The Anonymous Widower

Funding Gives Weight To Idea For Storing Electricity

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article on Page 45 of today’s copy of The Times.

It talks of a company called Gravitricity, which has used the same principle as every weight-operated clock to store energy and especially energy generaed from intermittent sources like wind and solar power.

The company has just secured a £650,000 grant from Innovate UK.

In Solar Power Could Make Up “Significant Share” Of Railway’s Energy Demand, I looked at how solar farms and batteries could be used to power third-rail railway electrification.

Because of energy losses, third-rail electrification needs to be fed with power every three miles or so. This gives a problem, as connection of all these feeder points to the National Grid can be an expensive business.

A series of solar farms, wind turbines and batteries, controlled  by an intelligent control system, is an alternative way of providing the power.

In an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

If I assume that trains are five cars and will be efficient enough to need only 3 kWh per vehicle mile, then to power a train along a ten mile section of track will take 150 kWh.

As the control system, only powers the track, when a train needs it, the whole system can be very efficient.

So why will Gravitricity battery ideas be ideal in this application?

Appropriate Size

By choosing the right weight and depth for the Gravitricity battery , appropriate energy storage can be provided at different points on a line.

Some parts of a journey, like accelerating away from stations will need more electricity than others, where trains are cruising along level ground.

Supposing my five-car example train is travelling at 60 mph, then to cover ten miles will take 10 minutes, with 15 kW being supplied in every minute.

If the train weighs 200 tonnes, then accelerating the train to 60 mph will need about 20 kWh.

I’m sure that a Gravitricity battery could handle this.

I would suspect that batteries of the order of 100 kWh would store enough power for the average third-rail electrified line.

A proper dynamic simulation would need to be done. I could have done this calculation in the 1960s, but I don’t have the software now!

Response Time

For safety and energy-efficiency reasons, you don’t want lines to be switched on, when there is no train present.

I suspect that if there is energy in the battery, response would be fast enough.

Energy Efficiency

The system should have a high efficiency.

How Big Would A 100 kWh Gravitricity Battery Be?

A quick calculation shows the weight would be 400 tonnes and the depth would be 100 metres.

Installing the batteries

Each battery will need a 100 metre deep hole of an appropriate diameter.

This sequence of operations would be performed.

  • A rail-mounted drilling rig would drill the hole.
  • The heavy weight of the battery would arrive by train and would be lifted into position using a rail-mounted crane.

As the equipment will generally be heavy, doing all operations from the railway will be a great help.

 

 

 

February 9, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Slow Progress On Manchester-Preston Electrification

These pictures show the current state of the electrification of the Manchester-Preston Line at Bolton and Horwich Parkway stations.

It is a sad sight, that I have seen repeated all over England, where electrification is being installed.

As on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line progress has been slow. Except that this scheme is much slower.

It also appears that something like this is happening on electrification.

  1. A team come along and install the foundations for the gantries.
  2. Then everybody takes a long break, whilst it is worked out how to install the foundations that couldn’t be installed or had just been forgotten.
  3. A team then comes along and puts up the gantries.
  4. Then everybody takes a long break, whilst they chase up the gntries that don’t fit or haven’t been delivered.
  5. A team then comes along and decorates the gantries with the various fitments for the overhead wires.
  6. Then everybody takes a long break, whilst they chase up the faults needed to be fixed before the wires to go up.
  7. Finally, the wires are installed.

Only now,the testing can begin!

On the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, they’ve finally got all the way to Stage 7, but it has meant two major closures of the line.

On the Manchester-Preston Line, they’re still blundering around in Stage 1.

Years ago, I used to work with the Greater London Council on various projects. The Head of the Construction Branch told me, to beware of sub-contractors, who had  their fingers in lots of projects, as it inevitably led to all projects being late.

Could it be, that the electrification woes all over the UK, is that there aren’t enough competent engineers and fitters to design and erect the overhead gantries?

As the Manchester to Preston electrification was being carried out by Carillion, that wouldn’t have helped either! This probably explains the very slow progress on this project.

The competent staff are going, where they know they’ll get paid.

Network Rail’s chronic Project Management and forward planning hasn’t helped either. Crossrail has highlighted the poor state of the wires on the Great Eastern Main Line and with all the new trains due to thunder along the line in a few years time, they seem to have decided to replace all the unreliable wiring in East Anglia.

About time too!

But, this job should have been planned, resourced and carried out earlier.

So all the competent engineers and fitters are flocking to better jobs!

Conclusion

Network Rail needs to do the following.

  • Have access to a competent team of engineers and fitters, either in-house or with a reliable engineering firm.
  • Create a plan of new electrification and renewals for the next few years.
  • Stick to it.

But politicians will not allow this!

It should be noted that if the train companies use more bi-mode, hydrogen and battery-powered trains, this will increase the need for small electrification schemes to allow the new trains to run efficiently.

Hopefully, these small schemes will be of vaguely similar natures, so installation won’t be the large scale farces, we’ve seen in recent years.

 

 

 

January 22, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Rail Engineer On Hydrogen Trains

This article on Rail Engineer is entitled Hydrail Comes Of Age.

It is a serious look at hydrogen-powered trains.

This is typical information-packed paragraph.

Instead of diesel engines, the iLint has underframe-mounted traction motors driven by a traction inverter. Also mounted on the underframe is a lithium-ion battery pack supplied by Akasol and an auxiliary converter to power the train’s systems. On the roof is a Hydrogenics HD200-AT power pack which packages six HyPMTM HD30 fuel cells, with common manifolds and controls, and X-STORE hydrogen tanks supplied by Hexagon xperion which store 89kg of hydrogen on each car at 350 bar. These lightweight tanks have a polymer inner liner, covered with carbon fibres soaked in resin and wrapped in fibreglass.

They have interesting things to say about the trains and the production and delivery of the hydrogen, which can be what they call green hydrogen produced by electricity generated by wind power.

This is said about supplying the hydrogen.

It takes 15 minutes to refuel the iLint, which holds 178kg of hydrogen supplied at a pressure 350 bar. It consumes this at the rate of 0.3kg per kilometre. Thus, Lower Saxony’s fleet of 14 trains, covering, say, 600 kilometres a day, will require 2.5 tonnes of hydrogen per day. If this was produced by electrolysis, a wind farm of 10MW generating capacity would be required to power the required electrolysis plant with suitable back up. This, and sufficient hydrogen storage, will be required to ensure resilience of supply.

These are the concluding paragraphs.

With all these benefits, a long-term future in which all DMUs have been replaced by HMUs is a realistic goal. However, the replacement, or retrofitting, of 3,000 DMUs and the provision of the required hydrogen infrastructure would be a costly investment taking many years.

Germany has already taken its first steps towards this goal.

For myself, I am not sceptical about the technology that creates electricity from pure hydrogen, but I think there are design issues with hydrogen-powered trains in the UK.

The German trains, which are built by Alsthom and should start test runs in 2018, take advantage of the space above the train in the loading gauge to place the tanks for the hydrogen.

Our smaller loading gauge would probably preclude this and the tanks might need to take up some of the passenger space.

But in my view, we have another much more serious problem.

Over the last twenty years, a large number of high quality trains like electric Desiros, Electrostars and Junipers, and diesel Turbostars have been delivered and are still running on the UK network.

It could be that these trains couldn’t be converted to hydrogen, without perhaps devoting a carriage to the hydrogen tank, the electricity generator and the battery needed to support the hydrogen power.

It is for this reason, that I believe that if we use hydrogen power, it should be used with traditional electrification and virtually unmodified trains.

A Typical Modern Electric Train

Well! Perhaps not yet, but my view of what a typical electric multiple unit, will look like in ten years is as follows.

  • Ability to work with 25 KVAC  overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification or onboard battery power.
  • Ability to switch power source automatically.
  • Batteries would handle regenerative braking.
  • Energy-efficient train design.
  • Good aerodynamics.
  • Most axles would be powered for fast acceleration and smooth braking.
  • Efficient interior design to maximise passenger numbers that can be carried in comfort.
  • A sophisticated computer with route and weather profiles, passenger numbers would optimise the train.

The battery would be sized, such that it gave a range, that was appropriate to the route.

In an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

As I’m talking about a train that has taken energy efficiency to the ultimate, I think it would be reasonable to assume that 3 kWh per vehicle mile is attainable.

As I believe that most axles would be powered, I feel that it would be electrically efficient for a battery to be fitted into each car.

Suppose we had a five-car train with a 30 kWh battery in each car.

This would give a total installed battery capacity of 150 kWh. Divide by five and three and this gives a useful emergency range of ten miles.

These facts put the battery size into perspective.

  • , 30 kWh is the size of the larger battery available for a Nissan Leaf.
  • A New Routemaster bus has a battery of 75 kWh.

Where will improved battery technology take us in the next decade?

Use Of Hydrogen Power With 750 VDC Third-Rail Electrification

This extract from the Wikipedia entry for third-rail, explains the working of third-rail electrification.

The trains have metal contact blocks called shoes (or contact shoes or pickup shoes) which make contact with the conductor rail. The traction current is returned to the generating station through the running rails. The conductor rail is usually made of high conductivity steel, and the running rails are electrically connected using wire bonds or other devices, to minimize resistance in the electric circuit. Contact shoes can be positioned below, above, or beside the third rail, depending on the type of third rail used; these third rails are referred to as bottom-contact, top-contact, or side-contact, respectively.

If a line is powered by third-rail electrification, it needs to be fed with power every two miles or so, due to the losses incurred in electricity passing along the steel conductor rail.

I suspect that Network Rail and our world-leading rail manufacturers have done as much as they can to reduce electrical losses.

Or have they? Wikipedia says this.

One method for reducing current losses (and thus increase the spacing of feeder/sub stations, a major cost in third rail electrification) is to use a composite conductor rail of a hybrid aluminium/steel design. The aluminium is a better conductor of electricity, and a running face of stainless steel gives better wear.

Suppose instead of having continuous third-rail electrification, lengths of electrification with the following characteristic were to be installed.

  • Hybrid aluminium/steel rails.
  • Power is supplied at the middle.
  • Power is only supplied when a train is in contact with the rail.

All trains would need to have batteries to run between electrified sections.

The length and frequency of the electrified sections would vary.

  • If a section was centred on a station, then the length must be such, that a train accelerating away can use third-rail power to get to operating speed.
  • Sections could be installed on uphill parts of the line.
  • On long level sections of line without junctions, the electrified sections could be more widely spaced.
  • Battery power could be used to take trains through complicated junctions and crossovers, to cut costs and the difficulties of electrification.
  • Electrified section woulds generally be placed , where power was easy to provide.

So where does hydrogen-power come in?

Obtaining the power for the track will not always be easy, so some form of distributed power will be needed.

  • A small solar farm could be used.
  • A couple of wind turbines might be appropriate.
  • In some places, small-scale hydro-electric power could even be used.

Hydrogen power and especially green hydrogen power could be a viable alternative.

  • It would comprise a hydrogen tank, an electricity generator and a battery to store energy.
  • The tank could be buried for safety reasons.
  • The installation would be placed at trackside to allow easy replenishment by tanker-train.
  • It could also be used in conjunction with intermittent solar and wind power.

The tanker-train would have these characteristics.

  • It could be a converted electrical multiple unit like a four-car Class 319 train.
  • Both 750 VDC and 25 KVAC operating capability would be retained.
  • One car would have a large hydrogen tank.
  • A hydrogen-powered electricity generator would be fitted to allow running on non-electrified lines and give a go-anywhere capability.
  • A battery would probably be needed, to handle discontinuous electrification efficiently.
  • It might even have facilities for a workshop, so checks could be performed on the trackside power system

Modern digital signalling, which is being installed across the UK, may will certainly have a part to play in the operation of the trackside power systems.

The position of all trains will be accurately known, so the trackside power system would switch itself on, as the train approached, if it was a train that could use the power.

Use Of Hydrogen Power With 25 KVAC Overhead |Electrification

The big difference between installation of 25 KVAC overhead electrification and 750 VDC third-rail electrification, is that the the overhead installation is more complicated.

  • Installing the piling for the gantries seems to have a tremendous propensity to go wrong.
  • Documentation of what lies around tracks installed in the Victorian Age can be scant.
  • The Victorians used to like digging tunnels.
  • Bridges and other structures need to be raised to give clearance for the overhead wires.
  • There are also those, who don’t like the visual impact of overhead electrification.

On the plus side though, getting power to 25 KVAC overhead electrification often needs just a connection at one or both ends.

The electrification in the Crossrail tunnel for instance, is only fed with electricity from the ends.

So how could hydrogen help with overhead electrification?

Electrifying some routes like those through the Pennines are challenging to say the least.

  • Long tunnels are common.
  • There are stations like Hebden Bridge in remote locations, that are Listed Victorian gems.
  • There are also those, who object to the wires and gantries.
  • Some areas have severe weather in the winter that is capable of bringing down the wires.

In some ways, the Government’s decision not to electrify, but use bi-mode trains is not only a cost-saving one, but a prudent one too.

Bi-mode trains across the Pennines would have the advantage, that they could use short lengths of electrification to avoid the use of environmentally-unfriendly diesel.

I have read and lost an article, where Greater Anglia have said, that they would take advantage of short lengths of electrification with their new Class 755 trains.

Electrifying Tunnels

If there is one place, where Network Rail have not had any electrification problems, it is in tunnels, where Crossrail and the Severn Tunnel have been electrified without any major problems being reported.

Tunnels could be developed as islands of electrification, that allow the next generation of trains to run on electricity and charge their batteries.

But they would need to have a reliable power source.

As with third-rail electrification, wind and solar power, backed by hydrogen could be a reliable source of power.

Electrifying Stations With Third Rail

It should be noted, that the current generation of new trains like Aventra, Desiro Cities and Hitachi’s A-trains can all work on both 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail systems, when the appropriate methods of current collection are fitted.

Network Rail have shown recently over Christmas, where they installed several short lengths of new third-rail electrification South of London, that installing third-rail electrification, is not a challenging process, provided you can find the power.

If the power supply to the third-rail is intelligent and is only switched on, when a train is on top, the railway will be no more a safety risk, than a route run by diesel.

The picture shows the Grade II Listed Hebden Bridge station.

Third-rail electrification with an independent reliable power supply could be a way of speeding hybrid trains on their way.

Power Supply In Remote Places

Communications are essential to the modern railway.

Trains and train operators need to be able to have good radio connections to signalling and control systems.

Passengers want to access wi-fi and 4G mobile phone networks.

More base stations for communication networks will be needed in remote locations.

Wind, solar and hydrogen will all play their part.

I believe in the future, that remote routes in places like Wales, Scotland and parts of England, will see increasing numbers of trains and consequently passengers., many of whom will be walking in the countryside.

Could this lead to upgrading of remote stations and the need for reliable independent power supplies?

Conclusion

I am very much coming to the conclusion, that because of the small UK loading gauge, hydrogen-powered trains would only have limited applications in the UK. Unless the train manufacturers come up with a really special design.

But using hydrogen as an environmentally-friendly power source for UK railways to power electrification, perhaps in combination with wind and solar is a definite possibility!

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January 7, 2018 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Is The Gospel Oak To Barking Line Really Back On Track?

This article in the Waltham Forest Echo is entitled Back On Track.

It details progress on the upgrading of the Gospel Oak To Barking Line.

This is a summary of the article.

  • The electrification works will finish by Sunday, the 14th of January.
  • The Class 172 trains will resume service on that day.
  • Testing of the electrification will be ongoing.
  • The bridge at Crouch Hill needs sorting. Probably over Easter.
  • The new Class 710 trains are supposed to be arriving.
  • There will be extra late night services.

