Research Division Tests 1976 onwards

The author joined the Research Division of BR in 1974 working initially on derailment investigation.

Following internal changes, in 1976 I found myself working for the Dynamics Group looking at wheel/rail interface problems. This involved the deployment of one or more load measuring wheelsets (LMW).

The wheel set was very expensive as each spoked wheel was machined from a solid blank wheel and strain gauges were then attached to the spokes at pre-determined positions to measure vertical, lateral and longitudinal loads.

The output signals from the wheel passed through a set of slip rings mounted on each end of the axle. The signals from the vertical load circuit needed to be manipulated including part-inversion to give a steady output signal related to the wheel load. The other two aspects did not need such doctoring.

One test series I remember from October 1976, involved running on the Blaenau Ffestiniog branch line from Llandudno Junction through the beautiful Conway valley. These curving tests were to monitor the behaviour of wheels on curves, the particular route having a number of 'true' curves without transitions, which enabled the 'steady state' curving to be established.

The LMW's were fitted to the 4 wheeled test vehicle HSFV1 and the instrumentation was housed in Lab Coach 1. The ex-Ferry Van HSFV4 RDB787319 accompanied the tests and carried various spares and equipment, including hydraulic jacks for raising the wheel sets in order for them to have a 'no-load' calibration.

I remember that the line had only two block sections and was fully occupied with service trains during the majority of the day. Hence we started work around 2pm and finished about 10pm. We stayed in the Station Hotel at Llandudno Junction and didn't get to bed until late on most nights.

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

In October 1976 the test train sits outside Llanwrst signal box behind 25236 and with HSFV4 RDB 787319 in the formation. The test engineers are attending to the calibration of the LMW's fitted to HSFV1 which is at the rear of the train beyond Lab Coach 1. The train will probably return to Llandudno Jcn. after the calibration results have been acquired.

map The Conway Valley line on which we spent the best part of two weeks conducting curving tests with the load measuring wheels
Load Measuring Wheel This is a Freightliner LMW during its construction, pictured on the calibration rig in the R&DD workshop. Note the wiring for the gauges (vertical, lateral and longitudinal) and the slip ring assembly glimpsed through the spokes.

One can imagine that wheelsets such as this (machined from a solid wheel) can be very costly although R&DD made a small production line and the author spent a number of months attaching strain-gauges to these LMW's.

BR Official

Class 24 Llandudno Junction One of the few remaining class 24 locos at the time poses in the sunshine at Llandudno Jcn in October 1976

A closer view of HSFV1 RDB 511023 in the RTC yard - although not fitted here with LMW's. The suspension on this 4 wheeled vehicle was capable of 90 mile/h running fully laden and the vehicle's weight could be varied easily by the addition of rail packs - very useful when testing.

D Bower

On another occasion in early 1977, the riding qualities of iron ore tippler wagons was investigated. This followed a number of derailments of these wagons on the line between Newcastle and Carlisle. The last vehicle of a loaded train was instrumented and monitored from a brake van on its journey from Redcar to Workington. Fortunately this one stayed on the rails.

I recollect that we stayed in the Viaduct Hotel in Falcon Street, near the station in Workington, which was reminiscent of 'Fawlty Towers' at the time. It still exists today and I hope is a bit better these days.


The view from the rear of the train at the Redcar sidings prior to departure


A wider view of the train shows the brake van which was specially marshalled to carry the test staff and instruments.

Instrumentation Inside the brake van.

Wylam Station

The view from the brake whilst passing through Wylam station on the Newcastle to Carlisle line
Accelerometers Accelerometers mounted on the end of the trailing tippler wagon.

The End

A view showing the test vehicle and brake van at the end of the train

More pictures will be added as time permits


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