The Tribometer Train

The 'Trib Train' was used to investigate the age-old problem of low friction between wheel and rail known as adhesion.

First entering service in 1972 its purpose was to verify laboratory tests on surface contaminants on the railhead.

It consisted of  Laboratory 11 RDB975046,  COV-AB RDB999900 and an auto-trailer RDB975076 usually operated with one of R&DD's own locos (e.g. the Baby Deltic or later the class 24 'Experiment' and class 31).

The COV-AB was one of a batch of ten fitted with experimental 'Taperlite' suspension and housed the instrumentation and  hydraulic packs, with special brake actuator units above each axle as well as tanks for laying fluid during the experiments. It had no conventional brakes and was fitted with end gangways for access.

A year-long general survey of adhesions levels was undertaken initially and numerous special tests were performed. The train was a common site about the railway in the 70s and 80s.

It was also used to assess the effectiveness of rail head treatment of the time such as water cannons.

It usually had motive power from the Research Division's own pool of locos including, the Metrovick Co-Bo 5705, the Baby Deltic D5901, class 24 'Experiment', the original class 31 which was unfortunately destroyed by fire and then whatever was available was used.

The last extensive use of the Tribometer Train to measure naturally occurring adhesion was in the early 1990s when a significant amount of measurements were taken to survey typical adhesion profiles on a number of BR routes.

The final use of the Tribometer Train was in 1996 to compare the performance of portable tribometers with a full-scale tribometer to calibrate the former. The Tribometer Train was not used after this and was eventually disposed of by AEA Technology Rail in 2004 - another victim of privatisation.

All three vehicles went to the Nottingham Heritage Centre but the auto trailer is now at the West Somerset Railway for restoration and Lab 11 RDB975046 has been restored at the Dartmoor Railway at Okehampton.

COV-AB RDB999900 was scrapped at Booths of Rotherham in August 2009

Photographs are BR official unless credited

Metrovick Co-Bo 5705 at the head of the Trib Train with Laboratory 11 RDB975046 behind the loco pictured near Etwall on the Mickleover test track in 1972

Gerald Anthony

COV-AB RDB999900 and the auto-trailer RDB975076 making up the Trib Train on the Mickleover test track in 1972

Gerald Anthony

RTC sidings

Metrovick Co-Bo 5705 with the Trib Train at Derby in 1972


Derby Baby Deltic D5901 with the Trib Train at Derby

David Hills

D5901 at Lincoln West in summer 1975 with the Trib Train

Alan Hoggett

D5901 at Lincoln West in summer 1975 with the Trib Train

Alan Hoggett

D5901 at Lincoln West in summer 1975 with the Trib Train including Lab 11 RDB975046

Alan Hoggett

Experiment Class 24 'Experiment' 97201 with the Trib Train outside the Control Centre at Old Dalby

Colin Marsden

Old Dalby

The other end of Trib train at Old Dalby showing the auto-trailer

Colin Marsden

RDB999900 A close up of the recording vehicle RDB999900

Colin Marsden

Class 24 'Experiment' 97201 brings the Trib Train through Crewe in the 1980s

Nigel Hodge

Heading south on the main line through Crewe - probably on its way back to RTC

Nigel Hodge

Class 24 'Experiment' 97201 with the Trib Train at Derby on 12th October 1984

John Goodale

97201 with the Tribometer train at Crewe on 25th May 1987

Steve Hampton

RDB999900 The Trib Train vehicles were all preserved at the Nottingham Heritage Centre Ruddington - here is RDB999900 but this did nor survive


Trib train hauled by Class 24 'Experiment' 97201 crosses the viaduct at Relley Mill, Durham on 3rd April 1984

Craig Oliphant

Auto Trailer RDB975076 in the RTC sidings - now at WSR Lab 11 RDB975046 in the RTC sidings - now preserved at the Dartmoor Railway

More pictures will be added

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