Written by: TrainSim-James
Whilst discussing the history of the BR Class 221 a few weeks ago, on the run up to the launch of Train Simulator 2018 (see here), we briefly mentioned British Rail’s ‘Advanced Passenger Train’ project, but said the story was for another time.
Well, the time has come for us to talk about tilting some more, as the Advanced Passenger Train-Prototype is coming soon to Train Simulator!
Built by BREL at Derby, for allocation at Glasgow and Crewe, the BR Class 370 ‘APT-P’ was an InterCity Development train, uniquely designed to provide faster journey times on the West Coast Main Line. The WCML, and other lines in Britain, were plagued with a multitude of twists and turns as railway companies of old attempted to navigate the hilly landscape; and while trains could probably take turns at higher speeds than they did, the passenger’s comfort would be jeopardised.
The initial APT project had already procured the APT-E (Experimental) which could tilt, but it ran off of diesel turbines and was, much like previous turbine-driven locomotives, inefficient at lower speeds. The next development if the project would be the prototypes, but continual stalls in progress eventually called for the (not so) stop-gap, the High Speed Train.
Eventually, in 1979, the BR Class 370 ‘APT-P’ was completed. The APT-P consisted of six rakes and spare driving second & brake first vehicles, numbered 370001 – 370007. Each rake would contain up to six articulated trailer vehicles and one non-driving motor vehicle, so that each train set would comprise of two such rakes with the motor vehicles being situated in the centre of the formation. These formations resulted in three almost identical sets of 12 to 14 vehicles in length.
Each centrally-positioned power car consisted of four traction motors, delivering upwards of 4,000hp per power car. With around 8,000hp propelling the APT-P in total, it earned the accolade of the most powerful domestic passenger train in the UK, and would undoubtedly be able to reduce journey times, all it needed was a good tilting system.
Needless to say, it was good, it was very good, and in fact it was too good – as claimed by passengers and press. The active tilting system was so effective that you could not tell it was tilting, but when looking out the window, feeling level-headed and seeing the countryside bobbing up and down at the same time caused seasick-like discomfort. This issue would one day be rectified on the previously mentioned Pendolinos, but the ghost-tilt of the APT would be one of many issues to come to light.
Due to the shoestring budget during engineering, there were flaws in the manufacturing of the power car bogies which resulted in poorly fitting brake equipment. This caused brakes to stick to the wheel of the power cars causing them to overheat. There were also problems with various lubricants used throughout the power cars which caused oil filter blockages.
Despite the technical troubles, APT-P was credited with a number of firsts. It was the first passenger train to use self-contained septic tanks, and it housed a completely unique hydrokinetic braking system which was very successful and worked incredibly well. The APT-P was also the world’s first commercial passenger train to use tilting technology. The APT-P would offer a passenger relief service between London and Glasgow, three days a week, between 1983 and 1985. However, it was forced into service during December and failed on one of its first big outings, dealing more damage in the public eye.
Ultimately, after the technical problems, and a lack political will to take the project forward, the planned APT project would never be fully developed into the APT-S (Squadron) sets. The APT-P powercar would instead influence the BR Class 89, the prototype to the BR Class 91 InterCity 225 of the East Coast Main Line, and the tilting technology would be sold to Fiat, who refined their Pendolino family and would eventually sell their train sets back in the form of the BR Class 390, the tilting, spiritual successor to the APT-P.
Today, only a single, almost complete, APT-P has survived into preservation and is housed at the Crewe Heritage Railway Centre next to its old stomping grounds, the West Coast Main Line. Despite drawing people from all over the world, APT-P has suffered and is all but a shadow of her former self.
Entirely unique in every right, and with a service speed of 125mph, a design speed of 155 and a record speed of 162.2, the APT-P, while flawed, has its own place in railway history; and soon, its tale will be yours to continue, as we bring the much-loved BR Class 370 ‘APT-P’ to Train Simulator! ■