The Anonymous Widower

Bridlington Station – 13th March 2019

I took these pictures as I passed through Bridlington station.

There is an interesting comparison to be made with Felixstowe station, that I know well.

  • Felixstowe only has one operational platform to Bridlington’s three.
  • Bridlington has twice the service and twice the passengers than Felixstowe.
  • Both are a walk of ten minutes or so from the actual town centre.
  • Both are Grade II Listed
  • The towns are of a similar population.

In Bridlington – March 13th 2019, I discussed how Felixstowe could be getting a four trains per hour tram-train service from Ipswich and how a similar service could benefit lots of towns, including Bridlington.

March 18, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Roaming Around East Anglia – North Sea Floods Of 1953 Memorial Garden At Felixstowe

This picture shows the memorial garden to the forty-one who died in the North Sea Flood Of 1953 at Felixstowe.

My memories of the floods are minimal, as I was only five. But I can remember my father pointing out to me, the story of Reis Leming at a later date.


March 4, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Roaming Around East Anglia – The Ordnance Hotel, Felixstowe

The Ordnance Hotel in Felixstowe is long gone and has now been replaced by a Premier Inn.

The Ordnance Hotel played a large part in my life, in that according to my father, I was conceived there.

It was rather strange to walk out of the front of the hotel and imagine in my mind, the view from perhaps in 1958, when we stayed as a family in the hotel.

In those days, you could still see the tide mark on the walls of the nearby houses, which was caused by the North Sea Flood of 1953.

March 4, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , , | Leave a comment

Could There Be A Tram-Train Between Ipswich And Felixstowe?

I should declare an interest here of my teenage self, who spent some very boring summers in, what was then, the small coastal resort and dormitory town of Felixstowe.

There was only so many places you could cycle and as my school friends were all in London, I used to avoid going to Felixstowe if possible.

I can remember going from London to Felixstowe several times on the train.

I would cycle from our London house in Cockfosters to Liverpool Street station and put my bike in the guard’s van for the trip to Ipswich.

From Ipswich, I would ride the dozen or so miles along the A45 (now the A14) to Felixstowe.

I suspect, that I could have used, the two-car diesel shuttle from Ipswich to Felixstowe, but I never did.

Perhaps, it was because it was not the most frequent of services.

The frequency was certainly a lot less than the current hourly service.

A Tram-Train To Felixstowe

This report on the East West Rail web site is entitled Eastern Section Prospectus and gives full details of their proposals for the Eastern section of the East-West Rail Link.

This is said in the report.

Introduction of a tram-train service on the Felixstowe branch, with doubling between Derby Road and Felixstowe and street running through

It is also said, that there will be a frequency of four trains per hour (tph)  between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

So how feasible is this proposal?

The Proposed Frequency

People travel between Ipswich and Felixstowe for several reasons.

  • It is an important dormitory town for Ipswich and increasingly for London,
  • The Port of Felixstowe is an important employer.
  • There is a large amount of leisure traffic between the two towns.

Currently, much of the travelling between Ipswich and Felixstowe is by car on an increasingly crowded A14.

Four tph seems an eminently sensible frequency.

Why Propose A Tram-Train?

If a train, like a Class 170 train or one of the new Class 755 trains were used for the route,  it would mean the following.

  • Four tph in the single platform at Felixstowe.
  • Four tph in a dedicated platform at Ipwich.
  • Four trains would be needed for the service.
  • An extra six tph using the route between Westerfield and Ipswich stations.

The stations should be able to cope, but I doubt that the extra trains could be fitted into a busy route with the following services.

  • Ipswich and Norwich
  • Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds, Cambridge and Peterborough
  • Ipswich and Lowestoft

If you add in the up to forty freight trains per day, that will use the route, something will have to give.

The Route Od The Tram-Train

It would appear that the plan is to replace the train, with a tram-train running on the streets of Ipswich.

This could be a possible route for street running.

  • Ipswich Station
  • Portman Road
  • Ipswich Town Centre
  • Ipswich Hospital

It would then join the Ipswich-Felixstowe rail line in the area of Derby Road station or the retail parks on the East of Ipswich.

This Google Map shows Derby Road station and Ipswich Hospital.


  1. Ipswich Hospital is in the top-right of the map.
  2. Derby Road station is at the left side of the map in the middle.
  3. The Ipswich-Felkixstowe Line can be seen going South-Easterly across the map to the well-known St. Augustine’s roundabout.

A tram-train would have the following benefits.

  • It would link the town centres of Ipswich and Felixstowe.
  • It would create a step-free link across Ipswich Town Centre to the all-important hospital.
  • Extra stations can be added where they are needed in Ipswich without decreasing capacity on the rail line.
  • It would surely encourage more people to use the trains from Ipswich station.

I suspect too, that Class 399 tram-trains could be used as they are in Sheffield and will be on the South Wales Metro.

Between Ipswich And Derby Road Stations

This extract is from the Wikipedia entry for the Felixstowe Branch Line.

The train now enters a section of double track through Derby Road station (6.10 miles (9.82 km) from Ipswich station by train, but only 1.5 miles on the map) where trains can pass.

It is very significant, that going through the houses between the two stations is a route that is shorter by eight-and-a-half miles.

Could it be that the time that would be saved by the shorter route is balanced by the slower progress of on-street running, which means that the current twenty-six minute journey time can be maintained?

Doubling Between Derby Road And Felixstowe

I’ll repeat what is said in the report.

Introduction of a tram-train service on the Felixstowe branch, with doubling between Derby Road and Felixstowe.

Doubling of about a mile of the Felixstowe Branch to the West of Trimley is ongoing and doubling further to the West looks to be fairly easy from my helicopter.

But there is one major problem.

This Google Map shows, where the rail line goes over the Ipswich by-pass.

Note that provision has been made for a second track.

So hopefully, it won’t be much more expensive to add a second bridge and track, than to add points either side of the existing bridge.

There would be some extra bridge works between the A14 and Derby Road station, but doubling all the way from Derby Road station to Felixstowe doesn’t look to be the world’s most difficult railway engineering.

Extra Tram-Train Stops Between Ipswich And Felixstowe

There used to be an extra stop at Orwell station. It was little-used and closed in 1959.

Looking at the station, it is now a large private residence and I suspect there is no point in reopening, as there isn’t much housing in the area.

But there could be a case for a station at Futura Park, which is shown in this Google Map.

Lots of the usual out-of-town stops are there including a Waitrose and a John Lewis.

The railway runs to the South of the A1156 Felixstowe Road and there is surely the possibility of a station in this area.

There is also the possibility, that the tram-train could join and leave the Felixstowe Branch Line at this point, after and before street running to Ipswich station.

Would The Tram-Trains Go Walkabout In Felixstowe?

Felixstowe used to have two other stations; Felixstowe Pier and Felixstowe Beach. Both are now closed.

  • I can remember Felxstowe Beach station, as occasionally in the 1950s, we stayed nearby at the Cavendish Hotel.
  • Felixstowe Pier station was towards Landguard Fort and even served steam vessels going to Germany.

Both stations were served by trains reversing at the main station, which is impossible now as the chord has been removed.

This Google Map shows the current rail lines in Felixstowe.

The line to/from Ipswich splits into two in the top-left corner of the map.

  • The branch going East goes to Felixstowe station.
  • The branch going South used to serve the two other Felixstowe stations and now serves the Port of Felixstowe.

The missing chord is visible to the West of the playing fields of Felixstowe International College.

I would rate reinstatement of the chord as highly unlikely.

  • The only reason, the chord would be reinstated, would be if the Port of Felixstowe wanted to have a four tph passenger service.
  • The Port wouldn’t want to have all those extra movements on what is a busy and exclusive freight line.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t rule out extension into Felixstowe Town Centre.

This Google Map shows the Town Centre.


  1. The one-platform station is at the top of the map, behind a small Co-op supermarket and the Listed station buildings, which are now a small shopping centre.
  2. The High Street, which is part -pedestrianised leads down from the station to the top of the cliffs, where Bent Hill leads down to the sea-front.
  3. Halfway along is a triangular garden, where a local road splits off toward the Southern part of the sea-front and the Port.
  4. The pattern of retail shopping is changing and Marks and Spencer in the town will be closing soon.

My plan would be as follows.

  • Rebuild the Co-op supermarket to allow a single-track tram line to squeeze through to the High Street.
  • Trams would then continue down the High Street to the triangular garden.
  • A second platform face could be added at Felixstowe station to allow trams to pass and give flexibility.

Done properly, it could improve Felixstowe’s appeal as a leisure destination.

I also think, that as the extension is only short, the current Ipswich to Felixstowe timing could be maintained.

Future Services At Ipswich Station

Listing all the services proposed at Ipswich station gives the following.

  • 3 tph – London Liverpool Street and Norwich – Greater Anglia
  • 1 tph – Colchester and Peterborough – Greater Anglia – Replaces current Ipswich and Peterborough service.
  • 1 tph – Manningtree and Oxford via Cambridge – East West Rail – Replaces current Ipswich and Cambridge service
  • 1 tph – Ipswich and Lowestoft – Greater Anglia – Some services extend to London
  • 4 tph – ipswich and Felixstowe – Greater Anglia – Proposed tram-train service.

If the Felixstowe tram-train service were to terminate outside the station, as trams tend to do, there would only be a need for one bay platform at Ipswich, that would handle hourly Lowestoft services, that didn’t go to/from London.

Ipswich station would become more of a through station with the following through trains.

  • Five tph going between Manningtree and Stowmarket
  • Two tph between Manningtree and the proposed A14 Parkway station via Bury St. Edmunds.

This would all save the expense of rebuilding large parts of Ipswich station.

Although, there would be a certain amount of remodelling of the station forecourt to accommodate the tram-trains.


It is a classic application of tram-train technology and I’m sure that a good route can be devised between the two towns.



February 22, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Have I Regressed To My Childhood?

Growing up in the early 1950s in London, I wasn’t the healthiest of children.

  • At some time most winters, I would have several weeks off school with a severe cold with extras.
  • I can remember my mother cutting up old sheets for hankerchiefs.
  • These would be boiled after use in a large saucepan on the gas cooker.
  • I would  cough all night and a good part of the day.
  • I would  inhale steam from a large jug of hot water and Friar’s Balsam.

Dr. Egerton White was always round our house.

Things improved towards the end of the 1950s.

  • The passing of the Clean Air Act in 1956.
  • I would be given penicillin which seemed to help. Naughty! Naughty!
  • At weekends we’d go to Felixstowe.

What finally improved my health was going to Liverpool University.

Now over fifty years later, I’ve got a cold like I had in the 1950s.

  • I can’t stop coughing for more than ten or twenty minutes.
  • Nothing seems to work to stop the cough!
  • It’s gone on for eight days now!
  • I’m not getting much sleep.

Could the pollution from all the diesel vehicles be the key?

January 3, 2019 Posted by | Health | , , , , | 6 Comments

Grayling Gives Green Light To Double Track On Part Of Felixstowe Line

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in the East Anglian Daily Times.

This page on the Network Rail web site gives more details.

This is said.

Building the additional track will help increase the capacity of the Felixstowe branch line and take lorries off the road. It will also mean more reliable journeys for passengers traveling between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

There is also this map, which shows where a second track is being added to the Felixstowe Branch Line between Trimley station and Grimston Lane level crossing.

