The Anonymous Widower

The TruckTrain

Note that I first came across the TruckTrain, when I wrote Innovative Composite Masts Look To Reduce Cost And Increase Efficiency Of Rail Electrification.

I have now decided that the concept could be so revolutionary, that it needs its own post.

The TruckTrain

TruckTrain is a concept with roots in Coventry University that could be off-beam enough to become a new normal.

The TruckTrain Web Site

The TruckTrain web site is the main source of information for the TruckTrain.

A sales leaflet for the TruckTrain can be accessed from the Home page.

The About page on the web site, gives this description of the TruckTrain.

TruckTrains® are short, fast, bi-directional self-propelled fixed freight train formations able to operate at passenger train speeds. Train sets can work in multiple in response to operational and commercial imperatives. Each vehicle is powered and all axles are powered to deliver the acceleration and braking required to achieve and to sustain this demanding level of performance. The initial configuration will use diesel-electric power to ensure freedom of operation over the national network. A hybrid design able to operate on electrified lines has also been developed together with an all-electric variant capable of extremely high-speed performance.

The Specifications page on the web site gives a detailed specification  of the TruckTrain.

These are my thoughts.

The Basic Design Concept

This leaflet on their web site describes the concept.

This visualisation at the bottom of the leaflet shows four TruckTrains forming a train carrying twelve intermodal containers, each of which I suspect are each 20 feet long.

Note.

  1. Each of the four TruckTrains appears to be carrying three intermodal containers.
  2. A 20 foot container is 6.096 metres long, so three are 18.288 metres long.
  3. Each TruckTrain has two bogies and four axles.
  4. The cabs at the two ends of each TruckTrain are different sizes.
  5. The longest carriages in use on the UK rail network are the 26 metre carriages used by Hitachi in their Class 800 and other trains.

I can deduce that with a twenty metre load space, a TruckTrain would accommodate any of the following.

  • Three twenty-foot containers.
  • A forty foot container and a twenty foot container.
  • Large numbers of pallets.
  • Ability to handle roll-cages as regularly used by supermarkets.
  • A curtain-sided load space.

Any of these would give six metres for the two cabs.

This should be enough space for two cabs, but there are other possibilities.

  • The longer cab could have a pantograph on the roof to use 25 KVAC electrification.
  • The space behind the driver cab in the longer cab could be used for power-train gubbins.
  • There must also be space under the load space for more power-train gubbins.

I feel certain, that an electrically-powered TruckTrain is more than a possibility.

The Width And Height Of A TruckTrain

This sentence from the Wikipedia entry for intermodal container, says this about their size.

Intermodal containers exist in many types and a number of standardized sizes, but ninety percent of the global container fleet are so-called “dry freight” or “general purpose” containers – durable closed rectangular boxes, made of rust-retardant Corten steel; almost all 8 feet (2.44 m) wide, and of either 20 or 40 feet (6.10 or 12.19 m) standard length, as defined by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard 668:2020. The worldwide standard heights are 8 feet 6 inches (2.59 m) and 9 feet 6 inches (2.90 m) – the latter are known as High Cube or Hi-Cube (HC / HQ) containers.

The Specifications page for the TruckTrain says this.

2-7 car Freight multiple unit capable of carrying combinations of 6 to 21 TEU of ISO containers, Hi-cube containers or swap bodies or 175 cubic meters of palletised cargo per vehicle with refrigeration available for both variants.

And the sales leaflet for the TruckTrain says this.

Performance and train path profile similar to a Turbostar passenger DMU.

Does that also mean that the width and height of a TruckTrain are no greater than that of a Class 170 train, which are respectively 2.69 and 3.77 metres?

It appears that international standards allow for a wagon floor height of 0.94 metres, which gives the following train heights to the top of the container.

  • Standard container – 3.53 metres
  • High Cube container – 3.84 metres

It will be a tight fit, but companies like Stadler use smaller wheels on some of their UK trains, which also have a height of 3.95 metres

I suspect that with a bit of selective bridge-raising TruckTrains will be able to go anywhere a Turbostar can go.

Connecting TruckTrains Together

The pictures of the TruckTrain on the web-site and the leaflet appears to show a standard multiple unit coupler like a Dellner.

The Specifications page for the TruckTrain says this.

2-7 car Freight multiple unit capable of carrying combinations of 6 to 21 TEU of ISO containers.

Is seven the maximum or just a marketing limit?

The technology and software to connect the trains and run them as a formation has been well and truly tested in many multiple units.

Motive Power Of TruckTrains

The About page for the TruckTrain says this.

The initial configuration will use diesel-electric power to ensure freedom of operation over the national network. A hybrid design able to operate on electrified lines has also been developed together with an all-electric variant capable of extremely high-speed performance.

