Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

There’s something about streamlining

Posted in Europe, Great Britain, High Speed, Metro, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 9 January 2010

There’s no doubt that streamlining makes things sexy. We all dribble at the sight of an Aston Martin DB9. But streamlining is a concept that goes back decades – the Aston Martin DB1 from 1948 is equally sleek, just with 1940s styling as opposed to 2000s. The same is true with the design of trains. Streamlining has been part of railway design since the 1930s; the first major design was the Class 877 Fliegender Hamburger, which was used for services between Hamburg and Berlin from 1933. In 1935, LNER introduced the Class A4Pacific for its express services, while LMS likewise introduced the Coronation Class. This was the first era of what were approaching high speed services, and the streamlining was seen as being important to show how fast the new locomotives were. Of course, that was all bogus – the streamlining added nothing to the top speed. But, both Sir Nigel Gresley and Sir William Stanier recognised the value of appearences. The same is true today – all high speed trains are sleek, though some are sleeker than others. For example the 500 Series Shinkansen actually does look quite like a bullet when compared with other Shinkansen sets. Likewise, when comparing the current TGV and ICE sets, then one can see that the ICE 3 trains appear sleeker than the contemporary TGVs. And thus we find that new trains get sleeker, as the new TGVs are getting closer to the ICEs. It’s not just for high speed trains either – Alstom’s proposal for the new Thameslink rolling stock order, a variation of its X’Trapolis family, was another sleek EMU design, but this time for a commuter train. It’s all very 21st century.


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  1. […] evoke an aura of speed with their sleek and sloping front ends that makes train travel seem sexier. There is something about streamlining that makes you want to travel on a […]

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