The Anonymous Widower

Germany Approves Alstom’s Hydrogen Train For Passenger Service

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Railway Technology.

The title says most of the article, but it also states that the first passenger services in Germany are scheduled for late summer.

July 14, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Hydrogen Is Really Happening

The title of this post, is the same as that of this opinion in Energy Voice.

It is a good summary of where we are with hydrogen.

One interesting point of several is that researchers in the US and Spain can extract hydrogen from plastic waste.

This article from FuelCellWorks describes the Spanish research.

That would surely be a real zero-carbon fuel!

July 10, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Poland Investigates Use Of Hydrogen Fuel For Rail Freight

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in the International Railway Journal.

This first paragraph, outlines the project.

Polish coal mining company JSW and national rail freight operator PKP Cargo have agreed to cooperate to research, analyse and possibly produce new types of hydrogen-powered freight wagons and shunting locomotives.

Note that one of the collaborating companies is a coal company.

Statements later in the article indicate that JSW can create commercial quantities of hydrogen, as a by-product of making coke.

Some of us of a certain age, still remember coal gas, which was replaced by natural gas from the North Sea in the 1970s.

It looks like Poland are still using the same process to obtain coke and probably other products like coal tar, sulphur and ammonia.

According to Wikipedia, UK coal gas had the following composition.

  • Hydrogen 50%
  • Methane 35%
  • Carbon monoxide 10%
  • Ethylene 5%

It was one of the suicide methods of choice for the unhappily married. I don’t miss the foul stuff, with its poisonous carbon monoxide.

But as you can see, it does have a high percentage of hydrogen!

Conclusion

I’m not a fan of using coal gas, but these two Polish companies are another group investigating the use of hydrogen as a method of powering trains and other rail vehicles.

 

July 10, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts On A Hydrogen-Powered Class 321 Train

A hundred and seventeen Class 321 trains were built around 1990 and a hundred and four, which are currently in service with Greater Anglia, are due to be replaced by new Class 720 trains.

Alstom and the trains owners;  the Eversholt Rail Group, plan to convert some of these trains to hydrogen power.

The Class 321 Train

The basic characteristics of these trains are as follows.

  • They have a 100 mph operating speed.
  • They are built for operation on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The closely-related Class 456 trains can run on 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • They have a formation of DTCO+TSO+MSO+DTSO.
  • Note that only the third car is powered.
  • Thirty of the trains have been refurbished in the Renatus project, which includes an upgraded interior and a new traction package, which includes regenerative braking.

This picture shows on of the driving trailers of a Class 321 train.

Note the large amount of space underneath.

If the Class 321 train has a problem, when converted to a modern efficient train, it is that the front end of the train has the aerodynamics of a large brick outhouse.

The Electrical System Of A Class 321 Train

I don’t know the electrical system of a Class 321 train, but I do know that of the Class 319 trains, which were built a couple of years earlier in the same factory at York These trains have a 750 VDC bus from one end of the train to the other.

As Class 321 and Class 319 trains have a similar train formation and a common Mark 3 heritage, I suspect that the electrical systems are the same and both have this 750 VDC bus.

Regenerative Braking

Regenerative braking is an important part of any modern train, as it saves energy.

Normally, the energy generated as a train stops, is returned through the electrification to power other nearby trains.

But with a hydrogen-powered train, that may not be connected to the electrification, the energy has to be stored on the train to avoid being wasted.

The Alstom Coradia iLint Train

Alstom have developed a hydrogen-powered version of the Coradia Lint train, which they call an iLint.

This promotional video shows how Alsthom’s hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint works.

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Summarising, Alstom’s video the Coradia iLint works in the following way.

  • The hydrogen fuel cell turns hydrogen gas into electricity.
  • The electricity is used to power the train or is stored in a lithium-ion battery.
  • The computer on the train monitors the system and controls it in an intelligent manner.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the system works in the same way as a serial hybrid vehicle like a New Routemaster bus.

