The Anonymous Widower

Has The Queen Ever Ridden In a Battery-Powered Train?

Countryfile this evening had a special program about the Queen’s Scottish house and estate at Balmoral.

One archive film, showed her arriving at Ballater station in a train hauled by a locomotive with a number that looked slightly familiar. Looking it up, it was a B1 Class locomotive, which I must have seen regularly, when I went train-spotting on the West Anglia Main Line in the 1950s.

So I looked up Ballater station in Wikipedia.

The station, which was on the 43 mile long Deeside Railway from Aberdeen, is now closed but there was this paragraph on Wikipedia under Services.

When the battery multiple unit was introduced, services were doubled to six trains a day from 21 April 1958, and Sunday service reinstated. The line was chosen for testing the unit because the stations were well spaced and the 1 in 70 ruling gradients would require substantial discharge rates.

As someone very interested in railways at the time, I’d never heard of British Rail’s use of battery trains.

Remarkably, the battery electric multiple train, is still in existence and is being preserved at the Royal Deeside Railway, not far from Balmoral.

It looks to me. that a lot of engineers at Derby, made sure that this train survived.

So what was it like?

  • It was based on the Derby Lightweight diesel  multiple unit.
  • The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board initiated the design and was a joint sponsor.
  • The train had an operating speed of 60 mph.
  • The train was powered by two 100 kW traction motors.
  • Power was provided by 416 lead-acid cells, giving a total of 440 V and 1070 A hour capacity.
  • The batteries weighed nine tonnes.
  • There were seats for twelve First Class passengers and a hundred and five in Second Class.

It couldn’t been that bad a train, as it ran between Aberdeen and Ballater station from 1958 to 1962.

There’s more about the train here.

Conclusion

But I  can’t help wondering, if the Queen ever used the train!

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

Catenary Masts Erected On Alloa Branch

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 851 of Rail Magazine.

Alloa is one of the many Scottish towns and cities, that I only know through the results of Alloa Athletic FC, at around 17:00 on a Saturday afternoon.

Alloa station has a chequered history with growth through the Victorian era and total closure in October 1968.

The station was demolished to make way for a leisure centre.

But then in 2008, the line to Stirling station was reopened and a new station was built.

Wikipedia says this about the reopening.

Passenger use of the new railway station has greatly exceeded forecasts and since re-opening the service has been improved by increasing evening and Sunday frequencies from two-hourly to hourly and by adding the peak hour service to Edinburgh in 2009. In its first year the station was used by 400,000 passengers, against a forecast of 155,000.

Now the branch to Alloa is getting the ultimate upgrade – It is being electrified.

This could provide a lot of useful data on the financial returns of electrification.

Use Of Battery Trains

When I first saw a map of this line which clings to the North shore of the Forth of Firth, I was surprised that Strling to Alloa should be electrified.

It is only eight miles and if it is a level coastal railway, it could surely be handled by battery-powered trains.

So why electrify now, rather than wait for Hitachi to bring their technology to the UK and save costs?

But digging deeper, there are two large industrial sites further to the East.

The railway from Alloa extends to Dunfermline Town station on the Fife Circle Line and could play a part in the development of both sites.

An electrified line to Alloa, leaves all options open.

The Wikipedia entry for the Stirling–Alloa–Kincardine Rail Link says more.

This is the first paragraph.

The Stirling–Alloa–Kincardine rail link was a project to re-open 21 kilometres (13 mi) of railway line between Stirling, Alloa and Kincardine in Scotland. The route opened to rail traffic in March 2008.

The rail link effectively had two purposes.

  • To allow passenger trains to run as far as Alloa station.
  • To allow coal trains to run to Longannet power station, without using the Forth Bridge.

The Wikipedia entry says this under Future Expansion.

The retention of the coastal route offers the possibility of providing passenger services to Dunfermline via Clackmannan, Kincardine, Culross, Valleyfield and Cairneyhill. The former direct main line from Alloa to Dunfermline (which was not proposed for closure by Dr. Beeching) is now partly obstructed by developments on the site of the old Dunfermline Upper station. There would appear to be no prospect of access to the existing Dunfermline Town (formerly Dunfermline Lower) station by this route, unless a new stretch of line were built west of Dunfermline. However, the coastal Kincardine line does give direct access to Dunfermline Town.

There has been some discussion of the possibility of providing a service to Rosyth Ferry Terminal.

The Scottish Government have a lot of options to provide the best rail system for the current rail travellers and future developments in the area.

 

 

May 8, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Scotland’s New Alcohol Pricing Laws

Scotland now has new alcohol pricing laws, as is detailed in this article on the BBC, which is entitled Scotland Ends Cheap Booze As Minimum Price Starts.

A minimum price on alcohol of fifty pence will certainly have effects, although my preferred drink of Suffolk-brewed low-alcohol gluten-free real ale from Marks and Spencer, which is just 0.25 units for a half-litre bottle at £2.60, would not be affected. I don’t think it’s even sold in Scotland, as it’s a very soft Sassenach drink.

I feel that the minimum pricing will either work very well or be a disastrous failure.

I think it depends on how law-abiding, the average Scot is!

The article in the Guardian is entitled Smoking Rate In UK Falls To Second-Lowest In Europe .

This is said.

In 2016, 15.8% of adults in the UK smoked, down from 17.2% in 2015, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Some 15.5% of adults currently smoke in England, rising to 18.1% in Northern Ireland, 17.7% in Scotland and 16.9% in Wales.

I suspect the Scottish government hope to see similar falls in the sales of alcohol, that the various smoking bans have brought.

If I walk into all the local shops round here, cheap booze is prominent, but I rarely see anybody drunk on the street and never on the buses.

On the other hand, I can’t help feeling that the higher booze prices will be just another tax on those, who can’t afford it.

 

May 1, 2018 Posted by | Food | , | 2 Comments

Caledonian Sleeper’s New Mark 5 Carriages Tested In UK For First Time

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

It appears from the article, that the project is on track, as the new Mark 5A carriages for the Caledonian Sleeper being tested on the West Highland Line, have spent time doing mandatory testing in the Czech Republic.

Two pictures in the article, show the carriages being hauled on test, by a Class 73 locomotive.

We must be only country in the world, where a flagship service, that runs virtually the whole length of the country , is hauled part of the way by a locomotive over fifty years old.

On the other hand, the Class 73 locomotives were built for the narrow tunnels and limited clearances of the Hastings Line, so they could work any of the third-rail electrified lines in the South of England.

The Highlands of Scotland may not have any electrification, but there are routes with limited clearances, where the Caledonian Sleeper will go.

So the Class 73 locomotive is an ideal choice for motive power.

 

April 12, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , | 1 Comment

‘Assassination List’ A&E Doctor Jailed For 12 Years

The title of this post5 is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

A former A&E consultant has been jailed for 12 years for possessing firearms with intent to endanger life.

Dr Martin Watt, who worked at Monklands Hospital in Airdrie from 1994, was sacked in 2012 following disciplinary proceedings.

The 62-year-old was later found with three sub-machine guns, two pistols, ammunition and an “assassination list” of those he blamed for his dismissal.

Why do guns make people lose their minds?

I find this a chilling tale!

 

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

Formartine and Buchan Railway

Looking for possible privately-funded rail projects, I have come across the Formartine and Buchan Railway on Wikipedia.

This is said on Wikipedia.

Transport Scotland is considering re-opening sections of this line. The population in the area, largely thanks to the oil and gas industry, has shown a considerable increase since the line was closed. For example, the town of Ellon has 50% more inhabitants than it had in 1979.

I’ll be interested to see what happens here.

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

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.

Consider.

  • 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.

Consider.

  • 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.

Wales

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.

Conclusion

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