Note that six level crossings are also being removed, with the one at Gun Lane being replaced with a bridge, which seems to be a bit controversial.

Freight Traffic On The Line

The East Anglian Article says this.

This will allow up to 47 freight trains to run per day, 14 more trains than can currently run on the single line. Each train can carry the equivalent of 60 lorry loads, meaning fewer lorries on busy roads such as the A14.

That is quite a lot of freight and a forty-two percent increase in the number of trains.

Trimley Station

Trimley station will be the Southern end of the new track.

This Google Map shows Trimley station.


  • Cordy’s Lane crossing the line at Trimley station.
  • The line to Flelixstowe Port (North) going South.
  • The line to Felixstowe station going straight on.

Judging by the number of houses on the South side of the track, I would assume that an automatic level crossing is being installed there.

Noise, Smell And Vibration

The Felixstowe Branch Line illustrates one of the problems of the various freight locomotives and especially the ubiquitous Class 66 locomotive. The locomotives are not particularly environmentally-friendly, especially when they are hauling up to forty truck with containers.

I think that some parts of the branch need to have noise mitigation measures installed, otherwise there will be serious levels of complaint.

New Locomotives Are Needed

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled GB Railfreight In ‘Locomotive Acquisition’ Talks, so at least one company thinks so!

In Jumbo Trains Are Arriving, I mused about the type of train required.

I came to this conclusion.

Some more powerful freight locomotives are needed, but the designs should be available.

I would add to that now. The locomotives would need to be dual-mode and a lot more environmentally-friendly/

October 2, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Coastal Communities Among Worst Off In UK, Report Finds

The title of this post is the same as an article on the BBC web site, which they are covering on BBC Breakfast.

When I was fifteen my parents partially-retired to Felixstowe and I remember a very boring couple of summers in the town. In summer 1963, I spent most of it reading Nelkon and Parker in preparation for my A Level Physics course.

In those days, public transport to Ipswich was dire with nothing back after working hours and I can remember that I only ever went to the cinema in Felixstowe once!

Today, the last train from Ipswich is 22:28, but in those days it was about 19:00.

So one factor that applied, was you needed a car to have any social life outside of the dreary town. The few people of my age, I knew in the town couldn’t wait to leave school, so they could earn money to buy a car.

If you look around the country, the coastal areas that are vibrant and successful like say Bournemouth, Brighton, Liverpool, Southend and Swansea, tend to be larger, with excellent external and internal public transport links.

Other non-successful coastal towns like Felixstowe, Hastings, Hull, Lowestoft, Redcar, Skegness and Ysrmouth don’t have the same quality of external transport links, although some like Hull have good bus networks.

I may be being selective, but I believe it would make a big difference to a lot of coastal towns, if they had a first class rail service to the nearby inland larger towns and cities.

If there is no rail route, then a first class bus connection is needed.


I’ll take Felixstowe as an example.

  • The train service is one train per hour and it finishes around ten in the evening.
  • The length of the line is such, that one train can do the return trip in an hour.
  • Most of the rolling stock used on the line are past it, although I’ve done the trip in a passenger-friendly Class 170 train.
  • If it is a sunny Saturday or Sunday, the train can get overloaded at times.

Hopefully, the train service will get better.

  1. Greater Anglia have ordered new three-car Class 755 bi-mode trains.
  2. Network Rail are improving the Felixstowe Branch Line.
  3. Ipswich station is to be upgraded with an extra bay platform for Felixstowe and Lowestoft services.

Point 1 would probably attract more passengers and points 2 and 3 would allow a half-hourly service at selected times of the day.

The increase in capacity and quality, should be enough, so that on a glorious day if people in Ipswich decide to go to the coast, the trains can make it a good experience.

It will be interesting to see how the number of rail passengers to Felixstowe change in the next few years.

Incidentally, Felixstowe station shows how you can create a quality station for a town of 24,000 people.

  • The Grade II Listed station buildings have become a Shopping Centre with a cafe and bar.
  • There is just a single platform that can take a four-car train.
  • There is a ticket machine and a basic shelter.
  • The station is on the High Street.
  • The car park is shared with the local Co-op supermarket.
  • The station is unstaffed, but the trains are double-manned.

How many coastal stations could be Felixstowed?

Felixstowe used to have a second station at Felixstowe Beach, which is near to the Port of Felixstowe and Landguard Fort.

Some might argue that reopening the station would be a good idea, especially as it could be a modern single platform station.

But surely, it would be better to improve the bus services in the town or provide quality bike hire at the station.

Greater Anglia’s Class 755 Trains

Greater Anglia have ordered 24 x four-car and 14 x three-car Class 755 trains.

  • The trains are bi-mode.
  • In terms of carriages, the new bi-mode fleet will be at more than twice the size of the current diesel fleet.
  • Greater Anglia have said, that they will use electric power from overhead wires, even if it’s only available for short distances.
  • The trains are probably large enough for an on-board full function ticket machine and lots of buggies, bicycles and wheel-chairs.
  • They will probably carry their own wheelchair ramp, as I saw in What Train Is This?

This article in RailNews is entitled Greater Anglia unveils the future with Stadler mock-up and says this.

The bi-mode Class 755s will offer three or four passenger vehicles, but will also include a short ‘power pack’ car to generate electricity when the trains are not under the wires. This vehicle will include a central aisle so that the cars on either side are not isolated. Greater Anglia said there are no plans to include batteries as a secondary back-up.

So Stadler are using their well-proven design, which I saw in Germany.

What surprises me is the ruling out of batteries by Greater Anglia.

The central powercar would surely be the ideal place to put energy storage, for the following reasons.