As I said earlier, the pantograph could go on the roof of the longer cab for electric operation and the diesel engine could go under the load, as it does on most diesel multiple units.

I would think though, that one of the best variants would mount batteries under the load space.

Hydrogen would probably be a no-no, as this would limit the availability of the train to serve certain routes.

Performance Of TruckTrains

The Specifications page for the TruckTrain says this.

Maximum speed 140 kph for the inter-modal version, 160 kph for the pallet carrier.

As some of the routes, where these trains would be used is out of Felixstowe, where there is a 100 mph operating speed on the Great Eastern Main Line, I suspect that TruckTrains will sell better with a 100 mph (160 kph) operating speed on electric power.

125 mph Truck Trains

If they were running on a fully electrified route, I suspect the technology is available to run TruckTrains at 125 mph, which would make them ideal for parcels and light freight.

Manufacture Of TruckTrains

I don’t see that there would be many problems in manufacturing TruckTrains.

  • 100 mph (160 kph) bogies are readily available for freight trains.
  • A wagon manufacturer would probably be happy to design and build the chassis.
  • The cabs could possibly be a standard multiple unit design.
  • There shouldn’t be any problems with the power-train.
  • Multiple running and splitting/joining technology is very much proven.

Certified rail components would probably be available for other parts and uses.

Combi TruckTrains

Combi Aircraft is defined in Wikipedia like this.

Combi aircraft in commercial aviation are aircraft that can be used to carry either passengers as an airliner, or cargo as a freighter, and may have a partition in the aircraft cabin to allow both uses at the same time in a mixed passenger/freight combination.

Would a Combi TruckTrain have applications on some routes in the world, where a passenger route carries the occasional container up and down the route?

Several ideas might be possible.

  • The simplest would probably to have a twenty or forty foot passenger module, which could be lifted in and out like a standard intermodal freight container.
  • TruckTrains could also be built with the load space fitted out for passengers, so they became a Class 153 replacement, that could be coupled to a freight TruckTrain.
  • Could a TruckTrain be fitted out as a specialised work train to take workers and equipment to a work site, which had difficult road access?

It could almost be like a rail equivalent of Thunderbird 2.

Point-To-Point TruckTrains

The classic point-to-point train, could be run by someone like Toyota, where the engines for their cars are made in North Wales and the cars are assembled at Burnaston near Derby. I know there is a doubt over the future of Toyota’s engine plant, due to the stopping of manufacture of cars running on fossil fuels, but surely, an appropriate number of TruckTrains shuttling on the route would give advantages over a fleet of trucks, like, speed and reliability.

In the leaflet, they mention that the TruckTrain has been designed to use single-track short-terminals. These would surely be ideal for a company that decides to use TruckTrain as a point-to-point train between an important supplier and their main factory or distribution centre.

TruckTrains Could Use Stations

There has been a lot of talk recently about using major stations as freight terminals at night.

I doubt that a TruckTrain would have any problems using stations.

International TruckTrains

Why not? In Kraft Heinz And Freight Innovation, I talked about an international freight movement, that would be ideal for TruckTrains.

TruckTrains And Ferries

Could we even see the revival of train ferries?

Imagine a terminal at a port in Ireland, which could load and unload containers between standard gauge TruckTrains and trucks.

  • A short length of standard gauge track would lead from the terminal to the quay, so that the TruckTrains could be driven on and off the ferry, either using a shunter or the TruckTrains’ own battery or diesel power.
  • On the other side of the water, the TruckTrain would use the UK railways to get to its destination.

This concept would allow freight to go between most of Western Europe and Ireland with only a transfer to and from trucks at both ends.

It could even be improved with dual-gauge TruckTrains, which might be able to run between Ireland and Spain, through the Channel Tunnel.

Conclusion

I like the concept and I can’t see why it would not be successful worldwide.

 

April 7, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,

10 Comments »

  1. […] I have updated my thoughts on the TruckTrain and it is now in a post called The TruckTrain. […]

    Pingback by Innovative Composite Masts Look To Reduce Cost And Increase Efficiency Of Rail Electrification « The Anonymous Widower | April 7, 2022 | Reply

  2. They need to be coupled together, otherwise a single freight train would be replaced by 36 discrete TruckTrains and congest the network. Then there is keeping them all going… and they need drivers.

    Comment by R. Mark Clayton | April 7, 2022 | Reply

  3. I have a vague recollection that BR came up with the idea of self propelled trucks for containers in the late 60s / early 70s to be loaded and unloaded in station sidings. Obviously it came to nothing!
    Maybe it really is time for trucktrains. The concept is brilliant.

    Comment by James Martineau | April 7, 2022 | Reply

    • I like the international transport ability of the concept. As I indicated, I think the TruckTrain could solve the freight problem to Ireland and other countries with a different gauge.

