The Anonymous Widower

Northern’s Battery Plans

The title of this post, is half of the title of an article in the March 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

It appears that CAF will convert some three-car Class 331 trains into four-car battery-electric trains.

  • A three-car Class 331 train has a formation of DMSOL+PTS+DMSO.
  • A fourth car with batteries will be inserted into the train.
  • Batteries will also be added to the PTS car.
  • The battery-electric trains would be used between Manchester and Windermere.

It looks like a round trip would take three hours including turnarounds, thus meaning three trains would be needed to run the service.

The article says this.

The branch was due to be electrified, but this was cancelled in 2017, and as a result 3×3-car Class 195 trains were ordered. As well as the environmental benefits, introduction of the battery ‘331s’ on Windermere services would free-up ‘195s’ for cascade elsewhere on the Northern network.

Note that the total length or the route is 98 miles of which only the ten miles of the Windermere Branch Line are not electrified.

What Battery Capacity Would Be Needed?

I reckon it will be fine to use a figure of 3 kWh per vehicle-mile to give a rough estimate of the power needed for a return trip from Oxenholme to indermere.

  • Two x Ten Miles x Four Cars x 3 kWh would give 240 kWh.
  • There would also be losses due to the seven stops, although the trains have regenerative braking, to limit losses.

Remember though that CAF have been running battery trams for several years, so I suspect that they have the experience to size the batteries appropriately.

In Thoughts On The Actual Battery Size In Class 756 Trains And Class 398 Tram-Trains, I say that four-car Class 756 trains will have 600 kWh of batteries and a range of 40 miles. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that a four-car Class 331 train had similar battery size and range on batteries, as the two trains are competing in the same market, with similar weights and passenger capacities.

Charging The Batteries

The Modern Railways article says this about charging the train’s batteries.

Northern believes battery power would be sufficient for one return trip along the branch without recharging, but as most diagrams currently involve two trips, provision of a recharge facility is likely, with the possibility that this could be located at Windermere or that recharging could take place while the units are in the platform at Oxenholme.

The bay platform 3 at Oxenholme station is already electrified, as this picture shows.

I particularly like Vivarail’s Fast Charge system based on third-rail technology.

A battery bank is connected to the third-rail and switched on, when the train is in contact, so that battery-to-battery transfer can take place.

It’s just like jump-starting a car, but with more power.

This form of charging would be ideal in a terminal station like Windermere.

  • The driver would stop the train in Windermere station in the correct place, for passengers to exit and enter the train.
  • In this position, the contact shoe on the train makes contact with the third-rail, which is not energised..
  • The Fast Charge system detects a train is connected and connects the battery bank to the third-rail.
  • Energy flows between the Fast Charge system’s battery bank and the train’s batteries.
  • When the train’s batteries are full, the Fast Charge system switches itself off and disconnects the third-rail.
  • The third-rail is made electrically dead, when the train has left, so that there is no electrical risk, if someone should fall from the platform.

Note that the only time, the third-rail used to transfer energy is live, there is a four-car train parked on top of it.

When I was eighteen, I was designing and building electronic systems using similar principles to control heavy rolling mills, used to process non-ferrous metals.

Changing Between Overhead Electrification And Battery Power

All trains running between Manchester Airport and Windermere, stop in Platform 3 at Oxenholme station to pick up and put down passengers.

  • Trains going towards Windermere would lower the pantograph and switch to battery power.
  • Trains going towards Mabchester Airport would raise the pantograph and switch to overhead electrification power.

Both changes would take place, whilst the train is stopped in Platform 3 at Oxenholme station.

February 28, 2020 - Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport | , , , , ,


  1. Interesting that Hitachi are suggesting a much higher mileage between charging than CAF Also the Hitachi system in Japan was able to recharge off the OHL supply (20kv) within 10mins a 360kwh battery so a recharge at Oxenholme without any infrastructure modification should be doable if they timetable it within the worst case constraints.

    Lots of offers being made by manufacturers and lest hope when OLR takeover they wont stifle this or it gets drowned out by more pressing need to show they can do a better job than Northern.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | February 29, 2020 | Reply

    • Hitachi’s figures at first glance seem to fit well with Vivrail and Stadler

      Comment by AnonW | March 1, 2020 | Reply

  2. […] It seems likely that the trains will be four-car Class 331 trains, as I wrote about in Northern’s Battery Plans. […]

    Pingback by Passing Loop Hope For Windermere « The Anonymous Widower | April 21, 2020 | Reply

  3. […] Northern’s Battery Plans, I discuss CAF’s proposal to Northern to create battery-electric Class 331 […]

    Pingback by Rossendale Reopening Prospect « The Anonymous Widower | May 26, 2020 | Reply

  4. […] An ideal train would surely be CAF’s four-car battery electric version of the Class 331 train, which I wrote about in Northern’s Battery Plans. […]

    Pingback by Beeching Reversal – South Fylde Line Passing Loop « The Anonymous Widower | August 9, 2020 | Reply

  5. […] Northern’s Battery Plans, I said this about CAF’s plans to create a battery electric Class 331 train for […]

    Pingback by Beeching Reversal – Magor And Undy Walkway Station « The Anonymous Widower | August 26, 2020 | Reply

  6. Related to the battery 331 CAF units, since Heathrow Express is releasing their 332 units – and that these are near identical to Northern’s 333 – these 14 units should be given to Northern, to run along the 333s, thus releasing more 331’s from West Yorkshire to be converted to battery operation, where they are needed (CLC, Southport line, etc) …

    Comment by Daniel Altmann | August 28, 2020 | Reply

    • I had wondered what will happen to the old Heathrow Express trains.

      Your suggestion is a good one.

      Comment by AnonW | August 28, 2020 | Reply

      • The 332’s have BR ATP only so would need to be retrofitted with TPWS. These are (or were) owned by Heathrow Airport although no other use for them so sensible idea but ive read elsewhere they have corrosion issues unbelievably.

        The Heathrow Connect units are also looking for a home which ought to be East Midlands Railway.

        Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 28, 2020

Leave a Reply to AnonW Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.