The Anonymous Widower

Is The Answer To Transport Problems 42?

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Adaptable Carriage Secures Government funding.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Product development company 42 Technology has secured £350,000 worth of Government funding towards developing a system that can turn passenger carriages into goods vehicles.

The Adaptable Carriage system allows seats and tables to be stowed within three minutes, creating space for cargo that would normally be sent by road. 42 Technology envisages the system being employed on quieter off-peak services to carry low-density, high-value goods. It could also be used to create storage space for wheelchairs and bicycles, if required.

It is an idea that could work.

Take a route like Felixstowe to Ipswich, that I used to know well.

It gets commuter traffic at both ends of the working day.

But if it’s sunny and fine, the service would need extra space for bicycles and buggies for passengers going to enjoy the sea air.

The ability to be able to convert seats to bicycle, buggy and wheel-chair spaces might generate extra traffic.

That is only a simple example, but surely there are possibilities on routes between big cities for high-value traffic.

Red Star Parcels used to work well fifty years ago, so why shouldn’t a high speed parcels service work in this day and age?

During the Peak Hours all carriages would be setup for seats. but at other times, seats would be stowed to allow freight and parcels on wheeled pallets to be carried.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Surely, only a company specialising in unusual designs in Cambridge, Shoreditch or California would call itself 42 Technology.

March 1, 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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.


Don’t underestimate how the retired Mark 4 coaches will be used.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hydrogen Power – A Useful List


A Series Of Articles From The Guardian

Fuel Cell Mabufacturers





Alstom Coradia iLint

January 19, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

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.


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





December 14, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

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.


  • 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.


  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.


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 | , , , , , | 3 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