      One of the biggest problems of the next few years will be rebuilding of Ukraine. Take something as basic as windows for flats. The Russians have probably trashed the Ukrainian factory that makes windows along with all the flats.

      But a TruckTrain that could run on both standard and Russian gauge could bring in windows from factories all over Europe.

      You’re right. It is a brilliant concept.

      Comment by AnonW | April 7, 2022 | Reply

  4. Re night freight at stations. Why not add a couple of passenger coaches to each rake for some late night services?

    Comment by Fenline Scouser | April 7, 2022 | Reply

    • That is not as silly as it sounds. Suppose you have a line like the Far North Line in Scotland, where you need to run occasional freight trains to move containers up and down the line, you could have a train that had a passenger module and one that could accept the containers you get in the belly of airliners.

      I suspect that several countries could find a use.

      Comment by AnonW | April 7, 2022 | Reply

  5. An extensive and highly entertaining post.
    Is Truck Train revolutionary, no, Windhoff got there first with their diesel automotive-based Cargo Sprinter nearly 30 years ago. The Windhoff concept has enjoyed limited success in some niche markets because of the versatility that allows it to be reconfigured to different roles, yet has not enjoyed the success for which it was originally envisaged. Later the Japanese built the electric Super Rail Cargo manufactured by Nippon Sharyo, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and Toshiba.

    Note how the traction is distributed in the train shown in the video. I’d suggest that the Stadler-like power modules are a far more realistic means of installing a distributed form of traction in a fixed formation than trying to squeeze it in under wagons as suggested by Truck Train. The first of these Japanese trains first started running nearly 20 years ago with Sagawa Express part of a freight logistics company on limited routes and from what I can make out are still in operation.
    Universities don’t really produce sales brochures for hardware like trains, but they do seem to have to have come up with an attractive design if only as a paper exercise.
    On a more general note fixed consists especially the German example is operationally limited and I imagine necessitates heightened marshalling and labour resources, certainly you’d imagine crewing would be something that freight operators find unpalatable were you to run consists together..
    A European project currently receiving much attention, and one that particularly addresses trainset configuration and attendent labour optimisation has been the DAC digital coupler. It is an automatic, mechanical coupling providing coupling of the air line, the power line, the data bus and can be enhanced by automatic uncoupling which may be remotely controlled. Following trials over recent years this has resolved into a modified form of Scharfenberg pattern coupler adopted by leading coupler manufacturers, and might play its part in more efficient reconfiguration of formations in future. It certainly has a role to play in traditional loco-hauled freight trains.
    Returning to the idea that all axles should be powered, I agree that traction and braking, especially dynamic braking provides better whee/rail adhesion characteristics, yet I wonder at what price. In this particular respect the concept would represent a revolution for wagon builders and an extremely cost-dri even freight market.
    One significant difference between freight and passenger rolling stock is the necessity to carry greater axle loads. There has recently been a great deal of effort by research institutes both in the UK and throughout Europe to review the design of the traditional freight bogie. A major element of this has been to reduce the bogie weight while retaining the structural integrity. The idea of adding extra traction motors and final drive gearboxes, already perceived as a necessary evil for a freight train consist is regarded as undesirable and costly, certainly not something that an industry that is so price sensitive can withstand.
    I’ve not looked too closely at the subject of loading capacity and vehicle speeds however I’m aware that there are details of dynamic clearances that need more scrutiny before I could accept your assessment. Equally I’m unsure of the long term practicality of carrying 9′ 6″ containers, especially at higher speeds that still needs more thought. I also hesitate at the idea of running Well Wagons with half worn wheel diameters of 650mm, it gets me thinking about the effects of Rolling Contact Fatigue.
    My favourite train ferry and one of the last in Europe is the one that crosses the Straits of Messina. The trouble with train ferries is that they are comparatively inflexible in that loading both trains and rail traffic isn’t that practical, you can hardly share a deck with a train and trucks, nor is loading or unloading straightforward without investment. As we’ve recently seen ferries are not regarded as particularly profitable.

    Comment by fammorris | April 7, 2022 | Reply

  6. Does anyone know whether this project still exists? The website looks as though it does but the email address looks very out of date – do Tiscali addresses still exist? I think the project is about twenty years old and came to nothing. The most recent reference I can find by searching was 2009. I tried the email address but got no reply.

    Comment by Ian Budd | April 18, 2022 | Reply

    • I have reasons to be cheerful for this project. It appears Furrer + Frey have taken an interest. They are not a frivolous company and I suspect they have a serious use for the concept. It could just be for a high speed electrification repair train.

      They have also been backing innovative research in British Universities. Perhaps, they need some bright students, who know about railways.

      Comment by AnonW | April 18, 2022 | Reply

    • The latest reference I can trust is 2012 from a biography of a member of staff at Coventry University

      Comment by fammorris | April 18, 2022 | Reply


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