  • It could be easily integrated with the diesel power-pack.
  • The weight of the battery is probably in the best place.
  • It could be part of an energy saving regenerative braking system, which would work under electric or diesel power.
  • In Battery EMUs For Merseyrail, I wrote how Stadler were fitting batteries in Merseyrail’s new fleet.

When the trains arrive, it’ll all be explained. Perhaps, Greater Anglia’s words were carefully chosen.

How will these trains change the coastal towns of Cromer, Felixstowe, Lowestoft, Sheringham and Yarmouth?

If it’s positive, Greater Anglia will be setting a strong precedent.

What Needs To Be Done To Railways To And Along The Coast

In no particular order, there are various topics.

A Coastal-Friendly Train Fleet

From personal experience on East Anglian trains, I feel that the passenger profile is different with always several bicycles on a train. Greater Anglia will have researched their passengers’ journeys and this has resulted in their choice of three- and four-car bi-mode Class 755 trains.

  • One- and two-car diesel multiple units are being replaced with three-car bi-modes
  • The Class 170 trains appear to be being replaced by four-car bi-modes.

So it would appear that Greater Anglia are expecting more passengers on the coastal routes to Cromer, Felixstowe, Lowestoft and Yarmouth, as they are always running at least three-car trains.

I also suspect they will be allowing for more bicycles and buggies, with higher traffic at weekends with good weather.

Their fleet choice will also allow them to use a four-car train instead of a three-car.

Looking at the fleet choices of other train operators like Northern working over a wide area with a large proportion of leisure traffic, they seem to have a degree of flexibility.

Stations In Coastal Towns

Many  stations in coastal towns were built in the grand manner. This is St. Leonard’s Warrior Square station.

Felixstowe station was built in this way and the station buildings are Grade II Listed. This is the single platform.

But it also shows how you can create a quality station for a town of 24,000 people.

  • The station buildings have become a Shopping Centre with a cafe and bar.
  • There is just a single platform that can take a six-car train.
  • There is a ticket machine and a basic shelter, underneath an ornate 1898 canopy.
  • The station is on the High Street.
  • The car park is shared with the local Co-op supermarket.
  • The station is unstaffed, but the trains are double-manned.

How many coastal stations could be Felixstowed?

These are a few pictures of other stations in coastal towns.

Some are grand, some are simple and some need a lot of improvement.

But if you want to improve the fortunes of a coastal town, or any town for that matter, you must give it a decent station, which will be one of main entry points for visitors.

The larger stations must have the following characteristics.

  • A certain style.
  • Good understandable information and perhaps a proper Tourist Office.
  • A cafe or a bar.
  • Decent bus connections to the rest of the town.
  • Bicycle hire
  • A shop for a paper and some chocolate.
  • A cash machine with no extra charges.

Hopefully, the station needs a central location in the town.

But Felixstowe station shows what can be created, with its Victorian canopy and a single platform, tucked away behind a shopping centre, built around the original Listed station building.

These days with modern signalling and double-ended multiple units, single-platform stations like Felixstowe, could probably handle four trains per hour.

New Stations

In DfT Names Five Winners Of Fresh £16m Stations Fund, I talked about new stations funded by the Government’s New Stations Fund. Two of the five stations are near the coast; Bow Street and Horden Peterlee.

So does the Government realise the value of good rail links to coastal areas?

The Walkers’ Halt

Some of the coastal lines go along some of the most spectacular coast-lines in the UK.

This Google Map shows the Durham Coast Line just South of Seaham station.

A modern train like a bi-mode Class 755 train could have the following characteristics.

  • The ability to execute station stops with a short dwell time.
  • In-cab radio signalling.
  • CCTV to aid the driver at a station stop.
  • On-board ticketing machine.
  • On-board wheelchair ramp.
  • Two crew members.

So would it be able to stop to pick up and set down at an old-fashioned halt with perhaps a single platform?

The England Coast Path

The England Coast Path will be 4,500 kilometres long and go round the whole coast of England.

In places, it must go near to railway lines, so will we see simple walkers’ halts, as I described in the previous section?

It strikes me, that we need a large helping of careful design to make sure that the England Coast Path and our costal rail routes would well together.

I used England as an example, but I suspect, the same logic applies in the rest of the UK.


This post isn’t complete yet!

I do feel though based on my East Anglian experience, that improving the train service to coastal towns could be the first step in improving their prosperity.

Too often going to the coast by train is a second-rate experience. Greater Anglia with its train fleet renewal seem to be creating a new era of getting to the coast in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Other companies should be made to follow.









September 4, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Railbaar In Rail Engineer

In January 2016, I wrote How To Charge A Battery Train, in which I described a Swiss idea called Railbaar.

This article in Rail Engineer is entitled RailBaar – Rapid Charge Station and it describes the technology in detail.

The article gives the impression, that respected Swiss company; Furrer+Frey, have a product that is ready to be rolled out.

This is said.

Furrer+Frey feels that the system could be a game changer, dramatically reducing the cost of electrification, and thus the feasibility of new electrification projects.

Read the article and see if like me, you agree with Furrer+Frey, like I do.

The Felixstowe Branch Line

I will use the twelve mile long Felixstowe Branch Line as an example, because I know the branch line well and spent some miserable days trapped in the town as a teenager because of the inadequate rail service to Ipswich.

The train service is better now, but it would be better if every thirty minutes one of Greater Anglia’s new Aventras was to shuttle along the branch.

But the line is not electrified and there is very little change it will happen.

Bombardier showed with their Class 379 BEMU trials in January 2015, that a four-car and probably a five-car version of the Avenytra could be fitted with a battery that would take the train reliably between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

But the problem with say electrifying a platform at Ipswich station and charging the train there, is that the battery needs to be sized to do two trips along the branch line.

