View Full Version : Ha'poth of tar

24th Apr 2012, 16:46
Was reading last night about the Hovertrain project back in the 60s/70s. Quite fascinating stuff to do with building a high speed maglev type train to facilitate rapid transit between cities. There was a similar project running in France which also showed promise and was funded until a change of Government stopped it.

In typical fashion it got canned here because we thought the APT was going to be a silver bullet that delivered high speed without having to spend any money on the infrastructure.

What a load of rubbish that turned out to be.

The list of almost great projects we have binned in this country through trying to fit all possible requirements for the cheapest possible price is beyond belief.

Mainly through political meddling. I guess Concorde was the exception that proves the rule.

24th Apr 2012, 17:10
Au contraire, it was political meddling that allowed Concorde to be built at all. If left to its own commercial potential, it never would have gone into production. In the round-the-world sales tour, not one operator bought the airplane. Air France and BA only flew them because of government meddling.

Normally, I agree with you. Government involvements only screw projects up rather than make them better and, in a perverse reverse way, that's what happened with Concorde, too.

Evening Star
24th Apr 2012, 17:29
... APT ... [w]hat a load of rubbish that turned out to be.

In a way, no. The APT-P's were introduced before proper debugging. However, I went to work this morning on a de facto APT (class 91 and 225 set ... the class 91 architecture effectively an APT-P without the tilt) and was a much more comfortable journey than the :mad::mad: Voyager going home. In addition, most modern tilting trains rely upon the lessons learnt from the development of the APT. If anything, it is the classic case of the British being first and the rest of the world learning from our mistakes ... the early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese ...

24th Apr 2012, 17:36
I wouldn't worry too much Groundbased. Looks like the Chinese eventually put the Maglev train into commercial operation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_Maglev_Train).

video here.

Apparently our European politicians have long-lost their taste for such projects, preferring to fiddle their expenses and construct duck ponds instead (insofar as UL MPs are concerned).

I find it all quite simply amazing. That a country like China actually "realises" such dream-projects, financed by the likes of you and I buying cheaply-made Chinese electronics, industrial equipment, clothing etc.

Australian aborigines and the phrase "dream-time" are often mentionned together. Perhaps we in the west have only our own "dream-time" to look forward to.

24th Apr 2012, 17:38
True, evening star,

But haven't we had to spend a vast amount on the infrastructure in terms of upgrading the main lines in order to achieve speeds approaching those these trains were initially aiming for?

The idea that we could get 150 mph without upgrading the lines surely was never going to work.

24th Apr 2012, 18:10
Nice to hear Groundbased and Evening Star (UK-based?) discussing train technology dating back to the late '80s, early '90s. Sounds like Evening Star has even just this morning had the opportunity to experience one of those APT-T (minus the tilt) trains.


In China, they use (old European technology) yet construct Maglev trains for commercial use. In Europe, many countries today have high-speed train networks. In UK, apart from the few European trains that termine/commence their journies in London, British Rail or whatever it's called today don't have any running in UK.

I look forward to the day in 20-30 years, that the Chinese railway operators start off-loading their older trains and rolling stock. When perhaps British Rail (or their equivalents) will be able to at least afford to reinvest in more modern technology...

24th Apr 2012, 19:04
It's a bit unrealistic to compare Chinese HST's with the UK. They are able to confiscate any land or buildings in the way of the necessary straight tracks without public enquiries or appeals.
To do the same here in our crowded overpopulated country would not only be undemocratic but would require the destruction of ancient monuments and our rapidly diminishing green spaces. Even our proposed 'HS2' scheme is a development too far.

Evening Star
24th Apr 2012, 20:52
Groundbased. True. In retrospect, the idea of making the train fit an existing infrastructure was flawed. Expensive lesson in how infrastructure investment benefits everybody. And a public relations albatross that hangs that overlooks any of the benefits that came from the APT project, such as improved understanding of wheel-rail dynamics.

Airship. One is back in the UK for good and enjoying the ECML commute :hmm:.

DX Wombat
24th Apr 2012, 21:07
I guess Concorde was the exception that proves the ruleOfficialdom was also responsible for the demise of Concorde.

25th Apr 2012, 10:01
Surprisingly the posts on Maglev haven't mentioned the German contribution.

For probably three decades from 1970 the German government and the industrial partners ( ThyssenKrupp ) developed and tried to sell the "Transrapid ".

In about 1990 they finally got it perfected but nobody in the developed would buy it because of cost and the difficulty of demolishing lots of houses to bring it into city centres.

The only major sale was to the Chinese around the Millenium, however after they started building the first one on site in China they found the Chinese were simply going back into the factory at night and copying all kinds of patented and secret stuff that the engineers stored there and would take away when they left. That's a big surprise, isn't it ? I think the Chinese have since built more line.s

It looks to me as if, for once , the correct decision was made in the UK back then.

Lon More
25th Apr 2012, 11:04
Some other examples; the jet engine, hovercraft, tv, radar, Decca navigation system (Area nav. 60 years ago!!)- much superior to the VOR based airway system the Yanks bullied ICAO into accepting.

Flight International - The Case for Decca (http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1951/1951%20-%200066.html)

tony draper
25th Apr 2012, 11:44
Met Eric Laithwaite once, he invented Maglev.

25th Apr 2012, 14:33
If we could strip out everything we already have that's up and running - trains, planes, phones, inteynet, automobiles, power generation.......everything....and start again: we'd do it differently next time. But the weight of the past prevents us !

Mind you as a very frequent user of the TGV I don't complain. The French are good at things like that.

25th Apr 2012, 15:01
Lon More.
The American equivalent of Decca was Loran; both developed from GEE. Loran had a greater range but both were subject to major wobbles during sunrise and sunset and the Decca roller map could be anywhere else.
In the early days of Decca there was only one dial, a box of keys and maps and a good chance of the map transport unrolling everything all over the floor.
I have flown thousands and thousands of hours with Decca, Loran and VOR/DME; give me VOR any time.
That article was written when the UK aviation industry still thought it, and everything it developed, was the best in the world.

Ancient Observer
25th Apr 2012, 15:07
Concorde. It wasn't officialdom............... It was BAe. In particular, their beancounters.

It will be the BAe beancounters that prevent Concorde from ever flying again.

25th Apr 2012, 16:09
Maglevs are not inherently faster than conventional trains. Without looking up the figures (they'll be out there) I'm pretty sure that the world record (Japanese) maglev and the (French) conventional rail speed records are both around 550 kph. The latter certainly used a specially prepared train and track but used exisiting technology.

25th Apr 2012, 17:59
Nobody has mentioned the Japanese maglev project - the Chuo Shinkansen. ~600km from Tokyo to Osaka, following an inland route so as not to be vulnerable to the same things as the current coastal shinkansen line (and vice versa). Problem is, in Japan inland equals mountains, so MOST of the line will be in tunnel. There's a trial stretch already built, which is where the 550 km/h record was set. The plan is to have it in service around 2035 I believe. Surprisingly, they haven't given the time of day! (Shinkansen services are timed to within 15 seconds and are generally punctual to within a few seconds).

The APT was a big mess by any standards but tilting trains are now the norm in many places. The first time I travelled on one was in Japan, Nagasaki to Fukuoka. At first I thought, "wow, these curves are steeply cambered". Then I realised.

otoh if you want to see a country that REALLY doesn't believe in infrastructure, look across the Atlantic. I was recently in Vietnam and I'll be happy to bet with allcomers that Vietnam will have high-speed rail from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) before California has it from SF to LA.

25th Apr 2012, 18:06
Some things from an old railwayman.
The question in the late 60s was, "how do we go fast on rail cheaply"?
Two teams at Derby research centre.
One team (mostly recruited from the aviation world) came up with a four coach experimental train featuring lightweight aluminium construction, power car at each end, electric power supply for the traction motors by alternators driven by 4X350 hp British Leyland gas turbines driving through a cat's cradle of shafts and gearboxes. Ability to tilt assisted in it's ability to take curves faster. Has a hydro-kinetic braking system that worked like a torque converter in reverse. (Every driver who handled it said that it was the best thing about the train). Set a new British speed record between reading and Swindon that stood until a couple of years ago. Train developed into production version but too many teething problems after being rushed into service. Canned.
Other team (railway engineers) developed a conventional steel built train with a power car at each end of seven coaches. Power for the traction motors supplied by a Paxman 2,250 hp V-12 driving an alternator. Normal service speed 125 mph achieved over conventional lines with no modification to the signalling required. No other train has ever entered service with an instant 25% increase in it's speed without track and signalling modifications. Entered passenger service in 1976 (same year as the big white pointy nosed flying job) but available to all passengers with no supplement required - unlike certain gallic trains of the time. Unlike the aformentioned pointy white job still in front line service eating up the miles at more that two a minute. Now have been re-engined with one of two different and fuel efficient prime movers. Still the world's fastest diesel train. The first high speed train to be exported - to Oz as the Inter-City XP. Various train companies are still working on what to replace this, the world's most successful high speed passenger train with.

Maglev? It's a dead end as it's only capable of running - on special tracks - from one end to another, they can't deviate from the route.

Why can't we build high speed lines? We can, we already have in Kent but now "they" want to build another one heading north there's all hell let loose from the chattering classes. As has been already mentioned, the Chinese don't have this problem, they just build 'em.
Just my two pennerth.

25th Apr 2012, 18:23
RedhillPhil - A mate of mine took that Railway Studies course in York - the tale handed out there was that after the withdrawal from the TSR2 programme, lots of silly projects were allowed to proceed to keep boffins in the UK.

As you rightly point out the good old blacksmith smithy job - the HST is still in front line service thirty six years on and nowhere near departing even yet - but we are supposed to perceive the need for HS2.

Personally I believe in a selective re-opening / new build compromise that would provide two Carlisle - Glasgow, two Carlisle Edinburgh, two Midlands to Scotland and Two Sheffield West Yorkshire to Edinburgh Routes and three London to Sheffield / Manchester, as well as North East, East / South West improvements.

With modern proven technology that could be done at 125mph main line speeds only minutes less than HS2 and with diversionary and alternative journey potential too.

No wonder I'm out on my ear - can't undermine the consultancy industry like that!

Milo Minderbinder
25th Apr 2012, 21:24
In denigrating the APT you've missed the point that Evening Star made earlier: the east coast class 91/IC225 sets ARE constructionally the APT. They were built without tilt because it wasn't required for the linear ECML, but the intention was to move them to the twisty West Coast Main Line and then fit the tilt gear. Theres room in the bodyshell to fit it, and it was designed as an optional extra. It would have happened except the Tories broke the integrated railway and so stopped the system of product cascade. The plan was to give the ECML even faster gear and cascade the displaced stock to the WCML

But if you look at the IC225 sets, the Mk4 bodyshell engineering is a direct product of the APT prototype design, as are the power bogies from the class 91 loco. The APT lives - but just not in a recognised form

Loose rivets
25th Apr 2012, 22:00
How much copper does it take to float a train? Serious question.

25th Apr 2012, 23:07
Nice post Redhill Phil. As always nice to hear the views of someone who actually knows what they are talking about, and didn't get their info from an old copy of The Eagle.

Nobody has mentioned the Japanese maglev project

Koff, koff, n5296s , I rather think I just had (look at the post above you). My point was that the speed record you mention is only a few kph higher than the French TGV record, achieved by conventional technology, and I'm guessing at a fraction of the cost, both in capital outlay and energy costs.

26th Apr 2012, 10:24
Yes I remember the original HSTs belting through Pangbourne in the late 70s when I was a lad. Now I'm still riding them on the Cotswold line from Worcester to London.

I don't know when or if they will eventually get replaced with something else. Do we have anything designed and built in the UK that would fit the bill?

Granite City Express
26th Apr 2012, 11:29
Do we have anything designed and built in the UK that would fit the bill? The last British designed and built locomotive was the Class 58, all now withdrawn or in museums...

Milo Minderbinder
26th Apr 2012, 18:08
During the run up to the Tories break up of the nationalised railway, no orders for rolling stock were placed for over 1000 days (it was close to three years)

The result was that virtually all the UK railway assembly plants closed through lack of work. Metro-Cammelll survived for a while on a few London Underground jobs, but eventually got subsumed into Alstom/Alsthom and the business moved to France.
The only plant which survived - just - is the former BR Carriage assembly plant at Derby, now owned by Bombardier and kept alive - just - with a small recent order. However their design capabilities are limited, as is their experience of high speed rail engineering.
You could - at a push - restart locomotive assembly at Brush in Loughborough, but their design team has long since gone, so you'd be looking at assembling overseas models under licence.
The basic fact is that we've lost the technology. The design teams have gone. most of the assembly sheds have gone, while the major components e.g. the diesel motor and electrical transmission are virtually all owned by overseas businesses who have exported the jobs.
For that you can blame the Tories, and that industrial giant corporate leech, GEC. While GEC were busy asset stripping the UK defence industry, they were also doing the same with rail and power generation

Milo Minderbinder
26th Apr 2012, 18:30
Going back to the earlier comments re the gas turbines in the APT

The problem the designers had was that at the time there wasn't a stretch of electrified track which could take the expected speed of the HST, so an underfloor power generator unit with high power to weight ratio was required to run on the non-electrified available "fast" track - e.g Paddington - Bristol. None of the available diesels fitted the bill - all to big to fit underneath
The intention was that production models would be electric - as the prototype APT-P fleet were