Testing Alstom's Class 180 DMU

After several weeks of trials at the Old Dalby test track the first class 180 unit was delivered to First Great Western's Old Oak Common Depot, west London during July 2000.

Known as the Adelante's, the first of fourteen 125 mile/h units was built by Alstom (formerly Metro Cammell) at their Washwood Heath, Birmingham works and consisted of 5 cars, each with an underslung 750HP Cummins engine with Voith hydraulic gearbox and final drives. The gearbox also incorporated an hydraulic retarder to assist with braking.

The trials commenced in May 2000 at the Old Dalby test track when the first unit 180101 was delivered by road to the test track. This was because the operational Railway Safety Case to enable Serco Railtest to run the train under test conditions was not yet accepted and therefore the unit could not run under its own power on Railtrack.

After the completion of preliminary testing at the test track the unit was loco-hauled to Old Oak Common depot but, due to further delays in obtaining the Testing Safety Case, running did not commence until December 2000. It continued into the summer of 2001 mainly on the GW main line between OOC and Bristol Parkway via the Badminton route.

Serco Railtest also undertook to operate the train for the public launch of the Adelante unit at Paddington although as it turned out the launch was rather premature as the introduction of the units was severely delayed due to numerous problems.

Further testing included bridge resonance tests -

Bridge Resonance

Underbridge resonance is a phenomenon that occurs when the frequency of loading from rail vehicles matches the natural frequency of a structure or particular elements of a structure - namely a rail underbridge. Incidents of ballast moving on underbridges when being traversed by TGVs on SNCF lead Railtrack to instigate a test series on several new built DMU's (including class 180 and class 221) although realistically the design of underbridges in UK was different from SNCF and the fact that TGV's were articulated seemed to have passed Railtrack by.
Unacceptable accelerations and displacements of the bridge deck can occur under these conditions leading to ballast instability and consequential deterioration of track quality.
Some testing was carried out over certain instrumented underbridges around Maidenhead but as far as I know it showed there was very little effect from a five car DMU.

Domestic arrangements

We stayed near Great Portland Street tube station at the Forte Posthouse which was very convenient for the city's attractions, food and drink etc. Having numerous 24 hr convenience stores in the locality was also very useful for picking up sandwiches etc for the night shifts we often undertook. We used to drive to and from OOC along the A40 - we were leaving Town when everybody else was arriving and vice versa - so no real traffic problems except Friday afternoons trying to get home.

Thanks to the combined initial efforts of the Serco and Alstom teams all the class 180's eventually entered service on the GW main line.

Recent use of the units

Unfortunately most of the units were dispensed with by FGW - a short sighted policy I think as they knock the Voyagers into a cocked hat. Until 2010 three units were operating with Northern Rail (not much 125 mile/h running on the route between Manchester and Blackpool methinks!), First Group with Hull Trains' services and Grand Central had a couple each too. The first GC example 180112 was delivered to Heaton depot on 25th July in a distinctive livery of black with orange bodyside stripe, and named 'James Herriot'

Present use of the units

Grand central now operate units 180101, 180105, 180107, 180112 and 180114

First Hull Trains operate units 180109, 180110, 180111 and 180113

and FGW now operate units 180102, 180103, 180104, 180106, 180108

There are rumours in 2014 that GC may end up with a larger fleet.

 Here are a selection of photos of the class 180 units on test.............

Click on the picture for a bigger image - all photos are the author's unless otherwise credited

Arrival at Old Dalby The first of five cars comprising the pioneer class 180 unit (180101) arrives by road at the Old Dalby test track in May 2000 where initial evaluation and commissioning was undertaken
Unloading The hauliers prepare to unload one of the driving cars
Heading north past Old Dalby 180101 passes Old Dalby on a northbound test run in May 2000
Outside compound The unit stands outside the compound at Old Dalby between runs
Inside cab A view inside the cab at Old Dalby
Asfordby In the early summer of 2000 the unit awaits a path from Old Dalby to Old Oak Common. It was parked out of the way at the former Asfordby mine complex due to the impending upgrade of the test track on behalf of Alstom.
South Ruislip On 21st December 2000 in the middle road at South Ruislip on the former GW/GC Joint Line, the unit awaits a return path to Old Oak Common during its early shakedown runs. Note the horn grilles on the cab roof - a rare picture of them in place.
All bare The inside of the unit was Spartan to say the least
OOC The unit pictured inside the servicing shed at Old Oak Common depot on 11th January 2001
Southall Yard On a splendid January day in 2001, 180101 sits inside the yard at Southall having just arrived from Reading on a driver training run
Stoke Gifford Yard By February the unit was under test and is pictured in Stoke Gifford yard next to Bristol Parkway station ready for a run back to Swindon
Men at work The testing was undertaken by Alstom staff - here are the men at work (and a visitor)
Swindon At the heart of the GWR! 180101 pauses at platform 3 at Swindon en route for Bristol Parkway in April 2001 Note the horn grilles on the cab roof are now removed due to them vibrating at speed.
Paddington And in the London terminus of the old GWR - platform 1 at Paddington
Behind the Up platform at Parkway 180101 sits in the Up Goods Loop at Bristol Parkway in April 2001
Stoke Gifford A view inside the cab at Stoke Gifford - note the Royal Mail terminal then in use.
Southall Yard Another stop at Southall Yard with a FGW-liveried HST passing on a Down service

Chris Ward

100 miles from Paddington In May 2001 the unit is captured on the Up road passing the 100MP - at the former Badminton station
Swindon On a rainy day at Swindon 180102 is pictured from the cab of 180101 during joint testing.
Didcot 50 miles from Paddington 180102 approaches 180101 at speed near Didcot
180 launch SPM After the testing came the public launch at St Philips Marsh depot in Bristol. The launch also revealed the First Group livery as applied to the HST's. Note the mythical number on the HST power car 43001 - it doesn't exist anymore being originally allocated to one of the prototype HST power cars - the other being 43000..

Chris Ward

......and in service

180109 On 29th September 2003 180109 leaves Didcot with a service for Paddington

Steve Jones

180 101 Oxford 180101 arriving at Oxford with the 16.45 service to Worcester Shrub Hill on 27th August 2005
Exeter 180107 pictured about to leave Exeter with a service for Paddington on 3rd October 2005
Westbury 180109 departs from Westbury on 19th October 2006 - note that it by this date they were running without the coupler covers
Reading 180110 at Reading on 19th October 2006

.......................and with new operators

Crofton Depot 180111 pictured at Crofton depot on 22nd April 2008 where it was being used for driver familiarisation.
Newark 180111 in its new role with Hull Trains passes Newark at speed heading for London on 2nd July 2008. The livery is still based on First Group's hideous colours of pink and purple but with a name change. Shame they didn't keep the Hull Trains original livery.
To Hull and back 180110 at KX with the 16.05 to Hull on 19th June 2009
KX 180113 at KX with the 16.05 to Hull on 14th August 2009
180110 again 180110 passes Finsbury park with a service for KX on 15th October 2010
180107 180107 in Grand central colours at Kings Cross on 3rd June 2013
180112 180112 leaving York in 2012
Passing Frinkley Lane crossing near Grantham in August 2014

 

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