  • The power source; hydrogen fuel cell in the train or small diesel generator in the New Routemaster, charges the battery directly.
  • The power source shuts down automatically, when the charge in the battery reaches a certain high level.
  • The power source starts up automatically, when the charge in the battery reaches a certain low level.
  • The battery moves the vehicle using one or more electric traction motors.
  • The battery powers all the other systems in the vehicle.
  • When the vehicle brakes, the traction motors generate electricity, which is stored in the battery.

The great advantage of this system is its simplicity, as the vehicle is effectively powered from a single source; the battery.

There is also an independently-controlled charging system for the battery.

A Possible Layout For A Hydrogen Powered Class 321 Train

Hydrogen powered trains need the following components.

  • Hydrogen tank.
  • Fuel cell to convert hydrogen to electricity.
  • Battery to store energy from both the fuel cell and regenerative braking.
  • Intelligent control system to control everything.

Positioning the last item shouldn’t be a problem, but could the other three larger components be placed under the train?

There’s certainly plenty of space under the two driving cars.

The battery would be connected to the following.

  • The 750 VDC bus to power the train.
  • The regenerative braking system.
  • The hydrogen fuel cell.

The train’s computer would control the systems intelligently.

Powering The Class 321 Train From Electrification

Class 321 trains were designed as electric trains and I’m certain they could be made to run on 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third rail electrification.

The electrically similar Class 319 trains are being converted into bi-mode Class 769 trains, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the hydrogen-powered Class 321 trains being able to use electrification directly.

The Battery Size

How large would a battery need to be to store energy from both the fuel cell and regenerative braking?

I will start by calculating the kinetic energy of a Class 321 train, as the battery must be able to store all the energy generated by regenerative braking, when the train stops in a station from an operating speed of up to 100 mph.

  • A Class 321 train weighs 137.9 tonnes
  • A train can accommodate a total of about 320 seated and standing passengers.
  • With bags, buggies and the other things passengers bring on, let’s assume an average passenger weight of 90 kg, which gives an extra 28.8 tonnes.
  • I will assume a total weight of ten tonnes for the battery, hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen tank
  • So I will assume that an in service Class 321 train weighs 176.7 tonnes.

Calculating the kinetic energy of the train for various speeds gives.

  • 50 mph – 12.3 kWh
  • 75 mph – 28 kWh
  • 90 mph – 40 kWh
  • 100 mph – 49 kWh

Note that speed increases the kinetic energy much more than weight. This is because kinetic energy is proportional to the square of the speed and only proportional to the weight.

Even if the extra equipment weighed twenty tonnes, the kinetic energy at 100 mph only increases to 51.8 kWh.

As the battery will have to store this energy after a stop from 100 mph, I suspect that the battery will have a capacity somewhere between 50 and 100 kWh.

A  Bombardier Primove 50 kWh battery, which is built to power trams and trains, has the following characteristics.

  • A weight of under a tonne.
  • Dimensions of under two x one x half metres.
  • The height is the smallest dimension, which must help installation under the train floor or on the roof.

I conclude that Alstom won’t have any problems designing a battery with sufficient capacity, that can be fitted under the floor of a Class 321 train.

The Train Will Need An Intelligent Computer System

The hydrogen-powered Class 321 train could have up to four methods of charging the battery.

  • From 25 KVAC overhead electrification
  • From 750 VDC third rail electrification
  • From the hydrogen fuel cell.
  • From regenerative braking.

The computer would try to ensure the following.

  • There was always spare capacity in the battery to accept the energy from regenerative braking.
  • Trains stop in a station with a full battery.
  • Hydrogen consumption is minimised.

The computer might even be programmed with the route and use GPS or digital signalling to optimise the train to that route.

It’s all very basic Control Engineering.

Alstom’s Marketing Philosophy

Watch Alstom’s video embedded in this post and they stress the environmental credentials of hydrogen power and particularly the Cordadia iLint.

They also show a caption which states that 195 states have made a commitment to zero carbon emissions.

That could be a very big market

The Coradia iLint will probably be a good train, but I suspect it may have a few problems satisfying a large market.

  • It is only two cars.
  • The current design can’t work on overhead electric power.
  • It is based on a Lint 54, which has only 160 seats.
  • Operating speed is 140 kph.
  • They are new trains and manufacturing may be expensive.

On the other hand, Class 321 trains have the following characteristics.

  • They are four car trains.
  • The trains can work from 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The trains are built to a smaller loading gauge than the iLint.
  • I suspect that they could be easily converted to other overhead and third-rail electrification voltages.
  • Each train has 309 seats.
  • Operating speed is 160 kph.
  • They are existing trains and manufacturing may be more affordable.

It should also be said, that there is a massive amount of knowledge accumulated in the UK over thirty and more years, about how to refurbish, modify and update Mark 3-based rolling stock.

Once the concept of a hydrogen-powered Class 321 train is proven and certified, Alstom would probably be able to produce four-car hydrogen-powered trains at a fair rate, as they become available from Greater Anglia.

Conclusion

I have come to the following conclusions.

  • The Class 321 train will make a good hydrogen-powered train.
  • Alstom would not have looked at converting a thirty-year-old train to hydrogen power, if they thought it would be less than good.
  • British Rail’s design of a 750 VDC bus makes a lot of the engineering easier and enables the train to be tailored for world-wide markets, with different electrification systems and voltages.
  • Having two different trains will give Alstom better coverage of an emerging market.

I suspect in a few years time, if the hydrogen project is successful, Alstom will design and manufacture, a whole family of hydrogen-powered trains, with different gauges, capacities and operating speeds.

 

July 3, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Retrofitted Hydrogen Fuel Cell EMU Concept Presented

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Global Rail News, that was published in April 2014.

This is the first two paragraphs.

The possibility of retro-fitting diesel multiple units (DMUs) to run on hydrogen fuel cell technology has been put to the test as part of an RSSB and Network Rail-funded innovation research programme.

Fuel Cell Systems, which has worked alongside the University of Birmingham and Hitachi Rail Europe, says the six-month study has demonstrated the feasibility of installing hydrogen fuel cell technology on DMUs as an alternative to electrification.

It strikes me that some serious people are involved in this project.

The report on the project was published in June 2016 and it is stored here on the University pf Birmingham web site.

 

June 26, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Hydrogen Train Of The Future Is A Lot Like The Train Of Today

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

It is an article worth reading ass it gives details of the philosophy of the guy behind the concept; Dr. Jörg Nikutta.

May 26, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Hydrogen Trains Herald New Steam Age

The title of this post is the same as that of an article on nearly half of Page 4 of today’s Sunday Times.

When I saw the article with its large graphic showing the working of a hydrogen train, the train seemed rather familiar.

The leaning back front of the train with its two windows and the corrugated roof looked like a Class 321 train.

The large orange area on the roof is the hydrogen tank and the smaller one is the hydrogen fuel cell.

This is a paragraph from the article.

Alstom revealed this weekend that it planned to convert the Class 321 diesel trains, which date to 1988 and are used on the Greater Anglia network between London Liverpool Street and Ipswich. The units will be switched to other lines once converted to hydrogen power.

I suspect Mark Hookham, who wrote the article, has already been told by ninety percent of the train enthusiasts in this country, that Class 321 trains are electric multiple units.

This picture shows the first car of a Class 321 train in the sidings at Ipswich.

Note all the space, under the train, which would be an ideal place for the batteries and traction control, that are shown in that position, in pink, in the Sunday Times graphic.

But there are other reasons, why Class 321 trains may be ideal to convert to hydrogen power.

  • Although they are thirty years old, they are a modern train, which meet all the latest regulations.
  • They have a 100 mph operating speed on electricity.
  • They operate on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • There are a hundred and seventeen four-car trains.
  • Greater Anglia will be replacing over a hundred Class 321 trains, with new Class 720 trains in the next two years.
  • A number of Greater Anglia’s trains have been upgraded to Class 321 Renatus. These trains are a substantial upgrade over the standard train..
  • Greater Anglia’s trains appear to be in good condition.
  • Designs have been tested to upgrade the traction motors and drive systems of the trains.

But most importantly, the trains are based on the Mark 3 coach, which gives the following advantages.

  • An excellent ride and superb brakes.
  • Bodies with a legendary strength and toughness.
  • There is a vast amount of knowledge in the UK rail industry, that enables the trains to be kept at peak performance.

I doubt, that you could find a better fleet of a hundred trains to convert to hydrogen power anywhere in the world.

The article says or indicates the following.

  • Hydrogen tanks will be mounted on the roof.
  • An Alstom spokesman is quoted as saying. “We have now started work on the development of a specific hydrogen train to launch the technology here in the UK.”
  • He also said that the trains would be super quiet, super smooth and much more accelerative. I assume that is compared to diesel.
  • Conversion will take place in fleets of up to 15 trains a time at Alstom’s factory in Widnes.
  • The first train could be ready by 2021.
  • Eventually, all Class 321 trains could be converted.
  • Initial routes could be on the Tees Valley Line and between Liverpool and Widnes.
  • Range on a tank of hydrogen will be 620 miles.
  • Top speed would be about 87 mph.

The article finishes with a quote from Alstom’s spokesman. “The initial capital costs of hydrogen trains were higher than diesel ones, but the “total life cost” of running them for 40 years was lower.”

I have my thoughts on various things said and not said in the article.

Alstom’s Widnes Factory

Alstom’s Widnes factory has just upgraded, Virgin Trains, fleet of Class 390 trains, so it does seem capable of handling heavy work on a number of trains at one time.

Train Certification

All trains have to be certified, as to being safe and compatible to run on the UK rail network.

Converting an existing train, must make this process a lot easier, especially as many of the hydrogen components and batteries have been used on trains in the EU.

The Proposed Routes

The routes named in the article are in the North East and North West of England, where hydrogen could be readily available from the petrochemical works, so fuelling the trains may not be a problem.

Power Supply

Class 321 trains were only built to work on lines with 25 KVAC overhead wires, but I suspect the parts exist to enable them to run on 750 VDC third-rail lines, if needed.

INEOS

INEOS is a very large multi-national petrochemical company, with a multi-billion pound turnover, which is sixty percent owned by Jim Ratcliffe, who has just been named the UK’s richest man.

So why would a company like that be involved in hydrogen-powered trains?

This news item from Reuters, is entitled AFC In Hydrogen Power Generation Deal With INEOS.

This is the first two paragraphs.

British budget fuel cell maker AFC Energy has signed a deal with British petrochemicals company INEOS to produce electricity using the hydrogen given off in chlorine manufacturing.

AFC said the project with INEOS ChlorVinyls would use surplus hydrogen from the chemical firm’s Runcorn facility in north-west England to supplement the plant’s energy needs.

I used to know the Runcorn plant well, when I worked there for ICI in the 1960s.

The hydrogen was produced when brine was electrolysed to produce chlorine.

So does Jim Ratcliffe, who is a qualified Chemical Engineer, see an opportunity to sell the by-product as train fuel to his neighbour; Alstom, on the other side of the Mersey?

Obviously, I don’t know what Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS are thinking.

But consider.

  • The Sunday Times article says that the North West and the North East of England are two promising areas for hydrogen-powered trains.
  • INEOS has large petrochemical plants on the Mersey and Teeside.
  • I wonder how many plants owned by INEOS around the world have a surplus of hydrogen.
  • Alstom would probably like to sell hydrogen-powered trains everywhere.
  • A well-respected chemical engineer, once told me, that the only things that should go out of an integrated petrochemical plant is product that someone pays for, air and water.

As the other place in the UK, where INEOS have a large petrochemical plant is Grangemouth in Central Scotland, I wonder, if we’ll see hydrogen-powered trains North of the Border.

Availability of Hydrogen

This article on Process Engineering, which is entitled INEOS project reduces energy bill by £3m, starts with these three paragraphs.

INEOS Chlor is one of the major chlor-alkali and chlorine derivative producers in Europe. Its Runcorn site in north west England has two large chlorine plants: the original J Unit that uses a mercury cell electrolysis process route, and the more recently opened Genesis Membrane Chlorine Plant (MCP).

Continuous improvement of the manufacturing processes has taken the Runcorn site to a ’best in class’ cost base and environmental performance, and as part of this improvement programme the company wanted to minimise vented hydrogen and maximise the value of this resource at both plants.

Without a significant change in market demand for hydrogen, it was not possible to increase sales to existing customers. The only alternative was to increase the amount used as fuel to power on-site boilers, thereby reducing costs for purchased natural gas.

Burning the hydrogen in on-site boilers.obviously helps to reduce the energy bill, but surely, if the hydrogen could be sold to a local customer, that could be more profitable.

You certainly want to minimise the vented hydrogen!

A few days ago I wrote The Liverpool Manchester Hydrogen Clusters Project, which is a project to create a hydrogen network in the Liverpool Manchester area.

Surplus hydrogen from Runcorn and other placed would be piped around the area to augment the natural gas supply.

This network could supply Alstom’s new hydrogen-powered trains and INEOS have a new market for their surplus hydrogen.

I don’t know the petrochemical industry in the North East, but there are a lot of petrochemical plants and some are owned by INEOS.

Is there a surplus of hydrogen, that could profitably sold as fuel for Alstom’s hydrogen-powered trains. I don’t know!

And then there’s Grangemouth in Scotland! My Scottish agent in the Borderlands, used to work at the INEOS plant in Grangemouth and that had a hydrogen surplus.

Even, if we can’t pipe hydrogen to the various depots for the trains around the country, surely it can be transported by rail!

I think that we may be short of some things in this country, but hydrogen might not be one of them.

Given that Alstom have moved so quickly to start planning conversion of the Class 321 trains, they have probably identified sources of enough hydrogen to power the fleet, even if all are converted, as they hinted at in the Sunday Times article.

Eversholt Rail Group’s Involvement

All the trains are leased from the Eversholt Rail Group, who would probably like to see their assets continue to earn the best return possible.

A few days ago, I wrote Eversholt Joins Very Light Rail Consortium.

These two projects may be at both ends of the rail industry, but I believe, they show the willingness of Eversholt to invest in innovation, rather than allow an asset to drift towards the scrapyard.

The Class 321 Renatus

This page on their web site describes the Class 321 Renatus, which was an upgrade developed by Eversholt in conjunction with Greater Anglia, to improve the trains, whilst waiting for Greater Anglia’s new fleet to be delivered.

These are the listed improvements.

  • New air-conditioning and heating systems.
  • New, safer seating throughout
  • Larger vestibules for improved boarding and alighting
  • Wi-Fi enabled for passengers and operator
  • Improved space allocation for buggies, bicycles and luggage
  • Passenger power sockets throughout
  • New, energy efficient lighting
  • One PRM compliant toilet and a second controlled emission toilet on each unit
  • Complete renewal and remodelling of all interior surfaces.

It would be a better interior than most British Rail-era trains.

Comparison With The Class 769 Train

The proposed hydrogen-powered Class 321 train, will inevitably be compared with Porterbrook‘s Class 769 train, which is a bi-mode upgrade of the Class 319 train.

Looking at operating speed on electricity and alternative fuel we find.

  • Both trains can operate at 100 mph on lines with 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 769 train can also operate at 100 mph on lines with 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • According to the Sunday Times article, the Class 321 Hydrogen train can operate at about 87 mph on hydrogen.
  • According to this article in Rail Magazine, the Class 769 train can operate at 91-92 mph on diesel.

So in terms of operating speed, the trains are more of less comparable, but emissions will be better with the hydrogen-powered train.

When it comes to interiors, as both trains are Mark 3-based, designed around the same time, train operating companies will have what their budget allows.

In the end the choice will come down to cost, which will surely be higher for the Class 321 Hydrogen, as this will require more expensive modifications and additional infrastructure for refuelling the train.

Could Any Other Trains Be Converted?

There are various other classes of electric multiple unit based on the Mark 3 coach.

I think there could be good reasons to only convert trains with the following characteristics.

  • Four-cars or more.
  • 100 mph capability
  • Perhaps fifty or more trains to convert.

These rules would leave us with only the seventy-two Class 317 trains, many of which have been refurbished and are in very good condition.

Conclusion

I’m drawn to the conclusion, that Alstom and Eversholt are serious about producing hydrogen-powered trains for the UK.

I also think, they’ve identified enough hydrogen to power the whole fleet, if it’s converted.

 

 

May 13, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Artificial Photosynthesis Offers Clean Source Of Hydrogen

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

This is the first paragraph.

Devices made using conventional semiconductor technologies could make hydrogen using just fresh or saltwater and sunlight.

It would appear to be an interesting concept, but after reading the article, there is still a lot of research and development to be done before it is an affordable proposition.

But I do feel, it could be one of those technologies that are commonplace in a few decades.

May 5, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , | 2 Comments

Minister Claims Hydrogen Train On Trial In UK

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Rail Magazine.

This is the first paragraph.

Rail Minister Jo Johnson told the Transport Select Committee on April 30 that a hydrogen train was on trial in the Lake District.

After the end of Amber Rudd’s political career yesterday, for not telling the truth to another Select Committee, I would be very surprised if Jo Johnson’s statement is not substantially correct.

Something strange is happening on the Windermere Branch Line.

  • Most of the day, there is an hourly shuttle train between Windermere and Oxenholme Lake District stations.
  • But the 10:56, 18:03 and 22:45 services from Windermerre, continue to Preston.
  • The 06:23 from Oxenholm Lake District to Windermere starts from Lancaster.
  • The 11:20 from Oxen Lake District to Windermere starts from Preston.
  • The 18:30 from Oxen Lake District to Windermere starts from Barrow-in-Furness.

It doesn’t seem to be the sort of diagram for a regular scheduled service.

Could it be that Class 769 trains are being tested?

  • Running on the West Coast Main Line between Preston and Oxenholme stations would be at up to 100 mph using the 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Running  to Windermere and Barrow-in-Furness stations would be under diesel power.
  • Note that the service goes to Preston in the middle of the day. Could this mean , that they are thoroughly testing more than one train?
  • From Preston the trains can go to turnback platforms at Barrow-in-Furness, Blackburn, Blackpool North, Blackpool South, Colne, Ormskirk and Windermere stations. So, Preston would be an ideal base from where to test the trains.

Could one of the trains under test be hydrogen  powered?

If what Jo Johnson said is to believed, at least one of the test trains must be!

Who’d have thought, that an old British Rail-designed Class 319 train, that entered service thirty-years ago, could be the UK’s first hydrogen-powered train.

A Hydrogen-Powered Class 769 Train

Of course, the engineering must be possible .

  • The train would need a hydrogen tank, a hydrogen fuel cell and a battery.
  • They would probably be fitted under the train, where there wuld appear to be plenty of space.

But companies like Ballard have a lot of experience with building hydrogen-powered buses.

Don’t Rule Out Bombardier!

I believe that most train manufacturers are looking seriously at hydrogen power, as a greener alternative to diesel.

Two years ago, Bombardier showed their expertise with batteries, by developing the Class 379 BEMU demonstrator in just a few months.

Could Bombardier have taken an Electrostar or Aventra and fitted it with batteries and a hydrogen tank and a hydrogen fuel cell?

Conclusion

I think that Jo Johnson was telling the truth or at least enough of the truth, not to be caught misleading a Select Committee of the House of Commons.

 

 

May 1, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tendering Begins For German Hydrogen Train Order

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in the International Railway Journal.

This is the first paragraph.

 Rhine-Main Vehicle Management (Fahma), a subsidiary of Rhine-Main Transport Authority (RMV), published a tender notice in the Official Journal of the European Union on April 20 for a contract to supply a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell multiple units for regional services on non-electrified lines in the Taunus area of Hessen.

But then the Germans seem to be much easier to use gases of various types to solve problems, than other countries.

I’ve spoken about hydrogen trains to people in Germany and the UK and the Germans are more enthusiastic, whereas the Brits just question hydrogen’s ability to catch fire.

Perhaps, Gemans teach chemistry better?

Who knows? But the orders for hydrogen trains keep coming.

 

April 20, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment