Mobile traction substations for powering trains and trams

The power for an electric railway has to come from somewhere – and that place is a traction substation, a facility that convert hogh voltage electricity from the power grid to the voltage and frequency that trains or trams use. The vast majority of them are fixed in place, but a number of tramway and railway operators across Europe have mobile versions, able to be deployed wherever they are needed.

CFR railway traction substation outside the town of Azuga

Deutsche Bahn

In German a mobile substation is called a ‘Fahrbares Unterwerk‘. The first Deutsche Reichsbahn built their first two units in 1935, featuring rotary converters of 7MVA nominal power. Newer units were built in the 1960s, of 10 MVA or 15 MVA capacity, with twelve units still in service by the 1990s.
Early units

Swiss Federal Railways

The SBB operates a massive fleet of mobile traction substations – 18 in total, with 17 permanently positioned pending the construction of fixed substations, as well as a mobile spare. The usage of mobile substations commenced following the Second World War, when military planners saw the advantage of being able to relocate a substation in case of attack, or quickly replace damaged facilities.

Swedish State Railways

SJ was another rail operator worried about war, so following the Second World War they also built mobile traction substations, as well as a network of underground rock tunnels to protect them from enemy air strikes. Abandoned following the end of the Cold Car, one of these tunnels is now managed by the Norrbottens Järnvägsmuseum, along with a complete mobile substation train.

Russian Railways

Russians call their mobile substations ‘поставка передвижных подстанций’, with more than 30 in service on the Russian Railways network. Switchgear, transformers, rectifiers and control equipment are located on separate wagons.


ДАК-Энергетика photo

Austrian Federal Railways

The Austrian Federal Railways have eight mobile substations (fUW) built between 1986 and 1993. They are used to provide short-term support to the traction power supply, as a backup while equipment in stationary substations is upgraded, or as an interim step before the construction of additional stationary substations.

Trams in Vienna

The tramways of Vienna also have a long history of mobile traction substations. Known as Gleichrichterwagen or fahrbare Umformeranlagen the first unit was built in 1925, and was used to meet the demands of peak traffic on Sundays or summer public holidays.

A second unit entered service in 1928, with two more built in 1944.

The latter two units have since been upgraded with modern solid state rectifiers, and are still in service today.

Trams in Kyiv

The tramway network of Kiev once had mobile traction substations built from retired passenger tramcars.


Kyiv Museum of Electric Transportation photo

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Turning trams on a turntable in Kiev

Unidirectional trams are common across Eastern Europe and the former USSR, with reversing loops provided so trams can turn around for their reverse journeys. But the Ukrainian capital of Kiev once turned trams a different way – on a turntable.


Kiev Museum of Electric Transportation photo

The tram route along Набережне шосе opened in 1951, with the Dnieper River on one side and the hills of Kiev to the other.


Central State Film and Photo Archive of Ukraine photo

On this route “Dnipro” metro station was the destination of many trams during morning and evening rush hours, connecting the housing estate on the eastern bank with their nearest metro station.

Type 'EЖ' train emerges from the tunnel at Dnipro (Днiпро) station

A conventional reversing loop takes up a lot of space.

Tatra T6 tram #077 stops for passengers

So a turntable was provided instead. Overhead wires allowed trams to drive onto the turntable.


Kiev Museum of Electric Transportation photo

A sign reminded the driver to apply the brakes before entering the turntable, and what appears to be signal lights tell them when to stop.


Kiev Museum of Electric Transportation photo

Inaugurated on 2 April 1965, the need for the turntable disappeared a few months after opening, when the Kiev Metro was extended across the Dnieper River to “Hidropark”, “Livoberezhna” and “Darnytsia” stations.

Train arrives into the terminus of Line 1 at Lisova (Лiсова) station

The tram turntable was removed at an unknown date, but the tram line along the river remained until 2011.

When it was ripped up to make room for highway expansion.

Freeway passes beneath Dnipro (Днiпро) station

Sources

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What happens if you combine a turntable with a train lift?

Turntables are a common sight on railways, allowing rolling stock to be turned around. But the Kiev Metro had a unique piece of engineering at their first train depot – the «Метролифт» (metrolift) that combined turntable with train lift.

Transition from viaduct to tunnel at Dnipro (Днiпро) station

The depot

Construction of the Kiev Metro commenced in August 1949, with the first stage running 5.24 kilometres from Vokzalna and Dnipro. Due to the deep level construction of the line, the new line only reached the surface at one location – Dnipro station, where the metro met the Dnieper River on an elevated viaduct.

Type 'EЖ' train emerges from the tunnel at Dnipro (Днiпро) station

Delays in construction saw tunnels towards the proposed depot at Shulyavskaya postponed to a later stage, so the search began for a replacement location. Construction of an underground link at the Vokzalna end of the line was rejected, leaving Dnipro station as the only option. This constrained location made provision of a railway depot difficult, with the river bank preventing the construction of a curve back to ground level. The solution – a temporary depot beneath the viaduct, accessed via the rotating train lift – the «Метролифт».


Photo via Central State Film and Photo Archive of Ukraine

The train lift was the length of a single metro carriage, and would lower each car from the elevated station to ground level, where the train would be rotated 90 degrees to meet the depot tracks. The depot was constructed parallel to the Dnieper River and had space for the repair of two carriages at a time. Equipment included a gantry crane, repair shops, and a warehouse for spare parts and materials.

And delivering trains

Delivery of metro trains to the depot was equally convoluted. Each carriage was delivered from the Mytishchi Machine-building Factory by rail to Darnitsa station, where a temporary ramp around 150 meters long was constructed towards the neighbouring tram line. Each carriage was place on temporary bogies so that it could negotiate sharp tramway curves, and then transferred via the tram network, crossing the Dnieper Rover via the Paton Bridge, until it arrived at the temporary depot, where standard bogies were then reinstalled.


Oleksandr Prymachenko photo via Central State Film and Photo Archive of Ukraine

On 21 October 1960 the first metro carriage was lifted up onto the viaduct at Dnipro, and a test train ran the next day. The new line opened to the public on 6 November 1960.

Due to the difficulty in accessing the depot, the majority of trains were stabled overnight in the running tunnels, only being lowered to ground level for major inspections and repairs. This procedure remained in place until 1965, when the eastern extension of the Metro to Darnytsia was completed, including the Darnytsia електродепо (electric depot) between Livoberezhna and Darnytsia stations.

The new depot also made the delivery of new trains to the Kiev Metro system much easier – trains transferred from the mainline network thanks to a Трамвайно-залізничний гейт (tram-rail gate) provided at the neighbouring Київ-Дніпровський (Kyiv-Dniprovsky) station.

Footnote – turntables never die

The remains of the metrolift at Dnipro station were removed in 2011, but the replacement Darnytsia depot still has a turntable for the turning of metro carriages.

And at the Kiev Metro Museum they have a scale model of Dnipro station, including the temporary depot and Метролифт.


Kiev Metro photo

And a similar situation in London

The Waterloo & City line on the London Underground is shuttle service that runs between two stations, with no surface connection for trains. Instead the depot is located underground, with a vertical lift once used to transfer rolling stock to and from the tunnels, until it was replaced by road cranes.

Sources

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Abandoned escalators in Rome

Recently I came across an interesting photo on Twitter – a grass covered set of escalators headed underground somewhere in Rome. An abandoned metro station, or something else?

I found a set of photos showing the same location over on Imgur.

Abandoned Escalators, Rome

And I eventually found the location.

It’s the Luigi Moretti designed underground car park at Villa Borghe.

Which allowed me to eventually find the site.


Google Street View

But it took a while to pin down – from the air I found a few possible locations, but none of them matched on Google Street View. Turns out the escalators were boarded up in 2018, removing them from view, so I needed to go back in time to see them.

About the car park

Luigi Walter Moretti was an Italian architect known for his postmodern designs, and the car park at Villa Borghese was constructed between 1966 and 1972.

Architectuul describes it as.

The car park is in the city center of Rome and has been built at the end of the 1960s in order to solve the problem of the increasing number of cars in the tourist area of the Italian capital. The parking is completely underground and hasn’t changed the original topography. The 13.5m square structural grid of concrete umbrella pillars supports the prefabricated domes and a coffered roof. Circular’s eyes give rhythm light and air.

ArchiDiAP writes.

The car park, designed to accommodate up to two thousand cars, is spread over two underground floors for a total of 3.6 hectares. The structural system foresees a square grid of 3.30 m, which organizes the position of the reinforced concrete pillars, while some parts of the floors are made using prefabricated components. In addition to the car park, the structure includes a 6000 square meter shopping center. After construction, the greenery was completely restored, ensuring the continuity of the park in Villa Borghese even above the imposing structure.

While Dianne Bennett and William Graebner went exploring the complex in 2013.

It was a lovely afternoon on via Veneto, and so we naturally decided to explore–hope you’re ready for this–an underground parking garage!

The garage is by Luigi Moretti. It houses 1800 spaces for automobiles, 210 for scooters and motorcycles. It was completed between 1965 and 1972, which accounts for the hybrid look of late modernism and early brutalism (the concrete noted earlier).

Whatever its appeal, it was sufficient to lure a major international modern art exhibit–known as Contemporanea–which inhabited the structure in 1973, a moment when such an idea could not only be imagined, but brought to fruition.

The garage’s architectural reputation would seem to rest (like the garage itself) on its graceful, space-age columns, and on its concave roof treatments, with a nod to the occasional provision for natural light.

And YouTuber Alessandro Califano went on a drive through the car park in 2010.

And the future – the private operator is planning to expand it.

The project involves the extension of the existing underground car park which, with the 200 new car park places included in this reform, will reach a total of 2,000 places distributed over three floors. Saba will also develop a new tourist bus parking area, connected to Rome’s public transport system, comprising 81 places, as well as the expansion of retail space and storage complex up to the 19,540 meters square (it currently measures 11,030 square meters).

This also includes the construction of an operations and maintenance terminal for electric buses with capacity for 125 vehicles, which will be used by the municipal public transport agency. Management of the existing parking area for motorcycles with capacity for 206 spaces is included as well.

Finally, a residents car park with 360 spaces will be constructed, located on the third floor of the complex. This action will go along with the construction of a mechanised walkway that will connect the car park to the Piazza del Popolo via a pedestrian subway. The construction is subject to the premarketing of 80% of the spaces for residents, a presales period that will last six months.

Further reading

The 1972 journal article ‘The Villa Borghese car park in Rome‘ describes the newly opened strucutre – but unfortunately it seems to be unavailable online.

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Crossing international borders by train

When I travelled across Europe by train, I crossed a few international borders. Some were simple, but others were more involved.

Arrival into Budapest by rail

The uneventful

My first border crossing by train was on my journey from Germany and Austria, and it was completely uneventful.

ICE 3 train arrives into Würzburg Hbf

As was that on my train from Austria to Hungary.

Arrival at Budapest Keleti station

All three countries form part of the Schengen Area, so no border checks occurred.

Papers please!

My first passport check was on my journey from Hungary to Romania.

CFR supplied locomotive ready to lead our train east from Budapest to Romania

Our train stopped at Lőkösháza on the Hungarian side of the border.

Border crossing for our train at Lőkösháza, Hungary

Where border officers checked our passports.

Hungarian police check our train at Lőkösháza station, on the Romanian border

We then stopped at Curtici on the Romanian side, so that their border staff could complete the same checks, and giving my passport a nifty little stamp with a train on it.

Changing gauge at the bogie exchange

On my journey from Romanian to Ukraine, we didn’t just need to stop for border formalities – our train also had to change gauges.

Spare wheelsets beside the bogie exchange facility at Vadul Siret

Europe predominantly uses 1,435mm standard gauge, while the railways of the former Soviet Union use 1,524 mm broad gauge. As a result at Vadul Siret our train was split up into individual carriages, lifted up by jacks, and the bogies swapped over.

And a crossing that no longer exists

I also caught a train from Ukraine to Russia to Rostov-on-Don.

'1118km' post on the Ukrainian Railways

Our passports were checked during our stop at Успенская station in the village of Авило-Успенка (Avilo-Uspenka).

But all that has changed since the 2014 Russo-Ukrainian War – today the only trains between the two counties head directly to Moscow.

