6 Dec 2010

Third-rail deficiencies

The recent bad weather led to widespread cancellations of trains on routes south of London, electrified on the third-rail system. As a result, it has come under criticism, with calls for it to be replaced by overhead electrification.

That is not, of course, going to happen and would be a waste of money even if the cash was available. The third-rail electrification system is fundamentally robust and needs little attention most of the time, by contrast with overhead systems which need regular adjustment and can be brought down be a faulty pantograph.

During a similar spell of cold weather in the 1980s, a railwayman told me that the CIGs were nowhere near as good as the older stock when the weather was icy. The difference was that on older trains, the pick-up shoes were attached to massive timber beams like those in the trains in the picture. This enabled them to smash through the ice on the conductor rail.

I don't know if there is any truth in this but it looks as if a bit of research in this area could lead to improvements which would not cost any great amount.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting point - funny how third rail could throw away a major advantage simply by omitting a timber beam...
    Could also be an opportunity to improve the theoretical maximum speed from 100mph