The Anonymous Widower

A Proposed Trip To Japan

Over the last few months, I have made references to battery trains built by Hitachi running in Japan.

C and myself, bought the guide for Japan, but we didn’t get far in planning a holiday there, as she became ill, with the cancer that killed her.

So perhaps now is the time to go to Japan and explore.

  • The plan would be to spend a couple of weeks or so at the end of March, in a decent hotel in Tokyo and explore the country by train.
  • Most of the places, I want to visit are served by bullet trains.
  • I might also have a few days in South Korea.

If anybody has any ideas or suggestions, then please contact me.

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 5 Comments

Hydrogen-Powered Railway Electrification

This may seem rather bizarre, but I’m not talking about electrifying whole lines.

There appears to me to be a need for small power sources to power railway electrification and other rail-related equipment and facilities, that are not connected to the electricity grid.

Opportunities could be.

  • Electrifying tunnels.
  • Boosting supply on third-rail systems, which need a connection every two or three miles.
  • Electrifying short branch lines.
  • Powering level crossings.
  • Powering drainage pumps.
  • Powering isolated stations.

But anywhere close to a railway that needed a reliable electricity source would be a possibility.

Hydrogen As A Source Of Electricity

If hydrogen is used in a fuel cell to generate electricity, the only by-product is water.

Hydrogen is already used to power buses in London

It obviously works, but I’ve always been puzzled about why it isn’t used in more road vehicles. It could be that the logistics problems of refuelling are too complicated and expensive.

Could it be less complicated with trains?

Alsthom have recently launched a hydrogen-powered train, which I talked about in Is Hydrogen A Viable Fuel For Rail Applications?. So they must think it is a viable fuel for trains.

According to the Alsthom video in my related post, the Alsthom Coradia iLint train uses a combination of a hydrogen-powered electricity generator and batteries to provide continuous power and handle regenerative braking.

So why not use hydrogen-power to generate electricity at locations alongside the railway?

Suppose the small power station was providing power to a 750 VDC third-rail electrified railway. In a remote area, the small power station could be using solar panels or wind turbines coupled with batteries to provide a continuous electricity supply.

Intelligent Control System

The power station would be controlled so that it was efficient.

Ensuring Safety

People worry about the safety of hydrogen, as we’ve all seen film of the Hindenburg.

I would design a hydrogen-powered electricity generator for rail use to be buried at the side of the track, with only necessary connections above the surface.

The hydrogen-powered generators would also be contained within the railway security fencing.

What Trains Could Be Powered?

Using hydrogen at track-side means that any unmodified  electric or bi-mode train can benefit from zero-carbon hydrogen-power.

Distributing The Hydrogen

The obvious way to distribute the hydrogen would be by train. It would surely be possible to design a hydrogen-powered locomotive and tanker, which could deliver the hydrogen between the production source and the various generators.

Hydrogen Availability

Hydrogen is variable around the UK, but in certain areas there are large amounts of the gas created in chemical plants with rail access.

Conclusion

I won’t be consigning this idea to the bin.

 

 

 

 

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Solar Power Could Make Up “Significant Share” Of Railway’s Energy Demand

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

This is the first three paragraphs.

Solar panels could be used to power a sizeable chunk of Britain’s DC electric rail network, a new report has suggested.

Climate change charity 10:10 and Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab looked at the feasibility of using solar panels alongside the track to directly power the railway.

The report claims that 15 per cent of the commuter network in Kent, Sussex and Wessex could be powered directly by 200 small solar farms. It suggested that solar panels could also supply 6 per cent of the London Underground’s energy requirements and 20 per cent of the Merseyrail network.

In another article in today’s Times about the study, this is said.

Installing solar farms and batteries alongside lines also could provide the extra energy needed to power more carriages on busy routes that otherwise would require prohibitively expensive upgrades to electricity networks.

Note the use of batteries mentioned in the extract from The Times. This would be sensible design as power can be stored, when the sun is shining and used when it isn’t!

If you want to read the full report, click here!

I will lay out my thoughts in the next few sections.

Is This Technique More Applicable To Rail-Based Direct Current Electrification?

All of the routes mentioned for application of these solar farms,; Southern Electric (Kent, Sussex and Wessex), London Underground and Merseyrail are electrified using one of two rail-based direct current systems.

Consider the following.

Powering The Track

In the September 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Wires Through The Weald, which discusses electrification of the Uckfield Branch in Sussex, as proposed by Chris Gibb. This is an extract.

He (Chris Gibb) says the largest single item cost is connection to the National Grid, and a third-rail system would require feeder stations every two or three miles, whereas overhead wires may require only a single feeder station for the entire Uckfield Branch.

It would appear that as rail-based direct current electrification needs a lot of feeder stations along the line, this might be better suited for solar power and battery electrification systems.

Consider.

  • Most of the feeder stations would not need a connection to the National Grid.
  • Solar panels generate low direct current voltages, which are probably cheaper to convert to 750 VDC than 25 KVAC.
  • In installing electrification on a line like the Uckfield Branch, you would install the extra rails needed and a solar farm and battery system every two or three miles.
  • With the situation mentioned in the extract from The Times, you might add a solar farm and battery system, to a section of track, where more power is needed.
  • For efficiency and safety, power would only be sent to the rail when a train was present.

I trained as an Electrical Engineer and I very much feel, that solar power and battery systems are better suited to powering rail-based electrification. Although, they could be used for the overhead DC systems we use in the UK for trams.

Modular Design

Each of the solar farm and battery systems could be assembled from a series of factory-built modules.

This would surely make for a cost-effective installation, where capacity and capabilities could be trailored to the location.

Regenerative Braking

Modern trains use regenerative braking, which means that braking energy is converted into electricity. The electricity is handled in one of the following ways.

  1. It is turned into heat using resistors on the train roof.
  2. It is returned through the electrification system and used to power nearby trains.
  3. It is stored in a battery on the train.

Note.

  1. Option 1 is not efficient.
  2. Option 2 is commonly used on the London Underground and other rail-based electrification systems.
  3. Option 2 needs special transformers  to handle 25 KVAC systems.
  4. Option 3 is efficient and is starting to be developed for new trains and trams.

If batteries are available at trackside, then these can also be used to store braking energy.

I believe that using solar farm and battery systems would also enable efficient regenerative braking on the lines they powered.

But again, because of the transformer issue, this would be much easier on rail-bassed direct current electrification systems.

Could Wind Turbines Be Used?

Both solar farms and wind turbines are not guaranteed to provide continuous power, but putting a wind turbine or two by the solar farm would surely increase the efficiency of the system, by generating energy in two complimentary ways and then storing it until a train came past.

Wind energy could also be available for more hours in the day and could even top up the battery in the dark.

In fact, why stop with wind turbines?

Any power source could be used. On a coastal railway, it might be wave or tidal power.

Could Hydrogen Power Be Used?

I think that hydrogen power could be another way to create the energy needed to back up the intermittent power of solar farms and wind turbines.

I put a few notes in Hydrogen-Powered Railway Electrification.

 

Would The Technique Work With Battery Trains?

Most certainly!

I haven’t got the time or the software to do a full simulation, but I suspect that a route could have an appropriate number of solar farm and battery systems and each would give the battery train a boost, as it went on its way.

Would The Technique Work With 25 KVAC Electrification?

It would be more expensive due to the inverter involved to create the 25 KVAC needed.

But I feel it would be another useful tool in perhaps electrifying a tunnel or a short length of track through a station.

It could also be used to charge a train working a branch line on batteries.

Would The Technique Work With Dual Voltage Trains?

Many trains in the UK can work with both third-rail 750 VDC third-rail and 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

Classes of trains include.

  • The Class 319 trains built for Thameslink in the 1980s.
  • The Class 345 trains being built for Crossrail.
  • The Class 387 trains built for various operators.
  • The Class 700 trains recently built for Thamelink.

There are also other classes that could be modified to run on both systems.

Provided they are fitted with third-rail shoes, there is no reason to stop dual-voltage trains running on a line electrified using solar farms and batteries.

The technique could surely be used to electrify a branch line from a main line electrified using 25 KVAC.

Consider Henley Branch Line.

  • It is four-and-a half miles long.
  • It is not electrified.
  • It connects to the electrified Great Western Main Line at Twyford station.
  • The line can handle trains up to six-cars.
  • All services on the line are worked by diesel trains.

Services consist of a shuttle between Henley-on-Thames and Twyford, with extra services to and from Paddington in the Peak and during the Regatta.

Network Rail were planning to electrify the line using 25 KVAC overhead electrification, but this has been cancelled, leaving the following options for Paddington services.

  • Using battery trains, possibly based on the Class 387 trains, which would be charged between Paddington and Twyford.
  • Using Class 800 bi-mode trains.
  • Using Class 769 bi-mode trains.

All options would mean that the diesel shuttle continued or it could be replaced with a Class 769 bi-mode train.

An alternative would be to electrify the branch using third-rail fitted with solar farm and battery systems.

  • All services on the line could be run by Class 387 trains.
  • Voltage changeover would take place in Twyford station.

There are several lines that could be served in this way.

Installation Costs

I’ll repeat my earlier quote from the Modern Railways article.

He (Chris Gibb) says the largest single item cost is connection to the National Grid, and a third-rail system would require feeder stations every two or three miles, whereas overhead wires may require only a single feeder station for the entire Uckfield Branch.

If you were going to electrify, the twenty-four non-electrified miles of the Marshlink Line, with traditional Southern  Electric third-rail, you would need around 8-12 National Grid connections to power the line. As the Romney Marsh is probably not blessed with a dense electricity network, although it does have a nuclear power station, so although putting in the extra rails may be a relatively easy and affordable project, providing the National Grid connection may not be as easy.

But use solar farm and battery systems on the remoter areas of the line and the number of National Grid connections will be dramatically reduced.

Good National Grid connections are obviously available at the two ends of the line at Hastings and Ashford International stations. I also suspect that the electricity network at Rye station could support a connection for the electrification.

This could mean that six to eight solar farm and battery systems would be needed to electrify this important line.

I obviously, don’t have the actual costs, but this could be a very affordable way of electrifying a remote third-rail line.

Which Lines Could Be Electrified Using Solar Farm And Battery Systems?

For a line to be electrified and powered by solar farm and battery systems, I think the line must have some of the following characteristics.

  • It is a line that is suitable for rail-based direct current electrification.
  • It is not a particularly stiff line with lots of gradients.
  • It is in a rural area, where National Grid connections will be difficult and expensive.
  • It has a connection to other lines electrified by rail-based systems.

Lines to electrify are probably limited to  Southern Electric (Kent, Sussex and Wessex), London Underground and Merseyrail.

I also suspect there are several branch lines that could be reopened or electrified using rail-based electrification.

Conclusion

It’s a brilliantly simple concept that should be developed.

It is well suited to be used with rail-based direct current electrification.

It would be ideal for the electrification of the Uckfield Branch.

 

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Great Electric Air Race Has Begun

The title of this post is the first sentence of this article in The Independent, which is entitled Electric Planes: Could You Be Flying On A Battery-Powered Aircraft By 2027?.

This is the full first paragraph in an article by respected travel writer; Simon Calder.

The great electric air race has begun. Three European industry heavyweights have teamed up against a US startup and Britain’s biggest budget airline to develop the first commercial electric aircraft.

So is such an aircraft feasible?

When you consider that the three European heavyweights are Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens, I suspect that the proposed project is serious.

It should also be said that the companies are not aiming for an all-electric aircraft, but a hybrid plane with a very efficient on-board generator and a two-tonne battery.

The key to success will probably include.

  • Batteries with a very high energy density.
  • A highly-efficient and quiet gas turbine, that generates a lot of energy.
  • Radical air-frame design to take advantage of the technology.

In my view, the batteries will be the key, but making more efficient batteries with high charge densities will also do the following.

  • Improve the range and performance of battery and hybrid road vehicles like buses, cars and trucks.
  • Improve the range and performance of trains and trams.
  • Transform energy storage, so wind and solar power can be stored and used in times of high demand.
  • Allow every house, apartment or office to have its own affordable energy storage.

In all of these applications, the weight of the battery will be less of a problem.

This leads me to the conclusion, that we may see smaller electric plasnes in a few years, but the technology that will make it possible, may well improve other modes of transport so much, that electric planes are never an economic proposition.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens!

I think most travellers and members of the oublic will benefit in some ways.

 

December 3, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Train Trip From Belfast To Derry

Note that I use Derry in the title of this post. This is nothing to do with politics, but just practicality, as it is shorter.

I don’t like towns and cities with dual names, as it makes things difficult for visitors. I wrote about it in Bilingual Signs.

I took these pictures on the way.

The trip along the Belfast to Derry Line is a good one and the train was comfortable.

The line is being improved, with plans including.

  • An improved station at Derry.
  • Faster line speeds.
  • Removal of single track sections of the line.
  • A possible station at Eglinton Airport.

In my view, the route needs an increased train frequency of perhaps two trains per hour.

Just looking at the population of Derry City as a few thousand over a hundred thousand, it would appear to need at least this frequency.

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

A Train Trip From Belfast To Bangor

I took the train to Bangor and took these pictures.

Note the excellent breakfast at The Heatherlea Cafe in Bangor.

Northern Ireland Railways seem to be improving the service along the Belfast to Bangor Line.

In England, an equivalent line would be Merseyrail’s service between Liverpool and Southport.

  • Both lines are important commuter and leisure routes.
  • Both serve important tourist destinations.
  • Both run along the water.
  • Both have a big city at one end and a properous town at the other.

The big difference is that Merseyrail’s line has a regular four trains per hour service and the Irish line doesn’t.

If ever a line was calling out for this level of service it is Belfast to Bangor.

 

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

Successful Trial Means Tube On Track For 4G Coverage By 2019

The title of this post is the same as this article on Rail Technology Magazine. This is said.

The Tube network will see 4G connectivity arrive in 2019, TfL has confirmed, meaning mayor Sadiq Khan’s original ambitions will be able to go ahead.

The news comes following a successful trial of the technology on the Waterloo & City line, where 4G technology was tested in tunnels and stations along the line in the summer.

I wonder how long it will be before all trains, trams and buses have 4G connectivity.

In some ways, I think providing 4G connectivity outside stations, bus stops and other important places is more important.

Suppose you are stuck in an area with no signal and perhaps you have fallen over and seriously cut your leg and need help or just a lift home.

Wouldn’t it be so much better, if you could find somewhere, where you know you could summon assistance or a lift?

I have two questions.

  1. Will 4G connectivity be added to the Overground?
  2. Will 4G connectivity be switch on station-by-station and line-by-line or in one go in 2019?

In some posts about this, it is suggested that a driving force behind the connectivity, is that the emeergency services are moving to mobile phone technology. So if that is the case, then the answers to these questions must be in the affirmative!

November 27, 2017 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Discount Railcard Extended For People Aged Up To 30

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

It is probably a good idea if you are younger than thirty.

But what about all those people aged between thirty and sixty, when they are eligible for a Senior Railcard?

And especially those, who always travel alone!

November 22, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 2 Comments

Blackburn To Manchester Every Thirty Minutes

That’s what it says on this poster, I photographeds at Blackburn station on Saturday.

Full words on the poster are.

Blackburn To Manchester

Every  30 minutes

Starts December 10

Mon-Sat  9.30am – 17.30pm

Both Directions

Certainly one young guy I spoke to, said it would change his travelling for the better.

Looking at the online timetable gives a few clues.

  • The current Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe service continues.
  • The current Manchester Victoria to Blackburn service via Todmorden continues.
  • The second service in each hour uses the Bay Platform 3 at Blackburn.
  • Some services seem to be Stalybridge to Blackburn via Manchester Victoria.

As Stalybridge to Preston and Blackpool via Bolton will be electrified soon, could it be that Northern are gearing up to have an electrified core route with diesel branches, that would be ideal for Class 769 trains.

Consider.

  • Four-car Class 769 trains could replace pairs of Class 150 and Class 156 trains.
  • The trains have a respectable top speed in both electric and diesel mode.
  • The pantograph can be raised and lowered as appropriate.
  • The trains have a Universal Access Toilet and meet all the Persons of Restricted Mobility Access rules.
  • If more electrification is added, the trains will take advantage.

Could we see the upgrade between Manchester and Blackburn on December 10th, implemented using Class 769 trains?

News on the Class 769 trains has been very sparse lately.

According to a technical specification that I’ve seen, four of the Class 769 trains are planned to be in service by December 2017.

So is everything going to plan or has it all gone pear-shaped?

What trains turn up on December the 10th will be useful information!

 

 

 

November 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 3 Comments

We Just Get Leaves On The Line

But the Norwegians have just suffered a bigger problem!

See this article on Global Riail News, which is entitled Tank Removed From Railway Line In Norway.

It reportedly fell of the back of a train.

November 12, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments