Testing Times

or 50 years in a yellow vest


Etches Park



Last updated 30th January 2024 - new photographs APT and class 89

I have spent most of my working life in railway vehicle testing and vehicle commissioning for British Rail based at Derby. During my long career I worked at the Derby Locomotive Works, Derby Carriage & Wagon Works, the London Midland Region's Chief Mechanical & Electrical Engineer's Department (CM & EE), the BRB Department of Mechanical & Electrical Engineers (DM & EE), the Research & Development Division (R&DD), the DM & EE again and for Serco after they took over this part of the railway industry.

Projects with which I have been involved during this time have included vehicle acceptance testing, HST prototype high speed riding tests, APT-E, APT-P, Load Measuring Wheel development, High Speed pantograph development, derailment investigation, commissioning of Class 90, Class 91, Mk IV coaches, Sprinters, railbuses, Automatic Train Protection commissioning and many others including numerous trips abroad.

After an apprenticeship in the locomotive works at Derby and a spell at the LMR's CM&EE Headquarters at Nelson Street, I joined the BR Testing Section in late 1970. The first testing work I was involved with was investigating alternator failures on the Class 73 electro-diesels for which we conducted tests running between Basingstoke and Winchester. In early 1972 the scene moved to Scotland where the class 27-powered push-pull sets were having numerous problems on the Edinburgh - Glasgow runs. This was followed in the summer of that year by tests on the new generation PEP stock suburban trains on the Southern Region which were conducted on the Farnham to Alton line. By 1973 I was involved in testing the air-conditioning on the prototype HST and Mk3 coaches on the ECML - which included being present on the 140+ mile/h runs in June of that year.

A move to the Research Division in 1974 saw involvement with wheel/rail interaction work, derailment investigation, the development of load measuring wheelsets, general work at the Old Dalby test track and the overhead high speed current collection project. This culminated in the introduction of the BR/BW high speed pantograph onto BR and abroad.

Returning to the DM & EE in the mid 1980's I was involved with the commissioning of the prototype 'Sprinters', the class 150 and class 151, which were then based at Etches Park depot in Derby. Following the type testing programme the trains enjoyed promotional trips around the UK and initially entered service on the Matlock line. Further work of this nature included the 150/1's, 150/2's, 155's and 156's and the numerous railbuses followed by a move upmarket to the IC225 on the ECML working initially out of Bounds Green, commissioning of the locomotives and Mk4 coaching stock etc. This also extended to the class 90 fleet, DVT's etc on the WCML.

Following this a change of direction resulted in a prolonged period with the pilot ATP schemes on both the GW main line and the Chiltern lines.

More general test and monitoring work followed in the late 1990's as privatisation bit but sanity returned in 1999 when I was again involved with testing the latest trains; class 175's and class 180's,. Sunderland Metro, Class 220 and 221 Voyagers, electrical load bank testing, operation of rail grinders and finally the Hitachi Verification Train .

I left Serco Railtest in the summer of 2005 and spent some time working on the London Underground's Transmission-Based Train Control system testing at TubeLines' Highgate Test Facility. I later worked on the first unit of the Victoria Line Upgrade which was tested at Litchurch Lane works, Derby prior to commencing its test programme in London.

Further work involved the production of operational safety cases in connection with on-track brake testing with Voyagers and in 2008 I joined the Bogie Division of Bombardier Transportation in Derby as the Warranty Engineer. Whilst working for the Bogie Division I was involved with a number of track tests and data logging projects in UK and abroad, thus continuing the fine tradition started when I walked through the doors at Nelson Street all those years ago.

I retired from Bombardier in December 2018 after an enjoyable and interesting 10 years.

Please click on the thumbnails for more pictures and information. Please note there are five further indexes, namely the early days index, the my early days index, the R&DD Index, the commissioning index and the Serco Index which access further pages of interest.

Click on the pictures for more information.





Glossary of railway terms 1825 - date Some acronyms and railway speak explained
Steam (and Diesel) 1950's Locomotive performance testing in 1950's including locomotive testing stations
Early days index 1950's and 60's Various tests in the early days of BR
My first job 1970 Out of the Loco Works and into Nelson Street


My early days index


Testing various items of rolling stock from Electro-diesels at Winchester to Edinburgh-Glasgow push-pull sets

Freight acceptance testing


Testing of new freight vehicles

Trainspotting 1972 The railway scene at RTC and elsewhere in the early 70's
Test Cars  1970's - 2005 Some of the Test Cars we used

HST Prototype


Acceptance and performance testing

R&DD Index 1960-2000 More information on various R&DD projects and list of rolling stock at the RTC

Research Division


Derailment investigation 

Research Division 1976 Load measuring wheelsets and other testing etc
DM&EE 1976 on Further tests in the DM&EE
Research Division 1977-78 General testing and the contemporary scene, etc

Research Division


HSCC Project, BR/BW pantograph test work at Old Dalby and on the main line

Research Division

1979 - 84

Development of the BR/BW Highspeed pantograph

European Trip 1


Pantograph testing in Sweden

World Trip 1


Pantograph testing in South Africa

APT Prototype


Pantograph testing at high speed in Scotland

Class 150 Prototypes


Testing, Commissioning and in-service monitoring

Class 151 Prototypes


Testing, Commissioning and in-service monitoring

Class 154 Prototype


Testing, Commissioning and in-service monitoring

LEVs 1978-80 Forerunners of all the nasty railbuses

Commissioning index


Miscellaneous work incl. Sprinters, Railbuses, Mk3 DVT's, Class 318 's, Mk4 DVT's and coaches, Class 442's etc

Railbuses 1979-1986 4-wheel 2 and 3 car railbuses

Class 91 plus IC225


Testing, Commissioning and in-service monitoring

Class 90


Testing, Commissioning and in-service monitoring

European Trip 2


Taking a train to the IVA 88 Exhibition in Germany

The International Train 1986 BREL's showcase train for the European market

Class 89


Testing, Commissioning and in-service monitoring

European Trip 3

June 1989

Taking a train to the NS150 Exhibition in Holland

European Trip 4

Sept 1989

Taking a train to the Arsenal Climatic Testing Station in Austria



Extensive testing, Commissioning, maintenance and in-service monitoring

World Trip 2


ATP study in Taiwan

Old Dalby Test Track

1974 - 2000

Tests too numerous to mention!

European Trips 5 & 6


Visit to Voith, Germany plus pantograph testing in France with Eurostar etc

Iris 1 & 2


Video & radio surveys throughout Britain, plus miscellaneous projects

Serco index 1997-2000  Privatised! - general test work with various vehicles under new management

OHLE loadbank testing


Mobile electrical load tests at various locations

Class 175 2000 Driver training and type testing operations at Old Dalby & elsewhere

Class 180


Type testing at Old Dalby & on GWML

Class 220


Testing & commissioning at Monk Bretton and on the ECML 

Class 221


Testing & commissioning at Monk Bretton, on the ECML, the WCML and the GW etc



Testing TPWS fitted to various traction units at numerous locations

Sunderland Direct


Testing the Tyne & Wear Metro units on Network Rail's route to Sunderland

Pendolino 2003 - 2004 TASS, tilt and high speed pantograph testing
UFM160 DMU 2003 Testing Eurailscout GB's new high speed infrastructure monitoring DMU
Grinder Operations 2003-2004 Testing & operating Harsco's Switch & Crossing grinders
General Testing work 2002 - 2005 Vehicle Acceptance, service problems etc
Hitachi Verification Train 2004 - 2005 Operating the V-train on AC, DC lines and on the CTRL
TBTC Going Underground (1) 2005-2006 Train Control System testing on LUL
Going Underground (2) 2006 Testing the new Victoria Line Trains
Voyager brake tests 2007-2008 Testing the Voyagers fitted with new brake pads
Testing trains today 2014 Who tests trains in the world of the privatised railway?
Working for Bombardier 2008 - 2018 Bogie work from around the world
  Links 2011 to date Links and acknowledgements

Copyright 2000-2024 Dave Coxon. All rights reserved

If you have any queries about the any of the subjects or can add any further information or photos to the site, please contact me and I shall be pleased to help.

If you have any requirements about testing today please contact me

Talks and Presentations

You may also be interested in my new photo site covering railways home and abroad over the last 45 years - this is still under construction.


or my site about BR's test two tracks (Old Dalby and Mickleover) at:


Or my Smugmug site including railways at home and abroad today


All material and photographs on this site are copyright of their respective owners and should not be used without written permission.

Any requests should be directed through this site

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Copyright 2000- 2024 Dave Coxon. All rights reserved

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