Tuesday, 3 December 2019

A Trip to Birmingham

On Thursday, 21st November 2019, I attended the Second UKRRIN Annual Conference which was held at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. There's a post about the event here

Getting there

I took the first bus from Brewood to Wolverhampton and walked to the railway station, where the new station building (now with black cladding visible) is taking shape. I reached platform 4 in time for the doors of the Cross-Country 'Voyager' to shut in front of me. Realising I wouldn't get across to bay platform 5 in time for the 'all stations' Birmingham service which would depart right behind the Cross-Country train I'd missed, instead I crossed to platform 2 to wait for the West Midlands Trains Crewe-Euston stopping service ten minutes later. That was running a few minutes late and it seemed obvious that it threatened to delay the approaching Down Liverpool (not running late) which was also due to use platform 2 (but in the opposite direction). To my puzzlement, the public address system continued to advise that my train would arrive at platform 2 but, finally, it announced the obvious platform change to the adjacent platform 3, freeing-up platform 2 for the Liverpool train.

At least I managed to squeeze into a seat on the crowded Euston stopping service (which wouldn't have been possible on the Cross-Country service since most of their sets run around with just 4-coaches, ensuring crush-loading for large sections of each journey). Despite the Euston stopping train only having one stop before Birmingham New Street (at Smethwick Galton Bridge), our journey was rather slow. I assumed that this was because we were following the 'all stations' which had left Wolverhampton immediately after the Cross-Country train. At Birmingham New Street, we were run into platform 1, which put paid to my hope of using the footbridge at the north end of the station to make a quick exit through the old Navigation Street Exit because the north end footbridge doesn't serve platform 1. So it was the usual route march to get into the street.

Then, an interesting ten-minute walk to my destination, initially following the route of the dual tram lines on the not-yet-ready extension of the West Midlands Metro from 'Grand Central' (actually New Street Station) to Centenary Square. This is Phase 1 of the 'Westside Extension' which will no doubt be as delayed as the first extension from Snow Hill to Grand Central which finally opened in 2016. Phase 2 of the extension will run along Broad Street to Hagley Road, Edgbaston. I have vivid memories, as a child, of the original Birmingham Corporation Tramways, built to a gauge of 3 feet 6 inches, which stopped running in 1953.

Birmingham Tram in Corporation Street (Photo Villafanuk [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)])

At Victoria Square, the unfinished tram route runs along what was Paradise Street, so I turned right to take the pedestrian route to Centenary Square, leaving Birmingham Town Hall on my left. This much-loved hall dates from 1834 and is listed Grade 1.

The Town Hall, Victoria Square, Birmingham in January 2016 (Birmingham)

I couldn't seem much of the Council House (listed, Grade II*) because the whole of Victoria Square was occupied by the continental-looking wooden buildings of The Frankfurt Christmas Market, Birmingham. This wan't due to open until 10 a.m. that day and an army of cleaners were dealing with the debris from the previous night's trading. My route then continued between two parallel rows of Heras fencing, screened by colourful sheets, dividing two building sites. From 1974 to 2013 this was the site of Birmingham Central Library. I was not a fan of the 'Brutalist' design, in the form of an 'inverted ziggurat' but I often used its excellent reference library.

Demolition of Birmingham Central Library, Birmingham in January 2016. The Chamberlain Fountain is on the left (Birmingham)

Undistinguished new office blocks have risen on either side of the pedestrian route but building work is still ongoing. A little further on (past the forbidding-looking Copthorne Hotel) I arrived at Centenary Square, named in 1989 in honour of Birmingham's 100-years as a city. It was intended that the dignified Hall of Memory, in Portland Stone and listed Grade I, would become the focus of a grand complex of civic centre buildings, but only Baskerville House was ever built, serving the city from 1936 until 1998 then lying unused until purchased by Targetfollow. Converted into office accommodation and with two extra floors added, it reopened in 2007.

And so I arrived at the Post-Modern Library of Birmingham, opened in 2013 at a cost of around 188 million pounds Sterling. Despite its appearance ("three large boxes with a hatbox on top decorated with wheels"), it's generally been well-received. I'd better defer judgement until I discover how well it works as a library. The 2013-vintage library building is 'joined at the hip' with the 1971-vintage building of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre by the shared foyer, in what I find an uneasy juxtaposition. Theatre and Library are not just physically linked: Unique Venues Birmingham is a joint initiative between Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the Library of Birmingham promoting wider use of the facilities.

Centenary Square, with L: Birmingham Repertory Theatre, R: Library of Birmingham (Birmingham, November 2019)

I readily admit I'm so old-fashioned, I even find the Repertory Theatre's 1971-design a bit modern but remember, when I was young I went to a few performances at the original theatre in Station Street. There's a useful history on the Music Hall and Theatre History site here. The original building is now owned and managed by the Birmingham Ormiston Academy, "established in 2011 as an academy for 14 to 19 year olds specialising in creative, digital and performing arts".

The 'Old Rep' (Photo:Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]).

I spent an interesting day at the UKRRIN Conference, then made my way home.

The Symphony Hall, opened in 1991 as part of the The International Convention Centre complex, presented a rather forlorn appearance, as the elevation facing Centenary Square was being rebuilt as part of a 12 million pounds Sterling project called 'Making an Entrance', developing a separate public foyer area to host free musical events.

Building work in progress at the Symphony Hall on the 'Making an Entrance' project (Birmingham, November 2019)

But there were other attractions in Centenary Square for Christmas 2019, run by Ice Skate Birmingham. The main feature, as the name suggests, was a large, covered ice rink near the Ice Lounge offering refreshments.

Ice Skate Birmingham's covered rink (Birmingham, November 2019)

There was also the 'Big Wheel' - a 40-metre Ferris Wheel, complemented by the 'City Flyer' - a 55-metre tower where riders in cable-suspended seats are lifted to the top of the tower whilst spinning in a horizontal plane.

Centenary Square showing the 40-metre 'Big Wheel' and the 55-metre 'City Flyer' (Birmingham, November 2019)

As I approached Victoria Square, I noticed how 'naked' the round aerial galleries at the top of Birmingham's 499-foot tall BT Tower appeared. What was then called 'The Post Office Tower' opened in 1966 with various microwave dishes, surmounted by a group of massive 'hoghorn' antenna forming part of the UK's strategic network of 960-channel microwave links. These presumably disappeared with the march of optical fibre cable networks, which may also account for the removal of other dishes (in 2012, according to Wikipedia). The remaining dishes are generally smaller.

BT Tower, Birmingham, looking rather 'naked' with many of the microwave antenna now removed (Birmingham, November 2019)

By the time I reached the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Victoria Square, it was quite busy. A large number of stalls offered German Beer, Gluwein and hot food from attractive wooden structures, brightly lit. There were craft stalls all along New Street.

Frankfurt Christmas Market, Birmingham (Birmingham, November 2019)

Frankfurt Christmas Market, Birmingham (Birmingham, November 2019)

And so I arrived back at New Street Station, where the Navigation Street entrance lay before me. Then I discovered it's been designated for exit only, so I still had to go the long way round. I hustled to platform 7 in the hope of catching the waiting 16:00 Cross Country service going forward to Manchester via Wolverhampton. I was unsurprised to see standing passengers crammed in the vestibules right to the open doors of the four-coach 'Voyager'. There were quite a few disconsolate-looking passengers on the platform. I didn't bother to investigate whether they'd given up on boarding this train or were waiting for a later service with different calling points but launched mayself at an open door and just managed to insert myself as the door closed behind me. We were non-stop to Wolverhampton so at least the uncomfortable, standing journey was brief.

