The Anonymous Widower

The Class 319 Flex Train And A Railbaar

When I wrote Could There Be A Battery-Powered Class 319 Flex Train?, not much information had been published on the Railbaar, but a Railbaar could be another tool to use with a Class 319 Flex train.

This is a paragraph from the advance copy I have of Porterbrook’s brochure for the Class 319 Flex train.

By way of an example, Porterbrook determined that the most arduous route would be Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton, which has a steep gradient and multiple stops along its 25 mile route (8 miles of which is electrified). This analysis was included to give confidence that the Class 319 Flex would be comparable to existing Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) technology across a range of different routes, stopping patterns and gradients.

Elsewhere in the brochure, they say this.

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

On the other hand, they have stated that batteries could be used to augment diesel power.

Challenging Rail Lines Up Steep Gradients in the UK

Lines like the Buxton Line are not unusual in the UK. The following challenging.

  1. Bromsgrove to Barnt Green up the infamous Lickey Incline – non-stop
  2. Bolton to Blackburn up the Ribble Valley Line – 4 intermediate stops
  3. Blackburn to Clitheroe up the Ribble Valley Line – 3 intermediate stops
  4. Rose Grove to Colne up the East Lancashire Line – 5 intermediate stops
  5. Exeter St. Davids to Barnstaple up the Tarka Line – 10 intermediate stops
  6. Plymouth to Gunnislake up the Tamar Valley Line – 7 intermediate stops
  7. Cardiff Central to Aberdate up the Aberdare Branch of the Methyr Line – 13 intermediate stops
  8. Cardiff Central to Ebbw Vale Town up the Ebbw Valley Railway – 5 intermediate stops
  9. Cardiff Central to Merthyr Tydfil up the Merthyr Line – 13 intermediate stops
  10. Cardiff Central to Rhymney up the Rhymney Line – 16 intermediate stops
  11. Cardiff Central to Treherbert up the Rhondda Line – 16 intermediate stops

Our Victorian engineers never let a steep gradient get in the way of where they wanted to build a railway.

Could These Lines Be Electrified?

Only the Lickey Incline (1) is currently being electrified. This is a description of the incline from Wikipedia.

The Lickey Incline, south of Birmingham, is the steepest sustained main-line railway incline in Great Britain. The climb is a gradient of 1 in 37.7 (2.65% or 26.5‰ or 1.52°) for a continuous distance of two miles (3.2 km)

Youtube has a great deal of modern and historic video of the Lickey Incline. Some recent footage shows freight trains climbing the incline with the assistance of a banking engine at the rear.

I doubt if the two lines in Devon (5 and 6) will ever be electrified, The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England will never allow overhead wiring gantries to despoil the landscape along the routes, some of which is in a National Park.

If the Class 319 Flex train does a good job with the three Lancashire Lines around Blackburn (2,3 and 4), the decision to electrify will be pushed a decade or more into the future. I could certainly see, Bombardier, Stadler and perhaps a couple of other companies building a train based on the experience with a Class 319 Flex train, as a replacement.

Politicians will decide whether the Cardiff Valley Lines (7 to 11) are electrified, but I have a feeling that someone somewhere will have a better alternative to full traditional electrification.

The Cardiff Valley Lines

Consider these facts about the rail service on the Cardiff Valley Lines

  • The lines are a vital lifeline to those that live in the South Wales Valleys.
  • The area is not without its attraction, for those who like to be in the hills.
  • Traffic on the lines varies throughout the day.
  • Traffic up the Valleys is highest in the evening commuting Peak and after a big sporting event in Cardiff.
  • Four-car trains are needed on the route.
  • The current diesel trains are elderly and unreliable.
  • There are plans to open new lines and stations and extend some of the existing lines further to the North.

But above all jobs and business and housing developments are needed in the Valleys.

An improved rail service could benefit a large number of people and interests.

The Class 319 Flex Train

The Class 319 Flex train started operational service  thirty years ago as a 100 mph express commuter train running on the Thameslink route from Bedford to Brighton.

It may be a comparatively old train, but it has the following characteristics.

  • It is based on the legendary Mark 3 coach, as used on the InterCity 125.
  • It is four-cars.
  • It is a dual-voltage train.
  • Two rail-proven MAN diesels and an ABB alternator provide electric power away from electrification.
  • It is a 100 mph train on an electrified main line.
  • It has a speed of around 90 mph on diesel power.
  • Drivers have told me, that the brakes are superb.
  • It has a good reputation for reliability.
  • It meets all the current disabled regulations.

But about all, like all Mark 3-based stock, it scrubs up well to any desired standard. In What Train Is This?, I showed the interior of a refurburbished thirty-year-old Class 150 train. Unrefurbished examples are typical of the stock that work the challenging lines.

Use Of A Railbaar With A Class 319 Flex Train

Porterbrook have said that the train’s electrical layout with a DC busbar connecting all xars, lends itself to adding a battery, which could be charged using the diesel power.

A typical layout of the Class 319 Flex train could be as follows.