By using a charging station like Railbaar at both ends of the line, the train would always leave the station with a full charge.

Currently, trains between Felixstowe and Ipswich take 26 minutes, so if the battery could be charged in four minutes, then a train could do a return trip in an hour.

This would mean that two trains would be needed to provide a two trains per hour service.

Sudbury And Colchester Town

Greater Anglia have indicated that they might  replace the shuttle between Sudbury and Marks Tey stations, with a direct service between Sudbury and Colchester Town stations.

They could run this service with bi-mode Stadler Flirts.

On the other hand,  the Gainsborough Line between Marks Tey and Sudbury is only eleven miles long, which is well within the range of a train running on stored energy.

It currently takes nineteen minutes for a train to go between Marks Tey and Sudbury, so a battery train would have twenty-two minutes in every hour for charging.

Operation could be as follows.

  • 10:00 Leave Colchester Town running on current electrification.
  • 10:08 Call Colchester station.
  • 10:16 Arrive Marks Tey station with a full battery, after charging it on the main line.
  • 10:35 Arrive Sudbury station after running from Marks Tey on battery power.
  • 10:40 Leave Sudbury station after charging the batteries using a Railbaar.
  • 11:59 Arrive Marks Tey station after running from Sudbury on battery power.
  • 11:02 Leave Marks Tey station, raise the pantograph and travel to Colchester.
  • 11:10 Call Colchester station.
  • 11:18 Arrive back at Colchester Town station.


  • The trains pass each other on the main line.
  • I have used the times for the current trains.
  • Only one Railbaar would be needed at Sudbury.

,Perhaps Aventras and with a faster charge at Sudbury could save a few minutes.

Aventras And Railbaar

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.

So in a battery version of the Aventra would this mean that the pantograph is on the car with the high-efficiency transformer and the battery is in the second car?

So if the train is going to work with Railbaars, then the contact points on the roof of the train for the Railbaar would be on the car with the batteries.

All of the 25 KVAC and its handling is in one car and all the batteries and their charging is in another, with the only connection being the common power bus connecting everything on the train.

I suspect that with careful positioning of the Railbaar at each end of the route and an aid for the driver so that the train is positioned accurately and it would create a reliable charging system.

Obviously, there is nothing to stop, the trains charging their batteries, when they are using overhead wires or third rails.


So what do we know about using batteries on trains to work routes?


  • Bombardier showed in their trial, that a battery train can run the eleven miles of the Mayflower Line, starting with a full battery.
  • Batteries are getting more powerful and more affordable every year.
  • The Bombardier Aventra would be ideal for a Railbaar-type charging system.
  • Battery trains can charge their batteries running on electrified lines.
  • The bus version of Railbaar is in use charging electric Volvo buses at a rate of 360 kW. See the Opbrid web site.
  • The physics of steel wheel on steel rail is efficient, as George Stephenson knew.

Put this all together and I think that by the end of 2018, we’ll be seeing Aventra trains, running services on a twenty mile branch line without electrificaton.



April 11, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Along The Felixstowe Branch

In the December Edition of Modern Railways magazine there is an article entitled Loop Planned For Felixstowe Branch.

The Proposal

To allow an increase in the numbers of freight trains on the line from 33 to 47 every day, Network Rail propose to do the following.

  • Create a 1.4 km loop at Trimley. Note that 775 metres is the maximum train length in the UK.
  • Close six level crossings
  • Create a bridge for a bridleway.

Network Rail hope that this will be sufficient for a few years, but in the future the aspiration is for double-tracking and electrification all the way between Felixstowe and Nuneaton.

I have flown my helicopter along the route and it is single track all the way between Westerfield and Trimley stations, with the exception of a passing loop East of the Spring Road Viaduct, which is centred on Derby Road station.

This Google Map shows the Branch Line East of Trimley station.

The Eastern End Of The Felixstowe Branch Line

The Eastern End Of The Felixstowe Branch Line

Trimley station is in the North West corner of the map, whilst Felixstowe station is in the South East corner.

Just before the level crossing at Trimley, the line splits into two and the two tracks run together for a time, before the Southern track branches off to the North Terminal at the Port of Felixstowe.

The other track then continues East  and splits with one branch going straight into Felixstowe station and the other going to the South Terminal at the Port.

All tracks are single track, except between Trimley station and the first junction.

The Intermediate Stations

I think it is probably true to say, that Westerfield, Derby Road and Trimley stations are one the worst run of three stations in the country.

In James Cook Station – The Reinvention Of The Halt, I talked about the new James Cook station, that serves Middlesborough Hospital. This station had 23,000 passengers in 2014/15, as against the 30,000 average for these three Suffolk stations in the same year.

I’m sure if they were of the same standard as James Cook station, they would see an increase in passengers.

This Google Map shows Westerfield station.

Westerfield Station

Westerfield Station

Note how the single-track Felixstowe Branch leaves the double-track East Suffolk Line to the East of the station.

A large housing development called Henley Gate, which is part of the Ipswich Garden Suburb could be built to the West of the station. This might be an opportunity to improve the station and the level crossing. This web page on the Ipswich Borough Council web site, shows a map and a few details.

If the thousand houses promised for the site are built, I’m sure Westerfield station could be one that attracted a few more passengers, who cycled to the station.

According to Wikpedia, this Derby Road station used to be a lot busier. This is said.

People living on the eastern side of the town generally preferred to use Derby Road when travelling to Felixstowe and the station could be very busy on sunny weekends with day trippers to Felixstowe Beach and Felixstowe Pier stations. They could reach the station on the Ipswich Tramway which terminated outside the station entrance.

But this Google Map, of the area round the station show that it surrounded by housing.

Around Derby Road Station

Around Derby Road Station

The station is at the South West corner of the map, with The Ipswich Hospital is at the North East corner of this map. I ask these questions.

  • Is there a shuttle bus between the station and the hospital?
  • Is there secure bicycle parking at Derby Road station?
  • Could it be that if a decent train with greater capacity and perhaps better provision for bicycles and buggies ran through the station, that there could be an increase in passengers?

From what I’ve seen of the station, it’s suffering from Abellio’s Managed-from-Norwich Syndrome, which a lot of stations in East London did, until placed under the control of Transport for London.

The next station after Derby Road used to be Orwell station, which served the villages of Orwell and Nacton.

At some point in the future, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a station between Derby Road and Trimley, either inside or outside of the A14.

Trimley station is virtually derelict, but there are plans to convert it for community use.

I believe, all the intermediate stations on this line could have a future. Factors involved could be.

  • Nearby housing and/or commercial development.
  • Cycle-and-Ride passengers.
  • A decent train to Ipswich and Felixstowe, with plenty of space for bicycles and buggies.
  • A reliable clock-face hourly service.
  • Easy connection to Long distance trains at Ipswich station.
  • A cafe or coffee kiosk

Passengers, who are going to work, need a service that is totally reliable, and this service has suffered in the past few years.

Dualling The Line

If my virtual helicopter ride, showed one thing, it was that there are wide margins around the current single track from Derby Road to Trimley, which hopefully would make installation of a second track reasonably straghtforward.

However, I did count six level crossings with barriers and what looked like five crossing points without. All will have to be upgraded for the second track or removed.

It is interesting to see, that Network Rail are proposing to close six crossings in their current plan, so is this to get rid of one of the major problems of the dualling early?

Perhaps, they have decided that removing six level crossings and dualling the line at the same time, would raise too many simultaneous problems for their legal department. But doing the level crossings first with a less ambitious dualling is less likely to be challenged.

The other big problem could be widening the bridge over the A14 dual-carriageway.

This Google Map shows the bridge.

The Felixstowe Branch Line Crosses The A14

The Felixstowe Branch Line Crosses The A14

But it looks to me, that everything is there to just slip in a second span.

So that could be at least future-proofed!

Where Is The Proposed Dualling?

According to the article in Modern Railways, the loop at Trimley is 1.4 km. long.

My estimate is that the distance between the two junctions, where the two branches go off to the Port of Felixstowe, is about this distance.

So could it be, that the loop is not for freight trains, but to allow the passenger trains to access Felixstowe station?

  • The Northern track would be bi-directional and connect Trimley and Felixstowe stations and would be for exclusive use of passenger trains.
  • The Southern track would be bi-directional and connect Trimley station to both the lines to the Port of Felixstowe and would be for exclusive use of trains to and from the Port.
  • At night, the track could be configured, so that two bi-directional tracks, that joined just to the West of Trimley station, went to each freight terminal The Northern track would serve the South Terminal and the Southern Track would serve the North Terminal.

The Port of Felixstowe has argued at times, that the Felixstowe Branch Line should be freight-only. Is this Network Rail’s proposal to create two separate freight and passenger lines using the same track?

From my observations at Ipswich that I wrote about in Curious Rail Construction At Ipswich Station, I am convinced that they have simplified track layout around Ipswich Freight Yard, so that freight and passenger trains, don’t conflict with each other at Ipswich.

So does this proposal remove conflicts at Felixstowe?

I think it does.

After the proposed loop is built, the line will be effectively in three sections.

  • A core line between Westerfield and Trimley stations with the existing passing loop at Derby Road.
  • At the Felixstowe end, there will effectively be separate lines into Felixstowe station, and the North and South Freight Terninals.
  • At the Ipswich end, there will be separate lines into Platforms 0 and 1 at Ipswich station, Ipswich Freight Yard and to both directions on the Great Eastern Main Line.
  • All of the connecting end lines would work with the simple rule of only allowing one train on the line at any one time.

At Felixstowe, freight trains might even be paired with one going into the North Terminal at the same time as one came out of the South Terminal. And vice-versa!

The train coming out, would wait at a signal before the junction for its branch and then when the other train had cleared the other junction going into the Port, it would be allowed to proceed through Trimley.

At night, trains could also be assembled as flights, so that several trains came in and out of the port in a stream. The reorganised Ipswich Yard must help in this.

As the new passenger trains will be somewhat faster than the current Class 153 trains and will be able to get away from stations quicker, I wonder if the timings will be such that two trains per hour might be possible.

These are current timings between Westerfield and Trimley in the core section.

  • Passenger train – 14 minutes
  • Freight train – 16 minutes

As trains don’t conflict on the double-track outer sections and have their own separate routes, it should be possible to have one 14 minute passenger and one 16 minute freight cycle in every half-hour, provided the trains pass at Derby Road.

With faster trains, fitting in two passenger trains and two freight trains in both directions in every hour might well be possible.

But you also have to content with other services on the East Suffolk Line  and other constraints, so I suspect that by being extremely thorough and downright devious, that the published figure of 47 trains a day is very feasible. And feasible when running two tph between Ipswich and Felixstowe!

Two passenger trains would be needed for the service.

Higher Speed Between Westerfield And Trimley

Once all the improvements at the two ends of the line are complete, the major constraint on capacity on the line is the time a train takes between Westerfield and Trimley.

The line is configured for 75 mph, but I wonder what sort of speed could be reached could be attained safely on the line between Westerfield and Trimley, with the following.

  • Removal of level crossings
  • Improved signalling.
  • Some minor track improvements.

It should be born in mind that there are no junctions from where the Felixstowe Branch leaves the East Suffolk Line at Westerfield and Trimley.

The speed limit would then probably be set by the maximum speed over the Spring Road Viaduct.

