Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Intery City 90's on the Great Eastern

In April 2015 90008 'The East Anglian' crosses the river Stour at Cattawade, near Manningtree with a Norwich - London train.

90012 'The Royal Anglian Regiment' approaches Diss with a Norwich -
London train. The loco is freshly repainted into Abellio Greater Anglia
colours, but much of the stock is still in former 'One' livery. 21/05/2015.

It is often, and rightly, considered that the UK is a predominantly 'unit only' country when it comes to our train fleet. It is certainly true that the vast majority of our passenger services are in the hands of multiple units- one route however where loco haulage clings on is the Great Eastern Main Line from London Liverpool St to Norwich. A stronghold of the class 86 since it's electrification it was in 2004 that a shift in traction brought class the late 80's built 'class 90' to the route. The intercity allocated locomotives 90001-90015 were finishing their days on Virgin West Coast duties being displaced by class 390 'Pendolino' EMU's.

The class 90's originally made the journey over to Anglia in unbranded ex-Virgin colours and while none of the locomotives ever carried the distinctive Anglia turquoise livery they have carried several schemes since. Only now in mid 2016 does the fleet once again display a uniform colour scheme, that of Abellio Greater Anglia.
Nobody seems to know how long this fleet has left to offer the London - Norwich Intercity route with several suggestions being made as to their replacement- possibly with new build EMU's or maybe displaced 'Intercity 224' sets from the ECML? For now the class 90's and Mk3's continue to give a comfortable and reliable service on one of the countries shorter InterCity routes.
The former 'one' livery, with National Express stripe and Greater Anglia branding. 90004 'City of Chelmsford' crosses the Stour at Cattawade. 21/05/2015

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The future is here- Thameslink launches the class 700

700108 arrives into East Croydon with the 14:45 Brighton to London Bridge service on the second day of class 700 operation.
Standard class seating on the class 700.
One of the final pieces in the Thameslink Program puzzle has finally entered service with the first passenger run of the Siemens class 700 'Desiro City' on Monday 20th June 2016.
The class 700 is due to replace class 319, 377 and 387 on the Thameslink route by 2018 with the trains running in both 8 and 12 car fixed formations.
The trains are some of the most advanced running in the UK featuring full length gangways, ERTMS signalling and in addition to being fitted for Driver Only Operation are also fitted with an Automatic Train Operating system which will allow the trains to be controlled automatically through the Thameslink core, enabling the advertised peak frequency of 24 trains per hour.
For the passenger the trains feature comfortable (if thin) 2+2 seating throughout with luggage areas and five toilets per 12 coach set (one of which is fully accessible). Large windows make the trains feel very light and airy and an advanced live information system provides journey details as well as information about onward connections, availability of toilets and which ares of the train are busiest. The first class sections of the train are fitted with tables and power points.
Intelligent data displays show the passenger loadings on board.
First class at each end of the train offers additional comforts.
While it is always great to see new rolling stock and the 700's will undoubtedly provide increased capacity on the Thameslink route it is unfortunately another train which is really rather uninspiring. This of course is a product of their function- these trains are not designed for comfort over long distances (despite a journey time of over 2 1/2 hours from Bedford to Brighton) but for shorter commuter journeys where space is at a premium. The Thameslink service through London's core (between Blackfriars and St Pancras) is a slick high frequency operation with heavy rail trains running as frequently as tubes on many routes. Commuters perhaps should be grateful that the spartan interiors have not abandoned cushioned seating altogether and gone for solid plastic bench seating as is common in many other European cities on rail operations of this nature. With all new trains of course the real test is what the passengers think, and we may have to wait a while yet before the fleet sees full squadron service.

A brand new train at an almost brand new London Bridge station. When the Thameslink Program is complete 24 class 700 trains per hour will run on the core route between Blackfriars and St Pancras.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Back on the Gotthard 9-10 June 2016

DB 185138 and 185093 round the Wassen Curve on the lower level with a southbound freight in glorious conditions. 10/06/16
As those of you who read my previous trip report will know I did rather feel like I had unfinished business up on the Gotthard pass having spent three days on the route largely in gloomy wet conditions. I was not alone in already considering my return before we had even left Switzerland but even I hadn't really considered that I would be back so soon. Less than 3 weeks from returning I found myself with some rest days at work, a box left on my FIP coupons and a decent weather forecast across Switzerland, with flights on a Thursday morning and back on Friday night with EasyJet not breaking the bank it had to be worth another go didn't it?
I wouldn't say this trip, of less than 36 hours in Switzerland, warrants a trip report as such- indeed I only took four trains during the entirety of the trip (and four buses) to get myself straight from Basel airport into the mountains. Accommodation was one night in the Hotel Krone in Wassen. Also of note, after enquiring at Basel airport the SBB desk surprisingly told me that I could use my FIP coupons on the bus to the station (I'm still not totally sure about that one- but no problems!)?

Re 4/4 11194 on the high level with a Lugano passenger turn.
Since my the previous trip in late May of course the Gotthard Base Tunnel has opened, I was fairly confident this would not yet be having any impact on the number of trains on the route and although the line did have some quiet patches rail activity was probably similar to the last visit (except for a strange lack of DB trains on the Friday).

This was a solo trip but thanks to all the friendly photographers on the line it didn't feel like it. Thanks to Andrew and everyone else I met for contributing towards an excellent day!

Enjoy the photos!

Re 4/4 11281 leads Re 6/6 11679 near Rodi-Fiesso on the south ramp of the Gotthard. 09/06/2016.
A Swiss ETR 610 Pendolino catches the sun as it crosses an impressive viaduct near Fiado. 09/06/2016.
A DB freight led by 185103 and 185134 approaches Faido. 09/10/2016
A shot only possible in the early morning in high summer, 11676 and 11280 head north on the high level at Wasssen. 10/06/16.
Stunning scenery as an RABDe 500 Pendolino snakes through the Gotthard Pass at Wassen. 10/06/2016.
Surely one of the most photographed churchyards in the Alps- or at least most popular to photograph from! Trains pass the church at
Wassen three times on their ascent of the Gotthard North Ramp. An Re 4/4 passes with a InterRegio. 10/06/2016.
11324 and 11678 form an Re 10/10 combination passing out of the tunnel and into the disused station at Wassen. 10/06/2016.
A short afternoon postal train is in the hands of 11279. 10/06/2016.
Typical Swiss traction at Wassen with Cargo liveried 620086 leading 11322, the Re 6/6 carrying newer UIC numbers.
11194 emerges from the low level tunnel at Wassen with a northbound InterRegio. The more traditional green coaches are now
something of a rarity on the route. 10/06/2016.
11296 and 11609 lead a northbound freight (heading south) on the middle level viaduct at Wassen. This is the opposite view to that
taken from the Churchyard- and quite different from the cloud ridden image of a few weeks previous! 10/06/2016.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Grand Train- Paris La Chapelle

Inside the traverser cabin looking towards the train shed.
The depot at Paris La Chapelle was opened in 1845 by the Chermin du Fere du Nord and served the railways north of Paris for 167 years until it finally closed it's doors at the end of January 2013. Now the site is to be put up for sale by SNCF. This prime spot in inner Paris is sure to realise it's value to the property developers but before it does in the summer of 2016 for probably the final time La Chapelle is opening it's doors to trains- and the public- as part of an exhibition 'Grand Train'.

Grand Train is a celebration of railway history though exhibitions as well as a venue with pop-up bars restaurants and stalls. Many of the exhibits have been brought from the French national railway museum, Cite du Tren at Mulhouse for exhibition in Paris for one summer only. The public can wander parts of the depot and admire the trains. Areas which once would have been off limits can be seen, and you can even sit and enjoy a beer from a deck chair in the traverser pit should you so choose!

Beer in the traverser pit- there may not be many opportunities other than here!
For the railway enthusiast many of the exhibits are well laid out within the old engine sheds with displays of mostly diesel and electric locomotives. There is one steam engine and also exhibits including a TGV power car and diesel railbus (though these are not so easily accessible). Early in the afternoon the venue was fairly quite with plenty of opportunities to photograph the visits however I suspect it may become somewhat more difficult as the evening draws the crowds in. The oldest exhibits include some very ancient electric locomotives dating to the 1930's while the newest include a freshly painted 'Sybic' loco BB26172 withdrawn just last year.

Whether you fancy having a beer and a bite to eat in an unusual environment or long to see some of the preserved SNCF fleet (but don't really have an excuse for a visit to Mulhouse) I would definitely recommend a visit to Grand Train if you are passing through Paris this summer. The venue is open Wednesday - Sunday from 11am to midnight until October 16, 2016. Best of all- admission is free!

Parts of the depot retain their abandoned industrial feel.
Locomotive name crests hang on the wall of the old depot.

'Steeplecab' B13052 is one of the nicest electric locomotive exhibits at Grand Train- part of the collection from Mulhouse.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Introducing the e320

e320 train sets at London St Pancras. Behind can be seen one of the first of the original class 373's to be refurbished (and rebranded as e300)

Since the channel tunnel opened in 1994 the Alsthom built class 373's have been the face of Eurostar cross channel operations. Now Eurostar's new class 374 (branded as e320 to indicate the top speed of 320kph) trains have launched bringing a new standard of channel tunnel to Paris and soon beyond.
The e320 Eurostar sets are part of the Siemens 'Velaro' family and break the traditional French high speed train format of a power car at each end with trailer coaches in between as was the case on the class 373's. These EMU's have 16 vehicles (formed of 2x 8 coach sets) and without power cars, or the restrictions of the UK loading gauge there are more seats on board and the passenger vehicles feel more spacious. The trains are kitted out with WiFi, power sockets, and reading lamps for passenger comfort as well as the ability to run through more European countries in order to extend routes.

Lunch in Standard Premiere from London to Paris.
Standard Premiere accommodation with 2+1 seating.

First impressions of the train are good and the feel is very much different and more modern than the older class 373 fleet. Coaches are light and airy and the seats are large and comfortable. My first trip is in Standard Premiere with comfortable reclining seats and a pleasant meal served to my seat. The conditions in Standard class for my return trip are noticeably less spacious, but never the less still of a good level of comfort as you would expect from a journey of this length. TV screens in both classes display information about on board services and also from time to time display the speed of a train- a simple feature I have often lauded on high speed trains. One of the most noticeable differences is how much brighter the e320 is than the traditional trains- I still haven't decided whether this is something I like or not! There is something quite nice about slumping into the seats of a dimly lit coach on a late night Paris to London train.
Standard class seating on the e320.
Currently e320 sets are operating on a large number of services between Paris and London, and while some of Eurostars ambitions to expand further into Europe seem to have been dropped, for now, it has been announced that an extended route to Amsterdam will begin operating in 2017. Passengers hoping for direct services to German cities such as Cologne will have to keep waiting for now.