For long, West German electric loco makers produced almost only for the domestic market. That changed with the DB class 120 technology (shared among West German makers). From 1991, Siemens got to deliver 75 locos to Spain (RENFE class 252; see also this diary).
The locos were for two voltage systems different from the one in Germany (3 kV DC on old lines, 25 kV, 50 Hz AC on high-speed lines). But, with the new power electronics, it proved rather simple to build supply units for the same on-board DC main circuit. So, the idea arises: with relatively minor modifications, aint' the universal loco suited for export into any country? Indeed, after the first batch for Spain, Siemens built an up-powered (from 5.6 to 6.4 MW) prototype for themselves, and christened it EuroSprinter.
The wide nose of the EuroSprinter demonstrator can't deny its Iberian broad-gauge origins.
127 001 descends the Geislinger Steige (one of the very first railway mountain crossings) with an InterRegio on 5 March 1994. Photo by Werner Brutzer from Bahnbilder.de
Exports to Portugal (CP series 5600), Greece (OSE class 120), Denmark (DSB class EG = series 3100), even South Korea (Korail class 8200) proved Siemens right. However, the EuroSprinter platform wasn't yet too stable and flexible: each major order from the two home markets resulted in significant redesigns. Two of these pointed the way into the future.
One was a freight loco to realise another kind of universality: running under all four main voltage systems in Europe. Developed for DB (class 189), it got the company type name ES64F4. It was sold to DB, SBB, and several private operators and leasing companies.
The ES64F4 (for EuroSprinter 6.4 MW/freight service/4 voltage systems) has the narrower cross-section suited for, for example, France. Horizontal stiffeners on the sidewalls enabled weight savings elsewhere.
189 700, made for Romanian private freight operator CTV, was fresh out of the factory when caught in Treuchtlingen on 6 April 2009. Photo by Albert Hitfield from railcolor.net
The other is the "Taurus" family for Austria's ÖBB (already introduced in Railjetting into Red Bull Country). It spawned several orders from other operators, and got the Siemens designations ES64U1 and ES64U2 (for 6.4 MW/universal service/1 resp. 2 voltage systems).
Then, ÖBB revised its order, wanting 3-voltage-system locos. This led Siemens to properly merge the Taurus and multi-system platforms: basically, an ES64F4 interior inside a reduced-cross-section Taurus exterior was put on Taurus running gear; and, in 2005, the ES64U4 was born. The power electronics was also updated (using IGBT in place of GTO – which also means that they no longer sing the octave when starting).
To save weight for the extra equipment for the third voltage (DC), the Taurus 3 got a smaller transformer, reducing max power (to 6 MW). So the consistent Siemens designation would have been ES60U3 – ah well...
Austria is a special case in the bright new open-access world: not only was it reluctant to divide ÖBB's locos between its operating branches, but it hindered the entry of foreign locos with "track-tearing" running gear on its rails. Thus most freight operators use Tauri.
Northbound 1216 910 of Slovenian-Austrian company Adria Transport at Werfen, south of Salzburg, on 4 December 2008. Photo by Manfred Wolf from Bahnbilder.de
Now Siemens had its modular platform to produce electric locomotives for any need: DC, AC, both; universal, or cost-effective freight. Yet, it took only two years until the next redesign: the EU introduced new standards for cabs. Siemens took this as occasion to also merge the electric EuroSprinter with the diesel-electric EuroRunner platform (without re-designating them).
The new Portuguese Railways CP series 4700, Siemens type ES64B1, is a light freight-and-passenger version, with a broken nose borrowed from the EuroRunner diesel sisters.
CP 4713 between Vale do Guizo and Somincor (south of Lisbon, Portugal) on 1 April 2009. Photo by user nmorao from Flickr
ABB... er, ADtranz... er, Bombardier...
The story of the current market leader is closely linked to the traumatic transformation of the European rail industry in the nineties (which I discussed in Globalisation catches up with rail industry?).
Once upon a time, there was a Swedish electronics giant named ASEA, and a Swiss one named Brown, Boveri & Cie. (BBC); both with a proud history of producing locomotive electrical parts. BBC in particular was already a small empire, present in Italy and Germany. In 1988, the two merged into ABB.
ABB continued to expand. In 1990, it acquired one of the main makers of locomotive main parts in Germany, Henschel – so now it could make locos entirely in-house. Meanwhile, a rival electronics giant, AEG (itself owned by Daimler-Benz, the maker of Mercedes cars), "got back" the big East German locomotive maker, LEW (see end of first part), on account of LEW having started out as a nationalised AEG factory.
The empire was truly born in 1996: when ABB and Daimler-Benz merged their railway business in a joint venture, ADtranz (this horrible letter soup was an acronym for ABB Daimler Benz tranzportation, with a spelling error meant to imply a complete product palette – "from A to z" –; something only managers can find inspiring).
ADtranz was a product of the times: the opposed trends of merger mania and shedding non-core business. Though ADtranz had trouble merging its many parallel product platforms, it continued to expand voraciously, in particular in the then EU accession countries: in the end, it was a monster with factories and subsidiaries from England to Bulgaria.
While ADtranz's expansion developed into a case of imperial overstretch, its owners wanted out. First ABB left in 1999 (when the company was re-named "DaimlerChrysler Rail Systems" on paper). Then DaimlerChrysler had enough (having got enough problems of its own), and sold most of the ruins to Bombardier in 2001.
Bombardier was a Canadian company that originally had nothing to do with railways: it started with snowmobiles, later got into airplanes. However, after some twists and turns, it became the main maker of passenger coaches (in particular bi-level) in Canada and then North America. It then went on to acquire troubled companies in Europe: BN (the main maker of Belgian locos and EMUs, 1988), ANF-Industries (big French EMU maker, 1989), Talbot (West German EMU and coach maker, 1995), DWA (big East German coach maker, world's biggest double-deck maker, 1997).
So, with ADtranz eaten, the end result was an even bigger empire – though Bombardier managed it more wisely.
ABB/ADtranz/Bombardier: Lok 2000/Eco2000
Now, back in the nineties, in ADtranz, the dominant ABB part wanted its technology to supersede all else. And indeed they looked predestined for that:
- Henschel and BBC made the DB class 120 prototypes,
- they could export it even before the series units (to Denmark: DSB class EA = series 3000, and Norway: NSB class El17);
- then ABB could develop and build a Swiss lineage, peaking in the "Lok 2000" (in service as the freight-and-express Re 460 for SBB and Re 465 for BLS; and as exports to Norway: NSB class El18, and Finland: VR class Sr2);
- then used its expertise to develop its own concept of a universal loco with modularity, the "Eco2000", with which it won the order for DB's new express locomotive (class 101).
Very characteristic of the Lok 2000 family was the high roof shrouding. The large plow is part of the arctic modifications.
NSB [El] 18 2250 waits in Oslo C on 14 February 2006. Photo by Dag Eidet from RailPictures.Net
However, the Swiss-German ABB lineage proved a dead end. On one hand, all of the above types were suffering from various persistent teething problems. On the other hand, they weren't cheap. And, for once, the better technology (even if dumbed-down) won against all obstacles erected by company politics.
Back when Siemens presented the EuroSprinter, AEG responded by building its own prototype of a universal locomotive for all customers: the 12X.
Two visible innovations of the 12X remained oddities not used in later locos: a short wheel distance in the bogies; and the "blades" formed by the (white) sidewalls protruding beyond the (red) cab front, meant to give stability against wind.
The 12X, as it appears now with the logo of its latest owner, with a test train in Sion (Switzerland) on 19 July 2005. Photo from Voielibre
However, when DB's big order came – not for a universal loco but separate locos for its operating branches –, AEG came short: while Siemens and ABB got the big orders for high-power locos in the hundreds, AEG was only tasked with 80 locos for medium-heavy freight (class 145) – a severely dumbed-down 12X. As implied in the first part, these locos got a cheaper but cruder running gear on account of their low top speed.
AEG went under in ADtranz before the first was built (in 1997), so some of the electronics was ABB. But only part, and none of the running gear – which proved a relatively good construction (less rail-tearing than the Siemens rivals). What's more, the class 145 went into service without a hitch, while the Siemens and ex-ABB big sisters suffered teething problems.
The front-edge 'blades' are gone; however, DB made the continuation of the sloped roof edge down the front a styling requirement for all its new purchases. (Possibly not unrelated: the then DB boss was a former AEG CEO.)
Rail4Chem, a merger of chemical industry railways, was one of the first open-access private freight operators in Germany – and also among the first private buyers of the 145 family. 145-CL 005 (and an EMD-made "class 66" diesel) with a chemical transport near Halle-Zscherben on 16 March 2005. Photo by Michael Mösken from Bahnbilder.de
From there on, the success of the family originally named "145" (borrowing its first customers' designation) came in small steps:
- DB's sudden need for some extra locos to pull double-deck coaches could be solved on short order with modified 145, then a version with proper hollow shaft drives (146.0, 2000);
- also as stopgap measure, DB wanted a two-voltage-system version for new cross-border traffic – this grew into a giant order for 400 locos (class 185, 2000);
- a heavy-haul twin version for the Luleå–Narvik iron ore railway in the far north of Sweden and Norway, though ordered back in the AEG years, got much publicity (MTAB class IORE, 2000/1);
- an order from SBB resulted in an up-rating (from 4.2 to 5.6 MW: class Re 482, 2002)
- using its expertise from Italy (more on that in a moment) to cut development time to a minimum, Bombardier offered and delivered a 4-voltage-system version to SBB (class Re 484, 2004).
With several orders trickling in from the emerging private freight rail operators in the meantime, it was unsurprising that Bombardier chose this family as their modular platform. In 2003, it finally got a company product name, TRAXX (again, how could someone get paid for inventing such bland names?...).
