Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Envisage it

Posted in Great Britain, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 28 September 2010

In 1967, as steam on Britain’s railways was being phased out, the main portion of the South Western Main Line as far as Bournemouth was electrified, leaving the section beyond Bournemouth to the terminus at Weymouth unelectrified. To enable the maximum use of the new infrastructure to be made, the Southern Region came up with a novel way of operating through trains to Weymouth via Bournemouth. The 4-Rep was built as a high powered (3,200hp, which was not much less than the most powerful locomotive operating on Britain’s railways, the Class 55 Deltic) EMU capable of up to 100mph, which would be coupled to a set of unpowered 4-TC trailer units – the train would be driven from London using a driving cab in a 4-TC unit, with the 4-Rep pushing it. Upon reaching Bournemouth, the 4-Rep unit would be uncoupled, while a Class 33/1 diesel locomotive would be connected to the other end and then pull the train to Weymouth. For the return to London, the operation would take place in reverse (the Class 33 would push the train, driven from a 4-TC, to Bournemouth, where the 4-Rep would be reattached and pull the train back to London).

Although this seems like a complicated way of doing things, in practice it is quite simple, as the locomotive was timetabled to be waiting for the train at Bournemouth. The changeover from the 4-Rep to the locomotive, not an especially labourious operation, being done in a matter of minutes, is written into the timetable as the dwell time for the train at Bournemouth, which is only fair for what is almost an intercity service, while the reverse is just as simple. This operation continued in this manner until 1988, by which time the 4-Reps and 4-TCs were approaching 30 years old and in need of replacement, and so the decision was taken to electrify the remainder of the main line and procure the Class 442.

You’ll no doubt be asking what the point of regaling you with that little tale was. Well, I was thinking last night about IEP, and the Foster Report, which said that alternatives that included locomotive hauled traction were not considered properly. And I was thinking “how could this be achieved?”, given that the primary purpose of IEP was the replacement of the High Speed Train, and ensuring maximum use of the existing infrastructure (i.e. not running diesel trains for long distances “under the wires”). Two questions occured to me:

  1. Why, when it comes to locomotive hauled passenger trains, is the locomotive always at the “country” end rather than the “London” end?
  2. How streamlined does a train have to be at 125mph?

Invariably, electrification will head out from London, and so an electric locomotive hauling a passenger train (the Class 90 and Class 91 are the main ones at present) will always end up at the extremity of the electrification. In the event of a diesel locomotive taking over, it would either have to haul the entire train, electric loco and all, or else the electric loco would need to be moved out of the way. If there is no good reason (i.e. one to do with safety or timekeeping) to have the locomotive at that end of the train, then have it at the other end. In terms of speed, while streamlining is obviously necessary the faster you go, is it possible to get away with less streamlining? While I have waxed lyrical about the Class 460 and its super-sexy front end, it still has a maximum speed of 100mph, the same as the Class 375, which has a front end that looks like a Lego brick. Would it be possible then to design a DVT that fitted nicely when coupled to the back of a locomotive, while at the same time being capable of 125mph? Perhaps with an adjustable front end to enable some degree of streamlining, in the manner of the new Class 380? The scenario could then be one similar to that of British Rail’s Weymouth solution. “Envisage it” (as Poirot once said):

The Highland Chieftan departs from Kings Cross bound for Inverness and Glasgow Central. A train containing a total of ten coaches made up of two of the new 4-car Class 392/0 unpowered multiple units, each of which consists of a pair of driving trailers, with an ordinary trailer in between, plus the 2-car Class 392/1 (driving car plus trailer car [First class]), is propelled by a 125mph capable Class 94 electric locomotive on the rear. The train gets to Edinburgh Waverley on time, where one of the new Class 67/1 diesel locomotives is waiting. The nose of the Class 392/1 hinges forward to fit better as the Class 67 is attached to the front of the train to take it forward to Inverness, while the Class 94 and rearmost Class 392/0 are disconnected. The nose of the rearmost Class 392/0 on the train (now the rear driving trailer) hinges back as the train pulls out and heads towards Inverness, while the Class 94 and its remaining Class 392/0 proceed out just afterwards as the service to Glasgow.  

Of course, you’ll probably think that’s all just a load of hokum thought up by someone that doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and you may be right. But the idea of using locomotive hauled trains in this manner is espoused by many that think the IEP concept to be a failed one when it comes to ensuring that trains operating “under the wires” become more a thing of today rather than of tomorrow.

The Bombardier TRAXX is seen as the ideal example of an electric locomotive to use instead of the IEP proposal


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  1. lastactionseo said, on 28 September 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Servus, gefällt mir gut was Du hier machst. Wo bekomm ich den RSS-Feed her? Matthias

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