Advanced Passenger Train-Prototype

Resource Type: Image | Posted on 5th December 2011 by Liam Physick

Here we see a prototype of the Advanced Passenger Train, an experimental high-speed tilting service developed by British Rail in the 1970s and early 1980s. It was planned as a three stage project: Advanced Passenger Train-Experimental (APT-E), which was completed; Advanced Passenger Train-Prototype (ATP-P), seen here, three of which of which were introduced onto the Glasgow-London route, but service was limited due to bad publicity; and Advanced Passenger Train-Sqaudron (ATP-S), which was never built. Nevertheless, the experience of the APT helped with the construction of other high-speed and tilting services. Like the High Speed Train, the APT arose from the need for BR to match services such as France’s TGV and Japan’s Shinkansen: BR had run high-speed services on the East Coast Main Line, but this was largely straight and thus suited to high speeds. By contrast, the West Coast Main Line from London to Glasgow was not straught, and thus could not suit high speeds with conventional equipment - BR wished to use the existing tracks, whereas France and Japan had replaced the old track when introducing their revolutionary new trains. Lateral force round corners would make it hard for passengers to stand up and items on tables would move about. Because the same tracks were used by slower trains, superelevation (banking of the track round curves) would only be possible to enable speeds of up to 125 miles per hour, not the 155 miles per hour that BR was aiming for. Thus, BR’s Derby Research Division developed an advanced active lilting technology, with hydraulic rams controlled by spirit level sensors tilting the passenger cars into the curves so that lateral forces could not be felt. Additionally, the train was articulated and had hydrokinetic (water turbine brakes), so could stop in the existing signal spacings. BR was impressed by the proposal, but some of its senior managers did not want to put all their eggs in one basket, and so as a stop-gap, decided to build a fast service using conventional technology - this was to become the High Speed Train. In 1972, the first phase in the Advanced Passenger Train project, the APT-E, was built. It consisted of two gas turbine-electric powercars (PC1 and PC2) and two trailer cars (TC1 and TC2): gas turbines were chosen because they were lighter than the diesel engines used on the HST. The two powercars were equipped with four British Leyland 350 gas turbines (and a fifth auxiliary one), initially at 300 horsepower each, but later uprated to 330 horsepower.The APT-E made its debut run on 25th July 1972, from Derby to Duffield, but did not run on the main line again until August 1973 due to an industrial dispute with ASLEF, which feared that the single driver’s seat pre-empted negotiations about the manning of trains. The APT-E was tried out on the Great Western Main Line, and on 10th August 1975 it reached 152.3 miles per hour between Swindon and Reading, a new record for British rail transport. In January 1976, on the Midland Main Line, it managed 143.6 miles per hour. Occasionally, it carried dignatories on its test runs. Its last test was in June 1976: after this, it was sent to the National Railway Museum in York, and is now based at the Shildon Locomotion Museum, a branch of the NRM. Following the success of the APT-E, BR moved onto the APT-P phase, as seen here. However, with British Leyland having gone out of business, the second and third phases would have to use electric power. Three APT-T trains were built, each consisting of two Class 370 electric powercars (numbered 370001-370006, with a spare No. 370007) and 14 cars - in the middle of the train were two motorcars, with no seating or through gangway, thus cutting off the two halves of the train and requiring every facility to be duplicated. The APT-T was operated by InterCity (also the operator of the High Speed Train and InterCity 225) and used on the West Coast Main Line, and was the most powerful train in British history, at 8000 horsepower, and in December 1979 reached a speed of 162 miles per hour - a record for rail travel in Britain that stood until 30th July 2003, when a Eurostar train hit 208 miles per hour on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. But, due to politcial and managerial pressure, the APT-P was rushed into service before it was ready, so it suffered from technical problems and was unreliable, and it became nicknamed the “Accident Prone Train”. On its first demonstration run, many members of the press reported high levels of motion sickness, though Professor Alan Wickens, the APT’s designer, claimed this was due to drinking too much! (BR offered drinks on the journey as hospitality) The problem came about because the tilting mechanism worked too well: it compensated for the lateral forces around the curves so well that motion sickness resulted, since the eyes could see the tilting but the body could not feel it, but this was resolved by reducing the tilt by a few degress, enabling the curves to be felt. On another test run, certain units stuck tilted for parts of the journey. On 7th December 1981, the ATP-P made its first run as a passenger service, from Glasgow Central to Euston. This was successful: however, to play safe BR ran a scheduled service from Glasgow 15 minutes later. This decision soon proved wise, as some APT-P cars suffered tilt failure on the return journey, a problem widely publicised in the media. To make matters worse, the weather was very cold, causing the brakes to freeze, and on 11th December the APT-P was withdrawn from service: a humiliation from which it would never recover. It was quietly reinstated in mid-1984 and ran regularly, with its problems now corrected, but the highly publicised failures on the first run meant a lack of political and managerial will to continue the project and build the third phase, the APT-S, which consequently never saw the light of day. Of the three APT-P sets, one was kept at Glasgow Shields depot and, passed off as an electric multiple unit, was used once or twice to take journalists from Glasgow Central to Anderston and back for the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre: however, this, and another APT-P, were both quietly scrapped: the third, stored in a siding behind Crewe Works, was preserved: six of the cars from it are now formed into a single train at Crewe Heritage Centre, where it can be seen by passengers travelling on the nearby West Coast Main Line. A non-driving motor car, No. 49006, can be seen at the Electric Railway Museum in Baginton, near Coventry, on loan from the National Railway Museum. Despite the end of the APT project, work continued on a new APT variant, APT-U. later renamed InterCity 225, built following the electrification of the East Coast Main Line, and the technology used to build the APT was later sold to Fiat and used for improving its Pendolino trains, used in many countries - after all, the APT failed not due to its own deficiencies, which could have easily been corrected (as has been the case with many prototype vehicles, both on railways and elsewhere), but lack of commitment to it on the part of BR

Advanced Passenger Train-Prototype

Tagged under: railway workers, british rail, passengers, drivers, aslef, west coast main line, advanced passenger train, high speed train, pendolino trains, electric powercars

Categorised under: Landmarks, Landscapes & Locomotives

Share this page:


Remember my personal information?

Notify me of follow-up comments?