When I wrote Could There Be A Battery-Powered Class 319 Flex Train?, not much information had been published on the Railbaar, but a Railbaar could be another tool to use with a Class 319 Flex train.
This is a paragraph from the advance copy I have of Porterbrook’s brochure for the Class 319 Flex train.
By way of an example, Porterbrook determined that the most arduous route would be Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton, which has a steep gradient and multiple stops along its 25 mile route (8 miles of which is electrified). This analysis was included to give confidence that the Class 319 Flex would be comparable to existing Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) technology across a range of different routes, stopping patterns and gradients.
Elsewhere in the brochure, they say this.
A large battery option was shown to be heavy, would require a lot of space and have long recharge times.
On the other hand, they have stated that batteries could be used to augment diesel power.
Challenging Rail Lines Up Steep Gradients in the UK
Lines like the Buxton Line are not unusual in the UK. The following challenging.
- Bromsgrove to Barnt Green up the infamous Lickey Incline – non-stop
- Bolton to Blackburn up the Ribble Valley Line – 4 intermediate stops
- Blackburn to Clitheroe up the Ribble Valley Line – 3 intermediate stops
- Rose Grove to Colne up the East Lancashire Line – 5 intermediate stops
- Exeter St. Davids to Barnstaple up the Tarka Line – 10 intermediate stops
- Plymouth to Gunnislake up the Tamar Valley Line – 7 intermediate stops
- Cardiff Central to Aberdate up the Aberdare Branch of the Methyr Line – 13 intermediate stops
- Cardiff Central to Ebbw Vale Town up the Ebbw Valley Railway – 5 intermediate stops
- Cardiff Central to Merthyr Tydfil up the Merthyr Line – 13 intermediate stops
- Cardiff Central to Rhymney up the Rhymney Line – 16 intermediate stops
- Cardiff Central to Treherbert up the Rhondda Line – 16 intermediate stops
Our Victorian engineers never let a steep gradient get in the way of where they wanted to build a railway.
Could These Lines Be Electrified?
Only the Lickey Incline (1) is currently being electrified. This is a description of the incline from Wikipedia.
The Lickey Incline, south of Birmingham, is the steepest sustained main-line railway incline in Great Britain. The climb is a gradient of 1 in 37.7 (2.65% or 26.5‰ or 1.52°) for a continuous distance of two miles (3.2 km)
Youtube has a great deal of modern and historic video of the Lickey Incline. Some recent footage shows freight trains climbing the incline with the assistance of a banking engine at the rear.
I doubt if the two lines in Devon (5 and 6) will ever be electrified, The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England will never allow overhead wiring gantries to despoil the landscape along the routes, some of which is in a National Park.
If the Class 319 Flex train does a good job with the three Lancashire Lines around Blackburn (2,3 and 4), the decision to electrify will be pushed a decade or more into the future. I could certainly see, Bombardier, Stadler and perhaps a couple of other companies building a train based on the experience with a Class 319 Flex train, as a replacement.
Politicians will decide whether the Cardiff Valley Lines (7 to 11) are electrified, but I have a feeling that someone somewhere will have a better alternative to full traditional electrification.
The Cardiff Valley Lines
Consider these facts about the rail service on the Cardiff Valley Lines
- The lines are a vital lifeline to those that live in the South Wales Valleys.
- The area is not without its attraction, for those who like to be in the hills.
- Traffic on the lines varies throughout the day.
- Traffic up the Valleys is highest in the evening commuting Peak and after a big sporting event in Cardiff.
- Four-car trains are needed on the route.
- The current diesel trains are elderly and unreliable.
- There are plans to open new lines and stations and extend some of the existing lines further to the North.
But above all jobs and business and housing developments are needed in the Valleys.
An improved rail service could benefit a large number of people and interests.
The Class 319 Flex Train
The Class 319 Flex train started operational service thirty years ago as a 100 mph express commuter train running on the Thameslink route from Bedford to Brighton.
It may be a comparatively old train, but it has the following characteristics.
- It is based on the legendary Mark 3 coach, as used on the InterCity 125.
- It is four-cars.
- It is a dual-voltage train.
- Two rail-proven MAN diesels and an ABB alternator provide electric power away from electrification.
- It is a 100 mph train on an electrified main line.
- It has a speed of around 90 mph on diesel power.
- Drivers have told me, that the brakes are superb.
- It has a good reputation for reliability.
- It meets all the current disabled regulations.
But about all, like all Mark 3-based stock, it scrubs up well to any desired standard. In What Train Is This?, I showed the interior of a refurburbished thirty-year-old Class 150 train. Unrefurbished examples are typical of the stock that work the challenging lines.
Use Of A Railbaar With A Class 319 Flex Train
Porterbrook have said that the train’s electrical layout with a DC busbar connecting all xars, lends itself to adding a battery, which could be charged using the diesel power.
A typical layout of the Class 319 Flex train could be as follows.
- DTOC – A driving car with a diesel engine/alternator set underneath.
- PMOS – A motor car with a pantograph.
- TOSL – A trailer car with a toilet.
- DTOS – A driving car with a diesel engine/alternator set underneath.
I suspect that the battery would go under the TOSL.
The connection points for a Railbaar would be on the uncluttered roof of this car.
Railbaar would be a good add-on for a Class 319 Flex train, working an extension or branch line from an electrified line.
Possible Class 319 Flex Train Problems
The Class 319 train has two possible problems; the body is made of steel and the braking is not regenerative.
Despite being steel, their weight at 140 tonnes is lighter than many aluminium bodied trains, but they don’t have all the equipment like air-conditioning.
On the other hand, a similar train to a Class 319, survived the Oxshott Incident, where a 24-tonne cement mixer truck fell off a bridge onto the roof of the train.
Some Class 321 trains, which are similar to the Class 319 train, have been rebuilt with regenerative braking, so if that becomes a necessity for the Class 319 Flex train, I suspect an engineering solution is possible. Especially, as there is over a hundred Class 321 trains, which will be coming off-lease soon.
The Class 319 Flex Train And The Cardiff Valley Lines
There are eighty-six Class 319 trains, so there would be no problems finding a donor train to convert into a trial train for the Cardiff Valley Lines, if the Class 319 Flex train performs successfully on the Buxton Line.
- On the Buxton Line, trains climb 150 metres in 15 kilometres from the electrified station at Hazel Grove to Buxton.
- On the Merthyr Line, trains climb 168 metres in about 30 kilometres from Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil.
So it looks like Buxton is steeper, but the Merthyr Line is longer.
I suspect that a Class 319 Flex train will go into service on a trial basis in South Wales, to test performance and customer reaction.
If nothing, it will help define the specification for the trains that can work the Cardiff Valley Lines.
Energy Needed To Raise A Train To Merthyr Tydfil
I will make these assumptions.
- Merthyr Tydfil has an altitude of 179 metres.
- Cardiff Central station has an altitude of 11 metres.
- The train must be raised 168 metres
- A Class 319 train has a weight of 140 tonnes.
- A Class 319 train has a seated capacity of 319.
- A suitable battery would weigh about 2 tonnes.
Raising an empty four-car train similar to a Class 319 train, from Cardiff Central to Merthyr Tydfil will require 23,856,000 Kg-m or 65 KwH of energy.
Assuming a full load of 319 passengers at 80 Kg a time and that adds another 4,287,360 Kg-m or 12 KwH of energy.
My calculations are very rough.
The passengers get out at the top, so they are not energy that will be regenerated on the way down.
An Electrification Scheme For The Cardiff Valley Lines
The Cardiff Valley Lines were built with the main purpose of bringing coal from the valleys to the port of Cardiff for distribution and export by ship.
Now passengers are much more important, with commuting , leisure and tourism prominent.
Coming down is never a problem and a battery electric train with good brakes could handle a full load of passengers with few problems.
Going up is the problem, as the evening peak or a big rugby match in Cardiff can result in a full train having to be hauled up the valleys.
Similar problems are encountered on all the lines in my list to a certain extent, but without seeing the figures, I suspect the Cardiff Valley Lines are some of the most challenging.
Porterbrook have said, that they are not against using batteries on a Class 319 Flex train as a boost on difficult climbs.
So I think that a Class 319 Flex train fitted with an appropriate-sized battery could be a starting point.
But there is one big problem with a Class 319 Flex train. The Class 319 trains do not have regenerative braking, which could be used to charge the batteries on the way down from the valleys.
However, the very similar Class 321 train is being fitted with regenerative braking, so a possible Class 321 Flex train could charge the batteries on the way down.
When the train arrived in Cardiff, it could attach to a Railbaar to make sure that when it left to climb up into the valleys, the batteries were fully charged.
I think that in all these ramblings, there will be a solution, where all the various technologies come together in a bespoke solution.
- Four-car train.
- Electric drive.
- 25 KVAC overhead to work electrified routes on the South Wales Main Line, at 100 mph.
- Onboard rail-proven diesel engines and alternators, which would be used accordingly and probably automatically!
- Two diesel power units would be used, so that one failure wouldn’t leave a stranded train.
- Batteries with a capacity of around 100 KwH
- Powerful regenerative braking
- Railbaars in Cardiff and other low-altitude terminal stations, could be used if diesel charging can’t be used.
- Well-driven trains to an energy efficient timetable.
Obviously, any electrification of the Cardiff ends of the routes would be welcome and less diesel-power would be needed.
Railbaar would be a good add-on for a Class 319 Flex train, working an extension or branch line from an electrified line.
A Class 319 Flex train with a battery and regenerative braking could be very useful on challenging routes like the Cardiff Valley Lines.
With these applications, strategically placed Railbaars could add to the resilience and efficiency of the system.
The bespoke solution, that I have outlined, is very close to the specification of a Class 319 Flex train with a battery and regenerative braking.
I can’t wait to ride a Class 319 Flex train on a proving run to Merthyr Tydfil.
The article on the BBC is entitled Dawlish storm damage rail closure ‘to cost millions’.
It certainly shows why the Plymouth to Exeter Line through Dawlish is so important.
Network Rail threw literally every kitchen sink, they could find at the problem and when the Book Of Heroic Projects is written Dawlish will feature prominently. I wrote about the work in A Job Well Done.
So three years and a day after I wrote that post what does it look like now?
Some work at Dawlish Warren station is being completed, but it looks as if it could last for hopefully a few years.
I took these pictures of a train coming from Barnstaple to Exeter.
But what type if train is it?
The last picture shows it is Class 150 train built in the 1980s by British Rail.
It is certainly a high quality refurbishment of 150263.
I’d much rather travel in this train, than a new Class 700 train.
- The seats were comfortable.
- There were several tables in each car.
- The toilet was one of the best I’ve seen.
- The information system, tip-up seats and grab handles were all excellent.
The train even had it’s own wheelchair ramp stowed away in a secure metal cupboard.
I can’t find anything on the web about who did the refurbishment of this train.
My only thought, is that it was an in-house job and came from Laira with love!
Hackney Wick station is being rebuilt.
It is not an easy job, as the rail line is on a viaduct six metres above ground level.
In addition to being a major line of the the London Overground, the North London Line is also an important freight route.
The picture was taken from the ramp that leads up to the station, which is high on the left.
To complicate matters on top of the station was a concrete footbridge.
This was demolished a month or so ago.
To make the creation of the subway through the embankment, even more challenging, they are building the subway to the North of the embankment.
And over Easter, they will do the tricky bit.
Starting on Friday, the 14th April, they will execute this sequence of operations.
- Remove the track through Hackney Wick.
- Dig a massive gap in the embankment and dig down to the stable gravel level.
- lightweight polystyrene blocs will even be used to replace a proportion of backfill.
- Push the station subway, which is 12.7 metres wide and 22.5 metres long into the gap.
The job will then be completed by rebuilding the railway on top, ready for the start of services on the Tuesday.
This is the sort of job that needs a web-cam high on a convenient tower block.
Hackney Wick Station – 8th April 2017
These pictures show the station on the Saturday before work starts.
Is the subway going to be turned before it is moved into place?
Call In A Herd If Mammoths – 13th April 2017
These pictures show the subway tunnel being readied for the big push!
I think the last train into Hackney Wick station gets there at three minutes past midnight.
Counting Them All In And Counting Them All Out – 14th April 2017
The embankment is now being removed and I have put up a series of pictures in Counting Them All In And Counting Them All Out.
Here is a picture from the 8th of April and a sample from today for comparison.
It is an impressive operation, with a stream of trucks coming and going.
The Pedesta Bridge, that I talked about in Would You Trust Your Weight On A Thirty Metre Long Plastic Bridge?, has got me thinking.
Look at this picture of the soon-to-be-built Maghull North station.
The station would appear to be in a cutting with lift towers sticking their heads above the cutting and these are connected by an open walkway to the station building.
Pedesta bridges would surely be a lot easier to slot between the station building and the lift towers., than the traditional heavy steel and glass constructions. From pictures on various web sites, the bridges could even have a roof to protect travellers from the weather.
But why stop at just the bridges?
Could we see prefabricated plastic steps for example?
Anything that cuts the cost of new stations, would surely mean more!
I might as I’m only just over sixty kilograms, but others might not!
But never underestimate the power of World Class engineering.
This article in The Construction Index is entitled Mabey and Arup Launch Plastic Modular Bridge.
The bridge has the following characteristics.
- Built of metre long sections bolted together.
- Up to thirty metre spans.
- Installed without heavy machinery.
- The bridge is 70% lighter than steel.
- Low maintenance
The first bridge has been installed over the railway at a Site of Special Scientific Interest In Oxford.
I feel that Arup have designed this bridge system for purposes other than permanent structures.
This Google Map shows the centre of Tadcaster.
The road bridge that connects the two parts of the town was swept away by floodwater, as this BBC report, which details the destruction and rebuilding shows.
The new system couldn’t replace a road bridge, but there must be many instances around the world, after a an earthquake or floods, where the first thing that the rescuers need is a bridge to access a destroyed town or village.
The size and low weight of this bridge system, means it could be an early arrival.
There is more about the Pedesta bridge on Mabey’s web site.
I took these pictures of a Class 321 train at Ipswich station.
Look at this picture of a Class 319 train.
Both trains do seem to have generous space underneath.
- Both trains are 100 mph four-car trains based on Mark 3 coaches.
- Ten Class 321 trains are being given the Renatus treatment by Eversholt Leasing for Greater Anglia with air-conditioning and new interiors.
- The Class 321s were built after the Class 319s.
- The Class 321s are 25 KVAC overhead operation only.
- There are 117 Class 321 trains.
- As the two trains were launched within a year of each other, they can’t be that different under the skin.
It should also be remembers that train companies have a lot of experience about running both type of train.
Porterbrook Versus Eversholt
This could only be of benefit to train companies and passengers.
The Electrical System Of a Possible Class 321 Flex
The only problem, I can envisage is that as I wrote in The Electrical System Of A Class 319 Flex, the DC electrical bus of the Class 319 train makes the design of the Class 319 Flex train easy. If the Class 321 Train doesn’t have a similar layout, then it might be more difficult to create a Class 321 Flex!
On the other hand Vossloh Keipe have received a contract to upgrade the traction systems of thirty Class 321 trains to give them.
- AC traction motors and the associated control systems.
- Regenerative braking.
This work is fully described onb this page of the Vossloh Keipe web site.
Probably, with a suitable alternator from ABB and some quality electrical engineering, I would think that a Class 321 Flex could be created.
Each train will have their own big advantages.
- The Class 319 Flex train will work third rail routes.
- The Class 321 Flex train will have regenerative braking on electrified routes.
But in the end, if two bi-mode fleets can be created, there will probably be a lot of conviviality in hostelries in Derby and York, where the probably long-retired engineers, who designed the Mark 3 coach and its various derivative multiple units, will be laughing loudly into their beer.
The Class 319 Flex concept is designed to create a bi-mode train by fitting two diesel powered alternators, one under each of the driving trailer cars. The diesel alternators provide power to the existing traction and auxiliary equipment to allow the EMU to operate without an overhead or 3rd rail supply. The systems will provide power through the train’s DC bus, avoiding any significant changes to the existing equipment and creating a unit capable of operating from a number of different power sources whilst maintaining its full capabilities on electrified routes.
As an electrical engineer, it looks to me, that British Rail’s original design of the dual-voltage Class 319 train with a DC bus has actually helped in creating an easy-to-design and build interface between the new diesel powered alternators and the train’s current systems.
I have seen an early copy of the brochure for the Class 319 Flex train and can add the following statements.
- The train is powered by two MAN D2876 LUE631 diesel engines, which each generate 390kW of power. This page on the MAN web site shows MAN’s range of engines for rail applications. This page shows the data sheet for the engine.
- The engines are Stage IIIB compliant with respect to emissions and use Selective Catalytic Reduction technology to achieve this.
- The proposed alternator is from ABB. This page on the ABB web site, shows their wide range of alternators.
- A new negative return bus line will be added throughout the unit to prevent return current flowing through the vehicles or rails.
- The design uses a power-pack raft. This should ease maintenance and replacement.
- Obviously various modules and controls are added to enhance the uses of the system and allow the driver to control the new systems.
- Great care seems to have been taken that the Class 319 Flex train will perform well on third rail lines.
I do have a feeling that the direction of technology over the last few years has certainly helped to enable a better design.
- The major components have probably got smaller and more reliable.
- Control system technology has moved on substantially.
- Adding batteries to the train should be relatively easy, given the DC bus and the large amounts of experience from hybrid road vehicles.
- 3D CAD systems must help in a space-critical installation.
Combined with all the statements about design and testing in the brochure, I have no reason to suspect that the train designers are doing anything other than a comprehensive and professional job. Their choice of engines and alternators is certainly picking some of the best available and the brochure states that long-lead components have already been ordered.
I found this video of a ride on through the newly-opened Bermondsey Dive-Under.
The video indicated the train was going to New Cross Gate station.
So camera at the ready, I took a ride from London Bridge station to New Cross Gate station.
Note how you can pick out the pictures on the video.
So now the Dive-Under is partially open.
When I wrote Passing The Completed Acton Dive-Under, I said this.
I’m certain, there are other places on the UK’s rail network, where a similar technique can be used to sort out places, where two rail lines need to cross each other.
I think the same could be said here.
A and B are well on the way to completion. So where’s C?
Dive-Under seems to be a new word for the dictionary.