Lab 6 'Prometheus'

In 1975 a Mk1 BSK coach W34875 was converted into an electrical systems test car at Swindon for the R&DD.  Known as Lab Coach 6 and numbered RDB975422, it was utilised for main line OHLE tests by the R&DD Electrical Engineers Section and originally based at Rugby but was eventually transferred to RTC Derby.

It was designed such that it could carry a pantograph under 25kV OHLE and was fitted with insulators on the roof and earth brushes on the axles.

The vehicle was equipped with a conference area and kitchen (below the flat roof area) a large instrumentation area, a generator compartment and a separate  workshop.  It had a vertical internal ladder situated between the kitchen and the instrumentation area which accessed the flat roof. This was via a hatchway which was locked and the key was only available via a safety control procedure for use under 25kV OHLE.

The main instrumentation area has a raised dias from which any pantograph fitted to the flat roof area could be observed. Instrumentation including a large speedometer was also fitted on a facia below the window which was fitted with strengthened glass.

The vehicle was also equipped with Mk3 (BT10) bogies and  was capable of being hauled at up to 125 mile/h. I only recollect this happening when it was paired with Lab 1 on a series of high speed tests in Scotland when investigating 2-pantograph operation at using an HST set in June 1982. However it may have been tested at these speeds when new.

After the purge of the R&DD in the late 1980's the vehicle was transferred to the DM&EE and re-named as Test Car 5. Unfortunately it did not fit into the plans of the DM&EE and was often used as a make-up vehicle although it did find use during the class 89 testing. During the 1990's it was allowed to deteriorate and was eventually withdrawn from service.

After having its equipment and bogies re-claimed for further use the vehicle was scrapped in 2007.

Click on the picture for a bigger image - All pictures are as credited


Lab Coach 6 in its early days when allocated to the R&DD Electrical Engineers' Section then located at Rugby

BR official

Euston On July 30th 1979 Lab Coach 6 'Prometheus' is pictured at Euston on the rear of the 09.00 service to Carlisle.  This was during the series of main line tests with the BR/Brecknell Willis high speed pantograph.



Lab 6 pictured on the back of the 09.00 passing Winwick Junction later that day - note the lettering ' Lab. Coach 6'

Brian Watkins

Inside Prometheus A view of the main instrumentation area of Prometheus looking in the opposite direction to the picture above

BR official


The pantograph viewing window and instrumentation area during in what looks like a staged picture. Note the soldering iron hanging up and the amplifier on the desk top and the obligatory R&DD 'uniform' of a sports jacket.

The door on the left lead through to the kitchen area and the roof access ladder

Colin Marsden


HST super power on a test train pictured between Selby Station and Shaftholme Junction on the old ECML alignment, before the ECML was electrified. The picture shows a Faiveley pantograph under test in September 1979 mounted on Lab 6 'Prometheus' and restrained at 'high wire height' by cables.

Richard Billinge

Outside EDU

Lab 6 pictured unusually in the stabling sidings at the south end of the EDU on 1st February 1983  - note the traverser in the background and the lettering now amended to 'Laboratory 6'

Colin Marsden

Old Dalby 'Prometheus' at Old Dalby with the class 89 during pantograph aerodynamic tests in April 1987. The vehicle was carrying the instrumentation which monitored the performance of the class 89's pantograph


Class 89

Prometheus behind 89001 heads south through Stafford on 24th April 1987 during the loco's acceptance tests

Steve Jones

RTC Prometheus in its new R&DD livery circa 1988

D Bower

Prometheus in its second coming as the DM&EE's second Test Car 5


Lab 6 Prometheus was later repainted into Testing Services livery and is pictured at Stratford in 1993

D A Searle


Test Car 5 (ex-Prometheus) in its Serco livery at Stafford - it was only used as a Test Car on rare occasions and eventually fell into very poor internal condition. Such a shame as it was originally a 125 mile/h vehicle.

Steve Jones


Lab 6 pictured leaving RTC and going for scrap on 21st February 2007.

From the left was the engine room, workshop, instrumentation area with roof window (and wipers still in situ), the roof access compartment (with hatch visible on roof) and then the kitchen/conference area with two seats visible.

Steve Hempsall



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