The distance between Westerfield and Trimley is almost exactly 10.5 miles.

This means that the freight train averages about 40 mph and the passenger train a miserly 45 mph.

So what sort of speeds can the various trains achieve.

  • Class 153 – 75 mph
  • Class 170 – 100 mph
  • Class 66 – 65/75 mph
  • Class 67 – 125 mph
  • Class 68 – 100 mph
  • Class 70 – 75 mph
  • Class 88 – 100 mph

It could be that the slow speed of the Class 66 locomotives are one of the constraints on the line, as timings must assume that locomotives could be the 65 mph variant.

If it were possible to raise the line speed to 90 mph, it could reduce timings on the line between Westerfield and Trimley.

These figures certainly show, why Network Rail are so keen to remove the level crossings on the line.

I suspect that suitable trains and locomotives could reduce times as follows if the line had a 90 mph limit.

  • Freight – 13 from 16 minutes.
  • Passenger – 12 from 14 minutes.

It might only save a couple of minutes with my crude estimate, but it certainly shows there are savings to be made by upgrading the line and using modern trains and locomotives.

Class 66 Locomotives

I don’t like Class 66 Locomotives and have believed for some time, that they have little place on the electrified lines in built-up areas. I wrote The Noisy Class 66 Locomotive on the subject a couple of years ago.

My crude analysis in the previous section shows that their slow speed actually cuts capacity.

Freightliner are one of the big operators of |Class 66 locomotives to and from the Port of Felixstowe. Wikipedia has a section on Class 66 Locomotives operated by Freightliner.

This is said.

Freightliner followed EWS by initially ordering five new Class 66/5 locomotives, and have continued to order in small batches. As of summer 2010, the 66/5 fleet had reached 98 examples; 66521 was withdrawn after the 2001 crash at Great Heck and later scrapped.

In 2000 a new Class 66/6 sub-class was built, with a lower gear ratio, enabling heavier trains to be hauled, albeit at slower speed. There are presently 25 examples of this class, numbered 66601-625. Some of these locomotives have since been exported for use with Freightliner Poland.

As freight trains are getting longer, it would appear that the slow 66/6 locomotives should be removed from this route as their 65 mph maximum speed is a constraint on maximising traffic between Westerfield and Trimley.


Electrification is often talked about with respect to the Felixstowe Branch.

Reasons in favour include.

  • Freight trains going to and from London could be electric hauled.
  • Engine changes at Ipswich Yard would be minimised.
  • Electric haulage is more environmentally friendly.

But there are powerful reasons not in favour.

  • Cranes in a Port and 25kV overhead wires are bad bedfellows.
  • If the Class 88 Locomotive and other electro-diesel types are a success, they are probably more affordable than electrification.
  • Passenger services in the near future will be run by trains with an on-board power source; diesel, bi-mode or battery.
  • The main route to the Midlands via Peterborough and Nuneaton is not electrified.

But above all we seem so bad at electrification, the risk in wiring the line is too great.

I don’t think it is likely that the Felixstowe Branch will be electrified until the whole route to the Midlands is wired.


November 27, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

The Definitive Branch Line For An Electric Train With On Board Energy Storage

In Curious Rail Construction At Ipswich Station, I described how the current five-car Platform 1 has been electrified and given an electrified route of a few hundred metres to the Felixstowe Branch Line.

I then outlined how an ow an electric train with on-board energy storage, could work the Ipswich-Felixstowe service.

  • I’ll assume that a fully-charged train starts from the new depot at Manningtree or some other suitable overnight stabling.
  • The train positions early in the morning for the first service from Felixstowe, using  overhead power to Ipswich and on-board power on the branch.
  • Passengers load at Felixstowe and the train proceeds to Ipswich under on-board power to the current Platform 1 at Ipswich.
  • The train would sneak into the platform on the North side of Ipswich Freight Yard, well out of the way of the Great Eastern Main Line and any freight movements.
  • If the platform was busy and the train had to wait at a signal, it could even up pantograph to start the recharging of the on-board energy storage.
  • Once in Platform 1, the train would either start or continue the charging process.
  • The pantograph would be lowered, when the charging was complete or at any time before the train left for Felixstowe.

The process would continue all day.

But things don’t always go to plan, so what happens at Ipswich, if Platform 1 is blocked by a failed train?

As the train will be approaching Ipswich on a dedicated line, it would stop at a signal and wait. As the overhead wire to the station will be continuous, it would immediately up pantograph to start the charging process, to make certain, it wasn’t stuck with a flat battery.

There has been a lot of thought, in how trains with on board storage should be operated.

Similar layouts seem to be being installed at other places.

Maidenhead and the Marlow Branch Line

Maidenhead station is where the Marlow Branch Line connects to the Great Western Main Line.

Platform assignments after Crossrail will probably be.

  1. Down Fast
  2. Up Fast
  3. Down Slow – Crossrail
  4. Up Show – Crossrail
  5. Marlow Branch

Note that Platform 5 has recently been extended to the full Crossrail length of 200 metres, so could this platform be shared between the Marlow Branch trains and the Class 387 trains that will start to shuttle between Maidenhead and Paddington in mid-2017.

These are pictures taken at Maidenhead station.

Note the platform 5 for the Marlow Branch and the first couple of hundred metres of the branch are being electrified.

Trains with on-board energy storage between Maidenhead and Bourne End stations could certainly use the same procedure as the one I outlined for trains between Ipswich and Felixstowe. They would probably come into Platform 5 at Maidenhead, as the Marlow Branch trains currently do.

But they also have the advantage at Maidenhead of a very long two hundred metre Platform 5.

Note that four-car Class 387 trains couldn’t go past Bourne End station, so the remainder of the branch to Marlow would probably be served by a diesel shuttle.

