The Anonymous Widower

Speeding Down To Bristol By Train

On Wednesday, I went to Bristol to take a few photographs.

I took these pictures, where the electrification ran out at Chippenham station.

There is some half-hearted erection of electrification going on between Chippenham station and Box Tunnel, but despite the fact, that the iconic tunnel is ready for wires, construction work seemed noticeable by its absence.

Line Speed Observations

I had my personal dynamometer car connected for much of the journey.

  • Between Southall and Slough we were at times running at only a few miles short of 130 mph. Are Great Western Railway starting to wind up the speed.
  • Most of the journey, when well clear of stations, we were at around 125 mph until Chippenham station.
  • At Chippenham, it was noticeable that the diesel engine under my seat kicked in.
  • Onwards from Chippenham, we were at around 100 mph on diesel.

I suspect that London and Bristol services could be improved and/or speeded up.

  • Timings could be reduced between London Paddington and Reading by running at faster speeds under digital ERTMS signalling. The train certainly felt comfortable at 128 mph.
  • Any increase in electrification past Chippenham station will increase the the reach of a Class 800 train with a battery capability on a mile-for-mile basis.
  • Trains should be able to increase speed towards 125 mph for some of the twelve miles between Chippenham and Bath Spa stations.
  • As trains would not be swapping between diesel and electricity in Chippenham station, would panning up and down happen automatically  further West?
  • It might be possible to fit in a third London Paddington and Bristol service, that doesn’t stop at Chippenham station.

None of these improvements would need the line through Bath Spa station to be electrified.


July 30, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bath Spa Station – 28th July 2020

I took these pictures as I twice passed through Bath Spa station.

These are my thoughts.

Electrification Gantries On The Platforms

As somebody, whose eyesight is on the wane, I am not a lover of electrification, where the gantries are bolted to the platforms. These pictures show some installations of this type at Crouch Hill station.

Would electrification gantries like these, be appropriate in Bath Spa station?

Could Lightweight Electrification Gantries Be Placed Between The Tracks?

These pictures show the wide gap between the two tracks in Bath Spa station.

Could double-track lightweight structures, based on a design like this be placed between the tracks?

These structures are made out of laminated wood and are surely a possibility.

A Makeover For Bath Spa Station

If you look at much of the woodwork and paint in the fabric of the station, it appears tired and in need of refurbishment.

Whether the station is electrified or not, the station will need a high-class makeover.

Services Through Bath Spa Station

Three train companies run services through Bath Spa station.

There are also some freight services hauled by diesel locomotives.

Trains leave Bath Spa station using one of three routes via either.

Most trains seem to go via Bristol Temple Meads station.

  • The distance between Bristol Temple Meads and Chippenham stations are 24.5 miles.
  • The distance between Bristol Temple Meads and Westbury stations are 28.5 miles.

Neither distance is that long.

An Alternative To Full Electrification

When I look at the distances between Bristol Temple Meads, Chippenham and Westbury stations, they tell me that they are within the range of Hitachi’s Class 800 train with a battery electric capability or Regional Battery Train, which is described in this infographic from the company.

The proposed 90 km or 56 mile range would even be sufficient take a train between Chippenham and Bristol Temple Meads stations on a return trip.

Notes for each station follow.

Bristol Temple Meads

Charging facilities would be needed.

Destinations in battery range would include.

  • Bristol Parkway – 6 miles
  • Cardiff Central – 5 miles to the electrified Great Western Main Line.
  • Cheltenham Spa – 41 miles
  • Gloucester – 39 miles
  • Taunton – 45 miles
  • Weston-super-Mare – 19 miles


  1. Return trips to Bristol Parkway and Western-super-Mare would be possible.
  2. The other destinations will need charging facilities.

Bristol Temple Meads station could become a major hub for battery trains.

All local services and all passing longer distance services could be trains with a battery capability.

I write more about Britol Temnple Meads station as a battery train hub in Bristol Temple Meads Station – 28th July 2020.


A train would leave Chippenham station with a full battery after charging on the fully-electrified route from London.

Chippenham and Weston-super-Mare would be in battery range with a charging facility at Weston-super-Mare station.

It should be noted that every extra mile of electrification past Chippenham, can be added to the distance electric trains with a battery capability can reach.


Charging facilities would be needed.

Destinations in battery range would include.

  • Salisbury – 24 miles.
  • Southampton – 49 miles to the electrified South Western Main Line, at Southampton Central station.
  • Weymouth – 53 miles to the electrified South Western Main Line at Dorchester Junction.


