August 1st News Roundup

A selection of exciting rail news including record breaking and free ice creams!

Observation Saloon Luxury Travel

There is a rare chance to travel at speed in your own carriage behind a steam locomotive for the next month or so. The West Coast Railway Company is running their Observation Saloon until early September on ‘The Scarborough Spa Express’. The trains run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from York to Wakefield and Scarborough. This is the first time members of the public have been able to do this for many years. The vehicle number for those interested in such things is 999506 and boasts moveable seating with panoramic views.

To book this exclusive way of travelling complete with Silver Service, contact West Coast Railway Company on 0845 1284681 or visit for more information.

Virgin Ice Cream

Passengers at Euston were taken aback on July 12 when a Virgin Ice cream van pulled up next to a Pendolino on Platform 2 This was part of their Summer of Love advertising campaign and not free ice cream on what was a warm day in London!

Record Breaking Steam Engines Meet in Germany

The National Railway Museum in York has returned world speed record holder LNER A4 class No. 4468 Mallard to the Great Hall in York brought in by another rail celebrity – the steam star of the Harry Potter films, GWR Hall Class loco No. 5972 Olton Hall also known as Hogwarts Castle. The engine had been on display at the NRM’s northern outpost at Shildon.

Mallard is back on display at the Museum with visitors being able to visit the cab throughout summer. The engine will remain on display at the National Railway Museum in York before going to Germany to go on display at the DB Museum in Nuremberg alongside the Deutsche Reichsbahn 4-6-4 Borsig steam locomotive No 05 001. The holder of the world speed record for steam will be the star attraction in an exhibition to mark the 75th anniversary of Germany’s short ownership of the world- speed crown with 05-001. Mallard will return to England in the New Year and further announcements will be made to give visitors the opportunity to say “auf wiedersehen” to Mallard before its departure. Admission to the National Railway Museum is free.

Flying Scotsman Further Delayed

The other NRM record breaker Flying Scotsman, was expected to return to the National Railway Museum in York this summer, marking the end of its meticulous restoration project, [The NRNM’s words), but following the detection of cracks in the locomotive’s chassis, Flying Scotsman’s return to the NRM has been postponed until the autumn.

The National Railway Museum has announced that Flying Scotsman’s return to steam has unfortunately been further delayed. The locomotive was due to carry out its steam tests and commissioning runs in the second half of July with the test run booked for July 28.

Flying Scotsman’s restoration has been delayed due to cracks found in the chassis in late June after painting. The cracks appeared through the paint and following a thorough examination to identify the extent of the problem, it was established that the locomotive requires essential remedial work. It may be back on display by the end of August before carrying out steam tests and having a test run.

Steve Davies, Director of the National Railway Museum, said: “It is very disappointing to announce that Flying Scotsman will be delayed and unable to go on display at the Museum this August as planned. However, it is important for our visitors to understand that the reason for the delay is because our workshop team are doing everything they can to ensure the remedial work taking place matches up to the meticulous approach that has been taken on the restoration project from the very beginning.

The completed locomotive they will see later this year will be restored to the highest quality and our visitors can rest assured that the safety of the locomotive and its future passengers has been of utmost importance throughout the project.”

Royal Train Costs the Same as a Charter Train

The Royal Accounts were recently published and the Royal Train was said to have cost around £20,000 every time it was used in the last financial year. This is around the same as an ordinary charter train so is good value especially when you consider how much security costs in addition to transport costs when the Royals use road transport or fly. The train has been based at Wolverton Works for the last 140 years and has a distinctive deep plum/maroon livery.

Trans Siberian Railway Gives Europe a 14 day Transit from China

The first trail fast freight service has run from Chongqing in China to Duisburg in Germany and took 13 days to cover the 7000 miles. This was the culmination of a decade of work upgrading the Trans Siberian Line from China to provide a fast transit route of over 10,000 miles.

A Chinese delegation visited Railtrack in 2000 to see how freight was managed and visited the Upminster signalling centre to see how the intensive commuter train service was signalled. The opening up of the long distance route and it’s new speeds means that transit time has been cut by around 60% over the traditional way of bringing goods in from China by ship which can take 35 days.

The train carried electric goods such as LCD televisions and Laptops and the service will be extended to Antwerp soon. The Chongqing area has a population of 30 million and is a fast growing manufacturing hotspot and could eventually supply enough goods to run a daily train to Europe.

The route has been available for a decade but the customs, operating and political arrangements have taken this time to be agreed by Russia, Poland, Belaurus, and Kazakhstan and Germany.

Chinese High Speed Line Opens and Becomes the Longest in the World

The world's longest high speed line was opened with simultaneous departures from each end, Beijing and Shanghai on June 30 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. The line was built from April 2008 and is 1318 kms long being built in 40 months costing 221bn yuan.

The line doubles passenger capacity between the two conurbations and it is envisaged that 80 million passengers a year will use it. The fastest journey is under five hours providing competition to the airline industry which is expected to lose market share.

The Chinese ministry said that the line used twice as much concrete as the Three Gorges dam, and 120 times the amount of steel in the Beijing National Stadium. It has 244 bridges and 22 tunnels and the earthquake prone route is monitored by 321 seismic sensors as well as 167 windspeed and 50 rainfall sensors.

The maximum design speed is 350 km/h operation, but the ministry has decided that trains will be limited to two speeds, 300 km/h and 250 km/h. The Chief Engineer, He Huawu, denied that this was due to safety concerns and said that 350 km/h operation has proved successful in China.

Trains will only run at 300 km/h between Beijing and Shanghai to increase capacity and lower operating costs thus allowing lower fares and a wider range of trains to be used it has been claimed. It is planned to run 63 daily 300 km/h services using CSR CRH380A/AL and CNR CRH380B trains and 27 reduced speed services will be operated at 250kph using CSR CRH2 and CNR CRH5 units.

China Crash on the Ningbo – Wenzhou High Speed Line

There was a very serious accident near Wenzhou involving two Chinese high speed trains on July 22 which resulted in the deaths of 39 passengers and nearly two hundred injured. Four carriages fell off a bridge over 60 feet (20m) high. This has been reported as being the result of a lightning strike stranding one train which was hit from behind by another one travelling at around 135mph. Investigators will be looking at why the track was not showing ‘occupied’ on the signalling system and stopping the following train.

The Chinese Railway Authorities have begun safety checks to see what caused the accident. There has been speculation that the line was opened a year early to be completed the line in the 90th anniversary year of the current regime in China.

Safety concerns have been rife with bribery allegations seeing the Railways Minister sacked last year after allegedly being at the centre of the scandal. It is also thought that inferior building material may have been used in the line’s construction jeopardising safety. China is reported as spending £70 Billion a year on its high speed network and the Beijing to Shanghai line has had many teething problems since opening in July.

There were also doubts raised about the search of the train and how thoroughly it was carried out after a baby was found and how quickly the search was abandoned.

A week after the accident, investigators have suggested that signalling system ‘Design flaws’ were to blame for the crash. This was attributed to the head of the Shanghai Railway Bureau An Lusheng on July 28 addressing the independent investigation panel. He also said that after having been struck by lightning, the signal system at Wenzhou South station failed to revert a green signal aspect to red’.

Normal operation in such instances is for the fail-safe design to kick-in which means the signals turn to red or go black meaning there is no aspect shown so all trains stop in either case.

This did not happen in China and The Beijing National Railway Research & Design Institute of Signal & Communication has now issued an apology for the accident.

Chase Chinnor’s Chiltern’s Red Kites by Train!

The Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway (C&PRR) is well known amongst wildlife lovers for the variety of wildlife that can be seen alongside and above the 4 mile line running in the heart of the Chilterns. In particular are the many Red Kites introduced 25 years ago in the Chilterns that now make a magnificent sight as they circle above the length of the railway. Their cries can also be heard from the platform at Chinnor station.

The ‘Wildlife On The Move’ special runs several times a year on the C&PRR and the next one is on Saturday August 13 using a 1960s built ‘Bubble Car’ No. 55023. The round trip of just under eight miles takes an hour and Chiltern Conservation Board guides on the train will point out the Red Kites and other aspects of wildlife that are seen from the train as part of their commentary while the train.

The train can only be joined at Chinnor station which is off the B4009 and three miles from Junction 6 of the M40. The railway also offers a Sunday Cream Tea on selected trains as well as the chance to drive a steam or diesel locomotive from time to time.

Visit for more details.

Eastleigh Works Fills Up

When Eastleigh Works was closed by Alstom five years ago the outlook was bleak and a housing development was looking likely. Since then, Knights Rail Services (KRS), who lease The Works, has held a record breaking open weekend in conjunction with The Railway Magazine attracting 20,000 visitors celebrating the centenary in 2009.

Alongside KRS, Arlington Fleet Services (AFS) has also enjoyed a hugely successful period of expansion at The Works since Alstom vacated the premises. KRS has laid more track and restored more and more workshop space to operational use.

KRS are licensed to remove asbestos. renovate traction and rolling stock and store trains ranging from 50 years old to the 10 year old Class 450 Desiro 3rd rail units used on the Southern network. Currently the Works has many former Victoria Line underground carriages in store there, and around a dozen First Great Western Mark 3 buffet vehicles plus a variety of carriages, wagons and a few locomotives. They also renovated the Class 306 Great Eastern Electric Unit now at the East Anglian Railway Museum.

AFS are reliverying a fleet of Freightliner class 66s into the new Colas Railfreight livery and overhauling the Network Rail GLV (former Gatwick Express) de-icing unit and giving a heavy general overhaul to the Direct Rail Services (DRS) owned class 47 No. 47813. Their classmate No. 47790 was reliveried into Northern Belle livery and the same process is about to start on 47832.

Class 73 No. 73208 Kirsten was receiving a bogie overhaul in June and July by AFS who also have several passenger coaches on site being renovated, ranging from an Observation Saloon, to a Mark 1 Buffet car and some Mark 2 stock. The Observation Saloon is being brought back into operational condition for Transport For London and DRS are thought to be the owners of the Mark 2 coaches.

They also do bogie and fuel tank changes on class 66s as required. These are becoming more frequent as there seems to be a problem with leaking fuel tanks made in America.

GE Leasing and Freightliner also use Arlington to overhaul their low bodied container bogie wagons and 100 ton merry go round coal hoppers.

Eastleigh Works is now a busy site and regular updates will appear on thanks to KRS and AFS plus Carl Watson and Bill Jenkins.

Network Rail Pulls Signal Boxes

Network Rail has announced its intention to abolish all its manual signal boxes in the next 15 to 30 years bringing to an end an era of traditional railway operation. Familiar railway noises such as the clanking of signal levers, bell codes ringing out, semaphores being pulled off via long wire runs will all be consigned to preserved railways.

There are currently around 5500 signalmen working in remote locations such as Blea Moor on the Settle & Carlisle line to the large Shrewsbury signal box and at workstations within new signalling centres such as in Edinburgh or in Birmingham’s Saltley Signalling Centre. The aim is to reduce the signallers to around 1000 at these signalling centres.

Network Rail has told the rail unions of their intention in late July to spend an extra billion pounds in the next 15 years modernising systems which should they say, bring savings of £250m annually afterwards.

There are currently around 800 signal boxes and cabins which will be replaced by around 15 regional command centres. Network Rail have stressed that this is the start of a long project which could go on for a generation which means most jobs will be lost through natural wastage.


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