In 2005, under the name "TRAXX 2", the design was updated: chiefly power electronics (GTO to IGBT change) and cab (due to new EU regulations, just like Siemens).
The elegant contours of the lower front are gone, but there is improved crash resistance. Spanish state railways RENFE class 253 (most of which will be built in Poland [frame] and Italy [electronics]) is a TRAXX F140 DC, the DC-only freight version that's new in the 2E family (see below).
RENFE 253 002 in Pola de Lena on 16 May 2008. Photo by Edgar Fernandez Canteli from railcolor.net
Bombardier was also first (a year ahead of Siemens) to extend its platform to diesel-electrics, with the result called TRAXX 2E.
The TRAXX P160 DE: 160 km/h diesel-electric passenger version of the TRAXX 2E.
246 005 (owned by a public company created by three north German states and operated by private company Metronom) leaves Cuxhaven for Hamburg with a double-deck train on 18 February 2008. Photo by Malte Werning from railcolor.net
TRAXX 2E also absorbed ADtranz/Bombardier's third in-house electric loco lineage, which I didn't mention so far: locos running (primarily) under DC overhead lines made in Italy. This lineage started with own shell and mechanics and ABB electronics, then some parts of the "145" were incorporated, justifying the nominal "TRAXX" designation when the brand name was introduced.
The FS class E464 is a one-ended locomotive for push-pull trains built since 1999, which became "TRAXX P160 DCP" in the TRAXX 1 family. It survived newer sisters, and is to remain in production alongside the TRAXX 2E until 2010: no less than 538(!) will run across Italy.
E464-008 with a passenger train in Riomaggiore on 23 July 2007. Photo by W. Kolins from RailFanEurope.net
Back in the era when the universal locomotive was all the rage, French state railways SNCF and its biggest supplier, then called GEC-Alsthom, bet on the wrong technology.
On one hand, they still believed that one motor per bogie (i.e. two wheelsets) is more economic (less maintenance). On the other hand, they went for the synchronous AC motor. That was good enough for second-generation TGVs, but, while the power of the DB class 120 could be matched at the time, asynchronous AC motors had a higher potential. Thus the locos delivered to SNCF (series 26000, 1989) remained the sole representatives of the project/product name "SYBIC".
Edges all around: SNCF 26148 with a night train from Strasbourg nears Nice along the Riviera, at Anthéor on 2 August 2007. Photo by Ian Leech from RailPctures.Net
GEC-Alsthom corrected the mistake when SNCF converted the last batch of its order into one for triple-voltage-system locos for cross-border traffic (SNCF series 36000, 1997), creating the "ASTRIDE" asynchronous AC locomotive platform. GEC-Alsthom could now sell a universal (well, express/freight) version on its traditional BeNeLux export market (Belgium: SNCB class 13, Luxembourg: CFL series 3000). However, that was it.
The ASTRIDE locos were stylish, but they still have traditional sidewall cooler fans.
CFL No. 3014 with an IR to Luxembourg emerges from the mist at Poulseur on 2 March 2009. Photo by Eddy Konijnendijk from RailFanEurope.net
So, using the next SNCF order as occasion, the company set out to create a leaner-meaner modular design of its own: the PRIMA platform (for SNCF, series 27000, 27300 and 37000). A diesel-electric version was created in cooperation with Siemens (series 75000).
With the PRIMA I, Alstom finally put the air intake on the roof. The bulbous nose however hides what was an advantage vs EuroSprinter and TRAXX at the time: good crash-resistance.
SNCF 37052 (a "PRIMA EL 4200 B 3U15 Fret", for electric/4.2 MW/two wheelsets per bogie/triple-voltage with 1.5 kV DC/freight) near Siebnen in Switzerland on 27 July 2007. Photo by Eddy Konijnendijk from RailFanEurope.net
Still, Alstom could only grab three customers beyond SNCF: freight operator Veolia; a leasing company (leasing to Veolia...); and China's state railways (also see Globalisation catches up with rail industry?). Meanwhile, TRAXX and EuroSprinter (not to mention diesels) encroached on Alstom's traditional BeNeLux markets, too.
That's less surprising considering that the PRIMA family wasn't yet complete, it was where TRAXX was years earlier: what existed already was a comparatively weak loco with a few variants and long delivery times. Alstom conducted long tests with an up-rated (from 4.2 to 6 MW), 4-voltage-system test unit, the PRIMA 6000. At the end of it, there was a complete overhaul - also of production methods.
The full-power four-voltage-system PRIMA 2 prototype was rolled out this month, on 3 June, but approval for regular service across Europe is expected only for 2011, after extensive tests. However, launch customer is Morocco's ONCF: 20 locos in a simpler version are to be delivered from this summer.
Design drawing of PRIMA II locomotives in the livery of Moroccan railways ONCF, taken from page 31 of an Alstom presentation at a conference in March 2009 organised by the Railway Club of Romania
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