  1. A return trip to Salisbury would be possible.
  2. Trains would need to have the capability to access 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  3. A few extra miles of electrification may make operation South from Westbury station easier, more reliable and allow more destinations to be included.

Westbury station could be a major hub for battery trains.

This Google Map shows Westbury station and the lines around it.

I would probably electrify a few miles either side of Westbury, so that passing trains could be in contact with the overhead wires for perhaps five to ten minutes and take a good long drink.

  • Electrification could be either 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC overhead.
  • Newbury, where the electrification to London starts is 42 miles away and trains can pick it up at speed.
  • Taunton is 47 miles away and could be electrified to Exeter St. Davids.

Great Western Railway could run all their services between London Paddington and the South-West using Class 800 trains with a battery capability.


The prolitical, heritage and engineering problems of electrifying through Bath Spa station can be voided, by electrification and charging facilities at stations like Bristol Temple Meads, Taunton, Westbury and Weston-super-Mare.

July 29, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Battery Electric Class 800 Trains Between London Paddington And Bristol Temple Mead Stations

Hitachi have changed the rules on electrification, by the announcement of the development of battery electric trains in collaboration with Hyperdrive Innovation, which I wrote about in Hyperdrive Innovation And Hitachi Rail To Develop Battery Tech For Trains.

The proposed train is described in this Hitachi infographic.

It will have a range on battery power of 90 km or 56 miles.

Currently, services between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads stations are as follows.

  • The frequency is two trains per hour (tph)
  • Services call at Reading, Didcot Parkway (1tph), Swindon, Chippenham and Bath Spa.
  • Services use the electrification between London Paddington and Chippenham.
  • Services use diesel power between Chippenham and Bristol Temple Meads.
  • Chippenham and Bristol Temple Meads are 24.5 miles apart.

It looks to me that a well-driven Class 800 train with Hyperdrive Innovation’s clever batteries replacing some or all of the diesel engines could run between Chippenham and Bristol Temple Meads stations and back without using a drop of diesel.

It might be a bit tight, but it would certainly be possible, if there were more electrification between Bath Spa and Chippenham stations.

  • From this article on the BBC, which is entitled Box Tunnel Reopens After Network Rail Electrification Work, it appears that a lot of the pre-electrification work has been completed.
  • This would reduce the distance without wires to perhaps 18-20 miles.

As the Class 800 trains have agile pantographs, I’m sure that it will be possible for battery electric Class 800 trains to run between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads stations.

Electrification At Bristol Temple Meads Station

This will surely happen and with full electrification, the following will be possible.

  • Trains would be able to recharge before returning to Chippenham.
  • Trains would be able to extend the service using battery power to Weston-super-Mare, which is only twenty miles away.
  • Trains would be able to use the power whilst waiting in the station.

It appears that trains that run between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads station, use a selection of platforms in Bristol.

Would it be sensible to reduce the number of platforms used and electrify them first, so that battery electric trains could charge their batteries?

Could A Battery Electric Train Run Between Bristol Temple Means And Taunton Stations?


  • These two stations are 46 miles apart via Weston-super-Mare, so if there was charging at Taunton, this service might be possible.
  • The direct route is a couple of miles shorter.
  • A train with full batteries at Taunton, would reach well past Exeter.

Could a battery-electric service be of use in creating Great Western Railway’s timetable, as in the Peak services are extended to Weston-super-Mare and Taunton stations?

It would certainly be lower carbon. than a current journey.

Would The Railway Through Bath Need To Be Electrified?

This would depend on three main factors.

  • There is a certain amount of opposition to electrification in the centre of Bath.
  • Can all passenger trains through the city be made zero-carbon without electrification?
  • Can all freight trains through the city be made zero-carbon without electrification?

I would feel that all passenger trains could be run by appropriate trains, but freight would be a problem under existing technology.

I wouldn’t be surprised, if no electrification was ever erected through Bath!

July 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Great Western Main Line Through Bath Spa Station

This Google Map shows the route of the Great Western Main Line through Bath Spa station.

The Great Western Main Line Through Bath

The Great Western Main Line Through Bath

Trains from Bristol come in from the West with London to the East and the layout certainly wasn’t designed to be simple.

  • Bath Spa station is on a viaduct hemmed in by the river.
  • The railway crosses the River Avon twice.
  • The railway is on a raised viaduct to the West.
  • Bath is a World Heritage Site.

It is not the place, where you would want to electrify a major railway Line.

These are pictures I took of the Great Western Main Line through Bath.

It is certainly not how, you would create a railway today.

March 29, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment