The Anonymous Widower

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

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.

The Bridge Deck Appears Level

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?

Conclusion

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 | , , , , , | 5 Comments