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lysander

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Having spent many years  working beside a part of the TT route to Rotherham I used my "twirlie" pass the other day for a trip. Unrecognisable!... with the rolling mill for which I spent many years working now being a part of a woody scene. I wonder if other members have used the service?

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40 minutes ago, lysander said:

Having spent many years  working beside a part of the TT route to Rotherham I used my "twirlie" pass the other day for a trip. Unrecognisable!... with the rolling mill for which I spent many years working now being a part of a woody scene. I wonder if other members have used the service?

Hello  lysander  , as I have not seen Sheffield for many years, and have little knowledge of the Tram Train, the next time you use it could you take a few pictures/films please?  I did see the new tram/light railway system to Meadowhall in its early years, but how does it now get to Rotherham, does it switch to the railway lines or have the laid more tram tracks?

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It turns off the Supertram system at Tinsley South tram tramstop, passes under Tinsley viaduct on a new bit of track then joins the old railway lines towards Rotherham Central, continues to the back of Parkgate retail park where a siding and platform have been installed.

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Despite the fact that tram-trains have been in use throughout Europe for years, in typical British style we are "experimenting!"with the concept...hence the extension to Rotherham ( originally the proposal was for a diesel/electric service to Huddersfield) The "experiment" was years behind schedule and £millions over budget but, at long last ,now operational and , by all accounts, already seen to be something of a success. The new rolling stock is unique being able to run on both heavy and light rail and  cope with Sheffield's hills and vales!!

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There are 7 of the Tram Trains, although I believe only 4 are designed to work the Rotherham service, and one of those is out of action having hit a lorry on the first day of the new service!

The problem is the difference in wheel profile between light and heavy rail, so a compromise wheel profile and track profile has been evolved. Tram Trains that run to Rotherham can only operate between Cathedral and Parkgate, this part of the track has been profiled to accept the revised wheels.

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Lemmy17 is correct about only four Tram Trains having the correct wheel profiles to operate on heavy rail lines.  Initially these were 201-204 but the first day altercation resulted in 206 being given such profiles.  Today's altercation involving I believe 202 may mean 205 or 207 might need similar treatment.

Three are required for the Parkgate service with the fourth normally on the depot in reserve..  

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I wonder if apart from fitting the different bogies they also need the Network Rail signalling equipment fitting, or do they all have this fitted as standard?

Seems strange that within a couple of weeks there have been two incidents at the same junction with the new vehicles, while in the previous 20 odd years there have seen virtually none.

Nigel L

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On ‎01‎/‎12‎/‎2018 at 16:49, Lemmy117 said:

I wonder if apart from fitting the different bogies they also need the Network Rail signalling equipment fitting, or do they all have this fitted as standard?

Seems strange that within a couple of weeks there have been two incidents at the same junction with the new vehicles, while in the previous 20 odd years there have seen virtually none.

Nigel L

I wonder if the TT accelerates faster than the older trams and where road drivers have been used to going thru 'just red' traffic lights and beating the tram these two have been 'caught' by the TT? Only a thought  and may be completely wrong.

As noted by ysander that 'the "experiment" being years behind schedule and £millions over budget' does rather make one wonder what to expect from HS2.

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That is a possibility, I'm led to believe that the older trams normally run on restricted power and effectively run at half available acceleration. I don't know whether the TT's are so equipped.

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After the recent Tram Train incidents which resulted in 399202 and 399204 being damaged, speculation was rife as to which other TT would be pressed into service on the Parkgate route. Well it appears that now we have another tram running around made up of the best bits of others.

399202 entered service again on Tuesday 18th December, it is made up of 2 parts of 202 and 1 part of 204.

This trams joins 102, 111, 118 and 120 as being made up of parts of other vehicles.

Nigel L

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On 15/11/2018 at 22:17, boginspro said:

Hello  lysander  , as I have not seen Sheffield for many years, and have little knowledge of the Tram Train, the next time you use it could you take a few pictures/films please?  I did see the new tram/light railway system to Meadowhall in its early years, but how does it now get to Rotherham, does it switch to the railway lines or have the laid more tram tracks?

I make occasional visits to Sheffield and have a few photos. I shall be back in March with my husband who likes to film things, so I should have some film to share at a later date.

From the days of test running before the passenger service started, car 202 coming off the new line at Meadowhall South/Tinsley

18026_SYS202_07Sep18-XL.jpg

 

Car 204 waiting on the curve. It is a very tight curve.

18034_SYS204_07Sep18-XL.jpg

 

A visit in late December:

Cars 201 & 206 at the low height platforms at Rotherham Central Station

18076_SYS206and201_29Dec18-XL.jpg

 

206 passing the heavy rail platforms at Rotherham

18074_SYS206_29Dec18-XL.jpg

 206 approaching Parkgate

18066_SYS206_29Dec18-XL.jpg

206 at the Parkgate terminus

18068_SYS206_29Dec18-XL.jpg

206 leaving Parkgate and rejoining the main line

18070_SYS206_29Dec18-XL.jpg

The other end of the route: Cathedral

18078_SYS201_29Dec18-XL.jpg

 

Although a couple of heavy rail trains were seen passing Parkgate, the chance to get shots of main line trains and tram-trains together was scuppered by train guards being on strike. As my next visit will be on a Friday there should (hopefully) be a proper train service running. I am also looking to use additional locations for photography and filming as I will have more time.

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As far as I know all the tram trains are fitted with the signalling systems they need, but only 4 at a time are supposed to have the 'railway' wheelsets. There is apparently a 5th set of spare 'railway' wheels, should they be needed. Which I guess they probably have been!

The wheel profiles are interesting because, as Lemmy said, a compromise profile was designed for the tram-train route vehicles. Apparently ordinary tram wheels can't run on Network Rail and ordinary train wheels can't run on the old Supertram network. I say 'old' because even the compromise wheels can't run on the grooved street track which existed on most of the system. However with the recent rail replacement work I would hope they've had enough foresight to change the rail so compromise wheelsets will eventually be able to work everywhere.

Are you confused yet? You will be...! Read on...

Now... two out of the 7 tram trains have been onvolved in fairly serious accidents, strangely both in almost the same place. This has resulted in the vehicles involved being split up, with the good end and mid section of one tram-train being coupled to the undamaged end of the other one. The swapped end has been renumbered to carry the same fleet number as the good end and mid section, so this vehicle isn't completely the vehicle it was when it entered service. Meanwhile the smashed up ends and other mid section have been put together and I believe they have now been sent back to Bombardier, who I think ought to send them back with bull-bars fitted!

As to the reasons for the accidents, I can only comment on the first one because I don't know the full details of the second. Apparently the lorry ran a red light. However the tram hit it in the side, so the tram hit the lorry, the lorry did NOT hit the tram. Although the lorry driver has been blaimed for the accident, I don't think this is entirely correct or fair. Trams (unlike trains) should always be driven on sight. In other words, the driver should only drive to what he or she can actually see ahead of them, just like road vehicles. Trains are not operated on line of sight, being totally reliant on signals. At the time of the incident, the tram-train was acting as a TRAM on the TRAMWAY, so should have been operating according to line of sight and should have been able to stop for any obstacles that came into view. As the tram hit the side of the lorry, which was already crossing the line, I believe the tram should have been able to stop. The fact it didn't opens up a whole host of questions. Was it travelling too fast? Did the driver apply the brakes? Did the brakes work? It seems strange that the Siemens built trams have been operating over that junction for over two decades without any major incidents, but the tram-trains have suffered two very similar incidents within a couple of months.

One thing I'm not sure of is how the braking system of the tram-trains works. The Siemens trams have a number of braking systems, including magnetic track brakes, which are long flat shoes that clamp down directly onto the track when activated. These are VERY effective and are not normally used except in an emergency because they could easily catapult the passengers through the windscreen. That's how good they are! But do tram-trains also have them? If they don't, that will definitely mean they can't stop as quickly. Maybe MadAnnie or Lemmy could enlighten me?

Finally... The whole 'experiment' is nonsence anyway! In reality wheel profiles don't actually matter all that much. provided the flange of the wheel will fit in the slot of grooved track, pretty much anything will work. It might not be ideal, but it will work. Historically this has been proved time and time again. Railway coal wagons used to make extensive use of the old Glasgow tramway. All they did in Glasgow was lay the tram tracks a quarter inch further apart so the railway wagons with their deeper flanges ran in the bottom of the grooves, not on the rail head. Also the Blackpool Loco, now at Crich, was originally used to haul yet more coal wagons on the Blackpool system, mainly between Copse Road Deopt in Fleetwood and a coal yard at Thornton Gate. It's not rocket science to make a tram run on a railway or a train on a tramway (Weymouth Quay anyone?)

 

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Wow this could open up a whole can of worms! The difference in wheels comes about due to the way trains run on rails, the profile makes up a coning angle which keeps the wheels running along the rail head, the flanges have little to do under normal conditions, only coming into play on tight curves and poor track. Trams on the other hand have a much flatter wheel profile so rely more on the flanges as curves are generally tighter. Tram flanges are much shallower than railway flanges and the 'tread' is also much less. A tram wheel is generally thinner than a railway wheel. At low speed this doesn't really matter, but get up to a decent speed and the wheels will start to 'hunt', it will become very uncomfortable to ride on and comes with a higher risk of derailment.

You are quite correct that Glasgow used wagons on tramway track, they reduced the gauge to 4' 7 3/4" and the wheels ran on the flanges, but only at low speed. Weymouth 'tramway' was really a railway laid in the road, very wide flange way, and not made up of traditional tramway rail but railway track with a separate continuous check rail, similar to what you would find in goods yards.

The remaining bits of the tram trains involved in the crashes have gone back to Stadtler/Vossloh for repair. Again you are correct that tram drivers drive 'line of site' and should be prepared to stop in the distance they can see, but on a signal controlled junction they effectively are given a 'green light' as all traffic is supposed to have stopped. The first incident had the tram hit the lorry just behind the cab. I believe visibility at the junction was called into question and it is interesting that the Council installed new signals after the second accident. Speaking recently to a Supertram driver it seem the Siemens vehicles have finer control than the tram trains and respond better. As far as I am aware the tram trains have both track brakes and auto sanders, but that still relies on the driver to hit the emergency brakes, and if you get a proceed signal you are probably not expecting someone to jump the lights.

As far as the 'trial' is concerned it is totally flawed. Apart from the vast increase in cost, mostly because Network Rail underestimated the cost of building tram trains into the existing signalling, the vehicles were built to operate on 750V DC and 25kV AC, but they only run on the 750 as NR didn't install the higher voltage, so what has it proved? On the continent they regularly operate the 'tram train' principle, it is nothing new, so why did we need a 'trial'.

Sits down and waits for the bullets to fly!!

Nigel L

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On 16/11/2018 at 09:33, lysander said:

Despite the fact that tram-trains have been in use throughout Europe for years, in typical British style we are "experimenting!"with the concept...hence the extension to Rotherham ( originally the proposal was for a diesel/electric service to Huddersfield) The "experiment" was years behind schedule and £millions over budget but, at long last ,now operational and , by all accounts, already seen to be something of a success. The new rolling stock is unique being able to run on both heavy and light rail and  cope with Sheffield's hills and vales!!

Or NOT cope with hills, vales and bends. Why do you think the service only runs from the cathedral? Wheel profile can't cope with 90 degree turns such as Malin Bridge, University etc. Tram-train it is but only in a limited way.  Until it is running to Stockbridge and Chesterfield it cannot be said to be a success by any measure.  even though Parkgate/Cathedral services are busy, sometimes even full, it will be many years before the investment is re-couped. It should have been a third rail system using bi-modal trams, cutting out expensive overhead wiring and eliminating problems with AC overhead systems on main lines.....quicker to construct and a helluva lot cheaper. Better still, spend all that money on extending the existing system to Norton from Herdings, to Ecclesall from West St, to Ecclesfield from  Penistone Road and from Meadowhall direct to Mosbrough via Beighton.   And build more park and ride sites. 

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It's more a case of cost. To maintain a decent service to Rotherham it could only run from Catherdal, any further and more trams would be required, and they would probably interfere with the normal routes. There was a proposal at one stage to construct another siding at the Cathedral stop to allow a bit of lay over time, but that came to nothing which means the current service has to make a quick turnaround to get out of the way. There is not much of a problem with 90 degree corners, there are plenty of tight bends on the tram train route, look at Park Square delta, of the curves off Tinsley South.

I think 3rd rail for trams would not be acceptable to the rail inspectorate, even if only used on reserves areas, plus there is also the added complication of the shoes retracting when not in use. With technology advancements the dual voltage trams we have are already out of date, Birmingham have battery trams in use so that parts of the new routes can be built without overhead.

Just after the trams system opened there were plans to extend it, along the track bed towards Heeley and Millhouses, a hospital loop to the Hallamshire, and again on the track bed to Stocksbridge. The political will and adverse publicity during construction put paid to most of them, remember it took over 6 years to build the system. I started with the construction way back in 1989 when statutory utilities were being moved to allow construction, well before any track was laid. Manchester on the other hand got behind their system and it continues to be extended making it by far the largest tram system to date. We do need more park and ride areas though.

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The problem with trams is that the infrastructure is always been ridiculously expensive to install. The Supertram system tried to improve the track by using a system of digging a trench, laying a concrete pad in the trench with two slots roughtly where the rails would go, then dropping in a continuously welded rail and gluing it into the exact position by filling the gaps around the rail in the concrete slots with a type of resin. We were told this would be faster and easier.

Well, it worked so well that no other British tramway used it. Although I understand Preston is currently considering it. (more fool them!)

Because of the high costs of track, overhead and very expensive vehicles, you need a lot of passengers travelling over each mile of track every hour (passengers per hour) to make it worthwhile. If it's just, say, 100 passengers per hour, it's much cheaper to run a bus.

The problem with Supertram has always been that the route was seriously flawed. It doesn't go anywhere where there are enough passengers per hour to make the system cost effective. Yes, some trams are full. But there is not enough demand to justify increasing the service. That's why Sheffield is still soldiering on with it's original fleet which has never been suplemented. Wouldn't you have thought that sometime in the last 30 years someone somewhere might have thought to get half a dozen extra vehicles? They didn't because there has never been enough revenue generated to make any additions to the fleet worthwhile. And when the trams are REALLY full, those journeys are often seen as EMPTY because the conductor hasn't been able to move around the vehicle to collect any fares. So when he/she logs off at the end of the day, that trip shows no revenue and hence no passengers, despite the fact it was packed to the gunnels!

There is also a huge problem with fare dodging. It's very easy to make a journey on Supertram without paying and the way the vehicles are designed and operated doesn't help. They need to go back to the pre-journey purchase of tickets which could be swiped through a reader on boarding the vehicle. London style Oyster cards would be a big help too. The old pre-pay system was abandoned because of the ticket and validator machines getting vandalised. What they should have done was to sell the tickets at newsagents etc (which they did) then have the validator situated aboard the vehicles, where they could be better protected.

Regarding Birmingham's battery trams... they sound like a VERY bad idea to me. It's ok when everything works, but what happens when there is a line blockage due to things like road accidents? A tram stranded on the section without overhead would eventually run down and not be able to move. I understand the Birmingham examples only have enough battery power to do one return trip out onto the dead extension before they have to go back under the wires to recharge. They've just started testing them to make sure they actually can get there and back, so there seems to be some element of doubt.

I was aboard the first tram-train to run in service to Parkgate and I have to say that for a system the world was supposed to be watching, nobody seemed to put in much effort towards getting it right. The thing just ground to a halt on a non-descript bit of railway track, behind the bins out the back of the Parkgate centre. There were no signs telling us where to go and certainly no kind of welcome. We eventually found our way down a narrow, windy passageway between the industrial type buildings, being careful to note the small gap between the shops where we had emerged so we stood a chance of finding our way back! As there are absolutely no facilities of any kind anywhere near the hastily constructed bit of platform they call the terminus, we headed for the supermarket in Parkgate, where we were greeted by the man collecting trolleys.

"Where have you all come from?" he asked

"We've come on the first tram train" I replied.

He looked puzzled for a moment, then asked "What's a tram train?"

That says it all really!

If you want a sightseeing trip of the back of a row of industrial dustbins and a spot of on-foot training for the next marathon, I can heartily recommend a trip on the tram-train. Otherwise just catch the bus to Rotherlham!

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The routing of Supertram has always been an issue, it misses most of the populated areas and bypassed the major shopping area in the town centre unlike Manchester's Metrolink which runs right through it.

While I agree with what you say you have to remember when the system was built. Sheffield followed quickly on the heels of Manchester's Metrolink, and construction was started before that system had opened, and the two were very different animals. Manchester effectively joined two existing railway line with a bit of street track. Sheffield on the other hand didn't have the luxury of existing infrastructure and was completely new. Remember that to most of the construction companies building tramways was something new and there wasn't a definitive way of doing it. In Manchester they had cast concrete track panels made off site then transported, installed, track laid, connected up and overhead erected. This was on a relatively short length of roadway and took some considerable time. With more street track to build in Sheffield, the construction company, Balfour Beatty, decided it would take too long to do it this way and went the 'slip form paver' route, to create a continuous concrete base, lay in the track, and so on. The major problem with this was getting the  special concrete mix to site within the timeframe to allow the paver to work correctly, and this didn't always happen! I'm not aware if anyone else used this form of construction, different contractors have different ideas of what will work for them but it's worth remembering Manchester had a lot of remedial work to their original road installation a few years after the system opened as the road surface disintegrated around the panels.

Balfour's were also on a learning curve, and a lot of the time hadn't a clue what they had let themselves in for, indeed I believe they tried to back out of the contract but their legal team said they couldn't afford to get out of it. They didn't/wouldn't/couldn't get information from those that knew about tramways, i.e. Europe, and chose to try to reinvent the wheel! I well remember going to a meeting where they stated that the girder rail they had to use could not be bent downwards when they were making the decent into the underpass at Brook Hill, and the computer model they used to design the overhead was based on the one used to design the East Coast mainline electrification they had just finished, and that turned out to be totally inadequate. I also remember a small group of men leaning over the barriers at construction site saying they 'wouldn't do it like that' and we know where they came from!

The ticketing was always a problem, buying a ticket and then validating it took ages, I well remember the queue at Meadowhall for the first tram, we nearly didn't get on it, but there wasn't much of an alternative. Manchester had machines on each tram stop, they had CCTV on each stop also and vandalism was a problem, but Sheffield didn't bother with the CCTV and the machines were much smaller and easier to break into. There was no pre pay card ticket system in operation anywhere at that time, London only introduced the Oyster card in 2003, so Sheffield took the decision to have conductors, not a totally perfect system as you say. Manchester has recently introduced a system similar to based on Oyster using mobile phones, but that is causing problems as you have to swipe to start a journey and swipe at the end again, which people are forgetting to do and getting charged more than they should be. As there a many ways onto and off tramstops it is easy to forget as you are not confronted by a barrier to get off.

Its sad our system never got extended, but that's been discussed before, the one thing we seem to have got right was the selection of the vehicles, still going strong twenty seven years later when Manchester's original vehicles have all gone for scrap, although they will have to be replaced soon as they don't conform to disability requirements. Technology moves on, and although battery trams are being tried I agree they won't be the complete answer, indeed I see that Bordeaux in France is using a modern version of the Lorain stud contact system to power its trams to get rid of the overhead, maybe that combined with batteries is the way forward.

Nigel L

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