The Anonymous Widower

Frankfurt Starts Building Fuel Station For World’s Biggest Zero-Emissions Train Fleet

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Reuters.

These are the two opening paragraphs.

German regional transport group RMV began construction on Monday of a filling station near Frankfurt that will use hydrogen generated as a by-product of chemicals manufacturing to fuel the world’s largest fleet of zero-emissions passenger trains.

France’s Alstom will deliver 27 hydrogen-powered fuel cell trains to the Infraserv Hoechst industrial park in the Rhine-Main region in mid-2022. Starting regular local services by that winter, the fleet will replace diesel engines.

All the investment will be partly funded by fares.

Chlorine Manufacture

I find it interesting, that the article also states that the hydrogen comes as a by-product of chlorine manufacture. When I worked in a ICI’s electrolysis plant around 1970, their plant used the Castner-Kellner process to produce both gases.

The process uses a lot of mercury and Wikipedia says this about the future of the process.

The mercury cell process continues in use to this day. Current-day mercury cell plant operations are criticized for environmental release of mercury  leading in some cases to severe mercury poisoning as occurred in Japan Minamata_disease. Due to these concerns, mercury cell plants are being phased out, and a sustained effort is being made to reduce mercury emissions from existing plants.

Are INEOS, who now own the Runcorn plant, and the Germans still using the Castner-Kellner process?

I remember two stories about the theft of mercury from the Runcorn plant.

Mercury was and probably still is very valuable,  and it was always being stolen. So ICI put a radioactive trace in the mercury, which didn’t affect the process. The result was that all legitimate metal dealers on Merseyside bough Geiger counters to check any mercury before they bought it.

One guy thought he had found the ideal way to steal mercury, so he filled his bike frame with the metal and wheeled it to the gate. Whilst he clocked out, he propped the bike against the gate-house. Unfortunately, it fell over and because of the weight of the mercury, he was unable to pick it up.

My work in the plant, involved devising a portable instrument that would detect mercury in air and a colleague’s project was to develop a way of detecting mercury in urine samples from the plant operatives.

Those projects say a lot, about why we should be careful around any process involving mercury.

 

 

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport, World | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Untidy Railway

I took these pictures as I returned from Eridge.

You see it all over the railways and not just in the UK; general untidiness!

When I joined ICI in 1968, I went on a thorough and excellent induction course.

One very experienced engineer, gave a Health and Safety Lecture and one thing he said, was that a neat and tidy chemical plant was less likely to have silly accidents.

Some years later, I went to the United States to see some of Metier’s clients, of whom some were nuclear power stations. This must have been just after the Three Mile Island accident, which is described like this in Wikipedia.

The Three Mile Island accident was a partial meltdown of reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI-2) in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg, and subsequent radiation leak that occurred on March 28, 1979. It is the most significant accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history.

Artemis was involved in maintenance at the nuclear stations I visited. I can remember at AEP Donald C Cook nuclear station being shown a database of work to do and many of the actions were referred to as TMIs and checking them had been mandated by the US regulatory authorities.

I should say, the site on the shores of Lake Michigan impressed me, but another I visited later didn’t. I won’t name it, as it is now closed and it was the most untidy industrial plant of any type I have visited.

As we left, I gave my opinion to our support engineer and he told me they had a very large number of TMIs to process. I wasn’t surprised!

So why are railways generally so untidy?

 

June 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Heated Railway Platforms Tested To Avoid Ice Accidents

The title of this post is the same as the first part of the title on this article on Engineering and Technology.

The platforms have been developed by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University and have received a share of the Government funding, I wrote about in First Of A Kind Funding Awarded For 25 Rail Innovation Projects, where it is Project 4.

These paragraphs describe the project.

The concrete slabs come with a built-in heating system that activates in freezing conditions to prevent dangerous icy conditions for passengers.

Rail Safety and Standards Board figures show that 19 people were killed and more than 7,000 were injured in accidents around platform edges on Britain’s railways in a recent five-year period.

It looks like there’s scope for this simple idea to save a few lives.

