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Blue Bricks

by DoDo Tue Sep 27th, 2011 at 03:29:23 PM EST

MÁV-TRAKCIÓ, the semi-independent company that inherited the Hungarian State Railways MÁV's locomotives, is taking delivery of 25 modern electric locomotives, which belong to international rail giant Bombardier's TRAXX product platform (see From Universal to Modular (2/2)). In Hungary, while locomotives have proper class numbers (480 in this case), all of them have nicknames, too, which railwaymen prefer in daily use. The new machines got a nickname quickly: Blue Brick, for their shape and livery. While my job took me to the plains of eastern Hungary, I took the occasion to portray the machines while new and clean. Here is a short photo diary with some side-stories.

480 003 passes Törökszentmiklós with IC 367 HARGITA to Brașov in Transylvania (German: Kronstadt, Hungarian: Brassó), which is mostly made up of coaches of Romania's CFR


The "Blue Bricks" are meant to replace the main workhorse in the past decades, the class V43 (nickname "Szili" for its silicon diode rectifiers), which was a technology import from a West German-French-Belgian-Swiss-British consortium in the sixties. However, that's a distant dream, considering that just 25 class 480 are ordered vs. over 300 V43 in service. (I even heard unverifiable rumours that there are delays in payment for the first 25.)

V43 1091 with domestic IC 612 SZABOLCS to Nyíregyháza races across Kisújszállás

Most colleagues I asked over the past year took a dim view of the purchase of the new locos: not because the Bombardier locos are bad, but because they would have preferred the higher quality and higher power locos of rival maker Siemens, of which MÁV already has ten. However, to replace the V43 in their current job, the TRAXX are just fine. For example, they are used in the so-called "loop IC" service, which are delay-threatened long runs in a loop from Budapest to eastern Hungary and back to Budapest along a different line (540 km in six hours at Vmax = 120 km/h), and improved on-time stats.

480 010 with IC 657 DÁLIA, a 'loop IC' service, passes with a c. 5 minute delay, which it can easily eliminate on the final 120 km back to Budapest

On the last few cars in the previous photo, you may notice the heat haze (though it's less obvious than in original resolution). Yes: in the last third of September, it was still summer there, with temperatures reaching 28°C that day. There were just two autumn-like half-days this month, but one was during my stay there. Locals did a typical rural autumn task then which is not allowed in hot dry summer: cutting and burning leaves.

Workers at station Fegyvernek cut and burn a younger tree that grew too close to a high-voltage line

The newest Blue Brick to be delivered, the eleventh, also came before my camera.

480 011 with IC 560 HAJDÚ from Miskolc-Tiszai races towards Budapest in the morning. This one had a manageable 5-minute delay, too

Back to the unending summer: there was some summer cloud formation, too, and the Sun threw rays around them:

Approaching from the Sun's direction but under one of these clouds, the Blue Bricks are most blue brick-like:

480 010 again, with IC 365 ADY ENDRE to Cluj-Napoca in Transylvania, Romania (German: Klausenburg, Hungarian: Kolozsvár)

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My stay in eastern Hungary ended with headbutting a metal door frame, and the wound took three stitches... but a few days later I was out again, this time along narrow-gauge railways.

The first one is near Kismaros along the Kismaros-Királyrét line (also see Springtime Romantic Roundtrip):

The second is near Szob along the Szob-Márianosztra line (also see A narrow gauge railway in the summer):

That biker rode at least twice as fast as the train. It was no use though: the rail crosses the road a few hundred metres further and the lights were red :-)

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

by DoDo on Tue Sep 27th, 2011 at 03:39:41 PM EST
How much attention did the doorframe need?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Sep 27th, 2011 at 03:57:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure I got the question, but if you mean that, the height of the door opening was one centimetre more than my height with shoe, and my fault was taking a step too springy in the wrong location...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 27th, 2011 at 04:03:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was wondering how much damage the doorframe underwent. Apparently none.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Sep 27th, 2011 at 04:12:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ha , I've a four inch by one inch dent in the top of my head from a similar incident. (and I managed to crack the wooden doorframe too)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Sep 27th, 2011 at 07:30:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So in the end did you increase the height of that door to a proper size? Unfortunately, my metal door frame didn't need any attention after the incident, thus I will have to pay more attention to it in the future...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Sep 28th, 2011 at 01:35:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you mean the state of the doorframe after meeting upon my hardened skull, unfortunately, this was more an elastic than inelastic encounter...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 27th, 2011 at 04:05:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent photo diary, thanks

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Sep 27th, 2011 at 03:44:20 PM EST
seems to be a common monicker for locomotives. Not surprising I suppose since most diesel or electrics tend to be on the boxy side. Amtrak's E60 electrics surely qualified as boxy which is probably why they too were known as bricks. They were also heavy with a nasty tendency to knock down outer rails on curves at speed (a trait common to Amtrak's SDP40F diesels of the same vintage), which may be why they were also called flying bricks. Those are all gone now, instead we have bananas and toasters (also known as Swedish meatballs) hauling the ever present Amcans.

Steam locomotives are generally not at all boxy hence I know of none that are or were called bricks. There is at least one, however, that deserves such a title: link.

As for the MAV bricks, do you know if they have to pay higher access charges to run them in Austria compared to the Tauruses? The OBB has never been much of a fan of axle hung traction motors on higher speed equipment.  

by Jace on Wed Sep 28th, 2011 at 02:50:37 PM EST
MÁV's class 480 is a 160 km/h version with bogie-installed motors and hollow-shaft drives, rather than axle-hung motors. I also note that, although MÁV's class 480 is capable of running in Austria, the plans for the use of the first 25 are all domestic (mostly IC service).

For ÖBB's track access charge system, go here to download the files for 2011 and 2012 (in German). In both, the categorisation according to traction vehicle is explained on page 13 and there is a table with vehicle types on the next page, the actual value of the correction according to vehicle type is on page 6. The Taurus locos are in the C category along with the axle-hung motor monsters of the DB class 152 (which get a rate surcharge); TRAXX locos with axle-hung motors (e.g. DB class 185) are however in category B (which get the base price). The only locos in category A (which get a rate reduction) are locos with lower axleloads – seems ÖBB Infrastruktur nowadays cares more about axleload and maximum tractive effort (makes sense if they focus on rolling contact fatigue rather than classic track damage).

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

by DoDo on Wed Sep 28th, 2011 at 04:18:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW the MÁV nickname for Tauruses is Teknő, which could be translated as "Bathtub". Then these shunting locos are the "Grashoppers", and this diesel loco (with motors built with a license from Pielstick of France) are the "Rattlers", the FLIRT EMUs are the "Dolphins", and these DMUs from Russian metro maker Metrovagonmas are the "Hurrys".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Sep 28th, 2011 at 04:34:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a lot of grass growing on the tracks in your photos.  I think this looks nice, but I believe it is generally frowned upon by maintenance.  Why?
by njh on Sun Oct 2nd, 2011 at 06:42:59 PM EST
The grass you see covers barely used sidings, that's less of a tragedy. But overall, maintenance is a total joke here, especially in the past eight years or so. With the railway being strapped of funds and being led by imbeciles with a business grade and no knowledge of railways, maintenance was constrained to the most essential repairs to 'save costs', and lots of damaged track sections only became reduced-speed zones. Of course, with tracks and overhead lines in increasingly desolate state, the cost of even essential repairs exploded, and so did energy costs and delays and customer dissatisfaction.

Now, the railway has a new boss (government change last year), and I'm involved in a project that ultimately tries to convince him on the bleeding obvious that spending a lot on proper maintenance for a short period will save even more money on the longer run. The positive: due to various precedents, this new boss may have our ears. The negative: the government is well into (another) austerity programme (but don't call it that); so the insanity might continue until all trains run at walking speed...

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

by DoDo on Mon Oct 3rd, 2011 at 05:15:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Railway tracks are generally supported by a pile of rocks otherwise known as ballast. The weight of the train is tranferred from the rails to the ties (sleepers) and then to ballast which spreads the load out evenly onto the ground. These rocks are supposed to be course enough to form a solid, interlocking foundation, keeping the ties in position while having sufficient voids to allow for drainage. As most railway ties are wood, having them sit at times in a pool of water usually doesn't do them much good.

Grass typically doesn't grow on rock so its presence is a sure sign of dirt mixed in with the rocks. Dirt means less drainage and ultimately reduced track stability. The roots of those blasted pretty plants also tend to trap dirt further plugging things up (the dirt/roots also collect seeds - on lines with lots of grain/cereal traffic, you often see strips of grain growing between the rails, the product of a leaky wagon). In areas with freeze/thaw cycles, the moisture trapped in the dirt will work the rock, slowly grinding it up. Leave it for long enough and you'll get some semblence of a soil forming.

Train speed is a function of track alignment which in turn is determined by the stability of the roadbed (train weight is also a function of roadbed stability). Higher speed trains require very precise and predictable positioning of the rail. Any imprecision or unpredictable behaviour of the roadbed will invariabily lead to slower speeds, first with the application of local slow orders and then ultimately with a reclassification of the track.

by Jace on Mon Oct 3rd, 2011 at 10:52:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just a minor note: on mainlines here, wood sleepers are rare and concrete the norm.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 3rd, 2011 at 05:10:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very true. In the US, only 20% of the all ties installed are concrete with the majority of those on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. And aside from a few transit lines, we have no slab track. The percentages have to be the opposite in Europe.

Concrete ties are getting more attention here: the FRA is in the process of issuing new regulations (here's a link with all the gory details - I didn't know that concrete ties date back to 1893!). If there are new safety regulations in the works, then there must have been an accident. Sure enough an Amtrak train derailed on the BNSF in 2005 due to degraded 15 year old ties.  

by Jace on Mon Oct 3rd, 2011 at 10:00:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I ought to mention an exception for Europe: many older switches are on wood sleepers, in between running track with concrete sleepers. You see a pair of them in the foreground of the V43 photo. But for new ones nowadays those are concrete, too, especially if the switch is for higher speeds (80-120 km/h instead of 40 km/h in deviating direction).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 4th, 2011 at 01:35:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All new sleepers are concrete in australia now as far as I've seen.  Termites being a big reason.
by njh on Thu Oct 6th, 2011 at 01:54:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I bet there are more concrete ties on the Union Pacific Overland Route than there are on the Northeast Corridor.

Stephen Karlson ATTITUDE is a nine letter word. BOATSPEED.
by SHKarlson (shkarlson at frontier dot com) on Sun Oct 9th, 2011 at 06:25:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Looking at this, I found this article:

With big new contracts, CXT slates expansions | Journal of Business | Professional Journal archives from AllBusiness.com

One of CXT's divisions produces the prestressed concrete railroad ties used by UP and other rail companies, and is expected to generate between $25 million and $30 million in revenue this year, says Dave Millard, vice president of that division.

...Although 90 percent of all railroad ties in Europe and Australia are concrete, most rail ties used in the U.S. and Canada are still wood, he says.

...It's the new contracts with UP that are triggering the expansion push.

Within the next five to eight years, the big Omaha, Neb.-based railroad company plans to replace wooden rail ties with CXT's concrete ties on its major rail routes between Salt Lake City and Chicago and between Los Angeles and El Paso, Texas. Also, on portions of those same two routes where only one rail line now exists, UP plans to build new second lines with concrete ties manufactured by CXT, says Millard.

...About 18.5 million railroad ties are installed annually in the U.S. and Canada, but only about 1.5 million of that total are made of prestressed concrete, he says.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 10th, 2011 at 12:17:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's why you need a ballast cleaner.

http://www.loram.com/Services/Default.aspx?id=266

by asdf on Mon Oct 3rd, 2011 at 05:55:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or this. I've seen ducks swimming in this 'pond':

by Jace on Mon Oct 3rd, 2011 at 10:11:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I think it looks very pictureskew.
by njh on Thu Oct 6th, 2011 at 01:52:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Off-topic, but I noticed MÁV's preserved NOHAB making an extremely brief appearance at a station in Budapest in the new film of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
by Gag Halfrunt on Thu Oct 6th, 2011 at 09:43:29 AM EST


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