The Anonymous Widower

An Idea From India

This article from Global Rail News is entitled India’s Minister for Railways launches glass-roof scenic rail cars.

Why not?

Scotrail’s plans for shortened HST train sets to go between the major cities will hopefully carried out with style and a great deal of respect for the scenery.

For a start, will the seats be arranged like these in Chiltern’s Mark 3 coaches.

Note that the picture was taken in Standard Class.

There can’t be more stylish, comfortable and practical rides in a train of this Class anywhere in the world.

What is not shown is the cheery staff with the snacks and drinks trolley.

All of this too comes from a subsidiary of Deitsche Bahn and it is far superior to anything I’ve ridden in Germany.

I wonder if windows can be put in the roof of a Mark 3?

Probably! Engineers  certainly have ways of making Mark 3 coaches do anything they want

But there’s always the option of connecting cameras to the train’s wi-fi.


April 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

So Where Will Greater Anglia’s Old Trains Go?

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

It is a good question to ask, as when all Greater Anglia‘s new trains have arrived in 2020 or so, there will be a lot of trains needing good homes.

The article comes to these conclusions.

I don’t disagree greatly, but I do feel that because of the continued fast growth of the UK rail network, that other outcomes could happen.

Mark 3 Coaches

Passengers like the Mark 3 coach and Chiltern Railways have shown that the coaches can be refurbished to a very high standard, that meets all current and future regulations.

I feel that at least some coaches will get the Chiltern treatment, as there are routes, where they could work economically, between a locomotive and a driving van trailer (DVT). The key to this could be that Greater Anglia will release sixteen DVTs in good condition.

Class 321 Trains

Greater Anglia has over a hundred of these four-car trains and thirty of these will have been upgraded under the Renatus project.

If the Class 319 Flex train is a success, could we see some of these trains given the same treatment as I talked about in Could There Be A Class 321 Flex Train?

If the Class 321 Flex train were to possess the same hill-climbing ability that is proposed for the Class 319 Flex train, then there could be a whole fleet of trains suitable to work the Valley Lines from Cardiff, without any further electrification.

It will come down to a political decision, as to whether to electrify the Valley Lines and use new rolling stock or appropriately refurbished cascaded Class 321 trains.


March 6, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Could There Be A Class 321 Flex Train?

I took these pictures of a Class 321 train at Ipswich station.

Like the Class 319 train currently being updated to a bi-mode Class 319 Flex train, I wonder if the same bi-mode  upgrade could be applied to a Class 321 train.

Look at this picture of a Class 319 train.

A Class 319 At Lime Street

A Class 319 At Lime Street

Both trains do seem to have generous space underneath.


  • Both trains are 100 mph four-car trains based on Mark 3 coaches.
  • Ten Class 321 trains are being given the Renatus treatment by Eversholt Leasing for Greater Anglia with air-conditioning and new interiors.
  • The Class 321s were built after the Class 319s.
  • The Class 321s are 25 KVAC overhead operation only.
  • There are 117 Class 321 trains.
  • As the two trains were launched within a year of each other, they can’t be that different under the skin.

It should also be remembers that train companies have a lot of experience about running both type of train.

Porterbrook Versus Eversholt

Could we be seeing a strong commercial battle, where the two leasing companies; Porterbrook and Eversholt, fight it out to sell the best four-car bi-mode train to the train operating companies?

This could only be of benefit to train companies and passengers.

The Electrical System Of a Possible Class 321 Flex

The only problem, I can envisage is that as I wrote in The Electrical System Of A Class 319 Flex, the DC electrical bus of the Class 319 train makes the design of the Class 319 Flex train easy. If the Class 321 Train doesn’t have a similar layout, then it might be more difficult to create a Class 321 Flex!

On the other hand Vossloh Keipe have received a contract to upgrade the traction systems of thirty Class 321 trains to give them.

  • AC traction motors and the associated control systems.
  • Regenerative braking.

This work is fully described onb this page of the Vossloh Keipe web site.

Probably, with a suitable alternator from ABB and some quality electrical engineering, I would think that a Class 321 Flex could be created.


Each train will have their own big advantages.

  • The Class 319 Flex train will work third rail routes.
  • The Class 321 Flex train will have regenerative braking on electrified routes.

But in the end, if two bi-mode fleets can be created, there will probably be a lot of conviviality in hostelries in Derby and York, where the probably long-retired engineers, who designed the Mark 3 coach and its various derivative multiple units, will be laughing loudly into their beer.

March 5, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Can Mark 3 Coaches Come To The Rescue?

The Mark 3 coach is one of the mainstays of UK railways.

  • Chiltern Railways use thirty one coaches on Birmingham and Oxford services from Marylebone.
  • CrossCountry have thirty-eight coaches as part of InterCity 125s.
  • East Midlands Trains have over a hundred as part of InterCity 125s
  • Greater Anglia use one hundred and thirty coaches between Liverpool Street and Norwich.
  • Great Western Railway have over four-hundred and fifty coaches as past of InterCity 125s.
  • Virgin Trains East Coast have over a hundred coaches as part of InterCity 125s.

It should be said, that some are in better condition than others and very few meet the latest access regulations.

But even the table hides a few strength and problems.

Chiltern Trains

Chiltern Trains run their Mark 3 sets with a driving van trailer (DVT) and a Class 68 locomotive on some Birmingham and Oxford services.

  • Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street is a two trains per hour (tph) service and the journey takes ten minutes under two hours.
  • Marylebone to Oxford is a two tph service and the journey takes a few minutes over an hour.

The Birmingham service needs eight trains for a 2 tph service.

The Oxford service would need six trains for a 2 tph service, but if the journey could be under the hour, there could be a reduction in the number of trains needed.

If Chiltern decided to run a 2 tph service between Oxford and Birmingham, as I suggested in Where Next For Chiltern?, this would need another four trains.

This leads me to say.

  • As Chiltern only have six sets of Mark 3 coaches, they will have to use Class 168 trains for some of the services.
  • Probably by clever timetabling, they would  need at least a dozen trains to run a quality two tph service on both routes.
  • They would probably like all their services to Birmingham and Oxford to share a common train type, for operational and marketing reasons.

So where do Chiltern find another probably ten trains?

  • The Class 68 locomotives would have to be hired.
  • There are up to a dozen DVTs in storage at Long Marston according to Wikipedia, so creating some for the trains, might be a reasonably predictable refurbishment.

But where do they find the sixty coaches needed?

This article from Rail Magazine in June 2012, is entitled Making the Mk 3s even better, describes Chiltern’s methods.

This is an extract.

Economics dictate that it is cheaper to rebuild the Mk 3s than to order brand new DMUs. Indeed, because of track access and fuel costs, if a LHCS formation is more than five coaches (as they are in Chiltern’s case), then the costs favour locomotive-hauled trains. 

The freedom to be able to do this is also a factor for Chiltern. The franchise is owned by Deutsche Bahn, which also owns the coaches. This means that vehicles can be tailored to exactly what the operator wants, rather than thinking about the re-sale value. No expensive engineering will be needed, again because this is what Chiltern wants.

Note the trains are in the same ownership as Chiltern; Deutsche Bahn.

As a passenger, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

The product looks, feels and tastes good!

Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia could be a good source of quality Mark 3 coaches.

  • Greater Anglia have 130 of them, which are leased from Porterbrook.
  • The trainsare due to be replaced by new Flirt electric multiple units during 2019/2020.
  • The trains have recently been refurbished and have been fitted with wi-fi and retention toilets.

The problem is that they are still slam-door stock and don’t meet the latest access regulations.

But this is not a great problem, as Chiltern have form in updating Mark 3 coaches to meet the latest standards.

Greater Anglia are also replacing fifteen sets of carriages with just 10 electric multiple units, which will provide Norwich in ninety minutes at 3 tph, as opposed to the current service of Norwich in two hours at just 2 tph.

Incidentally, just eight trains are needed to provide the current service, so Greater Anglia could have a few spares.

So it looks to me, that immediately each Flirt is in service, there will be a Mark 3 set sitting in Crown Point ready to go on its next task.

But as just ten Flirts will be replacing fifteen Mark 3 sets, it looks to me, Chiltern might be able to raid Greater Anglia’s stock of spare trains earlier than has so far been thought.

Suppose three trains could be released, this would release twenty-four refurbished coaches and three DVTs.

If another DVT could be sources from Long Marston, then there would be another four rakes of coaches for refurbishment to Chiltern’s standards.

One of the great advantages of modifying the Greater Anglia coaches, is that they have all been refurbished to a high standard, so I suspect that all the mechanicals and structure of the coaches are in virtually in as-new condition.

This page on the Greater Anglia web site, gives full details of the refurbishment.

This is said.

The significant refresh will see all of the train operator’s MkIII fleet enhanced, with improvements throughout for both First Class and Standard carriages including, plug points; new LED lighting; new carpets; new tables; new seat covers; upgraded environmentally-friendly controlled emission toilets with new floors and new taps; re-painting of the carriage interior saloon and vestibule panels, walls and ceilings.

It also appears that Greater Anglia set up a special work-shop in Crown Point TMD to do the update.

Could Greater Anglia have stolen a copy of Chiltern’s rule-book? More likely, they used the same consultant.

After a recent trip in one of these coaches with a friend, I wrote The Power Of Three! To say she was impressed, could be an understatement!

Chiltern just need to fit the new doors and their own interiors.

The Various InterCity 125 Coaches.

There are several ideas as to what to do with the various High Speed Trains formed from two Class 43 locomotives and an appropriate number of Mark 3 coaches.

This according to Wikipedia is Abellio’s Scotrail’s plan.

Abellio ScotRail will also introduce 9 four-car (2+4) and 17 five-car (2+5) refurbished High Speed Trains by December 2018 on longer-distance services between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. Scotrail will receive the first locomotives and carriages late 2017, with the refurbishment program taking place at Brush Loughborough (power cars) and Wabtec Doncaster (carriages) between late 2017 and May 2019.

There have been rumours that Great Western Railway will do something similar with a few more trains.

As the InterCity 125s will each be shortened by a few coaches this will release more coaches for use by other operators.

Lots Of Mark 3 Rakes Of Coaches

There are probably enough Mark 3 coaches in excellent condition and DVTs, that can be refurbished, to create perhaps another twenty-five rakes of between five-car and eight-car Mark 3 coaches, tailored to an individual customer’s need.

All of the design work has been done and proven by Chiltern or their contractors.

Obviously, you wouldn’t fit the doors and do the final parts of the refurbishment, until you actually had a customer, but it looks to me, that Porterbrook, who own the Greater Anglia Mark 3 coaches, seem to be doing a bit of speculation. Obviously, they have a plan in there to make money, as ROSCOs don’t do charity!

There is also this article from Rail Magazine, which is entitled Refurbished Mk 3s for Tornado.

It describes how, a rake of Greater Anglia’s Mark 3 coaches, will be acquired to be used with the new-build steam locomotive 60163 Tornado. One would even be fitted with a water tank to extend the range of the engine. Surely, a Mark 3 can handle that sort of weight.

Porterbrook have done well in the last few months out of a speculative order for Class 387 trains, that helped tide some train companies through rolling-stock shortages.

So have they seen a market niche to create an affordable train for longer routes based on Mark 3 coaches hauled by a Class 68 locomotive or perhaps a Class 88 electro-diesel locomotive.


  • It would meet all the access and environmental regulations.
  • It would probably be quieter than a shortened InterCity 125.
  • According to the Rail Magazine article, track access charges are affordable.
  • As Chiltern and Greater Anglia are showing, it would deliver a superb customer experience.
  • Chiltern like the package and could be a customer or do something similar themselves.
  • It would be ideal for some of CrossCountry’s long routes like Aberdeen to Plymouth.
  • It would be ideal for an open-access operator, developing a new route.
  • Virgin West Coast might like it for Euston to Holyhead.
  • With a faster version of the Class 88 locomotive, it might have a maximum speed in excess of 100 mph.

It would do anything a Class 800 train can do, at probably a more affordable purchase price, lower track access charges and  an earlier delivery date.


Their is something behind Porterbrook’s decision to refurbish Greater Anglia’s Mark 3 coaches, when  they knew there was a good chance they would be replaced by new trains, as the clapped Class 90 locomotives certainly couldn’t do London to Norwich in ninety minutes, as mandated in the new East Anglian franchise.

I suppose that Abellio could have been keen to upgrade the coaches, as the interiors were very much on the tatty side and the upgraded coaches would hold the fort until the Flirts arrived, without too much grief.

On the other hand, if the Great Western Electrification gets later and Abellio ScotRail lose their source of shortened InterCity 125s, locomotive-hauled Mark 3s to a high standard would be a very acceptable and affordable alternative.

I must also ask this question.

Could Greater Anglia’s Mark 3 coaches have been refurbished, so that to fulfil Scotrail’s requirements, all that needs to be done is the following?

  • Fit doors that are compliant with the access regulations.
  • Shuffle the coaches to the length and First and Standard Class capacities required.
  • Give the rake of coaches a Scotrail livery.
  • Couple a Class 68 or Class 88 locomotive on one requisite end.

I suspect the negotiation would be quite convivial, as both Greater Anglia and Scotrail are owned by Abellio.

The only problem would be that Scotrail need 9 four-car and 17 five-car trains and there may not be enough DVTs. However, some sets could be to the original plan of shortened InterCity 125s.

Scotrail certainly have a Plan B, if the Great Western Electrification gets even more pear-shaped.

Appendix – Posted on December 24th, 2016

In the January 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, under a heading of Pennine Pretendolino, there is a picture of a Class 68 locomotive hauling, the jokily named spare rake of Mark 3 coaches to Laira depot for attention, so that it can be used for driver training purposes by TransPennine Express, prior to the arrival pg the new Mark 5A coaches from CAF.

The Pretendolino is described under rolling stock on the Virgin Trains entry in Wikipedia. This is said.

Following the loss of a Class 390 Pendolino in the Grayrigg derailment, a Mark 3 set with a Driving Van Trailer was leased with a Class 90 hired from English Welsh & Scottish as required. In 2008 Virgin looked at leasing two Class 180[49] but decided to retain the Mark 3 set. Nicknamed the Pretendolino, this received re-upholstered seating, power points, wi-fi and a full external re-paint at Wabtec, Doncaster in 2009.[50] Virgin used this set with a Class 90 locomotive hired from Freightliner on a Euston to Crewe (via Birmingham) service on Fridays only until December 2012. From 9 December 2013 it was utilised to operate a London Euston -Birmingham New Street train on Thursdays and Fridays only, until its withdrawal in October 2014. The Mk.III set was also occasionally hired out as a private charter train. It was used in the filming of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and can be seen at King’s Cross station at the end of the film. It is currently in use as a ‘hot spare’ with Abellio Greater Anglia

Like most of its siblings, it is showing a very strong survival instinct and keeping well away from the scrapyard.

Over the last year or so, I’ve ridden to and from Ipswich in the train several times, as it has been filling in whilst, the operator was updating their own Msrk 3 coaches.




December 13, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Where Next For Chiltern?

Chiltern Railways have now got their Marylebone to Oxford service up and running.

Wikipedia gives a list of their future plans. Included are the following.

  • Platform lengthening.
  • Restoration of former tracks.
  • Remodelling Banbury, which has already been done.
  • Building of the West Hampstead Interchange.
  • Development of services between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.
  • Creation of a Chiltern Metro.
  • Reopening various branch lies.

In addition there has been talk of electrification and opening a route along the New North Line to Old Oak Common.

Building On Oxford

As of yesterday, as I wrote in Oxford To Marylebone Opens For Business, they now have a two-platform terminus at Oxford station.

I can’t believe they have made this investment there, without other plans to use it. Wikipedia says this about the platforms at Oxford station.

The scheme also includes two new platforms at Oxford station, to be built on the site of the disused parcels depot. The new platforms will initially be five carriages in length, but provision will be made for them to be extended southwards to eight carriages.

A two platform terminus like this, will have a large capacity, when fully developed.

  • Two of Chiltern’s Class 68 locomotive hauled sets of Mark 3 coaches could be accommodated at the same time.
  • Two shorter trains could be handled in one platform at the same time.
  • Rebuilding plans for Oxford station would improve passenger handling.
  • The two-platform underround terminus at Moorgate handles 12 tph.

It could probable handle the proposed two trains per hour (tph) for the East West Rail Link with ease.

I can’t believe that these two platforms, won’t become a vibrant mini-station within Oxford station.

But where will trains and passengers go?

Expansion At Birmingham Moor Street

Birmingham Moor Street station is one of those stations, that spent decades in the wildeness and has now become an important alternative station.

Wikipedia says this about Proposed Future Developments concerning expansion of the station.

The currently disused third bay platform would be reopened, and an additional new fourth bay platform would be opened to accommodate the new services.

This is also said about HS2.

The High Speed 2 terminus in Birmingham is planned to be built on an adjacent site and will likely be linked to Moor Street, though have a separate name (either Fazeley Street or Curzon Street). The station and high-speed line is proposed to be completed by the mid-2020s.

So it looks as if Moor Street will become a more important Birmingham station for commuters and a gateway to high speed vservices from the city.

Services Between Oxford And Birmingham

Currently around two tph run between Oxford and Birmingham.

  • Typically, they call at places like Banbury, Leamington Spa, Coventry and Birmingham International.
  • Services are run by Cross-Country.
  • Services take between sixty and seventy minutes.
  • Services continue to places like Bournemouth, Manchester Piccadilly and Newcastle.

I’ve travelled on the route several times.

  • It tends to be overcrowded.
  • Service quality is not of the quality, you get with Chiltern, London Midland or TransPennine Express.

I think there could be a niche for an extra service between Oxford and Birmingham,, just as Chiltern hope and probably know, there’s room for one between London and Oxford.

  • Services would go between the bay platforms at Oxford and Birmingham Moor Street.
  • The Banbury remodelling must have helped the timetabling of the service.
  • A Chiltern quality service would be provided.
  • Two tph would leave at the same minutes past the half-hour.
  • Services could call at Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Warwick Parkway and Solihull, or whatever was appropriate.
  • Journey time could be sixty minutes or just under.
  • 2 tph on an hourly service would need four trains to run a service all day.
  • The Oxford Birmingham route would get four tph.

The only loser would be Cross-Country, who might lose passengers to the new service.

But then like Chiltern, they are ultimately owned by Deutche Bahn.

But, you can’t run a service without trains.

From 2019, Greater Anglia will start to receive new twelve-car Flirts for Liverpool Street to Norwich services. Currently, to run this service Greater Anglia uses 15 sets of eight Mark 3 carriages, with Class 90 locomotives and driving van trailers. In the last couple of years, all have been superbly refurbished with the addition of wi-fi and retention toilets. All the trains need is to fit sliding doors, as Chiltern have done for their Mark 3 coaches and replace the Class 90 with a Class 68 locomotive.

This would enable, Chiltern to offer a Mark 3 -only service between Marylebone and Birmingham and Oxford and the release of other trains for the Oxford to Birmingham service.

As every operator is short of trains and delivery timescales slip, it might be worth looking at the availability of suitable trains.

  • According to Wikipedia, as many as twelve driving van trailers could be in store at Long Marston. How many could be brought back into service?
  • Greater Anglia are replacing fifteen sets of Mark 3 carriages and a DVT, with ten electric Flirts, that will increase the frequency from 2 tph to 3 tph. Could this mean that one or two sets could be released before the Flirts enter service?
  • Hopefully, InterCity 125s will start to be available, as they are replaced with Class 800 trains from Summer 2017.

There are also other possibilities if events go to plan.

This is certainly a development to file under Watch This Space.




December 12, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Power Of Three!

I went to Ipswich for the football yesterday with a friend.

We travelled both ways in one of Greater Anglia’s refurbished rakes of Mark 3 coaches.

My friend doesn’t travel by long distance train that often and remarked both ways, that the ride was exceptionally smooth!

The design of Terry Miller and his team has worn well in the forty years they have been in service.

We might think of railway coaches as rather mundane everyday objects, but this design will outlive us all!


November 20, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Are Train Coaches Making A Comeback In The UK?

There were two stories yesterday, where new coaches to be built by Spanish company CAF.

Both sets of coaches probably use the same basic bodyshell, running gear and electrical and heating services, so once CAF designed the sleeper trains, they probably have developed a vehicle that could be used for any profitable purpose.

At present the Caledonian Sleeper uses two types of coach; a sleeping car and a lounge/seated sleeper car and these are being replaced with an identical number of coaches.

But little has been said about the design and make-up of the new coaches.

I suspect, that we will see lounge cars with large windows, so that the Scottish countryside can be enjoyed in style, if the weather permits.

The new coaches will be compared to British Rail’s legendary Mark 3 coach.

  • I’m also sure that CAF have set out to design a coach, that rides better.
  • The new coach must also be capable of running at 200 kph., as Mark 3s do every day in large numbers.
  • Will the coaches pass the cement lorry test, as a Mark 3-derived multiple unit did at Oxshott?

The 1960s design of the Mark 3 has set a very high bar.

Even less has been said about the five car rakes of coaches for TransPennine Express.

But in common with the other rakes of coaches in mainline service in the UK on Chiltern and the East Coast Main Line, and in East Anglia, they would need some means of driving the train from the other end, which is currently done with a driving van trailer.

A DVT is very much a solution of the 1970s, although it does have advantages in that the empty space can be used for bicycles, surfboards and other large luggage. Hence, the van in the name.

If you look at CAF’s Civity train, it is very much a stylish modular design and I’m sure CAF, have the expertise to build a stylish driving cab into some of the new coaches they are building.

I therefore think we will be seeing these five-car rakes of coaches for TransPennine Express, with a driving cab at one end.

One of the big advantages of this approach is that trains can be pulled and pushed by any suitable and available locomotive.

Operators wouldn’t be tied to one particular power unit, so as more electrification is installed, they could change to something more suitable.

You also have the possibility of designing the coach with the driving cab as perhaps a buffet/observation car or using it for First Class, so that the other coaches are very much a standard interior.

The approach also has the advantage that if you need a longer train, you just couple another coach into the rake.

I’m sure that CAF have designed a rake of coaches that has impressed TransPennine Express, otherwise they wouldn’t have ordered the coaches.

Some people might think that going back to coaches is a retrograde step.


  • Chiltern run an excellent service with coaches.
  • Deutsche Bahn still uses lots of rakes of coaches.
  • Rakes of coaches are more flexible than fixed-length multiple units.
  • The most appropriate locomotive can be used.
  • Some passengers might think, that coaches give a better ride than multiple units.

But I suspect the biggest factor in the revival of coaches, is that a rake of stylish new coaches and a Class 68 locomotive are more affordable than a new Class 800 train. They are also available earlier.

Imagine going across the Pennines from Liverpool to York in the buffet/restaurant/observation/driving car of one of these new trains, enjoying a  Great Western Pullman Dining experience, as the countryside goes by.

If it is done, it would set a high standard for other train operators.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Food, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

More Electric Multiple Unit Refurbishment

I am not a great fan of the Class 321 electric multiple units, that I seem to use, when I travel all over Essex and Suffolk.

On my regular trips to Ipswich, I much prefer to take the trains formed of a rake of Mark 3 coaches hauled by a Class 90 electric locomotive.

However like many of the UKs electric multiple units, the Class 321 are based on the smooth-riding Mark 3 coach.

As in recent years, a some of these like the Class 319 and 455 have been refurbished, it is no surprise that Eversholt Leasing has decided to update its fleet of thirty Class 321 trains, to make them more attractive to train operating companies.

This article in the Railway Gazette describes the project to upgrade these trains, into a new variant called the Class 321 Renatus.

It would appear to me, that these 100 mph trains will find gainful employment all over the UK Rail network, as more lines are electrified.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Travelling By Pretendelino

Greater Anglia have hired Virgin’s back-up train or Pretendolino, which is a locomotive-hauled rake of Mark 3 coaches. I travelled to the Ipswich on this train today.

The red roofs are a give-away.

One thing you notice is that the quality is a lot better than most of Greater Anglia’s coaches.

May 9, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

New Trains From Old

In my view, when they write the history of railways in perhaps two or three hundred years time, when they talk about long-dead diesel trains, one iconic train will still hold the speed record for a diesel train and that will be praised as the ultimate diesel train.

The train is the InterCity 125 or High Speed Train, whose one blot on its copybook is the marketing association with the odious Jimmy Saville in the 1970s.

I have a soft spot for these trains, as I’ve had so many good journeys in them to the North East, Scotland, Wales and the West Country, including one memorable trip from Edinburgh to Inverness in the cab and another whilst enjoying the best gluten-free meal on a train anywhere.

I suspect that removing the InterCity 125 from front-line service, will be almost impossible, as both passengers and train companies have a strong affection for the train. Even now, Abellio ScotRail has plans for High Speed Trains in its new franchise. Wikipedia says this.

It will also introduce 27 refurbished (Likely British Rail Class 43 leased from Angel trains)H igh Speed Trains by December 2018 on longer distance services between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness.

They are also committed to providing ‘Great Scottish Scenic Railway’ trains on the West Highland, Far North, Kyle, Borders Railway and Glasgow South Western lines, so could this need some more High Speed Trains? Perhaps the trains would be shortened, but with the seating returned to the 1970s original layout of four seats round a table at each window in the Mark 3 coaches.

Imagine services on the scenic Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh Line being run by say two or three, five-car-plus-buffet High Speed Trains, that replaced the totally inadequate service I rode some years ago. Those big windows would come into their own and I think the only problem they would have would be the same as that of the London Overground, where demand keeps exceeding supply. Even the power cars, with their big luggage space would come into their own for bicycles and large cases. Terry Miller and all of the team that designed this iconic train must be laughing like drains wherever they are, at the success of their stop-gap creation.

Usually old trains, cars and buses have a maintenance problem, but it is generally believed that as the High Speed Trains are so well known by the engineers, they can be kept in front line services until 2035. I think that will be pessimistic, especially if instead of thundering up and down the East Coast Main Line with eight coaches at 125 mph, they are running at lower speeds in shortened form on less demanding lines at slower speed.

I doubt for instance, that we’ll ever see them eliminated from Devon and Cornwall, as just as in Scotland, they could become part of the experience for visitors.

But could we see them on other routes like Liverpool and Manchester to East Anglia and on scenic routes in Wales?

Remember that there are nearly a hundred of the trains, which means there could be enough for all worthwhile ideas.

The Mark 3 Coach

The Class 43 power cars of the High Speed Train get all of the attention, but in some ways the real stars of the train are the 1960s-designed Mark 3 coaches in the middle.

Today most of the Mark 3 coaches on the UK rail network have been fitted with high-density seating, but on Chiltern Railways Main Line service between London and Birmingham, the coaches have been refurbished with four seats to a table by the window and automatic sliding doors.

Will remaining High Speed Trains get a similar treatment?

If they did because of their ultra-smooth air-suspended ride, they would become an unrivalled passenger experience, that met all modern safety and accessibility standards.

The Mark 3 coach is no lightweight aluminium vehicle, but is built out of steel. There were worries about the structural integrity, so a prestigious university was asked to do a full finite-element analysis of a Mark 3 coach. The findings showed that despite being designed in the 1960s without any computer help, that the structure would last a few more decades with the correct maintenance.

A Class 455 train, which is based on Mark 3 coaches, was involved in a unique incident, that tested the structural integrity of the Mark 3 coach to the limit. In the Oxshott incident, a fully-loaded cement mixer lorry weighing 24 tonnes fell onto a Class 455. There was injuries but no-one was killed.

I wouldn’t like to be in a modern aluminium train, when someone drops a similar weight on top of it.

Chiltern, Greater Anglia And Charter Operators

These days rakes of Mark 3 coaches are only used in three places on the UK rail network.

1. Chiltern Railways use them on their Main Line Service between London and Birmingham.

2. Greater Anglia use them on the Great Eastern Main Line between London, Ipswich and Norwich.

3. Some charter operators use them to provide services.

It is likely that within ten or twenty years, both Chiltern and Greater Anglia will convert to electrical multiple units to create faster services.

The Chiltern Line will need electrification and Greater Anglia will need to replace their Class 90 locomotives anyway.

But no plans have been made and no orders have been placed.

I think it is likely that in a few years, the only use for Mark 3 coaches will be in High Speed Trains and by charter operators.

Multiple Units Based On Mark 3 Coaches

Many of the successful classes of both diesel and electric multiple units are based on the Mark 3 coach design, as was the Class 319 that I rodeyesterday.

These will now be looked at in detail.

Class 150 Diesel Multiple Unit

The Class 150 train, is the only one of the Mark 3 coach-based diesel multiple units, that was produced in large numbers.

Their quality is a bit variable and I’ve ridden some immaculate ones like this one on the St. Ives branch and some terrible ones elsewhere.

The one yesterday in Liverpool, that I rode after a refurbished Class 319, could have benefited from the same sort of upgrading that the electric train had received.

I suspect that many of the hundred and thirty or so in this class could do with a good maintenance, a repaint, new seat covers and an uprated information display. They’d certainly be a lot better than Pacers.

Class 317 Electric Multiple Unit

There are seventy-two Class 317 trains working various lines around East London and some are in pretty good condition like this one I encountered between Romford and Upminster.

There is a plan to upgrade these trains described here in Wikipedia. The upgrade could cover a range of options from new efficient traction equipment and regenerative braking to new interiors.

Some may be available for cascade to other operators, as both London Overground and Thameslink could be buying replacement trains in the next few years.

Class 318 Electric Multiple Unit

The Class 318 trains are Glasgow’s version of London’s Class 317 trains.

These trains are undergoing an upgrade, which is described here in Wikipedia.

Class 319 Electric Multiple Unit

There are eighty-six Class 319 trains, that were originally built for Thameslink.

Twenty of these are being refurbished for use on the North West electrified lines and I rode one yesterday. The train had scrubbed up well!

Others may be moved to the Great Western Main Line to work electrified services to Oxford and Newbury.

Class 320 Electric Multiple Unit

There are twenty-two Class 320 trains, which are a Scottish version of the Class 321 trains.

All have had an upgrade, which is described here in Wikipedia.

Class 321 Electric Multiple Unit

There are a hundred and seventeen Class 321 trains, which are fairly numerous on the lines out of Liverpool Street.

Greater Anglia are developing a demonstrator, which is described like this in Wikipedia.

Abellio Greater Anglia in conjunction with Eversholt Rail Group has refitted a 321/4 as a demonstrator to show what Abellio planned to do with their Class 321 fleet. The unit number is 321448, which features a new paint job, completely re-fitted interior including two examples of sitting arrangements including 2+2 and 2+3 and a new First Class area. The demonstrator also features air conditioning, previously unseen on Class 321 trains, fixed panel windows to replace opening windows and an overhauled traction system. The ultimate plan is to introduce other Class 321 trains in a similar configuration rather than replace them, to save money on purchasing brand new trains.

This demonstrator illustrates that refurbished old trains could be a better and more cost-effective solution than new trains.

They would certainly be welcomed by me, as the current interiors are rather tired. Especially, when compared to the Class 319 yesterday.

Class 322 Electric Multiple Unit

The five Class 322 trains are another variant of the Class 321 trains, which were built for the Stansted Express and are now running in the Leeds area.

No plans for an upgrade are mentioned in Wikipedia.

Class 442 Electric Multiple Unit

There are twenty-four Class 442 trains, that currently work the Gatwick Express, although they are being replaced on this task.

They are probably a bit surplus to requirements and will need to be converted to overhead electrics to find any further use.

But at least as they are Mark 3 coach-derived, there is a lot of solutions available from other members of the family.

Class 455 Electric Multiple Unit

There are a hundred and thirty-seven Class 455 trains, which generally work the suburban lines into Waterloo.

They have all been given a high quality upgrade, which is detailed here.


We’ll be seeing Mark 3-derived trains on the UK rail network for some years and because there are so many techniques and tricks available to the train companies, builders and remanufacturers, they will all be of a high quality.

March 20, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment