The Anonymous Widower

My First Ride In A Class 769 Train

I went to Cardiff today and had my first ride in a Class 769 train. These pictures summarise my ride on the train between Cardiff Central and Bargoed stations.

So what was it like?

Noise And Vibration

Going up to Bargoed, I deliberately sat as near over the top of the engine as I could.

There was a bit of a whine, but not as much as in a new Class 195 train.

For those, who commuted on Class 319 trains for years on Thameslink, they probably wouldn’t notice much difference.

Performance

For a 100 mph electric train built for running between the flat lands of Bedfordshire and the South Coast over the hillocks of the Downs, the train climbed to Bengoed, which has an altitude of around a thousand feet with a purpose.

But then I have a Porterbrook brochure for these trains and the power source was sized, such that the train would be able to climb the stiffest routes in the UK.

The Interior

It looked to me like the Thameslink interior with new sea covers and plugs to charge a mobile phone.

They could certainly be upgraded a bit further to the standard of the Class 319 trains on the Abbey Line, that I wrote about in A Very Smart Class 319 Train.

A Job To Do

Trains for Wales has acquired these trains for extra capacity, whilst they refurbish their Class 150, 153 and 160 trains.

It looks to me, that they will do this job more than adequately.

Future Uses

I suspect Porterbrook hope that these trains will find uses around the UK, as they have spent a lot of time, effort and money to bring these trains into service.

But there are around eighty of the Class 319 trains in service or in store, from which the Class 769 trains are converted.

So they could find uses in several niche applications.

Short Term Fleets

This is effectively, the Trains for Wales application, where extra trains are provided, so that a fleet refurbishment can be performed.

  • They would surely, have been a better replacement fleet for Greater Anglia, than the three Mark 2 coaches and a pair of diesel locomotives, that they used after a series of level crossing accidents.
  • They could also be used to increase capacity for some major events like the Open Golf or a pop festival.
  • Uniquely, they can stand in for both a 100 mph electric train or a 90 mph diesel train.
  • They can even be fitted with third-rail shoes.
  • They are the right size at four cars.
  • They fit most UK platforms.
  • They can be run in formations of up to twelve cars.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Porterbrook or someone on their behalf, keep a fleet of trains on standby to handle short term needs.

Route Development And Testing

There has been a lot of pressure to open up new routes in recent years and these trains would be ideal to try out routes and test new electrification.

Tri-Mode Services

Great Western Railway have a particular problem with their service between Reading and Gatwick, in that it has some third-rail electrification. As they might like to extend this service to Oxford, an ideal train would be dual-voltage and self-powered.

This extract is from the Great Western Railway section in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 769 train.

Although initially planned for use in London and the Thames Valley whilst twelve Class 387 units are modified for Heathrow Express services, the future plan for these units will be operating on services between Oxford, Reading and Gatwick Airport, which would mean operating on unelectrified, 25 kV AC OHLE and 750 V DC third-rail routes. To enable this, Great Western Railway’s allocation of Class 769 units will retain their dual-voltage capability in addition to being fitted with diesel power units. The units will also receive an internal refurbishment and be fitted with air cooling.

I suspect, that they’ll also be used on the Henley, Marlow and Windsor branches, which have some operational problems.

  • The branches are not electrified.
  • Some branches run occasional services to Paddington.
  • The Windsor branch probably needs more capacity.

The Marlow branch could be difficult, but I suspect that, there’s a solution somewhere.

Luxury Bi-Modes

Greater Anglia felt they needed luxury bi-modes for East Anglia and they bought Class 755 trains, which are probably a lot more expensive, as they are brand-new and from Stadler of Switzerland.

Surprisingly, the Class 319 trains have a higher passenger capacity.

But both trains could do a similar task, where the route is partially electrified.

As I said earlier about the GWR units.

The units will also receive an internal refurbishment and be fitted with air cooling.

Porterbrook’s brochure for the Class 769 train talks about using them between Manchester and Buxton.

Surely, this route could do with a Northern version of a GWR interior.

I also think a service should link Hellifield and Buxton. as I wrote about in Why Not Buxton To Hellifield?

That would show what Class 769 trains could do!

It would also connect the Peak District to the hills North of Lancashire.

I might also be, that the standby-fleet should also be the luxury variant of the train. Surely, supporters going to the Open at some of the inaccessible venues could afford pay to pay extra for a comfy train.

Express Freight And Parcels Services

Rail Operations Group would appear to have placed the second-largest order for Class 769 trains, which they will use to launch a high-speed parcels service called Orion.

This extract is from the Rail Operations Group section in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 769 train.

Orion is aiming to launch its first trial service conveying parcels and light freight in April 2021, with the Midlands to Mossend now likely to be the debut flow. The company is to use converted Class 319s for the service and is now planning for a fleet of 19 four-car units – nine Class 319s and 10 Class 769s. Arlington Fleet Services at Eastleigh is modifying the interiors of the units to accommodate roller cages for parcels, with the aim of operating primarily under electric power but with the 769s using their diesel engines to act as tractor units for the 319s on non-electrified stretches. The first 769 bi-mode, No 769501, has undergone its Flex conversion at Brush in Loughborough and is due to be outshopped from Arlington at Eastleigh in March following its interior modification.

In Did These Strawberries Have Road- Or Rail-Miles?, I talked about strawberries going between Scotland and London.

Surely, the movement of high-quality food could be one of the cargoes for Orion.

It wouldn’t be the first such traffic, as Class 43 power cars of the InterCity 125s used to carry flowers and fish up to London from Cornwall.

There’s a lot of space in the back of a Class 43 power car.

I certainly feel there are possibilities for using Class 769 trains as high speed parcels transport.

It should be noted that Class 325 trains already run high speed parcel services up and down the country on behalf of Royal Mail. These trains may look like later British Rail trains, but they are in fact based on Class 319 trains.

 

So I doubt, there’ll be any worries that the trains can’t handle the required services after conversion.

Conclusion

It looks to me that Porterbrooks plan to convert numbers of their Class 319 trains into Class 769 trains will find several ready markets.

It could be argued that more carbon savings could be achieved by perhaps a new battery-electric or hydrogen-electric train. But these will take years to develop!

These trains are a good short-term solution, that will help define their zero-carbon successors.

 

 

 

 

June 9, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Did These Strawberries Have Road- Or Rail-Miles?

These strawberries were grown my M Porter in Perthshire and I bought them in the M & S Simply Food store in Waterloo station.

So did they travel between Perthshire and London, by truck or train?

I think the strawberries came from East Seaton Farm, owned by Lochart and Debbie Porter.

If the strawberries were to be grown any further East, they’d be grown in the middle of the North Sea.

But did they come South, by road or rail?

I suspect it was the former, but there is change in the air! Or do I mean on the rails?

In My First Ride In A Class 769 Train, I talked about Rail Operations Group and their proposed Orion parcels service, that will use Class 769 trains.

This service would surely be ideal to bring strawberries and Arbroath smokies to the South.

 

June 8, 2021 Posted by | Food, Transport | , , , , , | 8 Comments

Strawberries And Beer

This was my afternoon snack whilst writing on the Internet.

Beer from Suffolk and strawberries from Herefordshire.

 

 

May 12, 2021 Posted by | Food | , , , , | 2 Comments

Freshly Vacuumed Strawberries

I have been eating a few more boxes of Dyson’s strawberries.

They certainly seem clean and could have had a good vacuum before packing.

Unlike some Moroccan ones, which tasted like they’d been sprinkled with some sand from the Sahara.

Plump And Red

Dyson Farming’s strawberries do seem to be very plump and very red.

Is this because they have been grown, so that they will be easy for picking robots to identify in the future?

April 23, 2021 Posted by | Food | , , | Leave a comment

Strawberries From Dyson

With my supper tonight, I had some strawberries from Marks & Spencer.

I regularly eat strawberries and raspberries, when they are available.

But, these were particularly nice.

So I checked the label and found that they had been grown by Dyson Farming in Lincolnshire.

This page on the Dyson Farming web site describes their Strawberry Production.

  • The aim is to help the UK to be self-sufficient in food and cut air miles associated with imported soft fruit.
  • The strawberries are grown in a 15-acre greenhouse.
  • The greenhouse is heated by waste heat from a nearby anaerobic digester.
  • The greenhouse contains 700,000 strawberry plants.
  • Every year 750 tonnes of strawberries will be produced.
  • The website talks of in future using robotic picking and LED lights to prolong the growing season.

Is this the way strawberries will be farmed in the future? You bet, it will!

Dyson Farming seems to be innovating in the growing and marketing of Barley, Oilseed Rape, Peas, Potatoes and Wheat.

Use Of Carbon Dioxide

I wonder if carbon dioxide captured from a gas-fired power station could be added to the greenhouses to aid the production of strawberries. There certainly are a lot of serious research papers on the Internet looking at the effects of carbon dioxide on strawberry production.

Dyson Farm’s location in the South of Lincolnshire, is probably not a good location, as the large power-stations are in the North of the county.

Robotic Picking

I first saw it said in the 1960s, that at some point in the future no fruit will be grown unless it could be harvested by machines

Dyson states they are going that way with strawberries.

Could it also be one of the reasons for large strawberries, which we increasingly see in the shops, is that they ar easier for robots to pick?

LED Lighting To Prolong The Growing Season

This is surely logical, if you have enough electricity.

The Anaerobic Digesters

Their two anaerobic digesters seem to be able to produce a total of around 5 MW of electricity. This is said on the web site.

The anaerobic digesters produce gas which drives turbines producing enough electricity to power the equivalent of 10,000 homes. This green energy also powers the farming operation.

There are two by-products from this process:

Digestate, which is applied to nearby fields as an organic fertiliser to improve soils and crop yields. It is expected that strawberries will be grown in the digestate in future as well.
Heat is captured and used to warm the glasshouse and encourage the strawberries to grow at a time of year when traditionally it has been too cold.

In some ways, the farming operation is run more like an efficient integrated chemical plant, than a large farm.

Conclusion

Anybody with an interest in farming or the environment should read the Dyson Farming web site.

I can envisage a farmer with a sunny but unproductive twenty-acre field contacting Dyson to install their own strawberry greenhouse.

Farming will certainly change.

I shall certainly, be buying Dyson strawberries again.

And I suspect we all will be buying strawberries grown in this way in a few years.

 

April 16, 2021 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Serial Cooking – Goat’s Cheese, Strawberry And Basil Salad

I found this unusual salad in a book called The Salad Bowl by Nicola Graimes.

Don’t go easy on the pepper!

June 12, 2018 Posted by | Food | , , , | 1 Comment