The Anonymous Widower

Hitachi Class 385 Trains, Batteries And Charging Stations

This article in the International Railway Journal is entitled JR Kyushu battery EMU to enter service in October.

This is said.

JAPAN’s Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu) announced on August 24 that its pre-series Dual Energy Charge Train (Dencha) battery-assisted EMU will enter revenue service on the 11km Orio – Wakamatsu section of the Chikuho Line on October 19.

The two-car 819 series set draws power from the 20 kV ac 60Hz electrification system to feed a bank of onboard batteries, which give the train a wire-free range of up to 90km.

At least it can do 11 km. This is said about the train’s manufacture.

The 819 series is based on the existing 817 series EMU and was built by Hitachi at its plant in Kudamatsu in Yamaguchi prefecture.

Note the word Hitachi!

Hitachi call it a BEC819 train and it is one of their ubiquitous A-trains.

On the Hitachi Rail Europe web site, three new trains are mentioned.

All are A-trains and on all pages, the word battery is mentioned under power supply.

So will Scotrail’s new Class 385 trains have a battery capability?

Probably not initially!

But Hitachi have obviously been doing a lot of research into battery trains and the JR Kyushu is the first practical application.

Scotland’s rail system outside Edinburgh and Glasgow is not electrified, but it is well-known that Scotland’s Government would like more electrified services and also links to places like Leven and St. Andrews.

Both of these places, and there are probably others as well, are a few miles from a main line, that is very likely to be electrified.

So could we see a battery train charged as the JR Kyushu train on a main line, serving these branch lines on battery power?

I feel that the chance of this happening is very high.

Put a charging station, like a Railbaar at the terminal station and it could be done as soon as the train is built.


April 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 3 Comments

The Four-Car Bi-Mode Train

The Class 319 Flex train is an affordable four-car bi-mode or electro-diesel train, promoted by Porterbrook and to be used by Northern.

  • The train is affordable, as it is based on a refurbished Class 319 train, which was built thirty years ago.
  • The train is a dual-voltage unit and can be powered by either 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • Each unit also has two rail-proven MAN diesel engines, for powering the train on lines without electrification.

If there is a drawback, it is that with their interiors so far, Northern have opted for a no-frills interior with no wi-fi.

Compare this with the interior of a Class 455 train.

The trains were originally built within a couple of years, but the updated interior specified by South West Trains is much more impressive and passenger-friendly than that used by Northern.

Both trains are four-car units and are based on the Mark  3 coach, so underneath the skin, they probably have a lot in common.

There are a large number of four-car trains on UK railways so it must be a train length that is convenient for operators.

But strangely until now there has not been a four-car bi-mode train.

But then bi-mode trains are not that common, with the only UK train of that type; the Class 800 train, yet to enter service.

But the Class 800 train is for the long distance market and is a five-car or nine-car 125 mph train.

I do wonder, if the reason we have no four-car bi-mode trains, is that no-one has bothered to design one so no-one has wanted one.

But Porterbrook own 86 of these Class 319 trains, which are reliable 100 mph trains, that drivers tell me they like, because of their performance and excellent brakes.

Because of their age, they’re probably not worth a great deal more than scrap value, but because of the depth of knowledge of what can be done with Mark 3 coaches, they can be turned into a useful train by quality engineering.

Porterbrook have seen a gap in the market with Northern for a train specifically designed to be able to handle their toughest route, which is Manchester Piccadilly to Buxtonup the very steep Buxton Line. But the train is no one-trick pony and can run on virtually any of Northern’s routes, whether they are electrified or not.

So Northern can use the train for a variety of purposes.

  • Running services on routes, that are not fully electrified.
  • New route development.
  • Extension of existing electrified routes.
  • Replacement of a failed unit, which could be electric or diesel

Northern will have two versions of the Class 319 train; electric and bi-mode, just like other train operating companies will have electric and bi-mode versions of the Class 800 train.

I suspect that to passengers and all train staff except the driver, there will not be many obvious differences between the two versions.

Some routes will probably be able to be served by both versions.

The Bombardier Aventra

I feel very much that the Aventra will have one or more independently-powered versions.

The Aventra has a slightly unusual and innovative electrical layout.

This article in Global Rail News from 2011, which is entitled Bombardier’s AVENTRA – A new era in train performance, gives some details of the Aventra’s electrical systems. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-Iron batteries if required.

This was published six years ago, so I suspect Bombardier have improved the concept.

Perhaps instead of a power storage device, they could squeeze in a small diesel engine and an alternator.

I’ve believed for a long time, that the Class 710 train being built by Bombardier for the London Overground, has onboard energy storage and that I wouldn’t be surprised if it used the storage to capture energy from regenerative braking, just as a lot of hybrid vehicles, like a London Routemaster and a Toyota Prius.

It won’t be a high-power bi-mode like the Class 319 Flex train, but it could have a useful range on the stored energy.

But it will be an all-electric train and probably more energy-efficient.

Other Four-Car Bi-Modes

I can’t believe that other train manufacturers are not looking at various forms of bi-mode trains.

Hitachi make the Class 800 trains at Newton Aycliffe, where they also make the four-car Class 385 train for ScotRail.

And what about Alstom, CAF, Siemens and Stadler?

What About Five Cars?

Four-car trains mean that operators can run eight and twelve car trains, when they are convenient. But other companies prefer five-car and ten-car trains.

We have the Class 800 trains, which are a 125 mph bi-mode, but we don’t have a five-car bi-mode suburban trundler. A few would surely be useful for Southern to handle Uckfield and the Marshlink Line.

I also believe that Greater Anglia’s five-car Aventras could have the limited independent capacity given by onboard energy storage.

I suspect that what the train operators need, the train operators will get!


We will see a complete spectrum of bi-mode four-car trains. And a few fuve-cars too!

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March 13, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Will Passengers Step Up Into Scotland’s New Trains?

Obviously, I’ve not seen a new Class 385 train in the metal yet, but I despair at this picture.


As I wrote in A Design Crime – Class 395 Train Platform Interface, which is about another Hitachi product; the Class 395 train, it appears that the train-platform interface is no better.

It could be that the train was not in one of the platforms that it will actually serve, but if the Overground and its Class 378 trains were able to get it substantially right in 2010, then surely new trains and a rebuilt railway should be tip-top.

January 30, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

What Next For Class 385 Trains?

Scotrail have ordered a fleet of Class 385 trains, which will be built by Hitachi at Newton Aycliffe in the North-East of England.

If you look at Scotrail’s network, there are a lot of lines, where new trains will be needed in the next decade.

Most of these lines are not electrified, so will the Class 385 train, be available in a version say, that would handle lines like the Borders Railway?

Electrifying all lines will be costly and the Heritage Taliban, may object to overhead gantries marching all over Scotland.

Class 800 And Class 801 Trains

The Class 800 trains are electro-diesel trains with a range depending on the size of the fuel tanks, whereas the Class 801 trains are the pure electric version.

Like the Class 385 trains, they are members of Hitachi’s A-Train family, so I suspect that if asked to supply a bi-mode Class 385 train, that Hitachi know the route to create such a train.

Trains With Batteries

I have written two posts about the Japanese using batteries in electric trains.

The Japanese technology, doesn’t seem as comprehensive as that I wrote about in Bombardier’s Plug-and-Play Train, but I’m sure that Hitachi must be thinking about trains with batteries,


I am inevitably drawn to the conclusion, that Hitachi will come up with a train, that can run say between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, substantially under its own power, aided by overhead electrification where it exists.



November 18, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment