Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Making tracks to remove the Pacer from the tracks

Pacers: The train that the UK has struggled to get rid of

Moves are finally afoot to get rid of much-maligned trains built from the body of a bus. But how did Britain's railways come to rely on the Pacer?
There's the rattling, the shuddering, the bouncing and the occasional squealing. You don't have to be a trainspotter to know you're riding a Pacer.
Essentially, each one is an old Leyland Motors bus frame mounted on train wheels and, thanks to the vehicle's rudimentary suspension, regular travellers are all too familiar with the distinctive sounds and sensations.
"They're quite bumpy," says Emma Potter of Dawlish, Devon, as the Exeter-to-Exmouth service clatters around her. Then there's the white noise. "It's constantly like having a hairdryer blowing in your ear all the time."
Pacers, built between 1980 and 1987, are one of the UK rail network's more enduring curiosities - a Heath Robinson-esque relic of the British Rail era.
They were only intended as a temporary stopgap to make up for a shortage of rolling stock, with a maximum lifespan of 20 years. But there are still over 200 diesel-powered Pacer carriages shaking around northern and south-west England as well as in South Wales.
Ministers have declared war on them and the new rail franchisee in the north of England, where most Pacers still run, promise they will be taken out of service by 2020. In the meantime they symbolise to many the frustrations and irritations of the modern rail network.
Thanks to the way their wheels are configured, they are considerably noisier and less comfortable than most other services.

Unlike typical passenger trains, Pacer carriages aren't fitted with bogies. This means they have just four wheels instead of the usual eight. The lack of bogies also means there's only one layer of suspension springs, rather than two, which "can make the ride rather bouncy", says Simon Iwnicki, director of the Institute of Railway Research at Huddersfield University. "There aren't many vehicles that are as long as the Pacer that have just four wheels."This set-up also means the Pacer can emit a distinctive - and to many passengers, annoying - squealing noise as it runs through curves. It also limits the top speed to 75mph.

Despite being intended for use on branch lines and stopping services in rural areas, they are - to the irritation of many who use them - regularly deployed on busy commuter routes, including those into Manchester, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Sheffield and York, as well as on the Merseyrail network and the Valley lines around Cardiff and South Wales.

It's far from uncommon to overhear a groan from passengers when a Pacer pulls up on a platform. The prime minister himself has said we "all want to see Pacers go".
But rail experts broadly agree that, in their early days at least, they were a pragmatic solution to a shortage of rolling stock. "Originally they were a good idea," says Christian Wolmar, author of The Iron Road: The Illustrated History of the Railway.

Budgets were tight and British Rail was under great pressure to cut branch lines, says Wolmar. Meanwhile, at its factory in Workington, Cumbria, motor manufacturer British Leyland had produced a single-decker bus, the National, which needed to sell in high volumes to be viable.
"We had one practical chap suggested maybe you could take the body bit of the Leyland National and put it on a rail track," says Eric Woodcock, who was a bus designer at the state-run conglomerate at the time and now campaigns on public transport issues.
Simultaneously, British Rail had been working on freight wagon technology, and engineers from both nationalised companies began collaborating on a way to fuse the National's body with a bogie-less chassis to create a cut-price diesel multiple unit (DMU) train.

The first prototype, the Class 140, was built at British Rail Engineering works in Derby in 1980, and four years later, the first production model, Class 141, entered service.
The Orient Express it was not. Seating capacity was limited by the narrow bus body, there was only one door on each side of the carriage, and a wider gap than normal was left between the train and the platform. They were fitted with bus-style seating without headrests, and there was no air conditioning.

Classes 142, 143 and 144 were slightly wider, which allowed for more seating and narrowed the gap at the platform. But they were still fairly rudimentary. "At the time it was conceived that these things would be a stopgap," says Woodcock.There were attempts to export them to overseas markets. A Class 142 demonstration unit was taken to the US and Canada in an attempt to attract orders. None were forthcoming. Another Pacer travelled to Belgium and Sweden, with the same result.

According to one account, a two-car set was dispatched to Thailand, and then on to Malaysia and Indonesia, after which its whereabouts became unclear.
Most of the Class 141s were, however, sold second-hand to the Islamic Republic of Iran, where they served Tehran's suburban lines.
Back in their homeland, Pacers quickly became hugely unpopular. "Almost from the outset, people would say they were inferior trains," says Woodcock. They were widely known as "nodding donkeys - because they go bump, bump, bump", says Bob Gwynne of the National Railway Museum.
Most Pacers are in the north of England. Northern Rail says it has 214 Pacer carriages operating as 102 train units - around a third of its entire fleet. Arriva Trains Wales says it has 30 two-carriage Pacer sets on the Cardiff and Valleys network. A spokesman for GWR says it runs eight Pacers around the Exeter area.
There is much resentment that they are all currently to be found running far from London, with commuters in the south-east being spared the Pacer experience.

But an end is apparently in sight. Despite having been refurbished, with new high-back seats and improved doors, no Pacers meet disability access laws due to come into force in 2020. Although Porterbrook, which leases many of the existing Class 143 and 144 Pacers to operators, has drawn up plans for refurbishing them, the "cost of adjusting them would be considerable", says Wolmar, and operators are unlikely to want to foot the bill.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said that Pacers "have had their day" and pledged to get rid of them as part of the Northern Powerhouse. The plan is to replace them with second-hand rolling stock from other lines that are being electrified or whose fleets are being upgraded - a process known as "cascading".
Some have expressed doubts that this will be achieved on time, given the tightness of the 2020 deadline. The RMT union said in 2015 it expected Pacers to still be in operation as late as 2032.
However, a DfT spokesperson insists the Pacers in the north of England will be removed by the end of 2019 and that 500 brand-new carriages will be introduced in their place.
Arriva Trains North, which takes over the Northern franchise in April, says they will be replaced with cascaded rolling stock in 2018 and 2019. Richard McClean, the company's mobilisation director, adds the company is committed to improving the network and "Pacers don't have a place in that strategy at all".

A spokesman for GWR says they currently account for only 4% of the company's fleet, and will be phased out in what it calls a "turbo cascade", replaced by British Rail Class 158s currently serving the Bristol area, which in turn will be replaced by rolling stock from the soon-to-be-electrified Thames Valley.

Interior images

And finally a selection of exterior images

Friday, 19 June 2015


On Monday 25th May, as part of Cunard's 175th Anniversary Celebrations, the Three Queens - Mary 2, Victoria and Elizabeth, were on The Mersey at Liverpool together for a short period. Queen Mary 2 arrived the previous day Sunday 24th May, berthing at the Liverpool Cruise Liner Terminal.

Queen Mary 2, Cunard's flagship, the biggest passenger ship ever to sail up The Mersey, slipped away from the Cruise Liner Terminal at 1045 hours on 25th May, majestically making her way to greet her two sisters at Brazil Buoy, between Crosby Beach and New Brighton.

The Three Queens having met up cruised up the River Mersey in convoy, led by the newest of the three, Queen Elizabeth. Essentially, Queen Elizabeth, like Queen Victoria, is a cruise ship in design, rather than an ocean liner, only Queen Mary 2 of the three ships being a true ocean liner. Queen Elizabeth was constructed in Italy between 2007 and 2010, being launched on 5th January 2010. She is the second largest of the Three Queens being slightly larger than Queen Victoria.The ship was formally handed over to Cunard on 4th October 2010, christened at Southampton by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II on 11th October before setting sail on her Maiden Voyage to the Canary Islands the following day.

Queen Elizabeth is followed up the River Mersey by Queen Victoria, and another view of Elizabeth. The spectacle was viewed by an estimated 1.3 million people!

Queen Victoria, the smallest of the Three Queens, was in the middle of the convoy. Like Queen Elizabeth she was built in Italy and launched on 15th January 2007. She left the Port of Venice on 24th August 2007, to commence sea trials, arriving at Southampton on 7th December. On 10th December she was named by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwal, before embarking on maiden voyage the following day, a 10 days cruise to Northern Europe. A cruise to the Canary Islands followed before Queen Victoria embarked on her first World Cruise, circumnavigating the glob in 107 days. The first leg of this cruise was a tandem crossing of the Atlantic with QE2 to New York City where the two ships met with Queen Mary 2 near the Statue of Liberty on 13th January 2008. This was the first time that three Cunard Queens had been present at the same location.

Queen Mary 2, Cunard's flagship, brings up the rear of the convoy. Queen Mary 2, or QM2 as she is often known, was the first ocean liner to be built since QE2. She was constructed in France and launched on 21st March 2003. Her first sea trials took place between 25th. and 29th September 2003, with further trials between 7th and 11th November. Formally handed over to Cunard on 22nd December and arrived in her home port of Southampton on 26th December 2003. Naming by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II took place on 8th January 2004, with the Maiden Voyage to Fort Lauderdale sailing on 12th January.

Another view of Queen Mary 2. This won't be her only visit to Liverpool this year as she is due to return for a special sailing on 4th July to re enact the first transatlantic crossing from Liverpool to the New World in 1840. 400 passengers will embark at Liverpool, sailing to Halifax, Boston and New York, the first time in almost 50 years that people have been able to embark at Liverpool to cross the Atlantic.

The Three Queens make their way up The Mersey on this historic occasion. The first time these three ships had been together was on 13th January 2011, when Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth had made a tandem Atlantic crossing to join big sister Queen Mary 2 at New York City. Twelve months later all three were in Southampton to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. On 6th May 2014, all three were together at Lisbon and on departure sailed in a line to Southampton, arriving on 9th May 2014. Prior to the 25th May gathering all three were together in Southampton as they returned from cruises.

Now facing down The Mersey the Three Queens pose for the cameras. Queen Elizabeth is out of view, hiding behind Queen Mary 2 in this picture. Queen Victoria is on the Wirrall side of Queen Mary.

Queen Victoria was clearly visible from the Wirral side of the river.

After a fly past by the Red Arrows Queen Mary 2 left the party just after 1400 hours sailing for St. Peter Port. Queen Elizabeth moved to the Cruise Liner Terminal, leaving Queen Victoria in the river. A fireworks display was scheduled for 2230 hours, prior to the departure of Queen Elizabeth, at which point Queen Victoria was due to take her place at the Terminal for an overnight stay.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Ken Jones Travels

Despite changing jobs during the first quarter of this year Ken Jones has still been out and about with his camera and here are just some of the pictures from his first 3 months or so of this year. More pictures at his Flickr site at https://www.flickr.com/photos/82409929@N08/

Meanwhile his model railway site “kenjonestrains” has been hacked and is indefinitely off line,

The year started on New Year’s Day with a visit to the GCR, where 70013 Oliver Cromwell was one of two engines in steam.

Above shows the locomotive at Loughborough and below shows the engine running round the train at Leicester North.

A trip in February around London by Overground allowed Ken to see 90046 (below) passing Willesden Junction on the WCML and 360111 arriving at Stratford.

 The same day Ken went to West Croydon where in the rain he saw a local bus service operated by LJ56ARO – Arriva PDL 126.

Also local trams 2548, 2554, 2542 in various liveries.

Towards the end of February Ken attended AMRTM twighlight running day and below, travelled on Trent RC 7927 to Sutton Coldfield, whilst back at the museum he found W & D Bristol K and former LT Routemaster under the moon [of love]. 

 In March he was at the Statfold Barn Railway for one of it’s open days where he saw below, vertical boiler locomotive Paddy on the garden railway
and a recently restored locomotive as one of some 17 engines in steam. 

 At the start of April he visited the East Lancs Railway where 2 saddle tanks were in service along with class 50 locomotive “Valiant”.

Above Swiftsure” and below 50015 and again there was quite a bit of rain

A quick visit to Bury transport museum and here are two of the vehicles on display, Yelloway AEC NNC 855P and Lanchashire United 116 JTD.

 Finally whilst at the Kirkby Stephen Easter Rally Ken and others visited the very Friendly Eden Valley Railway for a tour of the site at Warcop including rolling stock such as the shunter and the Thumper which was in service.