  • DTOC – A driving car with a diesel engine/alternator set underneath.
  • PMOS – A motor car with a pantograph.
  • TOSL – A trailer car with a toilet.
  • DTOS – A driving car with a diesel engine/alternator set underneath.

I suspect that the battery would go under the TOSL.

The connection points for a Railbaar would be on the uncluttered roof of this car.

Railbaar would be a good add-on for a Class 319 Flex train, working an extension or branch line from an electrified line.

Possible Class 319 Flex Train Problems

The Class 319 train has two possible problems; the body is made of steel and the braking is not regenerative.

Despite being steel, their weight at 140 tonnes is lighter than many aluminium bodied trains, but they don’t have all the equipment like air-conditioning.

On the other hand, a similar train to a Class 319, survived the Oxshott Incident, where a 24-tonne cement mixer truck fell off a bridge onto the roof of the train.

Some Class 321 trains, which are similar to the Class 319 train, have been rebuilt with regenerative braking, so if that becomes a necessity for the Class 319 Flex train, I suspect an engineering solution is possible. Especially, as there is over a hundred Class 321 trains, which will be coming off-lease soon.

The Class 319 Flex Train And The Cardiff Valley Lines

There are eighty-six Class 319 trains, so there would be no problems finding a donor train to convert into a trial train for the Cardiff Valley Lines, if the Class 319 Flex train performs successfully on the Buxton Line.

  • On the Buxton Line, trains climb 150 metres in 15 kilometres from the electrified station at Hazel Grove to Buxton.
  • On the Merthyr Line, trains climb 168 metres in about 30 kilometres from Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil.

So it looks like Buxton is steeper, but the Merthyr Line is longer.

I suspect that a Class 319 Flex train will go into service on a trial basis in South Wales, to test performance and customer reaction.

If nothing, it will help define the specification for the trains that can work the Cardiff Valley Lines.

Energy Needed To Raise A Train To Merthyr Tydfil

I will make these assumptions.

  • Merthyr Tydfil has an altitude of 179 metres.
  • Cardiff Central station has an altitude of 11 metres.
  • The train must be raised 168 metres
  • A Class 319 train has a weight of 140 tonnes.
  • A Class 319 train has a seated capacity of 319.
  • A suitable battery would weigh about 2 tonnes.

Raising an empty  four-car train similar to a Class 319 train, from Cardiff Central to Merthyr Tydfil will require 23,856,000 Kg-m or 65  KwH of energy.

Assuming a full load of 319 passengers at 80 Kg a time and that adds another 4,287,360 Kg-m or 12 KwH of energy.

My calculations are very rough.

The passengers get out at the top, so they are not energy that will be regenerated on the way down.

An Electrification Scheme For The Cardiff Valley Lines

The Cardiff Valley Lines were built with the main purpose of bringing coal from the valleys to the port of Cardiff for distribution and export by ship.

Now passengers are much more important, with commuting , leisure and tourism prominent.

Coming down is never a problem and a battery electric train with good brakes could handle a full load of passengers with few problems.

Going up is the problem, as the evening peak or a big rugby match in Cardiff can result in a full train having to be hauled up the valleys.

Similar problems are encountered on all the lines in my list to a certain extent, but without seeing the figures, I suspect the Cardiff Valley Lines are some of the most challenging.

Porterbrook have said, that they are not against using batteries on a Class 319 Flex train as a boost on difficult climbs.

So I think that a Class 319 Flex train fitted with an appropriate-sized battery could be a starting point.

But there is one big problem with a Class 319 Flex train. The Class 319 trains do not have regenerative braking, which could be used to charge the batteries on the way down from the valleys.

However, the very similar Class 321 train is being fitted with regenerative braking, so a possible Class 321 Flex train could charge the batteries on the way down.

When the train arrived in Cardiff, it could attach to a Railbaar to make sure that when it left to climb up into the valleys, the batteries were fully charged.

I think that in all these ramblings, there will be a solution, where all the various technologies come together in a bespoke solution.

  • Four-car train.
  • Electric drive.
  • 25 KVAC overhead to work electrified routes on the South Wales Main Line, at 100 mph.
  • Onboard rail-proven diesel engines and alternators, which would be used accordingly and probably automatically!
  • Two diesel power units would be used, so that one failure wouldn’t leave a stranded train.
  • Batteries with a capacity of around 100 KwH
  • Powerful regenerative braking
  • Railbaars in Cardiff and other low-altitude terminal stations, could be used if diesel charging can’t be used.
  • Well-driven trains to an energy efficient timetable.

Obviously, any electrification of the Cardiff ends of the routes would be welcome and less diesel-power would be needed.

Conclusions

Railbaar would be a good add-on for a Class 319 Flex train, working an extension or branch line from an electrified line.

A Class 319 Flex train with a battery and regenerative braking could be very useful on challenging routes like the Cardiff Valley Lines.

With these applications,  strategically placed Railbaars could add to the resilience and efficiency of the system.

The bespoke solution, that I have outlined, is very close to the specification of a Class 319 Flex train with a battery and regenerative braking.

I can’t wait to ride a Class 319 Flex train on a proving run to Merthyr Tydfil.

 

 

 

 

 

April 12, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , ,

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