The Anonymous Widower

Midland Mark 4

The title of this post is the same as an article by Ian Walmsley in the March 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.

Ian builds on what he said in an article in the August 2017 Edition of the same magazine. I wrote about that article in We Should All Think Radically!

He proposes using Mark 4 coaches with two Class 43 power cars to create trains that meet the PRM-TSI regulations deadline, which will mean the replacement of the East Midland Franchise’s twelve InterCity 125s.

He suspects various technical solutions can be borrowed to make it all possible and because of the extra weight of the Mark 4 coaches, the trains may become 2+7 sets instead of the current 2+8.

The trains could be rather nice.

  • The Mark 4 coaches have been extensively refurbished in the last two decades and have full wi-fi and power socket fitment.
  • The Mark 4 coaches meet all the PRM-TSI regulations.
  • 125 mph running would be possible, where the track allowed.
  • The East Midland Franchise already has the Class 43 power-cars.
  • If the electrification of the Midland Main Line is ever electrified, then the Class 43 power cars could be swapped for electric locomotives.

I would assume that three extra sets, that the franchise is acquiring from Grand Central could also be converted., giving the East Midlands Franchise, fifteen sets with a life of at least ten years.

A quick calculation would indicate that this reorganisation could see the current 132 Mark 3 coaches replaced by perhaps 120 Mark 4 coaches. I’ve just applied 7/8 to the Mark 3 coach total after the Grand Central trains have been added to the fleet.

What Will Happen To The Remaining Mark 4 Coaches?

Currently, there are 302 Mark 4 coaches in service on the East Coast Main Line with Virgin Trains East Coast.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Mark 4 coach, there is a section named Future.

This is said.

The Mark 4s are scheduled to be replaced on the East Coast Main Line by Class 801s in 2018. Some may be redeployed to Midland Main Line services.[19] Virgin Trains East Coast will retain seven or eight nine-carriage sets to operate extra services to Edinburgh.

In 2017, Alliance Rail Holdings announced that, owing to it being unable to source new build Class 390 EMUs for its intended service between London and Blackpool, it was revising its proposal to use the Class 91/Mark 4 combination instead

So it looks like seventy-two coaches will be retained for the East Coast Main Line.

As to how many trains will be needed between London and Blackpool, that’s the old question of how long is a piece of string.


  • I don’t think that the platforms at Blackpool will accept full-length sets.
  • Class 180 trains used by various operators are five cars in length.
  • There are fourteen Class 180 trains, running to Bradford, Hull and Sunderland.
  • TransPennine Express has ordered several multiple units and rakes of coaches, that are five-cars long.

So perhaps three sets of five carriages, which seem adequate for Sunderland, would be a rough estimate.

This gives the following  totals.

  • East Midlands Franchise – 120
  • East Coast Main Line – 72
  • Euston-Blackpool – 15

Which gives a total of 207.

This leaves ninety-five coaches for other purposes. Or dare I say it, nineteen sets of five coaches?

Motive Power

The rakes of coaches will need to be powered.

These are a few possibilities.

Class 91 Locomotive And A Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer

Currently, Mark 4 coaches are powered and driven by a Class 91 locomotive with a Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer, at the other end of the train.

Total numbers available are

  • 31 – Class 91 Locomotive
  • 32 – Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer

If eight sets are retained for the East Coast Main Line, this means that a maximum of twenty-three trains could be created.

But except for limited use by Open Access Operators from London on fully-electrified lines, I can’t see all Class 91 locomotives being required.

Mark 4 Coaches Topped And Tailed With Class 43 Locomotives

This is Ian Walmsley’s plan for the Midland Main Line, as he outlined in the March 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.


  • There are quite a few Class 43 locomotives available. There are thirty-two on the East Coast Main line for a start.
  • Ian feels that creating 2+7 sets is possible, but many needed would be shorter.
  • According to the article, Mark 4 coaches would be more affordable than making Mark 3 coaches PRM-TSI compliant.

The trains would share the iconic appearance of the InterCity 125, which passengers seem to love so much!

Class 68 Locomotive And A Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer

Chiltern use Class 68 locomotives and Mark 3 Driving Van Trailers, with Mark 3 coaches, so it is likely perhaps after some modification, these locomotives could be used with Mark 4 coaches and an appropriate Driving Van Trailer.

If a Class 68 locomotive would work, surely the closely-related Class 88 locomotive could also be used.

Mark 4 Coaches Topped And Tailed With Class 68 Locomotives

This arrangement has been used between Norwich, Lowestoft and Yarmouth with an elderly rake of Mark 2 coaches for some time.

It is a method that could be surely be used with Mark 4 coaches after a few modifications.

A New Class Of Electro-Diesel Locomotive And A Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer

I very much feel we need a new electro-diesel locomotive for both freight and passenger purposes.

Mark 4 Coaches Topped And Tailed With A Class 68 And A Class 88 Locomotive

I have often wondered, if instead of using two Class 68 locomotives, whether a Class 68 and a Class 88 locomotive could be used at opposite ends, to create the ultimate hybrid train, with a powerful diesel locomotive on one end and a powerful electric locomotive on the other.

Summing Up Motive Power

With a bit of ingenuity, I’m sure that uses could be found for most of the Mark 4 coaches.

Possible Routes

These routes need good quality rolling stock and innovatively-hauled Mark 4 coaches could be a solution.


Scotland has decided that the best way of serving some of its long routes, is to use shortened InterCity 125s.

Surely, if the concept works in Scotland, it is likely to work in Wales.

These could use Mark 4 coaches or more likely updated Mark 3 coaches.

Liverpool and Manchester To Holyhead

Once the Halton Curve is open, the possibility of a Liverpool to Holyhead service must exist.

A quality service along the North Wales Coast, must surely be beneficial to residents, business and tourism.

London Waterloo To Exeter Via Basingstoke

This service is currently served by Class 158 or Class 159 trains.

  • Trains generally work as six-car units.
  • The route is electrified between London Waterloo and Basingstoke.
  • Time could be saved by partial electric haulage.

The problem of this route might be solved by converting the Class 158/159 trains in bi-modes, as I wrote about in Class 158/159 Bi-Modes?

Cross-Country Routes

Cross Country routes and I don’t just mean those run by the company of the same name are often very-well pastronised, as often these routes are the only way to get between two provincial cities.

Take Norwich to Liverpool, which has a route, that definitely needs more coaches than those offered by a two-car Class 158 train.

Scenic Routes

Scotland is to run short-formation InterCity 125s between major cities.

IMany of these routes also fall into the category of scenic routes.

If this Scottish innovation is successful, will we see pressure for similar trains to work routes like Settle-Carlisle in England?

Summing Up Possible Routes

I don’t think there will be a shortage of routes to run Mark 4 coach-based services.


Don’t underestimate how the retired Mark 4 coaches will be used.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Some Of The New Buildings For Heathrow Be Built In Scotland?

It’s all explained in this article on the Offsite Hub website, which is entitled Heathrow To Offer Offsite Hubs To Other Mega Projects.

This is the first two paragrahs.

Airport says schemes such as HS2 and Hinkley could make use of planned offsite manufacturing hubs

Heathrow Airport has said it hopes its idea for a series of offsite manufacturing hubs to help with its £16bn expansion plans will be used by other major projects, including the new nuclear power station at Hinkley and the HS2 railway.

Sounds a good idea to me.

A few other points.

  • Offsite accounts for 10% of the construction industry.
  • Heathrow are aiming for between 25% and 40%.
  • It will reduce the peak on-site workforce at Heathrow.
  • Offsite was safer, cleaner and less weather dependent.
  • Four hubs are plans, with one definitely in Scxotland.

A few months ago I talked to one of the managers building Custom House station, which was largely built offsite in Sheffield.

He told me, that the quality was so much better, than if it had been built traditionally.

The quality certainly wasn’t traditional pre-fab either.

Could this be part of the solution to our housing crisis?




February 9, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , , | 1 Comment

Scotland’s Gritter Tracker

Scotland’s Gritter Tracker was mentioned on BBC Breakfast.

So I had to point to it! Just click here!

Note the names!

January 17, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Levenmouth’s Rail Link Moves A Step Closer In Scotland

The title of this post is the same as this article in Global Rail News.

I wrote about the Levenmouth Rail Link before in Is The Levenmouth Rail Link Going To Be Scotland’s Next New Railway?.

According to the Global Rail News article the Scottish Parliament has debated the proposal to reopen the railway and it all went well, with support from seven MSPs from various parties.

The Scottish Transport Minister; Humza Yousaf, recommended that Transport Scotland look at the project.

So perhaps nearly sixty years after it closed, the Levenmouth Rail Link could be reopened.

The project certainly has a lot going for it.

  • Levenmouth is the largest urban area in Scotland not directly served by rail.
  • The line passes the largest grain distillery in Europe.
  • The line is mostly single track and only five miles long.
  • The track is still intact, so relaying won’t be the most difficult job.
  • Only two stations need to be built.
  • Could the stations be single platform?

My only negative thought about the reinstatement of this line is that like the Borders Railway, it might suffer from London Overground Syndrome, where the new line has such a high level of patronage, that more trains have to be procured.

September 29, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Running Electric Trains Across The Forth Bridge

Search for something like electrification of the Forth Bridge and you find a lot of speculation and no one who.believes it can be done easily.

A ScotRail conductor said very firmly that it wouldn’t be done.

I think that in addition to the engineering problems of electrifying the Forth railway bridge, there will probably be a lot of opposition from the heritage lobby!

I also think, that if you could solve the engineering oroblems, they will.cost a lot and mean closing the bridge for at least several.months.

Bi-Mode Trains

Virgin are proposing to use Class 800 trains, which are bi-mode and will use diesel power on the bridge. These trains will have no problems crossing the bridge.

They will probably even be quieter than the current InterCity 125s, that will be continued to be used by ScotRail.

Trains With Energy Storage

The bridge is not very long at 2.5 km. and an electric train with onboard energy storage could prossibly cross the bridge, if the tracks were electrified as far as the approaches.

So do I think it is possible that a train with onboard energy storage could cross the Forth Bridge?

The Energy Storage Could Be Full Before Crossing

If the overhead electrification reached to perhaps five hundred metres from the bridge, then the onboard storage would be full.

The train would lower the pantograph and then raise it again, when under the wires on the other side.

The Maximum Speed On The Bridge Is 50 mph

This must help.

Any Train Manufacturer Who Creates A Train With Onboard Energy Storage Will Gain A Worldwide Reputation

There is a lot of scepticism about trains with onboard energy storage or batteries and this would dismiss it for ever, once the crossing was shown on world-wide television with headlines like.

Battery Train Crosses Forth Rail Bridge Carrying Three Hundred Passengers

I believe that any train manufacturer, who felt they could achieve this feat would be willing to have a go, as the rewards would be immense!

Scotland Would Have A Unique Tourist Attraction

Although, I wouldn’t think it would be unique for long, as other countries would do the same to solve transport problems.

But nothing would ever be as iconic as the Forth Bridge!

I also doubt Scotland and ScoRail would say No!

Could A Class 385 Train Cross The Bridge On Stored Power?

In Hitachi Class 385 Trains, Batteries And Charging Stations, I discussed whether batteries or energy storage could be put into a Class 385 train.

I said this after giving details of Hitachi’s battery trains in Japan.

So will Scotrail’s new Class 385 trains have a battery capability?

Probably not initially!

But Hitachi have obviously been doing a lot of research into battery trains and the JR Kyushu is the first practical application.

Scotland’s rail system outside Edinburgh and Glasgow is not electrified, but it is well-known that Scotland’s Government would like more electrified services and also links to places like Leven and St. Andrews.

Both of these places, and there are probably others as well, are a few miles from a main line, that is very likely to be electrified.

So could we see a battery train charged as the JR Kyushu train on a main line, serving these branch lines on battery power?

I feel that the chance of this happening is very high.

So I feel it is highly likely, that if some form of stored power was fitted to Class 385 trains, that they would be able to bridge the gap between electrification systems North and South of the Forth Bridge.

Electrification Of The Fife Circle Line

Electrification of the Fife Circle Line would be the simplest way to improve the local rail service from North of the Forth Bridge to Edinburgh.

This shows a map of the line North from Edinburgh Gateway station.

It would need the electrification from Haymarket station through Edinburgh Gateway station to be completed South of the Bridge to an appropriate point on the bridge approach.

North of the Bridge, the circle could be electrified from an appropriate point on the bridge approach, all round the circle to Markinch station.

Running The Fife Circle Service With Class 385 Trains With Onboard Energy Storage

A belt and braces approach might see North Queensferry and Dalmeny stations being the changeover point from overhead to onboard power, so that with any problems, the train is safely in a station, rather than stuck on the bridge.

Currently, the two routes between Glenrothes With Thornton and Edinburgh stations take the following times.

  • Via Kirkaldy – 59 minutes with ten stops.
  • Via Dunfermline – 62 minutes with eleven stops.

This means a train doing a round trip from Edinburgh takes just over two hours with twenty-one stops.

The Class 385 trains will have the following characteristics compared to the current diesel trains on the route.

  • They will be faster.
  • They will accelerate better and have smoother regenerative braking.
  • They  will  have a much shorter dwell time at stations.

It would not be unreasonable to assume that the new electric trains could be several minutes under two hours for the round trip.

Trains that didn’t reverse could also go straight round the circle with the driver only changing ends at Edinburgh.

Currently, the route has three trains per hour (tph), so to run this level of service would require six trains.

Running four tph would need an extra two trains and if two tph used each direction, all stations would have a two tph service.

The trains would only need the ability to run between Dalmeny and North Queensferry stations on onboard storage.

Bi-Mode Trains Between Edinburgh And Aberdeen

Virgin Trains East Coast and possibly other operators wlll  be running bi-mode Class 800 trains between Edinburgh and Markinch stations.

They will have to use diesel power where there is no electrification, but if the Fife Circle Line were to be electrified, they could use it, to run the trains more efficiently.

Onward From The Fife Circle

The Fife Circle Line could be a bridgehead to extend electrified services to the North.

Consider these distances.

  • Markinch to St. Andrews  – 20.7 miles
  • Markinch to Dundee – 25.1 miles
  • Markinch to Perth – 22.7 miles
  • Glenrothes to Leven – 7.1 miles

All of these destinations could be reached by a combination of short lengths of electrification and trains with onboard energy storage.

Scotrail’s Extra Ten Class 385 Trains

Scotrail have an extra ten Class 385 trains on option, if the franchise is extended by 7 to 10 years and the trains would enter service in 2023.

Could these trains be to run an electrified Fife Circle Line service and perhaps running to Leven?


Scotrail have some ambitious plans for Scotland’s railways and I wonder, if they include using Class 385 trains with onboard energy storage to get electric trains across the Forth Bridge.

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Over The Queensferry Crossing

The Queensferry Crossing is Scotlan’s newest bridge over the Rover Forth.

I took these picture as we went North.

And these were taken coming South.

The one disappointment was that it was difficult to get pictures of the other bridges.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

The Cavalry Are Arriving!

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled First HST for ScotRail Arrives In Scotland.

I seem to remember reading accusations that Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and their governments weren’t too keen on the ageing InterCity 125 trains, that plied up to Scotland and across to Wales and the West of England. So they did a deal with Hitachi, which included a new train factory close to Blair’s constituency in the North-East of England.

But removing InterCity 125s or High Speed Trtains (HSTs) as they are commonly known, from the UK rail network, appears to be as difficult as removing Japanese knot-weed from a garden.

When delays hit the Great Western electrification, Great Western Railway started experimenting with short formation HSTs, consisted of two Class 43 power cars and four or five Mark 3 coaches. The experiments were obviously a success, as they have decided to do this according to Wikipedia.

Great Western Railway are to retain 24 powercars and 48 carriages to form 11 four-carriage sets for use on local services between Cardiff and Penzance. The carriages will be fitted with automatic doors and controlled emission tanks at Wabtec, Doncaster.

Scotrail have gone down a similar route of shortened HSTs.

This article in Rail |Engineer is entitled ScotRail’s ‘new’ HSTs, gives full details. This is the first three paragraphs of the article.

In 2012, Transport Scotland published the results of its rail passenger service consultation. This considered how the railway should develop and the types of passenger services required. Its results were incorporated into the specification for the ScotRail franchise which was renewed in 2014.

One conclusion from this consultation exercise was that passengers traveling from central Scotland to Aberdeen and Inverness much preferred to travel in Virgin Trains East Coast High Speed Trains (HSTs) from London than ScotRail’s Class 170 diesel multiple units (DMUs).

For this reason, the invitation to tender (ITT) document for the ScotRail franchise included a specification for improved rolling stock for Scotland’s internal inter-city services that could have been based on the HST’s mark 3 coach. In its franchise bid, Abellio’s response to this requirement was that it would provide refurbished HSTs on the routes that serve Scotland’s seven cities (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness).

Abellio received the franchise and ScotRail will be getting seventeen 2+5 and nine 2+4 HSTs. This paragraph from the Rail Engineer article gives more details on the trains.

The HSTs will be phased into service from summer 2018, with the full fleet operational for the May 2019 timetable change. This aligns with the completion of Network Rail’s Highland main line journey time improvements project. 54 power cars and 121 coaches will be leased from Angel Trains. These will make up 17 five-coach trains and 9 four- coach trains with two power cars spare. The 2019 timetable will require 23 trains in service each day with five coach sets operating Central Belt to Aberdeen services and the four coach trains generally running to Inverness. The number of through services from Inverness to the Central Belt via Aberdeen will also be increased.

As the first HST has now arrived in Scotland as is reported in the Rail Magazine article, it looks like everything is going to plan.

Politicians and others might say, why are the lines not being electrified or services provided by Class 802 trains.

  • Network Rail’s record on electrification isn’t good.
  • There would probably be opposition to overhead electrification marching all over the Highlands.
  • The lines in the North of Scotland probably have a maximum speed of 100 mph at best.
  • Drivers have forty years of experience of running HSTs to Aberdeen and Inverness.
  • To many of the British, the InterCity 125s are the definitive High Speed Train.

Could there even be a popular feeling behind using the trains, in much the same way people cling to the past in their politics?

I think it is a sensible plan for the following reasons.

  • A 2+5 shortened set running at less than the 125 mph design speed could be a very sound economic proposition.
  • The trains have large windows for a good view.
  • I’m sure Scotrail will add appropriate catering, on the upwards of two to three hour journeys.
  • These trains could be passenger magnets for business, leisure and tourists, especially from countries like Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Canada and the USA.

But above all these Scottish InterCity services must be the Marketing Department’s dream!

September 2, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Faster Trains For Slower In Scotland

In my analysis of the Kentish routes in Kent On The Cusp Of Change, I wrote a post called Elimination Of Slow Trains.

In the post, I said that the 75 mph Class 465 trains, were slowing services and reducing capacity, based on an article called Kent on the Cusp of Change in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

I proposed a minimum specification for trains on Kentish routes.

  • 100 mph capability
  • Designed for a fast station stop with minimum dwell-time
  • Regenerative braking
  • Efficient traction motors
  • Wi-fi in all classes
  • The capability to fit boosters for 4G signals.

Southeastern’s Class 465 trains fail on all points.

In Scotland, there is a new batch of Class 385 trains on order to work the new electrified services between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Under Operation in the Wikipedia entry for the trains, this is said.

The new trains will also operate on the newly electrified Croy, Dunblane and Shotts lines as well as replacing existing stock on the currently electrified Carstairs, North Berwick and Cathcart Circle Lines. This will allow for the replacement of ScotRail’s Class 314 fleet, and allow for the cascading of a number of Class 156, Class 158 and Class 170 units.

The Class 314 trains are even older and less capable than Southeastern’s Class 465 trains.

So what will be effect on services in Scotland, where the Class 385 trains replace the Class 314 trains?

If you look at the North Berwick Line trains between Edinburgh and North Berwick stations take around 33-34 minutes, when run by 100 mph Class 380 trains. Under Rolling Stock in the Wikipedia entry for the North Berwick Line, this is said.

From December 2017, ScotRail services on the North Berwick Line will begin to use new Class 385 units. Services will be formed of six coaches (two 3-car units) following growing passenger numbers (the platform at North Berwick was extended in early 2016 to accommodate these new longer trains). In the short term Class 380/1s (four car) will be removed from the line and two Class 380/0s (three car) used instead until the Summer and back again to four car units until December. Once the new units arrive, The Class 380 units will be cascaded to increase capacity on the Ayrshire and Inverclyde Lines to and from Glasgow making all services on these routes operated by Class 380s.

So could it be that although both Class 380 and 385 trains are 100 mph units, the newer trains have a better station stop performance, which enables the timings on the line to be reduced and possibly allow the doubling of frequency of trains to two trains per hour?


Modern 100 mph trains with the ability to execute fast stops at stations are good for operators and passengers alike.

July 4, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 1 Comment

Hitachi Class 385 Trains, Batteries And Charging Stations

This article in the International Railway Journal is entitled JR Kyushu battery EMU to enter service in October.

This is said.

JAPAN’s Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu) announced on August 24 that its pre-series Dual Energy Charge Train (Dencha) battery-assisted EMU will enter revenue service on the 11km Orio – Wakamatsu section of the Chikuho Line on October 19.

The two-car 819 series set draws power from the 20 kV ac 60Hz electrification system to feed a bank of onboard batteries, which give the train a wire-free range of up to 90km.

At least it can do 11 km. This is said about the train’s manufacture.

The 819 series is based on the existing 817 series EMU and was built by Hitachi at its plant in Kudamatsu in Yamaguchi prefecture.

Note the word Hitachi!

Hitachi call it a BEC819 train and it is one of their ubiquitous A-trains.

On the Hitachi Rail Europe web site, three new trains are mentioned.

All are A-trains and on all pages, the word battery is mentioned under power supply.

So will Scotrail’s new Class 385 trains have a battery capability?

Probably not initially!

But Hitachi have obviously been doing a lot of research into battery trains and the JR Kyushu is the first practical application.

Scotland’s rail system outside Edinburgh and Glasgow is not electrified, but it is well-known that Scotland’s Government would like more electrified services and also links to places like Leven and St. Andrews.

Both of these places, and there are probably others as well, are a few miles from a main line, that is very likely to be electrified.

So could we see a battery train charged as the JR Kyushu train on a main line, serving these branch lines on battery power?

I feel that the chance of this happening is very high.

Put a charging station, like a Railbaar at the terminal station and it could be done as soon as the train is built.


April 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 4 Comments

The Train Of The Future

This article in Rail |Engineer is entitled ScotRail’s ‘new’ HSTs, gives full details of the modifications ScotRail wukk make to their HSTs, before they enter service in Summer 2018. This is said.

The iconic HST is now over forty years old. It ensured the success of British Rail’s inter-city service and is still the world’s fastest diesel train, although the ScotRail HSTs will have a maximum speed of 100 mph. With around ten million miles on the clock these trains are approaching retirement for long-distance services as they are about to be replaced by IEPs. However, as ScotRail is about to demonstrate with its reincarnation of these trains, there is still much life left in them.

I wrote Edinburgh to Inverness in the Cab of an HST, after a trip to Inverness and it was the trip of a lifetime.

On the trip, you realise that Scotland has a big problem and an asset with railways and it’s called mountains. So a train is needed with bags of grunt and big windows.

An HST has both, coupled with an iconic style, unmatched since the days of steam.

Scotrail’s plan to run the trains between the seven Scottish cities would appear to be a good one.

I wonder, if we’ll ever see the trains going to Kyle of Lochalsh, Thurso and Tweedbank.

The article is worth reading, as it details everything that will be done to create a train worthy of the iconic routes.

If I’m still of this life next Summer, I shall be in Scotland.

I’ve never spent a night in Aberdeen, Dundee or Perth for a start!

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment