Northfleet Series Electric Tramway

One the earliest electric tramways was opened at Northfleet in Kent in the Spring of 1889, it pioneered a different method of electric transmission to earlier systems (although had been already tried in the United States). The Northfleet system was a series electric instead of parallel like other tramways. With a parallel electric system the electric current that passes through a motor (or any other electric device like a lamp) does not pass through any other [1]. With a series electric the whole current of the system passes through the devices using it. One advantage of this system was that a much smaller current could be applied as parallel systems needed larger current to counter the dropping off effect the further one got from the generating dynamo.

Information
Built: 1889
Builder: Falcon Engine & Car Works
Motor: Elwell & Parker electric motor (200v)
Power: 15 hp (11 kW)

The problem for engineers was how to run multiple motors in series at the same time. The solution was to divide the conductor into segments (in the Northfleet case about six and half metres long [2]) and for the tram to close the circuit as required as it passes over the segments. The Northfleet system used a buried conductor underneath one of the running rails with a slot for an "arrow" which opened the circuit at successive points by opening two "spring jacks". A dynamo on board the tram was used to maintain a steady supply to the motor which otherwise would have been subject to the circuit being opened and closed by other tramcars.

The tramway, which replaced an existing horse drawn tram, was narrow gauge (1067mm). This required special motors to be built for it. The Northfleet tram apparently worked well though was no more than an experiment, though a bold one which attracted a good deal of interest from engineers.

By the end of 1890 the tram had returned to living breathing horse power, though a more conventional electric tram system was started in 1901.
Northfleet tram [3]

Front of tram and detail of the motor, the narrowness of the motor can be seen [3]

Cross section of rail and conductor [1]


[1] "The Northfleet Series Electric Tramway", Nature (May 9 1889) p. 39
[2] Robert J Harley, North Kent Tramways (Middleton Press, 1994) Fig. 60
[3] "The Northfleet Series Electric Tramway - Dynamo and Cars", The Engineer (March 15 1889) p. 219

Class 483

The Class 485 was born of the need to "modernise" the Isle of Wight offshoot of the British Rail network in the late 1960s, the clearance difficulties caused by Ryde tunnel meant that ex-London Underground Standard Tube Stock had to be used in a modified form. By the 1980s however the 485s and Class 486s were becoming life expired and needed replacing. Their replacements turned out to be also ex-Tube stock!

The Class 483s were rebuilt 1938 Stock and thus while also elderly were somewhat newer than their early 1920s vintage forerunners. The ex-LU stock, which comprised a mixture of ex-revenue service stock and departmental vehicles, was used to create 2-car trains (the 1938 stock being 4-car) as Ryde Depot at Ryde St. Johns Road had difficulty handling longer trains [1].

Information
Number built: 20 cars (2-car units)
Built: 1939-40
(Rebuilt as 483s) 1989
Builder: Metro-Cammell
(Rebuilds) BR Eastleigh
Motor: 4 Crompton Parkinson / GEC / BTH LT100 traction motors
(630v DC third rail - originally LU fourth rail)
Power: 670 hp (500 kW)
Formation: Driving Motor Standard Open (DMSO)+DMSO

The stock was refurbished and modified for Island Line use which included changing from fourth rail to third rail operation. All exposed steel surfaces were also treated to protect against salt erosion [2] (the Island Line partly runs over the sea when it operates up to Ryde Pier Head, corrosion have proven to have been a problem with the earlier stock). Twenty vehicles were used in the 483 programme though only eighteen were used for passenger service, the others being used for spares. Since their introduction a number of vehicles have been withdrawn and some scrapped so now the fleet has been reduced to five operational trains though this is sufficient for the Island Line schedule.

As "new" the Class 483s wore Network South East livery followed by "dinosaur" livery post-privatisation (the Island Line being part of the South West Trains franchise though treated as a separate entity) but currently wear a livery based on London Underground historic deep red [3]. There are currently no firm plans with withdraw the 483s though their future is uncertain as they are now approaching eighty years old. Original plans to use Piccadilly Line 1973 Stock as a third generation EMU on the line were foiled by the delay in the Deep Tube Upgrade which means the 1973 Stock will not be withdrawn until the mid-2020s. 1983 Stock was also offered in the past but turned down as it was considered "too digital".

A recent report suggested replacing the Island Line with a light rail system based on former Midland Metro T69 vehicles [4] though these have now been scrapped. It is likely that a third generation of ex-LU stock based on Vivarail's Class 230 conversion of D78 Stock will be the way forward though as yet nothing is confirmed, whatever happens to the railway on the Isle of Wight the tradition of "second hand" is likely to continue.
483 007 at Smallbrook Junction

Ryde St. Johns depot

Aboard a 483

483 007 ar Ryde Pierhead

483 004 approaches Ryde Esplanade

A short while later 483 004 at Ryde Esplanade

[1] Brian Hardy, Tube Trains on the Isle of Wight (Capital Transport, 2003) p. 62
[2] Hardy p. 63
[3] Colin J. Marsden, DMU and EMU Recognition Guide (Ian Allan, 2013) p. 367
[4] "Trams for the Isle of Wight?", Railways Illustrated (April 2016)

Robel Romis System Mobile Maintenance Train

Network Rail have bought eight Mobile Maintenance Trains from Robel which are designed to give a safe working environment for on-track staff. The Mobile Maintenance Train, known as the Romis System, consists of three vehicles [1], the Mobile Maintenance Unit is an open bottomed vehicle. It has adjustable walls for protection from the elements, passing trains and glare at night and a number of tools for working on the track such as rail welders, cutters and grinders [2].

Information
Number built: 8
Built: 2015-16
Builder: Robel
Motor: 2 diesels per train
Power: 1, 609 hp (1, 200 kW)

The Intermediate Wagon is used for carrying supplies and included a built in crane and hydraulic platforms. Finally the Traction & Supply Unit provides propulsion for the unit, power for tools as well as a workshop and a kitchen.
DR97501 at Darlington, this is the Traction & Supply Unit

DR97501 at Darlington

[1] Royston Morris, Railway Maintenance Vehicles & Equipment (Amberley, 2017) p. 35
[2] Robel, Romis System Mobile Maintenance System, p. 3

Class 92

Designed for freight and overnight passenger traffic through the Channel Tunnel [1] the Class 92 is what is now known as a bi-mode electric locomotive that can operate on electricity drawn from both with 750v DC third rail and 25kV AC overhead lines. Unfortunately for the Class 92 a lot of it's planned work disappeared while it was being built meaning that many were stored out of use for a number of years, at one stage in the early 2000s over half the fleet was in storage. Nowadays more have been activated, some being exported to work in Europe. However the reliability of those that do remain in service on British rails has sometimes been questionable.

Information
Number built: 46
Built: 1993-95
Builder: Brush Traction
Motor: ABB 6FRA 7059B traction motors (DC third rail & AC OHLE)
Power: 6, 700 hp (5, 000 kW) - 25kV AC
5, 360 hp (4, 000 kW) - 750v DC
Wheel arrangement: Co-Co

The Class 92 is a complicated locomotive with many systems duplicated to avoid the chance of failure in the Channel Tunnel [2]. Most of their work (of those not in storage or working in Europe) these days is on freight but some are also being used on Caledonian sleeper services from London to Scotland, however a number of failures have seen the introduction on these services delayed.

One interesting piece of trivia is that the very last train to be run on British Rail late on 21/11/1997 was hauled by 92 003.
92 011 in third rail mode at Peckham Rye

Caledonian Sleeper 92 014 at Stafford

92 028 also at Stafford

Livery comparison

[1] Colin J Marsden, Diesel & Electric Locomotive Recognition Guide (Ian Allan, 2011) p. 240
[2] Gavin Morrison, AC Electric Locomotives (Ian Allan, 2013) p. 95

Huddersfield Corporation Coal Tram

While people were the primary load of the tram networks some freight was also carried. Mostly this was parcel traffic but in the case of the Huddersfield Corporation Tramway it also included coal. The tramway had already been used to transport coal since the horse tram days, and was to the unusual track gauge of 1, 416mm to allow traffic from local coal tramways to travel over the network. Although the intention was to use steam locomotives to haul coal trains, two special coal trams were also built to carry coal from sidings at the tram terminus at Outlane district to three mills nearby [1] as well as coal for the tramway's own power station.

Information
Number built: 2
Built: 1904
Builder: Milnes, Voss & Company
Motor: 2 Westinghouse electric motors (DC OHLE)
Power: 90 hp (67 kW) 

The Coal Trams could carry up to ten tons of coal [2]. They had a simple design, being largely a standard open wagon on top of a tram truck. The low height of the coal chutes used (just over two metres above rail level) necessitated a lower body than was usual with freight trams. The coal was discharged through side doors.

The Huddersfield tram network went into decline in the 1930s and closed in 1940, the Coal Trams were scrapped along with the rest of the fleet.
Two views of Number 72 in use [2]

The Coal Tram had a simple design

[1] R.W. Rush, British Electric Tramcar Design 1885-1950 (Oxford Publishing, 1976) p. 121
[2] "Coal car at Huddersfield", Street Railway Journal Vol. XXIV No. 19 (Nov 1904) p. 834

Class 122 (Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company Branch Line Services 1-car)

Twenty of these single car railcars were built in the late 1950s for branch lines in the Western, London Midland and Scottish Regions of British Rail [1]. Unlike the similar Class 121 railcars nine unpowered driving trailers (originally classified as Class 150 [2]) were also built to supplement the single railcars, these could be hauled by the Class 122 in times of higher demand. Technically they are very similar to the Class 119 also built by the GRCW Company but with a BR Derby style high density layout [3].

Information
Number built: 29 (20 motor, 9 trailers)
Built: 1958
Builder: Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Company
Motor: 2 BUT (AEC/Leyland) 6-cyl diesels
Power: 300 hp (220 kW)
Formation: Driving Motor Brake Second (DMBS)+Driving Trailer Second (DTS) [Optional]

They served until the mid-1990s in passenger service on lightly loaded routes such as the Stourbridge shuttle to Stourbridge Town and the pre-electrified branch to Redditch [4].


In the privatisation era a number continued in departmental service as route learning and test cars for a number of years though all have been withdrawn from that role now. Eight have been preserved though none of the unpowered trailers have survived. Three Scottish Region Class 122s were converted to carry parcel traffic for a time and reclassified Class 131 [5].
W55006 at Wirksworth

Another view of W55006

Cab view

Front end comparison, Class 122 (right), Iris (left)

Another view of W55006, at Duffield

W55006 again, this time at Ravenstor

[1] Brian Haresnape, Diesel Multiple Units: The First Generation (Ian Allan, 1985) p. 54
[2] Class 122, Railcar.co.uk <http://railcar.co.uk/type/class-122/>
[3] Colin J. Marsden, DMU and EMU Recognition Guide (Ian Allan, 2013) p. 81
[4] Gavin Morrison, British Railways DMUs in Colour (Ian Allan, 2010) p. 20
[5] Colin J. Marsden (ed.), "The Birth of the DMU", Modern Locomotives Illustrated No. 207 June-July 2014 (The First Generation Multiple Units), p. 19

Liverpool Overhead Railway

The Liverpool Overhead Railway was one of the first electrified railway systems in the world. It opened in 1893 running alongside the docks in Liverpool, the railway being built on elevated sections. The LOR operated electric multiple units, the first in the world to enter service. The first of these were built by Brown, Marshall & Company from 1892 onwards as two-car units. Later on trailers were built to allow for three car sets to operate in peak time. Off-peak, motor cars could operate on their own.

Information
Number built: 54 (2 or 3-car sets)
Built: 1892-1918
Builder: Brown, Marshall & Company, Metro-Cammell
Motor: (Original) 2 Westinghouse motors per car
(Later) 2 English Electric motors (500v DC third rail)
Power: 120hp (90kW) / 200 hp (150 kW)

The fleet was upgraded a number of times over their lifetimes. Originally they were fitted with Westinghouse gearless 60hp/45kw motors [1][2] but these were later upgraded to 100hp/75kw motors from English Electric/Dick, Kerr [3]. This extra power helped reduce journey times dramatically from thirty two to twenty minutes! However some trains were later given less powerful motors.

After the Second World War a number of units were rebuilt with the original wooden body sides replaced by aluminium and plywood [4]. Sliding doors were also fitted to replace the original slam doors. However by the early 1950s the system was in bad need of renovation but the railway company, which had not been nationalised to become part of British Railways, could not afford the huge costs involved [5]. The Liverpool Overhead Railway closed in 1956.
Preserved LOR motor car at the Museum of Liverpool

This is how the railway would have looked, from ground level

The LOR during operation [3]

Inside the preserved car

Another view from the ground

[1] Colin J Marsden, DMU and EMU Recognition Guide (Ian Allan, 2013) p. 190
[2] R.L. Vickers, DC Electric Trains and Locomotives in the British Isles (David & Charles, 1986) p. 22
[3] "New equipment and improved schedule of the Liverpool Overhead Railway", Street Railway Journal Vol. XX No. 3 (July 1902) p. 108
[4] Marsden p. 191
[5] Jonathan Cadwallader & Martin Jenkins, Merseyside Electrics (Ian Allan, 2010) p. 3