The Anonymous Widower

Heritage Railways And Class 319 Flex Trains

Heritage Railways In The UK

Wikipedia introduces their Heritage Railway entry by saying this.

A heritage railway is a railway kept to carry living history rail traffic in order to re-create or preserve railway scenes of the past. Often heritage railways are old railway lines preserved in a state which depicts a certain period, or periods, in the history of railway systems.

But that doesn’t mean heritage railways in the UK are not run to the best professional standards.

The Class 319 Flex Train

The Class 319 Flex Train is an electro-diesel  version of the Class 319 Train, originally built in the 1980s to serve the Thameslink routes.

These trains are almost as old as the classic Range Rovers., but they have probably been looked after to much higher standards.

Some trains have recently undergone a light refurbishment and are now working electric services for Northern in North-West England.

Northern would run more of the trains, if Network Rail had been able to stick to their electrification timetable.

So Northern and the train rolling stock leasing company; Porterbrook have decided to create the electro-diesel version by installing two rail-proven MAN diesels and an ABB alternator. The train will be able to generate its own electricity and thus work lines without electrification.

I have seen an advance copy of the brochure and the train combines the 100 mph capability of the original trains with the ability to work the very stiff Buxton Line.

Porterbrook describe the train as a Go-Anywhere Solution.

Through Services Onto Heritage Lines

I don’t know how many heritage lines run services that are habitually used by commuters going to school, college or on business, but there have been and might still are be heritage lines where this happens.

The next sections give my thoughts on possible connections and services.

Severn Valley Railway

The Severn Valley Railway runs for a distance of 16 miles between Kidderminster Town and Brignorth stations.

At Kidderminster, there is a connection to the Birmingham to Worcester Line.

This Google Map shows the two adjoining Kidderminster stations.

There is a section called Other Operational Extensions in the Wikipedia entry for the Severn Valley Railway, where this is said.

The General Manager, Nick Ralls has confirmed that Chiltern Railways have approached the Severn Valley Railway with a view to extending a number of its peak-time Marylebone to Kidderminster services to Bewdley to alleviate road congestion in the Kidderminster/Stourport/Bewdley area. This has raised questions regarding car parking limitations near Bewdley station. Should this go ahead the distinction between a heritage railway and a contemporary railway operation would be blurred. In conjunction with this there have been suggestions for locating a Park and Ride facility near Foley Park Halt. Investigations are in-hand to construct a station to serve a conference centre and hotel to be located at the West Midlands Safari Park.


  • According to Wikipedia, it is a future aspiration of Network Rail to electrify the entire Birmingham to Worcester via Kidderminster Line, as well as the Chiltern Main Line to London Marylebone.
  • If Chiltern Railways could run to Bewdley station, surely a Class 319 Flex train could run a service to the Severn Valley Railway from anywhere between Kidderminster and Birmingham.
  • If the electrification ever happens, a Class 319 Flex train could run under the wires to Kidderminster and then use diesel power to Bewdley or even Brignorth.

When does a heritage and tourist railway become a commuter route?

Swanage Railway

The Swanage Railway are working on  a connection to the main line at Wareham station.

This Google Map shows Wareham station in the North East corner, with the South Western Main Line running across the image.

Wareham Station And The Swanage Railway

Wareham Station And The Swanage Railway

In the South West corner of the map, a junction can be seen, where the Swanage Railway joins from the South.

As the Class 319 Flex train would probably be a train fully-certified to go on any line, where the Class 319 train can run, it could run from say Poole or Bournemouth stations to the terminus of the Swanage Railway at Swanage via the iconic Corfe Castle.

  • I think that Bournemouth station could turnback a local service to Swanage station.
  • The Class 319 Flex train would use the third-rail electrification on the main line.
  • On the main line, it would be a 100 mph train, just like the Class 444 trains working the line to Waterloo.
  • The train would use diesel power to Swanage.
  • I don’t think much new infrastructure would be needed, once the connection at Wareham is finished.Is a Class 319 train old enough to count as heritage? I suppose it’s fake with a couple of modern German diesels!

It could work as both a local train service and a tourist attraction.


March 22, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Could There Be A Battery-Powered Class 319 Flex Train?

In the advance copy of the brochure for the Class 319 Flex train, that Porterbrook have sent me, there is a few comments about using batteries on the train.

This strong statement is Porterbrook’s view on a battery-option for the train.

A large battery option was shown to be heavy, would require a lot of space and have long recharge times.

But Porterbrook are also quoted in the article in Rail Magazine, which is entitled Flex… and flexibility, as saying.

Batteries are definitely doable, but rail will have to overcome the current range limitations for traction power. We think traction battery technology will give you a range of around 20km to 30km [12-18 miles] before needing recharging, and this is not enough for most operators.

But a lot of uses of a battery train are for very short distances.

  • Moving a train in a depot.
  • Moving a train to an electrically-dead siding for overnight parking.
  • Moving a train to a safe evacuation place like the next station after an electrification failure.
  • Moving a train over an electrically-dead section of line.
  • Running on very short branch lines without electrification.
  • Running to a temporary station.
  • Remote start-up of the train.

As the Class 319 train is a DC train, fitting batteries would not need an expensive voltage converter.

Electrically-Dead Stations

The new Health and Safety  regulations as regards electricity in stations are causing Network Rail serious problems and great expense with electrification.

A train with a limited battery option may offer significant safety advantages in that if it had a range of six mile or so on full batteries then stations could be built without electrification.

Third rail systems are often broken in stations for a short distance, so that staff can safely cross the tracks. They are also broken at level crossings.

Most trains including all Class 319 trains have contact shoes at both end of the train and can bridge a short gap.

An onboard battery would allow the trains to bridge larger gaps.

The problem with overhead electrification is that the pantograph must be lowered and raised at the correct times. But this is one of those problems that could be done automatically and safely by systems linked to GPS.

There’s certainly a patent with the name of Pantograph Control Via GPS.

No overhead wires in a station with a rich architectural heritage, may lead to easier and more affordable electrification.

Think Hebden Bridge!

Very Short Branch Lines

Several  branch lines that have been proposed for electrification are less than six miles in length.

  • Brentford – 4 miles
  • Greenford – 2.7 miles
  • Henley – 4.5 miles
  • Levenmouth Rail Link – 5 miles
  • Windsor – 2.5 miles

So if 20 to 30 km. (12-18 mile) range mentioned by Porterbrook is serious, a Class 319 Flex train with batteries instead of diesel engines should be able to handle short branch lines with ease, provided that the batteries could be charged on the main line or in an electrified bay platform.

As electrificastion procedes more opportunities will present themselves.

This Google Map shows the distance between Leeds Bradford Airport and the Harrogate Line.

The Harrogate Line is likely to be electrified in the next tranch of electrification, as most of the other suburban lines from Leeds are already electrified.

The distance between the Airport and the Harrogate Line is probably about a mile, so Class 319 trains fitted with an affordable battery could manage this line.

Battery Technology Will Improve

It should be born in mind that battery technology will get better, thus range will increase for a battery if a given physical size.

A guaranteed twenty mile range would bring these routes into the list of possible routes for a Class 319 train with batteries.

  • Braintree – 6.4 miles
  • Coventry to Nuneaton – 10 miles
  • Marlow – 7.25 miles
  • Windermere – 10 miles

Braintree is interesting, as it needs a passing loop and the cheapest way to do this would be to remove the electrification, update the track and signalling and use an independently-powered train.

Battery Technology On Other Trains

Simpler battery systems like this will be able to be applied to a large number of modern electric trains on UK railways.

Note that I haven’t included the Alstom, CAF, Hitachi, Siemens and Stadler trains running now or in the future.

Will they sit on their hands and watch the other manufacturers’ trains get more efficient? You bet they won’t!

It is also worth noting that some of these trains, unlike the Class 319 trains, have regenerative braking, which could store their braking-generated energy in the battery, rather than returning it to the electrification.


Porterbrook have let a big genie out of the bottle.




March 22, 2017 Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport | , | 4 Comments

Business As Usual: Vivarail Begins Testing Of New Battery Train

The title of this post is taken from this article in Rail Technology Magazine.

So it would appear that Class 230 trains are now running on batteries.

Apparently you can swap batteries for diesel power-packs.

The train certainly has a low-cost paint job!

March 22, 2017 Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport | | Leave a comment

Sibling Wars

I agree with the princess in this story on the BBC, which is entitled Genetically-modified crops have benefits – Princess Anne.

But I doubt her elder brother does!

March 22, 2017 Posted by | Food, World | , , | Leave a comment