I’ll believe it, when I see it!

 

December 29, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 5 Comments

Hitachi Battery Trains On The Great Western Railway

The slow pace of the electrification on the Great Western Main Line has become a big stick with which to beat Network Rail.

But are rolling stock engineers going to pull Network Rail out of their hole?

On page 79 of the January 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, Nick Hughes, who is the Sales Director of Hitachi Rail Europe outlines how the manufacturer is embracing the development of battery technology.

He is remarkably open.

I discuss what he says in detail in Hitachi’s Thoughts On Battery Trains.

But here’s an extract.

Nick Hughes follows his description of the DENCHA; a Japanese battery train, with this prediction.

I can picture a future when these sorts of trains are carrying out similar types of journeys in the UK, perhaps by installing battery technology in our Class 395s to connect to Hastings via the non-electrified Marshlink Line from Ashford for example.

This would massively slice the journey time and heklp overcome the issue of electrification and infrastructure cases not stacking up. There are a large number of similar routes like this all across the country.

It is a prediction, with which I could agree.

I conclude the post with this conclusion.

It is the most positive article about battery trains, that I have read so far!

As it comes direct from one of the train manufacturers in a respected journal, I would rate it high on quality reporting.

Hitachi Battery Train Technology And Their UK-Built Trains

The section without electrification on the Marshlink Line between Ashford International and Ore stations has the following characteristics.

  • It is under twenty-five miles long.
  • It is a mixture of double and single-track railway.
  • It has nine stations.
  • It has a sixty mph operating speed.

As the line is across the flat terrain of Romney Marsh, I don’t think that the power requirements would be excessive.

In the Modern Railway article, Nick Hughes suggests that battery technology could be installed in Class 395 trains.

The Class 395 train is part of a family of trains, Hitachi calls A-trains. The family includes.

In Japan, another member of the family is the BEC819, which is the DENCHA, that is mentioned in the Modern Railways article.

As a time-expired electrical engineer, I would think, that if Hitachi’s engineers have done their jobs to a reasonable standard, that it would not be impossible to fit batteries to all of the A-train family of trains, which would include all train types, built at Newton Aycliffe for the UK.

In Japan the DENCHAs run on the Chikuhō Main Line, which has three sections.

  • Wakamatsu Line – Wakamatsu–Orio, 10.8 km
  • Fukuhoku Yutaka Line – Orio–Keisen, 34.5 km
  • Haruda Line – Keisen–Haruda, 20.8 km

Only the middle section is electrified.

It looks to me, that the Japanese have chosen a very simple route, where they can run on electrification for a lot of the way and just use batteries at each end.

Bombardier used a similar low-risk test in their BEMU Trial with a Class 379 train in 2015.

So How Will Battery Trains Be used On the Great Western?

On the Great Western Main Line, all long distance trains and some shorter-distance ones will be Class 80x trains.

The size of battery in the DENCHA can be estimated using a rule, given by Ian Walmsley.

In an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

So the energy needed to power the DENCHA, which is a two-car battery train on the just under twenty miles without electrification of  the Chikuhō Main Line in a one way trip would be between 112 and 187 kWh.

A Battery-Powered Class 801 Train

The Class 801 train is Hitachi’s all-electric train, of which Great Western Railway have ordered thirty-six of the closely-related five-car Class 800 train and twenty-one of the nine-car units.

The difference between the two classes of train, is only the number of generator units fitted.

  • Trains can be converted from Class 800 to Class 801 by removing generator units.
  • Bi-mode Class 800 trains have a generator unit for each powered car.
  • The all-electric Class 801 train has a single generator unit, in case of electrical power failure.
  • When trains couple and uncouple, the train’s computer system determines the formation of the new train and drives and manages the train accordingly.

If I was designing the train, I would design a battery module, that replaced a generator unit

This leads me to think, that a five-car Class 801 train, could have one generator unit and up to four battery modules.

  • The computer would decide what it’s got and control the train accordingly.
  • The generator unit and battery power could be used together to accelerate the train or at other times where high power is needed.
  • If the batteries failed, the generator unit would limp the train to a safe place.
  • The number of battery units would depend on the needs of the route.

It would be a true tri-mode train; electric, diesel and battery.

I will now look at some routes, that could see possible applications of a battery version of Class 80x trains.

Cardiff To Swansea

I’ll start with the most controversial and political of the cutbacks in electrification.

At present plans exist to take the electrification on the Great Western as far as Cardiff Central station, by the end of 2018.

The distance between Cardiff Central and Swansea stations is forty-six miles, so applying the Ian Walmsley formula and assuming the train is five-cars, we have an energy usage for a one-way trip between the two cities of between 690 and 1150 kWh.

As the Class 80x trains are a modern efficient design, I suspect that a figure towards the lower end of the range will apply.

But various techniques can be used to stretch the range of the train on battery power.

  • From London to Cardiff, the line will be fully-electrified, so on arrival in the Welsh capital, the batteries could be fully charged.
  • The electrification can be continued for a few miles past Cardiff Central station, so that acceleration to line speed can be achieved using overhead wires.
  • Electrification could also be installed on the short stretch of track between Swansea station and the South Wales Main Line.
  • There are three stops between Cardiff and Swansea and regenerative braking can be used to charge the batteries.
  • The single generator unit could be used to help accelerate the train if necessary.
  • There are only two tph on the route, so efficient driving and signalling could probably smooth the path and save energy.
  • Less necessary equipment can be switched off, when running on batteries.

