The Anonymous Widower

Passing Loop Hope For Windermere

The title of this post is the same as that of a small story in Issue 903 of Rail Magazine.

This is the opening sentence.

The local priority for the Windermere branch is for a passing loop to enable two trains an hour to operate.

These are the distances from Oxenholme Lake District station of the stations on the Windermere branch line.

  • Kendal – 2.05
  • Burneside – 4.02
  • Staveley – 6.52
  • Windermere – 10.15


  1. Distances are in miles.chains.
  2. The return distance of 20.30 miles should be within the capability of a battery-electric train, that left Oxenholme Lake District station with full batteries.

Halfway would surely be a convenient place for a passing loop, which would be a mile towards Windermere from Burneside.

This Google Map shows Burneside and Staveley stations and the countryside in between.


  1. Burneside station is in the South-East corner
  2. Staveley station is in the North-West corner.
  3. The North-East side of the route is mainly agricultural land.

It looks like a passing loop could be built in the region of Bowston.

  • It would be approximately halfway.
  • It would be on the North-East side of the existing track.
  • It would need to be long enough to take the longest train likely to use the route.
  • ,It would allow a doubling in frequency.

I don’t think it would be the most expensive of projects.

Operational Considerations

A half-hourly service could be run as follows.

  • It seems likely that the trains will be four-car Class 331 trains, as I wrote about in Northern’s Battery Plans.
  • Two trains would probably be timed to leave Oxenholme Lake District and Windermere stations at the same time.
  • Trains currently take twenty minutes to travel along the branch and do the round trip in an hour.
  • ,This twenty minute timing would give ten minutes to turn back the train at Oxenholme Lake District and Windermere.
  • Ten minutes at each terminal station, should be enough time to fully charge the batteries for the next trip.

It should be noted that trains going to and from Manchester Airport would be able to charge their batteries on the electrified route between Oxenholme Lake District and Manchester Airport stations.

I think it would be likely, that there would be two services

  • An hourly service between Windermere and Manchester Airport stations, which is the current service on the branch.
  • An hourly shuttle service between Windermere and Oxenholme Lake District, which would be run by a single train.

The two services would alternate to provide the half-hourly service.

One of the advantages of a half-hourly service run by two trains, is that it may open the possibility of one train rescuing the other train if it fails.

If a train arrives at Windermere station with flat batteries, I suspect that as Windermere and Oxenholme have similar altitudes, that the second train could drag it back to Oxenholme station. Possibly without passengers.



April 21, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Northern’s Battery Plans

The title of this post, is half of the title of an article in the March 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

It appears that CAF will convert some three-car Class 331 trains into four-car battery-electric trains.

  • A three-car Class 331 train has a formation of DMSOL+PTS+DMSO.
  • A fourth car with batteries will be inserted into the train.
  • Batteries will also be added to the PTS car.
  • The battery-electric trains would be used between Manchester and Windermere.

It looks like a round trip would take three hours including turnarounds, thus meaning three trains would be needed to run the service.

The article says this.

The branch was due to be electrified, but this was cancelled in 2017, and as a result 3×3-car Class 195 trains were ordered. As well as the environmental benefits, introduction of the battery ‘331s’ on Windermere services would free-up ‘195s’ for cascade elsewhere on the Northern network.

Note that the total length or the route is 98 miles of which only the ten miles of the Windermere Branch Line are not electrified.

What Battery Capacity Would Be Needed?

I reckon it will be fine to use a figure of 3 kWh per vehicle-mile to give a rough estimate of the power needed for a return trip from Oxenholme to indermere.

  • Two x Ten Miles x Four Cars x 3 kWh would give 240 kWh.
  • There would also be losses due to the seven stops, although the trains have regenerative braking, to limit losses.

Remember though that CAF have been running battery trams for several years, so I suspect that they have the experience to size the batteries appropriately.

In Thoughts On The Actual Battery Size In Class 756 Trains And Class 398 Tram-Trains, I say that four-car Class 756 trains will have 600 kWh of batteries and a range of 40 miles. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that a four-car Class 331 train had similar battery size and range on batteries, as the two trains are competing in the same market, with similar weights and passenger capacities.

Charging The Batteries

The Modern Railways article says this about charging the train’s batteries.

Northern believes battery power would be sufficient for one return trip along the branch without recharging, but as most diagrams currently involve two trips, provision of a recharge facility is likely, with the possibility that this could be located at Windermere or that recharging could take place while the units are in the platform at Oxenholme.

The bay platform 3 at Oxenholme station is already electrified, as this picture shows.

I particularly like Vivarail’s Fast Charge system based on third-rail technology.

A battery bank is connected to the third-rail and switched on, when the train is in contact, so that battery-to-battery transfer can take place.

It’s just like jump-starting a car, but with more power.

This form of charging would be ideal in a terminal station like Windermere.

  • The driver would stop the train in Windermere station in the correct place, for passengers to exit and enter the train.
  • In this position, the contact shoe on the train makes contact with the third-rail, which is not energised..
  • The Fast Charge system detects a train is connected and connects the battery bank to the third-rail.
  • Energy flows between the Fast Charge system’s battery bank and the train’s batteries.
  • When the train’s batteries are full, the Fast Charge system switches itself off and disconnects the third-rail.
  • The third-rail is made electrically dead, when the train has left, so that there is no electrical risk, if someone should fall from the platform.

Note that the only time, the third-rail used to transfer energy is live, there is a four-car train parked on top of it.

When I was eighteen, I was designing and building electronic systems using similar principles to control heavy rolling mills, used to process non-ferrous metals.

Changing Between Overhead Electrification And Battery Power

All trains running between Manchester Airport and Windermere, stop in Platform 3 at Oxenholme station to pick up and put down passengers.

  • Trains going towards Windermere would lower the pantograph and switch to battery power.
  • Trains going towards Mabchester Airport would raise the pantograph and switch to overhead electrification power.

Both changes would take place, whilst the train is stopped in Platform 3 at Oxenholme station.

February 28, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport | , , , , , | 9 Comments