Modernising / Refurbishing the N Class Carriages

 
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
Getting back to refurbishment of the N sets (for both standard and broad gauge services), this has been discussed in a number of different threads and as per Kuldakai's earlier post I gave a lengthy description of what works were undertaken for the three standard gauge sets.   The rollingstock strategy referred to in this and other threads has not been officially signed up to by the present government and I suspect it will get a further revamp anyway pending the outcomes of the Regional Network Development Plan study that is currently underway.    

Sticking with what we know, the N sets based on the indicative plans that have been around since 2012  were/are not intended to be replaced until 2023.   It is therefore a case of being able to justify doing an upgrade to cover the intervening period or bring forward earlier replacement with new equipment.   The reality is yes you can upgrade any vehicle for another 8 to 10 years, its a case of how far do you go.    There are numerous examples of very good quality refurbishments of existing rail vehicles and the Brittish Mark 11 upgrades in New Zealand and many examples of heavily revamped vehicles in UK are all good examples.

Amongst the inadequacies of the current N sets are inadequate and unreliable airconditionning, poor quality ride, reliability of emergency power and seating layout in economy class.    The standard guage N set upgrades really improved a number of deficient areas of the N sets related to what I just mentionned.   The Noske Kaiser AC units from New Zealand after being tweaked perform flawlessly.   The changed dampening atrrangements have improved ride and given the N sets a capability to operate at 130km/hr (discussed extensively) and the removal of underfloor back up alternators and rewiring of the cars and replacement with PCJ power vans has made them much more reliable.  (Not to be clouded by other issues of poor maintenance and attention to detail of the sets also previously discussed).

The only area of the N set upgrade not addressed in the SG sets was installing a new economy class seating arrangement WHICH HAD THAT BEEN DONE would have resulted in a far more attractive product.

The cost of the SG N Set upgrades was also cost effective.   The budget was about $9.6 million to refurbish and modify a total of 18 vehicles and this included upgrades to buffet cars, new toilets, new underfloor water tanks, major reconfiguration of three cars to create the BDN disabled access cars etc.

In very approximate terms the additional cost for new economy class seating would have been about $200,000 per car for the 12 economy cars.

New fleet.   As mentionned in this thread and others new V'Locities are costing around $6 million per vehicle and that is not specc'd for the type of duty application that N sets do and so reference to a new generation Prospector/Explorer type vehicle is a more relevant comparison.

So if you look at the replacement of the N sets for say around 60 to 70 vehicles then as a fleet its in the range of $420 to $450 million.   (I'm not getting into the detail of how that fleet might be configured because again that's been discussed extensively under threads like XPT Replacemt, NE Standard Gauge Conversion and others).

Even so to upgrade the remaining N sets to the same standard as the SG N sets and then equip the entire fleet with improved economy seating to give it an 8 to 10 year life does have to be seriously considered.  Especially when you consider the range of other projects like Murray Basin, Melbourne Metro, Level Crossing Removals etc.

If I was able to ride in reasonable comfort in a FULLY REFURBISHED N set as outlined above that was WELL MAINTAINED and CLEAN for the current reasonable fares that are changed I'd be quite content.  (That's not to say I would prefer to ride in a new train - that's just human nature).

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  woodford Chief Commissioner

Looking back over all this... My thanks to Kuldalai and Woodford for some valuable information.

Another advantage of that much power is the five carriages envisaged can later be expanded to 6 or 7 as required, with no drop off in performance. Keep in mind the XPT is 4000 hp in total for a maximum of seven cars, and its cousin in the UK (the British HST) is 5000 HP for 8 cars.

Woodford, I recall you mentioned the Vossloh Eurolight as a possible locomotive for a push pull set up. I think your idea of two of these units with single cabs at each end of the train could work. I would selected the slighter lighter 3100 hp version with a 19 ton axle load. So 6200 hp, less any HEP.

Duncs
Duncs
I actual mentioned the British class 68, which is a version of the Vossioh Eurolight. The reason for bringing it up is they are an appropriate locomotive CURRENTLY in production. A usually reliable source has told me VLine WAS looking at a long range version of the Vlocity.

Talking about 7 car trains remember all platforms north of Seymour on the Albury line have been lengthend to take 7 car trains.

woodford
  woodford Chief Commissioner

I agree about N series cars could be used for a good deal longer, the ride is reasonable (The ride is NOT as good as a Vlocity, but they is a far newer vehicle). As stated the 2nd class seating is woefull to say the least, this could be changed though by arranging the current seats in a pattern similiar to the  Sprinters, ie a combination of a couple of "cafe" style seats is currently the rest though "airline" style seating. The current "cafe" style seating wastes a massive amount of space behind the seats. Some of this is used for luggage but most is wasted space.

woodford
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Getting back to refurbishment of the N sets (for both standard and broad gauge services), this has been discussed in a number of different threads and as per Kuldakai's earlier post I gave a lengthy description of what works were undertaken for the three standard gauge sets.   The rollingstock strategy referred to in this and other threads has not been officially signed up to by the present government and I suspect it will get a further revamp anyway pending the outcomes of the Regional Network Development Plan study that is currently underway.    

Sticking with what we know, the N sets based on the indicative plans that have been around since 2012  were/are not intended to be replaced until 2023.   It is therefore a case of being able to justify doing an upgrade to cover the intervening period or bring forward earlier replacement with new equipment.   The reality is yes you can upgrade any vehicle for another 8 to 10 years, its a case of how far do you go.    There are numerous examples of very good quality refurbishments of existing rail vehicles and the Brittish Mark 11 upgrades in New Zealand and many examples of heavily revamped vehicles in UK are all good examples.

Amongst the inadequacies of the current N sets are inadequate and unreliable airconditionning, poor quality ride, reliability of emergency power and seating layout in economy class.    The standard guage N set upgrades really improved a number of deficient areas of the N sets related to what I just mentionned.   The Noske Kaiser AC units from New Zealand after being tweaked perform flawlessly.   The changed dampening atrrangements have improved ride and given the N sets a capability to operate at 130km/hr (discussed extensively) and the removal of underfloor back up alternators and rewiring of the cars and replacement with PCJ power vans has made them much more reliable.  (Not to be clouded by other issues of poor maintenance and attention to detail of the sets also previously discussed).

The only area of the N set upgrade not addressed in the SG sets was installing a new economy class seating arrangement WHICH HAD THAT BEEN DONE would have resulted in a far more attractive product.

The cost of the SG N Set upgrades was also cost effective.   The budget was about $9.6 million to refurbish and modify a total of 18 vehicles and this included upgrades to buffet cars, new toilets, new underfloor water tanks, major reconfiguration of three cars to create the BDN disabled access cars etc.

In very approximate terms the additional cost for new economy class seating would have been about $200,000 per car for the 12 economy cars.

New fleet.   As mentionned in this thread and others new V'Locities are costing around $6 million per vehicle and that is not specc'd for the type of duty application that N sets do and so reference to a new generation Prospector/Explorer type vehicle is a more relevant comparison.

So if you look at the replacement of the N sets for say around 60 to 70 vehicles then as a fleet its in the range of $420 to $450 million.   (I'm not getting into the detail of how that fleet might be configured because again that's been discussed extensively under threads like XPT Replacemt, NE Standard Gauge Conversion and others).

Even so to upgrade the remaining N sets to the same standard as the SG N sets and then equip the entire fleet with improved economy seating to give it an 8 to 10 year life does have to be seriously considered.  Especially when you consider the range of other projects like Murray Basin, Melbourne Metro, Level Crossing Removals etc.

If I was able to ride in reasonable comfort in a FULLY REFURBISHED N set as outlined above that was WELL MAINTAINED and CLEAN for the current reasonable fares that are changed I'd be quite content.  (That's not to say I would prefer to ride in a new train - that's just human nature).
Trainplanner
Thanks Trainplanner for an informative and balanced post.
  gomer Train Controller

Location: Melbourne
Talking about 7 car trains remember all platforms north of Seymour on the Albury line have been lengthend to take 7 car trains.

woodford

With exceptions Avenel, Springhurst and Chiltern on the west line.
  woodford Chief Commissioner

Talking about 7 car trains remember all platforms north of Seymour on the Albury line have been lengthend to take 7 car trains.

woodford

With exceptions Avenel, Springhurst and Chiltern on the west line.
gomer

You are of course correct, it looks like Euroa's West platform has not been done also, It and Springhurst and Chiltern's west line platforms appear to be around 135 metres long, Avenel's is 122m.Violet Town is done, it is 175metres long. I remember asking them (the people doing the platforms for the gauge conversion) why some platforms had not been done. The answer was VLine could not make up there mind, by the time they did it was to late to do the work.

woodford
  woodford Chief Commissioner

Ok, the story on the platforms, is the decision to extend then to 175 metres was taken fairly late in the gauge conversion. All new East line platforms were built 150 metres long, the drainage and platform raising work for Avenel, Euroa, Springhurts and Chiltern were all done fairly early, long before the extension decision was made. For some reason Violet Town West platform was not redone until quite late, so it got included in the extensions along with all the East line platforms.

Note: Chilterns East line platfrom could not be extended till after traffic had started on the regauged West line as the loop signalling at CHiltern had to be removed to allow for the extension.

woodford
  gomer Train Controller

Location: Melbourne
Violet Towns west platform was always very long and was in fact shortened and upgraded.
Euroa's west platform is also long enough to have the loco and 6 cars on the platform.
  I'm Barely Online Locomotive Fireman

I agree about N series cars could be used for a good deal longer, the ride is reasonable (The ride is NOT as good as a Vlocity, but they is a far newer vehicle). As stated the 2nd class seating is woefull to say the least, this could be changed though by arranging the current seats in a pattern similiar to the  Sprinters, ie a combination of a couple of "cafe" style seats is currently the rest though "airline" style seating. The current "cafe" style seating wastes a massive amount of space behind the seats. Some of this is used for luggage but most is wasted space.

woodford
woodford
Here's a solution to the "cafe" seats, copy Sydney and make the seats turn around like in first class if you don't want to sit with anyone in 2nd class
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
I agree about N series cars could be used for a good deal longer, the ride is reasonable (The ride is NOT as good as a Vlocity, but they is a far newer vehicle). As stated the 2nd class seating is woefull to say the least, this could be changed though by arranging the current seats in a pattern similiar to the  Sprinters, ie a combination of a couple of "cafe" style seats is currently the rest though "airline" style seating. The current "cafe" style seating wastes a massive amount of space behind the seats. Some of this is used for luggage but most is wasted space.

woodford
Here's a solution to the "cafe" seats, copy Sydney and make the seats turn around like in first class if you don't want to sit with anyone in 2nd class
I'm Barely Online
What a novel idea - you mean like the Z cars 60 years ago. ???
  Camster Chief Commissioner

Location: Geelong
V'lo's are more comfortable tht loco hauled trains from my experience.  It is good being in a power unit rather than being towed.
  Duncs Chief Commissioner

A usually reliable source has told me VLine WAS looking at a long range version of the Vlocity.

Woodford


I wonder why they did not go ahead with this?
  woodford Chief Commissioner

A usually reliable source has told me VLine WAS looking at a long range version of the Vlocity.

Woodford


I wonder why they did not go ahead with this?
Duncs
At the time it was a long range wish list, something like 5 to 10 years, that would put the purchasing of these within the next 1 to 5 years. The reason for it likely not going ahead is no money.

Note: With all rail money going to the metro tunnel its likely there will be little for anything else, this was pointed out as a major problem with such a large project as the tunnel is.

woodford
  mejhammers1 Chief Commissioner

Its better than nothing, the Victorian Government is not going to spend serious money on new stock for the Albury, Bairnsdale, Warrnambool, Swan Hill and Shepparton corridors, that is plain to see from their Rolling Stock Strategy.

They will receive cascades when the RRL + Seymour corridors get their extra Vlocities, which means it will be refurbished life expired rolling stock for the Non RRL corridors, either way.
The key point is the cascaded rollingstock is:
  1. Already serviceable
  2. Already fit for use in Victoria
  3. A known entity


You're proposing the gummint spend hundreds of millions buying, refurbishing and certifying crap rollingstock. I applaud your out-of-the-box thinking, but it's not realistic.
michaelgreenhill
With all but one of the Hitachi's being owned by the Vic Govt and the XPT's probably at disposal value (Maybe $300 - 500,000 for each set) I very much doubt if it will be hundreds of millions. Anyway I was just stating that if the Vic Govt is completely refurbishing W Class trams which are 70+ years old there is no reason why can't they do it to the Hitachi sets.

Getting a proper rolling stock strategy from Victoria is not realistic either. Compare us to NSW. When NSW do an Order it is for at least 70 Trains, what do Vic do 25 DMU Carriages here and 5 trains there as a publicity stunt. Going of subject slightly, Alsthom has made it to the short list to provide the trains for the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines. You know what that means, 9 car Xtraps, oh goody!!!

Michael
  Heihachi_73 Chief Commissioner

Location: Terminating at Ringwood
They had 30 years to refurbish the Hitachi trains, they're not going to start now that they're dead and buried or left rotting in the middle of a paddock in whoop-whoop NSW.

[armchair_mode]

While they're at it, why not gut the Harris cars instead, put in new interiors, give them decent bogies and run those with the N and Z cars instead of having fixed N and H sets? If all the cars were refurbished to the same standard you wouldn't need to have separate sets (although with the majority of H cars being only 60' instead of 75', it could present a problem if the train is crush-loaded, and all H cars are economy/second class, including the BCH, which is the H set analogue of the first-class ACN car). Granted, one could probably do the same with the Hitachi cars, and at least they are all 75' to begin with (and they have airbag suspension, if the same bogies are used). Unfortunately 1:1 scale isn't as simple as 1:87 scale, and simply plonking cars in any old consist without modifications or compatibility checks doesn't normally work (although the VR had no problems mixing and matching S, Z, E, W and even PL cars right into the 1980s; red, blue, orange, it didn't matter to them as long as they had a train to run).

That begs the question, any possible mechanical differences aside, are suburban carriages (including H cars) even electrically compatible with loco-hauled cars or would they need to be rewired from scratch? Also, the 3 remaining MTH cars all have their own generators, whereas regular H cars do not (hence a power van was required when an A class was put up front, but was not needed on the Stony Point line).

[/armchair_mode]
  potatoinmymouth Chief Commissioner

Victoria's rollingstock will go the way of Grandfather's axe.

They'll have changed the bogies a few times and the interiors a few times but it'll still be the same carriages.

If rail is going to continue to be even moderately viable outside the commuter belt, then purpose-built is the way to go. Hopefully it can last another 60 years. It doesn't make any sense to buy something that NSW is practically giving away because it's clapped out.

Now, I understand rollingstock isn't the only consideration, but imagine how much patronage would climb if the far-flung towns of Victoria had a fast, modern and comfortable service to Melbourne! Victoria is in the fortunate position of not having rail journeys longer than 5 hours. That means cheaper rollingstock without the mod cons of serious long distance trains, and higher profits because you can fit more people on.
  Duncs Chief Commissioner

I think that a refurbish of the N set buys time for their ultimate replacement. Given the set up of the rail infrastructure in country Victoria, I see the following scenario playing out.

It is cheaper to buy loco hauled sets as you can buy three locos and 18 carriages (3 six car sets) for the price of two six car long haul v locity sets. You can get a modern 3500 hp locomotive with HEP to pull them. All modern carriages are already be set up with the latest passenger technology, and for 160 kph running, plus they have modern long life batteries as a back up if the HEP fails.

An example of such a locomotive is the Vossloh Light with 3750hp, so at least 3500hp after the HEP is taken out. Axle loading is 19 tons, same as the XPT. So no problem with 160 kph on the class one track in Victoria. That way they stay in sync with the rest of the timetable on RRL and RFR lines. Another point is the Vossloh use Caterpillar diesels, very similar to the Cummins diesels used on the v locities. So no major maintenance issues.

Vossloh are growing their market share in the UK and in Europe, so that is a vote of confidence in their capability and reliability.

Locomotives don't need to same amount of level crossing protection on the less frequently used lines. So we don't have the issues such as upgrading the line to Echuca (How is that going by the way? Finished yet?) Or for Bendigo to Swan or for Hill Seymour to Shepparton , Seymour to Albury and so on.

All track outside RFR/RRL should be upgraded to class 2 for 115 - 130kph running.With an average travel speed of 120 kph.

The above would be effective and affordable. Job done.
  potatoinmymouth Chief Commissioner

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the loco-hauled setup also provide more flexibility? For instance, if one car had a fault then that could be removed from and the train still run, albeit a carriage less. This seems important for services where there are only a handful each day, and would be better than constant bustitution.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the loco-hauled setup also provide more flexibility? For instance, if one car had a fault then that could be removed from and the train still run, albeit a carriage less. This seems important for services where there are only a handful each day, and would be better than constant bustitution.
potatoinmymouth
Apparently not in Victoria on the SG especially where if posts on RP are to be believed it is a workshops job to attach/detach cars from the cast in concrete sets. Flexibility is an old fashioned concept as in Victoria bustitution is the way to go as it benefits your competition financially at your own expense.....
  Clarke Hudswell Junior Train Controller

V'lo's are more comfortable tht loco hauled trains from my experience.  It is good being in a power unit rather than being towed.
Camster
Funny how different people's opinions can be. I much prefer to travel in a loco hauled N car than a Velocity (although I agree with others in not liking the N car standard seating arrangement much). If I had a choice between travelling home (on the Seymour line) in a Vlocity or an N set, if the N set left 10 mins after the Vlo, I would still catch in in preference. I find the constant noise in the Vlocities from both the engines and the air conditioning to be unpleasant.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
V'lo's are more comfortable tht loco hauled trains from my experience.  It is good being in a power unit rather than being towed.
Funny how different people's opinions can be. I much prefer to travel in a loco hauled N car than a Velocity (although I agree with others in not liking the N car standard seating arrangement much). If I had a choice between travelling home (on the Seymour line) in a Vlocity or an N set, if the N set left 10 mins after the Vlo, I would still catch in in preference. I find the constant noise in the Vlocities from both the engines and the air conditioning to be unpleasant.
Clarke Hudswell
See - we do agree on some things - like everything in your post.
I, too, find the Vlocitys both noisy and uncomfortable.
I suppose desiring a 120 ton loco to 'overcome all obstructions' comes from the 'Brunel' principle plus experiencing rail when it ran trains instead of railcars (and busses).   Smile
  woodford Chief Commissioner

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the loco-hauled setup also provide more flexibility? For instance, if one car had a fault then that could be removed from and the train still run, albeit a carriage less. This seems important for services where there are only a handful each day, and would be better than constant bustitution.
Apparently not in Victoria on the SG especially where if posts on RP are to be believed it is a workshops job to attach/detach cars from the cast in concrete sets. Flexibility is an old fashioned concept as in Victoria bustitution is the way to go as it benefits your competition financially at your own expense.....
YM-Mundrabilla

That is not correct, I asked this question of shunting staff down at Southern Cross, they stated when a set is altered it has to be recertified as fully functional. With the newer items like the Sprinters and Vlocity's, this system test is done automaticly on coupling, with the N cars , this can only be done by maintence personel. The problem with this is the time it takes, when a car needs replacing its usually needed immediately, not in an hours time.

woodford
  GD Train Controller

Location: Geelong Vic
Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the loco-hauled setup also provide more flexibility? For instance, if one car had a fault then that could be removed from and the train still run, albeit a carriage less. This seems important for services where there are only a handful each day, and would be better than constant bustitution.
Apparently not in Victoria on the SG especially where if posts on RP are to be believed it is a workshops job to attach/detach cars from the cast in concrete sets. Flexibility is an old fashioned concept as in Victoria bustitution is the way to go as it benefits your competition financially at your own expense.....

That is not correct, I asked this question of shunting staff down at Southern Cross, they stated when a set is altered it has to be recertified as fully functional. With the newer items like the Sprinters and Vlocity's, this system test is done automaticly on coupling, with the N cars , this can only be done by maintence personel. The problem with this is the time it takes, when a car needs replacing its usually needed immediately, not in an hours time.

woodford
woodford
Apart from cost wouldn't converting to scharfenberg couplers for V/Line Locos and carriages solve this.

No manual having to connect power, brake lines and now the door controls etc.
  Carnot Minister for Railways

V'lo's are more comfortable tht loco hauled trains from my experience.  It is good being in a power unit rather than being towed.
Funny how different people's opinions can be. I much prefer to travel in a loco hauled N car than a Velocity (although I agree with others in not liking the N car standard seating arrangement much). If I had a choice between travelling home (on the Seymour line) in a Vlocity or an N set, if the N set left 10 mins after the Vlo, I would still catch in in preference. I find the constant noise in the Vlocities from both the engines and the air conditioning to be unpleasant.
Clarke Hudswell
I'm with Camster on this.  I much prefer the privacy of the Vlo seating, the fact the A/C works on a hot day, and noise levels within the Vlo DMUs vary considerably and it helps if you get to choose the right seat.  The metal film on the windows does wreak havoc on mobile phone reception though.

Sprinters are downright squishy and noisy - especially near the poorly sealed doors.

First class in an N-set is pretty good but not great value-for-money.

One thing I've noticed too is that loco hauled sets have a lot more issues with 'jerkiness' when it comes to accelerating and braking.  Try riding in the front carriage of a Swan Hill Down service as it brakes down Chewton Bank into Castlemaine!
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line

One thing I've noticed too is that loco hauled sets have a lot more issues with 'jerkiness' when it comes to accelerating and braking.  Try riding in the front carriage of a Swan Hill Down service as it brakes down Chewton Bank into Castlemaine!
Carnot


Agreed, however that is in the training of the driver.

My mate of many, many years as a V/Line driver ALWAYS does stretch stops on loco hauled trains and as you say the Swan Hill probably, because I use it often for Mildura is a good (bad) example.

Stretch stops are easy for the driver to do and eliminate the bunching up of the carriages and that jerk as the train re-stretches upon departure from the station, or travels down the Chewton bank.

Sadly though, driver training isn't what it used to be and sadly my mate, as an OJT who has trained many drivers in stretch stops feels the 'art' is being lost.

Imagine back in the days, a 19 carriage 'Overland stopping and starting at stations without a stretch stop, and all of those couplers stretching upon departure from each station.

Mike.

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