Footnote: crossing from Poland and Germany

One rail crossing between Poland and Germany is the bridge over the Oder River.

Marked by a post in national colours at each end.

The bridge is the busiest rail crossing between the two counties, with around half of all border crossings using it.

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Another tram bent like a banana

A few years ago I found an articulated tram bent like a banana following a collision with a road vehicle, and now I’ve found another – this time in the Dutch city of Utrecht.


Donald Ikkersheim photo via ad.nl


Koen Laureij photo via ad.nl

The crash was covered in AD.nl.

Uithoflijn tram derailed at FC Utrecht stadium: ‘A terribly loud thunder’

Jeroen van Barneveld

February 16 2021

A tram on the Uithoflijn derailed near the FC Utrecht stadium on Tuesday morning after a collision with a delivery van from supermarket chain Jumbo. There were no injuries, reports the Utrecht Safety Region.

The tram ran almost completely out of its rails around 11 a.m. and ended up transversely on the Laan van Maarschalkerweerd. The emergency services came out en masse. A trauma helicopter was also called in to provide medical assistance.

Safety region Utrecht expects that the tram recovery will take hours. U-OV reports that the overhead wires are badly damaged and that there are probably no more trams running on the Uithoflijn today.

You can see the site of the crash on Google Street View – the light rail tracks crosses from one side of the road to the other at a set of traffic lights.

The Uithoflijn is an express tram line in the city of Utrecht, and uses CAF Urbos 100 trams.

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Four platform stations of the Moscow Metro

I’ve previously written about the standard interchange station design found on Soviet designed metro systems, and the non-standard platform configurations on the Moscow Metro – this time we look at the four track stations that offer cross-platform interchange.

Train arrives into Третьяковская (Tretyakovskaya) station

Кита́й-го́род (Kitay-gorod)

Kitay-gorod is located on Line 6 Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya and Line 7 Tagansko-Krasnopresnenskaya. It consists of two separate parallel station halls, connected by a central transfer bridge, and a combined escalator vestibule at each end.

Looking down on a arriving train

Cross-platform interchange is possible between northbound trains on the eastern platform, and between southbound trains via the western platform. For passengers wishing to travel in the opposite direction, it is required to use the transfer corridor linking the two platforms.

Interchange walkways link the different Metro lines

Третьяко́вская (Tretyakovskaya)

Tretyakovskaya is located on Line 6 Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya and Line 8 Kalininsko-Solntsevskaya. Tretyakovskaya was originally a two platform station before the connection with Kalininskaya Line was opened in 1986.

Island platform at Третьяковская (Tretyakovskaya) station

At that time a second hall was opened, forming a cross-platform interchange.

The two halls are joined by a passage located midway along their length and also by the shared vestibule.

Interchange passageways between lines 6, 8 and 2 at Третьяковская (Tretyakovskaya)

Каширская (Kashirskaya)

Kashirskaya is the interchange between the Kakhovskaya and the Orekhovskaya branches of the Zamoskvoretskaya line.

Looking down on waiting passengers and an arriving train

It consists of two parallel station halls separated by a wall, each with an independent exit to ground level, and three narrow transfer footbridges between the island platforms.

Passengers change trains at Каширская (Kashirskaya) station

Парк Победы (Park Pobedy)

Park Pobedy is the interchange between Line 3 Arbatsko–Pokrovskaya and Line 8A Kalininsko–Solntsevskaya, as well as the deepest Moscow Metro station.

Type 81-740.1/741.1 "Rusich" train arrives into Парк Победы

It consists of two parallel station halls, each with their own escalators to the surface, but linked by a a pair of two-aisle transfer footbridges.

Interchange walkways between the two station halls

It opened in 2003 as a terminus of the Arbatsko–Pokrovskaya line, with one set of tracks laying idle until the Kalininsko–Solntsevskaya line opened in 2014.

Unused platform blocked off from the public

Петровско-Разумовская (Petrovsko-Razumovskaya)

Petrovsko-Razumovskaya is the interchange between Line 9 Serpukhovsko–Timiryazevskaya and Line 10 Lyublinsko–Dmitrovskaya.

And again it’s two parallel station halls, with their own escalators to the surface, but linked by pair of two-aisle transfer footbridges.

Station diagrams

The ‘Metro2’ website has an interactive track and station diagram for the complete Moscow Metro network. Here are shortcuts to the stations mentioned above.

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Battery-electric locomotives of the Moscow Metro

On the Moscow Metro can be found a curious piece of rolling stock – Контактно-аккумуляторный электровоз – battery-electric locomotives converted from retired metro carriages to haul maintenance trains through underground tunnels.

The seats have been removed from the passenger saloon.

Making way for banks of lead acid batteries.

A total of fifteen 81-717 / 714 metro carriages have been converted by «Вагонмаш» (Vagonmash ZAO) at their plant in St Petersburg, classified as 81-580, 81-581 and 81-582. The first two units entered service in 1992, with further units produced between 2002 and 2017.

Intermediate 81-714 carriages were used as a basis for the conversion, with driving cabs and marker lights retrofitted at each end. To allow the locomotives to work with various types of rolling stock, both ‘railway’ SA-3 knuckle couplers and ‘metro’ Scharfenberg automatic coupler were installed at each end.

Recharging of the batteries is possible via the 750V contact rail or from a 380V AC power supply, and once fully charged the locomotive can operate autonomously for 7-8 hours, with up to 30 starting and braking cycles per hour. On level ground the locomotive can haul up to 300 tonnes at 50 km/h, reducing to 70 tonnes on a 6% grade.

Footnote

The Moscow Metro is also fitting backup batteries to their newest trains so they can continue to the next station in the event of a power outage.

Saft won a major order from Metrowagonmash to provide a battery power system to provide emergency traction power for new rail cars destined for the Moscow Metro. The project is Moscow Metro’s first use of onboard batteries to prevent trains being stranded between stations in the event of a power outage.

Saft MSX nickel technology cells will be installed underneath the floor of the new ‘Moskva-2020’ coaches. The batteries enable trains to run on their own autonomous power for distances up to 6.5 km and on gradients of up to four percent – the maximum on the network.

Further reading

(All Russian language)

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Moscow Metro trains on display

Plenty of cities have railway museums filled with old trains on display, but on the 80th anniversary of the Moscow Metro they did something different – they brought the museum pieces to the people.

Wikimedia Commons has more about the exhibition.

To mark the 80th anniversary of the Moscow Metro, from 15-19 May 2015, two exhibitions of unique rolling stock of the metro took place on the centre track at Партизанская (Partizanskaya) station.

During the first exhibition, on May 15 and 16, decommissioned historic cars were displayed at the station, which were stored for the future exhibition at the Metro Museum and restored at the beginning of the exhibition. During the exposition, cars of types A type No. 1 (motor car) and 1031 (trailer), G No. 530, UM5 No. 806, D No. 2037, E No. 3605 and a battery-powered electric locomotive VEKA-001 were presented.

During the second exhibition, held on May 18 and 19, service and maintenance vehicles were exhibited at the station.

Type ‘A’ motor carriage 1 and trailer 1031.

Type ‘D’ carriage 2037.

Type ‘E’ carriage 3605.

Type ‘G’ carriage 530.

Moscow Metro sump pump vehicle ЗУМПФ 06.

КМП-65М railway crane №4.

МКЗ-01 track fixing machine.

УМ5 track measurement car 806.

Maintenance railcar AS1-19.

Battery electric railcar ВЭКА-001.

And АГМС diesel shunting locomotive №983.

Footnote

Partizanskaya station is one of two three-track Moscow Metro stations, the other is Полежаевская (Polezhayevskaya).

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Don’t drive into the River Volga!

Nizhny Novgorod is a historic Russian city located where the Oka River meets the Volga.

Looking west over the Oka River in Nizhny Novgorod

As you might expect, many roads lead to the water.

Warning signs on a road leading down to the Volga River

In the middle of winter there is no difference between snow and ice, so signs warn motorists not to drive out into the river.

But my favourite touch is this pair of signs.

Reading.

Н. Новгород

р. Во́лга

Which translates to.

End Nizhny Novgorod

Start River Volga

Haha.

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