Note. that the power/weight and power/size ratios of batteries will also increase, as engineers find better ways to build batteries.

The trains would need to be charged at Swansea, but Hitachi are building a depot in the city, which is shown in these pictures.

It looks like they are electrifying the depot.

Surely, enough electrification can be put up at Swansea to charge the trains and help them back to the South Wales Main Line..

The mathematics show what is possible.

Suppose the following.

  • Hitachi can reduce the train’s average energy consumption to 2 kWh per carriage-mile, when running on battery power.
  • Electrification at Cardiff and Swansea reduces the length of battery use to forty miles.

This would reduce the battery size needed to 400 kWh, which could mean that on a five-car train with four battery modules, each battery module would be just 100 kWh. This compares well with the 75 kWh battery in a New Routemaster bus.

Will it happen?

We are probably not talking about any serious risk to passengers, as the worst that can happen to any train, is that it breaks down or runs out of power in the middle of nowhere. But then using the single generator unit, the train will limp to the nearest station.

But think of all the wonderful publicity for Hitachi and everybody involved, if the world’s first battery high speed train, runs twice an hour between Paddington and Swansea.

Surely, that is an example of the Can-Do attitude of Isambard Kingdom Brunel?

Paddington To Oxford

The route between Paddington and Oxford stations is electrified as far as Didcot Parkway station.

The distance between Didcot Parkway and Oxford stations is about ten miles, so applying the Ian Walmsley formula and assuming the train is five-cars, we have an energy usage for the return trip to Oxford from Didcot of between 300 and 500 kWh.

If the five-car train has one generator unit,four battery modules and has an energy usage to the low end, then each battery module would need to handle under 100 kWh.

There are plans to develop a  South-facing bay platform at Oxford station and to save wasting energy reversing the train by running up and down to sidings North of the station, I suspect that this platform must be built before battery trains can be introduced to Oxford.

If it’s not, the train could use the diesel generator to change platforms.

The platform could also be fitted with a system to charge the battery during turnround.

Paddington To Bedwyn

The route between Paddington and Bedwyn is electrified as far as Reading station, but there are plans to electrify as far as Newbury station.

The distance between Newbury and Bedwyn stations is about thirteen miles, so applying the Ian Walmsley formula and assuming the train is five-cars, we have an energy usage for the return trip to Bedwyn from Newbury of between 390 and 520 kWh.

As with Paddington to Oxford, the required battery size wouldn’t be excessive.

Paddington To Henley-on-Thames

The route between Paddington and Henley-on-Thames station is probably one of those routes, where electric trains must be run for political reasons.

The Henley Branch Line is only four miles long.

It would probably only require one battery module and would be a superb test route for the new train.

Paddington To Weston-super-Mare

Some Paddington to Bristol trains extend to Weston-super-Mare station.

Weston-super-Mare to the soon-to-be-electrified Bristol Temple Meads station is less than twenty miles, so if  Swansea can be reached on battery power, then I’m certain that Weston can be reached in a similar way.

Other Routes

Most of the other routes don’t have enough electrification to benefit from trains with a battery capability.

One possibility though is Paddington to Cheltenham and Gloucester along the Golden Valley Line. The length of the section without electrification is forty-two  miles, but unless a means to charge the train quickly at Cheltenham station is found, it is probably not feasible.

It could be possible though to create a real tri-mode train with a mix of diesel generator units and battery modules.

This train might have the following characteristics.

  • Five cars.
  • A mix of  generator units and battery modules.
  • Enough generator units to power the train on the stiffest lines without electrification.
  • Ability to collect power from 25 KVAC overhead electrification
  • Ability to collect power from 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Note.

  1. The battery modules would be used for regenerative braking in all power modes.
  2. The ability to use third rail electrification would be useful when running to Brighton, Exeter, Portsmouth and Weymouth.

The train could also have a sophisticated computer system, that would choose power source according to route,timetable,  train loading, traffic conditions and battery energy level.

The objective would be to run routes like Paddington to Cheltenham, Gloucester to Weymouth and Cardiff to Portsmouth Harbour, as efficiently as possible.

Collateral Advantages

Several of the routes out of Paddington could easily be worked using bi-mode Class 800 trains.

  1. But using battery trains to places like Bedwyn, Henley, Oxford and Weston-super-Mare is obviously better for the environment and probably for ticket sales too!
  2. If places like Bedwyn, Henley and Oxford are served by Class 801 trains with a battery option, it could mean that they could just join the throng of 125 mph trains going in and out of London.
  3. Battery trains would save money on electrification.

I also suspect, that the running costs of a battery train are less than those of using a bi-mode or diesel trains.

Conclusion

Hitachi seem to have the technology, whereby their A-train family can be fitted with batteries, as they have done it in Japan and their Sales Director  in the UK, has said it can be done on a Class 395 train to use the Marshlink Line.

We may not see Hitachi trains using batteries for a couple of years, but it certainly isn’t fantasy.

Great Western Railway certainly need them!

 

 

 

December 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Struggle Continues On The Gospel Oak To Barking Line

This article in the Islington Gazette is entitled New Overground Trains ‘By Spring’ – But Five Months Of cCosures In Crouch Hill.

