The Anonymous Widower

Road-Rail Services Inaugurated

The title of this post, is the same as that as this article on Railway Gazette.

This first paragraph tells all.

The start of regular road-rail services on the Asa Kaigan Tetsudo in southeast Shikoku was marked with a ceremony at Awa-Kainan-Bunkamura on December 25.

I have found this video of the vehicles.

I do wonder if there is a simpler way.

In Zwickau in Germany on the Vogtlandbahn, standard Stadler diesel multiple units, run through the streets from the main station to a tram-stop like station in the centre of the town.

They are more of a train-tram, than a tram-train.

  • The train is fitted with orange warning lights.
  • The train shares the same corridor with a tram, that uses a different gauge, using three-rail track.
  • Access between the train and platform is more-or-less level and as good as, if not better than most German trains.
  • The platform at Zwickau Zentrum is an island platform, where the trams call at the other side.
  • The concept would work with any independently-powered multiple unit.

I am sure, where there are places where this will work in the UK.

We almost do the same thing at some seaside stations like Saltburn, Sheringham and St. Ives.



December 27, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 9 Comments

Battery Rather Than Hydrogen Trains Suggested In Sachsen Study

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Railway Gazette.

This is the first paragraph.

The use of battery rather than hydrogen traction is recommended in a study into options for replacing diesel multiple-units on regional routes around Dresden where electrification is unlikely in the short to medium term.

They give the reason that battery power is a better short term option, where electrification is envisaged in the long-term.


I also think, that in the case of the German hydrogen trains, which are hydrogen-power only, this means that the trains will have to be replaced, as the electrification is installed. Whereas, with battery-electric trains, they just get more efficient as the wires go up and don’t need to be replaced. Although, their batteries might be removed to improve acceleration.

Dresden, Leipzig and that area of Germany also has a lot of electrification already, so charging will not be a problem.

But battery power would also get around the problem at Zwickau, where diesel multiple units run through the streets as trams to a station in the town centre.


The picture shows a diesel multiple unit playing trams in Zwickau Zentrum station.

  • Note the orange lights that flash on the train.
  • Trams call at the other side of the platform.
  • I wonder, if the Germans felt that battery-electric trains will be safer in Zwickau than hydrogen-powered trains.

It puzzles me, why this simple solution is not used more often to extend railways into town and city centres.

With battery-electric trains, there would be no need for any electrification.


The Germans seem to be going battery-electric train mad!

Perhaps, we should follow their example?

October 20, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beeching Reversal – Reinstatement Of The Bodmin-Wadebridge Railway

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

The basic outline of this Beeching Reversal project is described in the section called RailTrail Project in the Wikipedia entry for the Bodmin and Wenford Railway, where this is a simplified version of what is said.

The railway company is currently planning to extend beyond its western terminus at Boscarne Junction towards Wadebridge alongside the Camel Trail. Known as the RailTrail project, phase one would see the railway extended to Nanstallon Halt, phase two to Grogley Halt and phase three to Wadebridge Guineaport.

In areas where the width of the trackbed does not allow both a railway and a footpath side-by-side, short diversions are proposed. For example, at Grogley, the Camel Trail could be re-routed along a former “headshunt”, which was part of the original railway before it was replaced by a later deviation.

There is some controversy, over the reduction in width of the Camel Trail.

This Google Map shows the River Camel through Wadebridge, where the extension appears to be proposed to finish.


  1. The Guineaport area of Wadebridge is marked by a red arrow-dot.
  2. The Future Plans section of the Wikipedia entry for Wadebridge station, says that the new station will be beyond Guineaport.
  3. The Camel Trail is marked on Google Maps as a dotted line and it can be followed to where it meets the Bodmin and Wenford Railway at Boscarne Junction station.

This Google Map shows Boscarne Junction station.

Looking from my helicopter, I am fairly sure that the RailTrail can be squeezed in with a footpath.

What Sort Of Railway Would It Be?

These are my thoughts.

Will It Be Double Or Single-Track?

It will be single-track, as there is not enough space for two.

I would suspect, they could use similar construction to these tram tracks in Blackpool.

Effectively, the RailTrail could be a high-strength road, with a rail track set to one side, and appropriate markings, rails and safety signage.

How Long Will The New Track Be?

Google gives these distances.

  • Padstow and Boscarne – 14.4 miles
  • Padstow and Bodmin – 16 miles
  • Wadebridge and Boscarne – 6 miles
  • Wadebridge and Bodmin – 7.4 miles

I have added Padstow, as this town on the sea, used to be the rail terminus.

