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Occasional Train Blogging: Double-Deck Trains part deux

by DoDo Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 10:05:53 AM EST

As the first instalment was so popular and I had so much material to choose from, here is a supplement – some double-deck trains I just wrote about, some I haven't even mentioned. Let's start in the Czech Republic, where Skoda Works can still produce railway vehicles on their own:

Front of ČD double-deck electric multiple unit (EMU) series 471 013 as regional train to Beroun in front of the clock tower of Praha main station, 18 September 2005. Photo by Zoltán Czifra from RailFanEurope.net


In the first part, I only covered Europe and the USA. In the comments, Thor Heyerdahl covered Canada, and BruceMcF showed ones unknown even to me in Australia. So let's start in a significant region I left out: East Asia.

In Japan, the standard-gauge, large-cross-section Shinkansen high-speed lines are perfect for double-deck trains. Indeed JR East's series E1 and series E4 "Max" are full double-deck. But IMO they are rather ugly, so I will show something more interesting.

A double-deck "Green car" for JR East's series 211 EMUs temporarily inserted into an old series 113 EMU. Photo from TOMO-JRC

Something special to Japan is trains with part of the cars being double-deck "Green cars". Most Shinkansen types are such, but amazingly, so are some for the normal network. The latter is narrow-gauge (only 1067 mm wide tracks), with space for trains barely higher than 4 metres (requiring super-low-floors), and very busy. It's the latter why part-double-deck makes sense: one gets around the loading/unloading-time problem if longer-distance travellers concentrate in those cars. (Though, there is one full double-deck EMU: JR East's not too photogenic series 214/215.)

Examples of part-double-deck EMUs include Odakyu Express Railway's series 20000 "Resort Super Express", JR East's series 211, E217  and E231 commuter trains, JR Central's series 371 express train, JR Central's and JR West's beautiful series 285 for the "Sunrise Express" sleeper train, JR Shikoku's series 5000 end cars, and this strange animal:

JR East's series 251 "Super View Odokiro" express EMU. Photo from TOMO-JRC

As China has a large loading gauge and lots of passengers, double-deck trains are widespread there, too. From the early nineties, a number of types of double-deck coaches denoted with an S prefix were built. As for multiple units, the Chinese industry produced the series NZJ1, NZJ2, NZJ3 diesel multiple units (DMU). With nine cars between two streamlined tractor heads, and a top speed of 180 km/h, they are used for express service on shorter distances.

In express service between Beijing and Tianjin, NZJ2 001 races through Fengtai West, 15 April 2006. Photo by Y. Steenebruggen from Locosuisse.ch

Former British colony Hong Kong is still a world unto itself, railway-wise too. On the picture below, you see one of KCR's two trains for the Ktt service (Guangzhou = ex Canton to Kowloon through trains). The train is a global mix. The series TLS electric locomotive is European, identical to the Swiss Re460 (which mostly pull trains made up of double-deck IC2000 coaches). The series T1, T2 cars are Japanese, but from a product line supplied to the USA (compare the cross sections).

A KCR Ktt service, run by a TLS locomotive blue-end-ahead, near Fanling, Hong Kong, 23 October 2005. Photo by Joseph K.K. Lee from RailPictures.Net

In the first diary, I was unfair to France – which could be called the real homeland of double-deck trains! While that German factory in Görlitz is world's-first with some 6,500 cars produced, much of that went abroad or is no longer in service – and the well over four thousand double-deck cars (single or as part of EMUs) in operation in France is more than twice of what rolls in Germany. And while Görlitz may have the longest continuous production, French producers were first.

In the 1880s, Sunday picnic outside the city became extremely popular among inhabitants of Paris. Especially going to the guinguettes: taverns on riverbanks where one could eat or dance. To transport the people, railway companies Ouest and Est made so-called trains de plaisir (=pleasure trains), with double-deck cars (then called voiture à impériale) of system Vidard. It had open and closed versions. As the top level was rather crammed, and the open version had a certain characteristic look, their widely known nickname became Bidel, the then used word for animal cage.

A train with both closed (in front) and open (behind) Bidels in station Le Vésinet, line Paris-Saint-Lazare to Saint-Germain-en-Laye. from Le site ferroviaire de Roland Arzul

The Bidel wasn't the only, but the by far most successful of the early French models: from 1883 until 1925(!), about a thousand were made (one preserved at Mulhouse). Of the others, in a 1886 article, check out an oddity: a certain M. Estrade's bizarre double-deck car with giant wheels, intended for high-speed.

For 20h-century safety and comfort demands, Bidels were crap, though. But the quantum jump to cars with metallic chassis, bogies and low-floor lower level/higher-roofed top level was made three years before Görlitz came out with its first: with État's revolutionary voiture à étages in 1933. They too were a success: the 50 cars remained in service in the Paris suburbs into the early eighties.

But French industry produced the next double-deck cars for SNCF only from 1973. But then in masses: the VB2N and related VR2N, VO2N, V2N cars numbered 748. Most were for Paris's new RER service along tunnel-connected suburban lines.

SNCF BB8626 pulls VB2N double-deck cars next to Assat (near Pau, south-eastern France), taken there from Paris to transport pilgrims to Lourdes, 14 August 1983. Photo by Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy from RailFanEurope.net

But the bulk of French double-deck cars only came from the eighties – as cars within EMUs. The Z2N (series Z5600, Z8800, Z20500, Z20900, Z92050) and the newer MI2N (series Z22500, + RATP-owned) were mostly for the RER again. The TER-2N (series Z23500) and the presently delivered TER-2Nng (series Z24500, Z26500) are for regional local and rapid service. And the TGV Duplex (series 700, one shown last time) and Réseau-Duplex (series 600) are for high-speed.

Two coupled TER-2N (series Z23500) two-car regional EMUs on the Anthéor bridge, between Cannes and St-Raphaël. Photo by Raphael_E

Finally, for two oddities, let's go back to Germany, to East Germany.

At the end of the fifties, chiefly for the "Sputnik" rapid trains running along the ring line circling West Berlin, the factory at Görlitz made 33 five-car trainsets with a unique solution (for standard railways). Instead of bogies shared by neighbouring cars (Jacob bogies), they had 'mini-cars' carrying the entrance decks, and the double-deck seat compartments were 'hanged' between them. A decade later they made another similar series.

Near Potsdam on Berlin's Outer Ring Railway, 1968: a "Sputnik" rapid train with an articulated double-deck trainset of series DGBe. Photo by Armin Krischok from Bahnbilder.de

The last train I show is not a product of Görlitz. A dozen years ago, two other East German factories collaborated in what was to revolutionize traffic on branchlines: double-deck rail buses. Alas, only seven of the series 670 "Alma" were built, as they had a truckload of technical problems. But perhaps because of their oddity factor, there was always an operator willing to struggle keeping at least one running.

Coming from Erfurt, DB 670 001 and 005 reached the neglected station of Bad Berka, 6 May 1998. Photo by Frank Strumberg from Rote-Brummer-Online

:: :: :: :: ::

Check the Train Blogging index page for a (hopefully) complete list of ET diaries and stories related to railways and trains.

Display:
As I told, I had too much material to choose from.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Nov 28th, 2006 at 05:04:55 PM EST
Train de plaisirs?
Add the madon(n)e des sleepings in, and you have your next train blogging, Dodo!
No?
OK, we will satisfy ourself with a story of the train in the coal mines through the ages. The black&white pictures will be nice too.

But think about it again. The train de plaisirs...

La répartie est dans l'escalier. Elle revient de suite.

by lacordaire on Tue Nov 28th, 2006 at 06:51:10 PM EST
madon(n)e des sleepings

You shamed me, I had to look it up, that's a film and a book I never heard about! Have you seen/read it?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Nov 28th, 2006 at 07:02:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually there are 2 books, madone and madonne.
I believe i read the one with "madonne". But I am not so sure anymore. The title was known to me anyway not through the books or the film, but I came across it in some newspapers or other readings. I have the feelings it is popular by "witty" journalists and  humorists, I'm quite sure to have seen it recycled more than once in the "canard enchaine" or San antonio.
It seems to be catchy.


La répartie est dans l'escalier. Elle revient de suite.
by lacordaire on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 05:17:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What you've just proven is that modern railroads are well-suited for double-deck passenger cars!

This past week I rode the double-decker California Zephyr between Denver and Chicago and back. It was great! Clean coach cars, a club car with good views, and two dining cars and sleepers.

Distance: about 1000 miles each way.
Fare: $288 round trip.

by asdf on Tue Nov 28th, 2006 at 11:24:58 PM EST
I'm envious!

BTW, you may have missed Part One (I missed you), where I covered US double-deck and high-level cars -- maybe you would have comments or corrections for what I wrote?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 04:44:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I did see part one of the double-decker diaries, and your summary of the situation in the U.S. is accurate as far as I'm aware. The basic problem here is that we have reasonably good mid-1970s-ish railroad technology, but the demand is so low (except for the Northeast corridor) that needed political support is not available.

Incidently, I was surprized at how many level crossings there are. The main job of the engineer is to blow the horn all the time.

by asdf on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 07:27:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My best buddy is an engineer, he says its really hard to blow the horn that much.  Mentioned that he has a few other duties too.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 06:48:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How does that compare to door-to-door air travel costs - ignoring the time factor?

I find it easy and relaxing to work on trains - I am never able to focus on anything in planes.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 10:09:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm taking the train home for Christmas.  The train is $70 roundtrip (that's including a business class upgrade, it's $42 coach) whereas the cheapest flight I found was for $182.

It is slower, of course, but I can also get a lot done on a train.  And the station is about a block from my family's home whereas the airport, with holiday congestion, is about a 45 min drive.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 10:36:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds good!

I just enjoy being on a train or bus - I still have some of that schoolboyish enthusiasm for it. I've never got used to planes or cars - you can't relax. I can even daydream on a train, inspired by what I see out of the windows.

Of course a car drive is also sometimes a good way to solve an impossible conceptual problem that's been going around in your mind. Focusing on driving seems to bring a different kind of thinking into play - ie not thinking consciously.

But I still couldn't tell you exact model of Fiat I have apart from the name, nor the licence number. I just don't care.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 10:59:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know your question wasn't directed at me, but I just bought the tickets last night and am still in shock about the price difference.  I think it means the trains are desperate for business.  Kinda sad.  

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 11:19:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe they also compete with Greyhound?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 11:39:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How long is the trip?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 11:23:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Check AMTRAK's schedule. Apparently, scheduled for 18 hours 40 minutes over 1038 miles.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 11:50:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I thought you are asking asdf, about the Denver-Chicago trip...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 02:34:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
4.5 hours, compared to a 45 min flight!  LOL.  But the difference is really diminished when you factor in the commute to and from the airport, the fact that you are supposed to get to the airport 2 hours early and of course, the holiday crowds that exacerbate everthing.  Door to door it is about 4 hours to take the plane home, and a little over 5 hours to take the train.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 11:55:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly. Flight times are grossly misleading.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 11:56:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And when you allow for the much more useful time expenditure on a train you're way ahead ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 12:04:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When I lived in Boston it was cheaper to fly to NYC than to take the train, even the non-Accela train. Tickets were about 200 for the non-Accela train round trip. What I usually did was drive half way to New Haven, CT (10 bucks for gas) and take the commuter rail into town (20 bucks one way) for a total cost of 60 bucks.

In other news, we should have a bullet train running from Portland, ME to Washington DC. It is ridiculous to not have better rail service on the east coast. It won't happen as long as we keep on subsidizing our failing airlines.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 01:24:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why is it that subsidizing rail is evil but subsidizing airlines is necessary?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 01:26:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The automobile completely destroyed the passenger rail industry in the US. Had the rail industry survived in any serviceable form we would likely be subsidizing them to the same degree as the airlines today, as the rail industry would have had lobbyists with long, deep ties to various politicians of the sort that the airline, auto, and telecom industries have.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 01:35:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ironically, US rail's fall from favour was partly due to heir earlier strong meddling in politics, they didn't got the subsidies in the first half of the 20th century because that was then how politicians demonstrated that they aren't corrupt.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 02:38:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fabulous! Thanks for this :)
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 05:32:49 AM EST
Train blogging sure is great, I absolutely love trains. :)

Which brings me to my question to the all-knowing DoDo.

What companies make trains nowaydays?

You mentioned Skoda Works, but they also make other things, right?

General Electric make locomotives, but it's a vast conglomerate. Bombardier make trains, but also airplanes. Alstom make trains and turbines. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries make trains (I think) but like GE it's a conglomerate.

Are there any more?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 10:14:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry for the late reply, was preoccupied in another thread.

Trains and railways are strongly connected, so it's better to take a system view.

There are only three all-round producers (meaning they make everything): German Siemens, French Alstom and Canadian Bombardier. Though, most of the latter's capacities are in Europe, from Britain to Poland, and most of it is former ADtranz, which itself is a more recent merger of ABB and Daimler-Benz's railway holdings, the latter chiefly AEG.

In Japan, trains were usually produced by consortia of multiple companies (like in Germany 20 years ago), they only now shift to single-hand production. But the two chief producers who lead consortia are Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hitachi.

In North America, there is Bombardier, locomotive producers EMD (originally part of GM, now owned by equities) and as you say GE. Other large players are Greenbrier is a freight railcar giant, and Caterpillar is a producer of diesel engines that in the rail sector is a global giant, supplying locomotive factories from China to Europe.

China should also be taken into account in a few years, they already export to the Third World and now learn European technology. Big names are Datong and Sifang Locomotive Works, there are a lot of others.

Back in Europe, beyond Skoda, smaller producers of (not just) trains include Talgo in Spain, Ansaldo-Breda in Italy, and a lot of others (there are a number in Poland, but I just can't memorize their names). Transmash[elektro?] is a Russian holding. Vossloh is an upstart diesel locomotive factory in Germany (they bought an existing factory in Kiel but ran it up so well they practically became market leaders). German Knorr-Bremse is not the only but the defining company in brakes (originally for trains, now for everything). Plasser & Theurer specialise in work vehicles.

Due to the integrated nature of railways, it happened a lot of times that maintenance depots started to produce something new on their own or in cooperation with 'proper' producers. There are a lot of these around.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 02:32:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent!

The reason I ask is that train manufacture seems like something that will be somewhat profitable, oil crisis or no. A good place to put some money.

And also that I love trains and have been interested in them since forever.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 07:20:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, train manufacture is not that profitable, due to uncertainties and usteadiness in getting orders (if a government's savings programme includes stopping orders, production can collapse). The nineties European merger mania that ended in Bombardier's European branch also involved a lot of closures. Both Siemens and Alstom's rail divisions were once near the (financial) brink in the last ten years. Here in Hungary, there was a large manufacturer called Ganz-MÁVAG (comparable to Skoda), which was bought by Hunslet of Britain upon hopes that British rail privatisation will bring them a lot of orders, but that didn't came to be, and the company is practically dead.

BTW, I add one more name to remember to the list: ROTEM of South Korea, which could even become another all-round manufacturer.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Nov 30th, 2006 at 05:00:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, just for you:

SJ's new (2004) double-deck EMUs series X40. They were made by Alstom. Technology is the same as in the TER-2Nng, but the chassis (and the front design) all new: it capitalises on Sweden's wider cross-section.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Nov 30th, 2006 at 05:17:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I expected you to say that.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 30th, 2006 at 11:36:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When it comes to diesels, the U.S. manufacturers are establishing a global presence.  EMD, which DoDo noted has been sold by General Motors, has produced the universal European heavy freight locomotive in the JT42???, better known as the "Class 66" for the British numbering system.  General Electric used its expertise in building power for Rio Grande and Southern Pacific to design the diesels for the new Chinese line into Tibet.

Both U.S. companies are working on more powerful and faster freight locomotives for export, at the request of freight train operating companies that don't want to pay for two slots for a 60 mph (100 km/h) freight train on a high speed line.

Stephen Karlson ATTITUDE is a nine letter word. BOATSPEED.

by SHKarlson (shkarlson at frontier dot com) on Tue Dec 12th, 2006 at 10:35:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"German Knorr-Bremse is not the only but the defining company in brakes (originally for trains, now for everything)."

I remember some reading about them in the economic newspaper (I was intereested once in a job by them), and an amazing fact: they were claiming a world market share

La répartie est dans l'escalier. Elle revient de suite.

by lacordaire on Thu Nov 30th, 2006 at 11:21:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
oops-

...of over 90% in one of their market, rails brake I believe.
Quite unusual for such a big market.

La répartie est dans l'escalier. Elle revient de suite.

by lacordaire on Thu Nov 30th, 2006 at 11:31:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They could be comppared to Micro$oft or Google in having produced technologies that became standardised basic platforms.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Nov 30th, 2006 at 03:53:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank You so much.  I really enjoy this and am on a mental vacation.  Heading towards Bordeaux again on the TGV with no plan, no reservations, and no idea of what to expect.  
Great fun.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Wed Nov 29th, 2006 at 06:41:08 PM EST


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