The Anonymous Widower

A Visit To The Swanage Railway

Yesterday, I noticed this article on Railnews which was entitled National Rail Trains To Score Heritage First.

This was the first two paragraphs.

Scheduled National Rail trains will run on a heritage railway tomorrow for the first time.

South Western Railway is launching Saturday services to Corfe Castle on the Swanage Railway, and Corfe Castle has been restored to the national stations database.

So I thought, I’d be on the first South Western Railway train on a scheduled service into Corfe Castle station on the Swanage Railway.

I caught the 08:25 train from London Waterloo to Weymouth and I alighted at Wareham station to catch the 11:12 train to Corfe Castle.

These pictures illustrate my trip.

I have various observations.

Costs

I came down from London, so I had to pay for that ticket, but train tickets to Swanage from Wareham cost me five pounds for the South Western Railway leg and ten pounds for steam haulage.

Operations

\everything was very professional and there seamed to be a high-level of communication and good humour between the staff of South Western Railway and the volunteers of the Swanage Railway.

Swanage Railway were operating a stem-hauled shuttle along their line between Norden and Swanage stations and as the pictures show, both companies were able to run their own services, without interrupting the other.

Does Swanage Need A Year Round Train Service?

After my father retired, my parents went to live in Felixstowe.

It certainly didn’t work for me, as it was not the sort of place, a late teenager, could amuse himself, especially as all my friends were in London. As we hadn’t sold the house in London, I was usually to be found there.

I don’t know Swanage and I don’t know what it is like to live there!

But I do remember a short film on the BBC program Tonight in the early 1960s.

They were talking about long-distance commuting and they used as an example, a guy, who had moved his family to Swanage and was leaving home very early in the morning to go back to London for his work.

He was very happy with the arrangement, but the last shot of the film was after the reporter had asked his two teenage daughters what they thought of it all. Their faces said it all and I can remember by mother made an acerbic comment.

I wonder what a year round hourly service would do for Swanage?

Felixstowe has an hourly rail service to Ipswich, but then Felixstowe is over twice as large as Swanage.

On the other hand, Felixstowe has a fast dual-carriageway road connecting it to the rest of East Anglia.

Providing An Hourly Service To Swanage

Unlike many rail schemes aiming to create a new branch line, a lot of infrastructure is already in place.

Track

Yesterday, the following services were running.

  • A roughly hourly steam service between Norden and Swanage stations, run by the Swanage Railway.
  • A two-hourly service diesel service between Wareham and Corfe Castle stations, run by South Western Railway.

The track, which is a mixture of single and double track, seemed to cope well.

Interestingly, there is a mothballed oil terminal at Furzebrook, which was used to export oil from the large field at Wytch Farm. It is connected to the Swanage Railway between Norden station and the South Western Main Line.

As development and exploitation of oil fields is a very unpredictable process, I suspect that the Northern section of the Swanage railway is kept in very good condition by Network Rail, just in case Furzebrook has to reopen.

Norden Station

Norden station is the Northernmost station on the Swanage Railway.

This Google Map shows the station.

The map clearly shows the single platform, the Purbreck Mineral and Mining Museum and the Swanage Railway Park & Ride.

The Wikipedia entry for Norden station, says this about the car park.

A large car park, provided by Purbeck District Council, allows the station to function as a park & ride facility for the tourist centres of Corfe Castle and Swanage

Could this car park, also be used by local residents wanting to commute to or go shopping in Poole or Bournemouth?

Corfe Castle Station

Corfe Castle station is a well-built station with two platforms and a footbridge, that is as good if not better than many rural stations.

Harman’s Cross Station

Harman’s Cross station is a two platform station, without a footbridge.

It appears from the Google Map of the area, that new houses are being built in Harman’s Cross.

Swanage Station

Swanage station is the terminus station with two platforms.

As the pictures show, the platform used by the steam train is long and would certaining take an eighty metre long train.

Operating As A Single-Track Branch Line

I suspect that on days, when the heritage railway is not in operation, that the Swanage Railway could be used as a single-track branch line.

So perhaps, a diesel multiple unit could run a passenger shuttle along the branch. Operation would be little different to any of several diesel-operated branch lines in the UK.

Surely, if the CAA can allow Loganair to use Barra Airport, which is a beach on the island of the same name, then the ORR must be able to write a sensible rule book, to allow an hourly passenger service between Wareham and Swanage.

This picture shows Zwickau Zentrum station in the centre of the German town of Zwickau.

It is the simplest station, I’ve ever seen in a town centre. The diesel multiple unit appears to come into the city under the following rules.

  • A sensible speed.
  • Orange lights flashing.
  • Two crew operation.

Effectively, the train service in Zwickau is run like a tram and even has a three-rail track, that it shares with metre-gauge trams.

Note that as the Swanage Railway is a heritage railway, the speed limit is only 25 mph anyway.

As yesterday showed, South Western Railway and the Swanage Railway are able to operate a practical shared service on days, when the heritage railway is in operation.

Connecting To South Western Main Line Services

As was demonstrated yesterday by South Western Railway’s Class 159 train, operation between Corfe Castle and Wareham stations, is not the most difficult of operations.

Two things help.

  • The South Western Main Line is not the busiest of routes through Wareham station.
  • There is a cross-over to the West of the station.

These allowed the Class 159 train to use one of the through platforms to turnback.

Would this continue, if say the Swanage Railway wee to run an hourly shuttle between Corfe Castle and Wareham stations?

Look at this Google Map of Wareham station.

Is there space on the Northern side of the station to add a bat platform, to allow the shuttle to terminate in its own platform?

When I returned from Wareham to Waterloo, I just missed a train and I had to wait thirty minutes for the next train.

Looking at the Google Map of Poole station, there would appear to be a large amount of space around the station,

The Wikipedia entry for Poole station, also says this.

In 2004 proposals were drawn up for the current station buildings and footbridge to be replaced as part of redevelopment plans for the old goods yard. A hotel was to be built on the site of the current station building, however as of 2010 these plans have not progressed.

So would it be feasible at some time in the future to terminate a Swanage service in a bay platform in the much larger town of Poole?

There are certainly possibilities to use Poole or even Bournemouth stations as a terminus of a service to Swanage station, that would also increase the frequency on the South Western Main Line between Bournemouth and Weymouth.

How Long Would A Train Take To Go From Wareham To Corfe Castle And Back?

Looking at yesterday’s figures on Real Time Trains, the following times were achieved yesterday.

  • Wareham to Corfe Castle – 21 minutes
  • Corfe Castle to Wareham – 26 minutes

Yesterday, the trains were waiting for a long time at Corfe Castle station, to fit with their two-hourly timetable and that of the steam trains on the other track.

If you add in sensible turnback times at Wareham and Corfe Castle, I doubt that a round trip could be done in an hour, making it difficult to run an hourly shuttle between the two stations.

How Long Would A Train Take To Go From Wareham To Swanage And Back?

Using yesterday’s figures and the quoted times for steam trains between Corfe Castle and Swanage stations, we get the following times.

  • Wareham to Corfe Castle – 21 minutes
  • Corfe Castle to Swanage – 22 minutes
  • Swanage to Corge Castle – 20 minutes
  • Corfe Castle to Wareham – 26 minutes

Or a total of 89 minutes plus how long the turnround will be at Swanage station.

I have a feeling that timetabling an hourly service could be difficult.

What Rolling Stock Can Be Used?

If the trains travel for more than a few miles on the South Western Main Line, being able to use the third-rail electrification would be useful.

But they would also need to be self-powered on the Swanage Railway.

So perhaps, a bi-mode would be ideal.

As they have rather a heritage flavour, perhaps a Class 769 train would be ideal?

Conclusion

There is a lot of potential to improve services on the Swanage Railway.

I suspect that if South Western Railway and the Swanage Railway got into serious discussion, there will be a solution, that would be beneficial to both parties and all those who live and work in or visit Swanage and the Isle of Purbeck.

 

May 27, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Disabled Access On South Western Railway’s Class 707 Trains

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled RMT Backs Disabled Passengers Protest In London.

I will not comment directly on the article, but relate an incident, that I observed on Saturday, as I was travelling to Brentford station, to see Ipswich Town at nearby Brentford.

  • I was travelling in the fourth car of a ten-car formation of two five-car Class 707 trains, when we stopped at a station and seemed to be waiting a long time to depart.
  • I then noticed a guy in a motorised wheel-chair moving along the platform, who stopped at the door at the front of my car.
  • The guard then appeared on the platform, said something to the guy in the wheelchair and entered the train.
  • He returned a couple of minutes later holding the folding ramp, which he used professionally to load the guy and his wheelchair into the train.
  • A couple of minutes later after stowing the ramp, the guard closed the doors and gave the signal to start.

This picture shows the height difference at Brentford station.

This is not as bad as some train-plarform gaps, but why isn’t it flat?

A station-man on the London Overground once told me, that loading disabled passengers on to trains using a ramp,  is a major source of delay.

Saturday’s incident illustrated the problem beautifully.

It also showed the professionalism of one of their staff

South Western Railways use a very inefficient system.

  • The guard had to walk some way to load the passenger, as he happened to be at the back of the train.
  • He was actually in the second train, so had to walk on the platform.
  • The ramp had to be removed from and replaced in its cupboard.
  • How many times, do guards and station staff catch their fingers in the ramp?

If level access were to be provided between train and platform, the guard would just have acted as a guide to get the guy in the wheelchair on the train.

South Western Railways are getting a new fleet of Class 701 trains.

  • These trains will be walk-through, meaning the guard can get to where assistance is needed easily. And in the dry, if it’s raining hard.
  • Will the trains floors, be level with those of the platforms?
  • If not, will a Harrington Hump be provided?

Surely, this will mean many disabled in a wheelchair, like an acquaintance of mine, will be able to push or drive themselves into and out of the train.

It will of course help others like those with an infant in a buggy or dragging a heavy case.

Let’s hope the new fleet of trains, will be designed to access the trains in a much better way than the current Class 707 trains, and the older Class 455 trains.

Conclusion

Could this incident illustrate the problems, that prompted South Western Railway to decide to return the Class 707 trains to the leasing company?

Does what I saw , have any relevance to the role of guards on trains?

The incident I saw, would have required assistance from a second person, even if the access had been totally level.

Note.

  • London Underground and Overground try to always have somebody on the platform, when a train is in the station.
  • The Docklands Light Railway always have someone on the train.

South Western Railway could use either method.

 

April 10, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

MTR Vying To Join Heathrow Southern Rail Bid

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in New Civil Engineer.

The title gives you all you need, but consider these facts about MTR.

  • MTR is a Hong Kong company with a revene of about £4 billion per year, which is about the same size as the Stagecoach Group.
  • MTR will be running Crossrail for Transport for London.
  • MTR in partnership with First Group, are running South Western Railway.

In addition, FirstGroup are running Great Western Railway.

So it could seem logical for MTR to be included in the consortium behind Heathrow Southern Railway, as they could have a lot of influence on the consortium’s policies.

In an argument about train paths or stations, MTR or their partner; First Group, will be involved on both sides.

The problem is Heathrow Airport and their ownership of Heathrow Express, especially if it is extended deep into South Western Railway territory at Basingstoke, Guildford or Working.

This is said on the Heathrow Southern Railway web site.

Whether or not a third runway is built, many more passengers and airport workers need to be accessing Heathrow by train. The Government’s recent M25 South West Quadrant Study ruled out widening the motorway. HSR provides the alternative, switching traffic from the roads and contributing to improving local air quality. We estimate that HSR will reduce use of this section of the M25 by over three million car trips a year.

Heathrow might be a greedy bully, but they probably need a superb rail service more, than they need to own Heathrow Express.

MTR and AECOM, who is a large partner in Heathrow Southern Railway partner, are big enough to stand up to anybody.

 

March 21, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Class 158/159 Bi-Modes?

In the March 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, there is a short news item, which is entitled Bi-Mode Study For SWR DMUs.

The Class 158 and Class 159 diesel multiple units used by South Western Railway are diesel-hydraulic units.

Under their franchise aggreement, South Western Railway, agreed to perform a study, to see if the multiple units could be converted from diesel-hydraulic to diesel-electric transmission.

If this is successful, then the plan would be to fit a third-rail capability to the trains, so they could use the electrification between Basingstoke and Waterloo on services to Salisbury and Exeter.

Could the conversion also raise the operating speed of the trains from their current 90 mph to a more timetable-friendly 100 mph?

It looks like it could be a feasible , especially as the article states they might re-use redundant modern traction equipment from Class 455 trains, which are due for replacement.

Disruptive Innovation From Edinburgh

In The Future Of Diesel Trains, I talked about work being done in Edinburgh, by a company called Artemis Intelligent Power, to improve the efficiency of diesel-hydraulic trains.

This is an extract from the original post.

Artemis Intelligent Power has a page about Rail applications on their web-site.

This is the introductory paragraphs to their work.

Whilst electrification has enabled the de-carbonisation of much of the UK’s rail sector, the high capital costs in electrifying new lines means that much of Britain (and the world’s) railways will continue to rely on diesel.

In 2010, Artemis completed a study with First ScotRail which showed that between 64 and 73 percent of a train’s energy is lost through braking and transmission.

In response to this, Artemis began a number of initiatives to demonstrate the significant benefits which digital hydraulics can bring to diesel powered rail vehicles.

Two projects are detailed.

The first is the fitting of a more efficient hydraulic unit, that is described in the Rail Technology Magazine article.

Under a heading of Faster Acceleration, Reduced Consumption, there is a technical drawing with a caption of The Artemis Railcar.

This is said.

We are also working with JCB and Chiltern Railways on a project funded by the RSSB to reduce fuel consumption and improve engine performance by combining highly efficient hydraulic transmission with on board energy storage in the form of hydraulic accumulators, which store energy during braking for reuse during acceleration.

Note.

  1. The use of hydraulic accumulators to provide regenerative braking.
  2. The involvement of JCB, whose construction equipment features a lot of hydraulics.
  3. The involvement of Chiltern Railways, who like their parent company, Deutsche Bahn, have a lot of diesel-hydraulic multiple units and locomotives.

The article goes on to detail, how a test railcar will be running before the end of 2017.

I wonder if Artemis Intelligent Power have ideas for improving the efficiency and creating bi-modes of Class 158 and Class 159 trains?

Could they for instance produce a highly-efficient electrically-driven hydraulic pump, that could be powered by the third-rail electrification, where it is available?

If they can, the advantages of this approach include.

  • The ability to swap from diesel to electric power as required.
  • Regenerative braking could be made available.
  • The trains would still use diesel-hydraulic transmission.

It must surely, be at a lower cost.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Formation Of A Class 707 Train

South Western Railway are starting to use more Class 707 trains.

Wikipedia does not give any details on the formation of the trains.

This morning, I rode an example out of Waterloo to Clapham Junction. So I decided to ascertain the formation, by reading the designations on the ends of the carriage.

  • DMSO – Driving Motor Standard Open
  • TSO  – Trailer Standard Open
  • TSO(L)W  – Trailer Standard Open with provision for a lavatory and a wheelchair space.
  • (P)TSO  – Trailer Standard Open with provision for a pantograph.
  • DMSO – Driving Motor Standard Open

Wikipedia has a list of British Rail coach designations.

Note.

  1. The Class 707 train has two motor cars and three trailer cars in the middle.
  2. The train is wired for a pantograph and has already been tested with one.
  3. I suspect because of the designation, that a lavatory can be added.

I have been told that the Class 720 trains for Greater Anglia, which like the Class 707 trains are 100 mph five-car trains, have traction motors on every car.

I suspect that this gives faster acceleration and smooth regenerative braking.

But because there are more traction motors, the trains must be more expensive.

So have the Class 707 trains been designed down to a price?

 

January 9, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , | 2 Comments

A First Ride In A Class 707 Train

I had my first ride in a Class 707 train today, from Clapham Junction station to Waterloo station.

I had expected a few glaring faults, as South Western Railway is dropping the trains.

But there are some good features.

  • Wide doors and spacious lobbies.
  • Free wi-fi, unlike the closely-related Class 700 trains.
  • Power scokets, unlike the Class 700 trains
  • Large litter bins.
  • Reasonably comfortable and spacious seats.
  • Walk-through.

And a few bad ones.

  • No 4G signal booster.
  • No full-length walk-through as two five-car trains, rather than one ten-car train.
  • A high step into and out of the train.

But they are certainly better than Thameslink’s Class 700 trains.

The current schedule between Waterloo and Windsor and Eton Riverside stations appears to be something like this.

  • Waterloo to Windsor and Eton – 54 minutes
  • Turnback at Windsor and Eton – 31 minutes
  • Windsor and |Eton to Waterloo – 56 minutes
  • Turnback at Waterloo – 9 minutes

Which works out at a very neat two and a half hours for the round trip.

So for a two trains per hour (tph) service you need five trains.

The timetable is written around 75 mph Class 455 trains, but the Class 707 trains are 100 mph units with a shorter dwell time at stations.

In each direction, there are twelve stops, which will give savings of at least a minute at each stop, due to the faster acceleration and smoother regenerative braking.

So assuming a minute is saved at each stop, that brings the round trip time to 126 minutes. Reduce the turnback time at Windsor and Eton Riverside and I feel it would be possible to do the round trip in under two hours.

Which would mean that the current two tph service would need four trains.

From Twickenham station, the route is fairly straight and this may enable more speed improvements on the route.

The Waterloo to Windsor and Eton Riverside service is a classic example of how running faster trains often needs less trains to provide the same or even a better service.

Conclusion

I could see trains taking forty minutes on this route.

With the possible savings on the Waterloo to Windsor and Eton Riverside service, you can understaqnd, why this is the first route to receive the new trains.

 

September 28, 2017 Posted by | News, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Are The Class 707 Trains?

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Class 707s Enter Service On Windsor Routes.

This is the first paragraph.

The first two Class 707 EMUs have entered passenger service on the Windsor routes – a few days before the franchise is handed over to First/MTR.

I have been to Waterloo several times this week and the Class 707 trains are conspicuous by their absence.

So where are the trains?

Perhaps, South Western Railway have dragged them off to be repainted or vinyled and have appropriate signs and information fitted?

When, these trains enter service, they will allow another batch of trains to be reliveried.

August 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

First, MTR Take Charge On South Western

The title of this post is the same as this article on RailNews.

Some points from the article.

  • The Class 707 trains are going because they are more expensive to lease.
  • 400 extra trains on Sundays.
  • Comprehensive refresh of all trains
  • All suburban trains will have toilets.
  • Southampton Central and Wimbledon stations to be updated.
  • Flexible tickets for part-time workers.
  • A new tariff for sixteen to eighteen year olds in full-time education.

Perhaps the most interesting point, was that they have decided to look at the future of the Island Line with the local Council.

A few thoughts on their plans.

Class 707 Trains

In An Exciting New Aventra, I commented on this article in Rail Engineer, with the same title.

I said this in my post.

The Most Affordable Train

The article describes how the train was designed to give the best whole life cost.

This sentence sums up the philosophy.

It’s actually about a 50/50 split between the whole life cost and the first capital cost. That makes it a bit more difficult because we’ve got be competitive on the first practical cost, but additionally we have to offer a really high availability, strong reliability, combined with much better energy consumption and less track damage.

As someone, who used to own a finance company, that leased trucks and other expensive equipment, the product described is the sort of product that leasing companies love.

That looks like a good reason to lease an Aventra.

More Trains On Sundays

All train companies seem to offer this.

All Suburban Trains Will Have Toilets

A lot of train companies seem to care about toilets, so is there a correlation between decent toilets and increased revenue?

Flexible Tickets For Part Time Workers

Do travellers get this in London? If so, extending it over the whole area must be logical!

16-18 Year Old Tickets

London does this!

Island Line

This is one of these routes, where someone will come up with an idea, that’s so Monty Python, it will work superbly!

August 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Personalised Water From South Western Railway

I was at Waterloo station this morning and the new operator; South Western Railway, was giving out free water.

The postcode on the water is HR1 3EY, which suggests the water came from Berrington Water.

 

 

August 20, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Bombardier On Track For Record Sale Of New Aventra Trains

The title of this post is the same as the title of this article in the Daily Telegraph.

This is the last paragraph.

Aventra trains use energy efficient measures such as regenerative braking, which collects energy generated by the trains slowing down and stores it for later use. They will also offer wifi, and USB sockets in seats.

Does that mean that the trains are fitted with energy storage or in simple terms; batteries.

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