Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Nottingham Express Transit

One of the modern Alstom Citadis trams on the NET network calls at Nottingham Station. 22/05/2017
One of the original Bombadier trams at Wilkinson Street 22/05/2017
Nottingham boasts a 20 mile tram system serving 51 stations and served by a fleet of 37 trams. Launched in 2004 and extended in size by more than double by 2015 Nottingham re-introduced trams to its cities streets after an absence of some 68 years when the Nottingham Corporation Tramways were converted to trolleybus or motorbus operation with the final trams being withdrawn from service in 1936 in line with the transport plans of many UK cities around this time.
Todays fleet consists of 15 Bombadier Incentro trams (built for the inauguration of services from 2002-2003) and a fleet of 22 Alsthom Citadis vehicles (built from 2013-2014 for the expansion of services).

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Goodbye to the Bubbles

121034 in Heritage BR Green departs Little Kimble with the 18:04 to Aylesbury on 10/05/2017.

121020 at Little Kimble 27/06/2006
Entering service from 1960 the sixteen class 121 'Bubble Car's' have enjoyed a long and successful career on Britain's railways. While most units ceased to perform passenger services in the 1990's Chiltern Railways overhauled two class 121's from 2004 to work peak hour shuttles between Princes Risbrough and Aylesbury. The first, 121020 was turned out in a blue variation of the Chiltern Railways livery while the second, 121034 was outshopped in 2011 in heritage British Railways Green. The trains were updated with modern safety systems, central door locking and customer information screens. 

Drivers eye view from inside 121034.
Due to increasing costs and difficulty in maintaining the units the decision was taken that they would be withdrawn from the May 2017 timetable change with a class 165 DMU to replace them. This would bring the end to the longest serving DMU design in the UK after 57 years of service. The two class 121's were also the final vehicles to be fitted with only vacuum brakes on the UK network.
The final day of 121 operation was Friday 26th May with additional shuttle services running to mark the occasion. The final runs uniquely saw both bubble cars operating in tandem.

Chiltern Railways has promised to find good homes in preservation for these two DMU's and they will undoubtedly be in high demand joining a large proportion of the fleet which has already entered preservation from mainline service, many via subsequent departmental roles.
The bubble cars will certainly be missed plying their humble route through the Chilterns.

121034 passes through the Chiltern Countryside near Little Kimble working the 17:26 Aylesbury - Princes Risbrough 10/05/2017

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Colourful Colas 37's

37254 on it's first working since being re-painted out of it's preserved 'Intercity Swallow' at Kew East Junction on 21st April 2017 working from Derby to Hither Green with 37025.

37254 is seen again at Basingstoke on 10 May with a 1Q53 test train from Eastleigh.
On the rear of 1Q53 at Basingstoke is split-box 37099. 
The current operator of network rail test trains is Colas Rail who are using a variety of 'heritage' class 37's to power their trains. Class 37's are required on many duties due to their relatively light axle loading and good route availability which is particularly important on some lines which only usually see multiple units in normal service. To source locomotives for test train duties Colas turned to the preservation sector with many previously preserved locomotives now enjoying a second fling on the mainline.

This has been great for the enthusiasts and has seen a return for several great looking locomotives including a couple of much sought-after 'split box' 37's. Initially many of the locomotives ran in their former preserved heritage schemes, however the only two still retaining these are 37025 and 37057 (the former on hire from the SRPS, and due to relinquish test train duties once the full Colas fleet is in traffic). The 37's in their bright yellow black and orange have certainly been adding a splash of colour to the UK rail scene recently. Here are just a few of the class in action on the Southern region so far in 2017.

37254 suffered a fault while working 1Q53 on 10 May and was terminated at Woking. 37099 is seen departing from Woking Yard to return the train to Eastleigh

Some class 37's received a smooth front devoid of headcode boxes as part of either refurbishment or as a result of accident damage. 37116 lost it's during refurbishment by Transrail in the 1990's. It is seen here with a test train on 8th April 2017 heading towards Wandsworth Road having just departed from Victoria.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Swanage Diesel Gala 2017

45041 powers away from Norden towards Swanage. The high vantage point is provided by the National Trust's Corfe Castle.

33111 shunts at Norden Park & Ride 5/5/2017
The Swanage Railway is without doubt one of my favorite preserved lines in the UK and each May is host to arguably one of the best diesel galas in the country. This year was of course no exception and I headed down on the Friday to sample the action. Eight preserved locos took part this year from the home and visiting fleets, Class 20's D8059 and D8188 joined 26043, D6515 (33012), 33111, 45041, Class 47 D1842 and 50026. Four further visitors were sourced from main line operators with GRRf sending 73119, 73961 and 66741 and Colas sending 56096, one of the major highlights of this years line up.

50026 'Indomitable' between Corfe Castle and Harmans Cross.

GBRf 66741 'Swanage Railway' and 73119 'Borough of Eastleigh'
viewed from Corfe Castle heading towards Norden.
With 9 locos in action (one class 33 each day worked driver experience trains north of Norden) there was a lot to cover however as always I had a very enjoyable day on the trains and despite the weather being somewhat overcast at times got a good selection of photographs. The diesel gala is complimented by a beer festival at Corfe Castle and of course the stunning Purbeck scenery. From late summer the Swanage Railway hopes to begin running scheduled heritage diesel services through from Swanage to connect with the main line at Wareham.

56096 heads towards Swanage with the remains of Corfe Castle dominating the skyline.

56096 visiting from Colas Rail arrives at Harmans Cross with a service bound for Norden. 5/5/2017.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Back in Beijing

DF7 3020 is a pleasing site as it heads to the carriage sidings.
SS9 0091 hauls in mixed livery rake
Back in 2014 I made my first visit to the city walls overlooking Beijing Station (you can see that entry here), though I had visited the station itself in the early parts of my epic Trans-Siberian journey in 2012. This is a fantastic location overlooking the throat of the main station in China's capital for 'traditional' [non-high speed] services right across the country.
Three years can see a lot of change in China so I was interested to see what was different since my previous trip.

Pioneer SS9 001 departs from Beijing.
DF7 6511 enters the station to retrieve an empty train.
The most significant and unexpectedly pleasant change actually involved a large amount of paint! In 2014 the traditional green coaches with yellow lining were rapidly disappearing from the CNR network, replaced by newer vehicles wearing several smart, but less photogenic modern liveries. Fast forward back to 2017 and there is a major program to paint coaching stock into the traditional scheme! Around 80% of the trains seen featured smart green coaches, many of them modern double-glazed, air-conditioned examples though a spattering of older coaches including some with coal fired 'samovar' boilers could still be seen- mostly on international trains.

It is still possible to see DF4 hauled trains departing through Beijing Station (though it appears most are now ESC duties). On both of my trips there has been a flurry of activity late morning before the diesels seem to vanish. DF4 5293 departs with a green rake of coaches.

HX3D 0090 arrives with a freshly painted green rake of coaches from Jiamusi
There were some changes to motive power as well. On my previous visit SS9 in their red & white livery locos were very dominant, on this trip electric locos were more balanced with a mix of SS8, SS9, HxD3C and new HxD3D locos working the majority of trains. The HxD3D, built from 2012 were not around on my previous visit and look very smart in their largely red livery.

SS9 006 arrives with a train from Louyang 23.02.2017

As well as the main loco classes many others can be seen in limited numbers at Beijing station. On our visit a highlight was an HxD2 based on the Alsthom 'Prima' platform working a train in from ZhangjiakouNan. Also seen around the station area were seveal DF7 shunting locos, none of which were seen within the station limits on my previous visit. Diesels continue their general decline in Beijing with significantly less DF4 action on this visit. A very nice looking green double unit DF11 had been seen earlier in the week but sadly not when we were in position.
This spot continues to offer great variety and is highly recommended if you have a few hours spare in the Chinese capital.

HXD2 1017 has it's clear origins in the Alsthom  Prima locos. The double unit works in an arrival from ZhanjiakouNan while HXD3 0459 awiats its next duty.