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Back in the early 1920s, railways in many countries around the world were beginning to invest more widely in electrification projects, and Preston based English Electric were what would be described today as world leaders in this field.
Today we have been accustomed to recognising Japan as home to very high speed trains since the early “Shinkansen” in the 1960s, and we now see electric units from Hitachi being delivered for use on railways in the UK. Barely 40 years earlier, English Electric designed and built a new Bo-Bo electric locomotive design, and shipped them 12,000 miles to Tokyo, for the Imperial Government Railway.
When I was about 9, my parents bought me a copy of the Ian Allan “Locospotters Annual” for Christmas, and inside were all manner of railway stories and photographs. Amongst these was a particular item about the Italian State Railways train which operated from Rome to Milan, as one of the new, post war luxury trains – this was the “Settebello”, “Beautiful Seven” or “Lucky Seven”. This, and a few other stories set me on course to visit and travel on a variety of European railways.
In a press release today, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) expressed concern that Crossrail2 was not mentioned in this week’s Queen’s Speech, although commitment to HS2 was retained.
In the UK today, we constantly hear about the massively expanding number of passengers – all supported by the statistical evidence. Whilst it would be true to say that the route mileage – well kilometres – was most drastically cut between 1965 and 1975, with just under 6,000 km disappearing, another 2,000km plus has gone since then.
The UK opted to buy trains from Hitachi as replacement multiple-unit sets for the highly successful Inter-City 125 diesel trains built in BR workshops in the 1970s. The intervening years have not been kind to the UK rail industry, with the closure and in some cases demolition of engineering design and manufacturing workshops. It was inevitable that the new generation of 21st Century trains would be designed and built outside the UK.
Having spent this eye watering sum of money how do we know we have value for money?
Trying to find data on train performance on the punctuality of train services in this country is a nightmare! If the figures exist they are not easily found, and some of the reports simply focus on the dumbest measures imaginable – was your journey a happy one? Were the services you expected provided, etc., etc.
What about how many express trains arrived within 5 minutes of their booked time.
What % of trains were cancelled this year – by area, by line, by region.
The city of Carlisle was once home to the world’s most well known crane maker – Cowans Sheldon, with their works built on the former leper hospital of St Nicholas, they began building cranes, and turntables – most notably for railways at home and all over the world. Those skills, knowledge and experience passed into history in 1987 – some 30 years ago.
In 1986, just a year before the St Nicholas works closed with the loss of 400 jobs, the company had been awarded a £4 million contract to design and build a 140tonne capacity railway breakdown crane for the Indian Government Railways.
Today we were treated by BBC Breakfast to the sight of a Class 66 locomotive, built in the USA, sporting the logo of the UK freight operator Deutsche Bahn hauling wagons, possibly built in Belgium or France about to set off on a rail journey to China.
The presenter, at Thurrock described the products made in the UK that are being exported on the train to China as including pharmaceuticals, soft drinks, ‘baby products’, food, and other typically British products.
This is so sad, if true. In the USA, there are so many iconic routes, and after the passenger services have been discontinued, freight could be next.
Removing any federal funding from the rail network will be a disaster for transportation as a whole.
Today we have little or no competition to run freight services on the UK rail network, and for almost the last decade there has been little expansion of the north-south core routes. Back in the 1990s, and at the turn of the century, the West Coast Main Line had been upgraded to the cost of 2.2 Billion, all prior to the introduction of tilting passenger trains and as intermodal and container traffics were expanding.
It is disappointing to read the ORR’s latest ‘statistical release’ on ‘Freight Rail Usage’, with a wonderful little graph on page 10, which indicates the number of freight train movements has declined from 416,100 in 2003/4 to a paltry 236,300 in 2015/16.
There are several questions that this publication raises – not l;east of which is the language it is written in – which for the most part seems to include a very full economic/statistical jargon. It would be hard pressed to achieve the award for ‘plain English’! One of the more interesting to me is what is defined as a ‘freight train movement’?
Recently, on a news programme, someone commented that one of the challenges the UK rail network – in support of the HS2 project – was that the current main lines are nearly full – suggesting that there were insufficient paths to run more train. Really!?
That set me thinking. Allowing for the recorded increase in passengers travelling by train in the past 15 years, could it really be true that the main lines are approaching capacity? Back in the 1950s and 1960s, despite the increase in private motoring and long distance coach travel, most people travelled by train for journeys of more than 40 miles.
We all know the trouble Southern Rail are in right now – the dispute with the RMT and ASLE&F are just part of the story with this train operating company.
It seems though that the automatic ticket issuing machines could be at risk of cyber attack, with the reduced numbers of station staff, and the remote management of the devices on stations, perhaps the IOT (Internet of Things) has its part to play too.
According to a report in “SC Magazine” (“Southern Rail ticket kiosks allegedly open to cyber-attack” ):
Information kiosks used by Southern Rail in stations with fewer staff are wide-open to cyber-attacks, according to a security researcher.
In the UK, the complexity of buying the correct train ticket and knowing when to use it has turned into a farce. Why?
Complexity – A Way of Life through Technology
It seems the Train Operating Companies (TOCs) who designed and implemented the systems through ATOC are now blaming the UK Government for over regulation. Whilst many criticisms may be levelled at the UK Government, ticketing for train journeys is surely a problem of the TOC’s own making.
When I travelled more regularly by rail, I simply turned up at the station, caught the train, and bought the ticket from the guard. Or, on occasion I would go to my nearest manned station, go to the ticket office counter and buy the ticket – sometimes the day before I was due to travel.
Now, as ticket offices seem to be in decline, and maybe as guards’ ability to issue tickets may be on the way out, I am being ‘encouraged’ to buy tickets online, or through the automated machines at some stations. The latter is a real challenge – not all stations have them, not all the information needed is available on the machine, and the touch-screen displays leave a lot to be desired – they are certainly not intuitive. Just badly designed ICT systems and software.
Back in the early 1960s, the Government of the day had spent millions modernising the railway network, with dieselisation and electrification schemes, which were an attempt to reduce the railway’s losses, whilst saddling the industry with massive debts. At the same time almost no attempt was made to integrate the road and rail transport businesses, with the road lobby freed from earlier restrictions, such asd the ‘C’ licences, and Marples giving free rein to build motorways without any thought for demand. Odd you might consider for a ‘free market’, and ‘competition’ driven politician.
We have all heard that Phase 1 of HS2 will open in 2020, and Phase 2 by 2032 … or is it 2035. So almost 20 years from now, assuming no dramatic changes to economic activity in the UK, and technology advances at the same lethargic rate, rail passengers will benefit, and numbers will grow. However, by all other measures, HS2 is overall, an economic white elephant.
In 1962, the British Transport Commission (Railway Executive), implemented a workshop rationalisation. The idea being to eliminate duplication, over capacity, and create a more efficient national operation.
This was overshadowed by the “Beeching Plan”, implemented by the Government from 1963 onwards. But, Dr Beeching was not the principal ‘bad guy’ – the real culprit was Ernest Marples, the Transport Minister.
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In the 1970s, Britain’s railways finally put an end to the transmission war in the design of motive power, with the withdrawal or the Class 52 “Western” series diesel hydraulic locomotives.
The “transmission war” – electric versus hydraulic – was precipitated by British Railways in 1955 with the introduction of the ‘Modernisation and Re-equipment Programme,”
The revolutionary Birmingham Maglev Peoplemover was opened by the Queen in 1984 – and closed in 1995. The text below is how I wrote about the system in ‘Rail Bulletin’ – probably 1985. One of the original cars was reportedly sold for £100, and between 2001 and 2003, the original elevated guide way was re-used for a new horizontal cable-car link between the airport, the railway station and the NEC. Ironic that such an advanced system as ‘Maglev’ was replaced in the 21st century by what is effectively a cable car shuttle.
Dominating the area above the Wolfgangsee (Lake Wolfgang), is the Schafberg, from the summit of which it is possible to see some five lakes of Austria’s Lake District, and on a clear day, to Salzburg. At the top of this mountain a climber’s hut had been in place since 1839, and just over a decade after the railway was opened, a hotel was built in 1906, to provide even more facilities for the visitor. After the end of the Second World War, Austrian State Railways renovated and extended the hotel and restaurant facilities, and it is still a popular stop to this day.
These 52 locomotives had a varied history, and although they can be considered as being introduced in1930, under the supervision of Henry Fowler, they were based on the ex-LNWR ‘Claughton’ class 4-6-0, and officially described as rebuilds. In Fowler’s Patriot design of1930, some locomotives retained the wheels and other chassis details of the ‘Claughton’ design. The intermediate traffic types so produced were also known as the “Baby Scot” class, and the similarity in design of the parallel boiler versions was unmistakeable.
Absolutely nothing to do with either Lawrence of Arabia, or the ship of the desert!! The nickname “Camelback” was attributed to a distinctly North American steam locomotive, and to all intents and purposes the design was unique to the eastern railroads of the USA, although examples could be found further afield. The most obvious distinguishing feature was the location of the driving cab, which was mounted on top of the boiler. The poor old fireman’s position was in a more or less conventional position behind the firebox and of course, much lower down – the arrangement must have made communication between the crew something of a challenge!
There were two different types of locomotive with a centre cab, on top of the boiler, and the most common of these were known as Camelbacks, and fitted with the Wooten type of firebox. An earlier design of centre cab engine, nicknamed Camels were designed and built by Ross Winans in the 1840s. In fact, Winans first Camel locomotive appeared in 1847, and was supplied to the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. Similar Camels were supplied to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.