COVID-19 Reconstruction Projects

If the trial installation or installations, that will be paid for by the Government grant is or are a success, I can see large numbers of the UK’s three thousand or so stations being fitted with these platforms.

This is surely the sort of project, that could be rolled out on lots of sites across the UK to get the constriction industry working again, after COVID-19!

 

June 20, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Bus For The Twenty-First Century

What puzzles me, is why bus drivers in London, seem to be suffering more from COVID-19 infection, than drivers elsewhere!

In London, all buses have two or three doors and contactless ticketing, whereas in many parts of the UK, there is often only one door and no contactless ticketing.

This must mean, that there is generally less interaction between the driver and passengers in the capital. So logic would say, that outside of London, there should be more passing of infections between everybody on the bus.

An Observation In Manchester

Ten years ago, I observed behaviour on a single-door Manchester bus going to Oldham, with a union rep for bus drivers, who by chance happened to be sitting beside me.

The scrum as passengers entered and left the bus by the same door was horrific and the rep told me, that the local riff-raff were always trying to nick the driver’s money.

He told me, that a London system based on contactless ticketing was union policy and would cut attacks on staff, which he said had virtually stopped in London.

A Bus For The Twenty-First Century

The government has said that millions will be available for new zero-carbon buses, powered by hydrogen. I doubt that batteries will be able to provide enough power for many years.

It is my belief that given the new circumstances, that the bus should also have the following features.

  • It should be as infection-unfriendly as possible, as COVID-19 won’t be the last deadly infection.
  • Contactless ticketing by credit card or pass.
  • Full CCTV  to identify non-payers or those with stolen cards.
  • Two doors with one in the middle for entry and one at the back for exit.
  • It would be possible on some routes for both doors to be used for entry and exit.
  • Wheelchairs would enter and leave by the middle door, where the ramp would be fitted.

I would put the stairs to the top deck on the left hand side of the bus, with the foot of the stairs leading directly into the lobby by the middle door.

The Van Hool ExquiCity

The Van Hool ExquiCity is an alternative solution, that is already running in Belfast, where it is named Glider.

It is probably best described as a double-ended articulated bus, that runs on rubber tyres, that thinks it’s a tram.

This press release from Ballard is entitled Ballard-Powered Fuel Cell Tram-Buses From Van Hool Now in Revenue Service in France, describes the latest hydrogen-powered version of the Exquicity, which is now in service in Pau in France.

  • Each bus appears to be powered by a 100 kW hydrogen fuel cell.
  • The buses are over eighteen metres long.
  • Twenty-four metre double-articulated tram-buses are available.
  • The buses seat 125 passengers
  • The buses have a range of 300 kilometres between refuelling.

I like the concept, as it brings all the advantages of a tram at a lower cost.

Here’s a video.

It certainly seems a quiet bus.

I desperately need to get to Pau to see these vehicles.

Conclusion

We could design a new bus for the twenty-first century, that tackles the problems facing the bus industry.

  • Climate change and global warming.
  • Control of deadly infections like COVID-19.
  • Efficient, fast ticketing.
  • Attacks on staff.
  • Petty crime.
  • Access to public transport for the disabled, the elderly and those with reduced mobility.

We certainly have the skills to design and manufacture a suitable bus.

April 9, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage, Health, Transport | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Design Crime – The Average Smoke Detector

On Saturday Evening, the smoke detector in my bedroom decided to go off.

I was able to silence it about three times, but it refused to go off permanently.

I then decided to take it down, by standing on the bed.

Unfortunately, I slipped and broke the detector.

It is not the first altercation, I have had with the cheap and nasty smoke detectors in this house, which were probably bought in Istanbul market for a few pence.

  • In my view, there is a need for a superior type of smoke detector wired into a building in a better way.
  • It should be possible to replace a failed detector, like I had on Saturday in a simple operation without any tools.
  • There should also be a master switch in the house, that switches off all the smoke detectors.
  • Instructions on how to deal with the smoke detectors in case of failure should be in an obvious place in the house, like on the door of the meter cupboard.

Smoke detectors are too important, to be designed down to the cheapest possible station and most are a true design crime.

March 31, 2020 Posted by | World | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hands-Free Phone Ban For drivers ‘Should Be Considered’

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Drivers could be banned from using hands-free mobile phones in England and Wales, a group of MPs has suggested.

I don’t drive and I rarely use a mobile phone to make or receive a phone all, so it won’t bother me much.

But sitting in my preferred slightly-raised position in the downstairs facing-seats on a New Routemaster bus, it’s amazing the number of drivers you see having a phone conversation or typing.

Recently, I nearly had a collision whilst walking along Moorgate.

A young lady going the other way was having a video call with her phone in front of her face. I went left to pass on the road side, as gentlemen are supposed to do and she went the same way.

Luckily, she saw me at the last minute!

So if drivers are to be banned from mobile use, whilst driving, what about banning pedestrians from mobile use, whilst walking on busy streets?

August 13, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts On eScooters!

Consider.

  • This article on the BBC is entitled Emily Hartridge: TV Presenter And YouTube Star Dies In Crash. It is an extremely sad tale and it has led to the inevitable call to ban electric scooters.
  • There is also this article on the BBC, which is entitled Iris Goldsmith: Teenage girl dies in ‘quad bike’ accident. This is another extremely sad tale and many are questioning, what a teenage girl was doing, riding a quadbike.
  • And then there’s this article on the BBC, Which is entitled Govia Thameslink Fined £1m Over Gatwick Express Window Death.

Young people and some older ones too, often do stupid things.

Many also crave danger and go mountaineering, riding on the tops of trains or jumping into rivers from a great height.

Doing things out of the ordinary is a natural reaction and is one of the reason, why humans are the most successful species on this planet.

I think the problem is the way we bring up children.

  • My parents let me do anything I wanted up to a point.
  • They also taught me lots of skills.
  • From about twelve, I used to cycle all over London.
  • I spent endless hours in my father’s print works doing things that would be frowned upon now, because they are too dangerous.

A couple of months ago, I was interviewed by a sixth-form girl student, in the volunteering I do at Barts Hospital in giving experience to prospective doctors.

She had lived in an over-protective environment and hardly left home on her own.

It was almost child abuse. She didn’t say, but I suspect she’d even been driven to and from school.

When it came to our own children, C and myself were fairly liberal and it was strange how, two became very street-wise and had the occasional scrapes, whereas the other was generally well-behaved.

Perhaps, we didn’t get everything right, but I like to think, we gave them a good appreciation of risk!

And that is one of the mot important things to learn in life, as often, those that ca’t assess risk, come to unfortunate ends.

I do feel my youngest son’s unhealthy lifestyle was a factor in his getting pancreatic cancer, especially if he was coeliac like me! But then he wouldn’t get tested!

His daughter though, seems to have a good appreciation of risk, but then if your father dies, you probably do!

To return to the eScooter, which is where this post started.

They Look Fun!

They certainly look fun and I constantly want to have a go on one.

Remember, I have crashed a twin-engined aeroplae and ridden horses in the Masai Mara.

At seventeen, I also sat on the back of a motorcycle, the wrong way round and went through the Mersey Tunnel.

Was I wearing a helmet? Of course not!

Are They Dangerous?

The risk depends on where they are used and how competent the rider is!

Ask any A & E doctor, what sport causes the most injuries and they’ll say something like rugby or horse-riding!

When A & E doctors start complaining about eScooters that will be the time for action.

Would Training Help?

Training isn’t the important thing.

However experience, especially that gained in a safe environment is important.

But to legislate that training should be mandatory will only have the reverse affect.

Conclusion

It’s a difficult problem, but we must teach everybody to appreciate risk.

When I joined ICI in 1969, I went on a formal Health and Safety course.

It has proven to be invaluable all my life an I haven’t worked on a chemical plant since 1970.

July 17, 2019 Posted by | Health, Transport, World | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ban Gas Hobs And Heating In Six Years, Ministers Told

The title of this post is the same as that as an article on the front page of yesterday’s copy of The Times.

This is the first paragraph.

Gas boilers and cookers should be banned in new homes within six years to meet Britain’s legally binding emissions targets, the government’s climate change advisory body recommends today.

I don’t like gas, as I find that naked gas flames affect my health, so I cook electric.

In addition to its role in carbon dioxide production, I don’t like the safety problems with gas.

Would the Grenfell disaster have been so serious, if there had been no gas in the building?

 

February 22, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , | 2 Comments

Station Dwell Times On The London Overground

This afternoon, I had to go to Walthamstow for lunch, so on the way out, I checked how long it was between brakes on at James Street station and the Class 315 train was moving again.

The dwell time was a very respectable thirty seconds, which is probably more down to the driver and the signalling, than the nearly-forty-year-old train.

Coming back, I took the Gospel Oak to Barking Line to Gospel Oak station..

The driver gave a display of precision driving a Class 172 train, with the intermediate stops, all taking thirty seconds or less.

From Gospel Oak, I switched to the North London Line and took a Class 378 train to Canonbury station, from where I walked home.

The dwell times on this line were more variable, with two times at thirty seconds or less, two at nearly two minutes and the rest in-between.

From these small number of observations, it would appear that the minimum dwell time on the London Overground is thirty seconds.

Various factors will determine the actual dwell time.

  • Trains must not leave early, as passengers don’t like this.
  • Trains must not leave, before the driver has ascertained it is safe to do so.
  • If a train arrives early, then the dwell time might be lengthened, even if the train leaves on time.
  • Large numbers of passengers or a passenger in a wheelchair, who needs a ramp will lengthen the dwell time.

I should say that today, the trains were not full and there were plenty of empty seats.

Conclusions

If trains and drivers can handle thirty second dwell times, then everything else associated with a station stop, must be capable of the same fast response.

This thirty-second dwell time may have repercussions for rapid charging of battery/electric trains, that I wrote about in Charging A Battery-Powered Class 230 Train.

I think there are three options for charging a train at a station stop.

Plug the Train Into A Power Socket

Can you plug you mobile phone into the mains, give it a reasonable charge and then disconnect it and store all leads in thirty seconds?

Use a Pantograph To Connect To 25 KVAC Overhead Electrification

Even if a driver or automation is very fast at raising and lowering the pantograph, I don’t believe that in a total time of thirty seconds, enough electricity can be passed to the train.

This method might work well in longer stop at a terminal station, but it is unlikely, it could be used successfully at an intermediate stop.

Use 750 VDC Third-Rail Electrification

750 VDC third-rail electrification has a very big advantage, in that, trains can connect and disconnect to the electrification automatically, without any driver intervention.

Look at this picture of a train going over a level-crossing.

The ends of the third-rails on either side or the crossing are sloped so that the contact shoes on the train can disconnect and connect smoothly.

As you have to design the system for a possible thirty-second stop and don’t have the time available for the first two options, I am fairly certain, that the only way a worthwhile amount of electricity can be transferred to the train’s battery, is to use some form of system based on tried-and-tested 750 VDC third rail electrification.

There may also be advantages in using a longer length of third-rail, so that the connection time is increased and more than one contact shoe can connect at the same time.

Automation would control the power to the third-rail, so that no live rail is exposed to passengers and staff.

After all a train on top, is a pretty comprehensive safety guard.

 

 

 

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October 28, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

New Safety Issue Emerges: LNER Azumas Put On Hold

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in Edition 863 of Rail Magazine.

One reason is that when running North of York, there is electro-magnetic interference with the signalling in electric mode.

But the other is that the inter-vehicle connectors could be used to climb on the roof. Apparently a man.of very little brain was killed, when he climbed on the roof of a Class 390 train at Manchester Piccadilly using that trains similar connectors.

Perhaps everybody who goes within fifty metres of a railway should have to see a psychiatrist first and be given a certificate. And that would be necessary for driving across a level crossing!

October 11, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments