Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 12:53:30 PM EST
For two weeks, a German double-deck push-pull train consist toured Hungary. Last Friday, I went to photograph it.
The train nears Hatvan in late autumn desolation. Out of sight: the best photo position, up on a tree, was already taken!... Railway photography really turned into a mass sport here
How can the passenger per weight ratio of a train be decreased? What to do if on a crammed line, the capacity-increasing possibilities of widening cars, lengthening trains or making the schedule more frequent hit their limits? There is a third space dimension: upwards. Thus did designers arrive at the idea of building double-deck cars.
A pretty straightforward application of the idea, there called bi-level car, appeared in the USA from the early fifties in the Chicago area (later also in California), in suburban commuter trains:
Pullman Standard bi-level cars in a Chicago & Northwestern push-pull consist. Photo by L.S. Melin from Trainweb
The spread of motorisation though eliminated the demand in the USA, so bi-level cars didn't spread. However, there was a parallel development on long-distance trains: from dome cars to high-level cars.
On scenic routes, some cars got compartments with panoramic windows on a raised level or even atop a normal level in the middle of the car: these were the dome cars. The 'dome' was first extended along the car's full length in Atchinson, Topeka & Santa Fe's 1954 "Auto Train" cars, then AT&SF developed the concept towards 'normal' bi-level construction. The development reached its conclusion in AMTRAK's not-that-panoramic Superliner cars: cars with a full-length top level for passengers (some with panoramic sight), and a lower level used as baggage store room, dormitory, maybe with a small seat compartment.
The Toronto–Chicago International, during the period when it ran with VIA locomotives and AMTRAK Superliner and Hi-Level cars. Photo by Scott Haskill from RailPictures.net
In Europe, there is one difficulty: smaller cross-sections. The two decks, floors, roof and underframe must fit into a height of 4.65 m or less. There is only one way to do it: the lower level can only be low-floor, and extend only between the bogies. So, this leads to two problems: it is difficult to make such a carbody strong enough, and the seat number gain is reduced. A third drawback is passenger flow: commuter trains usually have lots of doors for quick boarding, but on these cars there can only be two and they serve two decks.
For these reasons, despite demand, European double-deck trains were long in coming. The first successful lineage was started in 1936 by the WUMAG factory in Görlitz, in what became East Germany. Their first models were articulated trainsets with Jacob bogies (e.g. bogies on which the ends of two neighbouring cars rest, also see Trainwreck diary). Production really ran up during communist times.
Four-car articulated double-deck consist series DBvqe (built 1970), in a push-pull train of DR (railways of East Germany). From Bahnstatistik.de
From the eighties, double-deck trains also became widely used in France (primarily in connection with Paris's new RER service), and also the Netherlands. Then in the nineties, double-deck trains really had their breakthrough: Swiss InterCity push-pull trains and commuter Electric Multiple Units (EMUs), Italian commuter EMUs, the French TGV Duplex, Czech commuter EMUs, Austrian commuter push-pull trains, French regional EMUs... One of the first of the new wave was the series IRM inter-city EMU of NS, the Dutch state railways:
IRM 8735, of the 6-car sub-series 8700, at Dordrecht. Picture by Leen Dortwegt from RailFanEurope.net
But the largest number of double-deck cars were built by the same factory in Görlitz, Germany. Currently owned by Canadian-based company Bombardier, post-German-unity production was in excess of 1,500 cars. Most of that went to German state railways DB, but some got as far as Israel.
The train I photographed was a regular-traffic consist from Lübeck/Northern Germany: two middle cars and a driving trailer, pushed/pulled by a diesel locomotive of series 218. It was sent here by Bombardier on a demonstration run – presumably hoping that Hungary will spend its EU money on such things, unfortunately my government is fixated on highways. Last Friday, the train was shuttling between Hatvan and Salgótarján, north-east of Budapest (this line was the first built for the state railways BTW).
The train pauses in Hatvan station before going back towards Salgótarján
Stairs to the lower and upper deck from one end of the car
First-class upper deck
Sunlight reflections in the November late afternoon near Apc
The very last sun-rays reach the train at the road crossing south of Pásztó station
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