Nukes. Nuclear trains in the U.K. An overview of prototypes and models

kevsmith Mar 18, 2022

  1. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

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    As some of you are aware I work for a highly specialised railfreight company in the U.K. As the only company to hold a Class 1 licence we pretty much have a monopoly on moving radioactive materials around the Country by rail.

    The company is a called Direct Rail Services and was initially formed as a subsidiary of British Nuclear Fuels ltd as a direct response to the British Government's privatisation of the nationalised British rail freight division. In recent years we have come directly under the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency so in effect are still nationalised and owned by the government and most recently have merged with the INS Nuclear shipping division and become NTS (Nuckear Transport solutions)

    First example of closer co-operation between the two organisations was a move from Sellafield to Barrow with an FNA-D Nuclear flask wagon to collect an AGR flask newly delivered by sea

    [​IMG]

    So in this thread I'm going to give you an idea of the Nuclear traffic in Great Britain has developed and works now and also how these trains can be modelled. I should explain at this stage that we have a cult following amongst railfans over here and models of DRS trains are very popular

    But here is the bit where some of you might get a bit of a revalation. In the U.K, for reasons going back to the early model railway days, Trains running on 16.5mm H0 track are actually modelled in 00 scaled. I.e 4mm to the foot against the 3.5mm to the foot in H0. This gives a scale ration of 1/76" against 1/87" in H0.

    It is a result of the much smaller British prototypes needing to be enlarged to fit the motors and gears avaialable back in the 1930s

    So you are going to see lots of train formations like this as this thread develops. I'll explain why and how as I go along

    [​IMG]

    Beer break and I'll be back

    Kev
     
  2. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

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    So I'll start with the wagons I first worked on as a fitter way back in 2002

    The FNA-C was a wagon designed specifically to move Nuclear Flasks between Sellafield and the power stations. Despite appearances it is fully clad in stainless steel which weathered down to a sort of Olive drab colour in traffic

    [​IMG]

    The weighed typically about 24 tonnes empty and carried a flask usually weighing about 56 tonnes. ran on FBT6M bogies and had a maximum line speed of 60 mph

    Bachman introduced a nice 00 model of them with the difference in batch details nicely done

     
  3. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

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    One thing you will notice is the drawgear arrangement. Unlike the USA, where the ABC Buckeye coupler is easily reproducable in model form, in Europe we have Buffers and screw couplings. Not ideal for junior modellers to come to grips with so most manufacturers make couplings comaptible with the original Triang Railways Horn hook dating back to the fifties. It works but looks a little bit ungainly

    So here are four Bachman FNA-Cs. FNA-C is the TOPS description and stands for Flatrol-Nuclear-Air braked model C


    So going back to the picture above of an FNA-C 'Top and tailed' by a pair of Class 68s seen at Sowerby Lodge on 6C51 Sellafield-Heysham Power station you will notice there is an awful lot of Horespower for one wagon. All Nuclear trains must have at least two locomotives. it is a sort of safety feature. If the loco fails the other one will get the train out of trouble

    In model form

    The rear loco is just idling. But when we run to places like Heysham there are a couple of reversing moves to get down the branch, rather than run the locos around the train crew just swap ends and lead with the other loco

    More soon

    Kev
     
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  4. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    Great information on the transport of nuclear materials.

    Thanks!:)
     
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  5. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    The power/weight inefficiencies would never be "allowed" in the US by the devotees of Hunter Harrison and PSR. But you Brits, who do what is necessary to get the job done realistically and safely, are willing to pay what is needed to achieve the end. Hats Off to You. (y)
     
  6. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    U.S. uranium was mined on Santa Fe rails. There's an interesting shot in Iron Horses of the Santa Fe Trail of a string of government ATMX covered hoppers, with a few empty boxcars on each end, being hauled by a set of four F-7s and equipped with a drover car ahead of the caboose for the guards. Drover cars were bunk cars for cowboys accompanying livestock so they could herd them out and back when watering them.

    I can't find that pic scanned online. This is purported to be uranium, oddly being carried in open cars in 1970:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Nobody but government could get away with that.
     
  7. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    That's uranium ore. Not super radioactive - 99.3% of the stuff is U238 which has a half-life of over 4 billion years (we're talking Carl Sagan numbers) and the next abundant isotope is U235 with 0.7% with about 160,000 years (the rest are basically negligible). All emit alpha particles - the Nerf balls of radiation - which can be stopped with a sheet of toilet paper. Little or none will go out the sides of the hoppers and what goes out the top will be stopped after a few inches of travel in air. The rock in which the ore is stops almost all of it.

    Dust is a bigger problem if inhaled or otherwise ingested. That's why today there's a limit of 0.2 mg/cu.m in the workplace. At 10 mg/cu.m it becomes dangerous to life. It tends to accumulate in the bones because uranium likes phosphates. Nice stuff.

    They could have at least put a tarp on it... :rolleyes:

    Remember, at one time cigarettes were considered to be beneficial.:eek:
     
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  8. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

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    The carriage of Nuclear flasks was not always as controlled as it is now

    I've got at least two pictures of steam hauled Flatrols. This one shows a British rail standard 4MT 2-6-0 no 76001 at Barassie junction in Scotland on a Hunterston Power station working. Two guards vans and the wagon is one of the earlier designs without a sliding cover. In those days a 'Parasol' was put over the flask to keep the heat off.

    Also intersting in this picture in the background is one of the very early four wheel railbus designs that were not a great success



    So before Bachman brought out their FNA the only resort modelleres had to make one was the rather crude Genesis resin cast kits

    They took a lot of work to look something like


    Now I am mainly known for my Z scale modelling so of course I had to do an FNA. In our 3D printing group in z one of the guys came up with these. Seen in front of the 00 scale one


    Painted and running on the layout

    More soon
     
  9. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Super cool! As a nuclear NERD, I really enjoy this kind of information. I plan to model a nuclear weapons train as of about 1980. Data and photos, as you can well imagine, is scarce!
    The ATMX cars noted in the US earlier also came in a boxcar-like configuration, but was more like an intermodal car, as it loaded containers.

    Not my photos:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofenergy/26487804294/

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofenergy/26370152184/

    They also came in a series of flatcars with special lids, sort of like a super-secure coiled steel car:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/reweston-sat/3537713872/

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/45944933@N00/3442034069/

    http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/rsPicture.aspx?id=1180346

    The ATMX cars were used up to 1988 or so to ship nuclear weapons, with heavily-armed security escort, of course. Today, the Dept of Energy uses specialized trucks that blend in with over the road traffic better than these older railroad cars.
     
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  10. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    That track at right looks to be "ballasted" with fresh dirt!
     
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  11. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    I hope they imported it from somewhere away from that uranium mine.
     
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  12. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    This was my exact same thought!
     
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  13. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

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    How small is Z? Me before I really started going grey!


    So far all you have really seen loco-wise is the Class 68s but we have come a long way from the initial fleet purchased when DRS was formed

    The decision was taken to purchase a small fleet of English Electric Class 20's. These 1000hp single cab engines were introduced in 1957 and production continued up till 1968. Simple, Rugged and reliable, as they were phased out by everybody else, they acquired a cult following amongst British railfans. The ninitial batch are seen outside the maintenance shed I might have something to do with. Note this picture is in the public domain and not restricted


    The single cab never proved a real hinderance despite being very rare in the U.K on mainline traffic and in most cases the locos were coupled nose to nose

    When top and tailed, like this, on a Workington Docks to Drigg LLW move it makes a pretty neat formation


    I don't possess a 00 model of a DRS Class 20 (yet) but Lima, Hornby and Bachman have all produced examples and Graham Farish released an N scale example

    More soon
     
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  14. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

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    The 20s were not ideal for long journeys so a fleet of English Electric Class 37s were acquired next, Introduced in 1960 these 1750HP Co-Cos were seen all over the country on British Rail. When Ed Burkhardt gained control of most of the British railfreight traffic with his EWS outfit the first thing he did was order a load of Class 66s from EMD and the days of most Class 37s were numbered but...

    once again DRS fans had something else to chase


    there are a lot of model DRS Class 37s on the market in scales from N to 1 from Heljan, Revolution trains, Grafar, Bachman, Hornby, Lima in most of the liveries DRS painted them in. I'm in the middle of painting a pair of 3D printed ones in Z

    Multi purpose, you could expect them on any kind of Nuclear traffic

    [​IMG]

    More soon

    Kev
     

    Attached Files:

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  15. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

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    So..

    DRS decided that actually, whilst the 20s and 37s did what they did well, as the company expanded into intermodal traffic we needed something new and up to date. So a fleet of Class 66s identical to the EWS ones were ordered from EMD. Known as 'Sheds' by U.K railfans because of their corrugated sheet metal sides, they are basically an SD39 squeezed down to the British loading gauge

    66 432 takes the last of the Magnox FNA-Cs to the breakers yard in 2015


    Displaced off Nuclear traffic by the Class 68s and 88s they are still seen on the Cumbrian Coast on other traffic flows like the Drigg LLW stone trains

    [​IMG]

    My own 00 version is one specially wrapped for the Malcolm Logistics group. I will come back to the NTL Nuclear flask wagon model later. Mine is a Bachman model of 66 405 but Hattons, Hornby, Dapol also did them in 00. Aristocraft did it in gauge 1 and Grafar and Dapol did it in N.


    I did one in Z. 3D printed and sat on an MTL SDS40-2 but to be honest it never looked completey right

    [​IMG]

    more later

    Kev
     
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  16. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

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    One little lollipop to finish tonight. The reason I ended up working for DRS is a strange tale. I was one of the earliest volunteers when the Barrow Hill Roundhouse was saved from demolition and preserved for the nation. The last working roundhouse on British railways when we first got the keys we started with nothing and that inlcuded a roof!

    DRS were the first mainline company to send guest locos for our early open days and also moved exhibits to the site as loco owners realised here was a great place to bring their prized posessions to keep them safe

    long before HD camcorders existed I shot scenes like this on either 8mm or VHS-c camcorders



    a DRS 20 and 37 arrive and are given a spin in the roundhouse on the turntable

    One of the drivers from DRS said " they are looking for fitters at Sellafield, you should give them a call"

    the rest is history

    Kev
     
  17. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

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    So the Nuclear wagon fleet has some very large and also some very small examples

    The smallest, and probably the smallest wagons running on British rail theses days, are the PFAs. weighing only 10.5 tonnrd thay can carry a 30.5 tonne payload and are very versatile. Originally built to carry open topped coal containers DRS purchased 25 to use on a variety of 20ft containers.


    They travel far and wide and are also used a lot as barrier wagons and as spacer wagons where bridge weight limits require a tain to be spread out

    Our Kingmoor depot also found a use for one of them!


    I'd resisted for a while but eventually succumbed and bought some of Accurascale's 00 examples. They are superb with the A frame as a seperate moulding, metal body and pefrect printing on the wagon and half height ISO



    Kev
     
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  18. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

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    The big beasts!

    When I first started one of the biggest challenges was keeping the Big, four bogie KXA-B and KYAs running. Fully clad in stainless steel and running on Y25 bogies they suffered from standing around in the sea ir for months and months without moving


    Rare to catch one out on the main line


    Some of the KXA-Bs have already gone and the last one and the three KYAs are due to follow in the next few weeks. No commercial model has ever been produced of these

    Contemporary with these were the NTL flask wagons. Similar principal, four bogies carried on span bolsters but these were fitted with canopies


    Many years ago a bespoke model was brought out to give to NTL employes and customers. Made by La Maquette in France these are rare now and were made to H0 scale.


    It isn't that good a model and mine needs restoring and some superdetailing. The Archbar trucks need continental roller bearings and there a lot of handrails missing


    More tomorrow

    Kev
     
  19. BNSF FAN

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thanks for saring all this Kev! I for one fine it extremely interesting. (y)(y)(y)
     
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  20. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Super interesting data and images. Seems the majority of the equipment you shared was for nuclear power (fuel), but did British nuclear weapons get rail shipment?
     
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