It appears that the following will happen on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

  • The bridge at Crouch Hill will be rebuilt to allow space for the overhead wires.
  • The diesel trains will continue on the line from the 15th of January.
  • The new electrification will be tested on the line.

Nothing is said, when the much-needed four-car Class 710 electric trains will start running on the line.

Everybody seems to be hoping for Spring, but I suspect that date is optimistic, given Network Rail’s record on this line.

The meeting or missing of the next milestone of the 15th of January, will tell us an awful lot.

I hope the surveyors and managers, who decided that the Crouch Hill bridge didn’t need to be replaced are making a better job of managing their allotments and gardens!

December 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Hydrogen-Powered Railway Electrification

This may seem rather bizarre, but I’m not talking about electrifying whole lines.

There appears to me to be a need for small power sources to power railway electrification and other rail-related equipment and facilities, that are not connected to the electricity grid.

Opportunities could be.

  • Electrifying tunnels.
  • Boosting supply on third-rail systems, which need a connection every two or three miles.
  • Electrifying short branch lines.
  • Powering level crossings.
  • Powering drainage pumps.
  • Powering isolated stations.

But anywhere close to a railway that needed a reliable electricity source would be a possibility.

Hydrogen As A Source Of Electricity

If hydrogen is used in a fuel cell to generate electricity, the only by-product is water.

Hydrogen is already used to power buses in London

It obviously works, but I’ve always been puzzled about why it isn’t used in more road vehicles. It could be that the logistics problems of refuelling are too complicated and expensive.

Could it be less complicated with trains?

Alsthom have recently launched a hydrogen-powered train, which I talked about in Is Hydrogen A Viable Fuel For Rail Applications?. So they must think it is a viable fuel for trains.

According to the Alsthom video in my related post, the Alsthom Coradia iLint train uses a combination of a hydrogen-powered electricity generator and batteries to provide continuous power and handle regenerative braking.

So why not use hydrogen-power to generate electricity at locations alongside the railway?

Suppose the small power station was providing power to a 750 VDC third-rail electrified railway. In a remote area, the small power station could be using solar panels or wind turbines coupled with batteries to provide a continuous electricity supply.

Intelligent Control System

The power station would be controlled so that it was efficient.

Ensuring Safety

People worry about the safety of hydrogen, as we’ve all seen film of the Hindenburg.

I would design a hydrogen-powered electricity generator for rail use to be buried at the side of the track, with only necessary connections above the surface.

The hydrogen-powered generators would also be contained within the railway security fencing.

What Trains Could Be Powered?

Using hydrogen at track-side means that any unmodified  electric or bi-mode train can benefit from zero-carbon hydrogen-power.

Distributing The Hydrogen

The obvious way to distribute the hydrogen would be by train. It would surely be possible to design a hydrogen-powered locomotive and tanker, which could deliver the hydrogen between the production source and the various generators.

Hydrogen Availability

Hydrogen is variable around the UK, but in certain areas there are large amounts of the gas created in chemical plants with rail access.

Conclusion

I won’t be consigning this idea to the bin.

 

 

 

 

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

Between Hebden Bridge And Burnley Manchester Road Stations In The Snow

I took these pictures from a train between Hebden Bridge and Burnley Manchester Road stations on the Calder Valley Line.

I believe that the area has some of the most scenic rail lines in the UK.

Electrification

It runs between the hills with lots of bridges and viaducts.

There are four tunnels; Weasel Hall , Castle Hill , Horsfall and Millwood on this section of the route.

It would not be an easy line to electrify with 25 KVAC overhead wires, from an engineering, political or environmental point of view.

This is a route though that needs to be improved.

I travelled on a Class 158 train, which are a 90 mph diesel multiple unit. But it was struggling to do 40 mph in the conditions.

Conclusion

Electrification may be an ideal, but Network Rail should first improve the line, so that the current trains and the future 100 mph Class 195 trains can realise their full potential.

 

December 12, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hebden Bridge Station

Hebden Bridge Station is Grade II Listed and is a busy station in West Yorkshire on the Calder Valley Line.

The service through the station is being improved.

The Wikipedia entry for the station has a section called Future Improvements. This is said.

The station will see a variety of improvements to facilities and train services from March 2017 onwards, as part of an investment package for the Calder Valley line as a whole. New lifts are finally to be installed to make both platforms fully accessible, whilst track and signalling upgrades will help reduce journey times in both directions and allow more trains to run to/from Bradford. This will result in the closure of the listed signal box here by October 2018, with control passing over to the Rail Operating Centre at York. New rolling stock and timetable improvements will then follow, with regular through trains to Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Airport and Chester by late 2019.

Note the parcel lifts in the pictures, which will be converted for passenger use.

Turnback Facility

The pictures also show the turnback facility at the station, which allows trains to arrive from the West in the Westbound platform and then changeover to the Eastbound platform to go back to Manchester or Preston or perhaps other destinations in the future.

Electrification

When I first saw this Victorian station, I came to the conclusion, that it would be difficult to electrify in a sympathetic manner with 25 KVAC overhead wires, without upsetting English Heritage.

Now the Government has decided that there will only be selective electrification, I suspect Network Rail will file Hebden Bridge station in the tray marked Too Difficult.

But I also think that the station could be electrified using innovative methods to improve the passenger service in terms of frequency and times.

Consider.

  • Modern bi-mode trains can switch between power sources automatically.
  • Modern electric trains can raise and lower the pantograph quickly and automatically.
  • Most modern electric trains made for the UK, can be fitted with third-rail contact shoes.
  • To the West of the station, there are a succession of tunnels, that might be possible to electrify using overhead rails.
  • Zero-carbon power sources for short lengths of electrification exist, as I wrote about in Solar Power Could Make Up “Significant Share” Of Railway’s Energy Demand.
  • Although solar power might not be appropriate here, short lengths of third-rail electrification may be suitable.
  • The turnback facility could also be electrified with third-rail to charge trains fitted with batteries.

Somewhere in my ramblings, I’m sure a solution exists to make Hebden Bridge an environmentally-friendly power station in the heart of the Pennines.

The Ordsall Effects

There is now a large brown steel elephant in the North, in the shape of the Ordsall Chord in Manchester, that connects most of Central Manchester’s stations together and to the Airport.

  • Hebden Bridge is between thirty and forty-five minutes from Manchester Victoria station, depending on if you get a  semi-fast or stopping train.
  • Northern have plans to extend these Manchester Victoria to Leeds services all the way to the Airport.
  • In fact from Monday, some of these services now terminate at Manchester Oxford Road station.
  • When I mentioned to the lady in the cafe, that services would go to Manchester Airport within months, she was surprised and very pleased.

I suspect that Hebden Bridge will be one of the tourism centres of the North that will substantially benefit from a direct link to Manchester Airport created by the Ordsall Chord.

But this could only be the start.

To maximise the benefits of the Ordsall Chord, Northern and Network Rail will want to connect services that go North and South of Manchester, back-to-back across the City.

Northern have already said, that they’ll be trains going from Hebden Bridge to Chester and Liverpool by late 2019.

But I suspect these two cities won’t be the only ones getting a quality service from Hebden Bridge.

If the service ran directly over the Ordsall Chord, then historic Buxton and well-connected Crewe must be possibilities.

That turnback facility is starting to look important, as not all services will be needed to cross the Pennines.

Westwards To Preston, Blackpool and Liverpool

Currently, the only Westbound service is an hourly train to Preston and Blackpool North.

It is not enough.

The proposed Liverpool service from Hebden Bridge, that starts in late 2019, can either go via Manchester or Preston.

If it were to be the latter, a second fast train every hour, connecting Burnley, Blackburn and Preston would certainly be welcomed on what can be a very overcrowded line.

As all Calder Valley Line services stop at Hebden Bridge, the Ordsall Chord and Northern’s plans seem to be giving the town, a more than worthwhile economic boost.

December 12, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Solar Power Could Make Up “Significant Share” Of Railway’s Energy Demand

The title of this post is the same ass this article in Global Rail News.

This is the first three paragraphs.

Solar panels could be used to power a sizeable chunk of Britain’s DC electric rail network, a new report has suggested.

Climate change charity 10:10 and Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab looked at the feasibility of using solar panels alongside the track to directly power the railway.

The report claims that 15 per cent of the commuter network in Kent, Sussex and Wessex could be powered directly by 200 small solar farms. It suggested that solar panels could also supply 6 per cent of the London Underground’s energy requirements and 20 per cent of the Merseyrail network.

In another article in today’s Times about the study, this is said.

Installing solar farms and batteries alongside lines also could provide the extra energy needed to power more carriages on busy routes that otherwise would require prohibitively expensive upgrades to electricity networks.

Note the use of batteries mentioned in the extract from The Times. This would be sensible design as power can be stored, when the sun is shining and used when it isn’t!

If you want to read the full report, click here!

I will lay out my thoughts in the next few sections.

Is This Technique More Applicable To Rail-Based Direct Current Electrification?

All of the routes mentioned for application of these solar farms,; Southern Electric (Kent, Sussex and Wessex), London Underground and Merseyrail are electrified using one of two rail-based direct current systems.

Consider the following.

Powering The Track

In the September 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Wires Through The Weald, which discusses electrification of the Uckfield Branch in Sussex, as proposed by Chris Gibb. This is an extract.

He (Chris Gibb) says the largest single item cost is connection to the National Grid, and a third-rail system would require feeder stations every two or three miles, whereas overhead wires may require only a single feeder station for the entire Uckfield Branch.

It would appear that as rail-based direct current electrification needs a lot of feeder stations along the line, this might be better suited for solar power and battery electrification systems.

Consider.

  • Most of the feeder stations would not need a connection to the National Grid.
  • Solar panels generate low direct current voltages, which are probably cheaper to convert to 750 VDC than 25 KVAC.
  • In installing electrification on a line like the Uckfield Branch, you would install the extra rails needed and a solar farm and battery system every two or three miles.
  • With the situation mentioned in the extract from The Times, you might add a solar farm and battery system, to a section of track, where more power is needed.
  • For efficiency and safety, power would only be sent to the rail when a train was present.

I trained as an Electrical Engineer and I very much feel, that solar power and battery systems are better suited to powering rail-based electrification. Although, they could be used for the overhead DC systems we use in the UK for trams.

Modular Design

Each of the solar farm and battery systems could be assembled from a series of factory-built modules.

This would surely make for a cost-effective installation, where capacity and capabilities could be trailored to the location.

Regenerative Braking

Modern trains use regenerative braking, which means that braking energy is converted into electricity. The electricity is handled in one of the following ways.