Related articles on other websites

West Midlands Metro (Wikipedia).
Birmingham Corporation Tramways (Wikipedia).
Birmingham Town Hall (Wikipedia).
Council House, Birmingham (Wikipedia).
Frankfurt Christmas Market, Birmingham.
Hall of Memory, Birmingham (Wikipedia).
Baskerville House (Wikipedia).
Birmingham Repertory Theatre (Wikipedia).
Symphony Hall, Birmingham.
The International Convention Centre.
Ice Skate Birmingham.
BT Tower (Birmingham) (Wikipedia).

Related posts on this website

UKRRIN Annual Conference, 21st November 2019

My Pictures

UKRRIN Conference 2019.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

UKRRIN Annual Conference, 21st November 2019

On Thursday, 21st November 2019, I attended the Second UKRRIN Annual Conference which was held at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. The formidable abbreviation 'UKRRIN' stands for the United Kingdom Rail Research and Innovation Network and their work, in improving collaboration between the rail industry and academia, is described here. It promotes four 'Centres of Excellence' supporting railway innovation in the U.K., targeting Digital Systems, Rolling Stock, Infrastructure and Testing.

UKRRIN works closely with the Rail Safety and Standards Board, a company limited by guarantee set up in 2003 following the collapse of Railtrack in 2002 and the subsequent separation of Railtrack's original remit into intrastructure management (Network Rail) and Safety and Standards (RSSB).

Since UKRRIN's goal is to improve collaboration between the rail industry and academia, it's relevant that UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), with a budget of seven billion pounds Sterling, "works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish". It operates through a series of Councils, including Research England which "creates and sustains the conditions for a healthy and dynamic research and knowledge exchange system in English universities". Another area of UK Research and Innovation's work is carried out through Innovate UK. At the time of writing, UKRI are creating a single website to bring together the existing research council, Innovate UK and Research England websites. An example of this collaboration is the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE), headed by Clive Roberts and hosted at Birmingham University where a new building for the Centre of Excellence in Digital Systems is nearing completion. BCRRE works closely with The Rail Alliance, based at Quinton Rail Technology Centre, Long Marston (there's a post in this blog about Long Marston here).

I travelled to the venue by public transport, walking from Birmingham New Street station to Centenary Square where the Birmingham Repertory Theatre is located.

Centenary Square, with L: Birmingham Repertory Theatre, R: Library of Birmingham (Birmingham, November 2019)

Birmingham Repertory Theatre is housed in a 1971 building. The 1991 theatre extension was demolished to make way for the Library of Birmingham and both buildings are linked by a shared new foyer area. Unique Venues Birmingham is a joint initiative between Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the Library of Birmingham promoting wider use of the facilities.

Registration in the foyer was efficient and a welcoming hot drink was provided in the curved theatre lobby area by Unique Venues Birmingham. I believe around 250 delegates were registered for the event.

The lobby area, and a similar area on the Mezzanine floor above, also served as exhibition space for a number of universities and companies.

View of the Lobby area (UKRRIN Annual Conference, 21st November 2019)

The conference proceedings were held in the Studio Theatre, a conventional theatre space seating 300 in a tiered auditorium.

The Chairman for the morning session welcomes delegates (UKRRIN Annual Conference, 21st November 2019)

In the first session, there were addresses by Simon Iwnicki from the Centre of Excellence in Rolling Stock at University of Huddersfield, Richard Murray from Teledyne e2v, Clive Roberts from BCRRE, Luisa Moisio from RSSB and Andy Doherty from Network Rail.

A 30-minute refreshment break provided opportunities to study the varied technologies being demonstrated in the exhibition areas in the lobby and mezzanine areas before delegates divided into four 'Breakout Sessions' covering:-
Reliable Assets.
Data-Enabled Railway
Optimised Train Operations.
Low Emission Railway.
One of these was held in the Studio Theatre, the others were in three smaller Suites on the mezzanine level above the shared foyer area. Each one-hour breakout session featured presentations from five different speakers on current initiatives, followed by question and answer sessions moderated by a chairman.

View from Mezzanine Level of the adjacent Library of Birmingham lobby (UKRRIN Annual Conference, 21st November 2019)

A very adequate buffet-style lunch was served both on the lobby level and mezzanine level. On the mezzanine level, it was possible to sit looking out over Centenary Square but there was also plenty of interest in the exhibition stands.

Back in the Studio Theatre, Clive Roberts from BCRRE introduced the afternoon sessions. The first session, titled 'A global perspective: what are we doing to improve UK Rail export performance?', was moderated by Noel Travers of Unipart Rail. There were addresses by David McGorman of Unipart Rail, Julian Stow from University of Huddersfield and Kevin Fry from Balfour Beatty, followed by a question and answer session.

Next, there was an address by the winner of the Young Innovator Award, Mohamed Samra, followed by presentations to the winner and two runners-up.

Clive Roberts and Luisa Moisio presenting an award (UKRRIN Annual Conference, 21st November 2019)

A short refreshment break preceded the final session of the day - a debate titled 'Nurturing Young Talent and encouraging diversity in rail: are we doing enough?'.

I left before the networking drinks reception which closed an absorbing and worthwhile event.

During the day, Clive Roberts announced that RSSB and University of Birmingham will host the 13th World Congress on Railway Research (WCRR) in Birmingham from 6th to 10th June 2022. The website for this event is here.

Relevant websites

UKRRIN (United Kingdom Rail Research and Innovation Network).
RSSB(Rail Safety and Standards Board Limited).
UK Research and Innovation.
Research England.
Innovate UK.
Birmingham Repertory Theatre (Wikipedia).
Library of Birmingham (Wikipedia).
Unique Venues Birmingham.
World Congress on Railway Research 2022.

Related posts on this website

Rail Research UK Association Annual Conference 2017.
Rail Industry Information Day, 2018.
Quinton Rail Technology Centre.

My Pictures

UKRRIN Conference 2019.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Loco Profile: D.C. Electric Locomotives in the former Soviet Union


The development of railways in what was the become, for a time, the Soviet Union, started in the days of the Russian Empire of the Tsars, using steam traction.

The first reference to electric traction I've found was a short tram line in Kiev, opened in 1892. But, as early as 1926, following the turmoil of the Russian Revolution, Electric Multiple Units were operating in Azerbaijan from Baku to Sabunchi (around 11 km route length).

Between 1928 and 1932, General Electric locomotives were introduced on the Kashuri-Zestafoni and Suram Pass lines (around 66 km route length west of Gori towards Black Sea) of the Zakavkazskaya Railway and then on the Mineral'nye Vody-Kislovdsk line in Caucasus (around 56 km route length on Murmansk Line).

In 1934, PB21-01 (named to honour the Politburo) and operating at 3kV d.c., built at Kolomna Works, gave satisfactory performance between Tbilisi and Khasari.

The OR22-01 was introduced in 1938. This Co-Co design operated from 20 kV a.c. and used Mercury Arc Rectifiers to rectify power to the motors.

By 1941, 1,870 route km had been electrified.

After World War II, the Soviet Union designed a series of 1-section and 2-section 3 kV d.c locomotives but, in 1957, 25kV a.c. was chosen for all new work. By 1991, the Western Lines, the Caucasus and Trans-Siberian had been electrified, using various methods.

The first post-World War II design for freight work was the 'T8' (for Tbilisi 8-axle), a 2-section 3 kV d.c locomotive which also appeared as a 1-section design. The 1-section had a cab each end: the 2-section had one cab in each section. The class name was changed to commemorate Vladimir Lenin, and each driving end carries his initials in Cyrillic characters which look rather like 'Bn' since his name in Russian is 'Влади́мир Ленин'. In Roman letters, the family is known as 'VL' and successive classes are VL8 (introduced 1953), VL10 (introduced 1961) and VL11 (introduced 1975). Some units no longer carry the 'VL' prefix.


According to the list on the 'Railfan Europe' site here, the VL8 (introduced in 1953) is almost extinct, although I photographed VL8-310 in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan Railways: VL8-310 2-section Bo-Bo 3 kV d.c.


In 1961, the first VL10 was produced in Tbilisi followed by 17 more. From 1967 to 1977, large numbers were series-built at both Tbilisi and, from 1969 to 1976, Novocherkassk, totalling 1,902 units. I believe the class is referred to as 'Chervonets', an informal name for a 10 rouble coin.
Brief data
2-section Bo-Bo.
Wheel diameter 1250 mm.
Each section Power(a) 2680 kW (b) 2300 kW.
Each section Tractive Effort (a) 307 kN (b) 195 kN @ 48.7 km/h (c) 159 kN @ 51.2 km/h Max 100 km/h.
Each section has 4 off 670 kW, series wound, nose suspended, axle hung d.c. traction motors (Tbilisi TL-2K1), with a gear ratio of 3.83:1.
Regenerative braking is provided.
Each section is 16420mm long and weighs 92t, giving an axle load of 23t.

Armenia Railways: The Russian-design 3 kV d.c. 2-section locomotive VL10-825 which hauled the 'Golden Eagle' from Yerevan.

In 1975 a higher-power sub-class was introduced called VL10u ('u' for 'usilennyi', meaning strengthened), with a higher power.

Standardisation meant that many parts, including bogies and series production bodies were common with VL 80K class (a similar 2-section Bo-Bo arranged for 25 kV a.c. operation introduced in 1963).

In 1974-75, three ballasted units were prototypes for the VL10U class.

In 1984-5 the VL10N class was introduced for industrial use with rheostatic rather than regenerative braking.


VL11, introduced 1975, is a development allowing extra ('booster') sections to be added for higher power.

Tbilisi Station, Georgian Railway: 11-747A on northbound train

VL11m, a modernised version of the VL11, followed in 1987.

Azerbaijan Railways: VL11m 341 waiting with a westbound train west of Hajiqabul. Both pantographs lowered and crew relaxing.

Qobustan Station: Azerbaijan Railways: VL11 M6-509 on the platform line. This is a modernised version (built from 1987) of the adaptable multi-section Bo-Bo VL11 (built from 1976) which was developed from the earlier VL10. The Cyrillic 'b' after the running number indicates cab 'b' (14:25)

The collapse of the Soviet Union 1992 must have been an incredible upheaval for the railways. A huge, previously-integrated railway system was devolved into numerous separate railways and existing rolling stock was divided up according to prior use. Whereas previously the manufacture of traction units and rolling stock had been state-directed, efforts became fragmented.

Book Reference

[1] 'Soviet Locomotive Types - The Union Legacy' by A J Heywood & I D C Button (Frank Stenvalls Forlag) ISBN 0-9525202-0-6.
[2] 'Lokomotivy otechestvennykh zheleznykh dorog (Railroad Locomotives of our Native Land) 1845-1955' by Vitaly A Rakov (Transport Moskva, 1955 in Russian Cyrillic) ISBN 9785277008218.

Related posts on other websites

Elmavalmshenebeli (Georgian loco builder).
Railfan Europe: RZD dc electric locomotives.
VL10 (Wikipedia).

Related posts on this website

Numbering of Russian Locomotives and Rolling Stock.
Russian Railways.
Railway Workshops in Kiev (2005 visit).
Trans-Siberian (17 posts describing a journey from Ulan Bataar to Moscow).
Caspian Odyssey (11 posts describing a journey from Yerevan to Baku).

My Pictures

Ukraine Modern Image (Electric & Diesel).
Kiev Locomotive Works (Passenger) (Electric).
Kiev Locomotive Works (Freight) Electric & Diesel.
Russian Railways (2011 canal/river trip).
Railways in Armenia (2018).
Georgian Railway (2018).
Tbilisi Station, Georgian Railway (2018).
Azerbaijan Railways (2018).
Locomotive Profile: VL10 and similar locomotives.
Russian Railways - The Trans-Siberian Railway (2012: 21 albums).

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Battlefield Line Bonfire and Firework display at Market Bosworth Station

On Saturday 2nd November 2019, the Battlefield line celebrated Bonfire Night with a Bonfire and Firework display at Market Bosworth Station. The railway's website here enthused on its events page:-
Gigantic bonfire and spectacular firework display
Catch the train from Shackerstone at 6:00pm or 6:50pm and ride to Market Bosworth Station
Train returns from Market Bosworth at 8:15pm.
Refreshments available at Market Bosworth Goods Shed
Parking spaces are limited at Market Bosworth, so it is advised to catch one of the trains from Shackerstone Station
The plan for the evening services to and from Market Bosworth was that 'Light Prairie' 5542 would be chimney-leading at the south end, coupled to three coaches of the normal 4-coach 'set', omitting the 'BG' guard's full brake with the 2-car Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) completing the consist at the north end. The DMU currently comprises the single-unit 'Bubble Car' attached to the Driving Motor car of the 2-car set whilst the Driving Trailer of the 2-car set undergoes body repairs in the shed. All the bonfire trains were to operate from Platform 1 at Shackerstone. 5542 would haul the 6.00 p.m. to Market Bosworth and, after unloading, the DMU would take the empty stock back to Shackerstone, to form the 6.50 p.m. service to Market Bosworth. After the firework display, the DMU was to lead the return train back to Shackerstone, with 5542 authorised to provide assistance if necessary.

I've described Steam/DMU 'Shuttle' operation at the Battlefield Line in the post here. At the 50th Anniversary Gala, just a couple of weeks prior to the Bonfire and Firework Night, I'd been involved in the operation of the Steam/DMU 'Shuttles' (both as steam and DMU driver) as described here. Adrian L. and Ritchie M. were already rostered on 'Light Prairie' 5542 for the evening trains but, with three bogie coaches added for the Bonfire and Firework Night, it offered a new experience so, when the railway asked for a DMU driver, I volunteered.

The plans underwent a number of changes before we actually worked the trains. The principal change, at around 5.00 p.m. on Saturday, was to operate with the full 4-coach service train which, from the south end, was marshalled passenger coach, buffet coach, passenger coach and guard's full brake (BG). Because the platform lengths are tight for even a 5-coach train this implied placing the passenger set at the north end of the train and allowing the BG to stand outside the platform, with 5542 marshalled at the north end and hauling the trains bunker-first towards Shackerstone. With only 3 passenger coaches alongside the platform, that left just about enough room to accommodate the 2-car DMU alongside the platform at the south end.

By 5.00 p.m. I'd done the Daily Exam on the DMU (much simpler than on a steam locomotive), started all four engines, obtained sufficient control air pressure and checked that the final drive controls, vacuum braking system and Driver's Supervisory Device (DSD, the posh name for the Deadman's Handle) were all operative from both the south end and north end cabs. So I was ready to roll, but I had to wait in the DMU siding until 5542 came off shed, by which time it was already fully dark. The heavy rain earlier in the day had abated but not really stopped. 5542 left the shed, trundled through the empty platform 1 to the north end and coupled onto the north end of the stock in platform 2. 5542 then propelled the four coaches southwards, past the signal box and 'up the cutting' until clear of the crossover. Once the signalman had reversed the crossover and cleared the ground signal, 5542 drew the train into platform 1, with most of the BG overhanging the platform. Then the 'dummy' (ground disc signal) on the DMU siding came 'off' and I drifted down to the south end of the 4-coaches in platform 1 and gently 'buffered-up'. The whole of the Driving Motor car was alongside the platform but only part of the 'Bubble Car', so we had to make sure that passengers used only the available doors. The 6.00 p.m. service wasn't full so we didn't need to load the 'Bubble Car'.

Platform 1 at Shackerstone Station, showing 'Special' including (in background) the 2-car DMU (Battlefield Line Bonfire and Firework display)

Railway Operations at Night

I've discussed driving steam trains at night in the post The Railway at Night and there's a bit more in the post 'Operation: Market Bosworth' - On the Footplate describing the running of 'specials' in the dark.

The semaphore signals at Shackerstone were originally lit by paraffin lamps, as described in the post Part 4 - Semaphore Signal Aspects by Night (one of an occasional series on Railway Signalling in Britain in this blog). Some years ago, I remember climbing the Shackerstone Down Home signal (number 2) to replace the paraffin lamp. Since then, the signals at Shackerstone have been 'electrified', with filamentary lamps replacing the paraffin lamps. Unfortunately, a couple of these lamps were 'out', requiring extra vigilance.

View from above showing the parffin lamp housing fitted to an upper quadrant lattice post signal, with the lamp housing open to show the lighted signal lamp inside. At the top of the picture can be seen the filter glasses producing the appropriate signal aspect.

But the design of the cab of a DMU compounds the problems of keeping a good lookout ahead. The 'Modernisation' DMU featured glazed panels between the cab and the the passenger compartment. At night, the light from the illuminated passenger compartment destroys the driver's night vision unless the blinds fitted to the glazed panels are lowered. Although the forward visibility for passengers is attractive during the day, later designs of DMU have replaced the vision panels with a solid bulkhead.

In addition, the driver views the line through generously-proportioned front windows. Glazing will produce reflections from any stray light which can be distracting. During rain, the air-operated windscreen wiper will clear a limited area which may retain smears (depending on the condition of the wiper blade) and rain on the 'unwiped' area can produce visual distortion or scatter stray light. On a steam locomotive, leaning out of the cab will normally offer the best forward vision but on this type of DMU, the need to keep the Deadman's Handle operated limits the driver's ability to lean out.

As built, 'Modernisation' DMU show just show two white marker lights ahead but these are intended to warn people trackside, not to act as headlights improving the driver's visibility. British Rail did retro-fit an additional higher-intensity headlamp to some units but this was still primarily to warn people trackside although, as increasing use was made of reflective signage (for instance, for indicating speed limits), this headlamp also improved the driver's ability to locate such signs. Unfortunately, the leading cab from which I was driving was not one fitted with a higher-intensity headlamp.

There are various indicator lamps in the cab which can also be distracting at night. Set vertically to the left of the driving position is a panel of filamentary indicator lamps indicating engine status. For each power car in the formation (up to a maximum of six power cars) there are two 'engine running' lamps and one 'oil and axle' lamp. So for the 'Bubble Car' plus Driving Motor car combination, 6 out of the 18 lamps were lit. At least, the lenses of these lamps were blue glass, so the effect wasn't too bad. More troublesome were the two repeater lamps which confirmed that the marker lights were lit, mounted in front of the driver on the horizontal panel. I reduced the unhelpful glare by placing a piece of rag over the repeater lamps.

The 6.0 p.m. to Market Bosworth

A little late, I received the 'Right Away' from the Guard, exchanged whistles with the 'Prairie' at the rear and, with the rear locomotive 'making the brake' I carefully applied power to start our 6-coach train. With four 150 h.p. underfloor engines under my control only slight assistance was needed from the steam engine. First task was to confirm that signal 14 was 'off' (the signal lamp had failed), then comply with the 5 m.p.h. speed restriction through the crossover by the signal box. Next, I had to lean out (keeping one hand on the Deadman's Handle) to collect the Single line Staff, before confirming that the Advanced Starter (signal 15) was off. Once I judged that the whole of the train was clear of the 5 m.p.h. restriction I allowed the speed to rise to 10 m.p.h. Beyond Barton Lane Bridge, with some help from 5542 at the back, speed was worked up to the Line Speed of 25 m.p.h., before I sounded the horn for first Headley's Crossing and then the Public Footpath Crossing. Just before Carlton Bridge, I started an initial brake application of 15 in/Hg. This was intentionally early, as I was not sure what the braking characteristics of our unusual train would be, but I had no difficulty reducing the speed to 15 m.p.h. for the 'slack' past the Sewage Works, after which I re-applied power until Airport Bridge, where I started a brake application for the 15 m.p.h. restriction through the wooded area. We were now on the approach to Market Bosworth station, with glimpses of the platform lighting visible through the arches of Station Road bridge. Speed was reduced to 10 m.p.h. and the horn sounded before we ran along the platform. I deliberately overran the platform by around half the length of the leading coach, to ensure that the last passenger-carrying coach was in the platform.

Once all the passengers had left the train and I'd given the Single Line Staff to the crew on 5542, we set off back to Shackerstone to collect more passengers. On this trip, I just had to make sure that I kept the Deadman's Handle operated, the final drives set to 'Reverse' (My cab had become the trailing cab) with the engines idling in 4th Gear (the gear allowing 'free-wheeling').

The 6.50 p.m. to Market Bosworth

We boarded a second set of passengers at Shackerstone for the 6.50 p.m. departure. It was still raining when we set off. Either because of the rain or because 5542 was providing less assistance at one point I had wheel-slip on the DMU, quickly cured by reducing the engine speed slightly. Otherwise, the journey to Market Bosworth was uneventful.

Bonfire and Firework Display

The train crews were able to join the stream of passengers making their way across to the bonfire site, adjacent to the goods shed. I paused to speak to my friends in the attractive refreshment room on the platform.

Refreshment Room, Market Bosworth Station (Battlefield Line Bonfire and Firework display)

It continued to rain as we made our way over the foot crossing leading to the Goods Shed, but everybody seemed in good spirits.

Foot Crossing, Market Bosworth Station by night. Note crossing lighting (Battlefield Line Bonfire and Firework display)

Refrshments were also available both inside and just outside the Goods Shed. Tables and chairs were set up inside the Goods Shed for those waiting for the display to start before braving the weather.

Goods Shed, Market Bosworth Station (Battlefield Line Bonfire and Firework display)

But I found that most people were already outside, admiring the huge bonfire which was sending orange flames high into the sky. When the display started, we were joined by the people from the Goods Shed. I was impressed by the professionalism of the display, with rocket quickly following rocket in a dazzling display of contrasting colours. I'm afraid my picture below doesn't do justice to the impact of the fireworks.

Warmed by the large bonfire, the crowds watch the spectacular firework display, with a reflection of the firework just launched in a large puddle in the foreground (Battlefield Line Bonfire and Firework display)

Return to Shackerstone

As soon as the display finished, I made my way back to the train and made the DMU ready for the return journey. Only one train operated back to Shackerstone and I think we boarded over 200 passengers. I kept a good lookout for any 'stragglers' wanting to catch the train but, once everyone was aboard, we set off with 5542 doing most of the work and the DMU giving some assistance in accelerating the train up to line speed.

At the end of the firework display, over 200 passengers returned to Shackerstone in the 6-coach train (Battlefield Line Bonfire and Firework display)

On arrival at Shackerstone, I 'changed ends' and 'squeezed up' to slacken the coupling before Adrian L. kindly uncoupled. I 'changed ends' again to drive the DMU into the DMU siding for stabling. As I was shutting-down and locking-up, 5542 propelled the 4-coach service train 'up the cutting' before drawing it into platform 2 ready for its next use. Then 5542 scuttled to the shed for disposal.

An interesting evening.

Related posts on this website

Operation of Steam/Diesel Multiple Unit Services at the Battlefield Line.
Shackerstone Railway Society 50th Anniversary Steam Gala.
Railway Signalling in Britain: Part 4 - Semaphore Signal Aspects by Night
Diesel Multiple Units (Index)

My Pictures

Battlefield Line Bonfire and Firework display.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

The West London Line

Brief History

Before the coming of the railways, Kensington was in isolated countryside. Lord Kensington determined to improve water transport between Kensington and London's docks by canalising Coulter's Creek, a minor tributary of the Thames, for around two miles between the Thames and Kensington where a canal basin was constructed. The Kensington Canal opened in 1828 but was not the hoped-for commercial success.

As both the London and Birmingham Railway and Great Western Railway constructed their lines to London, the tiny Bristol Birmingham and Thames Junction Railway was authorised in 1836, with an agreement to purchase the failing Kensington Canal Company. With its planned line from Willesden Junction on the London and Birmingham, crossing the Great Western and terminating in Kensington, it hoped to lure freight traffic from both railways to Kensington Basin for onward water transport to London and its docks, together with passenger traffic. Renamed the West London Railway, it opened its single-line route in 1844 but ran for only six months before collapsing.

In 1845, the London and Birmingham Railway (which became the London & North Western Railway the following year) and the Great Western Railway jointly purchased the West London Railway which they hoped might have a future as a freight route to Kensington. But this arrangement also disappointed.

All the major stations in central London were termini, set in a 'ring' within which railways were prohibited until the advent of underground railways. This London-centric thinking is still prevalent today but the lack of through routes was inconvenient for both passengers and freight where the destination lay on the far side of London so the owners of the West London Railway, together with the London & South Western Railway and the London Brighton & South Coast Railway proposed to fill in the Kensington Canal and use the land for the West London Extension Railway, crossing the Thames by bridge and then splitting into four branches which joined the London and South Western Railway (both eastbound and westbound) and the London Brighton and South Coast Railway (both eastbound and westbound) to the east of Clapham Junction. This work was authorised in 1859 and opened to traffic in 1863.

At last the line became an important artery for freight and passenger traffic and the detailed history became complex. Notably, both the Metropolitan Line and the London & North Western Railway provided fourth-rail electric services from the north as far as Kensington (renamed Addison Road after Kensington High Street opened and subsequently Kensington Olympia). The section 'Related articles on other web sites' (below) has more information.

The three maps below (North, Middle and South) show the complexity of the ownership and interconnecting lines of the West London Extension Railway around 1914.

W.L.E.R. North: Details of the junctions between various railways in the vicinity of Willesden Junction. This diagram was prepared by the Railway Clearing House in 1903.
Click for larger image

Click for larger image.
W.L.E.R. Middle: Details of the junctions between various railways in the vicinity of Kensington. This diagram is one of a series prepared by the Railway Clearing House in 1911.

Click for larger image.
W.L.E.R. South: Details of the junctions between various railways in the vicinity of Clapham Junction. This diagram is one of a series prepared by the Railway Clearing House in 1912.

Impressions of the West London Line

Although I can remember visiting both Clapham Junction and Kensington Olympia in steam days it was much later before I travelled on the West London Line. At that time, the West London Line was not electrified, although there was a single-line branch from the District Line station at Earl's Court to a bay platform at Kensington Olympia which only ran a 'Shuttle' service in connection with exhibitions at Olympia. I used the District Line service a number of times visiting Electronics Industry exhibitions in connection with my work.

An initiative by British Rail in 1966 introduced the 'Motorail' passengers plus car carrying trains, with a major terminal at Kensington Olympia. I never used the service, but often saw the facilities at Olympia and other terminals.The last 'Motorail' service was withdrawn about 1995.

For a time, Inter City and later Virgin Cross Country ran summer services from the north via the West Coast Main Line to Willesden Junction, where the trains branched right to join the West London Line to reach destinations like Brighton and Dover. I think the first time I used these services the motive power was Class 47 diesel-electric throughout but a later trip was electric-hauled by a Class 86 as far as North Pole Junction where a Class 47 replaced the electric locomotive.

The disastrous privatised Railtrack was set up on 1st April 1994 (an expensive 'April Fool'), the year the short-lived Waterloo International opened to handle Channel Tunnel passenger services. Since servicing of the Class 373 units was at North Pole Depot, 750 volt d.c. electrification was needed along the West London Line for empty stock movements to and from Waterloo. Railtrack collapsed in October 2001 to be replaced by the execrable publicly-owned Network Rail. Back on 2005, I did get to travel in and out of the North Pole Depot on a Class 373, as described in the post here.

Once the West London Line was electrified, there were various initiatives providing local services on the West London Line which I've used a few times. But the real developments came following the creation of TfL's 'London Overground' in 2007 which has resulted in new stations, better passenger information and a more intensive service.

Journey on Saturday, 21st September 2019

A number of posts in this blog describe journeys between Wolverhampton and East Croydon. The quickest method is usually Virgin Trains to Euston, Tube to Victoria and then a Southern service to East Croydon. Sometimes, through choice or necessity I've used different routes. The ticket I purchased using the Internet for my trip on 21st September 2019 would have allowed use of the route through Euston and Victoria in both directions but I noticed that the 07:05 departure from Wolverhampton which I'd chosen also made connection at Watford Junction with a Southern service from Milton Keynes to East Croydon via the West London Line, reporting number 2O23. It had been some time since I'd travelled over the West London Line so I decided to postpone a decision about which route to use until we were nearer Watford.

My train main good progress until north of Roade Junction, when we suddenly slowed. I was using Railcam UK to follow my train's progress (I've described this method of tracking rail movements in the post here). Railcam UK was showing clear signals ahead of my train, so I concluded that we were suffering a temporary speed restriction. This was confirmed on my return journey as the guard announced a "20 miles per hour emergency speed restriction" but I never found out the reason for the 'slack' in both directions. On the southbound journey, once over the speed restriction, normal speeds were resumed but the late running made me wonder if I'd still have sufficient time to make the connection at Watford Junction if I chose the West London Line route. Further south, my train on the Up Fast passed the train I hoped to catch (identifiable by its 'Southern' livery) batting along the Up Slow. Fortunately, when we stopped at Watford Junction, my coach was quite near to the platform exit so it was a simple connection - down the steps, through the underground passage and then up the steps to reach platform 9. In fact, I had plenty of time as trains were running a few minutes late on the Up Slow and I watched a West Midlands Trains Electric Multiple unit via Northampton going on to Euston arrive and depart before my 'Southern' service, a Class 377, followed.

Watford Junction Platform 9, looking south.

The short transfer at Watford was certainly appealing compared with the alternative long walk from the train at Euston to the 'tube', the underground journey to Victoria and then the long walk to the 'Brighton Line' platforms to catch a service to East Croydon. The disadvantage was that my 'Southern' train was virtually 'all stations' so would not be fast.

The Slow lines are to the north of the Fast Lines at Wembley and I wondered how we would cross the running lines to branch to the south on the West London Line but I did not expect my train to diverge left at Wembley Yard South Junction, apparently into the complex of freight lines at Wembley, and stop on the bridge over the North Circular Road. A DB Class 66 rumbled past on an adjacent bridge with a train of ferry wagons travelling in the opposite direction.

Wembley Yard South Junction: View from 2O23 waiting for DB Class 66 with a train of ferry wagons to clear.

The signal check was clearly because of this movement and, when we restarted I finally realised that we were taking the Relief Lines, which descend to cross under the Fast and Slow Lines before climbing up, adjacent to the main lines and offering access to the West London Line without conflicting with main line movements. I'd never travelled on the Relief Lines before and only seen them used by freight trains.

We continued, under 25 kV a.c., through Mitre Bridge Junction where the line from Willesden Junction High Level joined, then over the broad expanse of the Great Western main line from Paddington. We passed North Pole Junction where there are connections to the main line from Paddington and to North Pole Depot which was built to service the Class 373 Eurostar trains but was re-purposed after the opening of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link to St. Pancras International moved the Class 373 fleet to Temple Mills. Just south of North Pole Junction there had been the marvellously named station of St. Quintin Park & Wormwood Scrubs, lost to a fire during World War II but meticulously documented here. This is the location where the 25kV a.c. Overhead Line Equipment ceases, so my train stopped briefly, to change to 750 volt d.c. current collection from the third rail. The remainder of the line to Clapham Junction has now been 'adopted' by TfL's 'London Overground' so station facilities are now much improved, if rather characterless. My final arrival at East Croydon was within a minute of two of the arrival I might have expected if I'd taken using the Euston-Tube-Victoria option.


The Railway Clearing House maps have been reprinted by Ian Allan as 'Pre-Grouping Railway Junction Diagrams 1914' (ISBN 0 7110 1256 3).

Related articles on other web sites

Kensington Canal (Wikipedia).
West London line (Wikipedia).
St. Quintin Park & Wormwood Scrubs Station 2nd site (Disused Stations website).
The Kensington Canal, railways and related developments (British History Online Website).
West London Line (Railscot website).

Related articles on this web site

The London & Birmingham Railway.
Origins of the Southern Railway: Part 1 - L.S.W.R.
Origins of the Southern Railway: Part 2: L.B.S.C.R.
Clapham Junction Station, London.
Class 373 Test Train to Grantham.

My pictures

Where necessary, clicking on an image above will display an 'uncropped' view or, alternately, pictures may be selected, viewed or downloaded, in various sizes, from the albums below.

London & Birmingham Railway.
East Croydon Area Rail.
South London Railways.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Shackerstone Railway Society 50th Anniversary Steam Gala

Jan on 5542 on Friday 19th October 2019: 50th Anniversary Gala at the Battlefield Line (Photo: 'Pip')

The Society

In 1969 the Shackerstone Railway Society was set up by a group of enthusiasts. Early passenger operations took place on the single-line between Shackerstone and Market Bosworth which had been left in place by British Rail (the line had originally been double-track). In 1992, the single-line was extended to Shenton, along the original double-track trackbed. The railway is now marketed as 'The Battlefield Line' since the present southern terminus at Shenton Station is adjacent to the traditional (if historically inaccurate) site of the Battle of Bosworth.

The 2019 Steam Gala

In 2019 the Shackerstone Railway Society celebrated 50 years since its founding. I've only been a member for about half of that time. To mark the 50th Anniversary, the Society organised a Steam Gala on the 19th, 20th and 21st October 2019. Three steam locomotives were in use for the Gala - 'Light Prairie' 5542 which had been resident during the summer, 7820 'Dinmore Manor' on a very short visit and newly-restored 6989 'Wightwick Hall' which should remain until Christmas. In addition, full use was made of the resident preserved Diesel Multiple Units (DMU), currently operating as the single-unit 'Bubble Car' (55005) attached to the Driving Motor Brake car of the 2-car set (51321) whilst the other half of the 2-car set (51131) undergoes body repairs in the shed.

The arrival of 'Dinmore Manor'

Just prior to the Gala, on Wednesday October 9th, I happened to be the driver on the DMU for the normal Midweek Railcar Service and saw the arrival, by road, of locomotive 'Dinmore Manor' (less tender), courtesy of specialist hauliers Reid Freight Services.

7820 'Dinmore Manor' arriving at Shackerstone for the 50th Anniversary Steam Gala (Battlefield Line 2019).


During the 2018 Steam Gala, 'Staff and Ticket' working was introduced between Shackerstone and Market Bosworth. There's a brief description of 'Staff and Ticket' working in the (Part 1) post below. In 2018, 'Staff and Ticket' working allowed a push-pull 'auto' train terminating at Market Bosworth to leave Shackerstone once the earlier service train to Shenton had passed Market Bosworth. The push-pull would then scuttle back to Shackerstone whilst the service train was returning from Shenton as far as the Stop Board approaching Market Bosworth. Once the push-pull had arrived back at Shackerstone, the service train could be allowed to pass the Stop Board at Market Bosworth and continue to Shackerstone. There's a description of how this worked out in my posts on the 2018 event:-
Battlefield Line Steam Gala 2018 (Part 1)
Battlefield Line Steam Gala 2018 (Part 2)
The Anniversary Gala Steam/DMU 'Shuttles'

For the Anniversary Gala in 2019 we didn't have an 'Auto' coach but we did have a DMU. It's possible to 'top and tail' with a DMU coupled to a steam locomotive where the steam locomotive does the driving in one direction and the DMU in the other. I've described this method of working in the post Operation of Steam/Diesel Multiple Unit Services at the Battlefield Line. The Anniversary Gala timetable called for a regular Steam/DMU 'Shuttle' between Shackerstone and Market Bosworth, using Great Western 'Light Prairie' 5542, but using a different sequence of movements from the 2019 Gala.

Turnback Siding at Market Bosworth

During 2018, work had started on building a new passing loop at Market Bosworth which, when completed, will allow proper two-train working.

Market Bosworth in 2018: View from foot crossing looking north towards Shackerstone showing work in progress on the new passing loop.

By the time of the 2019 Gala, work on the new loop had proceeded sufficiently to provide a 'turnback siding' which could be used to 'recess' a Steam/DMU 'Shuttle'.

Market Bosworth in 2019: View from foot crossing looking south towards Shenton with the 'Prairie'/DMU Shuttle stabled in the Turnback Siding (50th Anniversary Gala at the Battlefield Line)

Since the point machines to operate the connections to the 'turnback siding' had not yet been installed, during the Anniversary Gala the points had to be manually operated locally before being clipped and locked in both the normal and reverse positions.

Detail of Clipped Trap Points on the Turnback Siding showing Left: point clip secured by a lock. The key for the lock is attached to the single line staff for the Shackerstone-Market Bosworth section; Centre: dual point stretcher bars; Right: extended point timbers to carry a point machine. (50th Anniversary Gala at the Battlefield Line)

Format of Services during the Anniversary Gala

In general, each service train to Shenton, hauled by one of the tender engines, left Platform 2 at Shackerstone and, once clear of Market Bosworth, the 'Shuttle' left Platform 1 at Shackerstone and followed to Market Bosworth, where it unloaded its passengers in the platform and then carefully moved through the new crossover into the 'turnback siding'. It was then 'shut in' until the service train returned from Shenton, after which it was 'turned out' to pick up passengers from Market Bosworth station. When the service train had arrived at Shackerstone and 'cleared' the Single Line Section, the 'Shuttle' was allowed to return to Shackerstone. This format required the use of 'Staff and Ticket' working referred to in 'Background' above.

Operations at Shackerstone

In the post Santa Specials at the Battlefield Line 2017 I commented "The rather cramped track layout at Shackerstone requires careful choreography to manage two trains".

Shackerstone track diagram. North is to the left on this sketch.

Each time the service train arrived back at Shackerstone, the tender engine uncoupled and moved to the north end to wait whilst the other tender engine shunted to the head of the train, ready for the next Shenton departure. Thus, the motive power on the Shenton train alternated between 'Dinmore Manor' and 'Whitwick Hall'. Once this shunt was complete, the Steam/DMU 'Shuttle' could be allowed back into Platform 1.

An atmospheric black-and-white shot, showing 'Dinmore Manor arriving back at Shackerstone, with 'Whitwick Hall' ready to come 'off-shed' to take the next departure for Shenton at the 50th Anniversary Gala (Photo: 'Pip')

Friday 19th October

I was rostered to drive 5542 on the first day of the Gala, Friday 19th October. On my arrival, the fireman and cleaner had already lit-up. I was a bit worried by the large fire they'd 'set' since we were only going as far as Market Bosworth with a featherweight train (the 2-car DMU) and would be doing a lot of standing around. I'm afraid the engine had started to blow-off fiercely before we had even moved out of the shed, to the annoyance of the crews preparing the two tender engines. 5542 continued to blow off, almost continuously, for the next hour or so.

We'd not been able to fill the side tanks at Shackerstone but I judged that we carried enough water to do one or perhaps two round trips to Market Bosworth, so we completed our first round trip to Market Bosworth successfully (apart from the irritation of the discharging safety valves). There's a fire hose connection at the south end of platform 1 and we found that this would deliver around 300 gallons in about 15 minutes. Since the trip to Market Bosworth had used about 300 gallons, I was reassured that, if necessary, we could keep going without visiting the water column on platform 2. Water supplies are always uppermost in the mind of steam locomotive footplate crews. I talked about this in the section 'Locomotive Water Supplies' of the post here and described the various methods of storing water on engines here.

5542 and 2-car DMU 'recessed' in the 'turnback siding' at Market Bosworth (50th Anniversary Gala at the Battlefield Line)

Dinmore Manor' running tender first approaches Market Bosworth with a Down train, having been 'called by' the Stop Board (far left) with a Yellow Flag from the Person In Charge. The 'Prairie'/DMU Shuttle in the Turnback Siding waits for the road back to Shackerstone (50th Anniversary Gala at the Battlefield Line)

Market Bosworth station with all eyes on the approaching Down train, which has been 'called by' the Stop Board with a Yellow Flag by the Person In Charge, seen holding the now-furled flag (50th Anniversary Gala at the Battlefield Line)

Then, on our second trip to Market Bosworth, the boiler pressure collapsed so dramatically that I had to 'nurse' the train for the last mile to Market Bosworth, with the brakes starting to drag. The fireman's attempts to remedy the situation whilst we unloaded the passengers were not successful and, when we received the 'tip' to move into the 'turnback siding', there was insufficient boiler pressure for the ejector to release the vacuum brakes. A rather grumpy driver picked up the shovel and set about improving matters so as to allow us to move clear of the single line before the service train returned from Shenton. I'm glad to report that the fireman kept the boiler in a satisfactory condition thereafter.

Once back at Shackerstone, we used the fire hose to replenish our water tanks but, later in the day, we shunted our whole train (steam locomotive plus DMU) across to platform 2 to fill the tanks from the water column. Overall, a very enjoyable day.

Sunday 21st October

Although I'd been rostered for the Sunday, a change in the roster meant I became 'spare'. I had a couple of round trips riding on the footplate of 'Dinmore Manor', ostensibly mentoring a very promising young fireman, then later in the day, I did a bit of DMU driving on the Steam/DMU 'Shuttle'. This was an interesting contrast with driving 'the other end' on Friday. Otherwise, I was able to actually chat with some of our volunteers and look at the 'Other attractions'.

Other attractions

Refreshments were available in the Victorian Tea Room at Shackerstone, the station buffet at Market Bosworth, the goods shed buffet at Market Bosworth, the station buffet at Shenton and in the Buffet Car on the service train.

Gifts and souvenirs were offered by the Station Fund Stall and the Platform 2 shop at Shackerstone, where the Museum was also open and there were displays charting the history of the line since preservation in the booking hall.

Part of the photographic display in the booking hall at Shackerstone for the 50th Anniversary (Battlefield Line 2019).

The Goods Shed at Market Bosworth had further attractions: the LMS 'Patriot' Project had a sales stall and the Gauge 1 Society displayed their layout featuring live-steam radio-controlled models.

The Gauge 1 Society displayed their layout in the Goods Shed at Market Bosworth (50th Anniversary Gala at the Battlefield Line)

The Gauge 1 Society displayed their layout in the Goods Shed at Market Bosworth, including this 'Bury' L&B 0-4-0 featuring 3D printed parts (50th Anniversary Gala at the Battlefield Line)

Other posts on this website about the Battlefield Line

To see all my posts about the Battlefield Line, select Label 'Battlefield Line' or click here.

To see all posts with Mutual Improvement Class content, select label 'MIC'or click here or look at the index at Mutual Improvement Classes (2).

My photograph albums

Where necessary, clicking on an image above will display an 'uncropped' view.

50th Anniversary Gala at the Battlefield Line

To see all my Battlefield Line pictures, click here.

Related posts on other websites

5542 'Light Prairie'.
7820 'Dinmore Manor' Locomotive Limited.
6989 'Wightwick Hall'.

Other posts on this website about the Battlefield Line

To see all my posts about the Battlefield Line, select Label 'Battlefield Line' or click here.
To see all posts with Mutual Improvement Class content, select label 'MIC'or click here or look at the index at Mutual Improvement Classes (2).

My photograph albums

Where necessary, clicking on an image above will display an 'uncropped' view or, alternately, pictures may be selected, viewed or downloaded, in various sizes, from the album listed:-

50th Anniversary Gala at the Battlefield Line

To see all my Battlefield Line pictures, click here.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Operation of Steam/Diesel Multiple Unit Services at the Battlefield Line

The Battlefield Line is home to two preserved British Railways 'Modernisation' Diesel Multiple Units (DMU) - a 2-car set and a single-unit 'Bubble Car'. At different times, these have operated in various 1- 2- or 3-car formations. You can find all my DMU posts here or by selecting 'DMU' from the list in 'Labels to select a blog topic'.

It's possible to 'top and tail' with a DMU and a steam locomotive where the steam locomotive does the driving in one direction and the DMU does the other and this post reviews times when that's happened.

'Thomas' events

As part of 'Thomas' events, we often ran 'Thomas' coupled to a DMU (posing as 'Daisy' and carrying a 'face' headboard): for instance:-
Day out with Thomas: 2009
Happy Birthday Thomas! (part 2)
The Steam/DMU 'Shuttle' was issued with the Shenton staff at Shackerstone and ran down the single line whilst the engine off the service train was running round and watering. The 'Shuttle' only went as far as Headley's Crossing (just over a mile from Shackerstone) before returning. On arrival back at Shackerstone, the next service train could leave for Shenton. This is how we worked the Steam/DMU 'Shuttles' during 'Thomas' events:-
'Thomas' was vacuum-braked for working passenger trains and the 'Modernisation' DMU were also fitted with vacuum brakes, so it was possible to work 'Thomas' coupled to the DMU with braking controlled from whichever was the leading vehicle. The DMU were designed for intensive stopping services with frequent station stops, so they were provided with a special 'high speed' vacuum brake where a second pipe runs down the train to enable vacuum to be re-created quickly, even when a number of units are being worked in multiple. When coupling the DMU to 'Thomas', the shunter had to remember that the vacuum hose on the DMU with the red-painted coupling was the vacuum brake which had to be coupled to 'Thomas'. The other (blue) coupling remained on the stopper. It wasn't actually possible to connect them the wrong way round because, although the hose couplings look similar one is 'Left-hand' and the other 'right-hand'.

With the DMU leading, the driver on 'Thomas' shut off the steam supply to the vacuum ejector and placed the brake application valve in the 'Running' or 'Lap' position so that the DMU driver had control of the brakes. The DMU was driven normally, with the vacuum created by the DMU's exhausters, and 'Thomas' was just 'tail traffic'.

On arrival at Headley's Crossing, the DMU driver usually shut down the cab and moved to the other end of the train. The cab next to 'Thomas' was opened up and the vacuum brake application valve was placed in the 'Lap' position. The DMU driver also needed to operate the 'Deadmans' device (and keep it operated throughout the journey), otherwise 'Thomas'was unable to create vacuum using the locomotive ejector. The DMU final drive was set for the direction of travel and 4th gear selected (4th gear has a 'freewheel' arrangement) with the engines left idling. 'Thomas' was then able to haul the DMU back to Shackerstone as if it were hauling normal coaches. It was possible for the DMU driver to remain in the cab remote from 'Thomas' throughout but I always preferred to 'change ends' to facilitate communication with the steam locomotive.
Jan (this time on 'Thomas') collects the Single Line Staff as Daisy pulls a 'Shuttle' out of Shackerstone back in 2010. Since then, the rules have changed: the staff is now carried by the leading locomotive (photo: Sam Brandist)

'Ivor' events

We adopted a similar operating arrangement during visits from Ivor the engine. My reports are listed below:-
Ivor the Engine
Ivor the Engine: 2008
Ivor: The best laid plans...

'Ivor' with 'half a DMU' taking water in platform 1 at Shackerstone during a 2008 visit.

Operation of GWR Steam/DMU 'Shuttles' during the 2019 Gala

The 2019 Gala timetable called for a frequent Steam/DMU 'Shuttle' between Shackerstone and Market Bosworth, using Great Western 'Light Prairie' 5542. The method of operation has to be revised somewhat when the steam locomotive is a Great Western design. The Great Western were never afraid to be different and this is the case with the their locomotive vacuum brake systems. Whereas other railways were content to operate with a partial vacuum of 21 inches of Mercury (in/Hg), the Great Western decided to use 25 inches of Mercury. This offers a more powerful brake better able to tolerate minor leakage. For a brief introduction to the vacuum brake, see the post MIC - Brakes.

With 5542 leading, the locomotive creates the brake using its ejector at 25 in/Hg. Although the exhausters on the DMU will only create 21 in/Hg, this does not prevent the locomotive creating a higher vacuum in the train pipe and the vacuum brakes work normally.

When the direction of travel is reversed and the DMU is leading, the DMU would normally 'create the brake'. But with the DMU creating 21 in/Hg in the Train Pipe (and below the piston in the brake cylinders) whilst there is still 25 in/Hg above the piston in the brake cylinders (created when the steam locomotive was leading), the brakes will not fully release. This problem occurs with locomotive-hauled stock when a locomotive creating 21 in/Hg takes over a train previously hauled by a Great Western engine, where the solution is to release the brakes by 'pulling the strings' (as described in the post MIC - Brakes).

There's a further problem with the GWR Steam/DMU combination. Great Western locomotives have a crosshead-driven vacuum pump which, at moderate speeds, will maintain 25 in/Hg in the train pipe even with the locomotive ejector shut-off. So, even if 'pulling the strings' has allowed the train to move away with the DMU's exhausters creating 21 in/Hg, at moderate speeds the locomotive's vacuum pump will create a higher vacuum both above and below the piston in the brake cylinders. This is no problem until the driver of the DMU makes a brake application, for instance, to comply with a speed restriction. After passing through the restriction, releasing the brake will create 21 in/Hg in the Train Pipe (and below the piston in the brake cylinders) whilst there is still 25 in/Hg above the piston in the brake cylinders (previously created by the steam locomotive vacuum pump) and the brakes will not fully release. At reduced speeds, the vacuum pump may not 'boost' the train pipe above 21 in/Hg and the brakes may 'drag'.

The solution adopted was to let the steam locomotive create the vacuum in both directions of travel and operate at 25 in/Hg, which worked well. Where a train is worked by two locomotives (either double-headed or 'top and tail') it's normal for only the leading engine to 'make the brake' but, in case of difficulty in maintaining adequate vacuum, the enginemen may agree to a modified arrangement.

For the Gala in 2018, a push-pull 'auto' train between Shackerstone and Market Bosworth had been operated with two single line sections (Shackerstone - Market Bosworth and Market Bosworth - Shenton), together with 'Staff and Ticket Working'. This is described in the post Battlefield Line Steam Gala 2018 (Part 1).

By the time of the 2019 Gala, work on the new passing loop at Market Bosworth had proceeded sufficiently to provide a 'turnback siding' which could be used to 'recess' a Steam/DMU 'Shuttle'. Since the point machines to operate the connections to the siding had not been commissioned, the points had to be manually operated from the ground before being clipped and locked in both the normal and reverse positions.

5542 and 2-car DMU 'recessed' in the 'turnback siding' at Market Bosworth (50th Anniversary Gala at the Battlefield Line)

Other posts on this website about the Battlefield Line

To see all my posts about the Battlefield Line, select Label 'Battlefield Line' or click here.

To see all posts with Mutual Improvement Class content, select label 'MIC'or click here or look at the index at Mutual Improvement Classes (2).

My photograph albums

Where necessary, clicking on an image above will display an 'uncropped' view.

To see all my Battlefield Line pictures, click here.