Should The Route Go To Padstow?

This Google Map shows the Padstow end of the Camel Trail.

But there could be a major problem.

At the bottom of the map is the Little Petherick Creek Bridge.

  • It’s probably OK for a cycle trail, but would it be strong enough for heavy rail use.
  • On the other hand, is it past its replace date and Cornwall County Council might like to pass the responsibility to Network Rail?

There is also more land to build a station at Padstow.

It could even be built on the East side of the bridge, so that the heaviest thing it would carry would be pedestrians.

Would A Shared RailTrail Work?

One of the most interesting train systems, that I have seen is in Zwickau in the former East Germany, where instead of buying more trams to connect to other towns and cities, they devised a train-tram system using standard diesel multiple units.

The Zwickau system is more complicated than it would need to be in the UK, as the trains have to share tram-tracks of a different size, so there are  three-railed tracks; two for the metre gauge trams and an extra one for the standard gauge trains.

I have never seen anywhere else, where rail vehicles of different gauges share rails.

The trains run under virtually the same rules as street running trams do in Birmingham, Blackpool, Croydon, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.

  • You can cross the road all round them.
  • Trains are limited to slow speeds.
  • The trains are independently powered.
  • The trains cross level crossings.
  • There is no electric power for the trains.
  • The trains are double-manned and the crew keep a good look out!

Note, in the pictures, that the trains have flashing orange warning lights.

Could a GWR Class 800 train run along the RailTrail?

  • The train would be a five-car unit.
  • The train would be fitted with environmentally-friendly battery power, so it would be emission-free and almost silent.
  • There would be a charging facility in the platform at Bodmin General station to top up the battery, before the train ran on the RailTrail.
  • As in Zwickau, the track would be buried in the ground. so it could be safely used by trains and not be a hazard to pedestrians.
  • The train would have a slow speed crawling mode, so it could proceed along the RailTrail with extreme care.

With the right timetable, the modern trains could share with the Bodmin and Wenford’s heritage trains.

Could Wadebridge Get A Direct Service To London Paddington?

Why not?

Places like Bradford, Harrogate, Huddersfield and Skipton appear to be being added to LNER’s network, by joining and splitting Class 800 trains at Leeds.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a five-car Class 800 train with a battery capability running  from Wadebridge to Plymouth, where is joined with another train from Newquay, Penzance or Plymouth, before running as a ten-car train to London Paddington.


I like this scheme and it could be a prototype for other similar ones.

July 26, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The No Frills Station

I’m always putting in the same picture of Zwickau Zentrum station on the Vogtlandbahn in Germany into posts, so I thought I should give the picture a post of its own.

Arrival At Zwickau Zentrum Tram/Train Stop

The station is one of the simplest I’ve ever seen and it has been designed very much like a tram stop.

  • There is no footbridge, as if travellers need to cross the line, they just walk round.
  • The access is as step-free as it gets in Germany.
  • The other side of the platform is a stop for Zwickau’s trams.
  • There is no electrification, which must improve safety.
  • The station could be made long enough for any train that might call.
  • The station has been landscaped into the local environment.

But we’re starting to see simple stations like this in the UK.

These pictures show Galashiels station on the recently opening Borders Railway.

Galashiels is an interesting solution, as there is a single-platform step-free railway station on one side of the road and a comprehensive bus interchange on the other with seats, cafes, shops and warm shelter.

Both Zwickau Zentrum and Galashiels are served exclusively by diesel trains and as electrification can be a hazard to some passengers and is expensive, I would feel that most stations like this, would be better served by trains that are self-powered.

We shall be seeing more simple station designs like these, as architects and designers get very innovative.

February 18, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

No-Frills Mini Trains Offer Route To Reopening Lines That Beeching Shut

That long title appeared in The Times today above a picture of a stylish single-carriage lightweight train.

This page on the Warwick University web site is entitled Revolution Very Light Rail Project, describes the project on which the Times article is based.

This is said.

The main objective of the project is to reduce the weight and cost of a railcar by half in order to facilitate low cost connectivity of suburban and rural areas. The Radical Train will demonstrate unique self-powered bogies (with integral hybrid propulsion and kinetic energy recovery system) combined with a modular, lightweight body-shell utilising advanced materials. WMG will be transferring expertise in lightweighting technology from the automotive sector into this project. Automotive lightweighting solutions are already employing advanced materials including ultra-high strength steels and fibre-reinforced polymer composites.

Other points from The Times include.

  • 18m. long, but could be 12m. or 9m.
  • 3.8 litre Cummins diesel hybrid engines. Routemaster buses have 4.5 litre Cummins engines
  • Speed of up to 70 mph.
  • Lithium-titanate battery similar to a Routemaster bus.
  • Target price of £500,000

The Times also says that the prototype could be running in 18 months.

So how feasible is what the article says?

The Short Branch Or Connecting Line

The most obvious application is the short branch or connecting line, which is worked by either a single train or perhaps a small number of small trains.

On their web site, Warwick University have an image of the train at St. Erth station, ready to depart on the St. Ives Branch. I wrote about this branch in St. Erth Station And The St. Ives Branch.

St. Erth Station

You have to admire the group in picking a station of character for their web site.

But it would also make a good test site for the train.

  • St. Erth station has two platforms.
  • The line is single track throughout.
  • There is a two trains per hour (tph) service run by a single Class 150 train.
  • The route has a high level of baggage.
  • The Class 150 train takes 14-15 minutes for each journey.
  • A well-designed modern train could save a few minutes.

But above all Cornwall has better weather than many places.

This line probably gets very busy in the Summer and I also suspect that Great Western Railway would like to run four tph on the branch.

They could probably do this with a passing loop around halfway and two trains with a better station calling performance than the Class 150 train. ERTMS, which would probably be fitted to the trains, would ease the problems of signalling on the line.

There are several branch lines in the UK, which are currently run by a single train and perhaps 1-2 tph, that could benefit with a 4 tph service, which these trains could provide.

In A Look At New Station Projects and also in The Times article, there are some branch line projects that may be suitable.

Most of these lines are reopened lines that were closed in the Beeching era.

Are The Trains Big Enough?

At eighteen metres long, I reckon that the capacity of a single unit is slightly less than a twenty-three metre long Class 153 train. An estimate gives somewhere between 50-55 passengers.

But pictures in The Times and on the Warwick University web site show a standard railway coupling, which can be used for the following.

  • Creating longer trains of two or more units working together.
  • Allowing one train to rescue another.
  • Allowing a train to be rescued by a compatible train.

So it would seem that creation of a train with a capacity of around 100 passengers by linking two units together is probably in the specification.

Working With Other Trains

The Times article says that the lightweight design means they can probably only run on captive lines with no other heavy trains.

But it also says that this will change with ultra-safe digital signalling, that enforced separation between trains.

By the time, these trains enter service, ERTMS will have been proven to be safe on UK railways.

I also suspect that the trains will use the most modern automotive industry structures. Pacers they are not!

The Longer Distance Service

A typical longer distance service would be one shown in The Times, which is to run a service between Newcastle station and a new Ashington station in the North East.

  • Most if not all of the track is intact.
  • Stations would need to be rebuilt or built from scratch.
  • To work the desired frequency of two tph would probably need two units.
  • Digital signalling would be needed, as there are freight trains on the same lines.

More details of the route are given on the South East Northumberland Rail User Group web site.

Running Under The Zwickau Model Into A Town Centre

These trains could almost have been designed to run as trams, as the diesel multiple units of the Vogtlansbahn do in Zwickau town centre.

Arrival At Zwickau Zentrum Tram/Train Stop

The picture shows one of the trains at the terminus of Zwickau Zentrum, after arriving at the town centre terminus from the Hauptbahnhof over a tram-style track under tram tram-style rules.

  • Note the tram-style infrastucture with a simple stop and track laid into the roadway.
  • The driver has large windows to keep a good look-out.
  • Horns and other warning devices are fitted.
  • Note the orange warning lights.
  • The train travels at a slow safe speed.
  • The stations or are they stops have no footbridges. Pedestrians and cyclists can cross the track, as they need.

I think that Warwick’s vehicles could travel like this to provide route extensions into a city or town centre of perhaps to an attraction like a theme park.

Have track! Will travel!


I think that Warwick have come up with a fresh design, that shows a lot of innovation and flexibility.

Not only is it affordable to build, but also probably can work with lower-cost infrastructure.

I look forward to seeing the prototype in action.




February 11, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 4 Comments

Riding The Vogtlandbahn

The Vogtlandbahn is one of the more unusual railways I have ridden. This is a basic description from Wikipedia.

The Vogtlandbahn is a private railway company in Germany, which runs diesel trains on regional lines in the states of Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria, Brandenburg, and Berlin and as well as routes into the Czech Republic.

And this paragraph describes its origins.

After German Reunification in 1990, there was a sharp drop in passenger numbers on the rail network in all the new Bundesländer. Saxony, and thus Vogtland was no exception. The railways had old locomotives rolling stock and couldn’t compete with the rapidly improving roads. The Saxony government invested in an attempt to improve the attractiveness of the Zwickau–Falkenstein–Klingenthal line and the Herlasgrün–Falkenstein–Adorf (Kursbuchstrecke 539). The track was relaid to an 80 km/h standard, disabled access was facilitated at all stations and new stations opened. Maintenance and tracks were rationalised. Some platforms were removed, some stations such as Schöneck were restyled as simple halts.

It is a properly engineered system,which uses standard trains, as these pictures show.

The route I took started at Zwickau Hauptbahnhof, which is shown in this Google Map.

Zwickau Station

Zwickau Station

Note how there are two sets of platforms.

  • The Northern set are numbered 5-8 and handle the main trains to Leipzig and Dresden.
  • The southern set are numbered 1-4 and handle the Vogtlandbahn trains, which continue South-Eastwards to Zwickau Zentrum tram stop.

The two sets of lines join to the West of the station and share tracks to the Leipzig-Hof Line, where trains can go either North and South.

I had chosen a train from Platform 4 at Zwickau that passed through Netzcschkau station, which is where I got off, waited half-an-hour and caught the train back to Zwickau.

The line is no semi-derelict line, but a rather charming line in some ways reminiscent of something like Calder Valley Line. It is fairly level, but it runs across the top of hills with high viaducts everywhere.

These stations and features are in the same order as the pictures.

  • From Zwickau my train travelled West.
  • The train was a modern two-car diesel-multiple-unit, as you see all over Germany. It’s a German equivalent of a Class 170/171172 train.
  • There is a large freight line to the North of the line at Zwickau.
  • There are high-viaducts looking over tidy villages. Think Marks Tey Station And The Sudbury Branch.
  • We passed through Lichtentanne and Steinpleiß stations.
  • The line to Leipzig goes North and we took the Southern route towards Hof, that eventually goes to Munich.
  • We passed through Neumark.
  • We passed through Reichenbach, which looks like a station to visit.
  • We then passed over the Göltzsch Viaduct, which the largest brick-built bridge in the world. It is 574 metres long and 78 metres high, which means it is a lot bigger than the Digswell Viaduct at 475 metres long and 30 metres high.
  • I then reversed by journey at Netschkau station.
  • The train didn’t go the same way back to Zwickau, but after the viaduct, Reichenbach and Neumark, it went a few kiometres towards Leipzig before reversing at Werdau station and coming back to the starting point via Steinpleiß and Lichtentanne stations.
  • Lichtentanne station appears to have platform roofs built like medieval barns in serious timber.
  • The train said it was going to Zwickau Zentrum and after passing through the Vogtlandbahn platform at Zwickau HBf station, the train descended into the City on a tree-lined line.
  • After a stop at Zwickau Stadthalle, the train rolled into the centre of the town at Zwickau Zentrum.

This Google Map shows the Centre of Zwickau.

Zwickau Town Centre

Zwickau Town Centre

The Town Square with the Rathaus (Town Hall) is at the top and Zwickau Zentrum train/tram stop is South of the square and just North of the maion road through the area. This Google Mwickau Stadthalle train/tram stop, shows the intricacy of what has been done.


The trains of the Vogtlandbahn use the two platforms to the North-West. Note that some tracks in the area ,have three rails for the two different gauges. This Google Map of just North of Stadthalle station, shows the lines clearly.

Tracks North of Zwickau Stadthalle Station

Tracks North of Zwickau Stadthalle Station

Note the level crossing in the bottom left corner. I said in the pictures, that I saw another tram stop. This Google Map shows it.

An Unnamed Tram Stop In Zwickau

An Unnamed Tram Stop In Zwickau

You can clearly see the three rail track in this map.

Approaching Zwickau Zentrum train-station/tram stop, the tracks have to cross a dual-carriageway. This Google Map shows the crossing.

Trams And Trains Crossing A Dual Carriageway In Zwickau

Trams And Trains Crossing A Dual Carriageway In Zwickau

Note how the trains use a single track without electrification at the left and the trams use the other two tracks. Judging by the full version of this map, it would appear that road traffic is controlled by traffic lights.

To complete the route, this Google Map shows Zwickau Zentrum train station/tram trop.

Zwickau Zentrum Station

Zwickau Zentrum Station

There would appear to be a train in the station.

Unfortunately, I got my usual luck with the weather, otherwise I would have explored the area more on foot. The pictures would hopefully have been better too.

The link into Zwickau Zentrum is an interesting concept, where trains and trams share a common corridor through an urban area to a convenient station.

In Zwickau almost standard diesel trains are used, which might be slightly narrower than standard to fit the tram tracks.

As they are independently powered there is none of the problems of dual voltage operation, but they do have the problem of different gauges, which is solved by using three rails.

I think though, that on the shared line, trams and trains both run according to the same rules.

After my visit to Zwickau, I feel even stronger about what I wrote in When Is A Train Not A Train?

I believe that on separated track, trains can run through urban landscape under tram rules.

As our trams generally run on standard gauge track in the UK, I believe track could be shared between trams and trains, provided the following.

  • A compatible rail profile was used.
  • The line would be electrified for trams.
  • Signalling and warning lights would be appropriate.
  • The train has some form of independent power; diesel or on-board storage.

So say if somewhere in South London, the Tramlink and the trains needed to use the same stretch of line, a modern train like a Class 377 train with onboard energy storage would just raise its contact shoes and go.

There would be no complicated dual-voltage tram-trains.



July 22, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | 5 Comments

When Is A Train Not A Train?

Take a modern train, say something like a Class 172 DMU or a two-car version of say a Class 710 EMU.

The size and weight of these are very similar to that of one of Sheffield’s trams.

Many, if not all, trams in the UK run to a set of rules, which allow the following.

  • Running at up to 50 mph on a dedicated track, which can be either single or double track.
  • Running at slower speeds through City Centres and amongst pedestrians, as they do through Birmingham, Blackpool, Croydon, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield
  • Trams are driven, by a trained driver, who takes notice of everything and everybody around the tram.
  • Passengers can cross the track in designated places provided they keep a good look-out.
  • Passengers can only board a tram at a designated stop.
  • All rail vehicles run to the same rules.

The rules must work, as you don’t often hear of trams having accidents with pedestrians. In fact fourteen people have died in accidents with modern trams in the UK since 2000. The rate seems to have dropped in recent years, so are drivers getting better and pedestrians learning how to live with the trams?

I believe that in Zwickau in Germany, local trains, run on the tram tracks in the City Centre. There’s more on it under Vogtlandbahn in Wikipedia.

So could some branch lines be run according to tram rules, but using standard modern trains, like Class 172 or Class 710 trains?

In A First Visit To Clacton, I said this about the Walton-on-the-Naze branch of the Sunshine Coast Line.

I do wonder whether some branches like the short one to Walton-on-the Naze could be run to tram rules using on-board energy storage. It might enable stations to be built step-free without electrification, lifts and bridges, provided trains kept to a safe slow speed.

In an ideal system, the rules could be.

  • No electrification. Zwickau uses diesel vehicles, but ones using on-board energy storage would be ideal.
  • Trains do not exceed an appropriate slow speed. Zwickau uses 80 kph.
  • Step free access from platform to train.
  • All trains on the line run to the same rules.
  • No freight trains.

The advantages would be.

  • There is no electrification.
  • Signalling is standard railway signals and rules. Often routes would run under One Train Working, which is very safe and well proven.
  • Many routes could be built as single-track without points and like the Sudbury branch trains would go out and back.
  • DMUs would be exactly, the same as others of their type.
  • EMUs would be too, but would have on-board energy storage.
  • Extra stations could be added to the line, by just building platforms.
  • The line could perhaps be extended past its current terminus.

I must get to Zwickau and see how the Germans do it.

A few examples of lines that could run to these rules include.

Whether some of these would need it, is doubtful. Some though, like Sudbury and St.Ives, terminate as a single platform in a car park.

The Felixstowe Branch certainly couldn’t as it has lots of freight trains, although the final section, from where it branches off the line to Felixstowe Port could.

I said that no freight trains could run on the routes, but those devilish Germans have designed a freight tram that runs in Dresden to supply  the Volswagen factory in the city. It’s called a Cargo Tram.

Could this be a way of bringing freight into a City Centre? as I said in The LaMiLo Project, this type of thinking is in the minds of planners.



July 16, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments