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