On November 25th, 2016, I took this picture from a passing train.



  • I was looking directly down the Marlow Branch.
  • The two lines join around the position of the last gantry and the nearest one goes into Platform 4, with the farthest one going into Platform 5.
  • You can’t really see it too well in the picture, but the overhead wire appears to be only above the line into Platform 5.

This Google Map shows a close-up of the Western \end of Platforms 4 and 5 and the start of the Marlow Branch.


Hopefully, it will be clearer than mud now!

Note the two-car train in Platform 5.

So why is there no connecting electrification between Platform 4 and the Marlow Branch Line?

It could be that it hasn’t been erected yet, but on the other hand, it could be that it isn’t needed.

  • All trains arriving at Maidenhead from Bourne End would use Platform 5.
  • These trains would only use the wiring to the West of Platform 5, if say the platform was blocked, by say a failed train.
  • Trains between Bourne End and Paddington, after arriving at Platform 5 would up pantograph and  after leaving the platform, they would use an existing crossover to access the Up Slow line for Paddington.
  • Trains between Paddington and Bourne End would probably use the existing crossovers  to stop in Platform 5 after arriving on the Up Slow. Once in Platform 5, they would down pantograph and continue to Bourne End under on-board power.

So a second electrified line not being needed, could be the explanation of only one being created.

Note that when Crossrail starts, Crossrail trains will use Platforms 3 and 4 and will reverse using a reversing siding to the West of the station..

So the Marlow Branch and Crossrail will effectively be two separate systems with their own tracks, trains and arrangements.

Slough And The Slough to Windsor & Eton Line

Slough station is where the Slough to Windsor & Eton Line connects to the Great Western Main Line.

As I passed through Slough station, I noticed that the gantries are such, that just as at Maidenhead, the bay Platform 1 could have a short length of overhead wiring installed, so that the shuttle to Windsor and Eton Central station could be run using an electric train with on-board energy storage.

This small add-on to the electrification, would create a branch line independent of the main line.

  • It would be worked as a single train shuttle.
  • The train would be electric with on-board energy storage.
  • The train would charge at Slough station.
  • It would have dedicated platforms in the two terminal stations; Slough and Windsor and Eton Central.
  • The train could be worked using the principle of only one train on the line at a time or One Train Working.
  • Trains would enter and leave the dedicated branch tracks for servicing and other tasks, as they do now, through a connection to the Fast lines at Slough station.

Unlike the Marlow Branch, it would not need protection for failed trains, as there is only one train.

I would suspect that capacity at the Windsor end of the branch would limit any expansion unless a scheme like the Windsor Link Railway was brought forward and that a four-car electric shuttle train would be sufficient to work the line for many years.

Twyford And The Henley Branch Line

Twyford station is where the Henley Branch Line connects to the Great Western Main Line.

I wrote about using trains with on-board energy storage on the Henley Branch in Twyford Station And The Henley Branch and came to the conclusion, that electric trains of this type could serve this short branch of just four miles in length, with very little change to the infrastructure

Installing a short length of electrification in the bay platform 5 at Twyford station and for a short distance on the branch could be used to charge the trains.

As on the Marlow Branch and the Slough to Windsor and Eton Line, this would create a branch line independent of the main line.

I doubt that this line will ever be fully-electrified.

Certainly, as I passed the line today, there was no sign of any electrification.

West Ealing And Greenford Branch Line

West Ealing station is where the Greenford Branch Line connects to the Great Western Main Line.

But seeing as the last direct train from Greenford to Paddington seems to be on the 23rd of December 2016, the Greenford Branch Line will become an independent branch line with its own bay Platform 5 at West Ealing station, where passengers will have to change to and from Paddington.

In West Ealing Station – 12th October 2016, I showed the progress a couple of months ago and as at Slough gantries are in place, that could be used to electrify the new bay platform.

Once the wires were in place at the platform, all it would need to provide a quality service to Greenford, would be suitable electric train with on-board energy storage.

  • The journey would take around ten minutes.
  • Trains would charge their storage at West Ealing.
  • Two trains per hour would be possible with one train.
  • Four trains per hour would be possible with two trains, as the branch has a lot of double-track to allow passing.

The only infrastructure needed, other than the electrification might be some platform lengthening for the new trains.

As I passed the line today, there was some evidence of wires going up, but they probably can’t be completed until the new station is finished at West Ealing station.

Surely, if the branch was going to be run in perpetuity by diesel trains, there would be no evidence of electrification in the bay platform 5 and at the start of the Greenford Branch.

The Emerging Design

If you look at all these examples, most of which are ongoing projects, they have a series of common features.

  • The branch line is fairly simple, often just a shuttle between two dedicated terminal platforms.
  • The branch line is within the range of an electric train with on-board energy storage, to go out and return.
  • Some branches are worked using the principle of only one train on the line at a time or One Train Working.
  • At least one terminal platform will be electrified, so that the on board energy storage can be charged.
  • The branch line is within the range of an electric train with on-board energy storage.

The only feature not common to all the detailed examples, is where the electrified platform could be shared as at Ipswich and Maidenhead,

In these cases, provision must be made for another train failing in the station.

If Network Rail can get this philosophy right, it has the following advantages.

  • New or refurbished environmentally-friendly electric trains can replace elderly diesel trains on suitable routes.
  • As the electric trains will typically be four-cars or more, there will be large capacity increases.
  • There will be very little infrastructure work, except for platform lengthening and possibly electrifying an extra platform in a station on an already electrified line.
  • Network Rail will gain a bit of credibility.

As an example, Ipswich Felixstowe could go from an hourly single -car Class 153 train to an hourly five-car modern Aventra with Wi-fi and lots of space.










November 27, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment