lørdag 2. februar 2013

Glasgow Queen Street Tunnel and the Edin- Glasgow Service

As a feat of engineering you have to admire the sheer bloody mindedness of putting a north bound terminus station at the very heart of the then recently modernised city of Glasgow. This entailed running a dead straight chord of track down from south of Bishopbriggs: the tunnel itself is actually referred to as Cowlairs- Queen Street or just Glasgow Queen Street Tunnel. At 1 in 42 it was insurmountable by traction locomotives until 1908, and even then only by utilising specially built banking locomotives.

Banking on Banking

Banking remained common into the diesel age. However the introduction of more powerful class 37 and 47 locos pretty much negated the need for this banking. Indeed some trains were run down on a dead slow reverse shunt of upto 7 coaches I remember when there was  a lack of locos to haul down and provide uncoupled banking up over. To add insult to injury, on WHL trains when the dittery little class 27s were banking a 37, a spirited driver on the lead loco would outrun the 27 . This could lead to problems because the 37 would bang into first field diversion, the diesel-electric top of first gear. How dangerous this ever became of a situace I do not know with  75 odd tonnes of teacup scurrying to try and catch up with the rake or not as the case may have been.

Jewel in the Crown of Scottish Railways

The Glasgow Edinburgh route must surely be the jewel in the crown of the Scottish Region: negotiating the climb pretty much unabated to Falkirk and then the wide river valleys of west Lothian to then penetrate the very heart of Edinbra,' dissecting old and new town in the valley which used to be occupied by a lake! It connected the two largest cities together. At the time, Edinburgh a fading political centre post unification and dissolution of the parliament there, while Glasgow, the industrial and economic second city of the empire.

 You can chunder along between Scotland's two greatest city's in about 50 minutes now, and you could get there actually quicker in less than 40 on sunday mornings with an intercity 125 in the 1980s ( although it was published as 45 minutes, it went faster)

Slithery Issues

The gradient, and the weather, have always caused issues for traction. When opened in the late 1840s, hemp rope and a winch at cowlairs were used with braking wagons, the locos being removed from use in this passage up and down. This hemp rope of 5 inches circumference,  did become wire, but seem to be called the rope-pull until locomotive banking was introduced and presumaby braking was better on single units with tenders who could then descended the gradient unimpeded.

The tunnel is dank and seemed to be prone to getting greasy rails. So banking was par for the course until the more powerful locos worked the shorter rakes ( between 3 and 5 for WHL and the push pull "shove duff" glas-edin services)  Longer rakes were stlll delivered down and banked up by whatever loco was around, and often it would work a later shorter load train anyway. There was at times some methodology, but quite often a "Big NB" or a class 40 or a teac-up/tip-top dittery sulzer type 2 would come down and be punted as working say the 1715 Glas-Edin extra non stopper or a Dundee, yet only saunter off at Cowlairs and be spirited away to Eastfield or where-ever over the mysterious Springburn, Coatbridge and Bridgeton meandering connection routes..

I guess there was a limit to the allowed reverse shunt delivery in coach legnth, probably load 6 Mrk Is or II a-c's, regarded as safe. However with the introduction of 37/4s with their lower gearing and 47's on most other services in the mid 80's banking was obsolete on load 8 even.

The route basivally punishes all the diesel trains that work it, and I dare say was a back breaking and unromantic experience for driver and fireman on steam. You have the opportunity allowed you by the relatively straight route while you have this unceasing gradinet eastwards to Falkirk and the heavy braking which begins at Cadder for a 47/7 set at top speed.

Isambard McKingdon?

Really as I say, Glasgow Queen Street and its umbilical tunnel,  was a very victorian bloody minded approach to being competitive in the 1800s. It was scotland's HS2 if you like. However Glasgow Queen Street High Level has been a fantastic asset for city centre business, education and travel because it delivers people right to where they work, shop or study. It was of course built in an atmosphere very much AGAINST any notion of an integrated transport policy. Railways were the new whizz kid empires, fighting against the embedded fifedoms of the canals and even the stage coaches and ferry men.

I can imagine a top hatted railway magnet of the time, side burns bigger than fife and kinross, cigar wafting over the maps and plans, streaking a quill pen down from Bishopbriggs and making a definitive circle in the heart of the newly planned and evolving Glasgow city centre. " We will put them here, thousands of people within 5 minutes walk of their call of business Gentlemen !!"

Better Solutions and Crazy Economics

 A far better approach to delivering punters to the city,  would have been to run the track round to locations either east (High Street area) or west ( Charing cross area ) and then connect them as they are indeed today with the low level line. Queen Street High level was however made where it was, and  as a grandiose quilled pen slash and circle on the map.

A terminus at the east of the city centre with the curve past springburn to then the bishopbrigs-Lenzie cut would have been handled by locomotives in the 1850s at least. Indeed there was of course a major terminus at High Street- for freight and mail. This whole area of the city leant itself much more to access also across the Clyde, it being not of navigable importance north of the weir.

A terminus at the west, Charing Cross Area, would have provided both the western commuter and the northern commuter access to a fast growing financial centre of the city, now a shadow of its former self , slashed and still the gaping  open wound we know as the M8 through. A slash through the heart of what had become pretty much the "central business district" of dear auld glesga between the wars.

However, there it was placed , this Northern Terminus : bold, risky but with the high reward of city to city communications from heart to heart. The biggest proximity and time saving benefit for those with the cash to splash. The broadband superhighway for the wealthy and borgiouse middle classes of the 1840s.

Dieselisation and 20 Years of Push Pull Twixt Glesga and Edina'

Post war the route saw the introduction of diesel multiple units which probably tackled the fastest limited stop service then in about an hour and a half. Way faster than anything but a plane then. But the building of the M8 in the mid to late sixties required faster traction. Ironically enough for all those tea-cup sulzer fans, the most successful trial was with load 5 and class 37s runing in as little as 40minutes in trial runs non stop, with 105mph being recorded by one driver told to forget the 90mph safety rating of the EE type 3!. Banked up by the incomming loco, this would have been an impressive service. But this meant more crew and more time at each end and the lack of a need for banking at the Dun'edin end.

37 haulage would have possibly been most effective with three trains an hour given loco drop on's at each end  of the route  or a rapid run round at Edinburgh  because it would allow for good utilisation of the locomotives at the Glasgow end, with the banking 37 only having a short time to wait for the next arrival before dropping onto the head of it and allowing the crew from the one just arrived to bank the loco in this leapfrogging way.

However you utilised capital equipment it would have meant more train crews on the route than really "necessary" when compared to using a single type 4 and running round or the ideal situation, push pull, single power unit.

 37's could though, have been a very good stop gap while the shove duffs were prepared. The route was often tackled under 47 minutes non stop by 37s, and on semi stoppers like the 1715 Glas-Edin the more rapid acceleration of 37's cancelled out the better mid range pulling power and top speed of 47s. The EE type 3 would have needed additional maintanence as did all locos on this route but essentially for a 50 minute two stop timetable the 37 would have tackled the diagrams better than the "tea cups" and duffs which by 1984 were so unreliable that at least one push pull set was off most of the time on the route with a 37 often at the head of the replacement.

In any case Polmont / Linlithgow somehow got their stops added which makes then little difference 37 vs 47/7.

Shoving, Puffing and Going Bang Often

Push pull was seen as the solution, and what was available was the class 27s, where the series 1 dmus could be swapped over to slower type 2 booked services, and their light frieght work had pretty much dried up ( read my comments before about the what a waste of time buying thousands of sub 1300hp locos for main line services was) . The 27s in their/1 and ETH fitted /2 guises did a pretty good job but were thoroughly knackered by the end of the 70s and in need of replacement. Hard acceleration, hard braking and thermal cycling took their toll on them, as it would have done on 37s, The 47/7s with their 100mph rating, required a very high level of inspection and maintainance to stay on top of the classes' rubbishy engine block and brakes. The sub class did an admirable job and it remains to this day the fastest actual timetabled, regular twice an hour service that the route has ever had. Also they provided regular services to Aberdeen and Perth , and delivered great gladness to thrity seven bashers in 84-85 when they went bang regularily and the whole rather horrid air-con (coffins) would be displaced for a 37 with a good old rake of non air con' stock.

Why Have Sparks Taken so Long to FLy up Glasgow Queen Street Tunnel ?

So the tunnel was always an issue for combustion based traction, and was tipped for electric traction as soon as it was available in the late 1800s. I guess this would have been electric loco power cars running off a third rail. A concept we will come back to. However it was 1976 actually when rennovations included the deeper floor excavation and use of concrete ladder trackbeds which would allow for the realigning fairly readily for 25kv overhead, as had been accomplished on the low level route in the early 60s.

Why this never became anything? Well in the 70s there were hundreds of jobs in servicing and overhauling diesel traction in the less-than affluent springburn area. Also there were other commuter towns in the suburbs of glasgow which could be plumbed into the existing 25kv network. Ayr was earmarked for this and in fact it pretty much got wires in favour of the Glas-Edin route if I remember correctly, being an easy shot, just really from Paisley, making it about 30 miles of wires,  with only short tunnel sections and the main obstacles being bridges needing lifting or replacing. The extesnion to Largs probably meant that the true cost was comparable to an Edinburgh run. Also the ECML electirfication had been seen as a goer, the deltics being a stop gap for wires in fact. So there was little really against electirfication of the Glas-Edin via Falkrik route, other than a then safe Tory seat in Ayr securing wires and 25kv under Dear Auld Thatcher.

Another nail in the pre milenium coffin for electrificaiton was the carstairs route being electrified.  We in Glesga always looked upon Edinburgh as a biscuit tin lid city for silly light industry, a bunch of religious muppets on the mound,  students and culture ponses turning up in Auguist. How little did we metal bashers know that such poofy stuff, coupled to funny-financial dealings, would make Edina into the economic engine of post 1990 Scotland!  Edina got her connection to both main trunk UK lines with a necklace of 25kv overhead wires, serving through services and stoppers on the Cartstairs route to the Dear Green Place in the west as an after thought. So we had on this route intecity 225s taking well over an hour to bridge the salt-and sauce chasm and new rather rubbishy, unreliable DMU's on the north route doing it slower than 47/7s.

Final insult to injury was the attempt to perhaps get the east end of Glesga's housing estates access to Edina's  economic prospects, if not the inhabitants valuables, by running wires over the old route from Airdrie through the 'burns' and 'gates to the evil source of all that is sauce on your chips.

1980s Musings on What Could or Should Have Been

Anyway, a far cheaper solution to speed up the route, would have been, as suggested on a committe with Graham Green,to gear down some intercity 125s and make them a coach shorter, tearing out all the kitchens and most of first class, and bringing a non stop journey time down to 30 to 35 minutes to haymarket at least.

Indeed a "zing" ( IC 125) did work sunday mornings to Kings X from Glesga QS, probably because there was no Royal Scot 0910 on sundays. Thiss thing flew over the route, doing almost the ton through spam valley and probably full on 125 past cadder yard.

I only did it once IIRC; to cover the fife circuit for forties in 1983/ 84 and to then view and take the first SCABBEX ( Scarborough to Glasgow return holiday extra ) back, it usually being a completely enormous class 37 or a spare ETH duff as I think it was on the two occaisions I viewed it, the massive beastly syphon being taken off at Edinbra on platfrom 13 IIRC do go and do somethign useful in the NE, while jo strunmer was in excess on the SCr on sundays.

 Trams/zings  call them what you will, they would have been a deserved traction and rolling stock set for the route connecting the two main cities,  but the issue of making them non standard and keeping them reliable enough would have plagued Scottish Region. However, you could have attempted a derating to 1900 hp or so each end, and jsut whipping out the restaurant car so they would fit in GSQ amd operate with some better reliability ( a major issue was thermal cycling - ie engines being thrashed to 2250hp and then run down for the next stop!)

Far better though upon reflection, a new built end-to.end power car system with slidey doors and floors you can whipe the pee-wee and tartan special off after sparring with the Jambos or the Hibies. Indeed a single VP185 v16 unit with a DVO on the other end woudl have done a fine job in the summer when the rails are a little less greasy up the hole. Following elecrtification then these would find use on the Aberdeen routes.

Today's Solutions for Tommorrows Problems...

My PC , eco friendly version for today then would be a five coach single diesel power car with a v8 VP185 at about 2000 hp, and a third rail pick up and running gear under the DMVSO or whatever the pushed driver end would be. Third rail up the tunnel with max amps all the way, giving you a peak of 2 - 5  minutes 3300hp !! Diesel swithced on at the first vent and ready to take over powering at say cowlairs or even bishopbriggs.

Once Englandshire has paid its many billions for HS2......HS2's consutlancy process that is....then eventualy the route will have glorious overhead 25kv wires and we will sail over in 40 minutes. About the same time a 37/0 would take on a non Stop Scabbex in 1983.