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Snowdon Mountain Railway

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by acw71000, Jun 15, 2017.

  1. kscanes

    kscanes Resident of Nat Pres

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    Just to be clear, does anyone know if the hybrid locos have been returned to manufacturer to be fixed; to bring them up to specification, or is the return final?
     
  2. banburysaint

    banburysaint Member

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  3. andymcvean

    andymcvean New Member

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    The Schafbergbahn in Austria has also gone for a similar idea, when I visited in 2019 they were running a limited sevice with heritage steam which I unfortunately didn't catch and then had modern oil fired steam locomotives suplemented by diesel locomotives for the main service (as seen attached) and it did appear a pretty efficient operation.
    IMG_5928.JPG
     
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  4. MuzTrem

    MuzTrem Member

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    In principle I'd agree with you, but I wonder how practical any electrical system would be on Snowdon? 3rd rail would be a no-no unless you could fence the whole route; overhead wires would be vulnerable to high winds. True, Snaefell copes, but it is significantly lower than Snowdon...

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  5. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Plenty of precedent for either. The (raised and shielded) third rail system used (IIRC) in the Franch Pyrenees wasn't, I'll concede, any too attfactive, but perhaps the SMR could use something far tidier? In Switzerland, one section of OHLE across a high pass was habitually removed every winter, for reinstatement once the danger of avalanche had receded in the new year. It strikes me that either system, designed with winter removal in mind, needn't present the sort of problems you might envisage.

    Had the SMR never been built, could you imagine the almighty ruckus if someone went and proposed a line up Yr Wyddfa today? :Woot:
     
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  6. MuzTrem

    MuzTrem Member

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    Thanks - yes, it's true that Swiss and other European mountain railways deal with fairly extreme conditions.

    As to whether such a railway could be built today - yes, I expect there would be a lot of opposition. But then, the Cairngorm Mountain Railway was built in 2001 so perhaps it is not totally impossible? We are on holiday in the Highlands as I type, and I flippantly suggested a railway up Ben Nevis. I'm not sure whether it would be a commercial success, given that the summit is shrouded in cloud most of the time, but still...

    (And before someone points it out, yes, I am aware of the abortive Dingwall and Ben Wyvis scheme in the '70s - but I'm not sure whether that ever had a realistic chance of success.)

    Interestingly, when my brother climbed Snowdon a few years ago he opined that the diesel locos were actually worse for noise pollution than the steam locos. "The whole mountain reverberates with the sound of tractor engines", he said - or something to that effect!

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  7. 5944

    5944 Resident of Nat Pres

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    There's a couple of lines in Switzerland that remove infrastructure during the winter. The Schynige Platte Bahn removes all their overhead wires during the winter, occasionally using their steam loco for works trains. The other is the Furka-Bergstrecke Bahn which removes a whole bridge! Admittedly it's a semi-permanent structure that is designed to be removed each winter.

    I still think it's a pity the SMR haven't gone down the modern steam route. Half a dozen new locos for normal services, keep the original locos for a couple of premium trips per day, and a couple of diesels for emergencies and works trains. Works well for the Brienz Rothorn Bahn, though their original locos are used as normal with the new build steam.

    Whether the SMR have any money to be able to fund anything after three years of not being able to go to the summit is another matter entirely!
     
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  8. pmh_74

    pmh_74 Well-Known Member

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    I've never been up Ben Nevis but I can imagine that would be quite fun. It reminds me of my one trip up the Rothorn, probably getting on for 25 years ago now, which was in thick freezing fog. I was the only passenger, and spent the layover at the top supping tea in the train crew's mess room attempting to converse using my bad German and their bad English. One of my most memorable steam trips, it was wonderful! I was given a personal guided tour of the workshops when we got back to Brienz as well.

    I was lucky in that I had one of the original locos on my train, but I understand the modern ones are cheaper to run and I've a feeling they are one-man operated, since they are oil fired. Unlike a diesel, they also don't burn any fuel on the way down.
     
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  9. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I seem to recall the price asked for the latest Swiss built steam locos being rather steeper than the railways on which they were intended to run!

    So far as any long-term commitment to commercial steam is concerned, the question of fuel needs to be kept in mind. We know for certain that, given a decent standard of maintenance, a set of mainframes, wheelcentres, a brake standard and brass nameplates can be kept in service almost indefinitely. Right now, I'd not care to speculate on the availability or cost of hydrocarbon fuels ten years hence, let alone 150!

    I've expressed the opinion elsewhere on the forum that one or more of the carbon capture techniques might provide bespoke steam loco fuel. I hope so, as that'd provide the most secure long-term future for our beloved steam locos. Torrified biomass pellets may well provide a stop-gap solution, but unless such pellets can duplicate the energy density of coal, commercial steam operations mightn't be economically sustainable. The same considerations will apply to liquid (and by extension gas) fuels*.

    I fear it takes no foresight and great leap of logic to see some legislator electing to classify steam locos (road rollers, traction engines, boats, ships etc.) as a frivolous and unnecessary use of dangerous substances .... and don't kid yourselves that's not how hydrocarbons will be seen in a half-century (tops!). We need to be the ones thinking about the future of our collective obsession. No other bu99er is going to do it for us. Fingers out, peeps!

    *Yep ... diesels too.
     
  10. MuzTrem

    MuzTrem Member

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    Well said. I'd also be interested to know how the fuel consumption of the BRB's "modern steam" locos comapres to the diesels. I'm no expert on such things but AIUI, oil-burning steam locos typically consume MUCH more fuel than diesels to do equivalent work.

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  11. pmh_74

    pmh_74 Well-Known Member

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    I read a report on this some years ago. My understanding is that their running costs are broadly comparible with the diesel, because they effectively don't use any fuel going downhill, whereas the diesels do. Of course, the purchase price is far higher than the diesel, but the running costs were part of the BRB's justification for buying several of them (presumably also believing that they would pull in more customers than the equivalent diesel would).

    The same would not apply to a conventional oil-burning steam loco, of course; it's because of the peculiar circumstances of a rack railway.
     
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  12. Nigel Day

    Nigel Day Member

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    I still think it's a pity the SMR haven't gone down the modern steam route. Half a dozen new locos for normal services, keep the original locos for a couple of premium trips per day, and a couple of diesels for emergencies and works trains. Works well for the Brienz Rothorn Bahn, though their original locos are used as normal with the new build steam.

    I tried with some major improvements to give the steamers modernisation and improvements but hit some road blocks. It was time to move on to other more interesting projects.

    I hope something happens to give the steamers a new life.
     

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