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HIGH SPEED TRAINS

 
     
   The success of the 1970s HSTs was based not so much on the trains themselves as in the way they were used. After trials with the prototype 252 001 (the power car of which was designated Class 42) the gently graded Western Region line from Paddington to Bristol was modified so that level crossings were replaced by bridges and curves made less sharp. This allowed all major passenger trains to be worked by production HSTs at a constant speed close to 125mph, thus creating a high speed railway rather than just a few prestige expresses that would have slowed down other trains to make way for them.  
 
   
  INTRODUCTION  
 
   
  British Rail’s InterCity 125 High Speed Trains ( HST ) of the 1970s were based on the power-car-at-each-end format of the Metro-Cammell Blue Pullman sets introduced in 1960, but used 2750 bhp Paxman Valenta engines to sandwich either seven or eight of the new 75 feet long Mark 3 carriages. These were some of the longest passenger vehicles ever seen on British railways but were criticised for using old fashioned slam doors instead of sliding or swinging plug doors.

The name "High Speed Train" was first used in Britain by the London & North Eastern Railway for its Silver Jubilee and Coronation services from 1935. These featured streamlined carriages with – in the latter case - an observation car at the end, hauled by streamlined pacifics like the famous speed record holder "Mallard".

 
 
   
 

THE TOTAL HIGH SPEED RAILWAY

 
 
   
  The success of the 1970s HSTs was based not so much on the trains themselves as in the way they were used. After trials with the prototype 252 001 (the power car of which was designated Class 42) the gently graded Western Region line from Paddington to Bristol was modified so that level crossings were replaced by bridges and curves made less sharp. This allowed all major passenger trains to be worked by production HSTs at a constant speed close to 125mph, thus creating a high speed railway rather than just a few prestige expresses that would have slowed down other trains to make way for them.

252 001 was outshopped from Derby in July 1972 but the drivers trade union ASLEF was unhappy about the central driving position in the fully glazed cabs. As a result the production trains - Class 253 with Class 43 power cars - had more conventional driving positions and windscreens and also lacked buffers, which were found to be unnecessary at the time. Later modifications included aerodynamic roof spoilers to keep exhaust fumes off the back windscreen while the guard was moved from the rear of the noisy power car into his own compartment in the next carriage (then known as a Trailer Guard Second).

From their introduction on 4 October 1976, the new HSTs were a great success and spread to the Kings Cross -York and the Bristol-Gloucester-Birmingham-York line by 1982. Although there was less scope for 125 mph running in the latter case, the high power to weight ratio meant that delays and hills could be more easily overcome.

Arguably the most successful long distance diesel multiple units ever built, the HSTs were the trains that saved the British railway network when it was severely under threat in the 1980s. They also bridged the gap between the older diesel-locomotive-pulling-carriages type of train and the semi fixed and DMU trains of the 1990s onward.

Click here for more information on the early years of the HSTs and a movie clip

 
 
   
  PRIVATE OWNERSHIP  
 
   
  Power Car 43120 leads a southbound GNER HST service at York in 2003  
 
   
  Power Car 43120 leads a southbound GNER HST service at York in 2003  
 
   
  The original yellow and blue HST livery changed to dark grey and blue and then to the red striped "Executive" livery by 1983 with swallow motif and new typeface being added in 1987. After privatisation in 1994 however liveries of the new operators - Virgin, Midland Main Line and Great North Eastern – were applied.

A new Great Western company also acquired HSTs and on being taken over by bus and train firm First Group a new livery of thin gold and brown stripes was added to original green and white scheme. However, the 38 First Great Western HST sets were, from 2002, painted purple and white to match the new Class 180 Adelantes and a further nine IC125 were set to be transferred to the FGW fleet from other Train Operating Companies (TOCs)

In January 2003 Rail News reported that train operators First Group and builders Siemens Transportation Systems had announced plans to design and develop a new high speed diesel train for the Great Western Main Line and other inter city routes. Based on the Siemens Venturio – already in development for use on continental Europe – it was hoped that the new design would eventually meet with the approval of the Strategic Rail Authority, TOCs and Rolling Stock Companies (ROSCOs) and be running within five years.

This announcement that came just three months after Great North Eastern Railway staked its claim to design and develop a successor to the then 26 year old InterCity 125, 100 sets of which were still in daily use.

On 10 July 2003 meanwhile 43013 was drafted in to haul the Noon St Pancras – Manchester Piccadilly. Despite being a Midland Main Line (MML) service this comprised of essentially red Mark III trailers with horizontal white stripes – but no Virgin logos. In contrast, 14 May had seen the 15.30 Penzance – Preston Virgin Cross-Country service headed by 43098 in a new MML livery of blue, white and grey. The IC 125 set then ran empty to Manchester’s Longsight Depot, releasing 43098 for its new task : Project Rio.

Named after footballer Rio Ferdinand who transferred from Leeds United to Manchester United, the project took nine months to plan and was set to last a year. Essentially MML HSTs began travelling to Manchester on Sunday 18 May 2003 so that passenger flows had an alternative to the disruption caused by engineering works on the West Coast Main Line.

In practice Mark III trailers used for "Rio" services had the suffix R to distinguish them from other MML sets. But MML hired in Porterbrook owned ex First Great Western and ex Virgin rolling stock to such an extent that many of the trains arriving at Manchester Piccadilly from St Pancras look like a clearance sale in a model shop!

Meanwhile, although Virgin Cross Country officially ceased using HSTs on September 29 2003 the TOC looked set to hire another IC 125 unit for its Newquay bound services in summer 2004. Indeed, during summer 2003, its last "proper" Paxman Valenta powered trains had the distinction of carrying Britain’s longest distance commuters. These were two scallop fisherman who made the 722 mile 12 3/4 hour journey from Penzance to Aberdeen every time their boat required a crew change!

The Railway Magazine of January 2007 however reported that Virgin was making two sets of changes to the diagram used to operate its hired-in Midland Mainline HST:

The MML set is providing cover following serious accident damage to a Voyager at York. Until 8 December 2006, the MML HST set will work the following duty on weekdays as a result of an engineering possession between Worle Junction and Cogload Junction.

1V29 0705 Leeds-Plymouth (SX)

1E53 1525 Plymouth-York (FSX)

1E53 16.25 Plymoth-York (FO)

From 11 December 2006 it is planned to use the HST on a Birmingham-Edinburgh (ECML) diagram:

1S41 0803 Birmingham New Street-York-Edinburgh

1M58 1405 Edinburgh-York-Plymouth

 
 
   
  NEW MEASUREMENT TRAIN  
 
   
  Network Rail's New Measurement Train speeds through Elmbridge in September 2004  
 
   
 

Network Rail's New Measurement Train speeds through Elmbridge in September 2004

 
 
   
  The end of 2003 however saw new missions for the IC125 sets replaced by more modern trains on their traditional duties.

Having entered service on 5 June, Network Rail’s New Measurement Train (NMT) was officially launched at London Euston Station on 18 July. The first of its kind in Europe – although with high visibility markings nodding toward Japan Rail’s "Dr Yellow" Shinkansen set - the NMT offered dramatically increased mobile inspection capacity compared to the Class 47 hauled Serco Railtest train it replaced. The 4 million 125 mph NMT could provide engineers with concise information on asset condition. This in turn allowed railway staff to make decisions necessary to maintain and improve the rail network infrastructure in a predictable pro-active manner.

Power for the Serco Railtest NMT came from two of three ex Virgin Class 43 locomotives owned by Porterbrook. Apart from black lining and Network Rail markings, 43013 / 014 and 43062 could be easily distinguished from their revenue-earning brethren by the camera pods mounted just below their windscreens. These could beam views of the advancing and receding track to a plasma screen in the Mark III Conference Coach numbered 975814 (ex 11000): marshalled along with Mark II High Speed Track Recording Coach 999550, Mark IIE AEA Test Coach "Lab 5" 977974, Mark III Messing Vehicle 977984 (ex 40501) and Lecture Facility 975984 (ex 40000).

By converting existing rolling stock, the NMT was operational two years ahead of an alternative option to build a research version of the Bombardier Voyager from new. However, such a rake may replace the current NMT when it retires around 2010. The original NMT High Speed Track Recording Coach was fitted with a Serco/Lewis recording system and Imagemap 3000 software while "Lab 5" investigated the "six foot" between running lines as well as track geometry and wheel/rail interface. Planned later vehicles included two Mark III trailers – formerly a sleeping car and a catering vehicle. The former was set to be the first Mark III vehicle ever to be fitted with a pantograph, enabling the NMT to study overhead line issues. Microphones to monitor excessive bogie noise were among the 24 onboard sensors and the NMT also boasts a Global Positioning System accurate to 500 mm and four fibre optic telephone lines.

Although the former Southern Region lines were be monitored by their own smaller unit, the NMT was set to run over the rest of Network Rail - including the Derby-Bristol route through Gloucestershire - on a fortnightly basis – broken only by four periods of maintenance and two of instrument calibration.

 
 
   
  NEW LIFE FOR OLD TRAINS  
 
   
  GNER has taken delivery of the first power car fitted with a replacement MTU4000R41 diesel engine. The ceremony at Brush Traction, Loughborough, on 22 November 2006 marks the start of a 15 million project involving Brush, GNER, MTU, Angel Trains and Porterbrook Leasing. GNER is having 25 power cars re-engined and the project will take until November 2008 to complete, with one power car per month the delivery target. The power cars are being renumbered as they pass through works, 43100 emerging as 43300.  
 
   
  43300, newly outshopped from Loughborough, has many modifications from 43120 above  
     
  The Railway Magazine of January 2007 reported the delivery of the first HST power car re-engined with MTU equipment to GNER:

GNER has taken delivery of the first power car fitted with a replacement MTU4000R41 diesel engine. The ceremony at Brush Traction, Loughborough, on 22 November 2006 marks the start of a 15 million project involving Brush, GNER, MTU, Angel Trains and Porterbrook Leasing. GNER is having 25 power cars re-engined and the project will take until November 2008 to complete, with one power car per month the delivery target. The power cars are being renumbered as they pass through works, 43100 emerging as 43300. All others will have the middle number changed too.

Although First Great Western Class 43s are also being fitted with MTU 4000 engines at Loughborough, the level of re-engineering for GNER is far more extensive. The East Coast operator's power cars will receive an additional number of modifications, taking advantage of advances in engineering design and technological evolution in an HST power car for the first time.

Each power car is gutted to its shell and rewired as part of the process, and undergoes a G examination too. One of the key changes made by GNER is the decision to replace the Voith Cooler groups with Brush units. With last summer being very warm and GNER running HSTs in a 2+9 formation, overheating was an issue. With the MTU engine, the Brush unit runs up to 15% cooler. Another change, involving the engine management system, will see the MTU engine"ramp down" to cool rather than shut off like the old Valenta power unit. Advances in solid state circuitry have allowed the ageing 1970s control equipment to be replaced with new electronics designed by Brush, which are fitted in a new sealed and air-managed control cubicle. This involves the use of positive and negative air flows to cool the circuits. Many of the changes are to improve the reliability of the power cars and as part of this, the bogies are being completely rebuilt by Bombardier. This work includes new drive gear casings, which were prone to leak, a new Westinghouse wheel-slip protection mechanism, new wheelsets, full brake overhaul, new dampers and rewiring of the traction motors. New fuel tanks and a new type of air compressor have also been fitted following a trial with modified valves. GNER has also made the decision to work to tighter bogie tolerances to improve the ride of the power car. There are also a number of changes in the driving cab, where the desk layout has been upgraded with a new facia and redesigned gauges. Externally, the power cars are getting new halogen marker lamps, which take the total number of modifications to around 40.

43300 was expected to move intially to Neville Hill depot, Leeds, from from where it would undergo commissioning trials to Darlington and, providing the shakedown was hitch-free, it would be available for traffic from early December 2006. The next power car to be re-engined is due to be 43099 (which will emerge as 43299) followed by 43102 (43302).

At the event at Loughborough, 43300 was unveiled with the "Craigentinny" name ona cast alloy plate, that depot being GNER's main HST base. 43300 will also have a plaque fixed inside the cab in memory of Paul McGuire, a GNER employee who worked at Craigentinny and died recently. His widow Angie was a special guest at the Brush event.

GNER drivers are entering a re-training programme to familiarise themselves with the changes to the power cars.

In a separate initiative, GNER is spending 15 million to refurbish its HST coaches in the "Mallard" style of the Mark 4 carriages. The "Mallard" standard was introduced in 2005 and the HST carriages will receive new seats, carpets, lighting, tables and new toilet fittings and fixtures. The work is being carried out at Wabtec Doncaster, and the first set is due for completion in early 2007 when it will be paired with two of the MTU engined power cars.

Railstaff magazine of November 2006 also reported on the introduction of Wi-Fi access - pioneered on French TGV sets - to all GNER diesel and electric services.

Transport Minister Tavish Scott MSP has welcomed the completion of the installation of wireless internet access on GNERs entire fleet of diesel and electric trains. Passengers travelling from Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh on all GNER services will now for the first time be able to surf the internet and send and receive emails throughout their entire journey along the East Coast main Line to London King's Cross. GNER's Ann Edgar said :

"We are delighted that Wi Fi is now available on all GNER cross border train services between Scotland and England. Wireless internat has immense potential for both business and leisure users, and we're very encouraged by the usage levels and positive feedback from passengers already"

 
 
   
  BATTERIES INCLUDED  
 
   
  The December 2006 issue of The Railway Magazine reported:

Hitachi Europe [ the company behind the new Class 395 Javelin EMUs] is planning to create Britain's first hybrid high speed train. The company will work with partners Brush Traction, Porterbrook Leasing and Network Rail to have the hybrid HST power car ready for trials in April 2007. If successful, the power car - understood to be either 43089 or 43160 - will operate on Network Rail's New Measurement Train for six months to prove the technology. Hitachi says hybrid technology - which uses battery assisted diesel electric traction drive - has been in development since 2003 and has been proved reliable during tests with Japanese rail company JR East. During the trials, fuel bills have been cut by 20% and emissions by up to 50%. The basic principle of hybrid power is the use of a small diesel generator to charge a series of lithium-ion batteries, which occupy the space of a conventional diesel power unit. When starting off, energy stored in the batteries is used is used for acceleration at low speeds and additional power is then provided by the engine generator from mid speed upwards to keep the batteries charged to optimum condition. During braking, the engine shuts down and and regeneration power is sent to the batteries. The engine also shuts down while stationary for more than a few minutes, reducing noise, fuel consumption and emissions. Because of the revised technology, a number of changes to the electrical control system will be carried out by Brush. Similar technology has been pioneered in America, where 2 000 hp yard switcher locomotives are so powered.

Such hybrid vehicles allow the diesel engine to run at maximum efficientcy and constant revolutions for as long as possible while innovations in battery design allow energy density and capacity to increase while size and weight decreases.

 
 
   
After being invited to watch over the night shift at Landore Depot in Swansea, I and others arrived at 8.30pm for a briefing with First Great Western's Customer and Stakeholder Liason Manager, lesley Colman, and Depot Manager , Doug Morgan. We discussed the work undertaken at the depot before going out into the workshop to see it first hand. We spoke about the many components that break down which have an impact on the running of the train, such as the air pipes and compressors on the braking system, or the simple comforts of the air conditioning units. There were just 17 people employed on the night shift, which included multi-skilled technicians, shunters and team leaders, who service 11 trains each night. Although there is a high volume of work, only four lines of track are available to them, so this involves a considerable amount of moving trains around the site. This can also include the detaching and attaching of power cars for repair and maintenance. From talking to the managers, it seems life would be somewhat easier if all the trains are in the correct place at a given time. But, in the real world, disruptions occur and this creates problems for servicing, with drivers sometimes having to be sent by taxi across the region to collect trains! Not all the work is carried out at Landore. Work is shared between St Phillips Marsh Depot at Bristol, Laira Depot at Plymouth, Reading (Turbo) Depot, Exeter Depot, Long Rock Depot at Penzance, and Old Oak Common Depot in London. These FGW depots also service Virgin Cross Country and Freightliner trains. If, for example, there is a problem with air conditioning units, the train has to be shunted off to specialist depots such as Plymoth, Bristol or London for repair. On entering the workshops, the first thing I saw was the shell of a High Speed Train hanging from a crane above its wheels. Having now seen inside the power car of a train, it amazed me that the large diesel engine does not drive the train, but simply provides the power station for electrical motors which drive the wheels, as well as supplying the train with power for catering, air conditioning and lighting requirements. Inside the engine compartment of the power car, there is very little room for a person to walk through; therefore it cannot be an easy task for the engineering staff and electricians. In addition to the safety and mechanical servicing and repairs, coaches have to be washed externally, cleaned internally, as well as having water refills for toilets. It takes 3 500 lites of water to wash a 10 carriage High Speed Train. Believe me, having seen it first hand, it is a huge operation. And that's why redevelopment such as the  8 million project currently underway at St Phillips Marsh Depot in Bristol is so important. This significant investment will create a new maintenance shed and see improvements in the depot and washing plant, allowing more trains to be services at a much faster pace. In addition, the investment in new MTU engines will mean they are much quieter and more environmentally friendly. Some of these engines are already in operation. This ultimately means FGW customers can be provided with cleaner, more reliable trains, that are better for our planet.

  FIRST GREAT WESTERN MAINTENANCE  
 
   
  Early in 2007, First Great Western's onboard magazine "Reach" carried this article by Customer Panel member Peter Morris:

After being invited to watch over the night shift at Landore Depot in Swansea, I and others arrived at 8.30pm for a briefing with First Great Western's Customer and Stakeholder Liason Manager, lesley Colman, and Depot Manager , Doug Morgan. We discussed the work undertaken at the depot before going out into the workshop to see it first hand. We spoke about the many components that break down which have an impact on the running of the train, such as the air pipes and compressors on the braking system, or the simple comforts of the air conditioning units. There were just 17 people employed on the night shift, which included multi-skilled technicians, shunters and team leaders, who service 11 trains each night. Although there is a high volume of work, only four lines of track are available to them, so this involves a considerable amount of moving trains around the site. This can also include the detaching and attaching of power cars for repair and maintenance. From talking to the managers, it seems life would be somewhat easier if all the trains are in the correct place at a given time. But, in the real world, disruptions occur and this creates problems for servicing, with drivers sometimes having to be sent by taxi across the region to collect trains! Not all the work is carried out at Landore. Work is shared between St Phillips Marsh Depot at Bristol, Laira Depot at Plymouth, Reading (Turbo) Depot, Exeter Depot, Long Rock Depot at Penzance, and Old Oak Common Depot in London. These FGW depots also service Virgin Cross Country and Freightliner trains. If, for example, there is a problem with air conditioning units, the train has to be shunted off to specialist depots such as Plymoth, Bristol or London for repair. On entering the workshops, the first thing I saw was the shell of a High Speed Train hanging from a crane above its wheels. Having now seen inside the power car of a train, it amazed me that the large diesel engine does not drive the train, but simply provides the power station for electrical motors which drive the wheels, as well as supplying the train with power for catering, air conditioning and lighting requirements. Inside the engine compartment of the power car, there is very little room for a person to walk through; therefore it cannot be an easy task for the engineering staff and electricians. In addition to the safety and mechanical servicing and repairs, coaches have to be washed externally, cleaned internally, as well as having water refills for toilets. It takes 3 500 lites of water to wash a 10 carriage High Speed Train. Believe me, having seen it first hand, it is a huge operation. And that's why redevelopment such as the 8 million project currently underway at St Phillips Marsh Depot in Bristol is so important. This significant investment will create a new maintenance shed and see improvements in the depot and washing plant, allowing more trains to be services at a much faster pace. In addition, the investment in new MTU engines will mean they are much quieter and more environmentally friendly. Some of these engines are already in operation. This ultimately means FGW customers can be provided with cleaner, more reliable trains, that are better for our planet.

On the flipside of this article, Martin Costello, Head of Engineering Projects for First Great Western also pointed out that the new MTU engines would only have to be overhauled every five years rather than the three years needed by Paxman Valentas and that the MTU engines would also improve driving conditions by creating less vibrations.

 
 
   
  INTERIOR DECORATION  
 
   
  Early in 2007, First Great Western's onboard magazine "Reach" also carried this article:

The travel experience for millions of First Great Western customers is now radically transformed following the unveiling of the all-new, stylish and contemporary interiors on the High Speed Train fleet, which will be rolled out in 2007. So, whether you are commuting on a daily basis or out and about in the region on your time off, you can now enjoy the journey experience even more. The complete overhaul of the fleet interiors is part of the 63 million "Refresh" programme for the 51 HSTs and the result of more than two years of design work by ex Porsche and Eurostar designer, Michael Rodber. he and Mike Muldoon, who designed many of the groundbreaking new trains in Hong Kong, were tasked with updating the interiors of the HST carriages to respond to passenger needs and provide greater comfort. Rodber explains:

"By innovative use of space and incorporating bespoke seat design, we believe we have responded to customer demand to create something truly new in the world of travel in the UK"

The complete redesign includes evrything from seats ( which encourage a comfortable posture ) superb lighting and toilets, to catering and decor. It also incorporates 240v power points at table level in First Class seats - which are now leather trimmed - and between the seats in Standard to reflect the enormous increase in the number of people using laptops on trains. There are also new external liveries and new engines going in to each refreshed HST. And as if all this wasn't enough, many of the buffet cars will be refreshed to form the Express Cafe. other key features include new contemporary toilets, textured carpets, overhead luggage dividers, hooks for jackets in both Standard and First Class and two wheelchair spaces in Coach E, which is close to the disabled toilet.