The Anonymous Widower

Thor Point

In his Informed Sources column in the August 2021 Edition of Modern Railways, Roger Ford has a section with the same sub-title as this post.

He discusses what is to happen to the Class 22x fleets of 125 mph diesel trains and then says this about Project Thor, which was an idea of a few years back.

I still believe the addition of a pantograph transformer car to convert a ‘22x’ to a bi-mode has even more potential than the first time round. Routes operated by the CrossCountry ‘22x’ should be early candidates for electrification, and bi-modes are a simple way of boosting the benefits of electrification.

Project Thor is described in a section in the Wikipedia entry for the Voyager train, which is entitled Proposed Conversion To Electrical Operation. This is said.

In 2010 Bombardier proposed the conversion of several Voyager multiple units into hybrid electric and diesel vehicles capable of taking power from an overhead pantograph (electro-diesels EDMUs). The proposal was named Project Thor.

It appears that, one of the reasons the project foundered was that Bombardier had no capability to make steel carriages in the UK.

In the July 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Bi-Mode Aventra Details Revealed.

A lot of the article takes the form of reporting an interview with Des McKeon, who is Bombardier’s Commercial |Director and Global Head of Regional and Intercity.

This is a paragraph.

He also confirmed Bombardier is examining the option of fitting batteries to Voyager DEMUs for use in stations.

Nothing more was said.

In the three years since that brief sentence, technology has moved on.

Perhaps most significantly, Hitachi have launched the Hitachi Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note that one engine is replaced with batteries.

My engineering experience, leads me to believe that Hitachi’s battery pack supplier; Hyperdrive Innovation, is developing a battery-pack that is plug-compatible with the MTU diesel engine, so that batteries and diesel engines can be swapped as required.

For this to be possible, there needs to be a power bus connecting all carriages of the train.

  • This is common practice in the design of electric multiple units.
  • I am certain this power bus exists on the Hitachi Class 800 trains as they have pantographs on both driver cars and all the motor cars are between the driver cars. So it is needed to supply power to the train.
  • A power-bus could be used in a diesel-electric multiple unit like the Voyager, to ensure that in the case of engine failure in one of the cars, the car would still be supplied with hotel power.

Are the Bombardier Voyagers designed with a similar power bus?

If they are, I wonder, if one of the intermediate cars could be converted as follows.

  • Replace the diesel engine and electrical generator with a plug-compatible battery pack of an appropriate size.
  • Fit a lightweight pantograph in the roof of the train.
  • Squeeze in all the electrical gubbins like a transformer underneath the train.

It would probably be a challenging piece of engineering, but if there is sufficient space under the train it should be possible.

But the outcome would be a genuine 125 mph bi-mode multiple unit.

August 15, 2021 - Posted by | Transport | , , ,

13 Comments »

  1. I’ve no doubt that Hyperdrive may develop a battery-pack that is plug-compatible with the MTU diesel engine, so that batteries and diesel engines can be swapped, especially if Hitachi trains are involved. It’s worth noting however that the Rolls-Royce MTU hybrid powerpack supplied for DMUs has batteries supplied by AKASOL and that Alstom is also sourcing batteries from the same company under the brand name AKASYSTEM.
    From memory the Voyager/Meridian fleets, unfortunately, do not have a roof construction like the Siemens EMU/DMUs which would make the provision of a pantograph and associated equipment a relatively straightforward modification. Instead under Project Thor the new pantograph vehicles were to be manufactured at Derby.

    Comment by fammorris | August 15, 2021 | Reply

    • But Bombardier had no facilities for building steel coaches. As companies like Wabtec seem to have no difficulty fitting sliding doors into Mark 3 coaches, I suspect, they should be able to fit a pantograph into a Voyager.

      Comment by AnonW | August 15, 2021 | Reply

      • Nobody is saying that Wabtec or any other contractor couldn’t fit a pantograph just that it’s far less straightforward than you think. It’s no wonder that Project Thor called for the provision of newly built pantograph cars to be built and inserted into the existing Voyager sets.

        Comment by fammorris | August 16, 2021

  2. This is another example of why are we talking about this its a no brainer to shift one of the highest CO2 emitters in passenger trains which travel huge distances under the wires to have BiMode traction. Hitachi have a transformer that fits under the Azuma so getting one for a Voyage shouldn’t be an issue. If its too complicated give Hitachi and order to build some more Azumas and redeploy the Voyagers onto other regional services.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 15, 2021 | Reply

    • I take your point!

      Perhaps we should spend our money and efforts into converting all the redundant 350s, 379s and 387s into 110 mph battery electric trains.

      They would be very useful and carbon-free.

      Comment by AnonW | August 15, 2021 | Reply

    • But by redeploying 12mph Voyagers/Meridian sets(ball park 105 4/5-car sets) you’re not actually reducing your emissions. If as I suppose you’d intend to replace older diesel hydraulic DMUs you’d have to consider how practically they fit into the operational requirements. It wouldn’t make much sense except perhaps 90mph Class158/9

      Comment by fammorris | August 15, 2021 | Reply

      • Now theres a thought fitting shoegear to voyagers will be a lot less of an issue than trying to shoehorn a new coach into the formation.
        I don’t know practicalities but in old BR you would give DMEE a call and probably get a reasonable andswer in 24hrs whether it was worth spending some time on looking into the practicalities or not. Now it would involve consultants and NR prevaricating for months charging you 100k to tell you it needs a lot more investigation can we have a couple of million up front,

        Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 16, 2021

      • You obviously have a far more nostalgic recollection of DM&EE than I did in my 11 years of dealing with them, but then again I’m not “Real Railway”. Anyway in the first 5 years of privatisation the consultancies were not much more than Regional Railways, InterCity and Network SE by another name. 😉

        Comment by fammorris | August 16, 2021

      • Shoegear on Voyager, is good for Wessex services but where else?
        You obviously have a far more nostalgic recollection of DM&EE than I did in my 11 years of dealing with them, but then again I’m not “Real Railway”. Anyway in the first 5 years of privatisation the consultancies were not much more than Regional Railways, InterCity and Network SE by another name. 😉

        Comment by fammorris | August 16, 2021

      • Only convert the 20×220’s would give SWR sufficient stock with a few in hand. The bogies can accept shoegear but the train would need a bus cable running down it as each carriage is independently powered currently. The extra diesel power would come in handy west of Salisbury and at least give the route another 10 years while they work out what to do with zero emissions trains. So a relatively economical conversion compared to getting 25kV installed. Of course we won’t bung an order to Hitachi for BiModes that approach is only used for PPE!

        Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 16, 2021

  3. I don’t think that would be a problem and I suspect the Voyagers would be ideal for Waterloo and Exeter, if they run on diesel past Basingstoke.

    Comment by AnonW | August 16, 2021 | Reply

  4. From day 1 I’ve always thought the Voyagers were cramped smelly and inefficient with 10 x 750hp when paired chucking out all that toxic gas under the wires.Just forget about modifying them because they have served their purpose and you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.Scrap them and don’t waste any more money.

    Comment by Brian Jones | August 18, 2021 | Reply

  5. I tend to agree with what you say, but CrossCountry services need a quick interim solution or new trains now.

    Comment by AnonW | August 18, 2021 | Reply


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