Onward From Corby

East Midlands Trains do run services past Corby, with some services going to Oakham and on to Derby.

This is a diagram of the line between Corby and Oakham.

Corby To Oakham

Corby To Oakham

The line is double-tracked, looks to be picturesque and includes five tunnels and the Welland Viaduct shown in this Google Map.

Welland Viaduct

Welland Viaduct

Note the shadows of the eighty-two arches. It was built in 1878 and you can understand why it is Grade II Listed building.

I suspect Network Rail have filed electrification of this line under something like Avoid if Possible.

Under Services in the Wikipedia entry for Oakham station, this is said.

A single daily return service to London St Pancras commenced on 27 April 2009 running via Corby and is notable for being the first regular passenger service to cross the spectacular and historic Welland Viaduct since 1966. The company introduced a further return service from Derby via East Midlands Parkway (for East Midlands Airport) from May 2010. Further services may be introduced in the future. The initial London service had been due to start on 14 December 2008 but because of a delay in reaching agreement with the Department for Transport and the rolling stock operating company (ROSCO) for the four additional trains needed for the service EMT started the service around four months later.

Running electric trains with an IPEMU capability to Corby would probably mean that EMT would look at the possibility of extending the trains to Oakham.

I have a feeling that the Welland Viaduct could cause problems, because of its Listed status, so using IPEMUs to provide the passenger service to Oakham, would neatly sidestep any heritage problems associated with overhead wiring.

Once Derby and Corby are both electrified, the route would be fully open to electric multiple units with an IPEMU capability  as there is only a gap of about thirty miles in the wiring.

Oakham Station

There is also the problem of Oakham station, which is best summed up by this Google Map.

Oakham Station And Level Crossing

Oakham Station And Level Crossing

It is in the centre of the town and hemmed in by a major road. South of the station is a notorious level crossing, that needs to be replaced or avoided.

Network Rail engineers must have sleepless nights about this problem, especially as large numbers of long freight trains hauled by noisy Class 66 locomotives use the line through the station and the crossing to get between Felixstowe and Nuneaton.

Even the opening of the East West Rail Link, which will see some freight trains use the line between Cambridge and Bedford, will only offer a solution, where the freight trains are diverted through Cambridge and its increasingly busy station. What would the City and the University have to say about that?

So it would seem that another simple route for freight trains must be found.


The route between Kettering and Oakham is important and will be developed.

If East Midlands Trains or its successor go for either the rumoured 125 mph Aventra IPEMU or Class 800 bi-mode trains, they could improve the passenger service between London, Luton Airport, Kettering, Corby, Oakham, Melton Mowbray, Leicester, Loughborough, East Midlands Parkway and Derby, by opening up a second route.

In the meantime, it looks like Network Rail’s Plan B of a faster dopuble-track line to Corby could deliver better services using an IPEMU-variant of the Class 387 train.



April 22, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Low Emission Buses On Hold

One of my Google Alerts has picked up this story on the London South East web site, which is entitled Torotrak Shifts Focus Following Delays In UK Low-Emission Bus Grants.

The report is on this web site, as these buses were trialled in Gillingham.

This is also said in the story.

This uncertainty, coupled with low fuel prices, has caused bus operators to postpone investing in low-emission technologies, Torotrak said. As a result, it and partner Wrightbus will delay further investment in the launch of Torotrak’s KERS technology for buses until the situation becomes clearer.

Torotrak will redeploy its cash resources on other, revenue-generating and near-term commercial opportunities in response to the delays.

Beyond this, Torotrak said its KERS off-highway technology has gained significant traction and said it has seen strong interest in its V-Charge technology from carmakers.

So what might all this mean?

April 22, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Could New Technology Help Save Steel Jobs?

One of my first jobs was in the instruments laboratory of Enfield Rolling Mills in the early 1960s. As someone with a mind like a sponge, I never missed storing away every piece of useful engineering and scientific information, I might encounter.

The company was involved in the rolling and the production of materials from non-ferrous metals, like copper, bronze, brass and aluminium. For instance, they did a lot of work with the continuous casting of metals like bronze and aluminium.

The company also used scrap metal as a source of raw material for their processing. One of their problems was identifying the scrap before processing and they had experimented with using a radioactive isotope to see, if it could give them an accurate opinion.

It probably wasn’t the best thing to do!

But since then technology has moved on.

I just wonder now, whether mass spectrometry could correctly identify the exact grade of a large piece of brass, bronze or steel!

If it could, I suspect that we could use our scrap metals to avoid refining new.

So I searched using “automatic steel scrap sorting” and found this page entitled Laser Methods For Automatic Scrap Metal Sorting.

And this page on the Oxford Instruments web site entitled Scrap Metal Analysis, Sorting and Recycling.

Who needs blast furnaces?

We just mine the scrap, rather than send it to China!


April 22, 2016 Posted by | World | , | 3 Comments

Shooting Down A US Heavy Helicopter

About twenty years ago, I heard a story, how an engineer at Cambridge University, programmed a computer to recognise the Duke of Edinburgh’s voice.

I have also read about smart mortars, that look for something big, metallic and making a lot of noise and if it appears to be a tank, they hit it.

Last night, I was woken by the distinctive noise of President Obama’s helicopter as it flew over East London from Stansted. The noise is just so distinctive.

How long will it be before someone parks a missile on a roof with a smart guidance system, looking for a distinctive noise signature in the sky?

April 22, 2016 Posted by | World | , | 2 Comments