  1. It is turned into heat using resistors on the train roof.
  2. It is returned through the electrification system and used to power nearby trains.
  3. It is stored in a battery on the train.

Note.

  1. Option 1 is not efficient.
  2. Option 2 is commonly used on the London Underground and other rail-based electrification systems.
  3. Option 2 needs special transformers  to handle 25 KVAC systems.
  4. Option 3 is efficient and is starting to be developed for new trains and trams.

If batteries are available at trackside, then these can also be used to store braking energy.

I believe that using solar farm and battery systems would also enable efficient regenerative braking on the lines they powered.

But again, because of the transformer issue, this would be much easier on rail-bassed direct current electrification systems.

Could Wind Turbines Be Used?

Both solar farms and wind turbines are not guaranteed to provide continuous power, but putting a wind turbine or two by the solar farm would surely increase the efficiency of the system, by generating energy in two complimentary ways and then storing it until a train came past.

Wind energy could also be available for more hours in the day and could even top up the battery in the dark.

In fact, why stop with wind turbines?

Any power source could be used. On a coastal railway, it might be wave or tidal power.

Could Hydrogen Power Be Used?

I think that hydrogen power could be another way to create the energy needed to back up the intermittent power of solar farms and wind turbines.

I put a few notes in Hydrogen-Powered Railway Electrification.

 

Would The Technique Work With Battery Trains?

Most certainly!

I haven’t got the time or the software to do a full simulation, but I suspect that a route could have an appropriate number of solar farm and battery systems and each would give the battery train a boost, as it went on its way.

Would The Technique Work With 25 KVAC Electrification?

It would be more expensive due to the inverter involved to create the 25 KVAC needed.

But I feel it would be another useful tool in perhaps electrifying a tunnel or a short length of track through a station.

It could also be used to charge a train working a branch line on batteries.

Would The Technique Work With Dual Voltage Trains?

Many trains in the UK can work with both third-rail 750 VDC third-rail and 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

Classes of trains include.

  • The Class 319 trains built for Thameslink in the 1980s.
  • The Class 345 trains being built for Crossrail.
  • The Class 387 trains built for various operators.
  • The Class 700 trains recently built for Thamelink.

There are also other classes that could be modified to run on both systems.

Provided they are fitted with third-rail shoes, there is no reason to stop dual-voltage trains running on a line electrified using solar farms and batteries.

The technique could surely be used to electrify a branch line from a main line electrified using 25 KVAC.

Consider Henley Branch Line.

  • It is four-and-a half miles long.
  • It is not electrified.
  • It connects to the electrified Great Western Main Line at Twyford station.
  • The line can handle trains up to six-cars.
  • All services on the line are worked by diesel trains.

Services consist of a shuttle between Henley-on-Thames and Twyford, with extra services to and from Paddington in the Peak and during the Regatta.

Network Rail were planning to electrify the line using 25 KVAC overhead electrification, but this has been cancelled, leaving the following options for Paddington services.

  • Using battery trains, possibly based on the Class 387 trains, which would be charged between Paddington and Twyford.
  • Using Class 800 bi-mode trains.
  • Using Class 769 bi-mode trains.

All options would mean that the diesel shuttle continued or it could be replaced with a Class 769 bi-mode train.

An alternative would be to electrify the branch using third-rail fitted with solar farm and battery systems.

  • All services on the line could be run by Class 387 trains.
  • Voltage changeover would take place in Twyford station.

There are several lines that could be served in this way.

Installation Costs

I’ll repeat my earlier quote from the Modern Railways article.

He (Chris Gibb) says the largest single item cost is connection to the National Grid, and a third-rail system would require feeder stations every two or three miles, whereas overhead wires may require only a single feeder station for the entire Uckfield Branch.

If you were going to electrify, the twenty-four non-electrified miles of the Marshlink Line, with traditional Southern  Electric third-rail, you would need around 8-12 National Grid connections to power the line. As the Romney Marsh is probably not blessed with a dense electricity network, although it does have a nuclear power station, so although putting in the extra rails may be a relatively easy and affordable project, providing the National Grid connection may not be as easy.

But use solar farm and battery systems on the remoter areas of the line and the number of National Grid connections will be dramatically reduced.

Good National Grid connections are obviously available at the two ends of the line at Hastings and Ashford International stations. I also suspect that the electricity network at Rye station could support a connection for the electrification.

This could mean that six to eight solar farm and battery systems would be needed to electrify this important line.

I obviously, don’t have the actual costs, but this could be a very affordable way of electrifying a remote third-rail line.

Which Lines Could Be Electrified Using Solar Farm And Battery Systems?

For a line to be electrified and powered by solar farm and battery systems, I think the line must have some of the following characteristics.

  • It is a line that is suitable for rail-based direct current electrification.
  • It is not a particularly stiff line with lots of gradients.
  • It is in a rural area, where National Grid connections will be difficult and expensive.
  • It has a connection to other lines electrified by rail-based systems.

Lines to electrify are probably limited to  Southern Electric (Kent, Sussex and Wessex), London Underground and Merseyrail.

I also suspect there are several branch lines that could be reopened or electrified using rail-based electrification.

Conclusion

It’s a brilliantly simple concept that should be developed.

It is well suited to be used with rail-based direct current electrification.

It would be ideal for the electrification of the Uckfield Branch.

 

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments