tisdag 3 juni 2008

Nobody would have expected this forty years ago

11-10 60163 Darlington
Originally uploaded by delticalco

Forty years ago nobody would have expected to see a brand new high speed steam locomotive approaching completion.

The end result of a £3 million project, it will start running for the first time in August and after thorough testing it will be allowed on Britain's main lines. This will be exactly 40 years after the last steam locomotive ran in regular service in Britain.

It was built to fill a gap in preservation, as every one of the type was scrapped prematurely after less than 20 years in service due to the hasty introduction of diesel locomotives on Britain's railways.

Some people have suggested that by following the original design fairly closely, the opportunity was missed to build-in the technical improvements that have been made to steam locomotives in recent years. These have pushed up the efficiency and power of steam locomotives by a useful 30% or more. But to have introduced new features would have been technically risky and given rise to all sorts of problems over safety certification, which has been difficult enough even with few alterations.

With the experience gained, there is talk of following up with other projects. Already there are a number of other steam locomotive replicas under construction, including an additional Clan class 4-6-2.

For what it is worth, I would suggest one of the following projects. First, there is the Wardale design for an advanced two cylinder 4-6-0 and an associated type of 2-8-0 heavy freight locomotive for third world countries. With fuel prices going the way they are, it would not be surprising if the latter will not be an attractive commercial option within the next few years.

The other possibility is the tank locomotive design prepared by Roger Waller for DLM intended for short distance tourist and commuter routes which have never been electrified. Alternatively, the design might be based on the British Railways standard 2-6-4 locomotive, for which, again, there would probably be an immediate demand both from preserved railways and possibly from community railways looking for inexpensive rolling stock.

Whatever is constructed, costs start to fall to a competitive level when the production run reaches six, and they continue to drop until batch sizes go up to about 20. Either way, the time has come to demonstrate the potential of this updating of an old technology.

Advanced 4-6-0 locomotive by David Wardale
Advanced tank locomotive by Roger Waller

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