The trials now underway of the first high-speed train for the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) mark the beginning of a new chapter in the history of British rail transportation. Rolls-Royce is supplying MTU Series 1600 PowerPacks as traction units for the Hitachi Class 800 trains and in so doing is continuing a tradition dating back more than 60 years. MTU and its predecessor companies have had a shaping influence on the development of rail traffic in the UK with their innovative traction and service solutions since the 1950s. Today, MTU products are an established part of regional and long-distance rail services in the UK – and they are leading them into the future with the traction system for the IEP project.
Warship, Hymek and Western – these are the locomotive classes that symbolize the beginnings of modern diesel railways in Britain. Their elegance and characteristic diesel sound are features that mark them out as classics and their appearances at railway galas draw thousands of visitors year after year. The three of them also have another thing in common: powerful engines supplied by Maybach-Motorenbau, a predecessor company of MTU, which today is part of Rolls-Royce Power Systems within the Land & Sea Division of Rolls-Royce.
Diesel-hydraulic traction replaces steam
Those locomotives marked the breakthrough for Maybach rail engines in the British market and were a direct result of the modernization plans of the then state-owned British Railways (later renamed British Rail) drawn up in 1955. The aim of the plan was to increase the speed, reliability, safety and capacity of the railway system and thus signaled the end of the age of steam.
The various regions of British Railways each developed their own responses to the challenges of the time. The Western Region, which was responsible for the rail network in southwest England, based its deliberations on a German model – the V 200 Class locomotive, which to this day represents a milestone in railway development. Its design and concept convinced the Western Region decision-makers that this was the ideal locomotive for their purposes. Thanks to its high-speed diesel engines and diesel-hydraulic traction system, the V 200 was substantially lighter than its diesel-electric competitors. Based on that weight saving, Western Region envisaged being able to pull an extra passenger car even on steeper routes and so generate greater revenue per train.
Maybach traction units made in Britain
For political reasons and because rolling stock in the UK has to have smaller dimensions than in Germany, importing the V 200 was out of the question. The outcome was the Warship Class (Class 42) locomotive, still referred to as the British V 200, which was an adaptation of the German original built under license with modifications to suit British requirements. Not only the locomotive itself but also the traction system in the V 200 – twelve-cylinder Maybach MD 650 engines and the matching Mekydro transmissions also developed by Maybach – were built under license in the UK. The Warship Class locomotives had to be fitted with two engines and gearboxes because no hydraulic transmission available at the time was capable of handling the enormous power of as much as 1,692 kW.
At almost the same time, another locomotive was built for the Western Region as an independent British-made development that even owed its name to the Maybach connection. From a combination of 'hydraulic' as a reference to the power transmission system and the proprietary name Mekydro, the name Hymek was coined. Designated the Class 35, the locomotives were developed and built by Bristol Siddeley Engines and Stone-Platt Industries – the two license-holders for the manufacture of Maybach engines and gearboxes. In contrast with the Warship Class locomotives, the Hymek locomotives were powered by only one Maybach MD 870 engine. The 16-cylinder engine developed up to 1,270 kW and made the Hymeks one of the most powerful single-engine diesel-hydraulic locomotives in the world in the period from 1961 to 1964 when they were produced. One such British-made MD 870 engine can now be admired at the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust Museum in Derby. Its manufacturers, Bristol Siddeley Engines, were taken over by Rolls-Royce in the 1960s and so are now part of the same group as MTU, the successor of Maybach-Motorenbau.
The more powerful twin-engined Western Class (Class 52) developed as an uprated version of the Warship Class proved forward-looking in one particular feature – if one of the two Maybach MD 655 engines ever failed, the locomotive was able to continue running on the remaining engine without having to be towed back to the depot.
The fact that the locomotives were decommissioned as early as the 1970s, despite their groundbreaking traction system design and successful operation on passenger and goods services, was due primarily to political reasons. All railway regions with the exception of the Western Region had opted for diesel-electric traction. So British Rail took the decision to decommission all locomotives that did not conform to the general standard – including, therefore, those with diesel-hydraulic traction.
MTU PowerPacks enter the fray
When British Railways was reorganized at the end of the 1990s, MTU once again played a major role in UK railway history. The Turbostar family (Class 168 and 170) diesel multiple units (DMUs) were the first new train design to enter service after the railways were privatized. The project marked a significant milestone for MTU as well. The manufacturer Adtranz (now Bombardier Transportation) was among the first clients to order the new PowerPacks developed by MTU. Introduced in 1997 by MTU as the first supplier of such systems in the world, these integrated solutions comprise compact underfloor traction modules for railcars. They incorporate the engine, gearbox or generator, hydraulics, cooling system, oil and air filter systems, exhaust system, compressors and other components required for traction and the train's electrical system power supply. All components are mounted inside a subframe and are, therefore, quick and easy to install and replace, thereby minimizing the design work for the train-maker. Especially important is the fact that train operators can easily and effectively service the traction units.
For the Turbostar program, MTU supplied PowerPacks with the six-cylinder inline Type 183TD engine that developed 315 kW. Just like the MTU PowerPacks, the Turbostar DMUs are a major success and remain in service today. The trains are distinguished by fast acceleration, highly energy-efficient operation and excellent reliability.
Since 2010 a new Turbostar model (Class 172) has been in operation. Its modern PowerPack based on the MTU 6H 1800 R83 engine with an output of 360 kW meets the EU Stage IIIA emission standard.
When first introduced in the mid-1970s, the Class 43 HSTs (High Speed Trains) were already fast - with a top speed of 238 kph and a normal service speed of 201 kph, they are still among the fastest diesel trains in the world today. That they are now also quieter, more reliable, kinder to the environment and more efficient to run for the operators is thanks to new power units from MTU with which they were equipped from 2005. After nearly 30 years of continuous service, the train operators East Coast Main Line and First Great Western began refitting the HST power cars with new MTU 16-cylinder Series 4000 engines capable of 1,680 kW. The other Class 43 operators subsequently followed suit so that today almost all commercially operated HSTs are MTU-powered.
MTU also set new standards in terms of maintenance with this project. In order to permanently guarantee high levels of availability, MTU agreed a comprehensive full maintenance contract with the operators. Under the terms of the agreement, MTU guarantees engine availability for ten years and that all necessary servicing is carried out on site at any time.
PowerPacks for the Super Express Train
The standards set by MTU in the repowering and maintenance project for the HSTs are to be topped by their direct successors, the Super Express Trains for the IEP project, once again using PowerPacks from MTU.
The Intercity Express Programme (IEP) is one of the biggest transport projects in Great Britain. The Super Express Trains developed by Hitachi for the IEP will feature two different designs. The electric-only Class 801 trains and the Class 800 bimodal trains. The latter operate in electric-only mode on lines with overhead power and in diesel-electric mode on non-electrified lines. For the two train types, MTU is supplying a total of 250 700kW PowerPacks based on MTU Type 12V 1600 R80L engines. The Class 801 electric-only trains will be equipped with a single PowerPack that will act as an auxiliary generator to get the train to the next station in the event of a fault with the overhead power lines, and to provide an emergency power supply for the train's electrical systems. The Class 800 bimodal trains will have three, four or five PowerPacks according to the length of the train (five, eight or nine cars respectively).
With this concept MTU has once again shown itself to be an innovative and reliable technological leader for rail projects in the UK.
The content of the stories reflects the status as of the respective date of publication. They are not updated. Further developments are therefore not taken into account.