The Anonymous Widower

Railbaar In Rail Engineer

In January 2016, I wrote How To Charge A Battery Train, in which I described a Swiss idea called Railbaar.

This article in Rail Engineer is entitled RailBaar – Rapid Charge Station and it describes the technology in detail.

The article gives the impression, that respected Swiss company; Furrer+Frey, have a product that is ready to be rolled out.

This is said.

Furrer+Frey feels that the system could be a game changer, dramatically reducing the cost of electrification, and thus the feasibility of new electrification projects.

Read the article and see if like me, you agree with Furrer+Frey, like I do.

The Felixstowe Branch Line

I will use the twelve mile long Felixstowe Branch Line as an example, because I know the branch line well and spent some miserable days trapped in the town as a teenager because of the inadequate rail service to Ipswich.

The train service is better now, but it would be better if every thirty minutes one of Greater Anglia’s new Aventras was to shuttle along the branch.

But the line is not electrified and there is very little change it will happen.

Bombardier showed with their Class 379 BEMU trials in January 2015, that a four-car and probably a five-car version of the Avenytra could be fitted with a battery that would take the train reliably between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

But the problem with say electrifying a platform at Ipswich station and charging the train there, is that the battery needs to be sized to do two trips along the branch line.

By using a charging station like Railbaar at both ends of the line, the train would always leave the station with a full charge.

Currently, trains between Felixstowe and Ipswich take 26 minutes, so if the battery could be charged in four minutes, then a train could do a return trip in an hour.

This would mean that two trains would be needed to provide a two trains per hour service.

Sudbury And Colchester Town

Greater Anglia have indicated that they might  replace the shuttle between Sudbury and Marks Tey stations, with a direct service between Sudbury and Colchester Town stations.

They could run this service with bi-mode Stadler Flirts.

On the other hand,  the Gainsborough Line between Marks Tey and Sudbury is only eleven miles long, which is well within the range of a train running on stored energy.

It currently takes nineteen minutes for a train to go between Marks Tey and Sudbury, so a battery train would have twenty-two minutes in every hour for charging.

Operation could be as follows.

  • 10:00 Leave Colchester Town running on current electrification.
  • 10:08 Call Colchester station.
  • 10:16 Arrive Marks Tey station with a full battery, after charging it on the main line.
  • 10:35 Arrive Sudbury station after running from Marks Tey on battery power.
  • 10:40 Leave Sudbury station after charging the batteries using a Railbaar.
  • 11:59 Arrive Marks Tey station after running from Sudbury on battery power.
  • 11:02 Leave Marks Tey station, raise the pantograph and travel to Colchester.
  • 11:10 Call Colchester station.
  • 11:18 Arrive back at Colchester Town station.


  • The trains pass each other on the main line.
  • I have used the times for the current trains.
  • Only one Railbaar would be needed at Sudbury.

,Perhaps Aventras and with a faster charge at Sudbury could save a few minutes.

Aventras And Railbaar

The Aventra has a slightly unusual and innovative electrical layout.

This article in Global Rail News from 2011, which is entitled Bombardier’s AVENTRA – A new era in train performance, gives some details of the Aventra’s electrical systems. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-Iron batteries if required.

This was published six years ago, so I suspect Bombardier have improved the concept.

So in a battery version of the Aventra would this mean that the pantograph is on the car with the high-efficiency transformer and the battery is in the second car?

So if the train is going to work with Railbaars, then the contact points on the roof of the train for the Railbaar would be on the car with the batteries.

All of the 25 KVAC and its handling is in one car and all the batteries and their charging is in another, with the only connection being the common power bus connecting everything on the train.

I suspect that with careful positioning of the Railbaar at each end of the route and an aid for the driver so that the train is positioned accurately and it would create a reliable charging system.

Obviously, there is nothing to stop, the trains charging their batteries, when they are using overhead wires or third rails.


So what do we know about using batteries on trains to work routes?


  • Bombardier showed in their trial, that a battery train can run the eleven miles of the Mayflower Line, starting with a full battery.
  • Batteries are getting more powerful and more affordable every year.
  • The Bombardier Aventra would be ideal for a Railbaar-type charging system.
  • Battery trains can charge their batteries running on electrified lines.
  • The bus version of Railbaar is in use charging electric Volvo buses at a rate of 360 kW. See the Opbrid web site.
  • The physics of steel wheel on steel rail is efficient, as George Stephenson knew.

Put this all together and I think that by the end of 2018, we’ll be seeing Aventra trains, running services on a twenty mile branch line without electrificaton.



April 11, 2017 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , ,

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